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Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former U.N. official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the U.N.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the U.N Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the U.N.’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the U.N. in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the U.N. heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders

syria water
The conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, has left over four million people in need of humanitarian aid. The current shortage of sanitary water supplies is producing grave repercussions on children’s health. UNICEF, coordinating with other organizations including the Syrian Aran Red Crescent and the Ministry of Water Resources, is working to provide sanitary water supplies for over 10 million people.

Access to safe water supplies has grown increasingly difficult as chlorine supplies in Syria have significantly declined. Shortage of clean water greatly increases the risk of contracting water-borne diseases, including diarrhea. The effects are most detrimental to children, whose systems are not as able to bear the strain.

On February 3rd, 80 tons of sodium hypochlorite water chlorination supplies were been delivered to Syria through the Jordanian border. UNICEF will transport 1,000 tons of chlorine to regions across Syria over the coming weeks.

At the same time, the World Health Organization, co-signing an agreement with Saudi Arabia, will donate medicines and medical equipments worth $2.1 million, which will assist over 3 million people and last the period of a year.

Relieving the shortage of medicines, waste management, and the lack of clean water supplies are the three foremost steps to humanitarian aid in Syria; the international community has pledged more than $1.5 billion for this cause.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: Reuters

Syrian-Americans Head Directly to Front-Line of AidIf you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself. Even if that means traveling to dangerous locations with $1600 worth of baggage fees. For every report on monetary aid to Syria, there is an equally compelling report on how that aid fails to reach its intended recipients. Instead of refusing to donate money to avoid becoming part of the problem, many Syrian-Americans are completely skipping the middleman and heading straight to the heart of the matter themselves.

Every few weeks, Omar Chamma makes his way out of his Orange County home leaving behind his wife and three children. By the looks of the dozens of bags he carries with him, it’s clear he is not going on any normal trip. Omar Chamma, originally from Damascus, has been returning to the Syrian-Turkish border to hand-deliver much-needed supplies. “Every time I fly out of Istanbul, I will say, you know, this is my last time – I’m not going to go back again. Then I sit down and think about what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the desperation in their eyes down there. And every time I come back there, there is nobody there showing up to help them.”

There is no huge cargo plane, no guarded UN delivery trucks, and no transfer of money. In his luggage, Mr. Chamma stuffs as much food, medical supplies, and blankets as he can. The rest he will buy once in Turkey with the almost $1.5 million he has collected over the past year from fellow Syrian-Americans living in and around Southern California. He isn’t the director of a non-profit nor volunteering for one. This real-estate investor operates a one-man organization; no red tape, no bureaucracy, and no one to report to.

Except for his wife. Although his family has become used to his frequent trips (he has made 7 in the past year), it doesn’t take away from their constant worrying. His wife Mavis Benton Chamma states, “Every time he goes I just leave it to God. If it’s something is going to happen, at least I know he’s doing what he believes in.”

Although not as independent as Mr. Chamma, Sama Wareh has had the same calling to return to her homeland and help directly in any way she can. Her parents, however, were not in any way excited about it. Because of her promise to them not to cross into Syria on her trips, Sama has remained across the border in Turkey focusing on finding escapees who have not yet found a camp or somewhere to stay. She helps buy food for them and find somewhere safe and warm for them to live. She insists however that on her next trip, she has no intention of staying away from Syria despite her parents’ pleadings.

For many of us, leaving our families and jobs is not easy. Mr. Chamma has been blessed with the money he has raised and the support of his family to do what he feels in necessary to save his people. Sama Wareh, an artist, is able to work around her home lifestyle to go out to Syria and make an immediate difference in the lives of many. They may not be saving millions of lives, but the manner in which they do help Syrian refugees is unparalleled to the way in which the UN and other agencies and organizations deliver their aid.

When hearing these sorts of stories, remember that everyone is given a different path and purpose in life. Your heart may desire to drop everything and go out to the front-line but facing reality is equally important to make sure you make the right decisions. For many of us who donate money through an organization, read and write articles, and discuss global issues with family and friends, our jobs can be as effective as what these Syrian-Americans do. If the timing is perfect and the feeling is genuine, those who wish to eliminate all the unnecessary ‘fluff’ filling the gap between them and a cause they are passionate about will be able to. The millions of dollars donated to Syria and any other country will never compare to the face to face interactions and immediate life-changing moments that Omar Chamma and Sama Wareh have been lucky enough to experience and that many of us will hopefully have a chance to experience as well.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:npr :All Things Considered
Photos:BBC News