Humanitarian Organizations Are Helping Women and Children in KasaiOver the past year, the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced extreme violence since the rise of the rebel Kamwina Nsapu fighters. This conflict is disproportionately affecting women and children, as forces recruit child soldiers and women face gender-based violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai both recover and remain safe.

Since this conflict began last year, over 1.4 million have been displaced from their homes, 850,000 of which are children. The death toll of this tragedy is still being debated, with the Catholic Church claiming at least 3,300 individuals have been killed, while the UN estimates the number is around 400. Both acknowledge, however, that there are many deaths still unaccounted for, as mass graves continue to be discovered.

In addition to the mass displacement of 1.4 million people, civilians are also subject to horrible human rights abuses. These abuses range from mutilations and abductions to sexual violence including rape. The victims of these attacks are most often women and children, as they are most vulnerable to age- and gender-based violence. These abuses are amplified by the lack of access to nutrition, especially for children. UNICEF estimates 400,000 children are at risk for severe acute malnutrition.

Besides the direct assaults on women and children, the militias have also destroyed more than 200 healthcare centers as well as a multitude of schools and villages. The destruction of these centers makes it even harder for victims to find aid. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are working to reach those in need.

Working to aid in recovery, UNICEF has played a significant role in humanitarian relief for Kasai. So far, UNICEF has reached over 150,000 people with essential nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation goods and services. A program has also been implemented by UNICEF to provide $100 cash grants to displaced families for bare necessities, and so far 11,225 families have benefitted from this. The humanitarian community has also launched an appeal for $64.5 million U.S. for an emergency response plan.

Although humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai as best they can, the severity and abruptness of this crisis make it difficult to always provide the amount of aid needed. UNICEF recently released a statement acknowledging, “unless this violence stops, our best work will never be enough.”

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

As the rainy season approaches in the war-torn Lake Chad region of Africa, humanitarian organizations stand on high alert. The Lake Chad Basin is composed of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. With some of these countries facing violent attacks from Boko Haram and others in desperate humanitarian circumstances, this upcoming rainy season poses a threat to millions of lives. Fortunately, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), USAID and other humanitarian organizations are coming together to figure out solutions to the Lake Chad crisis.

The focal threat of the rainy season is disease and famine, caused by flooding and muddy roads which limit the accessibility and mobility of populations. With more than seven million people already suffering from malnutrition in this region, the threat of the rainy season puts 17 million individuals, mainly women and children, directly at risk. Of those 17 million, 5.6 million children are in danger of contracting water-borne diseases such as cholera, which can prove fatal if not treated.

Amplified by the violence occurring in the Lake Chad region (specifically conflict in Northern Nigeria), the threat of this upcoming rainy season is palpable. Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria prevents much of the aid from reaching the affected population. The group has also destroyed vital infrastructure such as medical clinics, schools, water pipelines, bridges and roads, which has left many without access to essential services.

With 2.3 million people already displaced in the Lake Chad region, it is essential that humanitarian organizations work with haste. After meeting at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, international humanitarian agencies have devised a response plan for 2017. However, it will require a budget of $1.5 billion, which is out of reach for most aid agencies.

Despite the lack of funding, UNICEF and its partners have stayed committed to the cause, going to the communities at the highest risk for cholera outbreaks and teaching families about sanitation and how to protect themselves against water-borne infections. In Niger, Cameroon and Chad, the distribution of essential drugs and bars of soap have helped out the citizens living in internally displaced persons’ camps. Humanitarian organizations are also urging the governments of the affected populations to take their responsibilities seriously and protect their civilians.

Despite the difficulties faced by both the concerned communities and the aid organizations trying to reach them, UNICEF, the WHO and other international humanitarian agencies still dedicate their resources to helping those in the Lake Chad crisis.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

In May 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a new, unified government humanitarian aid organization called the King Salman Humanitarian Center (KSC) — named after the nation’s new monarch.

Saudi Arabia is eighth largest aid donor in the world and spent over 736 million dollars in humanitarian aid in 2014. The new center has the potential to transform how Saudi Arabia donates, organizes and distributes millions of dollars in emergency aid.

This administration transformation was not widely reported, though the scale of this change is immense. A source in the UN reported to IRIN that he believes the King Salman Humanitarian Center will be Saudi Arabia’s version of USAID and that it will establish multiple departments such as monitoring, evaluation and research.

Rafaat Sabbagh, a KSC spokesman, elaborated on the new organization’s goals. “We are very ambitious… We are only one month and a half old. But at the same time we are very keen to learn to learn from the experience of DFID [in the UK] and USAID. Our work is not only for one country. Whenever there are people in need, especially with natural disasters, we will be there.”

Before the creation of KSC, Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian aid was notorious for being “highly unpredictable, hard to navigate, and – some argued – incoherent,” writes IRIN. There were often miscommunication errors between different branches, causing confusion and unnecessary overlap.

The Center plans to take a more direct, hands-on approach to its funding techniques, spending on local organizations rather than large international organizations.

The country is known for its large donations or powerful financial potential. For example, in 2008, it gave 500 million to the World Food Program in one large payment. In 2014, it also gave 500 million to help the Iraq crisis.

Donations like this are expected to be approved and processed by the KSC now, and some worry that Saudi Arabia’s involvement with UN aid programs will decrease.

These worries are not unfounded. Saudi Arabia has become increasingly frustrated with the United Nations in the past few years. “In late 2013, it rejected a seat on the UN Security Council, condemning ‘double standards’ in Syria and wasteful use of resources,” says the IRIN.

KSC spokesperson, Sabbagh, said to IRIN that the KSC will “avoid the bureaucracy that some organizations are suffering from” and will be “more flexible” than other organizations. Some believe this is a subtle critique of the United Nations.

At the same time, Sabbagh maintains that he wants to continue to work with the UN. “We are very keen to build a partnership [with the UN]. At the same time we have our own networks. Our work through the UN partnership can be complimentary,” he tells IRIN.

If the King Salman Humanitarian Center is successful, Saudi Arabia’s donations will become much more impactful, strategic and effective. The Center’s first project is to disburse 250 million dollars in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is involved actively in the civil war.

Aaron Andree

Sources: Aawsat, Irin News
Photo: Today Online