The AMAR Foundation works to improve the conditions of approximately 3.4 million internally displaced Iraqis by utilizing local expertise to build long-term solutions.

The organization, founded in 1991 by Baroness Emma Nicholson, is a London-based charity with the goal of improving education, health care and emergency aid to some of the world’s most disenfranchised and impoverished people.

Their model is simple: AMAR works closely with on-the-ground experts, as well as local leaders, to implement entirely local programs that are tailored to the needs of the community.

In lieu of sending in volunteers from other countries, AMAR cooperates with existing services to locally source the materials and expertise needed to improve living conditions. Outside intervention is kept to a minimum and communities are encouraged to build themselves from the inside out.

Communication is the key to the success of this aid model. In a 2015 Jordan Times article reporting on AMAR’s efforts to stem an outbreak of cholera in Iraq, it is proffered that raising awareness about public health and common diseases is one of the most crucial pieces of improving the health of a community.

Communication is key not only in improving public health but also in ensuring the success of locally-based aid efforts like those the AMAR Foundation organizes.

Local collaboration is by no means a new idea, but the AMAR Foundation’s astonishing success utilizing this model within Iraq provides great hope for the future of foreign aid worldwide.

Without the help of major international funding, AMAR has managed to establish a clinic in northern Iraq that serves more than 600 patients a day, as well as multiple mobile health clinics that can be operated by locals. Since 2005, their clinics have helped over 4 million Iraqis.

Although today only a few organizations embrace a model that favors entirely local implementation, the AMAR foundation continues to provide an example of the great success that can come from on-the-ground solutions.

Sage Smiley

Photo: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

Sadiq_KhanOn May 9, 2016, Sadiq Khan entered the London City Hall to commence his new role as London’s duly elected mayor. His ascension to this role over Europe’s financial capital was a historic moment for economic equality and progression within London.

In his acceptance speech, Khan said, “I am determined to lead the most transparent, engaged, and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as mayor for all Londoners.”

Over the last year, Khan has risen from a relatively obscure character in the British parliament to a world-renowned figurehead. His campaign was fraught with controversy over his reputation, and many did not trust his intentions as a politician. Why? Who is Sadiq Khan, and what is it that makes him such a controversial figure in British politics?

Sadiq Khan is the first Muslim to become mayor of a major Western city. And though some radicals believe the world is coming to an end with such a change, this historic event is generally viewed as a positive political breakthrough. London specifically sees this significance, but various countries throughout Europe and the West agree.

Originally planning to become a dentist, Khan instead pursued law after a teacher commented on his talent for arguing. A few years later, he graduated from the University of London and began his career as a human rights lawyer.

He quickly received attention from various high profile cases, but after a number of years as an attorney he left his practice in order to become more involved in politics. The rest is history.

In his new job as mayor, Khan plans to focus on two central points: significant reductions in poverty and inequality. CNN has observed that the divide between rich and poor in the financial powerhouse of Europe has been steadily increasing.

Statistics show that 27 percent of the nearly 9 million inhabitants are living below the poverty line. Additionally, prices for travel and housing are rising and jobs cannot compensate for the cost of living in London.

Khan has listed a number of strategies that he will implement to improve the current financial situation. First, he intends to attack the housing crisis currently facing London.

On his campaign webpage he writes, “For young families and individuals on average incomes, housing is increasingly unaffordable – with home ownership a distant dream.” Khan also intends to make affordable homes a focus of his tenure through construction reform. He plans on stopping the outsourcing of property to foreign investors.

Another problem that currently besets London is in-work poverty. Employers cannot give their workers sufficient pay raises to compensate for rising price inflation. Consequently, Khan intends to provide tax breaks to companies who pay their employees enough money to cope with London’s high living costs.

The new mayor also plans to address ethnic and gender inequality. Khan is committed to tackling each of these issues in order to help London stem the tide of its inflation while bringing poverty and inequality rates down.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

Videre est Credere equips local activists with small, hidden video-capable technologies. The tools give oppressed communities the power to capture and distribute recorded evidence of human rights violations surrounding them.

The name literally means “to see is to believe” in Latin. CEO Oren Yakobovich and Board Chairman Uri Fruchtmann founded the project in 2008. The international charitable organization is based in London, and since its launch, it has trained more than 500 activists in how to effectively plan, create and deliver useful footage.

The methodology is simple. First, local activists receive training on how to safely document effective and convincing footage. Then, Videre collects, verifies, re-verifies and distributes the evidence free-of-charge to those who can turn it into actual change on the ground.

The video cameras and distribution equipment are provided through personal training in security, filming and verification. Videre’s security process is of the utmost importance as it is responsible for data storage, communication encryption, counter-surveillance and authenticity.

Videre works with numerous influential allies including international decision-makers, courts, lawyers, civil society, local communities and a global media network of over 100 media outlets, according to the Videre site. Prior, these distribution clients are agreed upon by Videre, its partner organizations and trusted advisers.

Videre then gathers and processes the footage itself. The organization’s local networks label points of interest so that the undercover recorders have an idea of what to capture. These plans consider what images Videre needs, where they will have the most impact, and what risks are involved, according to the Videre site. Further, the evidence is analyzed by a series of tests from forensic testing to special verification teams in the field. Videre archives all materials in the case of future court cases, briefings or the like.

Constant feedback is also available throughout Videre’s work.

Videre’s six central goals are to strengthen freedom of speech, enhance accountability and justice, protect human rights defenders, expose human rights violations, deter violence and political intimidation, and empower oppressed communities.

So far, the Videre team has enlisted hundreds of human rights activists in several countries around the world. Videre evidence has been used in court, decision-making, NGO advocacy and the media, surrounding issues like political intimidation, corruption, political manipulation of aid and female genital mutilation.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Videre Est Credere, TED
Photo: Wired

poverty in london
The U.K. has seen a positive economic growth rate of 0.8 over the last two quarters. This has been moderate growth since last year. This rate is comparatively a good sign when considering the -2.5 growth rate of 2009 and 2010. London especially is poised to bring in one-third of the economic growth for the U.K. London’s economy is forecasted to increase by 4.2 percent by the end of this year and another 3.4 percent in 2015. In the next five years, London’s economy is expected to increase by 15 percent, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

The forecast bodes well for the members of the upper class, but for the rapidly expanding lower class and the diminishing middle class, this means harder times and a larger socioeconomic gap to bridge. According to the London Poverty Profile, 28 percent of Londoners live below the poverty line. There are at least 20 extremely impoverished child areas, or English Authorities. Of them seven are inside the city limits of London. The unemployment rate is still a staggering 7 percent. The number of 16-24 years olds has increased in the city to one million, and the unemployment for this group has risen from 15 percent to 25 percent.

Londoner Jennifer Evans is a member of the shrinking middle class. As she has no car, she is much more exposed to London than those who drive to work in their own worlds. She explained how poverty in London affects her daily life: “I see homeless people asking for money often. Usually sitting in doorways in central areas or coming around and asking people that are standing outside bars and pubs.”

“Working poverty, which is essentially talking about people who are in full time work still being in poverty and not being able to afford to feed their families properly. This is a bigger problem in London because the cost of living is so high but wages, especially in lower paid jobs, do not match up,” said Evans.

Others have echoed similar sentiments. According to the BBC, the average monthly rent in England is 475 pounds, compared to outer London, which costs 950 pounds, and inner London, which costs 1,300 pounds. The Trust for London reinforced the lack of living wages for many Londoners when it reported that “Almost 1 in 5 working Londoners (17 percent) were paid below the London Living Wage in 2012.” This is “more than a 40% increase over 5 years – meaning there are 600,000 people in low-paid jobs.” Data Blog also noted that “for the fifth consecutive year, inflation was higher than the rise in median weekly earnings” in the U.K.

Evans notes that “The government has made some harsh changes to benefits, or welfare, recently. They have penalized people financially if they are out of work and miss a job interview or anything like that. There are cases where people have fallen into dire straights because of it.” For families with young children, poverty presents additional problems.

The BBC reported that the government allocates 15 hours a week of free daycare. However, if a parent were to leave their child in daycare for 25 hours a week, many parents would have to pay an extra seven pounds a week in addition to the earned wages. If the child were left in daycare for the full 40 hours a week, the parent would be spending an extra 25 pounds a week plus their extra wages for the child care.

One of the ways the homeless in England try to make money is by selling The Big Issue. The Big Issue is a publication made free to the homeless, who sell it on the streets to the passerby, like Evans. Evans said she feels that “inequality in the UK is really bad and is increasing. Government policies need to address this.” This is something that many others have spoken out about as well.

Hannah Aldridge, author of the London Poverty Report, wrote, “To tackle London’s poverty and inequality, policymakers must focus on solutions such as building more affordable housing and encouraging employers to pay a Living Wage.” The Mayor of London’s spokeswoman responded by saying that “The mayor continues to lobby the government on behalf of all Londoners for the critical funding and investment needed to help people facing financial hardship.”

Frederick Wood II

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, Trading Economics, Trust for London, London’s Poverty Profile
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

female genital cutting
The preacher has performed many cuttings like this before. He holds up some broken glass to the light – he will use this to cut out the clitoris of the young girl. No anesthetic will be used. The pain she endures is thought to be a sign of her strength.

The young girl screams out against this horrific abuse to her body.

Over 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of Female Genital Cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common, according to research from UNICEF.

The charity also estimates that 250 million women and girls alive today have been married since their 15th birthday.

In an attempt to highlight the issues of Female Genital Cutting and child, early and forced marriage, the UK government hosted the first international Girl Summit in London on July 22, co-hosted by UNICEF. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai attended as well as women from across the world who have been affected by FGC.

The issue of FGC has been a growing concern in Britain where estimates from the Commons Home Affairs Committee reveal that 170,000 women and girls were living with FGC in the UK.

At the summit UK Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a £1.4 million prevention program aimed at ending the practice of FGC. New laws are set to come into effect, making it a crime for parents not to protect their children from female genital mutilation. Although illegal in the UK since 1985, no one has ever been convicted for FGC crimes.

The summit also revealed an “international charter” calling for the eradication of FGC and forced marriage within a generation.

Female Genital Cutting has no health benefits, is extremely painful and often leads to infections and in some cases death.

In its most severe form, the sensitive clitoris is completely or partly removed with crude and accessible implements in order to dull the sexual appetite of the girl. The genitals are then cut and stitched closed making sex impossible. Sometimes corrosive substances are poured in to scar and shrink the genitals.

Only a tiny piece of wood creates an opening so that urine and monthly blood can flow.

When the young girls are able to bear children they are un-stitched – and once the child has been born, stitched back up again.

The Girl Summit aims to raise the profile of this horrific practice which the Prime Minister has called a “preventable evil.”

He hopes that FGC can be ended in a generation. While so many of these types of summit fall short of meeting their goals, the issue of female genital mutilation and child marriage is finally being taken seriously by the international community. The new laws being introduced to the UK and the international charter raise the profile of this crime and may begin the process of eradicating this practice.

Female Genital Cutting Key Facts

· FGC Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
· The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
· Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
· More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGC is concentrated.
· FGC is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
· FGC is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
· In December 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.

– Charles Bell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, UK Government, WHO
Photo: FBNewswire

London’s only free homeless shelter, appropriately named Shelter from the Storm, operates on donations alone with a team of volunteers and no money from the government. They provide access to rehab and detox programs as well as dinner and breakfast to 36 people every night of the year. Homelessness affects hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, for many reasons. Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill or simply fell on hard times.

Some are running from bad family situations, human trafficking, or government oppression. Regardless of their circumstances, Shelter from the Storm accepts everyone and anyone in need. The shelter partners with Kids Company, New Horizon, The Red Cross, and The Metropolitan Police Trafficking Division.  These groups help the homeless find work and medical treatment so people can get back on their feet and become productive in society.

Many negative perceptions of homeless people exist in the minds of the general population, not just in London but everywhere. Descriptions like lazy, unintelligent, weak, and incapable are often used to describe the homeless without ever actually knowing anything about their lives or their histories.  Rosie Holtum is trying to change this perception.

A volunteer at Shelter from the Storm, Rosie Holtum is a young British photographer who was inspired to change the way people view the homeless. Her project involved taking striking black and white photos of homeless people she met at the shelter. The idea was to photograph them in the way they wanted others to perceive them and shatter all of the negative stereotypes surrounding people in their situation.

Creative and bold, the photos bring to life images of who these people want to become and can become with a little help from places like Shelter from the Storm. The images will resonate with a lot of people because they contrast so starkly with the ‘normal’ image of homeless people that most viewers have in their minds.

Reducing homelessness by helping those in need is something every nation should be focusing on and developing policies for. Breaking through stereotypes and shedding light on the truth of the ordeals that people live with every day is the first step to finding and implementing a solution.

The healthier the people of a nation are, the healthier that nation is as a whole. No group of people should be left behind or worse, left unsheltered and forgotten. Shelter for the Storm and Rosie Holtum’s photos bring that idea to life with her photo project, and everyone can open their eyes to see her point. Citizens can learn to help others in their own way, it does not matter how much money they have, artistic talent, or influence.

Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Huffington Post: Black and White Photos, Shelter from the Storm, Mungos
Photo: Wikimedia

One in eight people around the world are suffering from severe starvation, yet the planet produces enough food to feed everyone. The Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign is attempting to fix this inequity in global food distribution.

The campaign is asking the government and G8 leaders to take three big steps towards ending hunger:

  • Clamp down on tax dodging and launch a convention on tax transparency to stop the flow of billions of dollars out of developing countries – money that could be used to end hunger.
  • Help developing countries make sure that everyone, especially children, have enough nutritious food to eat. This involves supporting poor families in growing their own food.
  • Give people in developing countries more control over their land by protecting poor farmers from land grabs. Land must be used to grow food, not fuel.

On June 8th, thousands of people gathered in Hyde Park for Big IF London, a huge day of action that kickstarted IF’s 10 day countdown to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. If enough people come together to show their support for the campaign, world leaders will have to listen.

– Matthew Jackoski

Sources: Huffington Post, World Watch
Photo: IF

Agit8 Concert Promotes Anti-Poverty Campaign
Musicians from around the world performed in London this past Wednesday to support Agit8, a music-based campaign focused on raising awareness for extreme poverty. The group was launched by the One Campaign, a group co-founded by Bono and Bob Geldof. The idea was to get modern groups to record newer versions of famous protest songs.

The Agit8 concert hoped to put pressure on leaders attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland next week. Musicians that participated included Angelique Kidjo, Paloma Faith, U2, Will. i. am, Elvis Costello, and Green Day among others. Artists appeared to live and online to participate in the event.

One of the artists at the event remarked that Agit8 is a movement to push leaders to fulfill their promises and to be held accountable.  Ending poverty will grow economies around the world and result in a healthier and more educated global workforce.  The artists involved in the campaign want to motivate a new generation to fight against extreme poverty and hunger.

The One Campaign gathered the extraordinary group of musicians together to show the world that protest often leads to progress. History has shown that and British filmmaker Richard Curtis produced a film showing this that will also be shown in conjunction with the event.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Sources:The Irish SunNTD Television
Photo: Yahoo Finance

Over the weekend, a rally in London attended by thousands sought to raise awareness around the issue of global hunger and encourage leaders, before the G8 summit later this month, to make ending hunger a top priority. The rally was in London’s famous Hyde Park. It was hosted by the “Enough Food for Everyone – IF” campaign and boasted the likes of Bill Gates and “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle.

Prime Minister David Cameron hosted talks on malnutrition and led the discussion around the fight against global hunger. Boyle believes we can end hunger and that is necessary to do so.  Boyle hopes in a day when no countries which participate in the Olympics will have children dying of hunger. It’s a high goal, but a realistic one according to supporters at the rally.

The G8 summit is set to be held in Northern Ireland on June 17-18 and the rally hoped to put malnutrition on the radar of governments, NGOs, businesses, and nonprofits attending the summit. Cameron discussed the topic with Vice President of Brazil Michel Temer and received a pledge of $4.15 billion by 2020 and a renewed commitment to fight against hunger and malnutrition.  Also in attendance were representatives from 19 African countries, numerous donor countries such at the US and Japan, the EU, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, and UNICEF.

A rally bringing together some of the global leaders in the fight against poverty and hunger is sure to make waves and spread awareness, which is what the Prime Minister hoped to do. Leaders are encouraging those at the G8 summit to focus priorities on hunger and malnutrition. Such action is another important step in the creation of the next generation of development goals.

–  Amanda Kloeppel

Source: The News
Photo: The Guardian

United Nations officials met with key country leaders at the Nutrition for Growth summit held in London last week to discuss pledged funds and political agreements in the fight against global hunger.  Millions of infants and pregnant women are at risk for stunting and deaths from malnutrition; the Nutrition for Growth summit was a key step in securing hope and help in the fight against malnutrition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a video message confirming the organization’s commitment to ending hunger and malnutrition in all forms worldwide.

One in four children will grow up stunted by chronic malnutrition. In today’s world, this number must be reversed. There is no reason for children to suffer from malnutrition. Commitments of funds and political support will help millions of children and boost the economies of some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. The UN is committed to do whatever it takes to see the goals reached and hunger ended.

The Nutrition for Growth summit brought together leaders from governments, the private, and non-profit sector. It was hosted by the governments from Brazil and the United Kingdom as well as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The event resulted in renewed commitments to continue to fight stunting and malnutrition worldwide. Funds pledged at the event exceeded $4 billion.

Stunting in children robs them of their health and their ability to grow up to be productive, contributing citizens. The summit focused on eliminating that prognosis for children. UNICEF also strengthened its desire to invest in fighting malnutrition and to continue to support programs working in over 65 countries to combat malnutrition.

Also signed at the summit was the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact which formalizes commitments to make nutrition a top political and socio-economic priority for donors and countries. It will focus on scientific knowledge, innovation to nutrition, and transparency and monitoring of results. Strong nutrition is key for individuals, nations, and economies to grow and become successful and the Nutrition for Growth summit is another step towards the elimination of global hunger and malnutrition.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: UN News Centre