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5 Progressive Steps Toward Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking in PanamaWithin the last five years, there have been many cases of human trafficking throughout Panama. Human trafficking refers to the use of fraud or coercion in order to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act from a victim. Most trafficking victims in Panama are women from South and Central America, being exploited for sexual purposes. However, children and men are also victims.

Men from South and Central America, China and Vietnam are forced to work in construction, agriculture, mining and restaurants. Children are mainly used for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Tactics used include debt bondage, false promises and threats of reporting illegal immigration. In recent years, police have reported that some traffickers have even used illegal substances as a means to acquire victims. Below are five efforts to tackle the issues posed by human trafficking.

  1. UNODC: The UNODC, or the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, operates in Central America and the Caribbean to provide member states with technical assistance in the fight against serious and organized crime. In late January of 2020, the UNODC partnered with the General Secretariat of the National Commission against Trafficking in Persons to hold an informative breakfast in Panama to share its progress and challenges. The event also welcomed people to volunteer their support and funding through the Unit for the Identification and Care of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. There is hope that through events like this, the government of Panama will continue to make developments and advancements in putting an end to human trafficking. Hope remains that these efforts will also inspire more volunteering from those willing to work against the crime.
  2. National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family: In 2019, Panama made efforts to reduce the likelihood and prominence of child labor throughout the country. One of these efforts included the implementation of the National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family (SENNIAF). This agency conducts inspections to identify children living through child labor practices. Shelters for victims of trafficking, as well as care plans for children who were previously used as child laborers, are also available through this agency.
  3. Reforms in Law: In 2011, the government of Panama enacted Law 79. The law deals with trafficking in persons and related activities, thereby providing the legislative framework regarding human trafficking. The law aims to provide victims with respect in regard to their status. The initial step of this process requires public servants to immediately report to the police if they believe a person may be a victim of human trafficking, as outlined by Article 44. After a person is confirmed to be a victim of trafficking, Article 47 states that the person is allowed to stay in the country for at least 90 days in order for the victim to both physically and emotionally recover. Possibly, the most significant provision that the government has implemented is in Article 37. The portion asserts that no victim of human trafficking may be detained, accused or processed for entering the country illegally.
  4. International Organization for Migration: Headquartered in Panama, the IOM works to support the efforts of the government in Panama to develop and implement plans to prevent, investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, while protecting victims. In line with the annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, 2021, the IOM held a panel on raising awareness, victim protection and crime prevention. The event was attended by government authorities and members of civil society. Its main goal was to analyze the advances and challenges associated with the issue of trafficking, as well as to develop a perspective of human rights for the protection of trafficking victims.
  5. Districts Free of Child Labor Initiatives: The government of Panama created anti-child labor agreements such as the SENNIAF listed above. Through efforts made by these agencies, Panama has experienced an increase in victim identifications, as well as training and awareness of the issue among its population.

Three Key Improvements

As a result of many of these efforts, the following improvements have taken place.

  • Child labor training was provided to 105 law enforcement officials, 55 prosecutors and 21 tourism authorities.
  • A local NGO identified 1,497 cases of child labor in 2019. Of the cases, 1,444 received care, scholarships and follow-ups from a program for 3 years in regard to academic work.

  • The Labor Inspectorate carried out 945 inspections for child labor.

The Road Ahead

Though much progress had been made in eliminating human trafficking within Panama, more work is required to see a definitive elimination in cases. A key way to work on eliminating the issue is by spreading awareness of the issue to others; human trafficking is no different. Through the work of many organizations and agencies, Panama has seen an increase in the knowledge of the matter, and the government keeps the hope that trafficking will no longer persist.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Timor LesteHuman trafficking is the exploitation of a human being through the use of force or coercion in order to obtain labor or sexual acts. While human trafficking is a global issue with a large connection to poverty, it is important to recognize that trafficking may look different from country to country. Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a Southeast nation occupying half of the island of Timor and has a significant problem with human trafficking that involves both foreign and domestic victims. According to a trafficking report by the U.S. Department of State, “poor economic conditions and limited educational opportunities create trafficking vulnerabilities for Timorese nationals.” Here are five facts to help explain human trafficking in Timor-Leste.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Timor-Leste

  1. Timor-Leste is listed under the Tier 2 Watch List. The tiers, mandated from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, are based on the size of a country’s human trafficking problem along with government efforts to combat human trafficking. To grow in the rankings, a country has to increase anti-trafficking efforts and maintain acceptable progress. The Tier 2 Watch List is the third listed in the four overall tiers and is similar to Tier 2 except for the fact that the government has failed to show progress in combating forms of trafficking in comparison to previous years. Progress includes investigations, prosecution, and convictions into human trafficking cases. Timor-Leste only fell to the Tier 2 Watch List recently in 2020. From 2016-2019, Timor-Leste was listed under Tier 2 but did not report trafficking convictions; the only identification of a trafficking victim came from a non-governmental organization. It was in the fifth year when the government failed to increase their efforts to report trafficking convictions, that Timor-Leste fell to the Tier 2 Watch List.
  2. Timor-Leste is a destination country for human trafficking. A destination country is a country where there is a large demand for human trafficking. Most of these demands come from large cities. In Timor-Leste, many young men and women are lured to the capital through the promise of job prospects and educational opportunities, and end up in situations of forced labor and prostitution. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), “victims trafficked to Timor-Leste have originated from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines.”
  3. Timor-Leste is also an origin country. An origin country provides the supply of trafficked persons. The main outgoings of trafficking victims, according to the IOM, “is associated with labor migration out of East Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia.” Most of the victims sent to Indonesia are women and girls forced into domestic servitude.
  4. Children are among the victims of human trafficking. The children of Timor-Leste are among the many victims of human trafficking, often taken for sexual exploitation and dangerous agricultural tasks. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor, data coming from all 13 municipalities in Timor-Leste show that 55.5% of children in child labor engage in dangerous, hazardous work. It was found that families will place children in household and agricultural labor both in Timor-Leste and in other countries in order to pay off debts.
  5. The majority of victims are women and girls. Many women and girls are vulnerable due to the lack of legal protection, starting from the time they are in school. Research strongly shows that while there are no laws that prohibit pregnant girls from attending school, there are also no laws on providing education for pregnant girls. As a result, many principals will deny the girls access to the school. Obtaining transfer documentation becomes a problem too, as principles control access to documents. The lack of education and access to proper education facilities leaves many women and girls particularly vulnerable to human traffickers.

Looking Ahead

While Timor-Leste has not significantly progressed in its efforts to fight human trafficking, there is still hope for the future. The government of Timor-Leste has used an anti-trafficking curriculum created by a foreign government in order to better inform and train its judicial and legal sections. Organizations and persons that have received training include the national police, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. The government of Timor-Leste is also making efforts to criminalize human trafficking, though many of these plans still stay in a drafted status. One such plan comes from the Ministry of Justice, which drafted a national action plan in 2018 that has not yet been presented to the Council of Ministers. Another drafted policy comes from the Ministry of Education. This policy would encourage girls to return to school after giving birth, though it has remained in draft form for years. Through increased government intervention, through enforcing the policies already made and increasing protection for the vulnerable, the tide can turn in the fight against human trafficking in Timor-Leste.

Grace Ingles

Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked East African country bordering Tanzania and Rwanda. The majority of its population faces extreme poverty, with 65% of Burundians falling below the poverty line. In Bujumbura, the country’s capital, agricultural workers earn an average wage of 3,000 francs ($1.82) per day. In rural areas, the minimum wage is a third of the capital city’s, forcing rural workers to make ends meet on less than a dollar a day. Many Burundians lack access to clean water and basic sanitation and less than 5% have electricity. In addition to a high rate of extreme poverty, political instability and widespread violence have led to an increase in human trafficking in Burundi.

Trafficking in Supply Chains and “Cash Crops”

The Education Policy Data Center found that, as of 2014, 62% of Burundians aged 15-24 never complete primary education. Child labor is common, especially in agriculture. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of Burundi found, in a collaborative study, that child labor was commonly used to harvest “cash crops” such as coffee. Forced labor also occurs, sometimes because of human trafficking.

Gold mining is another Burundian industry plagued by human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, children and young adults often fall victim to forced labor in the gold mines surrounding the city of Cibitoke. The U.S. State Department also finds that traffickers try to recruit people they know into forced labor.

Children are the most common victims since they are easier to mislead and exploit for monetary gain. Burundi’s primary catalysts for human trafficking are its major industries. Implementing anti-trafficking protocols within these industries and refusing to buy exports produced using forced labor and trafficking would go a long way toward ending human trafficking in Burundi.

The Impact of Human Trafficking on Burundian Families

Young women and children are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. Many leave their families because of traffickers’ false promises of “good jobs,” which women and children see as their only chance to escape poverty. Human trafficking also causes emotional trauma for families with members who have been trafficked. NGOs working in the area believe that between 500 and 3,000 young women from Burundi became trafficking victims in the Middle East between 2015 and 2016.

OLCT, a Burundian NGO that stops transnational crime, reported that at least 527 girls and women arrived in Middle Eastern countries in 2017 as a result of human trafficking. Additionally, more than 250 girls and women arrived in the Middle East in 2018. According to the chairman of OLCT, Qatar is the most common place internationally trafficked Burundian girls end up in due to preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

Human trafficking in Burundi and the exploitation of young girls for monetary gain is a major problem in Burundi. However, ending human trafficking is possible with the proper prevention programs. Burundians stand to benefit both emotionally and economically from greater support from both the African and international communities in preventing human trafficking and keeping families together.

