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

american refugee committee
The American Refugee Committee was founded in 1979 to combat and address the needs of the millions of refugees around the world. Today, the efforts of ARC reach 2.5 million people of the 39 million displaced in the world. In particular, the ARC aids those in the countries of Thailand, Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who has a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

In today’s modern world, various types of conflicts and natural disasters have resulted in 10 million refugees and 29 million internally displaced persons (IDP). The difference between the two is that a refugee has crossed an international border, while an IDP still remains in their home country. Regardless of their title, both groups are in deep need of protection, food, water and shelter – and this is often achieved through international law.

A notable aspect of the ARC is their Rapid Response Teams (RRT), which is a group ready to be dispatched on short notice to areas that have been recently struck with a type of crisis that may result in human displacement. The RRT can leave as fast as within 48 hours of receiving contact. Often times, such crises are not necessarily predictable and are deemed emergencies and urgent situations that need immediate attention. The RRTs scope the initial conditions and report the most pressing needs, partner with other agencies for effective humanitarian aid and ultimately provide true relief to those affected by the crisis.

Having RRTs has been advantageous to the ARC’s goals and commitments. For instance, in 2008 when a calamitous cyclone tore through Myanmar – which exceeded over 22,000 deaths and at least 41,000 missing – ARC sent off a RRT to the area. The ARC has had a team in Thailand (which borders Myanmar) for almost two decades and are consequently more familiar with the region’s language, culture and geography. Unfortunately, the Myanmar military government was slow to respond in granting visas to workers. However, the investments that ARC has sown into the regions shows much potential to bear fruit in the future when emergencies such as this happens.

The American Refugee Committee prides itself on possessing great financial responsibility. According to Charity Navigator, the ARC has received a score of 63.67 out of 70 points. The score is taken as an average of its financial score and its accountability & transparency score, of which the ARC received 60.06 and 70 out of 70, respectively. Nearly 89.4 percent of the ARC’s expenses go toward its programs – reflecting its efficiency and transparency.

– Christina Cho

Sources: ARC Thailand, Charity Navgiator, MinnPost
Photo: Minn Post

For many females in the Syrian refugee camps, the fear of death that propelled them from their home is now replaced by the fear of sexual assault in what is supposed to be their area of sanctuary. Rape and sexual assault have become major issues in the Syrian civil war, especially in the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan, where the problem has become more concentrated and centralized.

Because there is such a harsh stigma surrounding rape and the blame often lies on the victim rather than the assailant, most women do not report any incidence. The female victims often remain silent in fear of retribution from the perpetrators as well as the shame and anger that would fall on their family members.

In response to this problem, many women have entered into unwanted marriages for protection. These marriages are called “sutra” marriages and are becoming increasingly common as the Zaataari camp continues to be flooded with new refugees from across the border. This is often orchestrated by the male members of the family who, feeling they cannot offer their daughters adequate protection, marry them off to someone they believe can.

One Syrian American Medical Society volunteer estimates that the instances of child marriage in Syrian refugee camps are 60% higher than in Syria. Sexual exploitation in the Zaatari camp is so prevalent that a number of refugees have created monitoring groups that have uncovered several “marriage brokers” who infiltrated the camp posing as workers. These individuals are merely escorted off the camp if reported.

CNN recently published an article sharing numerous experiences of women inside the camp. One woman, named Ruwaida, who was a wedding dress designer back in Syria, now designs dresses for girls as young as 13. She says that girls rarely got married that young in Syria, but that it has become commonplace in their new temporary home.

“I feel like I have a child between my hands and she is having to take on a responsibility that’s bigger than she is,” Ruwaida says. “I feel her life is over, her life is ending early.” Another encounter documented was with 14-year-old Eman, who married at 13 and became a mother before her body was even fully developed. She said, “I wouldn’t have gotten married, it’s because of the situation.”

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: CNN, Standpoint Magazine
Photo: PressTV