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syrian rebels
On July 14, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send cross-border humanitarian aid to areas of Syria controlled by Syrian rebels in desperate need of food and medicine. This decision was made despite strong objections from the Syrian government.

The vote came out 15 to 0, meaning that all members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on this decision. The unanimity is notably rare in U.N. council meetings.

Approximately 10.8 million Syrians—nearly half of the country’s population—are in need of food, medicine and other supplies due to Syria’s on-going war. This is a huge increase from about one million citizens in 2011. And nearly half of these people live in rebel-held areas.

The conflict in Syria has thus far left 150,000 people dead, and created widespread instability in the country. U.N. officials refer to this situation as one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters.

Until now, nearly 90 percent of aid from the U.N. Security Council was appropriated for those in government-controlled regions. The new initiative will bring aid to an additional 1.3 million people in need.

Russia and China threatened to veto the resolution, resulting in a weaker compromise than many Western nations had hoped for, according to the BBC’s Nick Bryant. The Syrian government also warned the U.N. that it would consider such resolutions a violation of national sovereignty.

Prior to this vote, aid going to Syria first went through the nation’s capital of Damascus, on President Bashar al-Assad’s orders. This meant that Assad gained control of all aid coming in. Many believed this aid was used as leverage against the rebel efforts, since very little of it ever made it to their held regions.

U.N. ambassador from Luxembourg, Sylvie Lucas, said that Assad’s denial of supplies to rebel-controlled regions was the main reason the resolution came about.

She said that under the new resolution, “the consent of the Syrian government will no longer be necessary.”

The new resolution authorizes U.N. agencies and other aid organizations to send humanitarian assistance using routes across four conflict border lines in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. These routes will allow the U.N. to monitor aid shipments in these three countries before they are sent across the Syrian border. These routes will come in addition to those previously used for aid.

Nongovernmental organizations such as Save the Children and Oxfam welcomed the resolution, and will likely assist the U.N. in carrying it out.

Bashar al Jaafari, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, was strongly opposed to the measure. He was invited to attend the vote, and was sharply critical of the resolution, citing Syria’s efforts to accommodate international relief. He also stated that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—countries advocating humanitarian access—were in large part responsible for empowering Islamic extremists destabilizing Syria and Iraq.

“First and foremost, terrorism must stop for the humanitarian situation in Syria to improve,” he said.

Despite opposition and warning from Syrian government officials, humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas will be implemented in the near future.

– Paige Frazier

Sources: BBC, The New York Times, CBC News
Photo: NPR

Save the Children
Save the Children helps children in over 120 countries, including the United States, gain access to health services and education while keeping them out of harm’s way. This organization was founded by Eglantyne Jebb in England in 1919. She aimed at helping children recover after World War I in central Europe. Eglantine dedicated her life to advancing human rights and the well-being of all children. Jebb believed that the world as a whole was entirely responsible for their welfare.

Eglantyne Jebb once said, “The only international language in the world is a child’s cry,”–words which have forever changed how the world views saving the children.

Save the Children’s theory of change creates noticeable impacts on children’s lives by investing in the impact of children by forming together to meet the demanding changes of the world we exist in. This notion is broken down into four pillars of impact.

The first pillar consists of being the voice for the world’s children. The focus is working toward policy reforms to help promote better child rights, particularly in areas of poverty. This will ensure that no child’s voice will go unheard.

The second pillar is the Save the Children foundation becomes the pioneer for innovation. This pillar will show the world that there is proof for solutions to helping these children and that it can be done.

The third pillar states that building partnerships and collaborating with other organizations of the same interest can help meet these goals faster by getting the word spread to a larger audience.

The fourth pillar is the final step. This is the achieved results of policy reforms and also the best patterns possible for implementing the right steps to follow through with, making life better for kids.

The Save the Children foundation has changed the lives of over 125 million people and this number continues to grow. An example of the success of the foundation is shown with children living in Kenya. The drought in Kenya has taken a toll on areas suffering from poverty because the land for livestock becomes unusable. This produced a regional wide shortage of milk, causing many of the children to become severely malnourished.

Save the Children has provided over 30,000 children and families with milk through their milk voucher program. A few months after the program began, children received over a 10 percent weight increase because of the program’s success.

