Posts Republic of Georgia is a small country located just below Russia and west of the Black Sea. Georgia gained its independence from the USSR in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has a population of almost 4 million people. As of 2010, 9.2% live below the national poverty line, 50% use the internet and about 30% are unemployed.

Georgians’ livelihoods depend largely on cultivating agriculture and mining metals. Over half of the population works in agriculture. Though the country used to rely heavily on imported gas and oil, it now relies mostly on the use of hydropower. But there is another serious challenge facing the people of Georgia. Political and territorial conflicts have created a unique crisis in Georgia where thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, but have not crossed the border into another country. These people are known as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A Fight Over Territory and Displacement

The Georgian government considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia as its territories, while the country also admits that South Ossetia is under the control of the Russian Occupation Army. After the dissolution of the USSR, both South Ossetia and Abkhazia formed separatist movements. This came to a head in a war between Russia and Georgia in Abkhazia in the early 1990s. This conflict caused massive numbers of Georgians, Abkhaz and Russians to be displaced from the region, becoming one of the first major instances of internally displaced persons in Georgia.

A similar conflict occurred again in 2008, where the Russo-Georgian war erupted for five days. The conflict caused thousands of people to become displaced internally. From South Ossetia alone, there were more than 200,000 IDPs. This created a second large wave of internally displaced persons in Georgia.

The hostilities over territory have made it difficult for Georgia to move closer to democratization and globalization. As a result, integration with the West and joining NATO and the EU are among Georgia’s top foreign policy goals. Georgia is also still working on addressing the two waves of internally displaced persons in – one from the conflict in early 1990 and another from The Russo-Georgian war.

Signs of Hope

One Georgian NGO is trying to find some sort of politically neutral peace between the conflict zones. The organization does so through the Geneva International Discussions (GID), building confidence among territories, and negotiating no-arm zones. The largest goal of the Georgia Relations Association (GRASS) is to protect Abkhazia. GRASS aims to protect the Abkhazi language and keep education in one’s native language. Unlike South Ossetia, Abkhazi does not seem interested in integrating into Russia.

GRASS elaborates on a recent victory: “Georgia signed the Association Agreement (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), with the EU in 2014. It came into force in 2016. According to Article 429, the deal does not apply to the regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia; however, the preamble of the same agreement explicitly states that the E.U. and Georgia are committed to providing the benefits of closer political association and economic integration of Georgia with the EU to all citizens of Georgia, including the communities divided by conflict.”

The United States ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, advocates for the demilitarization of conflict zones and borders. Especially in times of a pandemic, these regions must work together to save lives. Officially, the United States recognizes the Republic of Georgia, including the autonomous states, as a sovereign country.

“Everyone is Everybody’s Relative or Neighbor”

“This is a poor country with a small economy, we are all helping each other to survive, I sometimes say – everyone is everybody’s relative or neighbor and we know how to stand by,” Chikviladze said. “I am 31 and I have lived two wars since I was born. We might be used to it, used to extreme poverty, and used to the fact that ‘Big Bear’ [Russia] is always there.”

However, there are further signs of hope for internally displaced persons in Georgia. Legal Aid Service is a state organization that offers legal counsel to IDPs and other vulnerable citizens. Also, IDP Women’s Association “Consent” has a mission to create a peaceful and democratic society, particularly for women and IDPs.

The future of Georgia may be uncertain at the moment, but there is a silver lining when considering the efforts being put towards combatting the IDP crisis.

Annie Raglow
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about child labor in chad

In Chad, 87 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. This contributes to the high prevalence of child labor, something for which Chad is infamous. Child labor is a controversial and multi-faceted issue, and these 10 facts about child labor in Chad show that the issue is complex and in need of a solution.

