Turkey's Invisible Gypsy Population
The Dom community has been present in Turkey and the Middle East for thousands of years. Like their more popular Romani counterpart, the Dom people have roots in the Indian subcontinent. Throughout the ages, the Dom people have faced exile and oppression. The Dom people are Turkey’s invisible population. However, the villainization of historically nomadic peoples is more prevalent now than ever. The growing disdain for ethnic non-Turks has made the situation worse. Many Dom people are now at severe risk of food scarcity and homelessness. Dom communities face much of the brunt of xenophobia in Turkey today.

The Dom Throughout the Ages

Thousands of years ago, India and the surrounding regions were home to dozens of different languages and nomadic peoples. One of these languages was Domari and the speakers were the Dom. The name “Dom” is also the name of one of the lowest castes in the Hindu religion. However, it is unclear whether the two groups relate due to sparse historical documentation and sources.

While the more popular Romani nomads migrated out of the Indian subcontinent in the ninth and 10th centuries BCE, the Dom migrated in the 13th and 14th centuries, primarily into the Middle East and Anatolia. Most Dom populations reside in Syria, Turkey, Palestine, the broader Levant region and potentially Iraq and Iran.

Within these regions, the Dom and other nomadic Indo-Aryan groups have faced centuries of ethnic discrimination, even after having adopted sedentary lifestyles. Many Dom communities maintain the same religion, cultural practices and languages of the regions in which they reside, with the Domari language becoming less and less known in Dom communities.

The Dom in the Present Day

In the present day, the Dom population in Turkey primarily resides in the south-eastern region of the country, near Iraq and Iran. Before the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, there was also a sizable concentration of Dom living in Aleppo. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan currently leads Turkey, representing the conservative, Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (abbreviated to AKP in Turkish). The AKP is known for its opposition to both the growing Syrian Refugee presence and the country’s Kurdish population. One 2019 poll found that 68% of AKP supporters expressed disdain for the Syrian refugee presence in Turkey, with similar figures coming from the party’s political allies.

In the same year, Erdoğan brought his disdain for ethnic Kurds to America, culminating in the presentation of an anti-Kurdish video to then-President Donald Trump. To add fuel to the fire, these two groups often coincide with one another, with many Syrian Kurds seeking refuge in Turkey.

In the middle of these tensions lies the Dom population of Turkey. The Dom population often goes unseen entirely among the regional turmoil. However, the Syrian Civil War and Kurdish tensions in Turkey are also affecting the Turkish Dom. Coincidentally, the regions that are home to Kurds and refugees in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, are where the Dom live.

The Dom: Turkey’s Invisible Population

As a result of the historical marginalization of the Dom, there is ambiguity in regards to Dom communities today. For instance, there is no official census for the Dom population in Turkey. Many Dom community members also reject the “gypsy” label as it could potentially result in further alienation, instead opting to refer to themselves as Arab or Turkmen.

The Dom experience some of the highest rates of homelessness, food scarcity and illiteracy among Turkey’s marginalized groups. Dom families struggle to find housing, with entire communities relegated to living in makeshift shelters or tents. Many Dom living in refugee camps have attested to ethnic discrimination in food distribution by NGOs. Those not inhabiting refugee camps lack access to food. The Dom population has far lower rates of literacy and formal education than their ethnically Turkish counterparts.

Organizational Relief for the Dom

Luckily, organizations providing aid and relief for the Dom population in Turkey are working hard to improve the situation. Many regional organizations, like the Tarlabaşı Community Center in Istanbul, are committed to providing much-needed resources to Dom communities and refugees in need.

Additionally, one Turkish-based organization, Kırkayak Kültür – Dom Research Workshop, is gaining traction as one of the leading organizations for the Dom population in Turkey. Founded in 2011, Kırkayak Kültür is an advocacy group fighting for policy change and raising awareness. It has taken an active role in bringing awareness for the Dom people among NGOs and governmental institutions.

With the physical hardships and the centuries-long social ostracization of Dom communities, relief for Syrian and Turkish Dom is necessary. If Dom’s culture, language and identity are to survive, preservation and advocacy efforts like Kırkayak Kültür are essential. Through their work in this area, community organizations in Turkey are leading the charge with aid for Turkey’s invisible population.

– Madeleine Youngblood
Photo: Unsplash

Improvements in Healthcare in Syria
The Syrian Arab Republic (more commonly known as Syria) is a Middle Eastern country fraught with danger and grief. It has claimed the news headlines for the past decade. Its violent civil war has led to a shattered government with little to no control over its infrastructure and a diminished ability to provide services to its 17.5 million citizens. Proper healthcare in Syria, especially care focused on women and children, has been a service that suffered. UNICEF is a leading organization that is spearheading efforts in Syria to improve healthcare for women and children. These efforts have led to significant improvements in the health and well-being of both women and their children as years have passed.

Improvement in Numbers and Data

One of the easiest ways to identify the improvements in healthcare in Syria lies within the raw data. The life expectancy of Syrian citizens is one major indicator of healthcare improvements. In addition, life expectancy at birth is steadily increasing in Syria. It reached 71.8 years in 2018 after several years of declining numbers after 2006. This indicates a slow but steady return to its peak in 2005 when life expectancy was 74.43 years of age.  This new incline could be due to a variety of factors. However, healthcare is definitely an important piece of the puzzle in improving life expectancy in a nation’s population.

Both infant deaths and neonatal deaths are steeply declining in Syria. Infant deaths have nearly halved since 2000, with numbers of deaths falling from 10,099 to 5,994 in 2018. Moreover, neonatal deaths have lowered from a peak of 8,804 in 1982 to an all-time low of 3,740 in 2018. These two statistics indicate that even at the earliest stages of life when people are the most vulnerable, healthcare in the Syrian Arab Republic is positively progressing in protecting the fitness of its citizens.

Improvements in Female and Child Care

Both women’s and children’s healthcare have seen an uptick in quality in the past few years. UNICEF supported primary healthcare in Syria for more than 2.2 million women and children despite the country’s crisis and war. For instance, the opening of 61 clinics targeted at displaced or deprived communities allowed for 56,000 vulnerable people (20,000 of whom were children) to receive vaccinations and newborn care. Additionally, UNICEF has provided guidance to hundreds of thousands of people, among them 600,000 caregivers, on proper dietary balance and diversity. This effort led to 1.8 million women and children receiving screening for malnourishment. Among those, 11,500 children were able to receive life-saving treatments for malnutrition. With this new training and healthcare infrastructure beginning to take root in hard to reach places within Syria. Women and children will hopefully have an even better standard of life to look forward to.

The data and efforts to date have significantly impacted Syria’s healthcare system. However, it is important to note that all of this progress is occurring despite a lack of assistance from large funding sources. Therefore, it is imperative that Syria receives enough support via other means to ensure that this progress can continue without experiencing delay or derailment. This is a nation in trouble. However, with aid and care from people and organizations like UNICEF, healthcare in Syria could finally know relief.

Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

Social Media Affected Global Poverty
Social media has become a powerful presence in today’s world, with 3.48 billion people, 45 percent of the world’s total population, using social networks. Because social media can help get a message across or start many campaigns, people often use it to spread the word about things they are passionate about, including global poverty. Here are the five times social media affected global poverty.

Jonathan Acuff

Jonathan Acuff is an American author who runs a popular blog,, that over three million people read. He has amassed a couple hundred thousand followers over all of his social media platforms, and they read his content daily. In 2010, Acuff garnered attention after he used his blog, Twitter and Facebook to raise $60,000, enough to build two kindergartens in Vietnam. His daughter saw a picture on the internet of an impoverished boy that shocked her, and he decided to post about needing $30,000 for a kindergarten in Vietnam as a result. He anticipated that it would take six weeks to raise the money. Through the power of social media, however, he managed to raise the money in a mere 18 hours, showing how powerful social media can be to spread awareness and help reduce global poverty.


In 2012, Maz Kessler launched Catapult, the first crowdfunding platform for projects aimed at women and girls. Crowdfunding is when people fund a project by raising small amounts of money many people via the Internet. As the Guardian reports, “Catapult connects supporters to projects through social sharing, encouraging users to donate and track the progress of their donations.” Donations help women and girls living in global poverty around the world—from money going to building birth waiting homes for mothers in Sierra Leone to many global initiatives in Africa. So far, 432 projects have received crowdfunding and close to two million girls and women have received support. Catapult has a large following on social media with over 32,000 followers on Twitter, which shows how big of an impact crowdfunding through social media and the Internet can really have to make an impact to change the lives of those living in global poverty.


In 2011, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda’s minister of health from 2011-2016, announced Monday with the Minister, or #ministermondays. This announcement meant that Rwandans would have the opportunity to ask Binagwaho and the Ministry of Health directly every other Monday and get responses about health programs in Rwanda. This hashtag serves as an example of how social media can be effective as a tool to educate and inform others about poverty happening around the world and in their own countries.

Omran Daqneesh

In 2016, a picture of a 5-year-old boy with his face drenched in blood and covered head to toe in a thick layer of dust surfaced online. This picture was of Omran Daqneesh, who had escaped a building in Aleppo that an airstrike hit. The Aleppo Media Center posted a YouTube video that contained the image and millions of people on social media quickly viewed, posted and shared it. The attention that the photo garnered on social media led to major news companies, such as NPR, picking up the story and sharing it. This picture raised awareness for the Syrian Civil War and how brutal the conditions were for innocent people and children living in Syria. This likely would not have happened without social media.

Global Citizen

Global Citizen is a movement with the goal to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. On its website and social media platforms, Global Citizen supporters, called Global Citizens, can learn about the causes of extreme poverty and take action by tweeting or sharing global issues happening in the present. By sharing and helping the global poverty cause, Global Citizens in return earn rewards, such as tickets to concerts or shows. So far, Global Citizen has impacted 650 million people worldwide, showing truly how social media can make an impact on causes such as global poverty.

These are just a few examples of how social media affected global poverty in a positive way. In today’s world, thanks to modern technology, people have the power to help others like never before.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Polio in Somalia
After eradicating polio in 1997, Somalia has reported new cases since 2005 with a surge in outbreaks in 2018. The gradually increasing number of cases shows that the disease is far from gone and caused the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for immediate action in eliminating polio in Somalia in 2018.


Somalia reported 228 cases of polio between 2005 and 2007. The country responded with an immunization campaign of four rounds of national immunization days conducted in 2008. Somalia maintained a polio-free status for six years following the campaign. And the country continues to require two national days of immunization per year following the end of the 2007 outbreak. Its National Child Health Day initiative has added a polio vaccination attempting to broaden the number reached. However, due to a number of challenges, National Child Health Day reaches less than one-half of eligible children.

Resurfacing of Disease

In 2013, polio in Somalia resurfaced with 194 cases. Polio outbreaks around the region were frequent in 2013, due to the influx of refugees fleeing Syria, a country which has had severe outbreaks since the start of the Syrian Civil War. Fourteen months after the first confirmed case, the outbreak was officially over. WHO commended the country for quickly containing the epidemic highlighting the importance of cooperation and commitment between government health officials and parents.

Polio rates in Somalia are highest in southern Somalia, which the WHO considers an inaccessible area. Only 3 percent of children in south Somalia have all three of their polio vaccinations, compared to the 17 percent of children that have all three doses in the northern region. The differing rates correlate with the national borders of Somalia and Somaliland. Northern Somalia declared independence in 1991 as the state of Somaliland, although no other nation recognizes it as independent. Somaliland has since flourished in comparison with democratic elections, working government institutions, a police force and its own currency. Many consider Somalia, by contrast, a failed state. It remains under the control of an Islamist armed group and fights instability and insecurity, causing it to remain in a constant humanitarian crisis. Due to the forces that govern, vaccination campaigns rarely occur, and many NGOs lack access to the region’s vaccination eligible children.

Fighting Back Against Outbreak

Following the 2013 outbreak, UNICEF funded the creation of Dhibcaha Nolosha or Drops for Life. Dhibcaha Nolosha is a weekly 15-minute radio segment attempting to combat the misinformation about polio and polio vaccinations. Of children vaccinated in 2019, less than half of their caretakers understood that children had to have multiple doses of vaccinations. The radio show has medical experts explain how polio transmits and how the vaccination works, including personal stories and space for listeners to ask questions about polio.

Somalia launched a nationwide three-day campaign in March 2019 to vaccinate 3.1 million children under the age of 5. The campaign, launched by the government and supported by the WHO and UNICEF, went door to door with 15,000 frontline polio health workers. The campaign sought to vaccinate all children under the age of 5 with at least the first round of the oral polio vaccine. The WHO plans to continue supporting the efforts with annual campaigns in Somalia along with monitoring any future outbreaks.

Polio in Somalia continues to be a problem with the most recent report in June 2019. Somalia currently has 15 confirmed and open cases but continues to promote vaccination campaigns, trying to regain polio-free status. However, with little cooperation with governing figures in the southern region, the WHO continues to monitor the situation closely.

– Carly Campbell
Photo: Wikimedia Commons