Over the past several years, the Save the Children foundation has educated over 9 million children and will be continuing to do so in the future. Save the Children is working to ensure that children around the world survive threats like newborn complications, and preventable or treatable illnesses like malaria, through the use of vaccines. The Save the Children foundation aims to offer valuable evidence to increase government funding and influence global policies. Save the Children is working with governments, schools and nonprofit partners to improve the available access and the role of quality health and nutrition programs.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Charity Watch, Save the Children
Photo: Marketing Magazine

menstruation in uganda
Menstruation is a major reason for young girls in Uganda to miss school. Reasons for their absence stems from the stigma associated with “that time of the month,” a lack of sanitary napkins and the limited facilities available to students. Attending school while on their period forces girls to put their health at risk and chance being the subject of humiliation.

In an interview with a Guardian reporter, 16-year-old Lydia from Kampala, Uganda expressed why going to school during her period is difficult. She explained that some of the toilets did not have doors, so that if someone walked in, they would see her. Her school also has only four toilets for 2,000 students.  The toilets’ inability to flush or have water complicates the issue further, making menstruation in Uganda a problem in multiple ways.

In a recent study by SNV, officials report that girls miss between 8 to 24 days of school per year while menstruating.

Some girls attempt to prevent their clothing from being ruined by trying to absorb the blood with old cloth or old t-shirts, but these methods are not particularly successful. In another interview, Auma Milly commented that disposable pads are very expensive and are often not available in the more rural regions. Consequently, she felt embarrassed when she went to school and would soil her clothes so often that she chose not to attend.

In an attempt to address the problem regarding women’s sanitary needs, organizations including Save the Children, WaterAid, the Institute of Reproductive Health and local NGO Caritas Lira have begun to raise awareness and assist the cause.  Representatives from WaterAid commented on the importance of deconstructing the taboo regarding women’s health. The founder of 50 Cents. Period. described the battle as giving girls the basic right to hygiene. SNV and Caritas Lira have gone to schools in order to teach girls how to make reusable, affordable pads. Additionally, female Ugandan government officials have begun advocating for reduced taxes on sanitary napkins and improved facilities so that menstruation does not interfere with education.

– Jordyn Horowitz

 

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian 2, UWASNET, 50 Cents Period, UWASNET, , SNV
Photo: A Global Village

 

ikea_socially_conscious
The IKEA Foundation’s 2013 annual report celebrates a year of exciting achievements and a growing commitment to global development.

Established in 2009, the IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic entity associated with IKEA, the popular Swedish home furnishings company. In the past year, the foundation has gained 12 new partners and donated 101 million euros to those partner organizations, contributing to the continued implementation of innovative children’s programs. With the support of a new Brazilian partner organization, the IKEA Foundation has also been able to reach children in South America for the first time. In addition, a number of partners have also started to develop emergency shelters for displaced refugees.

Compared to the total monetary donation in 2012 (82 million euros), the IKEA Foundation’s 2013 contribution saw a 21 percent overall increase in giving. IKEA’s Soft Toys for Education campaign raised 10.1 million euros and helped 11 million children. Moreover, the foundation’s projects throughout 2013 impacted children in 35 different countries.

The IKEA Foundation focuses on four areas of development: fighting child labor and promoting children’s rights, improving the lives of refugee children and families, empowering women and girls as well as disaster relief. The foundation also funds education projects for children and works to change current social attitudes towards child labor in developing communities. In 2013, the IKEA Foundation helped UNICEF and Save the Children fight child labor in India and Pakistan. By reaching out to farmers, families and other community leaders, the foundation hopes to raise awareness of the dangers that children face in the workplace – specifically, in the cotton, carpet and metalware industries. Additionally, the foundation’s new partnership with Care for Children is helping place orphans into supportive and loving families in Asia.

In conjunction with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the IKEA Foundation is working to develop safer and more durable emergency shelters for refugees. Innovative additions (such as solar lighting) are expected to increase the lifespan of current refugee camps. Last year, UNHCR began experimenting with the reworked shelters in Ethiopia, taking into account the feedback provided by refugee families living in the newly developed camps.

The IKEA Foundation continues to support KickStart, a partner organization that trains women in southern Africa to grow and sell crops, launch their own businesses and establish a reliable income. The foundation also expanded the number of scholarship opportunities for women and girls to get an education. Currently, the IKEA Foundation’s partnership with the Lila Poonawalla Foundation helps 1,900 poor Indian women pursue higher education in fields like engineering, agriculture and healthcare.

By giving cash grants to its partners, the IKEA Foundation strives to help families immediately after disasters and other conflicts. During the past year, partner organizations used IKEA’s grants to provide medical care to Syrian refugees. After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, many partners brought emergency supplies to devastated communities. The IKEA Foundation itself has donated IKEA toys and products to around 1.2 million affected children around the world.

The IKEA Foundation has clearly expanded its goals and reached several new milestones in 2013, but CEO Per Heggenes believes that the foundation has more to offer. “The journey continues,” he wrote, “and we still have lots to accomplish.”

– Kristy Liao

Sources: IKEA Foundation
Photo: INiTs

Food_Insecurity
The United Kingdom experiences a significant amount of both household and child poverty. Oxfam reports that one in five people in the U.K. live below the official poverty line. Nearly 13 million people do not have enough money to live on because of unemployment or wages that are not high enough to provide basic necessities.

Save the Children reports that as of 2012, there were 3.5 million children living in poverty in the U.K.; that number is expected to rise to almost four million in the coming years.

Many of those in living in poverty are not unemployed and on social assistant but rather cannot support their families on their wages. In 2012, there were more working households living under the poverty line than there were unemployed households. The number of people with low paid jobs has risen dramatically since 2008; average incomes have fallen by 8 percent since 2008.

There are 1.4 million part-time workers who would like to be working full-time but cannot find work.

The political and economic structure in the U.K. is similar to that of the United States. Both the U.S. and the U.K. are liberal welfare states, meaning they place a high value on free trade and are driven by capitalism and put a low emphasis on social spending and government involvement. Unfortunately, this results in problems such as food insecurity and poor health.

The poverty rate in 2012 was 21 percent, the second highest has been in the past two decades.. The U.K. does not have high enough minimum wages or strong enough social safety nets to protect families from poverty.

Food Insecurity, or “Food Poverty”, is a significant problem in the U.K. and is leading to poor nutritional outcomes for children and obesity and diabetes in adults. From 2012 to 2013, 500,000 people relied on food parcels from charities. Oxfam reports that more than two million people in the U.K. are malnourished and three million are at risk of becoming malnourished.

In the U.K., one in six parents have gone without food in order to feed their children.

The poor have worse micro-nutrient intakes and dietary patterns than those who have higher incomes. A national survey showed that the poorest 15 percent in the country did not meet dietary standards and were overweight or obese. In addition, 30 percent of these had run out of money to buy food and 40 percent had worried about running out of money to buy food.

Rates of food insecurity among low-income families in Ireland range from 39 percent to 50 percent.

In both Ireland and England, the social assistance program is so poor that families on it would not be able to eat a healthful diet while depending on it. Oxfam is working on public policy changes to increase social spending so there are better social safety nets for families living in poverty. They are also advocating for a rise in the minimum wage.

There is significant stigma and discrimination around poverty in the U.K. and Oxfam is working on education to teach the public about the systemic causes of poverty in order to lessen this discrimination.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Oxfam, BBC, OECD, Joseph Rowntreen Foundation
Photo: Warwick

guatemala-milk-program
Guatemala is located in Central America, with borders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The country has an overall population of nearly 15 million people, and faces a chronic malnutrition rate for children under 5 of about 50%, which is incredibly high. In fact, the malnutrition rates of children in Guatemala are the 4th highest in the entire world. Guatemala helps account for a high amount of stunting, which is the inability to grow; as in, children are unable to fully grow due to lack of nutrition and proper food. In indigenous areas of Guatemala, chronic undernutrition affects about 70% of the population. Overall, over half of Guatemalans (53%) live in poverty, and about 13% live in extreme poverty. Children and women have the worst of it. There is also food insecurity and economic insecurity. Clearly, something needs to be done in order to reduce malnutrition within the country and to reduce the incredibly high rate of child mortality and stunting.

Save the Children is an organization that just launched a milk program in Guatemala in order to fight the chronic malnutrition. Save the Children fights for the rights and lives of vulnerable children and families; the organization takes part in several focus areas including emergency relief and long-term recovery programs. So far, Save the Children has help over 125 million children in almost 120 countries by working with partners and running programs to help them have better access to food and water, and to fight for their rights. Save the Children’s priorities are to “ensure that children in need are safe, educated and healthy, and are better to attain their rights.” In the case of the milk program in Guatemala, the program is meant to help children be healthy, which would result in giving them a better chance at life and success as they grow older.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. is Save the Children’s partner in the milk program in Guatemala, and so is USAID, the United States Agency for International Development. GMCR has award-winning coffee and is the creater of the popular Keurig brewing technology. Most importantly in the context of this article, they have business practices that reflect Corporate Social Responsibility. They aim to give their customers “convenience, variety and consistent great taste.” They were founded 32 years ago, and have recently released their 2012 sustainability report. Basically, GMCR wants to give back to the community, both in North America and the entire world. They have a business – “Brewing a Better World Together” – and wish to improve the world through it. Part of the way they are doing this is by supporting the milk program in Guatemala.

Together, Save the Children and GMCR launched the milk program in Guatemala; they opened a goat-raising center in Guatemala so that the goat milk program can fight child malnutrition. This center will raise goats in order to get goat milk, which will then be distributed to the families that are facing chronic, extreme malnutrition. In all, over 2,000 families will benefit from the goat milk program. In addition to the goat-raising center, Save the Children and GMCR will provide education of making money and sustainability; they will educate the families about selling surplus milk, and of making cheese and yogurt from the milk. The USAID Mission Director Kevin Kelly commented that the goat center would “generate income and food security among the extreme poor in Gatemala’s Western Highlands.” This center is just one small step towards fighting malnutrition in Guatemala.

– Corina Balsamo 
Sources: The Examiner, GMCR, Save the Children, World Food Programme
Photo: Universal Giving

The international NGO, Save the Children, and U.K.-based global health nonprofit Merlin, have joined together to create one organization.

As of July 16, Merlin’s board of trustees stepped down, and Merlin officially became a part of Save the Children, under a new board. Merlin’s CEO Carolyn Miller claimed that the new organization would be a “global humanitarian health force” that would benefit from Merlin’s expertise and Save the Children’s heritage and reach.

The hope, according to Save the Children’s CEO Justin Forsyth, is that the two will become a stronger entity with each other’s help. While the transition is occurring, Merlin will remain a separate legal entity and a transition team has already been put in place to help phase Merlin’s oversees overseas program and head office into Save the Children. The process is expected to be complete in 18 months.

Some are concerned that with the combination, programs will have to be cut in order to focus on the overall goal of the new organization. However, one nonprofit partnered with Save the Children, the Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), which gives aid to children in the Philippines, says it sees promise in the joining of the two organizations. In addition to giving aid to children, ZOTO also focuses on disaster relief, an area that new resources from Merlin will be able to provide help.

While the news of Save the Children and Merlin teaming up has attracted much attention due to the size of the organizations (Save the Children works in 125 countries, and Merlin has over 5,000 employees) this is certainly not the first time NGOs have partnered up in order to make more of an impact. Save the Children’s press release called the new team an effort for a sustainable future in light of the “tough external environment for NGOs.” The economy is picking up after the latest recession, but it is still tough for nonprofits to survive.

NGO’s are also in competition with each other as they start up and grow in popularity. As a result, many of the smaller ones are being engulfed by the larger ones. The larger ones will also subcontract to the smaller ones, leaving them only doing part of their work, rather than directly helping those they’re trying to help.

However, while this has happened in several cases, Oxfam International’s Chief Executive Winnie Byanyima, is hesitant to call NGO mergers a “trend.” According to Byanyima, nonprofits have been coming together for decades in the form of partnerships and NGO coalitions to work together in order to maximize their voice. Most NGOs are looking to do the same basic thing – to help people – and sometimes the best way to do that is to join forces.

– Emma McKay

Sources: Devex, The Guardian, World Crunch

Live Below the Line
The Global Poverty Project challenges people around the world to change their perspective on global poverty by signing up to live on £1 per day for five days.

The Live Below the Line campaign began in Australia in 2010 when anti-poverty campaigner Richard Fleming lived for three weeks on the amount the World Bank defined as the extreme poverty line—the equivalent of U.S. $1.25 per day.

The campaign made its way to the U.K. in 2011, where it raised over £100,000 in its first year.  Live Below the Line has proven to be a powerful advocacy tool in addition to a fundraiser, as it forces participants to consider the real implications of living in impoverished conditions.

In 2013, over 6,000 people stepped up to the challenge of living on less than one Euro per day. This is good news, because the campaign’s managers have pointed out that getting people directly engaged in the campaign makes them more likely to continue campaigning or to take action in the future.

Beyond individuals, charities can also sign up to participate in the Live Below the Line challenge. In 2013, partners ranged from large organizations, like Save the Children, to smaller ones, like Positive Women, a group that aims to empower African women.

The Global Poverty Project is the same organization that launched the Global Citizens Music Festival, the End of Polio Campaign, and 1.4 Billion Reasons. The organization has worked tirelessly towards its vision of “a world without extreme poverty within a generation.”

By working to increase active participation along with general awareness, the Global Poverty Project shows its commitment to making a viable, positive difference in the fight against global poverty.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Source: Third Sector, Global Poverty Project
Photo: Style Quotidien

scandinavia-cultural_women_norway_culture_international_poverty_global_borgen_project_opt
One of the Millennium Development Goals is to promote gender equality throughout the world. This is because it has been proven that empowering women often leads to the empowerment of communities. The education of women is key to progress, for a number of reasons.

An annual report by the NGO Save the Children has shed light on a disturbing reality. Through a measurement of life expectancy, education, use of contraception, wages and political power, the organization measured the best and worst places in the world to be a woman. Overall, the results are mostly unsurprising, but show the complexity of the problem of gender inequality. Much progress has been made, but much work is still left to do.

Unsurprisingly, this year Western Europe and Scandinavia top the list of best countries to live with the countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway, followed by Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia. At the bottom of the list, the worst places to be a women include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, Chad, Afghanistan, Mali, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.

Though countries like India and South Africa have received significant media coverage for the levels of sexual violence their female populations suffer, they are surprisingly high up on the list. South Africa has an impressive 60% of its population using modern contraceptives and 41% of its government seats held by women. India is significantly less well off, but still beats countries such as Singapore and Korea, with an encouraging life expectancy rate and close to half the population on contraceptives.

What this shows is the multifaceted nature of discrimination; it is not manifested solely in sexual violence, but in a myriad of ways which -– though they may not be as visible -– can be similarly devastating to a women’s physical and mental well-being.

One thing that does stand out is that the link between poverty and gender discrimination is clear. The list correlates surprisingly well as a ranking of wealth as well as status. It is not exact; other factors such as culture and religion play a large role. But all of the top-ranking countries are developed and established, while all of the bottom-ranking ones have many citizens struggling to eke out an existence.

At times, some think of foreign aid as the solution to a given problem — food for hunger, relief for a disaster, supplies for education. But the truth is that foreign aid, successfully delivered, contributes to development which has far reaching implications. Encouraging the development of countries, no matter what way, opens opportunities for its citizens in far more than one area. If we are to fight gender discrimination, we must also fight poverty, one of its root causes.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: Foodtank, The Independent
Photo: Visit Europe

1-south-sudan-water_poverty_opt

The accessibility of clean, safe water sources across the world varies greatly. Americans are afforded the luxury and don’t have to think twice about how they are going to collect water daily. It is so easy and natural to walk into a kitchen and fill up a glass of water or hop in the shower and bathe. For others, it is not that simple.

345 million people in Africa live without local water access, being forced to walk miles on end to collect where it can be found. The water is often dirty and contaminated with dangerous parasites, posing health risks to those who drink it. This may contribute to the extremely high mortality rates in Sudan.

Water for South Sudan has decided to address this issue. WSS has drilled over 168 borehole wells, providing remote villages in South Sudan with the basic human need of clean, safe water.

WSS has a deeply rooted belief that clean, accessible water is the framework for entrepreneurship and the growth of markets. Removing the huge issue of water from the equation opens up room to address other issues such as the economy and growth.

There are ways to help the people of Sudan through the Water for South Sudan organization. The H2O Project Challenge takes all of the money spent on beverages for two weeks and donates it to the charity. This means that for two weeks, the only drink a person can have is water. A little commitment such as this can have a profound impact on the lives of those in South Sudan.

– William Norris
Source: Water for South Sudan, Water.org, Save the Children
Photo: ICRC