10 Facts about Child Labor in Chad

  1. A majority of all children are working. 48.8 percent of children ages 5-14 work full time. This percentage is among the highest in African countries. When added to the percentage of children who attend both school and work, the percentage goes up to 77.2.
  2. Nearly half of Chad’s population is ages 0-14. One reason why child labor in Chad is so prominent is that there are significantly more children than adults. With children under 15 years old making up 48.12 percent of the population, there is pressure to work in order to support one’s family.
  3. Child labor occurs in multiple sectors. Child labor occurs in the agricultural, urban and service industries. Children as young as 6-years-old typically work as herders for livestock, and as they get older, begin to perform other duties like chopping wood, fishing and harvesting crops. In the urban and service industries, children work in carpentry, mining and street vending. The Ministry of Labor permits light work in agriculture for children at least 12 years old, but this law can be exploited due to its lack of specificity.
  4. Education is not accessible. Another reason there are so many instances of child labor in Chad is because quality education is inaccessible. Despite the fact that the government mandates free and compulsory education up until the age of 14, only 37.9 percent of students complete primary school. Many schools require an additional payment for school-related fees, and some families cannot afford them. Additionally, there have been teacher strikes, decreasing the number of open schools in Chad altogether. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) has been attempting to improve the access and quality of education in Chad since 2017, and future data will show how the program is going to affect school-age working children in Chad.
  5. Children are forced to be soldiers. Chadian children who live in Internally Displaced Persons sites are the most popular army recruits. Sometimes, they are kidnapped by army recruiters, but other times, they join willingly to escape horrible conditions and lack of education within the IDP site. In 2007, up to 10,000 children may have been used as soldiers in the conflict between Chad and its opposition groups. The government of Chad admits that it has no policy when it comes to the recruitment of children for the army, and a UNICEF program to remove children from military groups failed due to underfunding.
  6. Human trafficking worsens child labor. As a result of trafficking, children are sold and forced to work away from their families, sometimes even begging in the streets for money. One of the worst instances of child labor and trafficking occurs when boys called mahadjirine travel to Koranic schools to get an education, but they are forced to work and return all of their profits to their fraudulent teachers. The Chadian government criminalizes labor trafficking and began a procedure to identify and prosecute offenders, but its success only lasted briefly. The number of arrests and convictions for labor traffickers decreased and then remained stagnant only two years after the initial implementation.
  7. Chad’s respect for children’s rights is ranked as worst in the world. The Realization of Children’s Rights Index grades each individual country on a scale of 1-10 on how much the country respects children’s rights based on statistics of child mortality, child labor, poverty, education and other issues that affect children’s lives. Chad is the lowest on the list of 196 countries with a score of 0.05 out of 10. The highest country, Liechtenstein, scores a 9.42 out of 10. This means that every other country in the world has more policies in place to protect the rights of children.
  8. Nearly half of children ages 15-17 work in hazardous conditions. Despite the fact that Chad’s minimum working age is 14 years old, boys and girls ages 15-17 are counted in child labor statistics because of dangerous working conditions. 42 percent of working 15-17-year-olds deal with circumstances that can be physically and mentally harmful such as extensive work hours, working underground, working with heavy machinery and abuse.
  9. Child labor correlates with the prevalence of malnutrition. As instances of child labor increase, malnutrition becomes more likely. In a study of multiple developing countries that experience child labor, it was found that in countries with only 10 percent of children working, malnutrition affected up to 50 percent. For Chad, a country where more than half of children work, malnutrition could affect up to 70 percent of children.
  10. International groups are working to prevent child labor. The International Initiative to End Child Labor is an organization that is committed to ending child labor in countries like Chad. The group educates communities on what kinds of child work are considered acceptable or unacceptable, what the worst forms of child labor are and what working conditions are appropriate for young workers. The IIECL has been working towards the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labor since 1998.

These 10 facts about child labor in Chad demonstrate the consequences of child labor and the need for action. If child labor is eradicated in Chad, the rest of Africa and the world could take notice and begin to address other countries with child labor issues as well.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

food insecurity in ethiopia
Despite the fact that Ethiopia has a stronger economy than many other countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, it still remains one of the world’s least developed countries. In 2017, Ethiopia ranked 173 out of 189 countries and territories in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI). Food insecurity contributes to a lack of development in Ethiopia.

Drought, Conflict, and IDPs

Drought is one of the principal sources of food insecurity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently suffering from the lingering effects of past droughts. There have been two devastating droughts in Ethiopia since 2015, which has forced many out of their homes in search of food and basic services. Droughts are a primary factor in the creation of internal refugees, or internally displaced person (IDPs) in Ethiopia.

Currently, nearly three million Ethiopians are categorized as IDPs. In addition to drought, the number of IDPs has increased due to a surge in ethnic violence, particularly along the Oromiya-Somali regional border. Nearly 600,000 individuals from the Oromiya and Somali regions have become IDPs.

The combination of drought, displacement, violence and underdevelopment has resulted in widespread food insecurity in Ethiopia. Due to this, roughly 7% of the population relies on food aid. The U.S. Government has been heavily involved in battling food insecurity in Ethiopia. Currently, food insecurity and under-nutrition are two of the greatest economic hindrances in Ethiopia.

Here are five things you need to know about the United States’ involvement in addressing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

5 Ways the U.S. Helps Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

  1. “Feed the Future,” an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, has been one of the more successful programs in promoting food security in Ethiopia: Feed the Future worked in different areas in Ethiopia from 2013 to 2015 and reduced the prevalence of poverty in those areas by 12 percent. Additionally, in 2017, those who were reached by Feed the Future generated $40 million in agricultural sales and received $5.7 million in new private investment. The economy and food security in Ethiopia are closely intertwined because the nation’s economy is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture-led economic growth, therefore, has been one the primary missions of Feed the Future within Ethiopia.
  2. The US has focused on restoring Ethiopia’s potato and sweet potato supply due to its high source of Vitamin A as a means of reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia: In June 2016, The USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) supported the International Potato Center (CIP) to assist drought-affected farmers in planting potatoes and sweet potatoes. Due to this support, the CIP was able to provide sweet potato seeds to nearly 10,000 farmers and trained more than 11,300 men and women on various ways to incorporate this vitamin-rich vegetable into more of their meals. The USAID/OFDA continues to support programs that promote the development of critical agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, in Ethiopia.
  3. Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) are working in Ethiopia to help manage issues of malnutrition: The USAID’s OFDA and UNICEF have partnered together to deploy MHNTs in order to provide malnutrition screenings, basic health care services, immunizations and health education. The team also offered patient referrals when necessary. In 2017, 50 MHNTs provided 483,700 individuals in the Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia with life-saving health and nutritional services.
  4. Humanitarian assistance has been essential in reducing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children: Although USAID provides resources to help treat SAM, 38 percent of children under five still have stunted growth due to malnutrition. As of March 2018, 31,066 children were admitted and treated for SAM. Approximately 30 percent of these cases were in the Somali region due to the region’s issue with ethnic violence and drought. Significantly more assistance is needed in the Somali region in order to sufficiently manage malnutrition.
  5. Humanitarian assistance has been one of the primary reasons Ethiopia has not entered into a state of emergency for food insecurity: Although increased rainfall and a reduction in disease outbreak have helped minimize food insecurity in Ethiopia, the country would be much worse off without the help of humanitarian aid. Currently, Ethiopia is in crisis, which is phase three of five on the food insecurity scale. The phases include minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and famine. Experts from the Famine Early Warning Systems Networks report that “Ethiopia would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance.”

Looking Forward

The need for humanitarian aid will increase as Ethiopia’s population rapidly grows. Currently, Ethiopia ranks second in Africa for the number of refugees the country hosts. Nearly 100 percent of these refugees originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Ethiopia currently hosts over 920,262 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of May 31, 2018.

The number of asylum seekers in Ethiopia will continue to grow because Ethiopia has an open-door asylum policy. As Ethiopia’s population continues to grow due to this policy, food sources will become increasingly strained. The need for humanitarian assistance to promote sustainable agriculture and farming practices, therefore, has become essential for reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

After the program’s continued success both outside and within internal displacement camps in northeastern Nigeria, the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) plans its first expansion by training 70 new healthcare workers.


Since the program’s inception in September 2017, mhGAP has trained 64 primary healthcare workers and assisted more than 5,000 people from over 35 different primary healthcare facilities, including local clinics. The project was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with Borno state authorities and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital of Maiduguri in order to treat mental illness in emergency situations, particularly internally displaced persons and low-income individuals (often times intersecting).

The prevalence of mental health disorders in Nigeria is estimated at around 12 percent, an unproportionately high figure compared to the small number of clinics that offer treatment. Due to the widespread violence in northeastern Nigeria, nearly 7 million people live in camps meant for internally displaced persons and WHO estimates that nearly 1 in 5 of said 7 million may need mental health care, much of which is largely unavailable. In fact, the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital of Maiduguri is the only facility in the region that focuses primarily on mental health.

Prevalence of Mental Illness

Mental illness is particularly prevalent in communities that experience extreme levels of stress and adversity, such as internally displaced persons and those living in extreme poverty. According to WHO, experiences such as abductions, violence, gender-based violence and atrocities can trigger mental illness and other psychological problems.

