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Worst Humanitarian Crises
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) ranks the world’s top 20 countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises annually in order to identify and aid the countries that need it most. For the 2020 Watchlist, the top five countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises are Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela. All five were also in the top 10 countries in 2018’s watchlist.

Top 5 Countries Experiencing the Worst Humanitarian Crises

  1. Yemen: For the second year in a row, Yemen is at the top of the list as the worst humanitarian crisis. Most of Yemen’s troubles are due to the civil war that began in 2015. With failed peace talks and a shaky government, the Houthi insurgents, who began the civil war over high fuel prices and a corrupt government, and the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf forces continue to fight. The ongoing conflict has greatly destabilized the country, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services to its people. Around 80% of Yemen’s population (more than 24 million people) need humanitarian assistance. Attacks on infrastructure have further weakened the ability to provide healthcare, education, food, fuel, clean water and sanitation. More than 1.2 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and around 68% of Yemenis do not have access to healthcare. In 2019, cholera began to spread through Yemen, placing even more pressure on the extremely limited and unprepared healthcare system. The outbreak eventually killed more than 3,700 people.
  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has been in a state of crisis for nearly 30 years. It began with conflict and corruption fueling under-development and instability in the country. This lead to 17% of the population needing humanitarian aid. Fighting between the military and different ethnic militias is common. Most recently the fighting has been in the East and Central DRC. These internal conflicts have displaced 4.5 million Congolese. These people had to flee their homes and agricultural livelihoods, which also drives up food insecurity. Around 15.6 million Congolese are experiencing severe food insecurity. In 2019, the DRC had both the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and a measles outbreak. Measles alone has killed more than 4,000 people.
  3. Syria: The home to the largest displacement crisis in the world, Syria has been at war since 2015. As a result, 65% of the Syrian population requires aid. The complex civil war has dilapidated the infrastructure, leaving 54% of health facilities and 50% of sewage systems are non-functional. The conflict has displaced more than 12.7 million Syrians. More than 6 million people are internally displaced and around 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in Europe or neighboring countries.
  4. Nigeria: Nigeria faces internal conflicts in the north, a cholera outbreak and high levels of food insecurity. Around 7.7 million Nigerians need aid, mainly from the northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. There is a significant difference between the developed areas, like the cities of Lagos and Abuja, and the less developed areas in the north. The north has experienced conflict with Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Operating in Nigeria’s North-East region since 2009, Boko Haram and ISWAP present a dangerous threat to Nigeria’s military. As a result, local militias and vigilantes responded against these groups. Due to the conflicts between the terrorist groups and the militias, 540,000 Nigerians are internally displaced and 41,000 people traveled north into Niger. On top of the ongoing fighting, endemic diseases, such as cholera and Lassa fever, are spreading throughout the country.
  5. Venezuela: Due to the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy and the continued political turmoil, basic systems that provide food, clean water and medicine are in short supply. Hyperinflation drove up the prices of basic goods and services, leaving households without enough money to purchase food. At least 80% of Venezuelans are experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, only 18% of people have consistent access to clean water. Without healthcare, people are unguarded against disease. With 94% of households in poverty, Venezuelans are compelled to leave the country. By the end of 2020, the IRC estimates that 5.5 million Venezuelans will emigrate. This will cause the largest internal displacement in Latin America and the second-largest refugee crisis in the world behind Syria.

Help on the Ground

There are many NGOs working to alleviate the situation in these countries. Organizations like the Red Cross, IRC and Doctors Without Borders among many others, have been working for years in conflict-heavy countries. For example, Doctors Without Borders set up mobile health clinics to provide maternal health, vaccinations and treat non-communicable diseases in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross increased its budget to $24.6 million in 2019 to ramp up efforts to improve “health, water and sanitation” in Venezuela. The International Rescue Committee brought health, safety and education to 2.7 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019. It provided healthcare, supplies and sanitation aid to the area.

David Miliband, the president and CEO of IRC, stated, “It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost — and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.” These five worst humanitarian crises in 2020 show the world that there is much work still needed. With continued aid and funding from all governments, the U.N. and its agencies and NGOs, millions of people can receive the help that they so desperately need.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in YemenMany consider Yemen, a country located in the Middle East, to currently be undergoing the worst humanitarian disaster in the present time. Before the start of the war, which broke out in 2015, Yemen was already struggling to control the health crises that were plaguing the country. Violence and other aspects of war resulted in an emergence of even greater needs for healthcare in Yemen. An estimated 100,000 Yemeni people died due to war violence alone. Conflict and war have killed 100,00 people in Yemen while “indirect causes such as starvation and disease” have resulted in the deaths of an additional 131,000. Here are four facts about healthcare in Yemen.

4 Facts About Healthcare in Yemen

  1. Civil War: Yemen’s healthcare system was already in a fragile state before the civil war and ultimately collapsed as a result of the war. The collapse of the healthcare system left the country in a state of desperation for humanitarian aid. There are an estimated 24 million people out of a population of 29 million that are in need of some sort of medical aid. Another 14.4 million people are in an acute need for aid. The failed system resulted in a major decline in the number of operable facilities for healthcare in Yemen, with less than half of the previously functioning facilities still operating. This, in combination with extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, has left 80% of the Yemen population without sufficient access to healthcare services.
  2. Malnourishment: Yemen’s already existing struggle to fight malnourishment became an even greater challenge due to the war, which has worsened the food insecurity crisis. About 56% of Yemen’s population is currently experiencing crisis-level food insecurity. Thus, malnourishment is one of the biggest health issues plaguing the country, creating an even greater need for access to healthcare in Yemen. Children are by far the most vulnerable to suffering from malnourishment. In fact, 2 million Yemeni children, all less than 5 years old, suffer from acute malnourishment.
  3. Disease: In 2017, Yemen experienced the largest cholera outbreak in recent history. Cholera is a bacterial infection that emerges from people ingesting water or food that the feces of an infected person has contaminated. The spread of this disease occurs more rapidly in areas without access to adequate sewage systems and sources of clean drinking water. Since 18 million people in Yemen are unable to access clean water and sanitization services, they face an increased vulnerability to contracting and spreading cholera. As a result of this heightened risk, reports estimated that there were one million cases of the disease in the country in 2017 alone. An additional estimated 991,000 cases occurred between January 2018 and September 2019. The lack of access to healthcare in Yemen further exacerbated the outbreak, resulting in thousands of deaths, despite cholera being an infection that is easy to treat. On top of the cholera outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has become another threat to healthcare in Yemen with a reported 260 cases and 54 deaths.
  4. Outreach: Due to the government’s inability to support the system, healthcare in Yemen relies on outside aid. The International Organization for Migration is working to reopen and restore 86 healthcare facilities people initially deemed inoperable. The IOM also manages “nine mobile health teams” to provide healthcare to those unable to get to operable facilities, with four of those teams providing emergency health services to migrants arriving on the coast of Yemen. Another organization, The International Committee of the Red Cross, provided medical facilities with medication and emergency supplies, resulting in medical relief of 500,000 people in the first half of 2018 alone. The International Medical Corps is another organization contributing to aid by providing health professionals with training and supplies, in addition to supporting 56 health centers across Yemen. Through that support, the organization provides adequate outpatient care to malnourished children, in addition to mental health services such as counseling. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and already at-risk population, the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan received an extension from June to December 2020. The U.N. and its partners are seeking $2.41 billion solely for fighting COVID-19 while continuing to provide aid for those that the country’s ongoing humanitarian emergency has affected.

Despite barriers to outreach, such as inadequate funding, there is an ongoing effort to stabilize and improve the state of healthcare in Yemen amid the violence of civil war. Efforts by the United Nations and numerous other humanitarian organizations are occurring to combat health issues related to circumstances of war, malnutrition and disease, while also providing Yemeni people with tools and training to treat and prevent further health complications.

– Emily Butler
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine
Despite Palestine’s constant immersion in conflict as a result of Israeli occupation, there are some positives in regards to girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine that showcase both the good and the bad of the country’s education system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine

  1. Literacy Rates: Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 96.9 percent of its population being literate. In particular, there have been great strides in improving women’s literacy rates. The literacy rate went from 78.6 percent in 1995 to 97 percent in 2018. Female literacy rates are at their highest in the West Bank and their lowest in Salfit.
  2. School Infrastructure and Teachers: The education system is struggling due to insufficient school infrastructure and a lack of teachers with adequate training, as well as the existence of schools in marginalized areas. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, the government built no new schools and classrooms of existing ones were overcrowded. The lack of schools led to an emergency-like situation in education, which resulted in some positive achievements, such as the regaining of the credibility of the Tawjihi, a secondary school matriculation exam. There has also been an improvement in extracurricular activities for students.
  3. The Effects of the Israeli Occupation: The Israeli occupation is mostly responsible for the struggles of the education system, given that it continually causes the exposure of schools to rockets and bombs. Building restrictions that Israeli rule implemented in places such as Area C and East Jerusalem are primarily responsible for the shortage of infrastructure. There are also movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and the Barrier, which can pose challenges to accessing services like education. The Barrier is an Israel-approved physical barrier in and around the West Bank in Palestine.
  4. Enrollment in Early, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: There is a comparable amount of enrollment in primary education when it comes to boys and girls. Still, admissions are higher for female students to both secondary and higher education institutions. However, when it comes to Early Childhood programs, only 14.9 percent of girls are enrolled. Therefore, the U.N. has made it a priority to start investing in early childhood education, focusing on funding both teacher education and gender equality awareness.
  5. Raising Awareness About Female Education: Some of the U.N.’s planned interventions include raising awareness about the disadvantages of early marriage and the importance of female education. This effort is on-going, as women still struggle with early marriage, and gaining education and employment in Palestine. A female Palestinian student interviewed by the L.A. Review stated that “we have this thing in our society that is like, your house, your kids are [more] important than anything else. Your job is not so important because it’s like, your husband is working.”
  6. Education and Conflict: Education is critical in Palestine because it can be a non-violent form of protest against the on-going conflict. UNICEF enforces this ideology by using a behavioral change approach towards students. It encourages students, parents and teachers to challenge the acceptance of violence. It enforces this mindset by providing education and raising awareness.
  7. Women and Unemployment: Women in Palestine experience marginalization despite their education, suffering from a high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the world. The unemployment rate among women with 13 years of schooling or more was 50.6 percent in 2016, which was a significant increase from the 21.9 percent recorded in 2000.
  8. Women’s Participation in the Labor Market: Palestinian women have the lowest participation in the labor market within the MENA region. When it comes to labor force participation, women have a 19 percent participation rate compared to 71 percent of male participation. There is a joint effort to find and apply solutions to this problem. One solution is the U.N.’s policy to encourage girls to have Technical and Vocational Education Training, which the U.N. has partially implemented to date.
  9. Dangers on Route to School: Approximately half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to receive a quality education. The violence in the West Bank poses threats and challenges, which lead to children to experience distress and fear, even when going to and from school. This is because they might pass high-risk locations or checkpoints.
  10. Electricity Shortages: Electricity shortages that constant conflict causes are affecting access to education, both at school and at home, by striking study time and concentration. These shortages are a result of the sole electric company facing a lack of fuel, which is a consequence of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. To reduce the reliance on fuel, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been working on providing alternative energy sources.

Foreign aid and raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education in Palestine have enabled some progress. However, as a conflict-ridden area, there is more that the country requires to ensure long-lasting development and enforce quality education. By looking at these 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine, one can begin to see some of these efforts and realize how it should be a priority to find additional solutions.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Venezuela
In January 2019, Nicolás Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election, bringing him into his second term as president. Citizens and the international community met the election results with protests and backlash, which has only added to the conflict in Venezuela. The National Assembly of Venezuela went so far as to refuse to acknowledge President Maduro as such. Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president almost immediately after the announcement of the election results, a declaration that U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders from more than 50 nations support. Russia and China, however, have remained in support of President Maduro.

During his first term as president and beginning in 2013, Maduro has allowed the downfall of the Venezuelan economy. His government, as well as his predecessor, Hugo Chávez’s government, face much of the anger regarding the current state of Venezuela. Continue reading to learn how the conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor in particular.

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

Maduro’s aim was to continue implementing Chávez’s policies with the goal of aiding the poor. However, with the price and foreign currency controls established, local businesses could not profit and many Venezuelans had to resort to the black market.

Hyperinflation has left prices doubling every two to three weeks on average as of late 2018. Venezuelan citizens from all socio-economic backgroundsbut particularly those from lower-income householdsare now finding it difficult to buy simple necessities like food and toiletries. In 2018, more than three million citizens fled Venezuela as a result of its economic status to go to fellow South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. However, nearly half a million Venezuelans combined also fled to the United States and Spain.

Venezuela is currently facing a humanitarian crisis that Maduro refuses to recognize. The opposition that is attempting to force Maduro out of power is simultaneously advocating for international aid. As a result, local charities attempting to provide for the poor are coming under fire from Maduro’s administration, as his government believes anything the opposition forces support is inherently anti-government.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, the Catholic Church runs a soup kitchen for impoverished citizens in need of food. It feeds up to 300 people per day, and while it used to provide full meals for the people, it must ration more strictly due to the economic turmoil. Today, the meals look more like a few scoops of rice with eggs and vegetables, and a bottle of milk. While the Church’s service is still incredibly beneficial, it is a stark contrast from the fuller meals it was able to provide just a few years prior.

The political and economic conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor citizens of the country in the sense Maduro’s administration is ostracizing local soup kitchens and charities. A broader problem facing the poor is that because Maduro refuses to address the humanitarian crisis, international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are unable to intervene and provide aid.

Project HOPE

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are making an effort to help Venezuelans suffering as a result of this crisis. One of the easiest ways they can be of service is by providing aid and relief to citizens who have fled to other countries. Project HOPE is an organization that currently has workers on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador to offer food, medical care and other aid to those escaping the conflict in Venezuela. Project HOPE is also supporting the health care system in Colombia in order to accommodate the displaced Venezuelans there.

The current conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor, but it is also affecting the entire structure of the nation. It is difficult to know what the outcome of this conflict will look like for Venezuelans and for the country as a whole. What is important now is to continue educating people about the ongoing crisis so that they can stay informed. Additionally, donating to Project HOPE and other NGOs working to provide aid to Venezuelans in neighboring countries would be of great help. With that, many Venezuelan citizens will know that people support them and are fighting to see progress.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

PA 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Yemen
Historically, Yemen has been one of the poorest of the Arab countries. Since the civil war that broke out in 2015, the U.N. has found some alarming statistics on the state of the nation. In 2018, the number of Yemeni living in poverty is at a high of 79 percent, a 30 percent increase since 2017. The country is also experiencing other hardships as a result of the war. This includes concerns such as food insecurity, sanitation, healthcare access, nutritional needs, education, lack of access to clean water, a wavering economy and the displacement of people. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Yemen, both the causes and solutions to demonstrate the progress everyone has made.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Yemen

  1. Food insecurity is a problem that is currently impacting 60 percent of Yemen’s population. Save the Children estimated that, since the beginning of the war in 2015, as many as 85,000 children may have died of hunger. Governments, like the U.K for example, have taken action in response. The U.K. has allocated enough funds to provide £170 million in aid for the 2018-2019 year, meeting the food needs of 2.5 million Yemenis.
  2. Malnourishment is having a severe impact on 3 million pregnant or nursing women as well as on children. Thankfully the World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working to combat this. In 2018, WFP used direct food distributions or vouchers to provide 12 million people monthly rations of edible seeds and legumes, vegetable oil, sugar, salt and wheat flour. The organization has also been providing nutritional support to approximately 1.5 million women and children as well. However, humanitarian efforts are also struggling to reach Yemen. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Yemen airspace. Yemen is an import-heavy country, requiring 10 to 15 thousand metric tons of food, this blockade is pushing Yemen even further to the brink of famine.
  3. The lack of basic healthcare is also having a negative impact on the long-term health of the Yemeni. The war effort has practically demolished the country’s healthcare system. In addition, fewer than 50 percent of healthcare facilities are functioning, leaving approximately 16 million people without access to basic healthcare. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that in 2017, a cholera outbreak infected nearly a million people. Despite being a completely treatable disease, thousands of people died from it.
  4. Contaminated water supplies have also contributed to the spread of waterborne diseases. The collapse of the wastewater management systems, mostly in Houthi-controlled territory, led to the previously mentioned cholera outbreak. In addition to cholera, contagious diseases like diphtheria are spreading to the immunocompromised population as well. Thankfully, both the ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been sending fuel for electric generators to power hospitals, blood banks and labs as well as petrol for ambulances and clean water to try to mitigate the problem.
  5. Rising fuel prices are aggravating other existing issues, like food security, and contributing to the shortening life expectancy. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, in 2017 Yemen ranked at 176 in terms of life expectancy with the average age of 65.9. In comparison, the U.S. ranks at 43 with an average age of 80. In 2016, the U.N. shared that the global average life expectancy was also much higher at 72 years. In the last three years, food costs have increased by 46 percent, partially due to the cost of fuel prices increasing higher than 500 percent of what they were before the conflict. The more expensive fuel is, the higher the food transportation costs are, which leads to more expensive food and the higher likelihood that people are going to go hungry.
  6. The declining economy is also limiting the purchasing power of the Yemeni, making it difficult for them to buy basic necessities. The World Bank notes that household incomes have been continuously declining, partially due to the fact that, traditionally, agriculture has been a source of income for poor households, but it’s now being restricted by several factors. In efforts to combat this problem, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided $2 billion to the Central Bank system of Yemen (CBY) as well as an oil grant of $1 billion. This action should help to revitalize the private channels and imported financing facilities previously provided by the CBY for food.
  7. Displacement of the Yemeni has also had a considerable impact on their life expectancy. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2 million people who have escaped the country don’t have access to basic needs like food, water, shelter and healthcare. In response, the UNHCR has also been taking measures to mitigate these problems. The UNHCR provides basic necessities like blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, buckets and emergency shelters. The organization has also provided healthcare services like psycho-social support and worked to prevent the spread of cholera. While refugees travel to these campus for safety, they are still susceptible to danger. Just last month, eight civilians were killed and 30 were injured from after a camp for displaced people in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah province was bombed.
  8. International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another NGO working to alleviate the burdens of the Yemeni. Since 2012, the IRC has worked to promote cholera awareness, run medical treatment centers, screen and treat children for malnutrition and train volunteers to work in local communities. The IRC has provided primary reproductive care to more than 800,000 people, counseling mothers and caregivers on safe feeding and breastfeeding methods.
  9. Organizations like Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation (YRRF) have also initiated considerable positive changes. Some of their highlights of the 2018 year include sending 1,300 water filters to people in need, distributing a month’s worth of food rations to 110,000 people and providing school bags and supplies to kids. These supplies were given primarily to families in Aslim, Hajjah, an area close to Saudi Arabia where many are unable to access to aid agencies.
  10. In addition to international organizations, passionate individuals are taking action to help the Yemeni. Ahman Algohbary is using his passion for photography, social media skills and ability to speak English to draw attention to the conditions people are going through in Yemen. His images online have led to people sending donations that are being used to sponsor families so they can reach clinics where they can receive nutrition treatment.

The problems that the Yemeni face are essentially all related, making them difficult to resolve. The conflict, for instance, has led to a decrease in funds and focus on vital public services, leading to the failure of sanitation and healthcare. However, international organizations like the UNHCR and ICRC are all stepping up to provide aid to thousands of families. Even individuals on a grassroots level are doing what they can to improve the situation. The 10 facts about the life expectancy in Yemen demonstrate the severity of the issue but also the ability for people all across the world to come together in efforts to help others.

Iris Gao
Photo: Flickr