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Aid to South SudanSeventy-four years after its initial founding, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) continues to advocate for refugees and at-risk populations across the globe by combining immediate aid and relocation services with long term educational and developmental support for displaced persons.

One of the IRC’s longest service commitments has been its 20-year history of delivering aid to South Sudan.

South Sudanese citizens voted overwhelmingly for independence from Sudan in July 2011 following the fragile, internationally-brokered 2005 peace deal that ended years of civil war. According to BBC, it was Africa’s longest-running civil war, having started in 1983.

Unfortunately, independence did not bring peace for South Sudan. The country plunged into crisis in December 2013 due to a power struggle between the president, Salva Kiir, and former vice president Riek Machar. By the time a tentative, internationally-mediated peace agreement was signed in August 2015, fighting between government troops and rebel factions had lead to tens of thousands of deaths and prompted more than 2.2 million people to flee their homes.

Political rivalry, ethnic violence and disagreements over oil revenues perpetuate the cycle of instability, poverty and hunger.

In a recent article entitled, “South Sudan: Where the Soldiers Are Scarier Than the Crocodiles,” New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff points out that South Sudan has received little to no media attention. He says that according to official studies, the death toll and suffering in South Sudan is just as great as in Syria.

Despite the severity of the situation, increasing aid to South Sudan remains a challenge. The United Nations appeal for financial assistance in the country is only three percent funded and many aid groups have withdrawn just as violence and need is escalating.

In an effort to combat inaction, the IRC continues to aid South Sudan’s most at-risk populations and invest in the country’s potential for redevelopment. The organization currently provides urgently needed medical care, water and sanitation services to refugees from regions afflicted by ongoing fighting. In regions where fighting has subsided, the IRC provides returning refugees with counseling, job training and education on their rights as citizens.

Protection for vulnerable women and girls also remains a top priority, and survivors of sexual violence are provided with medical, psychosocial and legal support. Additionally, the IRC runs clinics and trains local health workers to provide basic health care.

To promote education, the IRC constructs classrooms, trains teachers and works with Sudanese educators to improve educational policy and administration.

To an attempt to improve government accountability, the IRC trains community leaders and government officials on the importance of upholding human rights. Through research and advocacy, the committee strives to educate governments and citizens around the globe on the urgency of South Sudan’s state.

While the end of instability and violence in South Sudan seems far away, attention from groups like the IRC and from the international community can help increase aid to South Sudan and inspire effective solutions to suffering.

Taylor Resteghini

Match_Donations
Eastern Europe has become overwhelmed with migrants, waiting to board trains to Germany and other European countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been working with the EU diligently to create protocols and ease overstretched countries like Greece and Italy by spreading out new arrivals.

Most refugees are headed to Germany, where the country has made it clear they are accepting refugees giving them opportunities to build their lives. Other countries, such as Hungary, have completely shut their doors to fleeing refugees and have threatened to jail illegal refugees caught trying to cross into the nation.

Google, one of the most influential companies in the world has created a campaign to match donations for refugees in crisis. The campaign is called “onetoday”. Google hopes the campaign will inspire greater giving amongst humanity.Google has offered to match donations up to $5.5 million in user donations with tax deductions for U.S. citizens.

The funds will be split evenly between four organizations that Google feels have strong track records of successfully providing aid and have been on the front line since day one. These organizations include Doctors Without Borders (DWB), International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Refugees and fleeing migrants are in desperate need of medicine, clothing and food. The four organizations are working in unison to address the different needs. DWB is providing refugees with everything from psychological care and is committed to set up hospitals in refugee camps as well as helping women give birth safely.

In addition, International Rescue Committee is providing relief to refugees reaching the shores of Greece as well as Afghanistan and Syria. They also help resettle thousands of refugees every year in the United States.

Save the Children is another organization that has been working on providing shelter kits and sustainable foods. UNHCR has been working particularly with the Syrian refugees to provide life-saving assistance such as protection, shelter food, and receptions centers where refugees can be registered.

The response and outpouring has been overwhelming but more support, aid and love is needed in a hurry to deal with the migrant crisis.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, End Gadget, Google
Photo: arageek

wedding_day_feeding_syrian_refugees
One Turkish couple’s wedding celebration has gone viral on social media — but not for the reasons you might think.

Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat tied the knot in Turkey’s Kilis province on July 30. While their families had saved money for a traditional post-wedding banquet, the couple decided to spend their wedding day feeding Syrian refugees.

Tens of thousands of war-battered Syrians have taken refuge in Kilis in the wake of Syria’s ongoing civil war. Moved to respond to the crisis, Üzümcüoğlu and Polat spent their reception feeding 4,000 Syrian refugees.

Wedding guests helped the newlyweds distribute dinners from food trucks and even organized a party for the refugees.

According to the International Rescue Committee, Syria’s ongoing civil war has fueled the world’s worst refugee crisis in a quarter-century. More than four million Syrians have fled the fighting, leaving the neighboring countries of Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon struggling to support the wave of displaced persons. The UNHCR reports that there are more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone.

Kimse Yok Mu (KYM), the Turkey-based nonprofit that hosted the event, reported that the groom’s father, Ali Üzümcüoğlu, first suggested the idea.

“I thought that sharing a big delicious dinner with our family and friends was unnecessary, knowing that there are so many people in need living next door,” the father explained.

He presented the idea of a charitable celebration to the couple, who accepted.

“I was shocked when Fethullah first told me about the idea,” said bride Esra Polat, “but afterwards I was won over by it. It was such a wonderful experience.”

Photos of the selfless event have spread across social media, with many wishing the newlyweds happiness and blessings in their married life.

Üzümcüoğlu said that sharing their banquet with the refugees was “priceless.”

“We started our journey to happiness with making others happy,” he shared. “That’s a great feeling.”

Caitlin Harrison

Sources: UNHCR, Washington Post, The Independent, International Rescue Committee
Photo: Elite Daily

afghan_refugees
The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in millions of Afghans seeking refuge in neighboring countries, specifically Pakistan and Iran. Today, Afghans account for the greatest number of displaced persons in the world. With over 1.6 million registered Afghans located in the country, Pakistan is struggling to accommodate the unmet health needs of local women.

The World Health Organization describes war as “the most serious threat of all to health.” Unfortunately, this seems to be true in many refugee camps located in Pakistan, where reproductive health needs remain untreated. During the first wave of refugees, communicable diseases, such as malaria, were among the greatest concerns for the population. Nowadays, the focus has shifted to address the growing demands of Afghan women in regards to maternal health.

After conducting a needs assessment, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) concluded that there has been a lack in reproductive health services in refugee camps. The primary area of concern continues to be the surplus of high-risk pregnancies. Malnutrition, poverty and under-use of prenatal services all contribute to the endangerment of a mother and her baby.

However, these are not the only factors that cause Afghan refugees to remain a vulnerable population.

Due to many cultural constraints, women can only receive clinical care and health education from other women. This proves troublesome in many camps where female physicians are limited. The IRC also found that although 80 percent of pregnant women attend between one and three prenatal appointments, only half of them were accompanied by a trained health professional during labor.

Inadequate access to transportation tends to hinder women’s ability to seek health services in the case of an emergency, thus forcing many Afghan refugees to give birth at home without any medical supervision. In the few cases where an Afghan woman may be able to reach a local hospital, a male relative must accompany her–but that cannot always be guaranteed.

Fortunately, there have been recent solutions to this ongoing health crisis.

Government-run health care facilities, or Basic Health Units (BHUs), are growing in popularity in the outskirts of the country. Although some BHUs have already been established, they have rarely been seen in remote towns such as Chamkani, located in Peshawar. However, in 2012, the Chamkani project started operations, establishing seven BHUs in various parts of Peshawar.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) created the Refugee Affected and Hosting Area program to strengthen these government-run health centers, improve infrastructure and rehabilitate the environment of over 40 rural cities by various projects.

According to UNHCR, the Chamkani project has built a multitude of labor rooms, recovery rooms and waiting areas in the seven new BHUs. They have also provided more medical equipment and training to traditional midwives.

Local interviews suggest that Afghan refugees in Chamkani feel more comfortable because a health clinic is nearby, meaning they will not have to wait for a male to escort them. The Chamkani project also considers the financial situation of many refugees. The women only have to pay five rupees for an ultrasound examination, a procedure that would be exponentially more expensive at a hospital.

While Afghan refugee women still continue to endure hardships during pregnancies, the BHUs have greatly improved their lives and provided them better medical treatment in a timely manner. As Winston Churchill said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”

— Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNHCR, Rescue.org, RHRC
Photo: Pakistan Today

Subsistence Farming
Many of the refugees who settle in the United States come from places of conflict and extreme poverty. Few have learned to read and write in English. Their skills are tailored to the situation in their homeland. Among the Bhutanese, Congolese, Burundi, Nepali and Somali communities, the skill these refugees have best honed is farming.

In an interview with the NY Times, Somali Ibrahim Sawarah Dehab says, “In America, you need experience.” Without the training to take up work in a drastically different society, and without the language resources to learn, refugees have difficulty supporting themselves and their families.

However, subsistence farming can have financial benefits for those who practice it. The surplus of many small farms sell for $5,000 to $50,000 dollars annually.

Subsistence farming is not a final solution for the economic hardship refugees face. Certainly, the revenues are inadequate for a family. But farming has other benefits besides finances, including fresh vegetables, fruit and meat.

Fast food is the cheapest source of calories in the U.S. Poor families must often sustain themselves on the grease and preservative-soaked contents of the restaurant dollar menus. By growing their own produce, however, refugee families provide themselves with nutritious meals at virtually no monetary cost.

Farms provide psychological benefits as well. Uprooted from their homes, refugees are perhaps more in need of a community than most. Language barriers, combined with jarring cultural differences, severely limit the connections they can make.

If they settle in refugee communities, the opportunity to find people with similar experiences and languages skyrockets. This is much better on joint farms, where resettled people can work together growing and herding. These farms foster a sense of purpose in the farmers. In order to sell, they have to venture out, establishing a presence and becoming familiar with the greater community.

Getting would-be farmers on their feet falls to organizations like the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots and New Land Farms programs. The latter was founded in 2008 as a branch of the Lutheran Social Services group of New England. The organization funds community gardens in Westfield, Springfield, West Springfield and Worcester, where refugees–most from Iraq, Burundi and Bhutan–can grow produce for their families.

Refugees who want to farm alone or communally have their choice of plots from two different New Land Farm sites. They are given seeds, equipment and everything necessary to begin planting. Those who would like to work in agriculture but have no farm experience are trained.

Subsistence farming among refugees speeds the process of integration. According Dehab, now owner of a successful meat farm, “In America, you need experience, and my experience is goats.”

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: New York Times, Relief Web
Photo: New York Times

humanitarian aid
A report released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last week has shocked the humanitarian aid community. The report, entitled “Where is everyone?,” took a hard look at areas where aid has been falling short, especially in regard to emergency responses.

The three main issues the report finds are: funding is too slow and inflexible, NGOs operating at the grassroots are shut out of the UN-dominated system and emergency response is not prioritized in the humanitarian aid system.

Responses to MSF’s report have not all been favorable. Some, such as Bertrand Taith, a cultural historian of humanitarian aid and director of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester, have criticized MSF’s methodology. Taith called the approach taken by MSF “headline grabbing.”

However, despite the controversy over MSF’s methods, the overwhelming response has been appreciation for the debate it has sparked. The MSF report’s website states: “We intend this paper to start a real discussion with our colleagues in the aid community…to make us all improve how we respond.”

One contribution to the debate has taken the form of a blog entitled, “Where is everyone? We’re standing right next to you.” Bob Kitchen, director of the International Rescue Committee’s emergency preparedness and response unit expressed in the blog that his agency and others “continue to stand and deliver in the face of chaos and mounting humanitarian needs.”

Kitchen’s comment is in response to the report’s finding that humanitarian aid agencies are not targeting the most vulnerable areas, because they are too dangerous and hard to access. One such population being unregistered urban refugees in Jordan.

“We’re not saying [agencies] should take unnecessary risks, but we do feel that in some cases, a perceived lack of security becomes a rather defensive argument,” says Jens Pedersen, a humanitarian adviser with MSF.

Kitchen, however, cites the work his agency is currently doing in Somalia. “A country,” he describes, “so violent that MSF itself has withdrawn.”

Funding is another issue that the report addresses. Not lack of funding in general, but lack of flexible and easily accessible funds. The report begins by saying, “the international humanitarian aid system has more means and resources at its disposal…than ever before.”

The issue is that the money is often inflexible and earmarked. It is also slow; on average, it takes three months for donor funds to be disbursed through UN agencies and reach their target. Three months that emergency response situations cannot afford.

To combat this delay, certain networks have been established. One is the START network, which operates outside the UN. It provides a shared source of emergency funding for 19 major NGOs.

The report effectively sparked debate in the aid community. MSF “has made it clear that [the report] is intended as a trigger for critical discussions in the aid community,” reports IRIN. And, in that regard, it has succeeded.

Humanitarian aid agencies across the globe are preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place in Istanbul in 2016. The stated goal of the summit is to “find new ways to tackle humanitarian needs in our fast-changing world,” and the summit will provide space for the conversation about aid effectiveness to continue.

– Julianne O’Connor

Sources: IRIN, MSF, World Humanitarian Summit
Photo: NewInt

Top 10 Global Poverty Nonprofits
Let’s begin with the obvious, all of us at The Borgen Project… are big fans of The Borgen Project. Our bias aside, below is a list of 10 of the top global poverty nonprofits and their commendable work.

 

Top Global Poverty Nonprofits

 

1. The Borgen Project – The Borgen Project has taken the plight of the world’s poor to the political level. With access to most members of Congress and an advocacy network of volunteers in every state, The Borgen Project is considered one of the most politically influential organizations fighting for the world’s poor.

2. ONE Campaign – ONE Campaign uses grassroots and advocacy to raise awareness and money to help put a stop to global poverty. They mainly focus their attention on those living in impoverished conditions in Africa.

3. Global Giving – Global Giving is a charity fundraising web site that gives nonprofits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money that they need to improve their communities. Since 2002, the project has raised $114,889,647 from 392,257 donors and has supported 10,252 projects.

4. UNICEF – UNICEF is one of the largest nonprofit organizations and it is dedicated to helping children in need. UNICEF does so much for children around the globe, all while promoting education for girls and better health for pregnant women.

5. Partners in Health – Partners in Health is another nonprofit much like [email protected], which is geared towards providing a better quality of living and preventing disease. Partners in Health partners with doctors and health institutions across the globe to provide much needed relief for people who would otherwise be unable to afford health care.

6. GiveWell – GiveWell is a combination of several top rated charities all over the world. Most, if not all, of these charities provide relief for impoverished people in every nation.

7. CARE – CARE wants to cut poverty off at its roots. This nonprofit provide tools for people who are at a higher risk of falling into poverty and they help them to be successful and rise above the poverty within their nations.

8. Life in Abundance – Life in Abundance is a Christian-run organization that mobilizes churches and missionaries alike to provide relief for those who are suffering. This nonprofit wants to provide a healthier lifestyle to those who are living in poverty.

9. International Rescue Committee – The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives to prevent global poverty. The nonprofit was founded in 1933 due to a request from Albert Einstein himself. The IRC has since offered lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.

10. Sh[email protected] – [email protected], while not primarily putting an end to global poverty, is trying to eradicate one facet of it. [email protected] is a nonprofit that provides vaccinations for those less fortunate so they will not be plagued by preventable diseases.

 

 

Sources: About.com, CARE, GiveWell, Global Giving, International Rescue Committee, Life in Abundance, Partners in Health, Philanthropedia, The Borgen Project, UNICEF
Photo: The Guardian

emotional responses to global poverty

What is more valuable: $55 given now or $85 given in three months? Obviously, $85 has a higher monetary value than $55, but peoples’ perceptions of value take more into account than the number itself—for instance, people consider the value of getting paid immediately. What’s more, peoples’ emotional states also influence their perceptions of value.

For example, research has shown that people who feel sad tend to act impatiently, so sad people would more often choose the instant $55 over the delayed $85. As it might be in one’s best interest to wait for more money, sadness hinders one’s ability to make wise financial decisions.

So when making financial decisions, one should suppress all emotion! Right?

Not necessarily, argues a new study published in Psychological Science. One emotion, gratitude, actually improves our ability to factor long-term options into decision-making. This study found that people who felt gratitude chose the delayed $85 unless the instant payment was $63, rather than $55. By contrast, people who felt neutral or happy needed only the $55 to choose the instant cash option.

How do these psychological studies relate to philanthropy and emotional responses to global poverty, though?

Ending global poverty requires people to philanthropize, but philanthropy comes in different varieties. Consider two: On the one hand, a person can donate money to, say, have a freshwater well built for people who lack access to clean drinking water. This method of philanthropy—”direct aid,” for lack of a better name—gets real results quickly.

On the other hand, a person can donate money to policy groups that work to mobilize the resources of national governments. This is advocacy, a method of philanthropy that sees results less quickly but often sees bigger results than direct aid. Both methods of philanthropy have been indispensable in the fight against global poverty. Yet, advocacy seems to be a less favored method for givers; for instance, the revenues of the International Rescue Committee were roughly 29 times greater than those of the Center for Global Development, a major policy-shaping organization, in 2013.

Charitable donations are subject to the same time value of money questions that arose in the experiment on emotions and decision-making. “Is it more useful to take the $55 or $85?” becomes “is it more useful to build a well now or to shape policy that secures water for millions of people?” The answer to these questions depends on a number of factors: the desperation of those without the well, or the likelihood that policies will be changed, to name a few.

Philanthropists should probably consider both options, but certain emotions such as sadness seem to inhibit their ability to do so.

People are inundated with images or facts concerning poverty calculated to make them feel sad. To feel less sad, people then donate. However, by nature people want sadness to diminish quickly, which seems best achieved if their donations get quick results. Might this fact then cause them to overlook the potential of advocacy?

In the interest of preserving both direct aid and advocacy philanthropy, perhaps the potential philanthropist must approach global poverty in a certain way. Responding to the grim realities of poverty with gratitude for one’s own fortune might indeed be more useful than responding with sadness—to philanthropists seeking to make the best financial decision, at least.

-Ryan Yanke

Sources: PsyblogHarvard Psychological Science Magazine, The Borgen ProjectCenter for Global Development, International Rescue Committee
Photo: Huffington Post

refugees_flee_flames_thailand
As of December 2013, Thailand has had 646,770 incoming refugees, mostly from Myanmar, to which the Thai government responded by setting up nine camps on their border for temporary shelter. The United Nations reports that “with possible reduction in humanitarian assistance, the protection risks of economically vulnerable refugees who might resort to negative coping mechanisms for survival will represent an additional challenge…”

Before 2013 came to a close, one last tragedy hit the Thai people on December 27. Fires in two of the refugee camps on the Burmese border left the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to respond to the disaster, which caused approximately 600 people to become homeless. So far only one death has been reported, but 600 people are still left without homes.

The director of IRC programs in Thailand explains “This is a sad reminder of the refugee’s vulnerable living conditions. Families lost all of their possessions in a matter of minutes.” What would you do if you saw your possessions being turned to ashes? The people of Thailand also did not know what to do.

The IRC has since stepped in to provide health care, water and other services to all nine of the refugee camps, not only the two affected by the fire. Unfortunately, the Thai people did not expect anything less than a tragic end to 2013, but are thankful for the various health teams visiting the displaced families for counseling.

UNHCR explains that the refugees in Thailand have been fleeing conflict and crossing Myanmar’s eastern border jungles for safety for 30 years. Moreover, the IRC began working in Thailand in 1976, in response to the influx of refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

As it stands, the IRC has, for a while, been responsible for aiding 140,000 refugees in Thailand, responding to emergencies by providing urgent health care and supplies. Additionally, IRC provides legal counseling, emotional support and even assistance for refugees seeking admission to the United States.

– Lindsey Lerner

Sources: The UN Refugee Agency, International Rescue Committee
Photo: The Guardian