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Homelessness in BosniaHomelessness in Bosnia is a multinational emergency. Recent snowfalls in Bosnia’s Northwest region threaten the lives of thousands of migrants. The region, a de facto landing ground for thousands of migrants, is the site of a mounting humanitarian crisis. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which functions as a buffer state between the Eurozone and parts of eastern Europe, have served as holding grounds for migrants. Even more worrying, the COVID-19 pandemic has further strained these communities.

COVID-19 Emergency Shelters

At the beginning of the pandemic, close to 2,500 migrants struggled without access to shelter. As a result, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) established a facility that could serve as living quarters for 1,000 migrants in Bihac, one of Bosnia’s major northern cities. The facility provided “basic humanitarian aid, including accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care.” Previously, IOM increased the capacity of a shelter in the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo.

Both measures were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between and among homeless migrant and civilian populations. To say the least, homelessness in Bosnia is a complicated subject. In addition, for Bosnia’s civilian population, it’s a source of ongoing tension. By mitigating interactions between migrant and civilian populations, IOM interventions were designed to resolve tensions.

Tensions between migrants and local authorities haven’t been quelled, however. Reports of looting and vagrancy led local authorities to close migrant camps around the country. In late September, after local authorities evicted hundreds of migrants from a migrant camp in Bihac, Peter Van der Auweraert, an IOM official, called on state authorities to take control of the situation.

Homelessness in Bosnia

At least 2,500 of the 10,000 migrants who are held up in Bosnia, in limbo between the Eurozone and the countries they fled, live outside without proper shelter. They are exposed to the elements, and seasonal weather conditions will make their situation much worse. IOM tent camps have served as temporary shelters, but they are inadequate solutions for the winter.

An estimated 25% of rural Bosnians live in poverty. This statistic doesn’t include the rate of poverty among migrants who live in the country. A variety of reasons have been cited for Bosnia’s poor economy. However, the fact of the matter is that Bosnia lacks the resources to provide safe facilities for migrants.  

Appeals for Additional Support

There is no clear solution to the dangerous conditions that migrants in Bosnia will have to endure this winter. However, one could come from a collaboration of the Bosnian government with governments in the Eurozone and international organizations. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Bosnian government to construct emergency facilities. In addition, it cited international law as the basis for its demand. In an effort to ensure that international law is upheld, Amnesty International filed a complaint against local authorities after reports of violence against migrants were reported.

To that end, Euro-Med Monitor underlined the role of the European Union to “establish a monitoring mechanism in Croatia to ensure that the authorities deployed at the borders respect migrants’ fundamental rights and European law, including their safe access to asylum procedures.” Additionally, IOM began to distribute winter kits, including food and sleeping bags, to thousands of migrants in October. Future funding may come as a result of the United Nation’s appeal for $455 million to address the global refugee crisis.

A concerted effort between advocacy groups and governments is required. So long as the world decides that Bosnia’s marginalized populations deserve the world’s support, then there is hope.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ghana
Human trafficking is a wicked global business that involves kidnapping people for slavery, forced labor or exploitation, robbing millions of people (largely women and kids) of their homes. Many children experience human trafficking in Ghana.

Human Trafficking in Ghana

Human trafficking in Ghana is a nationwide affair but is more prominent in the Volta region and the oil-producing Western region. Research from August 2016 reported that 35.2% of households consisted of trafficked children with 18% working in the fishing industry, 10% in domestic servitude and a few reports of early and forced marriage.

Since 2002, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), along with several NGOs and international organizations, has aimed to combat human trafficking in Ghana. These organizations mainly work towards rescuing, sheltering and rehabilitating victims.

The Importance of Community Outreach and Education

International Organization for Migration (IOM) organizes programs in the Volta, Central, Greater Accra and Brong-Ahafo Regions of Ghana to strengthen the ties between communities to effectively condemn and prosecute traffickers, provide intensive care for distressed victims and prevent trafficking altogether. The programs intend to educate the villagers about the dangers of child trafficking, international and national legislation on child rights and human trafficking as a culpable offense.

Traffickers do not always realize the immorality of keeping the kids away from their parents and schools. “For instance, Benjamin Tornye, a fisherman for 15 years, used to visit parents and ask them if their children could help him with his work. As he said, “children are good fishers.” He would teach them how to use the boat, swim and dive, and he believed he was doing the right thing.”

Therefore, rescuing trafficked children is much more than just freeing them from the clasps of exploitation. To make a real impact, the authorities must sensitize and educate people about human-trafficking; and create and maintain a peaceful environment for the well-being of the children.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and APPLE, a Ghanaian NGO founded in 1977, both rescue children from trafficking and bring them back to their families. Rescued children first go to a government-run shelter for up to three months before they reunite with their parents. At the shelter, they receive medical checks, health treatment, psychological counseling and basic education.

