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UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was specifically created to help Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. The Palestinian refugee problem has only grown since its formation, so the U.N. has allowed the agency to continue operating.

Palestinian refugees are unique. Every person who was a resident or a resident’s descendant of what is now Israel all have a legal designation as ‘refugees.’ UNRWA now serves four generations of Palestinian refugees, having grown from serving 750,000 to 5.6 million.

The United States Pulls Funding

The United States pulled its funding from UNRWA in 2018. President Trump cited the reason behind the defunding as the agency’s incompetency. The United States had previously been contributing about $355,000 million of UNWRA’s budget.

The United States’ decision affected refugees who rely on UNRWA’s aid for education, health care, protection and basic human needs like food security. In 2017, reports determined that 39% of Palestinian refugees lived in poverty, and very little effort has occurred to assimilate Palestinians into host communities.

Palestine, Israel and the international community, in general, see the United States’ choice as an effort to delegitimize UNRWA and the 5.6 billion Palestinian refugees it serves. Revoking these generations of Palestinians’ refugee status would take away their right to return to their homeland.

Aftermath of Funding Removal

In 2020, the U.N. extended UNRWA’s mandate to the year 2023. However, UNRWA is still struggling financially. Not only did it appeal to the international community to donate a minimum of $1.4 billion for the yearly budget, but it requested another $14 million for COVID-19 emergency aid.

The UNRWA reported that it can only sustain operations until May 2020 with the added health crisis that COVID-19 brought on. It has only raised one-third of its budget. UNRWA’s director stated that the UNRWA must run on a “month to month basis” enduring the biggest financial instability since its creation.

Pleas for Help

The United States made the suggestion to transition the UNRWA’s responsibilities into the hands of the Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees. However, these nations are struggling to fill their own funding gap. Arab countries are suffering from high poverty rates and an influx of refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNRWA has also sought the help of NGOs, such as Islamic Relief USA, to fill the funding gap. This is a faith-based organization that works to raise funds and mobilize volunteers for a range of initiatives including UNRWA. It has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1994. Islamic Relief USA has served 1,077,000 people from 2017 to 2019.

The United States government might have cut off funding to UNRWA as a result of flaws within the agency. It might have hoped to delegitimize the Palestinian right of return. Either way, Palestine’s impoverished people need UNRWA’s support. If UNRWA is not successful in gaining new donors, they will lose their access to education, health care and other necessary securities that are human rights.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Cholera Health Crisis in Yemen
A massive resurgence of cholera afflicts Yemen, a bacterial infection that can kill within hours if untreated. Between January 2018 and June 2019, reports have determined there have been about 800,000 cases of cholera in the country. Here is a breakdown of the cholera health crisis in Yemen and the response from four notable organizations.

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, severe dehydration, nausea and vomiting. It mainly spreads through the consumption of water and food contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

Industrialized countries with proper water sewage filtration systems are unlikely to experience surges of cholera outbreaks. However, countries with inadequate water treatment are at a much higher risk of experiencing a cholera epidemic. Areas afflicted by natural disasters, poverty, war and refugee settings are at an exacerbated risk of experiencing cholera outbreaks.

The oral cholera vaccine is highly effective but the vaccine was not available in Yemen prior to the epidemic outbreak in 2017. Since then, more than 300,000 Yemenis received the cholera vaccination but continuous conflict provides a barrier between health care officials and the rest of the population. Doctors Without Borders maintains that the vaccine, while highly effective, is not enough to end cholera due to its low supply and short term protection.

Cholera Health Crisis in Yemen

As Yemen faces its fourth year of war, the country also fights a looming health crisis. The cholera health crisis in Yemen affects 22 of 23 governorates and almost 299 of Yemen’s 333 districts. Recording over one million cholera cases in 2017, Yemen’s crisis is the worst cholera epidemic on record.

Driven by years of war, the country has experienced a significant collapse in access to food, safe drinking water and health care. With millions of Yemenis facing famine, malnourishment increases the risk of cholera infections becoming fatal.

Many organizations are on the ground in Yemen, treating as many cholera cases as possible. Organizations responding to the health crisis in Yemen include Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Islamic Relief Foundation and World Health Organization (WHO).

If left untreated, the mortality rate of cholera can be very high. With proper treatment, cholera is very easy to cure. The problem is that it is not easy for cholera victims to get to a medical center quickly, especially amidst times of war. One MSF treatment center in the governorate of Khamer explains the hardship that increasing fuel prices pose on those seeking health care.

During the peak of the cholera health crisis in Yemen, MSF treated over 100,000 patients with cholera. The use of cholera kits, essentials to treat the infection, allows the charity to respond quickly and effectively to any cholera outbreak. MSF also has cholera treatment centers in the heart of areas with cholera outbreaks.

Since cholera can lead to severe dehydration, the main cause of death in cholera cases, MSF has rehydration points conveniently located closer to communities than medical centers. Such rehydration points are effective in treating mild cholera cases.

Save The Children Offers Health Care

Since children with malnutrition are three times more likely to die from cholera, groups that provide nourishment in Yemen are essential. Save the Children, the first-ever international aid group in Yemen, not only distributes cash and food vouchers to families but also provides food for children and pregnant women.

Supporting 167 health facilities in Yemen, Save the Children provides training to health care professionals and volunteers in malnutrition management and prevention, a step taken to further alleviate the cholera crisis in Yemen.

Islamic Relief USA Provides Access to Clean Water

Islamic Relief USA works to provide vital aid, emergency food assistance and emergency water supply in the war-torn country. Clean water is vital to the country because cholera mainly spreads through contaminated drinking water. Islamic Relief USA is actively providing a clean supply of water to the governorates of Aden and Taiz. Both Taiz and Aden will have water tanks installed close to homes and schools so they remain water-secure when the organization is no longer active in these governorates. About 4,000 internally displaced people in these governorates will be at a decreased risk of cholera infection due to an increase of clean water supply from the water tanks.

The World Health Organization Increases Defenses Against Cholera

The World Health Organization maintains that Yemen is beginning to see a decrease in cholera infections. Financial aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are contributing to this decrease. Millions of Yemenis now have access to health care unlike before. WHO is working on increasing the availability of diarrheal treatment centers, cholera vaccines and training of health providers in Yemen.

With 17.8 million water insecure people, Yemen is a breeding ground for cholera. Organizations like those listed above are essential to promoting prevention, care, and hopefully soon, the suppression of the cholera health crisis in Yemen.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

Founded in 1993 in California, Islamic Relief USA is a relief organization that works toward alleviating many of the issues that plague developing countries. Their mission statement explains that they work to “alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy and diseases worldwide regardless of color, race, religion or creed, and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner.”

With partner organizations in over 35 countries worldwide, Islamic Relief USA supports projects revolving around health and nutrition, orphans, water and sanitation in close to 30 countries. The organization emphasizes implementing campaigns in response to problems like natural disasters and children in need, hoping to establish a more stable world.

Despite their humanitarian efforts, connections to the Muslim Brotherhood have pointed to possible corruption within the organization. The parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, was founded by Hani Al-Bana, a former trustee of a group called Muslim Aid. There is question about how deep-seated the Muslim Brotherhood influence is within the organization.

In addition to possible corruption, the financial practices of Islamic Relief USA have come into question in the past few years as discrepancies in their reported numbers came to light. Prior to 2011, the organization claimed that 93.8 percent of its contributions were spent on charity, while the remainder was left for overhead. In reality, however, only 74 percent of the contributions were spent on charity.

As of 2012, Charity Navigator reported Islamic Relief USA had a score of 70 out of 70 for transparency and accountability, indicating that since the issues involving their finances, things appear to be on the mend. With a total contribution of $62,288,900 in 2012, 88.8 percent of this total went to charity.

With information about possible corruption and financial discrepancies competing with charity success stories, Islamic Relief USA is a challenge to decipher. The improvements in transparency and percentage of donations funneled toward charity are promising, however, for the future of Islamic Relief USA and its methods of aiding the world.

— Maggie Wagner

Sources: Charity Navigator, Islamic Relief USA 1, Clarion Project, Forbes
Photo: Islamic Relief USA 2