The prevalence of disorders such as anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have increased by an average of 5 to 10 percent, and the instances of psychosis double on average, according to public data published by the World Bank. These percentages are often higher among children and adolescents, with incidents of PTSD ranging from 50 to 90 percent.

mhGAP Intervention Methods

To combat increased prevalence, mhGAP utilizes programs for intervention and management, focusing on neurological, mental and substance-use-associated disorders such as psychotic disorders, epilepsy, suicide, dementia, alcohol and illicit drug abuse and childhood mental illness.

The program provides access to mental healthcare otherwise unattainable for the majority of those displaced. This lack occurs due to an absence of monetary resources and a scarcity of functioning mental health facilities.

Approximately two-thirds of the 749 known healthcare facilities in Borno have been destroyed or damaged as a result of the Nigerian army’s eight-year-long conflict with Boko Haram. The ongoing violent conflict has also forced over 2 million people from their homes, negating any possibility of regular access to affordable health services — mental or otherwise.

Hope, Help and Knowledge

Borno, accompanied by the majority of northeastern Nigeria, struggled socioeconomically prior to any conflict with Boko Haram. Over 70 percent of Borno’s population lives under the poverty line — almost 30 percent higher than the national average of 46 percent, according to the U.N. Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index.

While mental health continues to remain only one of the many pressing issues of internally displaced persons, mhGAP’s success both inside and outside displacement camps demonstrates a positive shift towards the national perception of mental illness. mhGAP’s resources enables the most vulnerable to hope and provides the knowledge that their situations are not permanent.

– Katie Anastas
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in ColombiaAlthough the five-decades-long civil war in Colombia ceased in 2016 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), human rights in Colombia continue to be violated.

According to Amnesty International, the very group who signed the agreement, FARC, and another rebel group, National Liberation Army (ELN), commit numerous violations of international humanitarian law including high profile kidnappings. Currently, the most susceptible populations are human rights defenders, women, farmers, unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. These groups face constant threats to their security and are terrorized by guerillas and paramilitaries. The violence from internal conflict has forcibly displaced 6.8 million Colombians, creating the world’s second-largest population of internally displaced persons (IDP) after Syria, according to Human Rights Watch.

Marino Cardoba, an Afro-Colombian advocate for the Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), is executing a campaign to protect the human rights of Afro-Colombians. He feels this community is particularly vulnerable because they were not included in the peace agreement. His colleague, Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, is also a researcher and advocate for human rights in the Americas. In a presentation the two gave called “Peace and Human Rights for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples in Colombia,” they stated Afro-Colombians lived in areas with valuable natural resources such as oil, and the government and paramilitary forces both wanted this land. Perhaps this is why that population remains a target for forcible displacement.

Another flaw of the peace agreement includes a lack of accountability for wrongdoers and punishment that matches the crime committed. The current peace agreement allows members of FARC who committed war crimes to run for and hold political offices. Human Rights Watch reached out to the Colombian Constitutional Court and requested that war criminals be held fully responsible for their crimes and receive sanctions through the newly established Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

Despite the shortcomings of the peace agreement, it does have strengths. According to Amnesty International’s 2016-2017 annual report, FARC is required to provide an account of assets it acquired in conflict. The resources the group gained would then be used to provide reparations to victims of crimes of human rights in Colombia. If implemented this would certainly be a positive gain.

The peace agreement also established a Special Jurisdiction for Peace – to come into force once approved by Congress – to investigate and punish those responsible for crimes under international law, a truth commission and a system to locate and identify those missing as a result of the conflict.

Achieving security for human rights in Colombia has been a long process. However, citizens in Colombia are more open to securing those rights for all as indicated by the historic 2016 peace agreement. With continued aid and accountability from groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Colombians is a very real possibility.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Bosnia and Herzegovina Refugees
With the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Eastern Europe was impacted by a sudden wave of mass displacement and migration as a result of oppression. Bosnia and Herzegovina became embroiled in the Bosnian War in 1992. The consequences of the war were widespread and continue to have implications to this day, especially as the Balkan region is drawn into the migrant exodus in Europe.

In the scramble to obtain Bosnian territory, the careful balance of power collapsed. The Bosnian Serbs yearned for Bosnia to be a part of a Greater Serbia. Non-Serbs, such as the Bosnian Croats and Muslims, soon called for Bosnian independence. Ethnic relations soon spiraled out of control, especially after the siege of Sarajevo. In the push for a Greater Serbia, the President of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic, began ubiquitous ethnic cleansing campaigns. Here are 10 facts about the Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees who fled from this crisis.

