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Facts About Humanitarian Aid

Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, the global community has made a concentrated effort toward ending world poverty. Very often, Americans hear of the term “humanitarian aid” without a transparent knowledge of what that aid does or who and where it goes to. Below are nine interesting facts about humanitarian aid, including some of the origins of organized aid, countries and organizations that provide aid and the countries that benefit from humanitarian aid provisions.

Humanitarian Aid Facts

  1. One of the less well-known facts about humanitarian aid is that it is thought to have originated toward the tail end of the nineteenth century. The first global aid relief effort came about during the Great Northern Chinese Famine of 1876-79 that killed nearly 10 million of China’s rural population. British missionary Timothy Richard called attention to the famine and raised what is valued at $7-10 million today in an organized relief effort to end the famine.
  2. Modern western imagery of humanitarian aid came about during the 1983-1985 Ethiopian famine. BBC reporting from Michael Buerk showcased imagery of the “Biblical famine” that shocked the world.
  3. The publicity surrounding the Ethiopian famine led to a worldwide western effort to raise money and bring an end to the plight. Irish singer-songwriter Bob Geldof organized the Live Aid event that raised over €30 million and set the precedent for humanitarian aid fundraising events across the globe.
  4. Every year, the amount of humanitarian aid contributed by developed countries to places where aid is needed has increased. In 2017, the global community contributed $27.3 billion of foreign aid toward humanitarian relief efforts.
  5. According to Development Initiative, approximately 164 million individuals are in direct need of humanitarian aid. Those in the direst need of relief include the 65.6 million individuals displaced from their home countries and individuals that live in the world’s most dangerous countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Another interesting fact about humanitarian aid is that the largest humanitarian aid organization fighting world hunger is the World Food Programme (WFP). Each year, the WFP reaches about 90 million individuals in approximately 80 countries.
  7. Humanitarian aid is also donated in large quantities toward natural disaster relief. To illustrate, Red Cross relief efforts toward the tragic 2010 earthquake in Haiti raised approximately $488 million.
  8. In 2014, United States spent about $2.7 billion of its foreign aid budget on humanitarian aid. This money is mostly used to care for refugees who have been displaced from their home countries.
  9. One of the more serious facts about humanitarian aid is that relief workers have a tough and dangerous job. In 2017, over 150 employees were attacked while trying to conduct their work. However, many would argue that the risk is worth the lives that these individuals save.

Based on these facts about humanitarian aid, it is clear that global aid is vital to creating a global community of countries that care about one another. The global aid network creates a myriad of positive outcomes in global health, development and politics, truly saving the lives of many.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Pixabay

civil war in Libya
In Feb. 2011, civilians in Libya, inspired by the Arab spring, took part in protests against their government. Muammar Gadhafi has held complete control over power and wealth in Libya ever since overthrowing King Idris in 1969. Civil war in Libya broke out in early 2011 as rebels rose up in response to a police crackdown on protesters.

In 2011, during the civil war in Libya, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Those killed included civilians, government forces and rebels.

On Feb. 16, 2011, anti-government protests in Benghazi met violent opposition from police. Protests quickly spread to the capital of Tripoli, and more than 200 people were killed. The conflict escalated from Feb. 16 to Feb. 21, on which day Gadhafi made a speech vowing to die a martyr rather than step down.

The conflict drew international interest for humanitarian and economic reasons. Libya has a significant standing as one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world. It produces two percent of the world’s oil supply.

In March 2011, French, British and American forces took action in Libya. More than 110 missiles fired from American and British ships hit about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets. A week later, NATO agreed to take command of the mission and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. In October, Gadhafi was found and killed by rebel forces.

Seven years later, Libyans are still feeling the aftershocks of the conflict. According to Amnesty International’s most recent report on Libya, there are now three rival governments competing for power in the country.

The U.N. backs the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in the capital of Tripoli. The GNA has been unable to enforce authority over the area. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, refuses to recognize the GNA and continues to fight for control of Libya. The rest of the country is ruled by local militias and Islamist groups, including ones linked to ISIS.

The direct humanitarian impact of the civil war in Libya is that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are now living in unsafe conditions with little access to healthcare, food, safe drinking water, shelter and education. An estimated 100,000 people are in need of international protection and 226,000 internally displaced people.

A disturbing development of a slave trade has also become apparent in Libya. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Libyans and migrants are being detained and sold in open slave markets. Due to the split governments, no authority is able to stop the human rights abuses.

Civilians in Libya continue to suffer as a result of the conflict. The desire for reform was well-intentioned, but the transfer of power following the death of Gadhafi did not go as planned. The resulting fracture of the country has thrown Libya into turmoil without any indication of ending.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

5 Development Projects in SyriaSyria, home to many diverse ethnic and religious groups, is a country that has lost hundreds of thousands of lives to war and violence. Because of this crisis, millions of people are displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, and development projects in Syria aim to address this need.

Like many countries in the world, Syria is fighting extreme poverty. According to the United Nations Development Programme, four out of five Syrians live in poverty and 64.7 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The Arab region is the only region in the world where poverty has increased since 2010, rising from 28 percent in 2010 to 83.4 percent in 2015.

Here is a list of five development projects in Syria that may help relieve the nation’s citizens.

  1. Switzerland donates ambulances to Syria’s suffering population
    Switzerland financed twelve new ambulances to help the people of Syria facing the consequences of the war. Syria was in need of more ambulances as a result of the devastatingly high number of victims caused by the war, including attacks against hospitals. The vehicles were purchased through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Dubai. This project was completed in 2017.
  2. Contribution to UNRWA’s Programme Budget 2017-2020
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners in the Middle East, addressing all kinds of humanitarian aid needs, including medical services, education, emergency assistance, healthcare and more. With more funds contributed to its budget, it has been able to work toward universal access to quality primary health care, basic education, relief and social services to refugees in need. This is an ongoing project expected to be completed by 2020.
  3. Swiss experts to U.N. agencies in the frame of the regional crises in the Middle East
    Through this completed project, experts from Switzerland were able to provide technical support and advice. The experts accounted for the provision of shelter in camps and noncamp settings for vulnerable displaced persons; for a multisector and multistakeholder strategy for cash-based response for IDPs, refugees and host communities; for the protection of the most vulnerable population, including children and youth; advice and strategic planning on activities in the domain of water; and support to the coordination of humanitarian interventions within the U.N. agencies and national/international actors.
  4. Contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund 2016
    Contributions to UNRWA’s 2016 General Fund allows for the sustaining of the agency’s humanitarian and human development programs, servicing over five million Palestine refugees and contributing to peace and stability in the Middle East. This completed project targeted Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. Results included financial support enabling various programs in health and education, and management reforms including resource mobilization, ERP and more.
  5. UNDP- Livelihoods Restoration in Crisis- Affected Communities in Syria
    This completed two-year project worked on restoration interventions in Rural Damascus, Horns, Tartous and Latakia. The project created local economic opportunities and restored critical community infrastructure and services, improving access to hygiene and other basic needs.

These committed development projects in Syria leave marks of improvement and hope in a nation that has been ravaged by violence and poverty for far too long.

Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

African Countries Are Behind in EducationThe U.N. has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for developing countries in order to mobilize efforts to improve the quality of life for people living in poverty. The fourth goal of the SDGs is to have access to quality education. In the SDG 2017 report, research showed that enrollment in primary education is going up, but some countries, such as African countries, are behind in education.

A Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report done by UNESCO found that in sub-Saharan Africa, 41 percent of students in primary education don’t complete basic education. The report also said that 87 percent of students don’t reach the minimum proficiency level in reading. This equates to more than one in four young people in the region that can not read or write proficiently.

There are many factors as to why African countries are behind in education, one of them being poverty. But other factors for this issue have to do with the organization of the education system. The GEM report found that less than half of the developing countries had created standards for primary education. Additionally, education systems did not have the means to monitor how students develop or teachers progress. The lack of organization of an educational system causes classrooms to be overcrowded and poorly resourced with teachers that are not qualified.

There are some programs that are addressing these issues. For example, UNESCO is working to improve the quality of teachers’ abilities and to develop a curriculum to improve the learning experience for students. The program also focuses on teaching students skills that are relevant while also providing gender-inclusive literacy programs.

Another way to improve education in African countries is to invest in technology in schools. Internet access is common for people in developed countries but is not distributed equally around the world. Students that live in African countries could benefit from Internet access because of the access to information and connection to resources.

SDGs are obtainable for all developing countries, including countries in Africa. Further investment in the educational systems, the creation of plans and providing a curriculum that is beneficial for students will help provide children with quality education. Investing in technology will also help students learn and help teachers teach, providing a better future for young people in developing countries.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

How the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia Helps Protect Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander PeoplesIn 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new declaration sourced from existing international human rights law. This time, though, the organization focused on a specific marginalized group: indigenous peoples. The strong support of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a major step toward increasing communication between indigenous peoples all over the world and the U.N. Member States.

Across the globe, indigenous peoples are often marginalized by the law and face harsh discrimination. A large contributor to the increased vulnerability of indigenous peoples to violence and human rights abuses comes from their displacement. Indigenous groups tend to share a common key value based on their land. When they are taken away from that land, many groups find it much more difficult to fully exercise their human rights.

The declaration, though legally nonbinding, is significant because of the participation of indigenous peoples in its drafting. The document recognizes that all of the human rights outlined in previous United Nations declarations apply to indigenous peoples. While the declaration was supported by most countries, Australia, New Zealand the United States and Canada voted against it.

However, two years later in 2009, Australia voiced its support for the law, signaling progression toward advancing human rights for all of its citizens, and closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The country has already been considering constitutional changes based on the document.

Following the formal endorsement of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, the government took crucial steps in implementing the core values outlined in the document. In order to educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about their rights, the Australian government distributed a comprehensive guide to the U.N. document.

The guide to understanding the declaration in Australia specifically addresses rights to country, resources and knowledge, as well as self-governance and more. The document has received a large degree of legitimacy, due to support from not only the Australian government but also countries all across the world, making it an important tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to invoke when addressing the human rights violations and discrimination to which they may be subjected.

The adoption of the declaration, after its initial rejection, does not create legal obligations for the countries that support it. What it does do, however, is allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to use the language of human rights to influence government policies. The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sends a clear message that governments cannot avoid international scrutiny for mistreatment of and violations against their indigenous groups.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr


In her first official statement as U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed called for a new approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She gave her speech to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) operational activities segment, which met between February 28 and March 2, 2017.

Participants at this year’s ECOSOC meeting discussed increasing coordination, accountability and transparency in the U.N.’s approach to the SDGs. In her address, Mohammed stated that to achieve the SDGs would require all countries to “redefine traditional planning, delivery and monitoring.”

Mohammed has a track record of fighting for the environment. She has held positions as the former Minister of the Environment of Nigeria, the founder of the Center for Development Policy Solutions and a professor for the Master’s in Development Practice program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Mohammed’s past achievements show her commitment to the SDGs. In her address she said that, “achieving the SDGs is not an option, but an imperative for a safe and secure future of prosperity, opportunity and human rights for all.” The SDGs are an investment in preventing crises from forming out of global challenges like poverty, climate change, environment and hunger.

Mohammed believes that achieving the SDGs will require the U.N. to take more initiative. While the U.N. is actively engaged in efforts to achieve the SDGs, policy and framework has expanded immensely since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. For example, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda laid out specific guidelines for implementing the SGDs in 2015, and the Inter-agency Task Force was created in 2016 to analyze progress. Only time will tell what developments will come in the future.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr

 Nauru Refugees
Here are 10 facts about Nauru refugees:

  1.  Nauru refugees are not in Nauru by choice. Nauru refugees originally sought refuge in Australia. However, Australia was unwilling to provide them with care and forced 1,200 asylum seekers into a detainment center in Nauru. Nauru is only eight square miles, no larger than an international airport and already has a population of 10,000 people.
  2. The native Nauruans do not want the Nauru refugees there. The Nauru refugees are targeted by locals. Physical assaults against refugees happen regularly. What little property the Nauru refugees have is frequently broken or vandalized. Even refugee children are subject to these torments, making it difficult for them to concentrate or attend school.
  3. There are no legal services for the Nauru refugees. None of the Nauru refugees will become residents of either Nauru or Australia. The Nauru refugees are seeking refuge in fear of persecution in their home countries. However, the travel documents they have been issued confine them to Nauru for five years.
  4. The Nauru refugee crisis is being covered up. Nauru has banned foreign journalists in order to hide the poor treatment of refugees. The Australian government passed a law making it illegal for any employees, former or current, to disclose information on the conditions of the refugees. Despite these efforts, reporters find ways to interview refugees and former workers continue to come forward with their experiences.
  5. Nauru refugees came in search of liberty, only to become victims. Ali and his wife Khorvas are just one example of many. They left Iran because they believed in democracy. They sought to find a place where they would not be denied their human rights, but they only traded one confinement for another.
  6. The conditions the Nauru refugees live in do not meet U.N. standards. The tents each house 14 refugees and cannot weather the elements. Rain seeps in, heat and humidity are intensified, mold festers and pests easily infiltrate. The water supply is insufficient, resulting in dehydration or the consumption of unsanitary water. Waste management is not secure, allowing for cross-contamination.
  7. Sexual predators target Nauru refugee camps. Hawo, a Somalian, left her home country because of violence and sexual abuse towards women. Unfortunately, sexual exploitation of refugees is widespread. Men, including guards, force themselves onto women or expect them to barter sex for necessities. Reports of these incidents are not taken seriously.
  8. Health care for refugees is minimal. The Nauru hospital is small and lacks basic supplies. The majority of cases must be treated through abrupt transfers to Australia. The majority of medical transfers are due to mental health issues. Many refugees have been promised treatment that never comes. There is no screening of communicable diseases and no pediatric care in Nauru. Roughly 50 percent of the child refugees have latent tuberculosis. Immunization courses are never fully completed.
  9. Child refugees in Nauru are most at risk physically and mentally. There are no safety precautions set forth for children. Within the 2000 leaked records of reported abuse, there are records of sexually abused children, 59 physical assaults on children, 30 instances where a child has self-inflicted harm and 159 accounts of children threatening to self-harm.
  10. Many of the refugees have turned to suicide or self-inflicted harm. Refugees have taken to hunger strikes in hopes to improve their living situations. Omid Masoumali’s death was caught on cellphone video. Masoumali lit himself on fire, in protest to the conditions in where he was held. Benjamin, a 19-year-old who cut his wrists, said the Nauru refugees are a people living without hope.

Although no word has been given to close the Nauru Detainment Center, the second Australian Refugee Detention Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, is closing operations.

The Australian Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in April 2016. Recently, counselors from Save the Children, a nonprofit previously working on Nauru, bravely reported many of the abuses they witnessed but were bound by confidentiality not to reveal this.

In light of these revelations, it is hoped that the Nauru Detainment Center will also close, allowing the Nauru refugees to receive quality aid elsewhere.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

Education to the Children of Honduras
Honduras ranks poorly in terms of education among its counterparts in Latin American and the Caribbean. Currently for education to the children of Honduras, the country spends the highest percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education of all countries in the region but has the second-lowest test scores. Huffington Post notes that in many classrooms, girls and boys alike sit on dirt floors with no blackboards, no desks, no electricity and latrines that serve as unisex bathrooms.

The Foundation for Education in Honduras, or FEIH, is a charitable organization committed to giving education to the children of Honduras. “The first step in restoring hope in Honduras is to invest in the children’s futures and livelihoods… Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), along with charitable foundations whose efforts are dedicated to improving the state of education, are slowly but surely promoting the necessary changes to make social transformations a reality,” writes Gina Kawas, FEIH’s director of Corporate Relations.

Although the Honduran Constitution formally specifies that minors must have their education taken care of, many enter adulthood without knowing how to read or write at all. Lack of public resources and the extreme poverty that encompasses Honduras is much to blame.

In order to change the status quo, the organization partners directly with local Honduran businesses and groups to renovate rural school buildings and provide school supplies to the children and teachers. In addition, FEIH aims to engage the school in cross-cultural activities in order to foster positive educational outcomes in the community.

More often than not, the necessity of increasing the family earnings forces many Honduran children to leave school for work, usually permanently. FEIH’s approach to this predicament is simple and extremely effective. The organization invests all the money it raises into school construction and educational programs. It helps to build sustainable, community-owned education projects, thereby giving education to the children of Honduras.

FEIH requires 20-25% of local labor building these schools to be volunteered by members of the community where the school is being built. This cultivates potential job opportunities to members of the community while simultaneously providing new schools for the communities’ children.

If Honduras is to prosper and provide its children with the education they deserve, it must realize and address how significant the relationship between increased time spent in school and a reduction in criminal activity truly is. Marked as the “most violent country in the world” by the U.N. back in 2012, Honduras needs to place focus on its younger generations and invest in their futures. FEIH is slowly helping the country tackle one of it’s biggest issues at its root one school at a time.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

World Humanitarian Day
According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder to take action to alleviate the suffering of those in need of humanitarian aid around the world. The event is also an occasion to honor the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the front lines of crises.

This year on August 19, “One Humanity” served as the theme of World Humanitarian Day. This World Humanitarian Day, the U.N. and its partners called for global solidarity with the 130 million people in need of humanitarian assistance around the world.

Under the banner of One Humanity, the event highlighted the coming together in Istanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit earlier this year.

At the summit, member states made commitments to support people affected by crises and ensure that aid workers can deliver assistance in a safe and effective manner.

Events were held around the globe to celebrate the occasion, raising awareness for the cause and pledging support to end the problem. However, all of this attention being drawn to those in need of aid raises a few questions.

Who are the people in need of humanitarian aid?

In 2015, UNICEF reported that one in 10 children are growing up in areas affected by armed conflict. That’s 230 million children. If grouped together, those children would make up the fourth-largest population on the planet, and that does not even account for their families.

Some of these kids are fortunate enough to escape the violence, but others have seen their homes destroyed and families separated and displaced from their communities.

In the decade between 2004 and 2013, some 6,525 natural disasters took place around the world, ranging from drought and famine to tornadoes to tsunamis and earthquakes. In 2013, close to 100 million individuals were affected by disasters.

Where is humanitarian aid needed?

According to OCHA’s 2016 Global Humanitarian Overview, some 130 million people in 40 countries are affected by some sort of humanitarian crisis and are in need of aid. Aid is needed in African nations like Ethiopia and Nigeria, Middle Eastern countries like Syria, South American nations such as Guatemala, Asian countries like Myanmar and island nations such as Haiti.

Aid is needed all over. The U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has raised some $5.5 billion this year and has provided or will be able to provide assistance to 95 million people.

There is reason for the global community to be proud, as 73% of those in need have received or will receive some kind of humanitarian assistance this year; however, there is still work to be done. That $5.5 billion is just one-quarter of the funds that CERF needs to properly serve those who need help.

Learn how to take action by visiting the World Humanitarian Day website. We can help the world’s hungry and hurting, but we need to do it together.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition
The leading causes of death among children around the world include preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. Malnutrition has been reported to be the underlying contributing factor to these health complications. Although progress is being made in limiting the extent of malnutrition, many starving children from disadvantaged groups are being overlooked in this mission.

Malnutrition makes children more vulnerable to common infections, increases the severity of these infections and also extends the recovery process. If the severity of malnutrition persists, by 2030, there will be an estimated 129 million children under the age of 5 whose growth will be stunted due to malnutrition.

Children can experience wasting if malnutrition is severe enough. In 2015, about 50 million children under the age of 5 were wasted and 17 million children were severely wasted.

Despite the magnitude of malnutrition, some children continue to go unnoticed because of where they live or the circumstances in which they were born. The odds of a child surviving depend on factors such as whether the child is living in a rural area or if the child belongs to a disadvantaged ethnic group.

Children who are disabled or affected by war are disadvantaged when it comes to the aid they receive. Save the Children published a report in 2015 titled “The Lottery of Birth” that revealed in more than 75% of low and middle-income countries, inequalities in child survival rates are worsening.

The Save the Children report explains that although overall progress is being made in reducing the number of under-5 childhood deaths, this change is mostly attributed to the progress being made in more privileged groups of children. The report calls this disparity an “unfair lottery of birth” given that factors that are simply a matter of chance are determining whether children live to celebrate their fifth birthday. The report also notes that if the world were to pursue an equitable means of reducing child mortality, progress would ensue 6% faster over the course of 10 years.

In order to tackle the inequality that underlies the distribution of aid to malnourished children, countries need to follow in the footsteps of countries, like Rwanda, Malawi, Mexico and Bangladesh, that have combined rapid and inclusive reductions in child mortality, thus ensuring that no groups of children are excluded.

The U.N. also adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which is replacing the Millennium Development Goals. This new framework is even more ambitious in its goals for child and maternal survival rates and in its commitment to work toward a more comprehensive solution for global malnutrition. The purpose of the Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all people can “fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.”

Although progress has been made, in order to more effectively and efficiently tackle the issue of malnutrition, poor and marginalized groups need to have access to the same quality services as any other group suffering the same conditions.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr