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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

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Most refugee crises continue long after public interest and media attention have dissipated. Many others never receive international attention in the first place. However, many displaced people remain in temporary camps for much longer than anticipated. Without international awareness or support, aid organizations and the UN’s Refugee Agency struggle to meet the basic needs of refugees, forced migrants, and internally displaced people (IDPs).

The United Nations identified some of the most neglected refugee crises around the world in 2012:

1. Sudanese refugees in Chad: Ongoing conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region has displaced almost 2 million Sudanese. Over 250,000 of these refugees fled to Chad, one of the world’s poorest countries. Lack of infrastructure and resources in Chad have made it extremely difficult for residents to support themselves. Many rely exclusively on humanitarian aid for survival.

2. Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan: The Eritrean refugee presence in eastern Sudan continues to grow each year. Due to political instability and military conscription, so far over 60,000 Eritreans have migrated to some of the poorest parts of Sudan. Human traffickers and smugglers target the refugees, who are unable to legally possess land or property in Sudan.

3. Sudanese refugees in South Sudan: The conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement has been receiving increased international attention. But in 2012, aid organizations were urgently requesting an additional $20 million to meet the needs of the 170,000 refugees flooding into South Sudan. Lack of infrastructure makes aid delivery difficult and expensive.

4. IDPs in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Over 300,000 people were displaced from their homes in DRC in 2012 as a result of military violence. The majority remains within the Congo, while others have fled to Uganda and Rwanda. Insufficient funding and attacks on aid workers have hampered humanitarian efforts. Prior to the 2012 displacement, DRC was already home to 1.7 million internally displaced people.

5. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: Muslims from western Myanmar, mainly from the state of Rohingya, have faced systemic discrimination and widespread abuse for the last fifty years. Thousands have fled to Bangladesh, where the government has prohibited international agencies from providing aid to undocumented refugees: of an estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, only 30,000 are documented.

Many more displacement and refugee crises across the globe continue to take place under the radar of mainstream media. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has much more information and analysis on forced and unforced migration, displacement, and related human rights concerns.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Wikipedia

The Most Important Thing: A Photo ProjectAs the violence in Syria and Sudan continues to escalate, photographer Brian Sokol gives us a brief look into the lives of displaced refugees. In his photo project titled “The Most Important Thing,” Sokol traveled to South Sudan and four other countries bordering Syria taking pictures of refugees holding the last object they grabbed before being forced to leave their homes. Sponsored by the UN Refugee Agency, the project profoundly reflects on what we would take if we had to leave everything behind.

Most of the refugees are carrying with them cooking or carpentry tools, clothing or baskets. Bottles, pans, axes, and other essentials are commonly being both easy to carry and vital to rebuilding their lives. Cell phones are treasured because they allow refugees to call loved ones in other camps and carry photos of them as well.

Abdul carries with him the keys to his home hoping that it will still be standing when he returns to Damascus. Twenty-year-old Tamara carries her diploma which she says will allow her to continue her education in Turkey. In eight-year-old May’s photo, she wears a set of bracelets saying that her most important thing was actually her doll Nancy which she had to leave behind in the rush to escape the violence. Omar carries with him a stringed instrument called a buzuq which he says “fills me with a sense of nostalgia and reminds me of my homeland.” Omar remembers that the night he left his home was the same night both his sons were killed.

The most important things for these refugees are items that either helps them survive and work towards a better future or reminisce better times. Twenty-four-year-old Alia of the Domiz refugee camp is confined to a wheelchair and blind in both eyes. She recalls when the fighting occurred right outside her house and being terrified and crying because she did not know what was happening. She says that the only important thing she brought “is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.”

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Huffington Post

imageFAO Allocates Funding to Combat Locust Crop Destruction in Sudan
As though part of some biblical plague of the ancient world, the recent swarms of invading locusts have wreaked havoc on the crops of many North African countries. In an effort to both stem the flow of the relentless Lucusta migratoria and prevent future flare-ups, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has donated 1 million dollars to help fight the locust crop destruction in Sudan.

The funds, which resulted from joint cooperation of donors that included $400,000 from Saudi Arabia, $75,000 from the CRC’s emergency trust, and $500,000 from the FAO, will serve as a much needed shot in the arm in the ongoing war against the locust crop destruction in Sudan. The locusts, which began their migration back in February, initially did little damage to the Sudanese agricultural industry. However, the previous swarms laid eggs across much of the county, and like a ticking time bomb are expected to hatch risking further locust crop destruction in Sudan, which could decimate their spring and summer harvests.

The recent allocation of funds from the FAO is great news in the continuing effort of preventing further locust crop destruction in Sudan. Furthermore, through the combined funding of several generous donors, along with the agricultural expertise of the FAO, countries such as Sudan that have been dealing with the ravages of the locust swarms can now look forward to some much-needed relief.

– Brian Turner
Source African Brains
PhotoThe Desert Review

 

Clooney Tequila_opt
Well known philanthropist, humanitarian, and actor George Clooney has recently launched a line of high quality tequila whose profits will be entirely donated as aid for Sudan.

The tequila, know as Cosamigos, is unique in regards to the long distillation process and copper pot fermentation process that helps set it apart from many of the other premium brands. Cosamigos – aged in refurbished whiskey barrels – has garnered rave reviews thus far, which along with George Clooney’s celebrity status, has helped boost sales and will no doubt help to generate some much needed aid for Sudan.

For the past several years, George Clooney has been personally funding a satellite imagery project over South Sudan to serve as a pair of eyes watching over the current President Omar Al- Bashir and hopefully preventing any further ethnic violence. Recently, Clooney made headlines with a testimony he gave to the US Senate outlining the severity of the humanitarian crisis he himself witnessed in a trip he made back in 2012, further highlighting the immediate need of aid for Sudan.

Unlike many other high priced spirits, the value of Cosamigos goes well beyond smooth taste – available as both Blanco and Reposado – but instead in the intended humanitarian mission as a source for greater aid for Sudan. In regards to his charitable donations, Clooney remarked, “I have a satellite over South Sudan that I’m trying to keep some people alive with. It costs me a lot of money every year so now I’m getting it paid for.”

Brian Turner

Source: Snuff
Photo: USA Today

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Shanta Devarajan, a leading World Bank economist, said that while African nations are spending more on education and other community-related industries, the mismanagement of these funds is a current problem.

Devarajan’s advice? Allow the people of impoverished communities to make their own decisions regarding the spending of money. Devarajan cited that one of the benefits of putting aid money in the hands of the people would be added accountability for civil servants. He also asserts that making civil servants more accountable would decrease the misallocation of funds and improve the quality of services provided by civil servants.

Cirino Heteng, South Sudan’s Minister for Youth and Sports, conceded that including the poor in the decision-making process would help, but defended the current policy by saying that more supervision was needed. Heteng accused the current minister of education of being unaware of what the hierarchy beneath him is doing because he rarely visits the schools.

One way or the other, both sides promote the idea that the community be more involved in the allocation of funds.

South Sudan is a new official country as it seceded from Sudan in July of 2011. Problems such as the allocation of aid and hierarchical structure may therefore just be symptoms of a newly established government.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Voice of America


Filmed in 2012, ‘Open Heart’ documents the journey of eight patients going through surgery at the Salam Center in Khartoum, Sudan. Salam is Africa’s only state-of-the-art, free-of-charge cardiac hospital offering children’s heart surgery and has been operating since 2007.

‘Open Heart’ follows Dr. Gino Strada, a surgeon at Salam and features Angelique Tuyishimere, the six-year-old daughter of a Rawandan farmer. Close to a third of the patients at Salam are under 14 making children’s heart surgery a common occurence at Salam.

Salam employs four cardiac surgeons  and is set up for 1,500 operations per year. However, due to funding issues, last year only 600 patients were operated on. Dr. Strada is forward about admitting the need in Africa is more than Salam can aid, but is still very happy with the progress that has been made and optimistic about the future.

Now, Davidson and the doctors – Rusingiza and Strada – will be attending the Oscars. If passport and visa issues are resolved, six-year-old Angelique and her dad will also be attending. Although he stands the chance of being honored at the Oscars, documentarian Kief Davidson still has not lost sight of the original problem being addressed – the lack of affordable healthcare in Africa, especially concerning the preventable diseases fought at Salam.

– Pete Grapentien

Source ABC News

National Reconciliation in South SudanOver the past several decades, civil war has left an indelible mark on the country of South Sudan. In a provocative bid to move forward, South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar met with various civil society organizations to discuss a campaign for national reconciliation. Machar made headlines in 2011 with his public apology for his involvement in the Bor Massacre in 1991.

Set to launch in April, Vice President Machar’s campaign titled “A Journey of Healing for National Reconciliation” is modeled after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The campaign will initiate a dialog that can help the country’s factions move past previous atrocities and towards a future of mutual peace and understanding.

Machar is not without his critics though as several civil society organizations questioned both his motives and the timing for the push for national reconciliation in South Sudan. Foremost among those criticisms is Machar’s future ambition of seeking the candidacy for President. These criticisms notwithstanding, South Sudan has allocated funding for the training and deployment of individuals assigned the difficult task of mobilizing and engaging specific communities that will be required for a successful national reconciliation.

As challenging a goal that national reconciliation in South Sudan will be, it is far outweighed by the potential benefits of moving past the long-held grudges of the civil war. Regarding the civil war, Machar remarked that “The war created barriers among our people… The war has created trauma to all of us.”

Brian Turner

Source: Voice of America