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Migration to Turkey
Migration to Turkey has hit an all-time high as Turkey is home to “one of the largest migrant populations in the world,” hosting about 4 million refugees and asylum seekers as of 2022, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the International Organization for Migration, historically, Turkey has stood as “a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants” due to its “geopolitical location on the route from the Middle East to Europe” and the conflicts occurring in neighboring countries. Turkey’s migration history dates back to the 1400s, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Conflict and Violence as a Contributing Factor

Past historic conflicts such as World War II and the Kosovo War significantly contributed to the migration to Turkey while the Syrian civil war and the 2021 Taliban offensive remain the cause of more recent waves of migration.

One of the significant conflict-induced migrations to mention is the Bulgarian Turkish emigration that took place in 1989. Turks who ended up in Bulgarian territory while it was under Ottoman rule had to leave Bulgaria due to political pressure and violence in 1989. Nearly 400,000 ethnic Turks then emigrated back to Turkey. The Bulgarian emigration prompted further waves of migration from the Balkans.

In the 1990s, amid the Bosnian War, about 20,000 Bosnian refugees fled to Turkey in search of safety. In time to come, a similar number of refugees from Kosovo and Macedonia sought refuge within Turkish borders, also due to conflict and violence in their home countries.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The number of refugees coming from the Balkans remains relatively small compared to the scale of recent migration waves that hit Turkey. According to World Vision, as of 2021, data indicates that there are more than 6.8 million displaced Syrian refugees. Nearly 4 million of these Syrian refugees currently reside in Turkey.

The first wave of Syrian refugees came about in 2011 when the Syrian civil war just broke out. The world then had to accommodate a large number of war-fleeing refugees from Syria who are currently still unable to return to their country as the conflict rages on.

Turkey as a Country of Refuge

Hosting the largest population of Syrian refugees comes with great responsibility for the Turkish government in terms of meeting the economic and social needs of the migrants.

Turkey spent nearly $350 million of its budget on addressing the refugee crisis in 2022, according to the UNHCR. A large amount of that budget went to “realizing rights in safe environments” and “empowering communities and achieving gender equality.”

In 2021, the EU approved a budget of €149.6 million to fund the vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. With the combined EU funding and the Turkish government’s budget for refugees, Syrian refugees are able to receive the support necessary to integrate into Turkish society and into the formal economy.

Alongside government support, there are many nonprofit organizations helping refugees. Established in 2015, Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) is an Istanbul-based nonprofit helping displaced families from the MENA region reestablish their lives through various programs. With a specific focus on youth and women, according to its website, SPI runs a number of initiatives to “promote access to education, protection, social services, psycho-social support and livelihoods.”

At present, Turkey is a major hub for war-fleeing migrants and a representative of exemplary migrant policies.

– Selin Oztuncman
Photo: Flickr

Moldova is Helping Ukrainian RefugeesA former republic of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a poverty rate of 26.8% as of 2020. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova faced economic hardship, widespread corruption and political instability, but made progress between 2006 and 2015 toward national poverty reduction.

However, since early 2020, Moldova has experienced a series of intense economic shocks beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an estimated loss of nearly 8% of jobs across the nation, disproportionately affecting young workers. In 2020, Moldova also experienced one of the worst droughts in recent decades, which reduced agricultural production by 34%. In late 2021, the European gas crisis adversely affected the nation for several months, which increased gas prices by 400%, until Moldova’s government signed a new contract with a Russian-controlled gas company. By February 2022, Moldova was beginning to recover from these shocks, but the sudden outbreak of war when Russian forces invaded Ukraine threatened Moldova’s immediate economic recovery and future trajectory.

How Moldova is Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Despite the nation’s challenges, Moldova’s government and citizens have made remarkable efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion have traveled through Moldova, with nearly 100,000 refugees choosing to remain in the nation. The Moldovan government immediately set up facilities for refugees, offering medical and psychological assistance at the war’s onset. Officials also extended the right to live and work in Moldova to Ukrainian refugees, along with access to health care services and education. Notably, 95% of the refugees are staying with Moldovan families.

Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Moldova’s Efforts

UNHCR, the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has assisted the Moldovan government through a series of measures, expanding its staff by nearly 100 members in the nation since the crisis began. The agency is helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting the work of local authorities in Moldova by offering access to information, health and legal services, child protection services, initiatives to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence as well as offering transportation to European Union countries. A core component of the UNHCR’s response effort is a cash assistance program that allows Ukrainian refugees to receive around 2,200 Moldovan Lei (equivalent to $120) each month. The process is facilitated through enrollment centers and mobile teams that help refugees enroll, and the program has already helped more than 50,000 refugees in Moldova receive cash.

The World Bank has also implemented initiatives to help Moldova build economic resilience and mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine. In June 2022, the World Bank allocated $159.24 million to Moldova as part of an Emergency Response, Resilience and Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO). Moldova’s government remains committed to its social and economic developmental reform agenda, and this relief funding will allow the government to support the country’s immediate needs while also providing momentum for long-term recovery efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

new technologies in South SudanTechnology increasingly offers more and more solutions to help reduce poverty across the globe. Considering South Sudan’s unpredictable climate and scarce resources, new technologies in South Sudan can provide a gateway of opportunities and security to the locals. This can be through new farming methods and equipment, schooling, banking and monetary management.

The Problems in South Sudan

South Sudan’s current climate is posing many challenges to its poverty-stricken population. The World Bank describes poverty as ‘ubiquitous’ across South Sudan, with it estimating that two-thirds of the population requires humanitarian assistance.

Estimates stated that floods are affecting up to 1 million people every year because the floods have forced many to evacuate their homes. This has had an impact on education with floods affecting 100 schools. As a result, more than 60,000 students have reduced access to education.

In the short term, people in South Sudan have had limited access to nutrition and health care. This has contributed to the fact that 60% of the population is facing malnutrition.

It is not just flooding that impacts South Sudan. Excessive drought, temperature changes and unpredictable rainfall have all damaged day-to-day life in South Sudan. Droughts have resulted in food insecurities leading to a loss of livestock and crops.

This is severely impacting the economy in South Sudan considering that 95% of the population work in sectors that rely on the climate. This includes agriculture, fishing and forestry resources.

In the 2020-2021 period the South Sudanese economy reduced by 5.4% due to lower exports of oil and agricultural output. This is having a large impact on the living conditions of individuals in South Sudan.

The Conflict in South Sudan

As a result of the unpredictable climate in South Sudan, many have had to migrate. In fact, up to 4 million people as of 2022 remain displaced due to climate-induced dangers – 1.6 million internally and 2.3 million in neighboring countries.

Migration has led to enhanced homelessness across South Sudan. This has reduced living standards and increased disease. A lack of infrastructure has led to more exposure to malnutrition, mosquitos and climate-induced diseases such as malaria and cholera.

Serious conflicts over resources in South Sudan between groups, especially in areas of extreme drought, has led to livestock raiding and exacerbated the displacement of people into concentrated areas making resource scarcity even more serious.

Furthermore, the large weaponry market that has spread throughout the territory to the failure of the South Sudanese government, fuelling the problem and resulting in wider political instability in South Sudan. Resource conflicts have increasingly become a method to gain political support and power.

UNHCR’s Efforts

To solve the issues of conflict and lack of institutional and infrastructural support in South Sudan, the resource and climate problems require mitigation and resolution. Technology could be a solution, but South Sudan has limited new technologies presently.

First, and foremost, technology can make farming more efficient and sustainable. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure such as dikes and drainage systems to try and appease the problems in South Sudan. Moreover, UNHCR has provided flood-tolerant seeds and training for locals. To help with droughts, it has introduced new irrigation systems and set up tree nurseries to regrow forests. In Maban, five tree nurseries underwent establishment in four refugee camps. These activities are introducing new skills and opportunities for the locals, that are more resistant and malleable to the changing climatic conditions. Other technologies include high-efficiency cooking stoves, reusing agricultural waste and using solar energy to extract water from boreholes.

How the US is Helping

Next, greater investment into education and human capital development is vital for presenting more opportunities for the locals to be able to use new tech. The U.S. has provided more than $117 million to South Sudan on top of humanitarian aid. This is helping the government to invest more money into their infrastructure, allowing more to access education.

The U.N. has also been providing increased support across Africa. It is important that this continues as, alone, South Sudan does not have the fiscal capacity to create a stable socioeconomic climate.

A further key area for South Sudan is taking full advantage of technology to provide education to rural areas that otherwise do not have access. This seems to have had little traction so far but could prove to be a very advantageous development.

Lastly, introducing these new technologies and skills in South Sudan will help to address the migration problem, reducing the levels of migration and allowing the population to become more dispersed again. This will hopefully help to reduce conflict in South Sudan as well.

Looking Ahead

Behind this shift to new technologies in South Sudan in the long run, support through charity and initiatives will help to smooth the transition. For example, to help with conflicts UNHCR has started several peace initiatives in Eastern Equatoria to reduce further conflict between herders and farmers, and to incentivize the use of new technology in pastoralists’ original locations, rather than internally migrating.

As a result, it becomes clear that South Sudan can reduce conflict across the country if it introduces more sustainable technology to help with the unpredictable climate. This requires the support of other countries and the cooperation of the South Sudanese government if this is to successfully reduce poverty.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr

Climate Migration
As global temperatures continue to rise, those in the hottest regions of the world face an impossible choice. They can either endure malnutrition, economic malaise and political instability or run the gauntlet of relocating to greener pastures. Affecting more than 20 million people every year, climate migration poses a serious threat to countries in Central America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As people relocate domestically and internationally, they strain their new community’s and their own recourses, leaving both vulnerable.

Exacerbating Already Existing Issues

In Guatemala, climate migration exacerbates many of the issues it already faces. Rapid increases in temperature as well as prolonged droughts followed by violent flooding have destroyed agricultural harvests, forcing many into overcrowded urban centers or seeking refuge in the United States. Since much of the country’s economy is dependent on agriculture, this will increase malnutrition and poverty rates, damaging an already struggling nation.

These effects will only become worse as temperatures continue to rise, with 1.5 million people expected to flee Mexico and Guatemala every year by 2050, according to The New York Times.

Similarly, climate migration in other regions can cause dramatic economic and political harm. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to this, as increased temperatures quicken a process known as desertification, in which arid land becomes unusable while coastal regions succumb to rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters.

For the Philippines and many island nations, marine life degradation and higher sea levels threaten the livelihoods of millions reliant on the sea, creating a host of political and economic issues, according to the OECD report. This will only lead to increased climate migration and further internal disruption.

Affecting the Progress

Looked at from a larger perspective, climate migration threatens to undo decades of progress in the fight against global poverty. Both the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have highlighted the current and potential threat that climate migration poses. In regions like the Sahel desert, water shortages have catalyzed armed violence, displacing more than 3 million people, according to UNHCR. Should the international community ignore this pressing issue, climate migration could become an even greater issue.

Solutions

However, it is not too late to curb the effects of climate migration. With the threat of mass environmental exodus, more organizations have spotlighted the issue, urging nations to protect climate refugees. The Biden Administration emphasized climate migration in a report before the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) released a report in 2021 on how countries like the United States could prevent climate migration from worsening. One proposed suggestion was that the U.S. should allow those fleeing climate-related disasters to seek refugee status.

As more focus is drawn to this alarming phenomenon, increased research is allowing scientists to make estimates as to where climate migration will be strongest and how to fix the issue in the long run, according to The New York Times. Environmental protection policies and aid toward refugees are solutions that tackle the problem from important angles and are becoming more prominent as migration due to weather becomes a larger part of the fight against poverty.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

poland-welcomes-ukrainian-refugeesPoland has been a top host country for Ukrainian refugees since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022. Poland has in fact welcomed more than 3.5 million of the 6.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the violence in their country. While half of those who crossed the border into Poland intend to seek temporary residence in other European countries, the other half is remaining in Poland until the war is over.

Who are the Refugees?

The majority of the 6.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the country are women and children. This is because, under Ukraine’s martial law, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prohibited from leaving the country. Fathers, husbands and sons have had to stay behind, resulting in many families being separated.

Not all refugees fleeing from Ukraine are Ukrainian. Students from African countries, Afghan refugees and Belarusian asylum seekers make up a sizeable portion of those who cross into Poland in the flight from violence, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). When the EU announced temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees, the IRC also urged that the same auspices be extended to non-Ukrainian residents and asylum seekers.

What Do the Refugees Need?

Refugees arriving in Poland are fleeing areas heavily inflicted by fighting with some having spent weeks living in bomb shelters and basements. Scared for their own lives as well as the lives of any loved ones left behind, refugees enter Poland in a state of acute distress and anxiety. On top of their concern for family members still in Ukraine, refugees must also deal with the stress of mapping out their future course of action with far fewer economic resources and social ties than they had in their home country.

Refugees’ main needs are health and medical services. At the beginning of the crisis, those making the journey across the border endured freezing temperatures and went days without enough food and water. “People are arriving across the border exhausted, hungry and cold,” said IRC Ukraine emergency response team lead Heather Macey to Rescue.

The government of Poland has installed numerous reception centers throughout the country in response. There, refugees can receive any medical attention they may need and recuperate for a few nights before finding shelter elsewhere in the country. The IRC has played a critical role in providing these centers with blankets and sleeping bags as well as necessary medical equipment.

Poland’s Open Door Policy

Poland has been quick to establish systems of legal stay, access to employment, education, health care and other social welfare for newly arriving refugees. Polish authorities have registered more than 1.1 million people with the Government of Poland and granted them with a state ID number that gives them access to these services, U.N. reports.

While the Polish government has accomplished much on its own, other international organizations like the IRC and the UNHCR have played a critical role in supporting government-led efforts, specifically in providing cash assistance and delivering emergency supplies. “[More than] 100,000 refugees have already received financial support from UNHCR to cover their basic needs, such as paying rent or buying food and medicine,” said Olga Sarrado, spokeswoman for UNHCR.

With the help of its partners, Poland has shown an impressive crisis response. It is important to remember however that the Russian-Ukraine war is ongoing, and the country is to expect even larger flows of refugees further into the year meaning that more support will be needed going forward.

Lauren Kim
Photo: Flickr

Helping Afghanistan
On June 22, 2022, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake devastated eastern Afghanistan. An aftershock struck the same area, temporarily stopping all aid and recovery efforts on June 24. The earthquakes took the lives of approximately 1,000 people and destroyed nearly 10,000 houses, a number that poor rural infrastructure in Afghanistan exacerbated. The immediate danger stemming from the earthquake has now subsided and hundreds of thousands of Afghans still desperately need medical attention, shelter and aid. Fortunately, the international community has met the call to action. Here are four ways the international community is helping Afghanistan recover from its deadly earthquakes.

Temporary Shelters

Several countries and organizations have sent temporary shelters to Afghanistan. Poor rural infrastructure, with many people living in mud homes, characterizes much of the affected portion of Afghanistan. On June 23, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) delivered 600 tents, 4,200 blankets and 1,200 plastic sheets to the country alongside other household supplies such as buckets and solar lamps. The U.S. announced on June 28 that it will be delivering temporary shelters to the country, though it has not disclosed the quantity. In all, the U.S. will send temporary shelters alongside water collection vessels, blankets, lamps, pots and clothes.

Medical Supplies

Now that the immediate danger of the earthquake has passed and rescue efforts have concluded, the difficult task of treating survivors and dealing with the medical fallout associated with temporary shelters and natural disaster aftermath begins. The already overburdened medical system in Afghanistan, with many hospitals being understaffed or outright closed due to a lack of supplies and personnel, has made the situation worse. Neighboring countries, the United States, UNHCR and the World Health Organization (WHO) are helping Afghanistan by delivering medical supplies.

On June 22, hours after the initial earthquake, WHO sent 10 tonnes of medical equipment to the region, enough to perform 5,400 surgeries and treat an estimated 36,000 people. In addition to treating survivors, much of the medical equipment will go towards preventative measures. The population of East Afghanistan is in severe danger of waterborne illness in the coming weeks and months. To counter this, much of the supplies that UNHCR and the United States sent come in the form of sanitation, hygiene and water supplies.

Workers on the Ground

UNHCR deployed several exports to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. The workers helped set up shelters and supply food and household goods to some 4,200 survivors. Further, additional teams from UNHCR have worked to set up supply hubs in three separate districts in east Afghanistan to facilitate rapid aid delivery. The World Health Organization sent eight ambulances and 20 medical teams alongside medical supplies on June 22.

Financial Support

The government of Afghanistan may have some difficulties in receiving financial aid from citizens of the world as well as some countries due to the heavy sanctions that the United States imposed on them. Donations to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe cannot transfer to Afghanistan banks for that very reason. The U.S. announced on June 28, that it will provide $55 million in aid, some of which is purely financial. However, there have been several calls for the United States to unfreeze some Afghan assets in order to facilitate humanitarian relief. The government of South Korea pledged on June 23, financial support totaling $1 million to help Afghanistan recover from its deadly earthquake.

Looking Ahead

Efforts in helping Afghanistan recover from its deadly earthquakes are well underway. Delivery of medical supplies, temporary shelters, household goods and financial aid have been plentiful and will continue to ease the suffering of thousands of Afghans. Additional help on the ground from UNHCR and other agencies has also sped up the recovery process while keeping victims of the earthquakes safe. Despite this, the recovery will remain a long and arduous task. Fortunately, the international community has thus far been sufficient in providing aid and shows no signs of stopping.

Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Farming Initiatives Empower Women
In developing nations, females make up only 10%-20% of landholders, which leads to gender disparities in the farming industry. When female farmers lack power over land, they have less agency to occupy leadership positions and earn higher incomes. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched a program in April 2020 in Ouallam, Niger, to help women adopt sustainable farming practices and support themselves financially through agriculture. The program supports local women from Ouallam, women who faced displacement due to conflict in other parts of Niger and refugees from the neighboring country of Mali. Sustainable farming initiatives empower women in developing countries by helping women to establish their own businesses, fight hunger and boost local economies.

Women in the Farming Industry

According to the World Bank, in 2020, almost 43% of Niger’s people endured extreme poverty, which equates to more than 10 million people. Many global organizations recognize that women account for the majority of the world’s impoverished due to barriers arising through gender equality.

Gender roles make it difficult for many female farmers in developing countries to manage their own crops and handle their own finances. In some cases, even when a woman runs the land and makes important farming decisions, male farmers only ask to do business with a female farmer’s husband.

Female farmers also face obstacles with funding. Female-operated farms yield up to 30% less than male-operated farms because women tend to lack access to credit for funding. Without adequate capital, women farmers are less inclined to purchase and utilize “fertilizer, drought-resistant seeds, sustainable agricultural practices and other advanced farming tools and techniques that increase crop yields.”

Public and private organizations recognize the extent of gender disparities in agriculture and many have launched initiatives to address these issues. UNHCR’s work in Niger is one of many programs that show how sustainable farming initiatives empower women and help close the gender gap in agriculture.

UNHCR and Desert Farming in Niger

Farmers in Ouallam, Niger, must use tactical farming and irrigation practices to sustain crops in the desert. Around 450 female farmers work the land in Ouallam and many of them are refugees only recently entering the world of agriculture. The women grow crops like potatoes, watermelons, cabbage and onions to support themselves and their families. UNHCR’s initiative in 2020 helped the women adopt drip irrigation, which helps preserve water in the desert instead of letting it evaporate or go to waste. Female farmers in Ouallam benefit from UNHCR initiative by adopting efficient irrigation methods that maximize water use and crop yields.

Hunger and Poverty Reduction

Sustainable farming initiatives empower women, reduce hunger and combat poverty in communities around the world. If female farmers had the funding and resources to produce as many crops as male farmers, world hunger could decrease by roughly 17%, according to Oxfam International. Educational initiatives can also teach women highly efficient farming methods that they may not learn otherwise. As productivity and yields increase among female farmers, the incomes of women will increase along with their economic independence. Female farmers increase access to food and contribute to local markets, so they can benefit their communities at large by reducing hunger and poverty.

Public and private initiatives to uplift female farmers can lead to monumental changes in developing countries. Funding and education help women succeed in agriculture, gain financial independence and improve the quality of life in local communities overall.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Displaced Persons
Mainstream news mentions the term “refugees” a lot. At many points, such as during the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border and when the Taliban took control of the government in Afghanistan, the word appeared often in the media. However, there are many different types of displaced persons, with each type having its own definition. Additionally, many displaced people are living in poverty.

The Correlation Between Displaced Persons and Poverty

A correlation exists between displaced persons and poverty as those who leave their homes or their native countries are unable to support themselves while trying to find a new place to make a life for themselves. According to a U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimate, in 2020, 82.4 million people experienced displacement throughout the world due to reasons including persecution, conflict and violence. About 48 million internally displaced people, 26.4 million refugees and 4.1 million asylum seekers made up that number.

On the topic of education, child refugees are more likely to be out of school than children living in ordinary circumstances. Out of the 7.1 million school-age refugees around the world, only 3.4 million of these children attended either primary or secondary education. In terms of gender inequality among refugees, for every 10 refugee boys in primary school, there were fewer than eight refugee girls. In secondary school, the number diverges more with fewer than seven refugee girls in school for every 10 refugee boys. Currently, there are 3.7 million school-age refugee children not in school.

Types of Refugees

  1. Refugee: The news often uses the term refugee as a coverall term. However, UNHCR defines a refugee as “a person forced to flee their country because of violence or persecution.” People may be refugees if they have a strong fear of persecution for reasons including race, religion, nationality, political opinion or participation in specific social groups. The leading causes of people becoming refugees are conflict and violence as well as ethnic and religious intolerances. Out of all of the refugees in the world, 68% are from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. In the United States, the government has expanded the definition of a refugee from the definition that the UNHCR provides. The United States considers a refugee a person situated in a country that is not the U.S., a person whom the U.S. considers to be of “special humanitarian concern,” someone who has faced or may face persecution in their home country, a person without proper resettlement in any country or one who “is admissable to the United States.”
  2. Internally Displaced Person: An internally displaced person is a person who became displaced within their home country. In-country fighting and/or natural disasters are the two major causes of internally displaced persons. Unlike refugees, internally displaced persons are not able to receive protection under international law since they are still under the protection of their government. Because these people are still in their own country, they cannot receive certain aid. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Colombia, Syria and Yemen contain the most internally displaced people globally. In total, 48 million people are internally displaced around the world.
  3. Stateless Person: A stateless person is someone who does not have citizenship in any country. “People can become stateless for several reasons including sovereign, legal, technical, administrative decisions or oversights.” Without a nationality or citizenship to claim, the person does not receive any political, social or economic rights that citizens usually obtain. The UNHCR’s estimated number of stateless persons is 4.2 million, however, some believe that this number could be much higher due to limited data.
  4. Asylum Seeker: An asylum seeker is someone who leaves their own country to seek protection or sanctuary in another country. Once they arrive in another country, they apply for asylum which grants them “the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance.” According to the UNHCR, countries only accept refugees if they can prove that their fear of persecution is legitimate. In 2020 alone, 1.1 million new asylum claims emerged.

Refugees International

Refugees International is a nonprofit that focuses on aiding and protecting displaced persons. It began in 1979 to provide support for people who experienced violence in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. However, since then, the organization has expanded across the world. The group operates by traveling around the world to see and speak to refugees firsthand in order to best provide the policy and solutions necessary to solve the problems leading to these crises.

The world’s displaced persons deserve to receive protection just like citizens of any country and that protection should not only be from their country of origin or their temporary place of retreat. Fortunately, organizations like Refugees International are providing aid to displaced people across the globe, bringing hope for a better tomorrow.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

HIV/AIDS in Africa
The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a significant public health problem in southern Africa. In the last decade, infections have drastically dropped while awareness of HIV status and availability of treatment has increased. This progress aligns with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal. Meeting this goal means that at least 90% of people with HIV are aware of their status, 90% are receiving antiretroviral drug treatments and 90% are virally suppressed. Viral suppression means that the virus will not negatively affect a person and that that person will not be able to transmit it to another person. Some of the most HIV-afflicted countries in Africa have met and even exceeded the 90-90-90 goals. Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world today at 26.8%. It has reached 95% in all categories and is on its way to reducing new infections.

HIV/AIDS and Conflicts

Despite recent progress, international aid has been focusing on HIV/AIDS less and less, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has become a more imminent global threat. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. It is also one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world.

HIV/AIDS has a history of destabilizing political and social institutions in countries and leaving them vulnerable to violent conflict. The International Crisis Group estimated that one in seven civil servants, including government employees, teachers and the armed forces in South Africa were HIV-positive in 1998.

How Does HIV/AIDS Affect Civil Servants in Africa?

  1. The disease affects the productivity of the military and its ability to respond to armed conflicts. In 2003, the Zimbabwe Human Development Report estimated that the Zimbabwe Defense Forces had an HIV prevalence rate of 55%. With such a high rate of illness, the military has high training and recruitment costs, as soldiers get sick and are unable to work. In addition to this, HIV can transmit through sexual contact. It disproportionately affects younger populations which typically make up the bulk of the armed forces.
  2. The HIV/AIDS epidemic breaks down political institutions by limiting their capacity to govern. According to former president Robert Mugabe in 2001, AIDS had a significant presence in his cabinet, killing three of his cabinet ministers in the span of a few years and infecting many more. The disease wipes out workers essential to the function of a state, like policymakers, police officers and judicial employees.
  3. HIV/AIDS threatens the quality and accessibility of education. A UNICEF report found that more than 30% of educators in Malawi were HIV positive. If children cannot receive a quality primary education, they are less likely to receive secondary education and start professional careers. Instead, crime may open up opportunities for security that education could not provide. With increased antiretroviral use and awareness of the disease, HIV rates and deaths among educators have likely dropped along with overall rates in the last decade.

Civil Servants

The impact of HIV/AIDS on civil servants in Africa has been immense. The disease affects vulnerable populations such as gay men, sex workers and young women disproportionately. However, it has also affected those who work as civil servants. Civil servants are integral to the functioning of governments. Without them, countries are vulnerable to conflict and violence. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS prolongs conflict in countries already experiencing it.

While there are many other causes of violent conflict, the breakdown of political and social institutions fueled by HIV/AIDS only exacerbates conflict. War can also be a vector for the further spread of the disease. According to UNHCR, both consensual and non-consensual sexual encounters happen more often during the conflict. Rape has been a weapon of war in conflicts in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Liberia in recent years and has likely contributed to the spread of HIV.

Solutions

Combating HIV and AIDS is a very important step in stabilizing economic, political and social structures across Africa. USAID programs like PEPFAR have had a significant role in combating HIV and AIDS. PEPFAR has invested nearly $100 billion in the global AIDS response in various ways. Most notably, it has provided 18.96 million people with much-needed antiretroviral treatment.

PEPFAR also aids in prevention care. For example, it has supported more than 27 million voluntary medical male circumcisions as well as testing services for 63.4 million people. In 2012, there was a government campaign in Zimbabwe to promote circumcision, in which at least 10 members of parliament participated.

These campaigns and USAID programs have had tangible results. In 2013, a study by the South African National Defense Forces showed an 8.5% HIV prevalence rate among its soldiers, much lower than the 19% prevalence in the general population. Given the successes in decreasing HIV/AIDS infections across Africa, perhaps economic, political and social stability is to follow.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Mali
Mali is a country where human trafficking is widespread, according to the U.S. State Department. This suggests that the government of the western African country is failing to achieve the bare minimum for abolishing the practice. Instead, Mali has increased some of its prevention efforts — at least since 2017. Mali is not overlooking trafficking, according to many observers. In fact, the government is attempting to stop human trafficking in Mali.

The Situation in Mali

Despite its ranking, the Malian government is making strides to remedy its human trafficking conundrum. These initiatives include educating judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers on human trafficking, as well as issuing a directive prohibiting minors from entering military installations.

Further actions aimed at combating human trafficking include government collaboration with international groups such as the Fodé and Yeguine Network for Action, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Families. In addition, the government has concentrated efforts amending an old anti-trafficking law as recently as 2019.

Mali’s justice minister has issued an order requiring judicial officials to give priority to cases brought under the original statute. Due to the absence of an integrated process to gather anti-trafficking statistics, law enforcement material previously was fragmentary and thereby challenging to access. The 2019 amendment sought to establish a unified strategy for data collection.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 42% of its total population living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t help, as a recession dropped Mali’s gross domestic product by nearly 2%. Additionally, nearly seven in 10 adults in Mali cannot read or write, indicating a scarcity of education.

The Correlation Between Malian Poverty and Human Trafficking

Mali has been beset by instability and violence since a 2012 military coup d’état and the capture of the northern territory. The country remains in a state of desperation due to its economic and social crises. The financial insecurity has made it simple — as many observers viewed — to fall victim to human trafficking practices.

Mali falls short of meeting the minimal benchmarks for the abolition of human trafficking. As a result, human traffickers can continue to exploit both internal and international victims. Many of these migrants are fleeing crisis zones in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mali is a supplier, route and destination country for international trafficking, according to the State Department. Lured to Mali with assurances of high-paying jobs, organizations, which include violent fundamentalists like Al-Qaeda “affiliates” abduct many of them. Job seekers also labor to “pay off” fictitious debts that the organizations that invited them to the country in the first place tell them they owe.

Why Mali?

Despite its poverty, Mali is rich in gold and oil. Yet, to benefit from those resources, Mali needs miners. This attracts refugees, women and children, who traffickers could ultimately coerce. Juvenile prostitution and child sex trafficking are common at mining sites. In fact, more than 12% of sex workers at these locations are as young as 15 and as old as 19, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

A disproportionate number of males work in certain mines, exposing them to the most heinous types of child labor, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. “Children are being forced to fight by armed groups, trafficked, raped, sold, forced into sexual or domestic servitude or married off,” Gillian Triggs, the Refugee Agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, told Reuters in December 2020.

Assistance to Mali

There are many human trafficking solutions, yet they are difficult to implement. Global attention and vigorous effort to alleviate Mali’s exploited and trafficked workers dilemma remain in initial phases. While the U.N., the State Department and a number of non-governmental organizations said they are aware of trafficking issues in Mali, the magnitude and precise volume of trafficking and coerced laborers continue to remain unclear.

To help with these issues, the Roman Catholic Church-affiliated Caritas Mali has assembled an international team to build an initiative alongside the International Catholic Migration Commission,  providing underprivileged individuals and children with alternative income and skill development opportunities.

Mali’s education system is deficient, and this new initiative may make fewer people desire to work in deplorable conditions. Many believe that human trafficking thrives on the instability that poverty creates. Thus, eliminating poverty could then, in turn, mitigate trafficking problems.

Many groups are attempting to assist those in poverty in Mali including Action Against Hunger. To date, it has helped more than 400,000 people gain access to nutrition and health programs, food security programs and sanitation programs. Another organization providing aid is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace, which collaborates with the U.N. World Food Program to deliver financial assistance and meals to families that dislocation, violence, environmental catastrophes and other crises have impacted.

Save the Children is another organization helping nearly 1.5 million Malian children in 2020 by giving food and protection. The organization says it effectively raised 232,000 children out of poverty.

The work of Save the Children, Action Against Hunger and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace are helping reduce the symptoms of poverty such as food insecurity and poor sanitation. These efforts should subsequently reduce people’s vulnerability and eliminate human trafficking in Mali.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr