refugee populations
An estimated 15.2 million people in the world are refugees, people forced to leave their home countries because of persecution, war, or other kinds of violence. That’s the equivalent of the populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco combined.

Who are these people? Where do they come from? And where do they currently reside? Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees give us the following snapshot of these populations: of the 15.2 million refugees, 46% are under 18, and 48% are female. Most of these people have been forced to move to developing nations, which host an estimated 80% of the world’s refugee population.

The country with the largest refugee population in the world is Pakistan, which hosts an estimated 1.7 million refugees. Many of these refugees are from neighboring Afghanistan, the country that produces the greatest number of refugees, an estimated 2.7 million people. To place these numbers in a global context, below is a list of the world’s top 5 largest refugee populations by the nation of origin.

Largest Refugee Populations

1. Afghanistan –  2.7 million refugees worldwide

2. Iraq – 1.7 million

3. Somalia –  770,000

4. Democratic Republic of Congo – 477,000

5. Myanmar – 415,000


Refugees from these and other countries are forced to move across the globe, many of them ending up in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Germany, and Jordan, the top 5 on the list of host countries. Jordan, Syria, Congo, Chad, and Montenegro are the countries with the highest proportion of refugees per 1,000 people. The United States currently hosts an estimated 265,000 refugees.

Although numbers like these are sometimes hard to grasp, compiling this kind of data is vital for refugee aid organizations like UNHCR, which rely on data to plan ways to help the people and countries involved. UNHCR publishes an annual Global Trends Report on refugee populations. The next such report is due in June 2013.

– Délice Williams

Sources: UNHCR, The Guardian, MSN Causes
Photo: Guardian


In the United States, the average person will live to be 78 years old. In that time, they’ll likely get married, have children of their own, have a long career and then spend roughly 13 years in retirement. For most of us, this seems like the natural progression of life. In many places around the world however, many people won’t live to see the day they become grandparents and the idea of retirement is just a pie in the sky.

What does low life expectancy tell us?

The World Bank defines life expectancy at birth as the number of years a newborn can be expected to live, assuming no change in the living conditions of the country present at birth. When life expectancy in a country is low, it indicates a lack in some of the basic necessities required to live a long, healthy life.

This often includes things such as clean drinking water, nutritious food, hygienic living conditions and adequate health care. But in some cases, it is far more complicated than that. AIDS related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa for example, have been driving down average life expectancy for decades. Conflict, war and genocide also contribute to a shorter average life span.

The following is a list of 10 countries with the lowest life expectancy numbers on the planet, the 10 worst places to be born. For comparison, life expectancy in the United States was 48 in the year 1900.

10. Mozambique

Life expectancy: 50 years

9. Chad

Life expectancy: 50 years

8. Zambia

Life expectancy: 49 years

7. Afghanistan

Life expectancy: 49 years

6. Swaziland

Life expectancy: 49 years

 5. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Life expectancy: 48 years

 4. Central African Republic

Life expectancy: 48 years

3. Guinea-Bissau

Life expectancy: 48 years

 2. Lesotho

Life expectancy: 48 years

 1. Sierra Leone

Life expectancy: 48 years

These figures express the importance of global health initiatives undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other health actors on the world stage. Many government health ministries and non-governmental health organizations are also stepping up to meet these challenges. These efforts are imperative for global development and their continued persistence can eventually lead to long and healthy lives for people in these countries.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Sources:World Bank, Washington Post, Berkeley
Photo:Alexia Foundation

USAID Awards $400 Million to Clean Energy
USAID has awarded $400 million to four innovative engineering and technology companies to assist developing countries in attaining clean energy. Specifically, the goal of the contract is to implement new technologies and business models that aim to help “critical priority countries” transition to a low carbon trajectory. According to USAID, countries that will be receiving assistance and that qualify as “critical priority countries” include Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen.

Six energy sector themes outlined by USAID that will serve as guidelines for the contract are energy poverty, energy sector governance, energy sector reform, energy security, clean energy, and climate change. Over the course of five years, these awarded companies, Dexis Consulting Group, ECODIT LLC, Tetra Tech and Engility Corporation will compete to deliver their products to these countries and meet the five years, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract. The $400 million will be shared among the four companies and could reach the IDIQ before five years are up.

Tony Smeraglinolo, Engility President and CEO, said the company will compete to support energy reform efforts within the recipient countries. “Around the globe, there is a growing demand for responsible energy development and we are proud to have the opportunity to continue supporting USAID and its important mission,” said Smeraglinolo.

– Kira Maixner
Source: GovConWire , FedBizOpps
Photo: International Institution for Education and Development

10 Facts: The Lives of Aid Workers
Many people do not understand what it truly means to be a humanitarian aid worker. There are millions of people worldwide that dedicate their lives to improving the living conditions of people living in poverty in developing countries, refugee camps, or war zones. In countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the risk of violence and sickness is great. However, aid workers in other countries face just as many health risks and sleepless nights.

While the health risks are great, the benefits for these workers and the people they help are just as great. Making friends from all over the world, lifting people out of poverty, and sleeping on the beach can be some of the perks of the job. Here are ten facts about the lives of aid workers according to the Aid Worker Fact Sheet procured by Humanitarian Outcomes, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALAP) and a few workers themselves.

  1. In 2011, 308 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or wounded – the highest number yet recorded. Afghanistan was the country with the highest number of attacks on aid works, 50, compared to 18 in Somalia, 17 in South Sudan, 13 in Pakistan and 12 in Sudan.
  2. Statistics suggest that attacks on aid workers happen in weak, unstable states and experiencing active armed conflict.
  3. Governments can pose challenges to the aid community through overbearing or ill-advised use of their security forces. In its worst form, aid workers can be caught or directly targeted in government forces’ hostilities.
  4. The conditions of aid works vary greatly from country to country. Sometimes, reliable access to amenities of the western world like electricity, hot and cold running water, reliable heat and cooling, and the freedom of movement to explore at your leisure.
  5. At times, the mental capacity of the job presents a challenge. Constant movement and the witness of horrendous living conditions frequently cause humanitarian workers to “burn out” after a few years in the field.

However, it is not all bad. Here are five facts that surpass the risks of working in developing or war-torn countries.

  1. Aid workers live a life of service that aligns with their values and are surrounded by colleagues that share the same passion and commitments. Though aid workers are on the constant move, they make connections and lasting friendships with people across the globe.
  2. Challenge and responsibility come earlier in the career of a relief worker than in many other careers.
  3. Relief workers have the opportunities to make a lasting, true impact on the lives of many of the people they encounter.
  4. Relief work allows humanitarians to escape the beaten, tourist track and truly experience different cultures and countries.
  5. According to ALNAP, there are 274,238 humanitarian field workers across the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Humanitarian Outcomes, Humanitarian Jobs
Photo: European Commission

Data from the World Bank released last week reports twenty fragile countries who are starting to reach development goals.  As the Millennium Development Goals near the end, news of progress is exciting and hopeful. Progress in fragile countries ranges from efforts in reducing poverty, improving the education of girls, and cutting down on deaths during child birth.

The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire in 2015 and these 20 countries were not on track just a few years ago. The progress that has been made since 2010 is remarkable. In addition, six more fragile countries are on target to hit the goals by 2015. Countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Timor-Leste have seen a 50% reduction in people in extreme poverty and increased the number of girls in school.  These are strong accomplishments for any nation, but for these nations who are coming out of war and devastation, the results are even more extraordinary.

The data serves as a call for the global community to not strike countries off as hopeless or lost causes, but to seek the development of all nations.  While these twenty have seen remarkable progress, many war-torn nations are still lagging far behind the benchmarks set up by the Millennium Development Goals. These nations are also very prone to relapse as is the case of Yemen who was on target to meet the goal of reducing death during childbirth until the violence during the Arab Spring in 2011.

World Bank leaders are calling for a bridge between long-term development and humanitarian assistance to help countries in the middle of crisis.  When the international spotlight leaves a country in distress, often so does the humanitarian aid, leaving the country devastated and struggling to rebuild itself. To rebuild requires support that focuses on clear actions, steps, and transparent and accountable goals. As nations tighten their spending in the midst of the economic downturn, effective aid is even more important. The World Bank is committed to working more closely with the United Nations to see that long-term development happens in fragile countries.

Community involvement is also key in addressing and meeting needs and designing appropriate projects.  As aid organizations work together with communities, they can address the causes of conflict and also create programs and plans that emerge as long-term solutions.  In the final push to accomplish the Millennium Development goals, this type of aid is going to be increasingly important.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Reuters
Photo: World Hunger

Millennium Development Goals

Twenty nations have made huge strides in just a few years towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Millennium Development Goals are a series of international development goals set by the United Nations in 2000 that aim to eradicate poverty, hunger, and disease and improve the quality of life for the world’s poorest by the year 2015. Nations, that were described as troubled and conflict-hit, had not met any of the MDGs in 2010 have now at least met one. The World Bank cites better data collection and monitoring that have made progress more discernible.

The World Bank noted that countries Afghanistan, Nepal and Timor-Leste have decreased the number of people in extreme poverty by fifty percent or increased the number of girls enrolled in schools.

The World Bank aims to find ways to help countries that have relapsed such as Yemen which until the Arab Spring in 2011 was on course to reduce maternal mortality. It also aims to help conflict-hit countries transition from receiving humanitarian aid that ends once the cameras leave to building foundations for long-term development. To do so, the World Bank is working with the UN which has historically assisted with peace-keeping and humanitarian assistance.

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, called the results a wake-up call to “the global community [to] not dismiss these countries as lost causes. Development can and is being achieved, even amid fragility and violence.”

The World Bank plans to focus on aid effectiveness by studying how aid money is used and if it actually impacts the poor, particularly with the reduction of aid from the U.S. and Europe.

– Essee Oruma

Source: Reuters
Photo: A Celebration of Women

Whether you identify as a feminist or not, no one can deny the courage of Fawzia Koofi, as she is running for the presidency in Afghanistan during the 2014 elections. President Karzai is set to reach his limit of two five-year terms in office and if Koofi succeeds, she will be Afghanistan’s first female president. As of now, Koofi chairs parliament’s women and human rights committee.

There is no doubt that Fawzia Koofi embodies the feminist movement and sends a clear message to the world; Afghanistan is progressing, despite the Taliban’s best efforts of terrifying women into suppression and out of politics. Seeing as Afghanistan was once known as the worst place in the world to be a woman, Koofi has managed to incite dramatic change in Afghanistan’s political climate.

After years of conflict, this potential change in leadership has restored faith in many of Afghanistan’s people. Afghanistan’s first female president would serve as a representation of endless opportunity and positive forward motion for the country’s youth. Koofi has said herself that there is a strong desire for change among young people and women throughout Afghanistan. Koofi emphasizes this in her new book, “Letters to my Daughters”.

“Being a woman in politics in Afghanistan and a woman who stands for what she believes in, there is always risk”, Koofi stated. Fawzia Koofi is well aware of the danger she is putting herself in, as her own father was a politician who was killed by assassination. However, she is determined, stating that “…change is possible; it’s just a matter of some political and moral support from our international friends.”

This leads to the question of how this political shift would impact the United States, particularly in the realm of national security. Koofi herself has asked that the United States continue its support for Afghan women’s rights, even after the withdrawal of troops in 2014. Her concern is that gains made for women’s rights in Afghanistan will be eradicated if the new president enters into reconciliation talks with conservatives, including Taliban insurgents. There is great concern among women in Afghanistan, as this settlement could lead to the Taliban sharing in power. Koofi sees this threat even now, stating that “Talibanisation is a process, people within government are already promoting Taliban ideology and Taliban thinking”.

Rebekah Russo

Source:Al Arabiya News

Afghanistan Farming_opt
For the past 12 years, the US Army has primarily been assigned to the role of peacekeeper in support of the NATO led military operations in Afghanistan. Subsequently, as the security operations draw to a close and military personnel began a phased withdrawal, coalition forces have a renewed focus on the long-term economic benefits of sustainable farming in Afghanistan. Sadly, many of the invaluable skill sets necessary for high yield farming have been lost, a consequence of the frequent military incursions that have occurred over the last half-century. In an effort to both ameliorate local poverty levels and build agricultural capacity, NATO is calling for the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan.

Soldiers of the 5-19 Agribusiness Development Team of the Indian National Guard have spent the last year instructing Afghan farmers of the Khowst Provice in the basics of farming. What tasks are being covered in the course curriculum? Army instructors are focusing on row planting, pest control, livestock care, and green house management; all important techniques that will enable farmers to increase crop yields and pass along the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities of sustainable farming to future generations. Thus far, the program assigning the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan has reaped substantial dividends, with local farmers taking pride in their yearly harvests and neighboring villages working towards the purchase of farm equipment in the near future.

In regards to the policy calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Major Gregory Motz noted that, “This is the best job I have had in the Army. To be able to see the progress the Afghans have made in a year and know that it isn’t because we did it for them, but with them…The agricultural community in Khost has made leaps and bounds in the last five years. It is really exciting to be part of that.”

A program calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan is a much needed reason to be optimistic about the future of the war torn nation, as the economic opportunities afforded by a newly invigorated agricultural industry will serve as positive legacy that will outlast the violence of the last decade. Furthermore, by laying the necessary groundwork required for a rich food security program to take hold, the citizens of Afghanistan can look forward to a future high in agricultural sustainability and economic development.

Brian Turner

Source: ClarksVilleonline
Photo: National Guard News

The global community is painstakingly close to eradicating polio. Increases in vaccinations have spared the lives of more than 10 million people worldwide. Polio, a disease which used to claim the lives of up to 500,000 people a year, is almost gone. Its eradication would be a crucial milestone in transforming global health and demonstrating the effectiveness of collective action.

Global collective efforts have brought together UN agencies, governments, foundations, private businesses, and individuals to combat this disease. Worldwide, the number of recorded cases last year fell to an all-time-low of 223. There are only three countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

These countries are susceptible to polio because of the fringe communities such as nomads, migrant workers, and displaced populations. People are much more likely to contract polio in areas of conflict and insecurity. In order to eradicate polio, vaccines must be delivered to the most marginalized of our society. This requires belief that every person has equal worth.

If the global community is not careful, and do not maintain its commitment to vaccinations and eradication, the World Health Organization has warned that the disease could break out again, reversing the last few decades of progress. This caveat has motivated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intensify efforts to eliminate the disease.

This ambition has lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to develop a six year strategy requiring countries where polio remains, to step up their efforts to vaccinate all children. Additionally, they are pressuring over 100 other countries to refine their polio immunization programs to ensure all children have access to the vaccines.

Kofi Annan has been urging the international community to provide the necessary funding to make vaccinations for marginalized and hard to reach children possible. The Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi this week implores partners and philanthropists to dig deep to support increased access to polio vaccinations.

It is vital that people understand that vaccinations improve overall health and drive development. Additionally, there are impressive financial benefits to eradicating polio – in the sum of an estimated $40 billion or more – with most of them accruing in the world’s poorest countries. Success of this nature begs the question: what do we, the global community, have to lose?

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: Guardian

In May of 2012, the Daily Mail posted an article regarding author Matthew White’s book, “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things” which ranks the worst atrocities in history. The rank lists World War II as number one, the regime of Genghis Khan as number two, Mao Zedong’s regime as number three, British India famines as number four, and the fall of the Ming Dynasty as number five. The Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin ranked as number seven, and the Atlantic slave trade as number ten. (The list of all ten is available on Daily Mail.) On another source, the worst atrocities are ranked based on death tolls marking WWII as number one, the regime of China’s Mao Zedong as number two, Soviet Union’s Stalin regime as number three, WWI as number four, and the Russian Civil War as number five.

For the purpose of objectivity, it is important to note that all atrocities are significant and that these calculations seem mostly based on numerical and statistical measures. The presented list below will rank the top five photos of atrocity based on a combination of measures: timeliness (1945-present), death tolls, and global-scale emotional significance.

1) WWII led to approximately 55 million deaths (including the Holocaust)


(the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

2) (1949-1987) During China’s Mao Zedong regime, approximately 40 million lives were lost


(Famine during the Great Leap Forward)

3) (1975-1979) Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot regime caused approximately between 1.7 to 2 million deaths.


4) (1994) Rwanda’s genocide led to approximately 800,000 deaths


5) (1980-1989) The Soviet-Afghani War which led to approximately 1, 500,000 deaths


Leen Abdallah

Sources: The Hemoclysm, Religious Tolerance
Photos: Daily Mail, Google, Google, Google, Google