  1. From 1989 to 1992, 2.3 million people fled their homes as a result of the collapse of the six republics of Yugoslavia, according to the UNHCR. Of this figure, 600,000 individuals came from the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Villages, towns and cities were destroyed during the war, and cases of rape were widespread, giving rise to a great exodus.
  2. The escalation of the conflict led to deficiencies in infrastructure, amenities and services between 1989 and 1992. Greater Serbia suffered extreme food shortages. An aggregate of 12,000 residents were killed in Sarajevo during the course of the conflict.
  3. Bosnian visa application skyrocketed in 1991. However, may were denied visas due to the magnitude of applications that were received. Applications in Belgrade shot up 60% during this period.
  4. In 1995, the Dayton Accords were finally signed, resulting in the split of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Bosniak Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. This brought about a cessation of hostilities. NATO, the U.N. and the EU were key parties that helped the former Yugoslavia republics gain their regional footing.
  5. Moreover, in 1995, the UNHCR mobilized funds amounting to USD $458 million for resettlement and humanitarian assistance. With the integration of various governments in Europe and other bodies, the UNHCR is helping refugees return home after 20 years.
  6. In the same year, 1995, more than 130,000 Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees were successfully resettled in the United States. A majority of them live in Chicago and Missouri. This was one of the most successful and significant examples of mass emigration and resettlement of the time.
  7. In the year 2015, the UNHCR and the EU helped execute a revised strategy of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The move is currently yielding good results with regards to human rights, social protection, housing and the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
  8. In March of 2016, Radovan Karadzic was finally convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the persecution of 7,500 Muslim Bosniaks in the Srebrenica enclave along with the oppression of ethnic groups. He had previously spent 13 years in hiding before facing the U.N. International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
  9. In November of 2016, Open Democracy highlighted that more than one million refugees were choosing to return home after twenty years of living abroad. With a majority Muslim population of 27,000, the town of Kozarac is the heart of the resettlement process. The town is still currently in transition as people try to reinvent their lives.
  10. On Oct. 14, 2016, photojournalist Miquel Ruiz showcased 24 images of the genocide in Sarajevo as a memorial to Bosnia’s tumultuous past. The photos included life during the siege, refugee camps and the remains of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

The combined effects of political turmoil, poverty, displacement and resource shortages plagued the lives of Bosnia and Herzegovina refugees, and they have continued to be affected to this day.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Democratic Republic of the Congo Refugees

With the Olympics officially underway, 10 competing athletes have taken to the stage and used the international spotlight to shed light on a growing worldwide concern; the refugee crisis. These 10 athletes hail from war-torn the countries Syrian, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and they are refugees. They make up the Refugee Olympic Team, the first of its kind. Combined, they represent over 19 million refugees and displaced people from around the world.

Despite the odds against them, these athletes have reached the peak of athletic performance and arrived in Rio this summer to showcase their abilities. Two athletes in particular, Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika, share a common past. At the 2013 World Judo Championships in Rio, the pair defected from the Congolese team to seek asylum in Brazil. The civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo tore apart their families, and the peace accord signed in 2002 with Uganda did little to alleviate the rampant violence.

Although they have managed to turn their lives into symbols of hope, Misenga and Mabika’s backstory is not one uncommon to refugees back home. Here are 10 facts about the Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees you should know:

1. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, there were 2.7 million people of concern in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2015. Of that total, 384,000 are refugees, more than 1.5 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 736,000 are returned IDPs.

2. The International Catholic Migration Commission reported in 2012 that the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees was the sixth-largest in the world. Of that statistic, more than 75 percent are situated in neighboring countries in the Great Lakes Region and Southern Africa.

3. As of 2014, the Democratic Republic of the Congo represents 18 percent of the African refugee population. The majority of the Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees fled during the first and second Congo wars in 1996-1997 and 1998-2003.

4. The country itself hosts around 233,000 refugees from the surrounding countries of Central Africa Republic, Burundi and Rwanda. Refugees are allowed to generate self-supporting income and have access to land, health and education services and sanitation facilities.

5. Refugees fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo have limited rights in their host countries. Restrictions can affect any number of the following: refugees’ legal right to work, access to education, freedom of movement and access to citizenship.

6. Although 19,000 US peacemakers operate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 70 armed militant groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces, are currently operating in its eastern region.

7. One area of specific concern is the magnitude and brutality of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been described as “the rape capital of the world,” but the lack of legal repercussions makes for little change. Though the true total is obscured by the stigma of reporting, 350 rapes are recorded each week on average.

However, not all hope is lost. Many relief organizations have recognized the urgency of the refugee crisis and continue to provide immediate support on the ground. These following facts about Democratic of the Congo refugees show how refugees are aided:

8. One of the U.N. Refugee Agency’s campaigns is raising funds that will go toward holding prevention programs for sexual violence and providing ongoing medical care and counseling for victims. With these services, victims can begin to rebuild their lives and communities.

9. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the world’s 19th lowest life expectancy at 56.93 years. The health system continues to be underdeveloped, understaffed and underfunded, unable to fight preventable diseases alone. Thankfully, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been working in the region since 1996 to ensure people have access to primary and reproductive healthcare. In just 2015 alone, the IRC managed to provide high-quality medical assistance to 6.6 million people, refugees and citizens alike.

10. Before their fifth birthday, 118 out of every 1000 children will die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The high infant mortality rate and lack of basic education leave thousands of children vulnerable to exploitation, violence and disease. The Save the Children campaign is raising funds to provide children with basic nutritional support, education and physical protection.

Thanks to organizations like these, conditions continue to improve dramatically from day to day. However, these same conditions are still far from ideal and there is always more work to be done. The first step to making a difference is to learn more. Let these 10 facts about Democratic of the Congo refugees be your springboard for global awareness.

Katie Zeng

Photo: Flickr

Colombian Refugees

For over 50 years, guerilla soldiers, paramilitaries, drug cartels and the government’s armed forces have been fighting in Colombia creating waves of refugees. Though each group has different motivations, most are fighting to gain power and influence.

This internal fighting in Colombia has led to the displacement of many individuals across the country. Here are 10 facts about Colombian refugees.

  1. Colombia has the second-highest number of internally displaced persons in the world. Colombia has a staggering population of over 6 million internally displaced persons. The Syrian Arab Republic is the only other country with a higher population with 7.6 million internally displaced persons.
  2. Children are at high risk for displacement and militant group recruitment. Unfortunately, the same laws that let Colombian refugees leave the country’s borders allow militant groups to do the same. Several of these groups are able to follow refugees out of the country and often take children as recruits for their cause.
  3. Indigenous populations and Afro-Colombians are also at-risk. Though they only make up a small proportion of the total Colombian population (3.4 percent), an estimated eight percent of Colombia’s internally displaced persons are of the indigenous population. Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians tend to live in the rural areas of Colombia where there is little assistance.
  4. About 250,000 Colombian refugees live in Ecuador. Though many Colombians traveled to Ecuador, only 15,000 have been recognized as refugees by the country. This means only 15,000 Colombians receive government assistance and legal residence permits. Colombian refugees are often discriminated against and struggle to compete for jobs in Ecuador.
  5. Colombian refugees often travel to Panama and Venezuela seeking asylum. In Panama, Colombian refugees are often forced to live in the jungle without basic provisions that would usually accompany refugees in such living environments, according to Refugee Counsel USA. In Venezuela, Colombian refugees tend to have trouble accessing the job market due to a poor refugee status determination system. They also have very limited access to schools and health systems.
  6. Refugee women tend to have trouble finding jobs once displaced. Due to an inability to access the job market, many Colombian refugee women are forced to work on the streets and in brothels. For many, this is the only way they can get money to support their children.
  7. Some refugees are receiving legal support. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) have provided legal clinics that have helped 14,300 internally displaced persons.
  8. Long-term solutions are being established. The UNHCR has changed its focus from providing immediate service to creating long-term solutions for Colombian refugees. By doing so, the organization hopes to create lasting change for those who need it most.
  9. Their communities are being recognized. Recently, a long-standing refugee community was finally recognized by the city of Cúcuta, Colombia. In its recognition, the community gained access to many of the cities services.
  10. Action is being taken by some. The UNHCR recently established the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS). In doing so, the organization is helping fight sexual and gender-based violence toward refugees in the countries it operates, including Columbia.

Though many of these facts about Colombian refugees may be discouraging, the refugees have not been forgotten. Organizations are working to help them in their length endeavor, unfortunately, when a crisis is so large, it takes a lot of time and resources in order to effect change.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Central African Republic

The recent internal conflict in Central African Republic has prompted many of its citizens to flee to neighboring nations or safer places within the country. After settling into host communities, UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) has been able to provide assistance to the refugees and help them acclimate to new areas.

Here are six facts that you should know about refugees in the Central African Republic:

  1. Nearly 418,000 refugees in the Central African Republic are internally displaced because of the current conflict in the country. However, even prior to these issues many neighboring cities and countries were already hosting refugees from the Central African Republic. The new influx of refugees has prompted new response plans to accommodate these people, such as the CAR Regional Refugee Response Plan.
  2. Including those who are internally displaced, there are approximately 2.7 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 2.4 million children who are affected by the crisis.
  3. Almost one million citizens have fled their homes to seek refuge in local mosques and churches, or as far as Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After these journeys, many arrive having endured brutal attacks from heavily armed fighters along the way and are suffering from extreme malnutrition.
  4. The majority of these refugees are able to successfully settle into host villages or refugee camps. Here, UNHCR and partners provide basic social services and help the refugees to integrate into their new homes.
  5. UNHCR has received $24.7 million in aid to assist refugees in the Central African Republic. However, this is only 11 percent of the original $225.5 million that the organization appealed for. Foreign aid continues to help refugees become comfortable in their new surroundings, providing for basic needs and protection while they acclimatize.
  6. However, the basic needs of the refugees in the Central African Republic surpass the amount of aid that has been provided. More than 20 percent of the refugees arriving in camps are vulnerable with specific needs and health issues, such as malaria and malnutrition. While the UNHCR teams work to provide things such as emergency supplies and medical care, there is not enough funding to provide optimal assistance.

While UNHCR cannot provide the amount of assistance necessary, it has still been successful at helping refugees to acclimate to their host communities. As the internal conflict in the Central African Republic continues, foreign aid will continue to assist those who turn to host communities for refuge.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Picture a world without suffering. Is it possible?

To some this may be but a far-fetched dream, but Dr. Arthur B. Keys, Jr. has set out to make this dream a reality.

Founded in 1998, Dr. Keys and his wife, Jasna, established International Relief and Development, a nonprofit organization that fights to relieve the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized population through active engagement, empowerment and inclusion.

Over the years, IRD has provided $3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to over 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Ethiopia, Iraq and Ukraine. The organization heavily focuses on conflict zones and areas damaged by natural disasters. To improve the livelihoods of these people, the IRD believes it is best to provide the resources and training to become self-sufficient. Thus, rather than just providing clean water to a community suffering from drought, International Relief and Development aims to address the root causes of the problem, such as upgrading water pumps and management systems.

IRD has tackled issues ranging from a lack of schools in Haiti to impoverished women  in Mozambique to malnourishment among students in Laos. By organizing short-term and long-term interventions, they foster the path to a more developed and prosperous nation. But how does IRD get the funds to take on all these projects?

The nonprofit organization collaborates with many other agencies and donors, one of them being the U.S. Agency for International Development. As a contractor, 4,000 staff members all over the world carry out many of USAID’s programs in hopes to improve infrastructure, healthcare and governance in war-torn countries. The U.S. State Department as well as numerous UN agencies also fund IRD’s annual budget of $400-$500 million.

One of its most recent successes took place among refugees and internally displaced persons in Yemen, a country that hosts over 200,000 people from Eritrea Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia.

Refugees and internally displaced persons all face similar struggles, but in a place where political instability and high unemployment wreak havoc on daily life, coping with the current circumstances becomes increasingly difficult.

Realizing the dire urgency, IRD has set out to assist the thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. After assessing the deprivations and needs in the refugee camps, IRD along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees worked to provide monthly allowances to the families. They also distributed thousands of dollars worth of school and medical supplies, hygiene kits and other goods to many school children and families. The United Methodist Committee on Relief donated most of the gifts. IRD also targeted many vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and sexual abuse survivors, by establishing care centers and providing group therapy.

International Relief and Development continues to provide relief and assistance in the world’s hot spots. By going into desperate communities and initiating development, this organization guides countries to economic growth and stabilization. Success stories are seen all over Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, but the range of IRD’s success does not stop there. Success like this is everlasting and enduring.

—Leeda Jewayni

Sources: International Relief and Development, Washington Post, Huffington Post