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Human Trafficking in Myanmar
Human Trafficking In Myanmar and surrounding countries such as Thailand, China and Laos have historically struggled to contain trafficking throughout the region of Southeast Asia. This crisis has escalated since the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s Army) overthrew the democratically elected members of the National League for Democracy party in early February 2021. As of 2022, the United Nations estimates there are 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in Myanmar, nearly half of whom are children.

Regional Instability

As the world watched in disbelief as the fabric of democracy fell apart within Myanmar, many overlooked an already serious problem that had plagued the country – human trafficking.

Human trafficking in Myanmar has always been a prevalent issue. However, the recent conflict has created thousands of desperate refugees giving human traffickers an abundant amount of targets. In fact, the United Nations estimates that there are some 440,000 internally displaced people since the coup took place.

According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State, “The international monitor-verified use of children in labor and support roles by certain military battalions increased in conflict zones.” The report indicates that the coup combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to reporting far fewer trafficking cases making it difficult to estimate exact figures.

Globally human trafficking has become a booming business for criminals. Some estimates predict it has become one of the world’s most profitable organized crimes, bringing in more than $150 billion globally a year. According to the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index, two-thirds of its victims are in East Asia and the Pacific.

Where Trafficking Victims Go

Human traffickers often deceive victims with the promises of high-paying jobs in surrounding countries in fields such as construction, agriculture and hospitality. Approximately 600,000 immigrants from Myanmar are legally registered to work in Thailand. However, many more are there working illegally in underpaid inhumane working conditions in industries such as fishing, factories, agriculture and sex work. Reports estimate that “out of 1 million illegal immigrants in Thailand, 75% are from Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been a hotbed for human trafficking for years due to political instability, natural disasters and internal ethnic infighting leading to a massive lack of opportunity for its populace. Since the coup took place, the number of individuals at risk of trafficking has skyrocketed. Despite this, there has been a notable decline in the population reporting trafficking cases due to the distrust between the populace and government forces.

Thailand is not the only country for the victims. Traffickers move many young women out of Myanmar and bring them to China where there is a large market for young women for the purposes of birth trafficking. Many of these women are from the Kachin State, a predominantly Muslim and Christian minority located in Myanmar’s northernmost regions bordering China. The practice of smuggling women to another country for the purpose of marriage and childbearing has become more common as experts point out how China’s “one-child policy” preference towards boys created a massive gender ratio gap resulting in millions of unmarried young men.

According to a report from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that surveyed four northern districts in Myanmar, there are more than 7,400 victims of forced marriage in China. “Victims of forced marriage suffer a range of rights violations and exposure to physical and psychological risks,” said Courtland Robinson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School. The true number of Myanmarese women trafficked into China is likely far higher due to only four districts (out of 74) examined in the study as well as this study dating back to 2017 and 2018, three years prior to the military coup.

Causes

When examining the root of human trafficking in Myanmar, the two largest causes would be poverty and political instability. The recent conflict has only exacerbated the flood of refugees making it easier for traffickers to take advantage of desperate people. Military control over Myanmar’s government has resulted in the loss of practically all trust between the government and the populace, creating a need for NGOs and other nonprofits to step in and provide aid.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is an NGO that has been operating in Myanmar since 2008 and continues to provide aid such as health care, water and sanitation services, career training and support for community development projects.

The IRC primarily operates in Myanmar’s most at-risk and remote regions such as Rakhine, Chin and Shan states. Some strategies the IRC uses to bring stability to the region include; teaching farmers modern agricultural techniques and technologies, assisting communities in the development of projects such as schools and health care centers and operating women and girls’ centers to support survivors of trafficking violence. The IRC also provides aid to thousands of refugees located in nine camps across the Thai border. The International Rescue Committee’s goal in Myanmar is to eventually stabilize the region through implementing infrastructure assistance.

With no assistance from the government and minimal response from members of the international community, the importance of NGOs and nonprofits operating in Myanmar is huge. As regional instability increases and the armed conflict continues, more people in Myanmar become displaced and are at risk of becoming trafficking victims every day. However, with the support of NGOs and nonprofits that are taking proactive and reactive measures to stabilize Myanmar, human trafficking in Myanmar can reduce.

– Michael McShane
Photo: Flickr

Aiding Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been experiencing challenges economically, socially and politically. While these situations are affecting its citizens and the world, children and women are the most vulnerable members of the community, leading to many being impoverished, but there are ways that people/organizations are aiding women in Afghanistan.

About the Situation

Uncertainty has been governing Afghanistan since the outbreak of the crisis. Many escalations in violence have occurred since the impositions of new authorities. Over half a million of the population have demanded humanitarian assistance.

After 40 years of social crisis, poverty, several natural disasters and the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Taliban rule have increased poverty rates drastically. Both factors are a deadly combination for people in Afghanistan. About “50% of those in need in Afghanistan are women and girls.” Summing up, the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed thousands of people to poverty, especially women and girls, affecting global poverty rates.

Women and girls are the most vulnerable group in society. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is highly worried about how women and girls will overcome the situation in  Afghanistan. As a fundamental human right, women’s rights must receive respect. By consequence, all services must undergo proper delivery, ensuring all women and girls have access to health services, to freely work and go to school.

The Concerns of the International Community

The international community is aware that as the crisis escalates, women living in poverty in Afghanistan increase too. Levels of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation are dramatically increasing as global poverty rates are tremendously increasing. Elinor Raikes, IRC vice president and head of program delivery states, “We know that during times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases. With uncertainty mounting throughout Afghanistan, the IRC is concerned that we could see an increase in violence against women as well as an increase in child marriage.”

The international community is heavily working on reducing global poverty on reducing poverty in Afghanistan. It is essential for world leaders to drive an international plan and work on the solution. Since August 2021, the international humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan has received only 38% of its necessary funding. According to data “the shortfall could mean that 1.2 million children will lose specialized protection services, making them more vulnerable to violence, recruitment, child labor, early and forced marriages, and sexual exploitation.”

Challenges for Women in Afghanistan

Data has demonstrated that women are the most vulnerable group in society. Since the outbreak of the crisis, “1.4 million women, many of them survivors of violence, will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support.”

Several attacks have been taking place in small villages and schools. As a result, many girls will lack access to education. According to the report published by UNICEF, “An estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan. 60% of them are girls.” Undoubtedly, girls are the ones suffering the major consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan, impacting global poverty.

The challenge of women in Afghanistan is a significant topic across the world today. The Taliban is constantly oppressing women and limiting women’s rights. Thus, gender equality which had been progressing in the country has suddenly diminished as the new authorities are pushing back all the effort done. As mentioned above, many girls are not going to school and women have been limited the rights they had. As a consequence, women in Afghanistan fall into poverty as they cannot access a job.

How Some are Aiding Women in Afghanistan

The World Bank has highlighted a few of the national programs established in Afghanistan to help women and mobilize social groups. Women Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEE-RDP) is the most popular national approach in Afghanistan. As the World Bank reported, “These groups help their members access financial services and start small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-help groups have also provided critical support for health and livelihoods.”

In conclusion, the Taliban’s rule is becoming a major concern for the world. Undoubtedly, national and international approaches have undergone implementation with the purpose of aiding women in Afghanistan and reducing poverty.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr


The number of people thrown into life as a refugee has increased from 21.3 million people in 2015 to 26.4 million refugees in 2020. While there is no current worldwide count for 2021, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is predicted to increase the number of refugees forcibly displaced by at least 515,000 people.

What is Life as a Refugee Like?

Refugees often stay in refugee camps, which provide a haven from the violence or disaster they were facing at home; however, the conditions in these camps are far from comfortably livable. Life as a refugee often includes overcrowding, a lack of food and water and a lack of sanitary methods of eliminating human waste. Refugees may be displaced for 10-26 years on average. In 2016, Brookings reported that “only 2.5% of refugees were able to return to their home countries” and only .001% became naturalized citizens in their countries of asylum.

On average, one out of three refugees suffers from mental health challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. These mental health challenges cause some to turn to drug use and fosters a dangerous environment in which sexual abuse and assault are rife. A 2017 UNICEF study of the Central Mediterranean refugee crisis highlights that “nearly half of women reported sexual violence and abuse throughout their journeys.” Given the nature of the topic and the fact that not all refugees worldwide had input, this statistic is not entirely representative of the refugee population but does give an idea as to some of the dangers of life as a refugee.

Action to Aid Refugees

Groups such as the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Rescue Committee work to ensure that refugees get essential assistance by providing access to food, clean water, sanitation, healthcare and shelter. The U.N. Refugee Agency employs more than 17,878 personnel working in 132 countries and had more than 20 million refugees under its mandate as of 2019. Its budget in its first year was $300,000 which has since grown to $8.6 billion in 2019. Furthermore, the International Rescue Committee has made a vast impact in the Syrian region (Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon) and Afghanistan in particular. In the Syrian region, the committee has more than 2,000 aid workers and volunteers working to provide access to healthcare, clean water, education and the protection of women and children. Similarly, Afghanistan provides aid to more than 4 million people in approximately 4,000 communities. The organization’s work here promotes healthcare and sanitation in addition to reconstruction projects and education. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan are among the top countries regarding how many refugees they host.

Additionally, with the number of Afghan refugees that could arise as a result of the Taliban’s take-over, President Biden approved up to $500 million on August 16, 2021, from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to aid in evacuation and finding refuge. Additionally, in July 2021, Congress passed $1 billion of aid to Afghans for evacuations and visas. Some Democrats in Congress want to add to this amount and “are discussing putting money to help resettle Afghan refugees in the $3.5 trillion tax and spending package.”

How Refugees Affect Poverty in Countries of  Asylum

Some citizens in host countries feel that refugees drain host state resources, overexert healthcare facilities, crowd schools and deplete the host state economy. The money host countries spend to aid refugees is high, but the benefit of adding refugees to the economy as refugees recover and rebuild a life in their host countries can far outweigh this. An economic impact study of three Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda in 2015, published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes this clear, stating that “an additional adult refugee receiving cash aid increases annual real income in the local economy by $205 to $253, significantly more than the $120-$126 in aid each refugee receives.”

The Connection Between Poverty and Refugees

Refugees face life-threatening poverty in which they lack access to proper food, sanitation, healthcare and many other necessities. The reality of life as a refugee fosters conditions for extreme poverty as refugees are often forced to flee their homes rather quickly with few or no personal belongings. Host countries that are still developing often take in refugees. While this puts a strain on host countries and temporarily increases poverty, when refugees receive the right tools to succeed, they return more money to the economy than they cost. Thus, in order to break this cycle of poverty within refugee communities organizations like the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Rescue Committee are working to provide the support refugees need to assimilate into life in the places they seek asylum.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in PakistanThe country of Pakistan struggles with several issues. Military operations against insurgent activities within the country have caused many Pakistani people to become displaced. Pakistan is also home to 3 million Afghans, with 1.4 million being registered refugees. This makes Pakistan the second-largest refugee host country in the world. Additionally, Pakistan suffers from natural disasters and food shortages. Pakistan’s economy suffers from imbalance because, for short periods, the economy does well, and then, it declines. This is what the World Bank terms “boom-bust cycles.” These collective issues mean humanitarian aid in Pakistan is imperative in order to address the country’s pressing issues.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (E.U.) has contributed a fair amount of humanitarian aid to Pakistan. In 2020, the E.U. addressed some of the concerns regarding internally displaced Pakistani people and Afghan refugees by providing around €40 million worth of aid. Around 60% of this amount goes towards resolving health concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. The pandemic has put the Pakistani healthcare system under strain, which makes aid increasingly important. The humanitarian aid in Pakistan is also helping to give displaced Pakistanis access to quality education and sanitation facilities.

Aid also reaches Afghan refugees who have not integrated into Pakistani society and instead live in isolated communities within Pakistan. The E.U. helps these Afghan refugees by providing them with proper healthcare, education and sanitation facilities. The E.U. support also addresses the natural disasters that occur in Pakistan. The E.U. provided €1.15 million to Pakistan in August 2020 when the country experienced severe flooding. The aid that the E.U. provided allowed for shelter toolkits, personal hygiene supplies and access to reliable water and sanitation for families that these events impacted.

The International Rescue Committee Helps

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another organization providing significant humanitarian aid in Pakistan. From 2013 to 2019, the IRC worked with Pakistan on the Pakistan Reading Project (PRP), which aimed to improve the reading skills of 1.3 million Pakistani children. The program reached more than 1.7 million students and trained more than 27,000 teachers. The IRC further supports the education of Pakistani children by building and repairing schools. Considering the amount of displaced Pakistani people and Afghan refugees, the IRC provides what it calls “child-friendly places.” These are areas where children are safe to interact with other children and learn and heal from traumatic events they have experienced.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is an organization that has been providing humanitarian aid in Pakistan since 1988. One area, in particular, is disaster response. The AKAH trains Pakistani volunteers on how to deal with any natural disasters they may encounter. These volunteers would be the first responders if a natural disaster occurs in the area they live in. These volunteers are called Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). The AKAH has been able to establish 162 CERTs and a total of 36,000 volunteers serve as first responders. More than 50% of the 36,000 volunteers are women.

Pakistan is an impoverished nation and therefore needs humanitarian assistance to deal with the many challenges it faces. These three organizations provide aid that addresses these pressing issues.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Donated During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The year 2020 saw a rise in altruism with celebrities across the globe donating to charities of all shapes and sizes as a way to do their part and give to those who require extra support due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks are a top priority for many celebrities, recognizing the large number of families that are going hungry across the globe, but celebrities also donated to several other organizations during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are seven celebrities who donated during the pandemic.

7 Celebrities Who Donated During the Pandemic

  1. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds: Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated $1 million which they split between food banks in Canada, Ryan Reynolds’ home country, and the United States. The couple urged the importance of donating to organizations such as Food Banks Canada as the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted organizations like it throughout 2020. Food Banks Canada saw a total donation of $28 million worth of food in 2020 and fed roughly 8 million families across Canada. Food Banks Canada fed more than 1 million people in 2019, while in 2020, roughly 3.2 million people accessed food banks across the country.
  2. Shakira: The singer donated ventilators and thousands of N95 masks to health care workers in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia. The mayor thanked Shakira in a tweet saying, “One of the most beloved Barranquilleras in the world is Shakira and she is also one of the people who most love this city. Huge thank you for your contribution of thousands of N95 masks for our health care workers and ventilators that will save lives.” Shakira’s donation will allow doctors to continue to treat COVID-19 patients and safely deliver medicine to those in need.
  3. UB40: This British reggae-pop group did a cover of “Lean on Me” to help raise funds for NHS Charities Together. The organization includes more than 250 charities across the U.K. NHS donates approximately £1 million a day to provide care for those in need across the United Kingdom. It also strives in making medical breakthroughs to better help keep at-risk communities across the globe healthy and safe. NHS began several studies to see how COVID-19 affects various communities by examining the effects the virus has on school-aged children, communities’ mental health and the health of medical care workers, to better prepare for a pandemic of this scale in the future.
  4. Elton John: Elton John, the legendary singer and HIV/AIDS prevention advocate, pledged to donate more than $1 million to help support marginalized communities across the globe during the pandemic. John discussed on Twitter how he still intends to focus on preventing HIV/AIDS across the globe, but pushed for awareness of the coronavirus and urged those who can to donate to at-risk communities across the globe. Elton John’s Aids Foundation has donated more than $450 million worldwide while saving 5 million lives and supporting more than 3,000 projects to help end HIV/AIDS. In addition to the $1 million he donated, he also hosted a living room concert featuring Tim McGraw, the Backstreet Boys, Sam Smith, Dave Grohl, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes. The concert raised more than $8 million for his foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
  5. Rihanna: The global superstar donated a total of $5 million to several different charities across the globe, one of the charities being the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The Committee focuses on helping refugees across 40 different countries by providing them with resources such as education, clean water, shelter, food and other necessities. In 2019, the organization supplied more than 1 million kids with education and provided a million more with clean water.
  6. Akshay Kumar: The Bollywood star donated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s CARES fund. Kumar donated Rs 25 crore, an amount equivalent to more than $3 million. The PM-CARES fund emerged in direct response to India’s lockdown plans to support citizens who are most at risk and strives to make India a healthier and cleaner country.
  7. Liam Payne: A former member of the band One Direction, Payne donated 360,000 meals through the Trussell Trust. The Trussell Trust is an organization in the U.K. that works directly with food banks to donate/distribute food. The goal of the organization is to get food to the 14 million people, including 4.5 million children, who live at or below the poverty line, with the ultimate goal of negating the need for food banks across the U.K.

Celebrity donations during the pandemic ensure that those in need across the globe get the food, health care and shelter they require to thrive. It is important that individuals continue to support groups that give back well past the end of this pandemic and continue to focus on ways to help those in need in 2021 and beyond.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr

Protecting Children's Right to Health in Times of ConflictEvery child has the right to access quality health care. However, due to violence, destruction and displacement caused by armed conflict, millions of children find themselves barred from receiving basic medical and mental services. According to the United Nations, almost 250 million children are affected by armed conflict worldwide. Thus, the work being carried out by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is crucial to protecting children’s right to health in times of conflict.

How Children’s Health is Threatened by Conflict

In recent years, an unprecedented number of children—approximately 28 million—have been displaced by conflict. This displacement has often forced children to live in precarious living arrangements that pose a threat to their health. Children tend to fall victim to communicable diseases as they are unable to receive proper immunization. Additionally, refugee children encounter greater difficulties in accessing health care as a result of discrimination, language barriers or legal status.

Furthermore, today the number of attacks on hospitals during times of conflict is increasing. These attacks cause direct harm to children while also destroying the institutions where they would normally receive essential health care services.

UNICEF in South Sudan

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s work in South Sudan has been instrumental in protecting children’s right to health in the country during the civil war that began in December of 2013. UNICEF has been heavily involved in providing health services since the start of the conflict and had vaccinated 3,386,098 children against measles and “provided primary health care services to 3,631,829 children” between 2013 and 2017 period. Additionally, in 2017, UNICEF launched 51 “rapid response missions” to reach communities that are not typically recipients of food aid assistance, and was able to reach thousands of children facing malnutrition.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has distributed essential medicines and medical equipment, established “triage and screening points/areas for early recognition and referrals of suspected COVID-19 cases” and continued its psychosocial support services. UNICEF was also able to “treat 267,000 children under 5 affected by severe acute malnutrition” and vaccinated 312,272 children against measles in 2020 alone.

Save the Children in Yemen

Protecting children’s right to health care has been a top priority for Save the Children in Yemen. Due to an incredibly destructive and violent war that has now reached its fifth year, the health sector in Yemen has been severely affected as only 50% of the nation’s health care facilities are functional.

Save the Children has stepped in to support local health care clinics, providing emergency services, vaccinations and food assistance to child victims of airstrikes, bombings and alarming rates of severe acute malnutrition, which have already claimed the lives of thousands of Yemeni children.

The organization is the largest aid agency in the country. During the first four years of the conflict, Save the Children provided services to about three million children. It is committed to continuing its support efforts and raising awareness of the need for greater humanitarian aid funding to better protect children’s right to health in the country, especially with the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Rescue Committee in Syria

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is playing a vital role in protecting Syrian children’s right to health during a war that continues to displace millions of people. The organization provides health services to approximately 500,000 children within Syria and to thousands more who have fled to neighboring countries. Within Syria, IRC’s efforts include partnering with local groups to bring medicine and other medical supplies to those who need them, running clinics, “[mobilizing] teams to provide lifesaving trauma services, primary and reproductive care” and providing counseling services.

The IRC has expanded its medical services in Jordan to include primary health care and mobile outreach to Syrian refugees. Most Syrian refugees not living in refugee camps rely on the IRC to provide health care services and to treat communicable diseases. Additionally, in Iraq, the IRC provides “creative healing activities” to help Syrian refugee children dealing with war-related traumas.

Recently, the IRC has been heavily involved in working with local communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and has launched various initiatives along with the World Health Organization to bring essential services to displaced Syrian children.

Humanitarian organizations like UNICEF, Save the Children and the IRC are protecting children’s right to health in vulnerable and war-torn countries. However, there is still much to do to provide children with adequate healthcare and protection from preventable diseases and infections. Governments, non-profit organizations and donors from the global community must take action to support children’s right to essential health services. By protecting this vulnerable group, we take one more step toward equality and global health.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Africa, neighboring Chad, Sudan, Cameroon and more. Although CAR has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, diamonds, uranium and oil, it is one of the poorest nations in the world. Following violence and political turmoil in 2013, the country is still recovering. Here are five important facts about poverty in the Central African Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Central African Republic

  1. The Numbers: Approximately 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the international poverty line. Additionally, due to violence and conflict, there are around 613,114 refugees from the Central African Republic and 641,292 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, as of November 2020. Health is also a major concern, with a maternal mortality rate of 882 per 100,000 live births.
  2. History of Poverty and Conflict: There are many reasons why the Central African Republic has such high poverty rates. The main reason lies in the history of the nation. After CAR gained independence from France in 1960, it had religious rivalries, a variety of ethnic groups and multiple political ideologies. The conflict between different religious and social groups as well as competition over resources caused widespread instability throughout the country. This culminated in a more recent outbreak of violence in 2013, which has left more than half of its population in need of humanitarian assistance.
  3. Major Health Conditions: The leading causes of death in the Central African Republic include tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections and malaria. In 2018, malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, was reported at a rate of 347.3 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a significant decrease from previous years, as there were approximately 471 cases per 100,000 people in 2004. Additionally, there are approximately 100,000 people living with HIV in CAR.
  4. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in the Central African Republic is among the lowest in the world. As of 2020, it is only 53.35 years. This is a 0.64% increase since 2019 when the life expectancy was 53.01 years. Life expectancy is low in the CAR due to widespread violence and displacement as well as the aforementioned health concerns. In addition to malaria and HIV, more than 40% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. On a positive note, the life expectancy of the CAR has been steadily improving since the early 2000s; in 2002, the life expectancy in the CAR was only 44.29 years.
  5. Education and Literacy: The literacy rate in the Central African Republic is also one of the lowest in the world, at 37.4% in 2018. The CAR is struggling to provide high-quality education for its children, particularly girls. Many girls find themselves dropping out of school because of the societal pressures to marry and have children. Only 65% of girls enter the first year of primary school and only 23% of them finish the six years of primary school.

Solutions

Currently, organizations like the World Food Program (WFP), USAID and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are working to alleviate poverty in the Central African Republic and address the humanitarian crisis. Efforts include distributing food to internally displaced people, providing specialized nutrition packages for pregnant women, rebuilding educational infrastructure and recovering clean water sources. Moving forward, it is essential that these humanitarian organizations and others continue to provide aid and support to the nation.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 on Migration
The novel coronavirus spread at dramatic rates since its discovery in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Some countries including China, Vietnam, New Zealand and Norway have successfully stopped the spread with an aggressive response; other countries, however, have been unwilling or unable to make similar progress. Worldwide confirmed cases currently top 20 million. While the virus is certainly transforming many aspects of life, the impact of COVID-19 on migration has become especially significant.

How COVID-19 Affects Refugees

About 80 million people have experienced forcible displacement from their home countries throughout the world. Additionally, 72 million of those asylum seekers are currently living in developing countries that lack the resources to aggressively fight a pandemic like COVID-19.

The International Rescue Committee estimates that up to 1 billion cases of COVID-19 could hit fragile countries housing the world’s refugees, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Yemen has struggled with a major humanitarian crisis since its civil war escalated in 2015. Today an estimated 24 million people within the country are in need of assistance, with half of those individuals being children.

In most refugee camps, social distancing is impossible. One can find a prominent example of this difficulty in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This camp crams more than 850,000 Rohingya refugees into a very small, dense area. These refugees have severely limited access to health care. The lack of clean water for handwashing could prove disastrous when attempting to combat COVID-19. In addition, malnutrition and poor sanitation make refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar a potential hotbed for viral transmission. Medical depots at the camp only have 300 beds available and will be overrun if an outbreak emerges. These makeshift hospitals lack the lifesaving respirators needed for those in critical condition. In addition, medical workers must deal with COVID-19 on top of other preexisting health crises. Diseases like cholera, malaria and tuberculosis remain a constant issue.

The impact of COVID-19 on migration is evident in the record low numbers of refugee resettlement. For the time being, the United Nations has suspended relocation. People living in these unsuitable conditions are in dire need of help. Rather than taking in these refugees, most countries have chosen to lock down their borders without exception.

The Fate of Migrant Workers

Many industries in developed and undeveloped countries alike rely on a steady stream of foreign laborers. In the age of COVID-19, there is a premium on skilled workers in key industries like healthcare. As such, some countries have expedited the migration process for doctors, nurses and scientists.

Other job types have not experienced such demand. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are unemployed or have unpaid wages as a result of the pandemic. These men and women have no income to send back to their families and home villages, and many face a difficult decision: return home to their families where work is even rarer or scramble to find another job under their visa before being deported.

An Opportunity for Change

The long-term impact of COVID-19 on migration remains unclear. Asylum seekers in refugee camps will likely be the last on the priority list when vaccines become available, thus delaying their relocation even further. Until refugees obtain similar health protections to citizens, coronavirus will never fully resolve.

As lockdowns gradually end, the countries hit hardest by COVID-19 will face the immense task of rebuilding their economies. As part of this process, there will likely be a focus on hiring citizens over migrant workers. Governments may choose to distribute funds to domestic industries and put foreign aid on the back burner.

There is, however, a chance to reimagine human mobility. Portugal, Ireland and Qatar moved to ensure everyone has access to health care, regardless of their citizenship status. Several European Union countries have emptied their immigration detention centers to avoid outbreaks. Italy’s new amnesty law has granted 200,000 work permits to migrant workers.

Migrant workers are a major contributor to the global GDP, performing jobs across skill levels. Foreign labor is vital to successful economies, and a more fluid entry system would help expedite the road back. It is finally in the self-interest of governments worldwide to provide an easier path for these workers and mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on migration.

– Matthew Beach
Photo: Pixabay

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

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr