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eritrean_government

Without any other choice, people are fleeing the country of Eritrea. The Eritrean government has been involved in several forms of human rights violations since 1993, when they broke off from Ethiopia. It is described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the most closed countries” in the world.

Reporters without Borders rank the country last on their freedom index and Amnesty International believes the country has imprisoned more than 10,000 citizens for political reasons since 1993. Despite all these violations, the government claims they have made progress in working to reach six of eight of the U.N.’s anti-poverty goals.

As a result of these rights violations, previous estimates show that Ethiopia had been experiencing a monthly inflow of 2,000 refugees. Italy has experienced an inflow of 13,000 Eritrean refugees since the beginning of the year and Sudan has also seen a rise in those seeking asylum.

More recent estimates by U.N. investigators, however, average the number at 4,000. Investigators describe this 50 percent spike as “shocking” and a sign that the situation has gotten worse since last year’s U.N. report.

Accusations of abuse by the Eritrean government include indefinite service in the country’s army, detainment of citizens without cause, secret imprisonment, torture and forced labor. The government has also enforced guilt by association laws for families of those who flee, resulting in fines or detainment. Many die while in detainment due to appalling living conditions including extreme heat, poor hygiene and very little food.

The path to freedom is a rocky journey often involving the crossing of deserts and seas. Many drown in the sea or die from the extreme heat in the desert, yet their hope and lack of choice drives their journey as they risk life and limb to reach free land.

Poverty provides opportunities for oppression and also creates the conditions necessary for oppression to thrive. When people of the world do not have the resources necessary to retaliate or the power necessary to change policy, they are left with few options. Often, the best choice is to leave, and so they do, often in the face of great danger.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Bloomberg, Voice of America, ABC News
Photo: Cloudfront

10 hungriest countries
This year, 870 million people in the will face continual, day to day hunger. Ninety-eight percent of these hungry people live in developing countries, even though these countries are the ones producing much of the world’s food.

In October 2013, international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide published a list of the 10 hungriest countries in the world, most of which were in Africa. The list includes Burundi, Eritrea, Comoros, Timor Leste, Sudan, Chad, the Yemen Republic, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Zambia. Patterns as to why these particular countries are hungry have strong historical correlations.

Here are five reasons why these countries are suffering from hunger.

1. Landlocked countries are resource scarce

Countries like Burundi and Chad are landlocked, and they struggle to connect with the coastal areas of Africa. Landlocked countries as a whole have poor transportation links to the coast, either by their own fault or through developmentally and infrastructurally challenged neighbors. Without access to the coast, it’s difficult to integrate with global markets. Thus, they are also cut off from global flows of knowledge, technology and innovation, and unable to benefit completely from trade. Often, the cost of transportation for importing and exporting raw materials is exorbitantly high. Burundi experiences 6 percent less economic growth than non-landlocked countries in Africa, and as many as 58 percent of Burundi‘s citizens are chronically malnourished.

2. Productive land remains unused

In some countries, land is not being effectively used. In Eritrea, almost a quarter of the country’s productive land remains unused following the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian war. The war displaced nearly 1 million Eritreans, leaving the country with a need for skilled agricultural workers, as well as plaguing the lands with mines. There is a lot of potentially fertile land in Africa, but the majority of farmers don’t have the technology or means to use the land to its full value. Because of these discrepancies, incomes remain low.

3. War and violence destroy country infrastructure

Countries with a low level of income, slow economic growth, and a dependence on commodity exports are prone to civil war – and most of the hungriest countries have experienced war and violence for decades. Once a cycle of violence and civil war begins in a country, it’s hard to break the pattern. Timor Leste is still paying for seeking independence from Indonesia, which damaged the country’s infrastructure. Sudan is slowly recovering from two civil wars and war in the Darfur region. Chad has had tensions between its northern and southern ethnic groups for years, which has contributed to its political and economic instability.

4. Extreme climate conditions and climate change

Sometimes, causes for hunger are unavoidable – like weather. The 2011 Horn of Africa drought left 4.5 million people in Ethiopia hungry, and since 85 percent of the population earns their income from agriculture, any drought has a detrimental impact on Ethiopians. As an island off the coast of Africa, Madagascar is especially prone to natural disasters like cyclones and flooding, and experienced its worst locust plague yet in 2013. Climate change is also viewed as a current and future cause of world hunger. Changing climatic patterns across the globe require changes in crops and farming practices that will not be easy to adjust to.

5. Increasing refugee populations

Finally, the presence of refugees in a country adds to the growing pressure on already limited resources. This is the case in Chad, which has over 400,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic due to political instability and ethnic violence in those countries. Ethiopia is also home to refugees, but because of a different reason – the country continues to welcome refugees from Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia after the Horn of Africa drought.

— Rachel Reed
Sources: GCC, Global Citizen, U.N., WHES
Photo: Mirror

Rural Sudan Drought
Conflicts over oil in Sudan, North Africa’s largest country, caused a series of price inflations that have greatly affected the population. As Sudan’s largest natural resource is oil, the country experienced years of turmoil and conflict with bordering countries over the rights to oil fields. The increase in the price of oil is further reflected in transportation, and the isolation gap between urban and more rural areas has grown. As a result of this isolation, rural areas are unable to access necessary resources and economic growth. These areas have experienced low human development and according to the World Bank Sudan ranks 171 out of 187 countries on the human development indicator. In order to better human development the country must focus more on social and economic factors, especially in these rural communities.

Sudan is mostly made up of rural areas, which are drastically affected by drought, famine and conflict. In particular, the region of Darfur has suffered considerably and is currently the poorest area of the country. In fact, the land in Sudan is unfit to farm because of unreliable rainfall and the area faces major drought. Due to these circumstances, more than half of the population of Sudan lives in poverty and isolation.

Sudan also faces inequality and underdevelopment for most people living in these areas. For instance, access to health services is scarce, leaving more than half of the population without access to health resources. Due to the lack of resources in the health sector the child mortality rate in Sudan is extremely high, with  111 child mortality deaths per 1,000 births. In addition to a high child mortality rate, more than half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Instead, these communities rely on rivers, wells, and lakes as their drinking source.

In addition to these factors, there is an extreme lack of education in Sudan, especially for young girls. Even if a young girl does have the option to attend school, she becomes at risk of rape and other forms of violence.

There is an obvious need for social and economic development in rural areas to increase Sudan’s overall human development. Children in rural communities must have equal opportunity for a safe education to improve these areas. Also, while there is a substantial focus on oil, the country should instead shift to agriculture so that proper farming practice can be promoted in rural communities. This would foster economic development and lessen the isolation gap that these rural areas currently face.

– Rachel Cannon 

Sources: The Guardian, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Energy Forecast 

South Sudan’s Food Crises
South Sudan urgently needs $230 million in international aid in less than 60 days, the United Nations Humanitarian Aid Coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, forewarned. Without the international food aid, South Sudan may face a fate similar to Ethiopia’s famine in the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands died.

“We’re in a race against time,” said the U.N. coordinator Lanzer to journalists in Geneva. According to The New York Times, Lanzer had only one message to world leaders: “Invest now or pay later.”

With 3.7 million people on the brink of starvation in South Sudan, the U.N. now ranks its food crisis equivalent to Syria’s current predicament. Lanzer appealed for the most critical needs, such as food, water, seeds and farming tools, so that the South Sudanese will be able to plant the seeds before the start of the rainy season in late May.

“I am angry because we don’t have food to eat,” Nyadang told The New York Times. The mother of five does not object to the war itself, as her own brother was killed in Juba, capital of South Sudan, where government troops have been linked to civilian arrests and massacres.

Leaders of U.N. humanitarian aid agencies estimate that close to 255,000 South Sudanese have escaped to nearby countries, approximately 76,000 people sought refuge at U.N. bases across the nation and over 800,000 were driven away from their homes by the hostility that exploded in mid-December of 2013, when South Sudan President Salva Kiir claimed his former vice president, Riek Machar, attempted to overthrow the government.

“The (U.N) is seeking $1.27 billion for South Sudan for 2014, but received only $385 million in the first quarter of 2014, less even than in the equivalent period of 2013,” reported The New York Times.

“Already over one million people have been displaced and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance,” wrote David Crawford, Oxfam’s Acting Country Director for South Sudan, on the Oxfam website.

South Sudan is rich with oil, but also one of the world’s poorest nations. She became independent from Sudan in 2011. In spite of the peace deal after 20 years of civil war, the remaining grievances were not adequately dealt with. Abdul Mohammed, an African Union official told CS Monitor that the roots of conflict lay in South Sudan’s inability to unify the various ethnic groups in its nation building efforts.

In addition, those from the south have a deep-seated resentment over the lack of development in their poverty stricken region and blamed the northern Sudan government for taking their oil money.

While this is the first time South Sudan will face a major food crisis, Lanzer noted that the internal conflict has wreaked substantial harm on its already unstable and agriculture-based economy, drastically affected trade and slashed the production of oil down by 50 percent.

“The hostilities need to cease to give people the confidence to tend their land,” he added.

António Guterres, head of the U.N. refugee agency, visited west Ethiopia, where 90,000 South Sudanese fled to escape the violence. He told The New York Times, “The physical and psychological condition of these people is shocking. This is a tragedy I had hoped I would not see again.”

– Flora Khoo

Sources: New York Times 1, New York Times 2, Oxfam, CS Monitor, MLive
Photo: United Nations

Eritrean Refugees
Refugees are fleeing Sub-Saharan Africa’s poverty in search for job opportunities, political freedoms and basic human rights. The sad reality of this situation is many of these opportunities are few and far in-between, and their lives rarely improve above the dire situation they were leaving.

Eritrea is one of the nations many have been fleeing from. Isayais Aferwerki, the despotic dictator who’s ruled Eritrea since its 1994 independence from Ethiopia, is a main reason. The nation is home to rampant poverty, media repression and political oppression. Adult-aged males are regularly conscripted into military service with no definite end-date, and the President was quoted as saying the nation was not ready for free elections for at least another 20-30 years. The constitution has been suspended and Eritrea remains single-party state, with opposition political groups regularly rounded up and jailed.

Around 200,000 Eritreans have left the nation in search of freedom, but it has resulted in a human rights crisis. Eritreans regularly flee to Sudan, Egypt and Israel only to be subjected to discrimination, and in some cases, have fallen into human trafficking. Israel has prevented refugees from entering by building a fence, which has resulted in asylum seekers slowing “to a trickle” of their original amount.

Human Rights Watch published a report detailing the crisis in early February stating that “refugees are commonly kidnapped, and their families extorted to pay for their release.” Those who manage to avoid kidnapping are usually deported back. HRW has focused on the culpability of Egyptian and Sudanese officials in the kidnapping crisis. The allegation has been made that corrupt officials have been benefiting financially from the situation and are actively cooperating with kidnappers.

Physicians for Human Rights released a damning report on the conditions many Eritrean refugees face on the trek to asylum. The imprisonment rate of those interviewed was around 59%, while 52% claimed they were violently abused at some point on their way to the Sinai Peninsula. Slave camps are prevalent in Egypt. In El-Arish, there are camps reported throughout the area, populated with “slave traders” who “demand ransoms” for the release of African refugees.

The report detailed that many of these refugees were tricked through “promises of being led to Israel” but rather held against their will, while other’s detailed “severe abuse.” Twenty percent of those interviewed also described witnessing murders. Israel can be considered culpable in this situation. With the building of the fence, the average of 1,500 refugees gaining asylum each month decreased to only 25 entering “between January and April 2013.”

Israel has also mounted a political campaign to defend their actions, decrying the Eritrean refugees as a “threat to Israeli society.” The public response to these accusations helped allow the government to enact stricter immigration legislation, allowing for slave traders to flourish in the wake.

The Anti-Infiltration Law was passed in January of 2012 by the Israeli Legislature of Knesset, and allowed the Israeli Government to detain any people found crossing the border. The law even prevents many of these refugees from receiving a speedy trail, allowing the Israeli state to detain undocumented immigrants for “minimum of three years.” If a undocumented immigrant is from a state considered belligerent to Israel, such as Sudan, they can be “detained indefinitely.”

It was a crushing defeat for many Africans in search of a new life free of oppression. With no options, many still flee, but they may not find the salvation they are in search of.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: Turkish Weekly, US State Department, Haaretz, The Voice, Sudan Tribune, DW, Physicians for Human Rights, Haaretz

world vision
In Sudan, many parents are finding incentive to send their children to school because of the meals that the children will receive during the day. School related fees such as uniforms, books and writing utensils can be expensive for Sudanese parents; education often takes a backseat when money is tight.

World Vision’s Otash Girls and Boys Schools have helped children stay in school, eat at least one meal per day and have even raised the number of enrolled children .

The United States cost equivalent of feeding a child during the school year is a mere $34. That amount is incredibly small when you take a look at the big picture. Extreme hunger in Sudan can cause severe damage to a young child’s ability to properly think and remain physically healthy during future years. Poor nutrition will leave a child stunted because of the lack of necessary nutrients needed in order to function and develop.

Dr. Joseph Cahalan stated, “…a stunted child can lose as much as 10% of her lifetime earnings as an adult. Countries with high levels of malnutrition can lose as much as 8% of their gross domestic product because of stunting.”

The physical limitations of children due to severe hunger in Sudan not only affect them personally, but can also impact the country as a whole. Sudan is already struggling financially because of wars and displacement; now those wars have placed 3.7 million adults and children in a state of emergency food insecurity.

Without a basic education, the fear is that children and future generations will be caught in a cyclical lifestyle of severe hunger in Sudan. Now that dry ration food is served during the day at Otash schools, children are able to stay concentrated during the day. So far, 32,798 students located throughout Sudan are able to benefit from World Vision.

– Rebecca Felcon  

Sources: World Food Programme, Huffington Post, World Vision Sudan
Photo: World Vision

isreali_migrant_laws_displace_refugees
A group of 20,000 people gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 5 to protest Israeli migrant laws. Most, if not all, of the protesters are African refugees attempting to draw attention to their desire for asylum and end the laws that could put them in detention or erase their right to work.

Al Jazeera reports that this is the largest such rally by migrants in Israel’s history. The rally transpired after a mass walk-out from a detention facility in December by hundreds of asylum seekers from Africa. These people had been detained there for a night and the following day were banned from work.

The Voice of America News states that, “Israel’s parliament passed a new law last month allowing authorities to indefinitely detain migrants who lack valid documents and ban them from jobs.” Most of the African protesters have come from Eritrea and Sudan and are seeking asylum because of poverty, violence and political chaos.

Haaretz quotes one of the protesters explaining that, “We didn’t come here to stay our whole lives; we want to return to our home countries once the situation improves.” Eli Yishai, former Interior Minister of Israel advised that the Jewish people should be sympathetic to the suffering of others as long as it would not put the state in danger. This is because he firmly believes that the African refugees want to change Israel, despite their claims against his belief.

There are currently 38,000 refugees from Eritrea and 15,000 refugees from Sudan living in Israel. In total 60,000 migrants have, according to Israeli authorities, crossed into Israeli territory from the border they share with Egypt since 2006.

Due to the sheer volume of people entering the country, Israel spent $377 million dollars on a border fence to stem the flow of immigrants in 2013, reports Al Jazeera. This fence evidently did its job because though 10,000 people crossed the border in 2012, only 36 were able to enter in 2013.

Legislation was passed on December 10 allowing authorities to detain illegal immigrants entering the country for up to a year without trial. This did not go over well with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) as they, as well as other groups have already filed petitions against the new law. Despite all of the issues, the new bill had passed by 30 votes in favor and only 15 against out of the 120-member Knesset.

– Lindsey Lerner

Sources: VOA, Times of Israel, Al Jazeera
Photo: Al Jazeera

Stability
For the region of Sudan and the people who live there, resilience and adversity are far more than just words. They are a waking reality. Sudan has been plagued by decades of war and social unrest resulting in genocide, widespread hunger, a diminishing economy and economic turmoil. In terms of development, Sudan ranks 171 out of 187 countries on the 2013 Humanitarian Development Index. Making matters worse is the ongoing economic loss of oil dependent revenue which has drastically decreased by 75 percent due to the separation of South Sudan. As the economy tanks, so does the food supply in the region, which is in dire need for roughly 2.9 million conflict-affected people in Darfur.

Luckily, rebuilding the country from the inside out seems to be top priority for more than 100 internationally recognized organizations who are trying to raise $1.1 billion for programs in the area which would help approximately 3.1 million people. With roughly half of the population population living below the national poverty line, it’s no wonder how dangerously in need some of the people in the region really are. As one of the top 10 recipients of foreign humanitarian assistance last year, Sudan has been largely dependent on outside assistance to help the country recover and pick itself up when it comes to agriculture and economic opportunity.

Recently, the European Union announced its humanitarian efforts for the 2014 year, which will include aid totaling $20 million, which will be implemented in increments over the next three years in the area and will support food security measurements. With the cooperation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO,) the grant will be incorporated into poverty campaign programs as well as provisions for agricultural technology and seeding. These efforts are in hopes to help recover Sudan’s economy and to encourage agricultural growth in an area where only four percent of arable land is actually cultivated.

Also lending its hand to the efforts in Sudan is the World Food Programme (WFP,) which provides essential food assistance to those most vulnerable in the region for the last 50 years. Starting in 1963, WFP has made Sudan one of the organizations largest operations and has provided food assistance to 3.9 million people. Some of the food assistance that has been contributed include; dried skimmed and whole milk, dried and canned fruits, and vegetable oil from countries such as the United States, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany. The main goal for the WFP is to promote long-term food security in hopes to build resilient communities in the heart of conflict.

There have been a number of lasting efforts that have been implemented into the region including food voucher programs, the Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy initiative, and the Farmers to Market program which gave local farmers and women a second chance at a normal life. In a country where the future is beginning to brim with potential, it is important to acknowledge the harsh realities and challenges that the Sudanese people face, all for the sake of trying to build a better life and bring stability in Sudan.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: World Food Programme – Sudan, World Food Programme – 50 Years, Sudan Vision Daily, Ahram Online

Poverty_in_Khartoum
Khartoum has faced many challenges since the early 1800s and, as a result of rapid urbanization since the 1970s, has thousands of migrant families living in poverty. The influx of these displaced families, who occupy the greater Khartoum region, was so sudden that the government never developed a physical planning model. With a growing population and insufficient resources, the city now has various areas of extreme poverty.

The people of Khartoum face several obstacles including lack of food, water, education and health centers. There are no jobs available and the dwindling unemployment rate maintains this state of poverty. In fact, after the civil war with the South, Khartoum’s post-conflict condition never reached a point of stability. Instead, environmental factors in neighboring cities such as heavy droughts, forced several families to move from rural to urban areas. Currently, there are about two million displaced people living in Khartoum, approximately 28% of its total population.

The lack of job availability and trained individuals has led the Governor of Khartoum to demand skills training for the youth. Several organizations such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the European Commission are working to create projects that will allow young individuals to acquire vocational training. Furthermore, though most of the current vocational training centers are run down, these organizations will offer funding for renovating existing centers. These centers will enable young men and women to acquire training in some of the following disciplines:

  • Engineering design
  • Building & construction
  • Auto-mechanics
  • Metalwork & welding
  • Electrical engineering
  • Food processing
  • Hotel & catering services
  • Hair care & related services

By giving so many individuals the opportunity to learn skills, the mindset of the entire community will shift gears since more and more people become employable. This training will foster an entrepreneurial mindset that will surely spur more businesses and bring innovation to a city lacking hope.

Maybelline Martez

Sources: UNIDO, Thinkquest
Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

sudan_child_marriage
The recently released African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013 highlights a startling law in Sudan that has devastating consequences for its female population: the legal minimum age to be married is ten. The report, published by the African Child Policy Forum research institute, called on Sudan to raise its legal age of marriage to 18 to comply with international child rights standards.

Such a call is sorely needed; surveys conducted in 2010 found that nearly 38 percent of Sudan’s girls were married before the age of 18. In Blue Nile State, that number is over 60 percent – and a full fifth of girls there are married before the age of 15. The effects of marrying so young are devastating for girls. UNICEF has termed child marriage “a fundamental human rights violation that impacts all aspects of a girl’s life.”

Likely no aspect is more impacted than a girl’s health. Child marriage makes early pregnancies more likely, the consequences of which can be deadly. Fatal complications related to childbirth and pregnancy account for 50,000 deaths of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 worldwide. For girls between the ages of 10 and 14, the picture is even bleaker: they are five times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than women who are between the ages of 20 and 24. Sudan’s maternal mortality rate is 730 per 100,000 live births. By comparison, it’s 21 in the United States.

In addition to the dire health risks related to early pregnancy, girls married before the age of 18 are also more likely to be beaten, raped or infected with HIV by their husbands and abused by their in-laws. They are also far less likely rise out of poverty. Furthermore, children born of child brides are more likely to die before their first birthday. Those who survive are more likely to face poverty, be malnourished and grow up without an education.

Sudan’s official minimum age of sexual consent – the advocated-for age of 18 – should protect its girls from many of these destructive consequences. Yet its Personal Status of Muslims Act of 1991 allows an exemption that protects a spouse from being charged for sex within marriage even if one of the parties is under the age of 18.

Though this exemption in Sudan’s legal code accounts for the lowest legal marriage age in Africa, a number of other countries are not doing much better. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Seychelles, Cameroon, Niger, Swaziland, Tanzania and Malawi, the legal age of marriage is 15. In Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Zambia, the age is 16.

– Kelley Calkins

Sources: CIA, Reuters, UNICEF, African Report on Child Wellbeing, Reuters
Photo: Trust