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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 that requiring extra support due to the pandemic. Food banks are a top priority for many celebrities, recognizing the large number of families that are going hungry across the globe, but that was far and away not the only charity celebrities donated to 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 over 1 million people in 2019, while roughly 3.2 million people accessed food banks across the country in 2020.
  2. Shakira: The singer donated ventilators and thousands of N95 masks to health care workers in her home town 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, as well as continue to help get medicine to those in need safely.
  3. UB40: 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 in providing care for those who are 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 started several studies to see how COVID-19 affected various communities by examining the effects it has on school-aged children, communities’ mental health and the health of health 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 over $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 for those who can to donate to communities that are the most at risk across the globe. Elton John’s Aids Foundation has donated over $450 million worldwide, saved 5 million lives and supported over 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 over $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 tools such as education, clean water, shelter, food and anything else that necessary for them to go back to a normal life. In 2019, the organization supplied over 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 that is equivalent to over $3 million USD. The PM-CARES fund emerged in direct response to India’s lockdown plans to support citizens that are the 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 U.K. that works directly with food banks to directly 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 there no longer being a need for food banks across the U.K.

The fact that these celebrities donated during the pandemic will continue to 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

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

Venezuelans Fleeing
As the beneficiary of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America. However, in 2014, the economy began to collapse. The Bolivar, its currency, has gone into free fall, leaving millions unable to afford even the most basic necessities. According to Bloomberg’s Café con leche index, a cup of coffee today costs the same as 1,800 cups in January 2018. As food and health care become more difficult to come by, many Venezuelans are faced with the decision of struggling to get by or fleeing the country.

Why Flee?

Every day, thousands of Venezuelans leave their country in search of safety and stability, many of them arriving in Colombia. The International Rescue Committee has been supporting families in need in Cúcuta, a border city, since April 2018.

Venezuela is millions in debt while the only commodity that the country relies on is oil. Unfortunately, the value of oil has plummeted. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as new drilling technology could dredge up what was previously inaccessible, but businesses globally were not buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016. Today the price hovers around $50, which means that Venezuela’s income has been cut in half.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hostility towards foreign business has created a corporate exodus. Companies such as United, General Motors and Pepsi have left entirely and unemployment in Venezuela could reach 25 percent this year. To try and keep up, Maduro has raised the minimum wage three times in 2019 in order to provide a little short-term relief to the poor. Currently, the minimum wage is at 18,000 bolivars per month, which is around $6.70 U.S.

How Many Venezuelans Have Left?

According to the U.N., more than three million people have already left Venezuela since the crisis began, and that number is increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately one million people, several lacking official documentation, have gone to neighboring Colombia. However, Peru is the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000. Ecuador follows, with over 220,000, Argentina with over 130,000, Chile with over 100,000 and Brazil with 85,000 immigrants.

By the end of 2019, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country should reach 5.3 million. Nearly 300,000 children have fled the homes and lives they once knew, and approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population has already left.

The Way Out

The majority of those fleeing Venezuela do so on foot, and the road begins close to Cúcuta. Many people pay smugglers to use a trocha, which is an illegal border crossing through a river. On the Colombian side of the border has become a huge open-air market for all the things that people cannot get in Venezuela anymore. Vendors advertise medicines and cigarettes, candy and phone minutes for people to call home.

Sadly, some do not make the journey on foot. In Cúcuta, the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on other parts of the route, the road climbs to 10,000 feet above sea level and temperature can drop below freezing. Walking this route takes approximately 32 days. The mountain pass, La Nevera, translates to the Refrigerator. Aid groups and residents have opened their homes and set up shelters along the path. However, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country has surpassed the number of shelters available along the way, making space for only the lucky few.

The Impact

The emotional wellbeing of children who have fled Venezuela is of high concern. Sometimes traveling alone, boys and girls disrupt their education and are in great danger of falling behind in school and never catching up again. On the contrary, some parents leave their children behind when they leave the country. These children often gain material benefits from their parents’ migration, because sending hard currency to relatives provides greater access to food, medicine and other lacking necessities.

Furthermore, tensions between Venezuelans fleeing the country and citizens of other countries is often high. Colombia has had to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with the influx of migrants. Hospitals and elementary schools in Cúcuta have been overwhelmed, and administrators complain about the central government’s failure to reimburse them for the cost of caring for migrants. The national government has suspended the issuance of temporary visas, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has promised $30 million in assistance.

In Ecuador, anti-immigrant sentiments reached a highpoint when a Venezuelan allegedly stabbed to death his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, Diana Ramirez Reyes, in front of police and scared residents of the city of Ibarra. Since then, President Lenin Moreno decreed a tougher immigration policy that requires incoming Venezuelans to present a document certifying they had a clean criminal record in Venezuela. However, such documents are costly to obtain in Venezuela.

Similarly, Peru and Chileans have developed hesitation toward Venezuelans fleeing the country. People cannot renew work permits in Peru and as of 2018, the country decided to stop issuing them. A recent survey in Chile found that many natives disapprove of the number of immigrants coming in. Seventy-five percent of those responding to the survey thought that the number of immigrants was excessive.

Who is Helping?

Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cúcuta supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash assistance and health care. Aid organizations and families are also working to help immigrants along the route. The Colombian Red Cross has a small aid station on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city in Colombia’s Norte de Santander region.

The U.S. government has also helped by providing about $200 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis in the region. Most of this money has gone to Colombia as do the majority of Venezuelans fleeing the country.

UNICEF has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of uprooted children from Venezuela and those living in host and transit communities across the LAC region. It is working with national and local governments, host communities and partners to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation, protection, education and health services for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

Lobbying for a Global Treaty to End Violence Against Women
With the #MeToo movement sweeping the United States, Portland-native Lisa Shannon is pushing for an end to violence against women around the world. Shannon is CEO and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Treaty, a campaign to establish a global treaty to end violence against women. At a recent discussion panel hosted by Global Washington, Shannon spoke out about the consistent violations of women’s rights pervading every corner of the globe and explained how Americans can make a lasting impact.

Defining Violence Against Women

Violence against women, whether psychological, physical or emotional, is “the most pervasive human rights violation on earth.” Sex trafficking, forced marriage and domestic violence are three of its most common forms, and all are prevalent globally. While the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, suggests establishing protective legislation for women, the agreement has not sufficiently fueled action to prevent violence. There is a need for a more direct global treaty to end violence against women.

Sources of Violence

Human trafficking causes significant violence against women due to how it damages each person involved and the expanse of the industry. Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman from the International Rescue Committee shared at the Global Washington event that “40 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking.” A recent U.N. report adds that 79 percent of trafficking consists of the sexual exploitation of women and girls, which means that there is a total of around 30 million women being sex-trafficked today. That is greater than the population of Australia. In addition, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.

Forced marriages represent another preventable source of violence against women. They eliminate a woman’s freedom of choice and frequently result in violent partnerships. According to UNICEF, although international law and many national legislations prohibit it, forced marriage is still a widespread practice. One in five women enters marriage without offering full, free and informed consent. This is mostly due to lack of government crackdown on forced marriage cases.

Even when a relationship is consensual, domestic violence is frustratingly frequent. The World Health Organization estimates that about 35 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It does not help that an estimated one billion women lack legal protection from domestic violence, according to a World Bank Study. Domestic sexual violence is only a crime in one in every three countries.

What Needs To Change

The establishment and enforcement of legislation related to protecting women have been lax. A lack of accountability leads to millions of women suffering. UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa lamented that “while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction.”

People are not holding governments accountable for protecting women within their borders. However, many professionals agree that lasting change will stem from the political realm. Data easily shows the benefits of legislation. Shannon pointed out countries that, in the past, experienced a reduction in female mortality by 32 percent with a ban on domestic violence. There is a need for a global treaty to end violence against women to improve the accountability of governments that create and enforce laws protecting women. That is exactly what Every Woman Treaty is striving to accomplish.

The Global Treaty To End Violence Against Women

The Every Woman Treaty requests a partnership between every country in the global community to bring accountability to protecting women. Countries that sign the treaty would ensure they have sufficient legislation to prevent the most common abuses of women, provide services for victims, promote prevention education and contribute towards a global implementation fund with a goal towards ending violence against women. As the movement gains traction, the Every Woman Treaty is asking individuals to sign onto its platform to show governments that it has the support of the public.

Several of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals released by the U.N. focus on protecting women from violence. Voices across the global community scream for change on this issue. Despite this, governments are still not providing the legislative changes necessary to end the violence once and for all. A global treaty to end violence against women, like the one the Every Woman Treaty proposes, could be the answer—the final push to make this issue a priority. Lisa Shannon made clear at the event that violence against women is horrible, but an “absolutely solvable problem. We just have to decide we’re ready to (solve it).”

To sign onto the Every Woman Treaty’s cause, visit https://everywoman.org.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr