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Many remember the Vietnam War as one of the most appalling in American history, and, as one can image, a harrowing chapter for Vietnam. The 1975 reunification of Vietnam established a brutally oppressive regime, striking fear into the hearts of those who lived in Vietnam. The result was a mass exodus of refugees now known as Boat People. Here are ten facts about Vietnamese Boat People who fled in search of better futures.

10 Facts About Vietnamese Boat People

  1. As the name implies, refugees relied on small boats. Under the new regime of the Republic of Vietnam, leaving the country was initially illegal. While this would change with time and the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), escaping occurred illegally by sea. Many of those who left were families of farmers, fishermen, and people with other rural jobs who had access to boats that were well suited for sailing near shore but were not designed for travel on the open sea. The only option for leaving was by cramming families into small boats.
  2. Diverse communities were at risk. The war devastated the country’s infrastructure. While relief eventually came, it did not reach everyone. To make matters worse, in 1979 the Sino-Vietnamese War left those with Chinese heritage fearing for their lives. As there was already a precedent of executions and re-location to labor camps, people also fled the northern areas of Vietnam, at one point accounting for 70 percent of refugees.
  3. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous. Partly because a large number of refugees from other countries were in the Indochinese area at the time, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many people fled Vietnam. However, experts estimate up to 1.5 million refugees escaped but a high estimate of 10 percent died from drowning, piracy, dehydration, or otherwise never made landfall.
  4. The crisis went unrecognized until refugee numbers grew. An estimated 62,000 Vietnamese Boat People sought refuge throughout Southeast Asia by 1978. This number rose to 350,000 by mid-1979, with another 200,000 having moved to permanent residence in other countries. At first, countries close to Vietnam accepted refugees and provided asylum, however many of those countries’ policies changed.
  5. Refugees often passed through multiple countries. Boat People initially sailed to countries closest to their own such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. The UNHCR established a temporary agreement whereby these countries, many of which began refusing asylum to further refugees, would serve as “first asylums.” This meant the refugees would only stay there temporarily until they could be screened and enter nations like the U.S. and Canada.
  6. Countries grew less welcoming to refugees as time went on. Despite the 1979 agreement, the number of Vietnamese Boat People increased in first asylum countries faster than they could process. Some estimate that for every refugee who left one of these countries, three more arrived. Hostility towards the refugees eventually increased, while political situations within each country further exacerbated tensions. Hong Kong, for example, refused to accept Chinese economic migrants but accepted Vietnamese refugees, causing conflict between the nations.
  7. Swamped by refugees to the point of exhaustion, Malaysia faced difficult choices when it came to Boat People. The situation worsened to the point that Malaysians pushed back one vessel having approximately 2,500 refugees on board. This was due in part to ethnic tension between Malay Muslims and the native Chinese. Boat People landing in areas largely inhabited by a Muslim populace further aggravated tension. As Robert Miller, the ambassador to Malaysia at the time put itA “From the Malaysian standpoint they have a very delicate ethnic balance in the country… they have an ‘ethnic fault line running the length and breadth of their country between the Malay Muslims and the pork-eating Chinese.” As a result, they, like other Southeast Asian countries, eventually refused to accept further refugees.
  8. “Full asylum” nations showed fatigue as the crisis continued. As more refugees entered the United States, people began to question whether the Vietnamese refugees were fleeing due to fear or financial situations. Suspicion arose and screening processes intensified as fewer nations wanted to house the refugees at all. As Miller put it “From the field we were always pressing for earlier decisions and decisions for bigger quotas. From the Washington perspective, they were pressing us to increase international cooperation –get more countries to take more so we could take less.”
  9. Thousands of refugees found stable homes. Though Vietnamese Boat People constituted a refugee crisis, it soothed over several years. Refugees who passed screening and inspection entered the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia able to begin new lives. While most ultimately flew the last leg of their journey on planes, at least one group made it to Australia by boat. The main solution for refugees resettling included working directly with the Vietnamese government, which eventually sanctioned departures from the country.
  10. Survival stories live on. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous and offered no guarantee, but survivors found new lives in their new homes. Vietnamese immigrant communities eventually flourished. The UNHRC continued its work making transportation out of Vietnam legal and even encouraged. Nowadays, descendants of those who left in fear can return to discover their heritage and the stories of their ancestors, ensuring that the legacy of Boat People will live on. The preservation of their history and ongoing peaceful relations with Vietnam created a solution that finally materialized.