Additionally, a clinical psychologist inspects the victims to identify the ill-treatment that they have experienced which informs the creation of a personalized plan for rehabilitation. Next, the children attend school or undertake an apprenticeship with the necessary supplies. Otherwise, if they are fortunate enough, they go back home to their parents.

The children who return to their parents get to fulfill the fundamental right of all the children in this world: to grow up with a family. The authorities organize a background test and a compatibility test to ensure that the caretakers are suitable before handing over the child.

The development of the kids –in the family environment, school and apprenticeship– receives monitoring over a period of 2.5 years to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. Further, watchdog groups and surveillance teams have merged to prevent re-trafficking of children. Parents also receive livelihood assistance upon the homecoming of the children.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) educates the locals, national government officials, and the traffickers about the appalling effects of human-trafficking on a child. Further, it raises awareness on the issue and encourages a shift in the mindset of the people.

Accomplishments

With these wonderful initiatives and generous donations by people and organizations from all over the world, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), along with its partner NGOs, has been able to help victims of human trafficking in small ways.

As of now, IOM has rescued 732 trafficked children in Ghana and rehabilitated and reintegrated them into their respective communities. Additionally, of these children, 690 have been able to attend school with 20 graduating high school. Moreover, 10 have completed apprenticeships and are supporting themselves now, while 191 children have been able to reintegrate due to the sponsorship of private donors.

Beyond the apparent benefits to child victims of human trafficking, IOM has aided in other ways as well. In fact, it has granted education regarding trafficking to 130 communities and 48,533 community members. It has also benefitted 468 parents/guardians of trafficked children with micro-business assistance.

Finally, IOM has offered training to 50 social workers in the rehabilitation of child and adult victims of trafficking. It has also provided technical assistance in capacity-building on human trafficking issues to 150 government officials from the Police, Immigration, Naval and Judicial Services.

Government Support

The Government of Ghana introduced several policies, legislation and programs to address the main grounds of human trafficking. Consequently, to set up an all-inclusive approach, the government devised the Human Trafficking Act, 2005 (Act 694), providing a robust authorized framework to prevent human trafficking, prosecute the perpetrators and protect the victims.

The government of Ghana and the NGOs have had a modest impact in curbing the enormity of human trafficking by implementing preventive strategies. The government successfully established a capable board and conducting training sessions for law enforcement, immigration officials and the citizenry. Despite the best efforts to eradicate human trafficking and persecute domestic and international offenders, the number of human trafficking cases remains disappointingly high.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in YemenMany consider Yemen, a country located in the Middle East, to currently be undergoing the worst humanitarian disaster in the present time. Before the start of the war, which broke out in 2015, Yemen was already struggling to control the health crises that were plaguing the country. Violence and other aspects of war resulted in an emergence of even greater needs for healthcare in Yemen. An estimated 100,000 Yemeni people died due to war violence alone. Conflict and war have killed 100,00 people in Yemen while “indirect causes such as starvation and disease” have resulted in the deaths of an additional 131,000. Here are four facts about healthcare in Yemen.

4 Facts About Healthcare in Yemen

  1. Civil War: Yemen’s healthcare system was already in a fragile state before the civil war and ultimately collapsed as a result of the war. The collapse of the healthcare system left the country in a state of desperation for humanitarian aid. There are an estimated 24 million people out of a population of 29 million that are in need of some sort of medical aid. Another 14.4 million people are in an acute need for aid. The failed system resulted in a major decline in the number of operable facilities for healthcare in Yemen, with less than half of the previously functioning facilities still operating. This, in combination with extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, has left 80% of the Yemen population without sufficient access to healthcare services.
  2. Malnourishment: Yemen’s already existing struggle to fight malnourishment became an even greater challenge due to the war, which has worsened the food insecurity crisis. About 56% of Yemen’s population is currently experiencing crisis-level food insecurity. Thus, malnourishment is one of the biggest health issues plaguing the country, creating an even greater need for access to healthcare in Yemen. Children are by far the most vulnerable to suffering from malnourishment. In fact, 2 million Yemeni children, all less than 5 years old, suffer from acute malnourishment.
  3. Disease: In 2017, Yemen experienced the largest cholera outbreak in recent history. Cholera is a bacterial infection that emerges from people ingesting water or food that the feces of an infected person has contaminated. The spread of this disease occurs more rapidly in areas without access to adequate sewage systems and sources of clean drinking water. Since 18 million people in Yemen are unable to access clean water and sanitization services, they face an increased vulnerability to contracting and spreading cholera. As a result of this heightened risk, reports estimated that there were one million cases of the disease in the country in 2017 alone. An additional estimated 991,000 cases occurred between January 2018 and September 2019. The lack of access to healthcare in Yemen further exacerbated the outbreak, resulting in thousands of deaths, despite cholera being an infection that is easy to treat. On top of the cholera outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has become another threat to healthcare in Yemen with a reported 260 cases and 54 deaths.
  4. Outreach: Due to the government’s inability to support the system, healthcare in Yemen relies on outside aid. The International Organization for Migration is working to reopen and restore 86 healthcare facilities people initially deemed inoperable. The IOM also manages “nine mobile health teams” to provide healthcare to those unable to get to operable facilities, with four of those teams providing emergency health services to migrants arriving on the coast of Yemen. Another organization, The International Committee of the Red Cross, provided medical facilities with medication and emergency supplies, resulting in medical relief of 500,000 people in the first half of 2018 alone. The International Medical Corps is another organization contributing to aid by providing health professionals with training and supplies, in addition to supporting 56 health centers across Yemen. Through that support, the organization provides adequate outpatient care to malnourished children, in addition to mental health services such as counseling. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and already at-risk population, the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan received an extension from June to December 2020. The U.N. and its partners are seeking $2.41 billion solely for fighting COVID-19 while continuing to provide aid for those that the country’s ongoing humanitarian emergency has affected.

Despite barriers to outreach, such as inadequate funding, there is an ongoing effort to stabilize and improve the state of healthcare in Yemen amid the violence of civil war. Efforts by the United Nations and numerous other humanitarian organizations are occurring to combat health issues related to circumstances of war, malnutrition and disease, while also providing Yemeni people with tools and training to treat and prevent further health complications.

– Emily Butler
Photo: Flickr

children in venezuela
In a nation experiencing an economic crisis, the children of Venezuela are suffering. Poverty is on the rise, including an increase in the malnutrition of children due to limited access to resources. Families fleeing to Peru have traveled quite far. Along the way, many have faced discrimination due to their migrant status. UNICEF and Plan International have developed a strategy for aiding children who are experiencing rapid changes in their home lives. They are helping children in Venezuela find a “Happiness Plan.”

Conditions in Venezuela

At one time, Venezuela was part of a wealthier portion of Latin America. However, with new officials and underdevelopment, poverty is now abundant. A large number of resources were focused toward developing the oil industry while other developments were delayed. With the newfound prosperity that oil brought, the economic gap grew further and further apart. The consequences of such destitution can be easily seen in the adults and children of Venezuela. Food, medicine, water and other resources are greatly lacking. This leaves people desperately searching for food.

The desperation associated with poverty was significantly increased in March due to a five-day blackout. Resources like food and water were even more scarce than usual. Some resorted to collecting water from sewage pipes. Multitudes of people were left without food. People rushed to stores to find food but discovered that the stores were already stripped. Some stores were even trashed and burnt in the chaos that ensued with riots. The riots were also the cause of several deaths from untreated medical conditions to gunshot wounds. Hospitals operated under less than ideal conditions, with limited access to electricity and supplies, such as soap.

The Effects of This Crisis On Children

In a press release, UNICEF stated, “ While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food.” Statistics about conditions in Venezuela can be hard to come by, and the ones that are available are often disheartening. Malnutrition is becoming a larger issue for the children of Venezuela. While the government has attempted some measures of addressing the problem, such as monthly packages of food for sale, more still needs to be done to provide for the Venezuelan people.

As a result of the continued crisis in Venezuela, many have fled the country. As of 2018, two million people had already left Venezuela; without a doubt, numerous others have left since. For those who are awaiting refugee status or to be reunited with lost family members, UNICEF has created a safe place to help children with this difficult time.

The Happiness Plan

The “Happiness Plan” is a safe space for children that has been set up in a tent in the country of Peru. Filled with games, coloring pages and books, this tent provides an outlet for children to be children while awaiting their official entry into Peru. In addition to the fun activities, the “Happiness Plan” offers psychosocial support from professionals for children struggling with these difficult transitions they are facing.

Some of the children passing through the tent have been separated from their families. They are awaiting the chance to rejoin their families in Peru. Others are with some members of their nuclear family but had to leave the rest of their family and friends behind them in Venezuela. One survey taken by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration stated that 73 percent of Venezuelan families in Tumbes, Peru, had to leave behind one or more of their children.

In such a dismal time for Venezuela, it is reassuring to know that organizations such as UNICEF and Plan International are implementing programs to help these children who have experienced such abrupt change. They will undoubtedly need physical and psychological support to heal from the trauma they have experienced in their home country.

Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Helping Climate Refugees
In 2017, nearly 18 million people were displaced due to natural disasters. This was roughly 7 million more than there were people displaced by violence or conflict. This number is also expected to grow to 143 million people by 2050 if actions are not taken against climate change.

All of these people represent climate refugees. They represent a growing phenomenon that lacks a formal definition.

There are several nongovernmental organizations that are working to help these people. In the text below, top organizations helping climate refugees are presented.

Climate Refugees

Climate Refugees is an organization that aims to raise awareness about climate refugees through field reports and social media. With the information that they have gathered, Climate Refugees meets with governments and the United Nations to prioritize policies that protect climate refugees.

In 2017, they released their first field report on the connection between climate change and displacement in the Lake Chad Basin.

The Environmental Justice Foundation

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is one of the many organizations helping climate refugees. It works to help create a more sustainable world through film and photography. The EJF started in 2000 and is based in eight countries around the world.

The EJF also provides activist training that helps the organization research and document human rights abuses. The EJF directs it work towards climate refugees in several ways and one of the most prominent is through video.

It released one video titled “Falling Through the Cracks,” that explains what climate refugees are, why they matter and how to help solve the growing problem of climate refugees.

The EJF also released an exhibition on climate refugees and their stories. Both of these projects aim to humanize the effects of climate change.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Founded in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works to protect and advocate for refugees around the world. The UNHCR works in 128 countries around the world and has helped 50 million refugees find a new life since its creation.

The UNHCR started its work with climate change and disaster displacement in the 1990s but expanded its scope in 2000s due to the growing need of working with climate refugees.

The organization’s work is broken down into four categories: operational practices, legal development, policy coherence and research.

Since 1999 the UNHCR was involved in 43 disasters that led to the displacement of people. The range of what UNHCR provided depended on the country and disaster.

International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization that works to ensure a process of migration that recognizes human rights around the world.

Since 1998, IOM worked on nearly 1,000 projects responding to migration due to environmental disasters. In 2015, the IOM founded the Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division (MECC), that specifically focuses on the connection between climate change and displacement.

MECC works in several countries around the world including Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. In all of these countries, MECC is working on research that tracks climate-related migration.

This research will help the IOM support policy development, in order to directly address the needs of climate refugees.

Refugees International

Refugees International (RI) is an independent organization that works to advocate for refugees through reports and analyzes. The organization analyses work done by other nongovernmental organizations and governments.

It works in 14 countries and climate displacement is one of the two issues that RI dedicates itself to. One of the main efforts that RI does to help climate refugees is conducting fieldwork every year. The data that is collected from this work is then used to lobby policymakers and aid agencies that help climate refugees.

While the climate refugee still lack a formal definition and while their number is expected to expand in the next 40 years, there are still several organizations helping climate refugees and ensuring that their voices and needs are heard.

Among others, the most important organizations that tackle this issue are Climate Refugees, the Environmental Justice Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration and Refugees International.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

During the past month, Bangladesh and the world have watched in horror as 400,000 refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar in the wake of an increase in military crackdowns among Muslim Rohingya villages. Many have lost family members in the violence and all have lost their homes. In the wake of the catastrophic events that have unfolded, Bangladesh has been forced to absorb a majority of the shock as ad hoc camps have been built along the borders. With 31.5% of its population already living below the national poverty line, aiding the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh may prove difficult for the Bangladeshi government.

Myanmar has made international headlines over the past month as images surfaced of entire villages being burned and destroyed. Beginning in August of this year, Rohingya militants executed a series of attacks in Rakhine State, where a majority of Rohingyas reside. The Rohingya people are known to be one of the most persecuted communities in the world. They suffer from systematic discrimination by both the government and fellow citizens because they are seen as illegal.

The government of Myanmar responded to the attacks with what is considered by U.N. officials to be “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Thus far, the operation has killed more than 1,000 and forced over 400,000 from their homes.

While Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said last week in a televised broadcast that the country was ready to welcome back the refugees, there has been skepticism about how welcoming the country will actually be, considering its history of Rohingya mistreatment. Furthermore, she stated that the Rohingya refugees would be allowed back in via a “verification” process. It remains to be seen what that verification process would entail.

Considering the uncertain future for the Rohingya refugees, organizations and countries have already stepped up to not only help the refugees but also the country of Bangladesh, particularly since the economic burden of hosting 400,000 refugees has been great. While Bangladesh has been focusing on its own impoverished citizens, the U.N. has estimated that nearly $200 million will be needed to aid the Rohingya refugees for a period of just six months. Bangladesh has urged the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to halt the influx of refugees, and it has seemed to help.

The U.N. has reported a drop in Rohingya refugee arrivals to Bangladesh since the end of September. While the International Organization for Migration claims that this is “too soon to say that the influx is over,” it is still a small victory for both Bangladesh and the international community. Likewise, Bangladesh has received significant aid from surrounding countries, including 53 tons of relief materials from India. Those materials included rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits and mosquito nets. Additionally, this week, the U.S. agreed to give $32 million in humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical care, water, sanitation and shelter. This comes at a crucial time, as the Bangladeshi government has agreed to build 14,000 temporary homes. This aid will go a long way to support the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh while their future in Myanmar is still unclear.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Ten Facts About the Iraq War
The Iraq War, also known as the Third Gulf War, began on March 20th, 2003. Causes of the war are the Global War on Terrorism in response to the attacks on September 11th, the intention to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and the intention to arrest Saddam Hussein and then abolish his regime.

Here are 10 facts about the Iraq War:

  1. The Domino Effect: Iraq has the world’s second largest reserves of oil, which makes it a very influential country in the middle east. President Bush hoped that toppling Hussein’s government would catalyze change for the surrounding countries.
  2. Iraqi Casualties: According to a 2011 Iraq Body Count, between 103,013 and 112,571 Iraqi civilians died in the violence.
  3. American Casualties: Four thousand four hundred and eighty-three American soldiers were killed and 33,183 were wounded.
  4. Journalist Death Toll: One hundred and fifty reporters and 54 media support workers were killed throughout the course of the war, the majority of which were deliberately targeted. This is higher than any other wartime death toll for journalists on record.
  5. Bloody Period: March 2003 was a period of invasion that resulted in the highest number of deaths for Iraqis. According to IBC, 3,977 were killed in March and another 3,437 were killed in April.
  6. IDPs: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that as many as 1.6 million Iraqis, or 5.5 percent of the population, were internally displaced. This means that they were forced to leave their homes but remained within their countries.
  7. Money Lost: The Iraq War cost the U.S treasury 1 trillion dollars, excluding benefits and long-term care for the wounded. Taxpayers collectively spent 1 trillion dollars — $3,200 per citizen — on the war between 2003 to 2011.
  8. Debt to Veterans: $490 billion of war benefits were owed to veterans following the war.
  9. Debt to Iraq: The U.S owed Iraq 4 billion dollars before the invasion and 7 billion dollars after.
  10. State of U.S soldiers after the Iraq war: Twenty percent of wounded U.S soldiers had serious brain or spinal injuries. Thirty percent of soldiers developed serious mental health problems within four months of returning home.

Both the U.S and Iraq suffered severe financial and human life losses by the time the war officially ended in December 2011. Although Saddam Hussein’s government was officially overturned, no weapons of mass destruction were found. Nevertheless, the war has made lasting impacts on U.S. and Iraqi relations for years to come.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition_in_Nigeria
Nearly 250,000 children under five years old suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria. Conflict in northeastern Nigeria has displaced 2.4 million people and pushed food insecurity and malnutrition to emergency levels. According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), over half a million people need immediate food assistance.

On June 27, 2016, The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund released a total of $13 million to help provide health services, food, nutritional supplements, cash for food purchases and protection to the most vulnerable people in Nigeria.

When people do not consume or absorb enough food daily, they fail to receive essential nutrients and become malnourished. When children are affected by malnutrition, their growth becomes stunted — they suffer from poor physical growth and slow brain development. Malnutrition in Nigeria has affected more than 11 million children.

Almost 20% of Nigerian children are underweight. Malnourished children are also more likely to die from illnesses due to their lower resistance to infection. “Unless we reach these children with treatment, one in five of them will die. We cannot allow that to happen,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative Jean Gough.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund provided funds to U.N. agencies in Nigeria to allow them to create and carry out a plan that would address the challenges the country faces. The funds will provide immediate life-saving nutrition, protection and food assistance to 250,000 people in northeast Nigeria.

Since mid-2016, donors have contributed $248 million to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Donors pool their money and are in control of funds; as a result, money is available immediately to start relief operations.

UNICEF has also provided safe water, health and nutrition support to Nigeria, while the International Organization for Migration has provided household and other relief items. Others should strive to resemble such incredible organizations like these two who are paving the way in malnutrition and relief reform.

Jackie Venuti

Photo: U.N. Multimedia