Ending Human Trafficking in Burundi

In April 2021, the Ugandan police intercepted a human trafficking caravan in transit to another nation. The police saved 29 Burundian girls and arrested and charged five human trafficking racket suspects. According to a Ugandan police spokesperson, the girls’ destination was likely the sex trade. Uganda is a cut-through country for traffickers bringing girls into other countries. Human trafficking in Burundi and Africa as a whole will end only if bordering nations cooperate with each other. Uganda’s rescue of 29 young girls displays what can happen when nations work together.

The Burundi Counter-Trafficking Project

Gaston Sindimwo, the vice president of Burundi as of 2019, says that fighting human trafficking requires universal respect for human rights and the understanding that human trafficking is a global issue. In 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) partnered with the Burundian Government to launch Burundi Counter-Trafficking, a project to strengthen the government’s capacity to fight human trafficking.

The Netherlands has fully funded the $3 million project, which will run until the end of 2022. Caecilia Wijgers, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Burundi as of 2019, stressed the need to protect people suffering exploitation and deception. Funding from the Netherlands has limited the number of trafficking rackets in the past few years and has allowed Burundi to work with its neighbors to stop trafficking throughout the continent.

The Burundi Counter-Trafficking project is helping reduce human trafficking in Burundi. However, much work still lies ahead in order to end the exploitation of Burundians and ensure no more families suffer as a result of human trafficking.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Flickr

Refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a southeastern European country situated in the western Balkan Peninsula of Europe. The state has borders with Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. The migration process that peaked in 2015 had an impact on many European states. A mix of civil wars, violence and bad governance in North Africa and the Middle East pushed people outside of their motherlands. According to the statistical data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 1,015,078 people irregularly crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 and 3,771 people died or disappeared at sea during their journeys to reach Europe. These migrations have resulted in a need for refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has land borders with the E.U.

Refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The number of asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina drastically increased at the end of 2017. An average of 32 new arrivals registered per month between January-November, but in December, the number of newcomers reached 198. The tendency continued into 2018 and the number of asylum seekers and migrants increased from 237 in January to 666 in March. Since the beginning of 2018, approximately 70,000 asylum seekers and migrants arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina via the Western Balkans migration route. Based on the United Nations (U.N.) statistics, around 8,000 asylum seekers and migrants are currently present in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In most cases, new arrivals were from Syria, Libya, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, Algeria and Iraq.

Due to economic and social reasons, new arrivals mostly do not have the willingness to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their main priority is to reach E.U. countries. However, strict border controls by the Croatian authorities and the slow readmission process by the E.U. have made the situation more complicated. In the last years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights groups have documented violence against asylum seekers and migrants by Croatian border police. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are five fully operational Temporary Reception Centers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, 5,616 asylum seekers and migrants are present at Temporary Reception Centers and 8,116 asylum seekers and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Current Struggles in the Refugee Camps

The poverty level of the residents in refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains very high despite the humanitarian aid of the E.U., U.N. agencies, humanitarian organizations and Bosnian and Herzegovinian authorities. Especially during the winter, all camps lack the most basic conditions for hosting people. Since the fire of the main camp in Lipa, residents of camps live in tents built by the Bosnian and Herzegovinian military. The refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina provide minimum comfort from the harsh weather conditions and 13 people live in one tent on average.

Food security remains a significant problem in camps for asylum seekers and migrants. According to U.N. data, 67% of residents of camps eat one meal per day. Asylum seekers and migrants purchase second and third meals with their own money. Personal funds of people are running out and they do not have income sources. Some residents of camps beg for money or sell tissues in the streets. Also, food security can change by location. Camps in the Sarajevo area receive food on a regular basis. However, residents of camps on the east and west of the country suffer from a lack of food distribution.

At the same time, people do not have any access to education while they live in refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By international law, asylum seekers have the right to primary and secondary education.

European Initiatives

Since early 2018, the E.U. provided €40,5 million directly to Bosnia and Herzegovina and project implementing partners. These funds help address the problems asylum seekers and migrants face in the refugee camps. Despite all of the humanitarian aid from the E.U., humanitarian organizations, non-governmental organizations and local authorities, problems remain. After visiting the notorious Lipa camp in the early months of February 2021, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson recommended a new European program for migrants and asylum seekers. However, to start a new program, consent is necessary from all E.U. members.

– Tofig Ismayilzada
Photo: Flickr

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