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Made51 artMADE51 is a global initiative created by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Free Trade Organization to showcase the creative talents and skills of refugees while giving them an opportunity to earn an income by selling their art. MADE51, which stands for Market Access, Design and Empowerment for Refugee Artisans, connects artisans with markets in order to economically empower artisans and help them rise out of poverty. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements states that “Rather than viewing millions of refugees across the globe as a burden, MADE51 sees untapped talent and potential that, if unlocked, can directly benefit” refugees, host countries and local enterprises.

How MADE51 Works

MADE51 gives refugees the opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods by selling “artisanal home decor and accessories.” Sales from MADE51 products allow “refugees to contribute to their host country’s economy” and reinforces their ties with society. Instead of seeing refugees as a burden, MADE51 gives them a platform to showcase their talent.

The initiative connects artisans with local social enterprises in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to Herbert Smith Freehills, “International trade in artisan crafts is now valued at over $32 billion per year, with 65% of handicraft exports coming from developing countries.”

MADE51 promotes economic inclusion using an innovative marketing solution. It identifies refugee artisans and gives them a platform to showcase their traditions and skills by helping them form partnerships with local businesses. Then, the initiative brings in its partners’ technical expertise for branding, marketing, capacity building and more.

The UNHCR also conducts assessments to make sure partner businesses follow UNHCR principles and Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade principles ensure that workers receive adequate compensation while working in a safe environment. MADE51 embodies the spirit of the UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees.

A lot goes into the success of the MADE51 collection. MADE51 receives help from strategic partners in product design, integrated technology, branding and marketing.

MADE51’s Impact

Other than providing a way for refugees to make a living, the initiative presents an opportunity to show solidarity with refugees. MADE51 “demonstrates the talents that refugees possess and how if given the opportunity, they can become positive contributors to societies and economies.”

MADE51 gives refugees the chance to honor and preserve their heritage and culture through art. Often the only things refugees can take with them when displaced are intangible skills, craftsmanship, knowledge and traditions. The collection shares these skills with the world while allowing refugees to “regain economic independence.” MADE51 is also a way of telling the human story of refugees rebuilding their lives from scratch.

How to Help

As a global collaborative initiative, MADE51 relies on the help of strategic partnerships. It is currently seeking partners in several areas such as retail branding, design and logistics. Individuals can also play a role in uplifting and empowering refugees by supporting the collection. For example, individuals can promote the collection on social media platforms, utilize word-of-mouth marketing and purchase items from the collection. The collection is diverse, containing protective face masks, towels, aprons, laptop sleeves, key chains, travel bags and more.

According to the UNHCR, at the close of 2020, “there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world.” More than 25% of this population was made up of refugees. MADE51 presents an inspiring tale of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people using their creative skills to rebuild their lives while simultaneously sharing and preserving their culture.

Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Refugee familyThe World Bank predicts that by 2030,  up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor could live in fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) affected areas. Global poverty rates are escalating at a shocking rate, especially in countries experiencing FCV. World Bank estimates show that an additional 18 to 27 million people would be pushed into poverty in 2020 in countries affected by FCV. The world’s most vulnerable and impoverished countries experience the interconnected issues of FCV.

Fragility

The International Development Association (IDA) reports that ½ of the world’s poor live in “fragile, conflict-affected states.” The World Bank defines fragile states as those meeting three different criteria: unstable institutional and political settings, the introduction of peacekeeping forces, international acknowledgment of instability and at least 2,000 per 100,000 migrants moving across borders. These criteria illuminate a political security crisis and forecast conflict.

Conflict

Along with fragility, conflict is a significant predictor of poverty and instability. The World Bank states that conflict accounts for “80% of all humanitarian needs.” Conflict also greatly contributes to the refugee crisis, inflating the number of displaced people around the world. FCV-afflicted countries account for 82% of forcibly displaced people. The addition of refugees limits the development of the host country even further and exacerbates issues of economic equality.

Conflict-affected states are home to half of the global poor. Conflict is identified by the World Bank as, “countries having 10 per 100,000 of their population experiencing conflict related deaths.” Countries on this list include Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan. Unsurprisingly, these countries are also among the top 5 contributors to the world’s refugee crisis.