The fallout from the Vietnam War was, as the fallout from many wars, far worse than anticipated. These stories  and day’s refugee crisis show that people can be far less welcoming to refugees than we might hope. However, the survival of those who lived to tell these stories indicates that dangerous risks can lead to safer futures. These 10 facts about Vietnamese Boat People show that when accepted, refugees can thrive and improve relationships between nations.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Fight Poverty with TechnologyIn the past two decades, Télecoms Sans Frontières (TSF), an international NGO, has provided more than 20 million marginalized people with means of communication which not only saves lives but also helps to make strides in poverty reduction. Headquartered in Pau, France, Télecoms Sans Frontièrs has assisted disadvantaged groups such as refugees and migrants in more than 70 countries. This is done through its use of emergency-response technologies.

For example, when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit numerous Indonesian islands on Sep. 28, 2018, Télecoms Sans Frontièrs quickly began to distribute aid. The NGO set up internet connections with local providers to ensure efficient humanitarian aid coordination in larger cities. Following this, the team visited isolated, comparatively poorer villages in Indonesia that lacked internet access to provide them with mobile WiFi. This is only one of more than 140 crises that Télecoms Sans Frontièrs has responded to since its founding in 1998.

TSF is currently undertaking eight humanitarian missions across seven countries. All missions involve means of technology access and adaptation. Keep reading to learn more about the organization’s mission to fight poverty with technology.

Télecoms Sans Frontièrs: 8 Global Missions To Fight Poverty With Technology

  1. The Information Diffusion System in Mexico aims to provide migrants and refugees with important information regarding their location. This is made possible through a network of micro-computers in eight centers across the nation. Screens at each center present news alerts and legal information such as asylum procedures. According to one Salvadoran migrant, “The screen helped me to ask for refuge, to know my rights as a migrant and to know the location of the consulate of El Salvador.”
  2. Technological management for Guatemala’s food aid program plays a critical role, especially because TSF combats the effects of brutal droughts in the Dry Corridor region. TSF partnered with the government and four other NGOs to efficiently run the “Operation Opportunity” food aid program, which financially supports the extremely impoverished. Among other technological roles, TSF determines the necessary equipment for fields and configures administrative technology.
  3. Emergency call centers for Venezuelan refugees in Brazil offer the ability to communicate with their relatives through an IP telephone solution. Moreover, the centers have proven essential for the refugees to carry out asylum applications, and for aid distributions. Efforts that help migrants obtain legal standing are key to escaping poverty.
  4. Internet connectivity for Middle Eastern and North African migrants and refugees in Bihać, Bosnia, not only allows them to contact their families but also benefits the humanitarian actors aiming to mitigate the issue. Organizations such as the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and UNHCR are few and are in desperate need of financial and human assistance. By providing internet connectivity that covers a total of 20,000 square-meters, humanitarian efficiency and coordination are vastly improved as Bosnia faces growing refugee populations.
  5. The community telecenter in Burkina Faso, in partnership with the Zoramb Naagtaaba Association, works to bridge the digital divide between the capital Ouagadougou and the rural region of Guiè. While the Internet proved to be a ground-breaking tool in industrializing Burkina Faso from 1997 onwards, Guiè has remained relatively isolated from technological and economic progress. Until late 2010, inhabitants of Guiè needed to commute up to 12 hours just to access the Internet. The region’s community telecentre not only provides internet connection and modern computer equipment but even offers computer training tailored for many occupations, such as for students and farmers. Education efforts like these are key to enabling social mobility and reducing poverty.
  6. A cybercafé established in Miarinarivo, Madagascar provides locals with the ability to carry out personal work with internet access. Additionally, the café provides its users with technological equipment such as computers and printers. Considering how the café’s users are predominantly adolescents, in partnership with the NGO IT Cup, these students are given introductory computer lessons essential to escaping poverty.
  7. The mLearning project for Syrian children has provided displaced and refugee children in war-stricken areas with educational resources all through the use of digital technologies. With tablets offering a range of tools such as courses, interactive documents, and quizzes, TSF’s digital program is a clear example of how the NGO aims to fight poverty with technology. Providing the younger generations of vulnerable regions with education is a central milestone towards escaping poverty.
  8. Connectivity between Syrian medical centers allows for coordination in TSF’s mission for hospitals to efficiently aid the country’s wounded. Since 2012, TSF has connected 53 hospitals, pharmacies and clinics by creating broadband connections and establishing over 20 satellite lines. In the last seven years, this has equated to the transferring of 35.9 TB of medical data along with the treatment of 3.2 million patients across these medical centers.

There’s no doubt that the critical role of technology in the 21st century is continuing to grow. Rather than feeling threatened by this change to tradition, TSF embraces any challenge to orthodoxy as an opportunity. For the past three decades, TSF has consistently adapted to and used these changing conditions to its advantage. In fields ranging from global health to economics, Télécoms Sans Frontières continues to fight poverty with technology and ultimately aims to secure human rights internationally.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

 

foreign aid leader

Sweden is a Scandinavian country known for providing an impressive amount of humanitarian aid. Sweden’s foreign aid strategies are both similar and unique to the objectives of other countries. The Organisation for Economic Cooperative and Development (OECD) praises Sweden as a leader in foreign aid because of the nation’s “consistent generous levels of official development assistance” and for “its global development leadership on peace and conflict prevention.”

Sweden’s Foreign Aid Record

The Swedish government has long shown concern for humanitarian issues. In 1975, the country achieved the United Nations’ goal of providing 0.7 percent of the nation’s gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA). In 2008, Sweden contributed 1 percent of its GNI. This number has continued to escalate and is now at 1.4 percent.

In comparison to other countries, Sweden is the largest donor in proportion to the productivity of its economy. Countries that follow are the United Arab Emirates, which contributes 1.09 percent of its GNI, and Norway, which contributes 1.05 percent. These countries are the only three countries whose foreign aid agenda reserves more than one percent of their GNI.

Equality is a core tenant of the Swedish foreign aid mission. In 2014, Sweden was the first country to implement a Feminist Foreign Policy, a strategy that promotes gender equality and women’s rights. Socially, women in countries receiving aid have been provided with programs on how to prevent and resolve instances of discrimination and abuse. Legally, female representation in the government and in the private sector has improved in these countries as well.

Other long-term foreign aid objectives in Sweden focus on installing democracy, peace and security, health equity and efficient education systems in the countries that lack these necessities.

Sweden’s Foreign Aid Agency

Sweden’s most effective agency that works to downsize poverty and foster development is called Sida, or the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The agency methodically establishes democracy throughout countries in order to achieve these two goals.

Sida provides impoverished countries with humanitarian aid for emergency relief and long-term aid for development. Long-term development is the more intricate of the programs. The Swedish government implements this long-term aid with two principles in mind. First, that varying policy areas need to work together to produce positive development; second, that humanitarian aid should be implemented with the perspective that people are capable and eager to accept change.

As of 2007, Sida has 33 partner countries to which they are currently providing aid. While this number has reduced from approximately 125 since the 80s, the extensive efforts put into individual projects illustrate why Sweden is a leader in foreign aid.

Sida’s Work in Syria

Most recently, Sweden has proven itself as a leader in foreign aid through its dedication to those suffering through the Syrian crisis. Due to the disastrous conflict, there are currently 11.7 million individuals in need of assistance. Many hospitals, schools and markets have been destroyed as well.

Sida has allocated more than SEK 367 million (approximately 37.2 million USD) to humanitarian relief in Syria in 2019. This aid goes directly toward life-saving interventions. Basic needs are given to the country’s most vulnerable individuals who live in refugee camps and other communities. Much of Sida’s aid has also gone to Syria’s neighboring countries who receive the most refugees such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Lastly, Sida donates to United Nations organizations present in Syria. The Swedish foreign aid machine has worked closely with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as UNICEF, to improve the infrastructure required to fulfill the needs of Syrian refugees. These organizations have access to local partnerships scattered around the region that continue to provide health care, education and safe housing to displaced individuals.

What Does the Future Hold?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that the number of refugees around the world will increase in the years to come. As this reality materializes, global leaders will only benefit from emulating the Swedish government’s extensive efforts to fund, provide and implement efficient humanitarian aid policies.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Visual Impairment in Refugees

Last year, there were an estimated 70 million forcibly displaced individuals in the world. NGOs and governments stepped up by providing funding for food, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare, but visual impairment in refugees is rarely ever prioritized.

Vision Impairment is a Major Life Obstacle

Eye care is something often overlooked when organizations are administering urgent medical treatment to refugees–in most cases, eye injuries are not considered life-threatening. While an eye injury may not be fatal, it can greatly reduce the quality of life. This was the case for 10-year-old, Hala Shaheen, who suffered retinal detachment before the outbreak of the Syrian War and was undergoing treatment to fix the issue. She required specialist care and regular check-ups.

However, when chaos and violence broke out in Syria, Hala and her family were forced to flee to the Rukban refugee camp between Syria and Jordan, where no eye care specialist could be found. Now Hala is blind in one eye and her vision in the other eye is continuing to deteriorate. When asked about her condition, she told reporters, “I don’t want to continue living with this level of pain and suffering.”

Refugees like Hala do not have the resources to prevent or tackle blindness, Hala could have retained her vision. Blindness prevents her from experiencing life fully. Since braille is not readily taught, getting an education is difficult. Hala’s condition forces her to be dependent on her family. When blindness presents itself in adult refugees, it stops them from being productive workers and the extra burden is placed on their family’s shoulders. Thankfully, some NGOs have identified this problem and are on their way to creating better conditions to fight visual impairment in refugees.

Bringing Clarity to the Visually Impaired

NGOs and charities are assembling coalitions all over the world to find solutions for visual impairment in refugees. The main mission is to provide diagnostic services and visual assistance to those who need it.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is working in Cox Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp of over 900,000 people, has created an eye care plan to fight visual impairment in refugees. They plan to provide over 150,000 eyeglasses each year and deploy 30 optometrists and 30 ophthalmologists to conduct Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) exams. These exams are vital in the prevention of blindness and vision loss, which can be the result of neglected chronic eye disease. In Cox Bazar, there is an estimated 30,000 at risk for diabetic eye disease and 70,000 at risk for glaucoma. If left untreated, it could result in a massive amount of vision loss.

There are numerous other coalitions like the IAPB. VisionSpring works with EYElliance in Ghana and Liberia to provide glasses to children and launch country-level initiatives to identify visual problems in refugees. SightGeist is an annual conference of companies and organizations from various sectors who come together and use their resources to provide visual assistance and preventative care to those affected by visual impairment. NGOs like Light for the World work together with Warby Parker, an eyewear company, and Aravind Eye Care System, a chain of hospitals in India, to come up with solutions to problems that are too large to tackle alone.

Gender and Visual Impairment

Another aspect of visual impairment in refugees is gender. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by visual impairment, accounting for two-thirds of those with severe vision loss. This can be due to the impact of traditional female roles, like having to collect water and wash clothes. These duties put them at risk of being bitten by blackflies which transmit parasites that destroy vision. In developing countries, women are typically not in charge of finances, so they have less control over the budget and cannot pay for healthcare. Women are also often too busy taking care of the home and may not even know where to go to access eye care.

Visual impairment in refugees, particularly females, deepens their plight; those who are visually impaired are more likely to suffer sexual violence and shamed by their families. Programs like CATCH in Uganda and Lady Health Worker in Pakistan are reaching out to these women. CATCH conducts exams to detect visual impairment early and provide preventative care to women. The Lady Health Worker program empowers female workers to provide healthcare and eye care to women and children in their own communities. Simply bringing attention to eye care and reducing the stigma of visual impairment can vastly improve lives.

Visual health underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. It is up to these organizations now to spread the word and see to it that visual impairment in refugees and developing countries become a greater priority for donors.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

food insecurity in ethiopia
Despite the fact that Ethiopia has a stronger economy than many other countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, it still remains one of the world’s least developed countries. In 2017, Ethiopia ranked 173 out of 189 countries and territories in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI). Food insecurity contributes to a lack of development in Ethiopia.

Drought, Conflict, and IDPs

Drought is one of the principal sources of food insecurity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is currently suffering from the lingering effects of past droughts. There have been two devastating droughts in Ethiopia since 2015, which has forced many out of their homes in search of food and basic services. Droughts are a primary factor in the creation of internal refugees, or internally displaced person (IDPs) in Ethiopia.

Currently, nearly three million Ethiopians are categorized as IDPs. In addition to drought, the number of IDPs has increased due to a surge in ethnic violence, particularly along the Oromiya-Somali regional border. Nearly 600,000 individuals from the Oromiya and Somali regions have become IDPs.

The combination of drought, displacement, violence and underdevelopment has resulted in widespread food insecurity in Ethiopia. Due to this, roughly 7% of the population relies on food aid. The U.S. Government has been heavily involved in battling food insecurity in Ethiopia. Currently, food insecurity and under-nutrition are two of the greatest economic hindrances in Ethiopia.

Here are five things you need to know about the United States’ involvement in addressing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

5 Ways the U.S. Helps Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

  1. “Feed the Future,” an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, has been one of the more successful programs in promoting food security in Ethiopia: Feed the Future worked in different areas in Ethiopia from 2013 to 2015 and reduced the prevalence of poverty in those areas by 12 percent. Additionally, in 2017, those who were reached by Feed the Future generated $40 million in agricultural sales and received $5.7 million in new private investment. The economy and food security in Ethiopia are closely intertwined because the nation’s economy is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture-led economic growth, therefore, has been one the primary missions of Feed the Future within Ethiopia.
  2. The US has focused on restoring Ethiopia’s potato and sweet potato supply due to its high source of Vitamin A as a means of reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia: In June 2016, The USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) supported the International Potato Center (CIP) to assist drought-affected farmers in planting potatoes and sweet potatoes. Due to this support, the CIP was able to provide sweet potato seeds to nearly 10,000 farmers and trained more than 11,300 men and women on various ways to incorporate this vitamin-rich vegetable into more of their meals. The USAID/OFDA continues to support programs that promote the development of critical agriculture, such as sweet potatoes, in Ethiopia.
  3. Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) are working in Ethiopia to help manage issues of malnutrition: The USAID’s OFDA and UNICEF have partnered together to deploy MHNTs in order to provide malnutrition screenings, basic health care services, immunizations and health education. The team also offered patient referrals when necessary. In 2017, 50 MHNTs provided 483,700 individuals in the Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia with life-saving health and nutritional services.
  4. Humanitarian assistance has been essential in reducing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children: Although USAID provides resources to help treat SAM, 38 percent of children under five still have stunted growth due to malnutrition. As of March 2018, 31,066 children were admitted and treated for SAM. Approximately 30 percent of these cases were in the Somali region due to the region’s issue with ethnic violence and drought. Significantly more assistance is needed in the Somali region in order to sufficiently manage malnutrition.
  5. Humanitarian assistance has been one of the primary reasons Ethiopia has not entered into a state of emergency for food insecurity: Although increased rainfall and a reduction in disease outbreak have helped minimize food insecurity in Ethiopia, the country would be much worse off without the help of humanitarian aid. Currently, Ethiopia is in crisis, which is phase three of five on the food insecurity scale. The phases include minimal, stressed, crisis, emergency and famine. Experts from the Famine Early Warning Systems Networks report that “Ethiopia would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance.”

Looking Forward

The need for humanitarian aid will increase as Ethiopia’s population rapidly grows. Currently, Ethiopia ranks second in Africa for the number of refugees the country hosts. Nearly 100 percent of these refugees originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. Ethiopia currently hosts over 920,262 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of May 31, 2018.

The number of asylum seekers in Ethiopia will continue to grow because Ethiopia has an open-door asylum policy. As Ethiopia’s population continues to grow due to this policy, food sources will become increasingly strained. The need for humanitarian assistance to promote sustainable agriculture and farming practices, therefore, has become essential for reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia.

Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about the Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act
The North Triangle of Central America (NTCA) is made up of three nations: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Though rich in culture and wildlife, the three countries this region houses are considered incredibly dangerous. Honduras, in 2011, was named the “murder capital of the world”. Every year, the number of asylum seekers fleeing from the NTCA increases as violence, poverty and drug trafficking in the region worsen.

In May 2019, a bill titled the Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (NTEEA) was introduced in the US House of Representatives. This bill, in a nutshell, aims to address the aforementioned causes of migration from the NCTA. There are two goals to this bill. First, to promote regional stability in the NCTA. Second, to increase border security in the US. Currently, the bill has passed through a committee that aims to issue a report to the House for further consideration. Here are 10 facts about the NTEEA.

10 Facts about the Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act

  1. The Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act was introduced by two Representatives from different states: Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, and Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas. Engel serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs while McCaul is the Committee’s Ranking Member. In addition, NTEEA is co-sponsored by Representatives Albio Sires, Francis Rooney, Norma Torres, Ann Wagner and Henry Cuellar 
  2. NTEEA calls for $577 million in foreign aid to Central America, beginning in the 2020 Fiscal Year: This assistance will go toward understanding and addressing the causes of migration from the NCTA. In 2019, the number of asylum seekers fleeing from Central America is expected to reach more than 539,000. A number of factors contribute to this number, though gang and gender-based violence remain at the top of the list.
  3. A major aspect of NTEEA relies on collecting data from this region: By collecting data the NTEEA aims to enhance national security and understand the severity of the issues plaguing the NCTA. Potentiostat data includes all criminal activity in the region, with an emphasis on two criminal organizations in particular: MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang.
  4. Additionally, information regarding criminal activity reported to authorities will be collected to address the issue of unresolved or ignored crime in this region: The NTCA, due to high poverty rates and weak government institutions, is known for its 95% impunity rate. Citizens of the NTCA find law enforcement in this region untrustworthy and incapable of appropriate prosecution.
  5. Internal displacement of citizens is a massive problem within this region: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) believes that more than 430,000 citizens from the NCTA were internally displaced within their countries by the end of 2017. To understand and combat this issue, services like temporary shelters will be given to those displaced, alongside the collection of data and information regarding displacement.
  6. Gender-based violence and violence against children are two issues that NTEEA aims to reform: In the NTCA, gendered sexual and domestic violence remains a leading factor forcing females to seek asylum. To begin to solve this layered and complicated issue, NTEEA will collect data regarding gender-based violence by region and study its correlation to internal displacement
  7. This bill will increase engagement with the Mexican government in hopes of supporting the citizens of the NTCA: Because Mexico shares a border with Guatemala and Belize. This that means the US will be required to develop an improved partnership with its southern neighbor to achieve success. 
  8. This bill aims to address the issue of poverty that contributes to both the violence and the ensuing migration of its citizens: To do this, NTEEA will provide access to clean water used for drinking and hygienic purposes, shelter for those displaced, and immediate health resources.
  9. Progress in curbing migration from the NTCA will be annually benchmarked to monitor improvements within this region: Updates will begin one year after the bill is signed and every three years after that.
  10. For those displaced, NTEEA will include tools for increased returns to country-of-origin: Eligible repatriated persons will be supported by the private sector in an effort to be trained and hired for acceptable jobs within the NTCA.                                                 

The 10 facts about the Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act demonstrate the strong need for foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle region of Central America. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, all homes to rampant violence and harrowing poverty, are expected to majorly benefit from the NTEEA.

Anna Giffels
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Food AssistanceFor more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has upheld its commitment to end global poverty, providing desperately needed refugee food assistance today. USAID works in more than 100 countries. It primarily provides humanitarian assistance, promotes global health and supports global stability. All around the world, more than 25 million people face refugee crises. And among these 25 million people, more than half are young children.

Food Assistance

USAID assists refugees by providing emergency refugee food assistance to 25 countries. In particular, USAID’s food assistance reaches Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and Bangladesh. One of the world’s biggest refugee camps lies in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. There, an estimated 868,000 Rohingya refugees seek safe haven. In order to escape western Myanmar, refugees must travel on foot through forests and turbulent waters. Often times, refugees do not have enough food for the trip and witness the deaths of loved ones. By the end of this journey, many refugees have nowhere to live and no source of living. Fortunately, USAID’s programs offer assistance.

Furthermore, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and the United Nations’ World Food Programme partnered to assist those seeking peace, who lack a home and food. USAID and WFP provide packs of high-energy biscuits as meal replacements for arriving refugees. Moreover, USAID gives WFP resources to buy rice from Bangladesh’s national rice reserve. However, it takes time to distribute food to refugee camps. USAID even supports CARE International, which provides U.S. imported food to Cox’s Bazar.

Relief Tactics

Altogether, USAID programs lay out plans for permanent and stable recoveries using four types of relief tactics. Firstly, USAID provides locally and regionally purchased food, which is more quickly accessible than imported food. Secondly, if local food is unavailable, USAID provides U.S.-grown food. Thirdly, if imported food distorts local prices, USAID offers paper or electronic food vouchers. These vouchers allow refugees to purchase local food and support local communities. Fourthly, if more flexible solutions are required, USAID supplies cash, mobile or debit card transfers.

Beyond relief tactics, USAID helps improve global stability. Every year, USAID assists more than 40 to 50 million people worldwide with emergency food assistance. In 2018 alone, USAID gave more than $690 million to help refugees around the world. Overall, numerous countries benefit from USAID. By providing refugee food assistance, USAID plays a huge role in helping millions living in extreme poverty.

Fita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

Challenges Facing Refugees in SerbiaIn 2016, 65.6 million people were forced to leave their homes, and these people are known as refugees. Refugees are usually forced to leave their countries for one of three reasons: victimization, violence or war. Refugees everywhere face immense hardships, and the challenges facing refugees in Serbia are widespread.

Serbia is mainly viewed as a stop along the way for refugees hoping to reach countries in central Europe. In 2015 and the first part of 2016, over 920,000 refugees traveled to Serbia. According to the European Commission, the shutting down of the Western Balkans migration route left 4,146 refugees stranded in Serbia.

Kimmie Whicher, a student at George Mason University, traveled to Serbia on scholarship from Boren. There, she worked with a small non-governmental organization (NGO) to provide food and clothes for hundreds of refugees in a camp in Belgrade, Serbia. In the nine months that Whicher was there, her NGO grew from feeding about 300 to upwards of 800 men.

Approximately 2.6 million refugees live in camps; many of these refugees are living in extremely harsh conditions. In Whicher’s experience, here are some of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia.

1. Poor Living Conditions

One of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is poor living conditions. According to Caritas, eight out of 10 refugees in Serbia stay in government shelters, the rest must sleep outside in public parks. Among the hardships that come with living outside is the extremely cold weather. Whicher recalled the winter weather in Serbia: “The cold is absolutely ruthless. Our organization that cooked for these men would take hot kettles of boiling water and when we tried to clean up after cooking we would pour it on the table and it would freeze the second it would hit the table.”

Winter temperatures in Serbia are often below freezing. Many refugees are left no choice but to sleep in public parks where they risk getting frostbite, among other conditions due to prolonged exposure to the cold weather. According to The Independent, many children don’t even have gloves or shoes to keep them protected from the snow.

2. No Protection by the Government

A common hardship for many refugees is the lack of safety and protection provided by the government. According to Whicher, “It was a very miserable place. A harsh reality for many of these boys was that this is the border of Europe, so when you’re living here and you’re trying to get through, if you go to a camp you’re probably going to get deported or the police are going to break your phone or take your clothes.”

3. Hunger

Another one of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is hunger. Refugees have to scrape by on whatever they can get to eat in a day. Small NGOs such as Whicher’s can provide some meals for the refugees, but the majority of those escaping their home countries are still underfed. According to Whicher, “One hot meal a day was our motto.” In this way, organizations can begin to help refugees by providing food and clothes, but they do not have the means necessary to help every refugee.

4. Worsening Physical and Mental Conditions

Due to these hardships, refugees struggle with new or worsening sickness. Due to the freezing temperatures in the winter, refugees in Serbia suffer from frostbite. According to The Independent, in order to escape the freezing temperatures, refugees light fires in their makeshift shelters, which further leads to respiratory problems from the smoke. However, physical sickness is not the only sickness refugees endure. Whicher recalled her experience: “You would literally watch them lose their minds… We saw this one man deteriorate to the point where if he were to go back to school, he would have to be in a special education classroom.”

Despite the harsh reality for many refugees in Serbia, organizations are making great strides to improve refugee conditions. Just by supplying food and clothes to these refugees, these organizations such as the one for which Whicher volunteered, are saving the lives of many.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in SyriaSyria, home to many diverse ethnic and religious groups, is a country that has lost hundreds of thousands of lives to war and violence. Because of this crisis, millions of people are displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, and development projects in Syria aim to address this need.

Like many countries in the world, Syria is fighting extreme poverty. According to the United Nations Development Programme, four out of five Syrians live in poverty and 64.7 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The Arab region is the only region in the world where poverty has increased since 2010, rising from 28 percent in 2010 to 83.4 percent in 2015.

Here is a list of five development projects in Syria that may help relieve the nation’s citizens.

  1. Switzerland donates ambulances to Syria’s suffering population
    Switzerland financed twelve new ambulances to help the people of Syria facing the consequences of the war. Syria was in need of more ambulances as a result of the devastatingly high number of victims caused by the war, including attacks against hospitals. The vehicles were purchased through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Dubai. This project was completed in 2017.
  2. Contribution to UNRWA’s Programme Budget 2017-2020
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners in the Middle East, addressing all kinds of humanitarian aid needs, including medical services, education, emergency assistance, healthcare and more. With more funds contributed to its budget, it has been able to work toward universal access to quality primary health care, basic education, relief and social services to refugees in need. This is an ongoing project expected to be completed by 2020.
  3. Swiss experts to U.N. agencies in the frame of the regional crises in the Middle East
    Through this completed project, experts from Switzerland were able to provide technical support and advice. The experts accounted for the provision of shelter in camps and noncamp settings for vulnerable displaced persons; for a multisector and multistakeholder strategy for cash-based response for IDPs, refugees and host communities; for the protection of the most vulnerable population, including children and youth; advice and strategic planning on activities in the domain of water; and support to the coordination of humanitarian interventions within the U.N. agencies and national/international actors.
  4. Contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund 2016
    Contributions to UNRWA’s 2016 General Fund allows for the sustaining of the agency’s humanitarian and human development programs, servicing over five million Palestine refugees and contributing to peace and stability in the Middle East. This completed project targeted Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. Results included financial support enabling various programs in health and education, and management reforms including resource mobilization, ERP and more.
  5. UNDP- Livelihoods Restoration in Crisis- Affected Communities in Syria
    This completed two-year project worked on restoration interventions in Rural Damascus, Horns, Tartous and Latakia. The project created local economic opportunities and restored critical community infrastructure and services, improving access to hygiene and other basic needs.

These committed development projects in Syria leave marks of improvement and hope in a nation that has been ravaged by violence and poverty for far too long.

Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr


Relying heavily on irrigation from the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers, creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq entails overcoming numerous environmental, economic and political dilemmas.

Home to 37 million people, Iraq has experienced worsening agricultural results in the past 20 years, with a GDP contribution of only six percent from the agriculture industry since 1993.  Some of the most influential problems that prevent the development of sustainable agriculture in Iraq include the lack of technologies and educated farming practices, lack of economic power, lack of access to clean water and even civil unrest among cities full of refugees.

According to Nations Encyclopedia, about one-third of Iraqis in the labor force are in the agriculture industry, despite having such a low GDP contribution. A few of the main crops in Iraq include wheat, barley and dates, some of which are staple, or exported crops.

In 1989, the Iraqi government privatized the agriculture industry in an unsuccessful attempt to boost the industry. Still faced with problems today, the privatized farms struggle to produce enough crops to support the urban populations. In response to this food shortage, Iraq began importing food through the United Nation’s Food-for-Oil program, starting in 1995 and lasting until 2003, through which Iraq traded oil reserves for imported foods.

This program led to an increase in competition for local farmers, increasing the difficulty for Iraqi farmers to sell their crops. However, there are aid programs that strive to provide sufficient nutrition to overcrowded, urban areas. The World Food Program (WFP) provides rations to more than 230,000 Iraqis struggling to obtain food. Rations include basic ingredients such as wheat, flour, rice, beans and more.

Additionally, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union donated more than €80 million in agricultural advancement. USAID has invested about $6.6 billion toward improving a wide variety of issues in Iraq, some of which include the improvement of marshlands by reflooding original marshlands, the financing of small, local farms and the improvement of irrigation techniques. The World Bank has also provided more than $990 million since 2003 in grants and soft, low-interest loans for farmers to improve their water supply, irrigation and drainage resolutions.

One of the biggest problems that these programs address is Iraq’s water irrigation systems and cleanliness. Iraqi farmers normally irrigate their crops by flooding their fields; however, this is a short-term solution which causes even more problems in the future, including erosion. The constant flooding of fields leads to water-fueled erosion, which disrupts irrigation canals and tunnels that have gone without maintenance due to a lack of funding and resources from the Iraqi government.

Another dilemma in creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq is the salinity of water used to irrigate crops. According to FAO, about 70 percent of arable land in Iraq is threatened by salinity. Salinity reduces the soil’s health and fertility, directly impacting farmers’ abilities to produce a high yield of crops.

Another short-term solution that Iraqi farmers have found is overgrazing. Overgrazing allows farmers to produce more livestock to meet the high demands of urban populations. However, overgrazing without improving the quality of pastures has led to nutrient-deprived soils, drastically affecting sustainable agriculture in Iraq and advancing soil erosion.

Lastly, the recent political unrest and violence in Iraq has created a massive population of war refugees, as well as directly impacted the ability to grow crops. More than 700,000 people are living in refugee camps, and as of 2017, more than 800,000 Iraqis still require a food assistance program to survive. Such a high number of refugees is what initiated the nation’s increase of imports, therefore causing increased competition with Iraq’s farmers. Violence and conflict can also result in physical damage to arable land as well as to irrigation systems, causing more strain on farmers.

Creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq is a continuous struggle with issues that cannot be fixed through a simple method. The ongoing violence ensures economic hardship for farmers, and with few technologies accessible, alternative, long-term solutions are farmers’ only option to create a sustainable agriculture industry.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

 

Learn about Poverty in Iraq