Violence

In the last ten years, there has been a noticeable spike in intrastate violence. Poverty levels in countries with protracted conflict have increased, along with the levels of both internal and external displacement. Factors of political instability, intrastate conflict and corruption contribute to a cycle of poverty. Violent settings are likely to have high numbers of refugees fleeing those areas. The Global Citizen wrote, “By the end of 2019, 79.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.”

Resulting from the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Syria is the world’s largest contributor to the global refugee crisis. Many flee country borders and are unable to attain asylum. Rather than return to a homeland of FCV, refugees remain in camps with limited access to work, education and commodities.

The Good News

In an effort to advocate and assist those most affected by FCV, the IDA has provided consistent and significant aid to the world’s poorest countries predisposed to experiencing poverty. One example of an IDA success story is Afghanistan. The IDA has endorsed 45,751 democratic community development councils throughout Afghanistan and has provided laborers 66 million days of work. The organization also helps provide vaccinations and central infrastructure to areas in need. With the help from other NGOs and nonprofit organizations, The World Bank is attacking these issues head-on through means of prevention, engagement, assistance and litigation to ensure further development in countries most affected by fragility, conflict and violence.

 

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Helping Hand“My favorite part of Helping Hand packing days is seeing everyone work together. The entire group helps each other with deciding which category an item should go into and where to find that category’s box.” In an interview with The Borgen Project, Bisma Ahmed talked about her experience participating in the packing events organized by Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD). “It makes me feel great knowing that children in need across the world will be wearing the very clothes I am packing.”

Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) is a nonprofit organization that fights global poverty by improving access to clean water, feeding the hungry, providing healthcare and rebuilding places affected by natural disasters. In addition to emergency relief, it also has long-term development programs. These include efforts to promote education and literacy, orphan support campaigns and rehabilitation and disability programs. In the 15 years that it has been in service, Helping Hand has worked in more than 85 countries across the globe.

Focusing on the Vulnerabilities of Asia and Africa

The main areas that Helping Hand addresses are countries in Asia and Africa as most of the 689 million people living below the poverty line are in these two continents. A few notable countries that have benefited from Helping Hand’s work include Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Somalia, Tunisia, Kenya and Haiti. The organization also provides benefits to refugees including the refugees of Rohingya, Syria and Palestine.

In 2019, through the long-term empowerment program, Helping Hand assisted 6,140 vulnerable people with skills development training in Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan and Kenya. In 16 different countries, 19,100 children, including orphans and refugees, received an education through Helping Hand scholarships and education programs. The organization also provided daily healthcare to 160,900 Rohingya refugees and benefited 1.2 million people through its water, hygiene and sanitation programs.

The organization’s recent campaigns include the Beirut Relief Fund, the HHRD COVID-19 Crisis Response, and most recently, Global Winter Revisions, a campaign allowing donors to send winter packages to places where they are needed most.

Packing Day: The Mid-Atlantic Region

Every year, the U.S. regions of Helping Hand set a goal for how many containers of clothes to send as aid overseas. The 2020 goal was to send 10 40-foot containers.

Now and then, the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region of Helping Hand has packing days where volunteers come together and sort donated clothes for shipment to the needy all around the world. Naveed Ahmed, the regional manager for Helping Hand’s Mid-Atlantic area, explained the benefit of the Helping Hand packing days. “The purpose is many, in my opinion. We’re engaging the local community and we’re opening our doors to show what Helping Hand is all about.” According to Naveed Ahmed, most of the success of the packing days comes from the organization’s personal connections with local donors, including large businesses and companies.

Helping Hand packing days have been going on in all of its U.S. regions since its founding in 2005. In 2019 alone, the $55 million worth of clothing items or in-kind gifts benefited 12 million people in 10 different countries.

The clothing items go wherever the team believes the need is. Helping Hand holds offices in Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Haiti and Kenya, making the organization fully part of the clothes distribution process. The teams in those areas inform the U.S. national team of the amount and types of clothing that are needed. The U.S. regions then start collecting, packing and sending the clothes out.

Typically, the packing events surround a specific global issue or national relevance. For example, the last packing event that the Mid-Atlantic region had was for Giving Tuesday. The packed donations went toward the Helping Hand Winter Relief Campaign. A week later, they had another packing event, this time dedicated to loading the boxes into the containers.

Packing for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Mid-Atlantic region has a packing day for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. “We usually like to have a day of service on that day,” Naveed Ahmed said. “Usually, students and volunteers from all over the state will come out and be part of the packing day. It is a great day to show appreciation to a great leader like MLK and for us all to do the part of service he and many others have done over decades.”

The efforts of Helping Hand give hope for the future, ensuring that the lives of struggling people around the world are made a little easier.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Central African RepublicOne year after repatriation efforts began, refugees from the Central African Republic are returning home. Although repatriation operations began in November 2019, the return of refugees from the Central African Republic was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced health and safety precautions made their return possible. The United Nations Refugee Agency, a U.N. agency responsible for protecting refugees, organized the implementation of health and safety precautions. Measures included the use of masks and temperature screening. Handwashing stations were also installed to prevent the spread of disease.

Central African Republic Refugees

Repatriation efforts began after security conditions in the Central African Republic improved. Stability in the country has developed at a slow pace. Less violence in regions of the Central African Republic known for volatile shifts prompted the voluntary return of refugees.

Beginning in 2012, violent confrontations between armed factions throughout the Central African Republic forced more than 500,000 people to flee. Thousands more went into hiding, often in the wilderness, where access to food and clean water is scarce. A staggering rate of poverty among citizens of the Central African Republic reflects years of political instability.

Poverty in the Central African Republic

Both domestically and abroad, refugees from the Central African Republic experience rates of extreme poverty and hunger. The Central African Republic was one of the last two countries on the 2018 Human Development Index ranking. Combined with the political instability of the nation, the Central African Republic’s low development score contributes to the nation’s high rate of poverty.

With a population of a little less than five million people, almost 80% of the country’s people live in poverty. While political instability is a major factor that contributes to the high rate of poverty in the country, meager production rates, insufficient markets and pronounced gender inequality also contribute to the high rate of poverty. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly half of the population of the country experiences food insecurity.

Alarmingly, almost 90% of food insecure individuals in the country are classed as severely food insecure, which is nearly two million people. This has particularly devastating effects for children aged between 6 months and 5 years old. More than one-third of all children within that age range are stunted due to lack of appropriate dietary nutrition.

The World Food Programme Alliance

In partnership with the government of the Central African Republic and other humanitarian organizations, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided emergency food and nutritional assistance to nearly 100,000 people, in 2018. This assistance was delivered to individuals who were affected by the violence that resulted from the coup in 2013, the civil violence that was unleashed by competing factions after the coup and the violence that continued through 2017, as hostility between armed groups was reignited. This method of the WFP’s humanitarian aid involves the distribution of food packages and the implementation of nutrition activities for children and pregnant mothers.

Time will tell whether refugees are returning to a country that will eventually provide for them. Through various initiatives, including Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress, the WFP hopes to turn civic, humanitarian functions over to the country’s government.

Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress

Both the Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress initiatives were designed by the United Nations to help partner nations achieve objectives set by the ‘Zero Hunger’ Sustainable Development Goal. Food Assistance for Assets “addresses immediate food needs through cash, voucher or food transfers.” Its response to immediate needs is paired with a long-term approach. Food Assistance for Assets “promotes the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience.”

Purchase for Progress works in tandem with Food Assistance for Assets. It is a food purchase initiative, whereby the WFP purchases more than $1 billion worth of staple food annually from smallholder farms. This food is used by the WFP in its global humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile, its ongoing investment in smallholder farms contributes to national economies.

Through the initiatives of the World Food Programme and its dedicated efforts for humanitarian assistance and hunger eradication, the Central African Republic will hopefully reach a point where its citizens never again have to flee the country they call home.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Sesame Street's Rohingya MuppetsSesame Street is developing two Rohingya muppets to help refugee children overcome trauma. Sesame Street aims to address the effects of poverty by fostering access to education. Poverty affects all aspects of life. Children who live in poverty suffer from many physical, intellectual and emotional complications. Child stunting, for example, is a result of nutrient-deficient diets, repeated infection and a lack of psychosocial stimulation in the first years of a child’s life. This has dire long-term outcomes for children, including impaired intellectual development. Sesame Street’s Rohingya muppets aim to improve the intellectual development of Rohingya children, which directly affects education, and in turn, poverty.

Stunting and Malnutrition in Rohingya Children

The Rohingya people are a stateless Muslim minority group who have lived in a state of flux, between Myanmar and Bangladesh, since they were forced to flee Myanmar. They were violently persecuted by the Myanmar military, an instance of ethnic cleansing. Close to 800,000 Rohingya refugees have escaped to Bangladesh. It is common for refugees to live in refugee camps within Bangladesh.

A group of refugee camps, located in Cox’s Bazar, was the subject of a 2017-2018 study on the rates of stunting and malnutrition in Rohingya children. The study found that the rate of stunting “dropped from 44% to 38% in the main camp.” Although it is positive that the rate of childhood stunting declined, the rate of childhood stunting still remained dangerously close to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) critical health emergency threshold of 40%.

Additionally, the rate of acute malnutrition dropped from close to 20% to nearly 10%. Childhood deaths declined. The rate of diarrhea, caused in some instances by dehydration or bacterial infection, also declined. Nonetheless, these rates remain too high to relieve concerns and the situation is still described as dire.

Malnutrition affects a child’s developing brain, impacting education and reducing the ability of a person to lift themselves out of poverty.

Sesame Street’s Rohingya Muppets

The majority of humanitarian funding is deployed to address acute effects of poverty like stunting and malnutrition. Sesame Street aims to address the effects of poverty by focusing on education and intellectual development. Sherrie Westin is the president of social impact for Sesame Workshop and she identified that “less than 3% of all aid is used for education.”

Sesame Street’s Rohingya muppets consist of two characters, Noor Yasmin and Aziz, to connect with Rohingya children on an intellectual and emotional level. Westin feels that without intervention by Sesame Street, Rohingya children risk growing up unable to read and write or do simple math.

Westin cited scientific research as the basis for her concern. Similar to the way inadequate dietary nutrition and disease lead to physical stunting, stress and trauma stunt brain development. Sesame Street aims to address the effects of poverty by providing emotional and intellectual support to Rohingya children who have endured trauma.

BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Lab

In Bangladesh, Sesame Street partnered with BRAC. BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Labs are designed to help children learn through play and recover from emotional trauma in the process. BRAC designs its play labs to resemble settings that are familiar to the children it works with. In Bangladesh, this means that Rohingya children are surrounded by “motifs and paintings significant to Rohingya culture.”

Sesame Street’s Rohingya muppets reflect an integral part of BRAC’s approach. Children relate best to characters that they can identify with and they flourish in settings that are familiar and comfortable. BRAC’s success speaks for itself. Close to 90% of the kids that BRAC works with complete the fifth grade of schooling.

Sesame Street Addresses Rohingya Poverty

While the humanitarian crisis among Rohingya refugees is ongoing, recognition of the long-term effects of stress and trauma on intellectual development is crucial to lifting the Rohingya out of poverty. Education alleviates poverty and negating the effects of trauma will allow for proper intellectual development to take on educational endeavors. Sesame Street aims to address the effects of poverty by focusing its attention on the intellectual development of Rohingya children.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Hosting RefugeesIn 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that there were about 26 million refugees globally. An estimated 68% of refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. Refugees exist in a state of flux, with their futures and fates in the hands of potential host countries. Refugees are one of the world’s most vulnerable groups yet the idea of hosting refugees comes with hesitancies due to misinformation and misconceptions. There are several benefits of hosting refugees.

Refugees Bring Productivity

There is a misconception that refugees come into a host country and subsist on benefits instead of working. Though not every country allows refugees to work, those that do allow this, see just how productive refugees are. Often unable to use their credentials in other countries, refugees are known for starting from the ground up and they are effective at it. Economic advisor, Phillipe Legrain, estimates that 1,000 refugee businesses could generate $100 million each year. If host countries loosen restrictions and allow refugees to expand their job opportunities, it could significantly improve the economies in host countries.

This would also mean making language learning classes and integration courses more accessible, but in the long run, the fiscal rewards outweigh the cost. Countries that allow refugees to work and open up businesses know that the influx of productivity is one of the major benefits of taking in refugees.

Refugees Enrich Culture

Some fear that accepting refugees means that the native culture will disappear. According to Anna Crosslin of the International Institute in St. Louis, cross-cultural understanding is vital for integration. Events like the annual Festival of Nations, which is run by the International Institute, not only help expose St. Louis residents to other global cultures but also help immigrants feel more at home. Even though there are differences between each culture, most cultures are incredibly similar at their core. Refugees are fleeing the same things ordinary citizens fear: families being torn apart, the right to vote being taken away, lack of education and more.

Refugees do not aim to disrupt the culture of their host countries but enrich it. They may bring with them different practices, foods and religions, but in the end, most people have similar ideals.

Refugees Stimulate the Economy

The more people participating in a country’s economy the better. Economic activity alone is one of the many benefits of taking in refugees. There is an initial investment required when allowing refugees into a country. Housing, language classes, healthcare, sustenance. All of these things cost a significant amount of money to provide, but once refugees are established in their host country, the initial investment pays off.

Refugees start businesses that employ locals, pay taxes and generate wealth. In countries with an aging workforce, young refugees entering the workforce complement their work and allow them to retire, while also contributing to social security or pension funds. Being able to work and make money, in general, allows refugees to stimulate the economy of their host country. Refugees allowed to work and enterprise are great for an economy, much more so than refugees that are not allowed in or not allowed to work.

Refugees Complement the Job Market

There is a misassumption that refugees take jobs away from their host country’s job market. Most studies conclude that refugees have very little effect on the job market at all. The U.S. State Department’s analysis of the labor market over a 30-year period showed that not only did refugees not negatively impact the job market, but they had no effect when compared to regions with no refugee population.

The work migrants do actually fill in the job market. In the United States, it is migrants doing much of the hard, physically demanding work like farming and cleaning meat and fish for consumption. These are jobs that not many native citizens want to do. The economic benefits of taking in refugees are also seen in areas with low domestic migration. In these places, migrants offer an economic boost that native citizens do not.

Refugees Bring Novel Skillsets and Knowledge

Many cultures make rugs, but who makes them like the Persians? Who can delicately remove the meat from a poisonous pufferfish like a Japanese sushi chef? Every country and culture has something that makes them stand out, something that they can teach and share with others.

Refugees offer language skills that natives might not. Many already have professional qualifications from their home countries. Most refugees exhibit a high degree of adaptability, a skill that is important in every industry. To top it off, organizations benefit greatly from diversity, experiencing greater profits, collaboration and retention than organizations that are not as diverse. Though refugees are not the only way an organization can become more diverse, the experiences, skills and perspectives gained are some of the greatest benefits of hosting refugees.

Welcoming Refugees

Resistance to accepting refugees is often due to misconceptions. Native citizens fear a disruption in their economy and culture. But in actuality, refugees stimulate the economy, enrich culture and supplement the job market. Better understanding the benefits of hosting refugees will hopefully mean that countries globally will be more accepting of this vulnerable group, realizing that benefits are provided on both sides.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

Saving the Venezuelan EconomyA combination of poor leadership and crippling sanctions have created a nation-wide economic crisis in Venezuela. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that even before U.S. sanctions were placed on Venezuela, the country was already enduring hyperinflation, had seen food imports fall by 71% and more than two million Venezuelans had fled the country. Nevertheless, sanctions only exacerbated the crisis as Torino Economics found U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were associated with an annual loss of $16.9 billion in oil revenue. As a result, the Atlantic Council reports that more than 80% of Venezuelan households are food insecure and 3.7 million individuals are malnourished. Consequently, refugees filed more asylum claims globally in 2018 than any other country has. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is expected to reach eight million in 2020, surpassing Syrian migration by more than three million. Reforms in the county are being implemented with the aim of saving the Venezuelan economy.

Saving the Venezuelan Economy

While this economic collapse still ravishes the country, there is certainly hope for the future. Due to both internal and external pressures, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has begun to encourage policies of economic liberalization and privatization that are indicating an economic rebound.

Toward the end of 2019, Argus Media reported the Venezuelan government was beginning to ease economic controls. Specifically, the Maduro government erased most price controls, loosened capital controls, tightened controls on commercial bank loan operations, and most importantly, began to accept informal dollarization. Immediately these policies curbed the levels of hyperinflation that had caused the food crisis across the country. Advisers estimate inflation to be at only 5,500%, a significant improvement compared to the International Monetary Fund forecasts that predicted inflation levels of more than 10 million percent. This is largely in part to the importation of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, pushing out the uselessly-inflated Bolivars. Indeed, a Bloomberg study found Venezuela’s economy is increasingly dollarized, as 54% of all sales in Venezuela by the end of last year were in dollars. Most importantly, food and medicine imports have rebounded, now reaching 15% of the population.

Privatization of the Oil Industry

In addition to the Maduro government relaxing economic controls, the economic rebound in Venezuela has occurred due to increased privatization of the oil industry. Despite being under the control of the military for years, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has trended toward letting private firms handle operations, aiding in fixing the mismanagement perpetrated by the military’s control of the industry. For the first time in decades, the private sector accounted for more than 25% of GDP in 2019 and likely more by the end of 2020. Consequently, the Panam Post reported that oil production increased by more than 200,000 barrels, a 20% increase following privatization.

Initiatives to Help Venezuelans in Poverty

The South American Initiative, through its medical clinic, provides medical care and medicine to Venezuelans in need, with a special focus on mothers and children. To provide these essential services, it relies on donations that people provide on the GlobalGiving platform.

Fundacion Oportunidad y Futuro addresses hunger and malnutrition with regards to children in Venezuela. It is running in an initiative to provide meals to 800 school-aged children in Venezuela. It also operates through donations via the GlobalGiving platform.

The Future of Venezuela

While there is hope to be found in these reforms, Venezuela has far from recovered. The National Survey of Living Conditions indicates that more Venezuelans are in poverty in 2020 than in 2018, with food security decreasing another 7% over the past two years. The average income of Venezuela remains low at just over 70 U.S. cents a day. These reforms are the foundational steps needed to begin to reverse the economic trend that has relegated millions of Venezuelans to extreme poverty. If the economy is ever to correct itself, liberalization and privatization will be the jumping-off point for an economically thriving Venezuela in the future.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Addressing migrant and Refugee HealthAt the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million recorded forcibly displaced people in the world, with 26 million labeled as refugees. Roughly 68% of those displaced come from just five countries, which means that resources can be scarce for many of these people and their physical and mental health may become less of a priority in lieu of other needs. More focus needs to go toward addressing migrant and refugee health in order to protect the well-being of one of the most vulnerable populations.

7 Facts About Migrant and Refugee Health

  1. The Immigrant, Refugee and Migrant Health Branch (IRMH) is a branch of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine that works to improve the health and well-being of refugees. The IRMH also provides guidelines for disease prevention and tracks cases around the globe in migrant populations. The organization has three teams and five programs that work both in the U.S. and around the world to combat infectious diseases.
  2. Refugees are affected by illness and health issues through transit and in their host communities. Most refugees are likely to be in good health in general, according to the CDC, but migrating tends to be a social determinant in refugee health. Health inequities are increased by conditions such as restrictive policies, economic hardship and anti-migrant views. Poor living conditions and changes in lifestyle also play a role.

  3. Refugee health profiles are compiled through multiple organizations to provide information about important cultural and health factors pertaining to specific regions. Refugees from different areas often have very different health concerns. For example, anemia and diabetes are priority conditions in Syrian refugees but parasitic infections and malaria are the focus for Congolese migrants.

  4. About one-third of migrants and refugees experience high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. Mental health is a vital part of all refugee health programs and the priority for youth mental health programming is especially necessary. Forced displacement is traumatic and while there is likely a reduction of high anxiety or depression levels over time after resettlement, some cases can last for years.

  5. Healthcare is often restricted based on legal status within refugee populations. The 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization articulated that the right to health is an essential component of human rights but many people are limited to claiming this right. Activists for refugee health along with many NGOs call for universal health care and protection for migrant populations.

  6. Important needs in refugee health include the quality and cost of disease screenings. HIV, hepatitis, schistosomiasis and strongyloidiasis are diseases that are prevalent among vulnerable refugee and migrant populations. However, ease and quality of medical screenings are not guaranteed in many centers or camps.

  7. Mothers and children face many barriers due to their unique needs and few refugee health care providers are able to properly address them. There is an increased need for reproductive health services and many of the barriers provide more difficulty than aid to many women. These include language, costs and general stigma.

Prioritizing Vulnerable Populations

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is well known for its work to safeguard the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee. Refugee International is another organization that advocates for the rights and protection of displaced people around the world. Awareness of refugee health facts and concerns enables organizations to take a direct stance on improving conditions and procedures. With the growing number of refugees around the world today, addressing migrant and refugee health must be prioritized in order to better protect these vulnerable populations.

– Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare for Greek ChildrenIn Lesbos, Greece, children suffering from life-threatening illnesses are being deprived of healthcare. Concerns regarding the Greek government’s stance on providing adequate healthcare to children suffering from chronic, complex and life-threatening diseases at the Moria camp are on the rise. Many camps are overcrowded and have limited resources available for the growing vulnerable population. Children make up 30% of asylum seekers and those diagnosed with diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and other severe illnesses, are being neglected. Forced to live in tents under concerning conditions, children have no access to specialized healthcare to meet their medical needs.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is advocating on behalf of Greek children, urging the government to evacuate children with serious illnesses to the Greek mainland or other European Union states that are equipped to provide adequate care. Since 1996, MSF has been providing healthcare and fighting for the welfare of asylum seekers and migrants in Greece. MSF recognized the growing need in Greece and expanded its efforts, providing treatment of chronic diseases, sexual and reproductive healthcare, physiotherapy, clinical psychology and psychiatric care.

MSF is ensuring the government is aware of the urgency of proper healthcare for Greek children. Dr. Hilde Vochten, an MSF medical coordinator, urges a prompt call of action from the government that will address the immediate healthcare needs of these children while also addressing a systemic problem within healthcare for Greek children. Without proper care, many children face lifelong consequences, or in critical cases, death.

Greek Government Healthcare Restrictions

In 2019, the Greek government restricted healthcare access to asylum seekers and those arriving in Greece that are undocumented. Since this time, MSF doctors have seen over 270 children suffering from chronic and complex diseases. The MSF pediatric clinic located outside the Moria camp has helped many children, however, the clinic has been unable to provide specialized care for children diagnosed with more critical illnesses. MSF argues that restricting access to adequate care is a result of government policy that is creating unsafe and inhumane conditions for children and their families. MSF demands the need to remove limitations for access to public healthcare and implement a system that will provide immediate care for children suffering from chronic and complex medical conditions.

The Smile of the Child

Another organization fighting for the healthcare rights of this vulnerable population is The Smile of the Child. The organization was founded in 1995, in memory of Andreas Yannopoulos, a young boy diagnosed with cancer. Before Yannopoulos died, he expressed his vision of creating an organization that would bring smiles to the faces of Greek children. The Smile of the Child has taken a stand to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Greece. The organization has raised awareness through its Mobile Laboratory of Information, Education and Technology by conducting seminars and instruction on first aid. The Smile of the Child delivers support to children with health problems by providing access to ambulances throughout Greece. The organization partners with law enforcement, social groups and other public entities to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of children.

While Greek authorities have been criticized for obstructing access to healthcare, organizations are taking a stand to ensure the healthcare needs of Greek children are met. As the need for adequate healthcare rises, the Greece government will be challenged in addressing the growing demand.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr