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EUs Progress in ChadThe European Union (EU) is one of the major donors to Chad, a country where 46 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The reasons for the high amount of people living in poverty include the fact that the country finds it difficult to accommodate the more than 300,000 refugees it houses, occasional droughts destroy food security and there is poor healthcare and inefficient farming techniques. In 2018, the EU’s progress in Chad stems from providing more than $74 million in humanitarian aid to Chad.

Influx of Refugees

With more than 46 percent of Chad’s population living in poverty, it’s difficult for the government to even provide aid to the native population. The EU is helping Chad by providing basic needs, such as healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation. It also provides care for refugees, host communities and internally displaced people. The refugees arrive from neighboring countries Sudan and the Central African Republic, amounting to more than 300,000 refugees fleeing to seek protection and job opportunities in Chad. Though Chad doesn’t have the capacity to take care of these refugees, outsiders like the EU, are providing aid to those in poverty.

Agricultural Practices

Another way to show the EU’s progress in Chad through its focus on agricultural self-sufficiency and self-reliance. More than 80 percent of Chad’s labor force involves agriculture. Agriculture also accounts for half of Chad’s GDP. One major way EU is helping Chad prosper is by providing efficient and sustainable farming techniques. A lack of capital has created a major strain on the government helping its citizens, so the EU is also helping by providing financial assistance.

The country of Chad is divided in half by the Sahara Desert in the north, the Savanna in the south and the Sahelian belt in the center where the transition from desert to Savanna takes place. The environment makes it difficult to farm, and poor farming practices contribute to poverty conditions. The government of Chad believes the future lies in the mobilization of the private sector, including improving the business environment concerning agriculture and mining. The EU’s involvement is helping to improve the lives of millions of people in Chad who struggle to find clean water and produce an adequate amount of crops.

Seeds for Solutions is a project aimed at helping host camps and villages. This project is located in the eastern portion of Chad where Sudanese refugees and Chadians work together to cultivate crops. The region is arid, but the fields are provided daily water thanks to an irrigation system maintained through solar energy. The advanced farming technique helps yield a greater output of crops. About 70 percent of harvested crops are sold, and the farmer’s family then consumes the rest.

Training Programs

In partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Lutheran World Federation, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations helped to create a vocational training center where people are taught masonry, carpentry, mechanics and sewing. Estelle, a young Chadian woman, is one of the hundreds of Chadians taking part in the program. “In our country, women are in the field or in the kitchen; I want to participate in the construction of my village and my country,” stated Estelle during her nine-month training at one of the four vocational training centers in the country.

The UNHCR and its partners are involved in hosting income-generation activities for refugees and citizens. The IT centers are involved in teaching sewing, masonry and carpentry, and have more than 300 students. The income and products from these activities enable the people to accomplish the EU’s goal of improving self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The EU’s progress in Chad is visible through the many programs implemented to help alleviate poverty. Although conditions in Chad are still far from perfect, the EU is providing some important resources to help improve the lives of the people in the country.

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

Women RefugeesGlobally, various disasters and conflicts displace approximately 68.5 million people—half of whom are women—and force them to turn to refugee camps in order to fight for survival. But these women refugees are not on their own.

A global campaign, “Girls’ Education and Empowerment,” is headed by a nonprofit organization known as Girl Rising. Girl Rising sheds light on refugee crises which affect women and girls the most. Since 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that a multitude of factors, such as persecution, violence, conflict, natural disasters and human rights violations displace refugees. Of the millions of refugees, more than 50 percent are under the age of 18.

Girl Rising: Examples of Progress

Upon the launch of the global campaign in the year 2012, Girl Rising’s goal was to change how people value and invest in girls and girls’ potential. To complete this goal, the organization created a media-driven campaign and grassroots programming with on-the-ground partners in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For 2019, the organization wants to expand its on-the-ground partners to include Kenya and Guatemala. To date, results for Girl Rising’s efforts include girls re-enrolling in school, parents deciding against early marriage, girls learning their rights and teachers creating gender-equal classrooms.

Release of “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story”

As a way of bringing awareness to challenges faced by refugee women and girls, Girl Rising produced and launched a film titled “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story.” Released on International Women’s Day in 2019, the 20-minute film told the story of a 17-year-old girl, Nasro, in Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In order to capture the true, raw reality of life in these camps, Girl Rising wrote and made the film in collaboration with other refugees.

One of the founders of the Time’s Up movement and powerful women’s advocate, Tessa Thompson, is the voice of the film. Poet, Warsan Shire, was in charge of writing the screenplay. To promote the film, the social change agency, Amplifier, had the street artist, Ashley Lukashevsky, create art. The film also received support from the projects founding partner, Citi.

In collaboration with Girl Rising, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had a hand in the creation of this film. The IRC is an organization that works to respond to humanitarian crises. The committee helps to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people who have been greatly affected by conflict and disaster. They engage with girls, their parents, caregivers and community leaders to combat harmful gender norms and practices.

Many people and organizations have come together to bring awareness to refugee crises and women refugees in creative ways. The continued advocacy and fight to end these crises has to be consistent and passionate to make a change.  

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Google

Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations
In a historic moment in the year 2018, Eritrea-Ethiopia relations were finally reinstated with the opening of the border between the two former rivals. The landmark occurrence finally signaled an end to the nearly two-decade-long conflict and regional destabilization in the Horn of Africa. It also provides equally strong potential for poverty alleviation as 70 percent of the Eritrean population continues to live under poverty.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations

To provide historical context, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war that resulted in casualties of nearly 80,000 in 1998. Despite the signing of the Algiers Agreement between the two countries in 2000, leaders of the previous administrations refused to reinstate ties till the agreement made between Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias in July 2018. Ethiopia also began withdrawing its troops from the Eritrean border in December 2018.

Ethiopia continues to condemn Eritrea of backing rebel groups in the Afar region as well as undermines and opposes the government seated in the Eritrea capital of Asmara. Owing to the fact that Ethiopia refused to acknowledge the joint Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), Eritrea began to stir up support among rebel groups like the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Bridging the Divide

Eritrea has been accused of gross human rights violations and condemned for its suspension of the constitution and ban on press freedom. Ethiopia, in turn, is accused of similar actions and has tried to suppress protest movements that have echoed across the country in recent times.

However, the new open borders between the two countries could bridge shortages and deficiencies that Eritreans previously faced as they will have access to Ethiopian markets, goods and services. Cross border trade between the two countries may begin to flourish as lorries have already started transporting goods like construction cables and cement to and from Ethiopia. Additionally, Ethiopia will also now have access to Eritrea’s ports which will help maximize the benefits of new sea trade.

The newly forged Eritrea-Ethiopia relations is also a good sign for neighboring towns along the border between the two countries as families and communities plagued by conflict can finally unite and celebrate their shared culture, heritage and language.

Reintegration and Renewed Hope

The new budding diplomatic relationship also resulted in Eritrea’s reintegration — particularly with the country’s readmission into the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The possibility of joint-development programs between the two countries could boost economic and financial potential along with the collaboration of financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A report by the Guardian in 2018 remarked that the move was akin to “…the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only amplified 1,000 times.”

Moreover, the move may also hint at a possible solution for the Eritrean refugee crisis as refugees can now cross the borders safely to seek a new home. The UNHCR also reported an increase in the number of refugees arriving at the border since its reopening.

Overall, the renewal in Eritrea-Ethiopia relations will maintain regional stability and provide an impetus to resolve similar border conflicts and proxy wars. The noteworthy historic move may help build a strong foundation for further development and prosperity for Eritrea in the long run and hopefully reinstate its reputation and influence on a global scale.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Google

South Sudan Refugees The South Sudan refugee crisis is Africa’s largest and one of the world’s largest refugee crisis. In April 2018, there were 296,748 South Sudan refugees recorded and around 1.76 million were internally displaced within the country. Although there has been a recent promise of peace and end of the current ongoing civil war in the country that caused these migrations, it is still unsafe for the displaced people to return home.

Difficulties for Return

Although some conflict has subsided in parts of South Sudan since the promise of peace in September, some aid organizations are deeming it unsafe for refugees to return to their homeland. These organizations also believe it is highly unsafe for women and children to return to South Sudan. Around 65 percent of women and girls in the country have reported being sexually assaulted. This, in addition to the high rate of children who have experienced some sort of violence or trauma, creates a hostile environment for vulnerable refugees.

The other factor is that those internally displaced, who are the most likely to return home, have not been adequately informed about their return options or that a safe journey has not been completely planned for them. There is also not sufficient planning for the long term in potential returns areas to provide ongoing aid. There is significant aid manipulation within the country as some armed groups have been known to redirect aid meant for civilians and use it for their own purposes. The government has even restricted aid from certain communities by insisting on that area’s instability.

UNHCR Help

However, the UNCHR has offered an aid solution, rather than having these refugees return to an unstable environment. The organization has recently appealed for $2.7 billion to aid refugees in their host countries and the internally displaced people. Many of the refugees in host countries are living in crowded and unsustainable conditions. In some areas they are only able to access five liters of water per person a day, many schools are without teachers and health clinics are without either doctors or medication. This strain of resources has caused tensions between the refugee and host communities.

The money proposed by the UNCHR plans to help make the communities shared by host nations and refugees sustainable by providing adequate resources for the mass influx of people. The organization believes that social cohesion between the two groups is the key to allowing them to survive and eventually thrive.

Work of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also been providing great aid to South Sudan refugees. The organization has been focusing on helping food insecure communities in South Sudan and its host countries by providing emergency relief and sanitation facilities. They have also provided these communities with the means to provide for themselves by equipping them with seeds, farming tools, and fishing nets.

As the UNCHR, ICRC, and other organizations work to help South Sudan refugees and displaced communities become stable and fit for survival, they provide these people with the hope of a safe and meaningful return home. These refugees desperately need aid so that they can survive in their new communities and come back to their home country.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Art for Refugees
Throughout history, art has been a respite for many who lived through trauma. Refugees live their lives in an almost constant state of precarity. Refugee children typically have a higher rate of experiencing many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Art for refugees can help them express their feelings, grow in self-confidence, and develop problem-solving skills. There are a number of art initiatives which aim to help refugees cope with psychological stressors. Some are located in refugee camps, while others are located in resettlement cities, but they all have the same goal of providing an outlet for expression. Some such initiatives are listed below.

The Za’atari Project

The Za’atari Project is an art therapy program started by Joel Artista in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Za’atari is composed of Syrian refugees. This project serves as a bridge between the Jordanian and the Syrian communities and serves as a way to foster further understanding.

Adult artists and educators team up to create programs to enhance the lives of children living in refugee camps. These programs are both expressive and educational. They teach children about topics such as health and hygiene all while fostering healthy ways of articulating feelings. These projects include painting murals, wheelbarrows, tents and kites that allow the children to play.

The Exile Voices Project

Exile Voices is a project started by renowned photographer, Reza. This project offers a photography program to refugees in the age group of 11 to 15 in the Kawergosk camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Exile Voices aims to tell refugee stories through the voices of refugees themselves.

Partnered with the UNHCR, Reza set out to empower these children on how to use the most powerful tool that they have–their own voice. Photographs from many children in the Kawergosk camp were lined along the Seine River in Paris, France in 2015 to show people the importance of art for refugees.

Art for Refugees in Lebanon

In 2017, 1 out of every 6 people in Lebanon was a Syrian refugee. This put significant pressure on schools to make the resources available for education. To tackle rising tensions in schools, the Skoun Association started an art therapy program within schools to help refugee and Lebanese students express themselves in healthy ways.

The art therapy program allows the students to overcome the trauma they experienced and helps to strengthen social bonds. It allows students to see themselves as children first. It also helps them forget the places of disconnect.

The Amsterdam Painting Project

In Amsterdam, refugees are housed in the Bijlmerbajes prison. The Amsterdam Painting Project aims to turn the prison space into something more welcoming, one that is full of renewed hope and life. This project aspires to serve as a bridge within the community and empower refugees to become more involved with one another.

The project was founded by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. These two Dutch artists set out to promote community art by improving living conditions. The Project is funded by the Favela Painting Foundation, a group that has also completed projects in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Florence, Italy.

Clothes, food, shelter and other basic necessities will always be required in refugee camps or in resettlement cities. There is, however, also a need to ensure the mental wellbeing of refugees and create an outlet for them to share their experiences. Art is an excellent way to create this outlet. It allows refugees to tell their own stories and to express themselves productively. Most importantly, the idea of ‘art for refugees’ is one of the most effective ways to heal those minds that have been traumatized for a long period of time.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Nigeria
Modern Nigeria arose in 1914  from two British Colonies, one predominantly Muslim and the other predominantly Christian. The difference in religion translated to different political beliefs, causing tension between the two populations. The resulting violence and constant tensions between different ethnic groups have caused disunity in Nigeria, making it vulnerable to the threat of different extremist groups, most infamous being Boko Haram.

Boko Haram Role in Conflict in Nigeria

Boko Haram, a major source of conflict in Nigeria, was first created in 2002, driven by existing beliefs that Islamic, Sharia law should be enforced. The group has used various tactics including suicide bombing, terrorizing public places, and kidnapping to push for their goal. The violence and fear they have spread have intensified the existing 53.5 percent poverty rate in Nigeria.

The crisis has displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and has left 228,000 refugees without a home. Nigerians facing conflict and displacement consequently have restricted access to food as there are 4.5 million people that are food insecure. Although the effects of conflict in Nigeria do depend on the area, with the North region of the country having generally more dramatic effects because of the presence of Boko Haram, the problems are present in the whole country. Blocked access to health care affects up to 11 percent of the population while restricted education affects up to 26 percent.

Health and Education Issues

As of 2017, Boko Haram destroyed 788 health facilities in Northeast Nigeria, leaving Borno state with 40 percent of its facilities lost. To make matters worse, 30 percent of Borno’s doctors have left the state in fear of the violence. Displacement brings health care concerns as well, with crowding increasing the risks of diseases in a country with a history of polio. The lack of health care facilities means that in the case of a disease outbreak, vaccines may not be fully distributed.

A similar situation exists for schools, with 57 percent in Borno not being in a condition to reopen, and 1,400 schools destroyed in this region. Children are also vulnerable to being used as suicide bombers, especially girls. The constant threat of violence, hunger and poverty prevents children from progressing and becoming educated, posing dangerous long-term effects for current and next generations.

Effects on Agriculture

The disunity and conflict spill over to the agricultural sector, sector that employs 70 percent of the total labor force. Pastoral farmers are moving south because of the threat of Boko Haram in the north, along with pressures of drought and limited space, create tension with existing sedentary farmers in the south. These often violent conflicts have killed 2,500 people in 2016 alone and have led to an annual loss of around $13.7 billion to the country.

It also forced the displacement of 62,000 people between 2015 and 2017, leaving them with restricted access to food and shelter and amplifying existing poverty in Nigeria. An end to these conflicts could potentially increase family income in the country up to almost 210 percent. With the majority of Nigerians depending on farming for their livelihood, it is evident that conflict Nigeria is worsening poverty.

The UNHCR in partnership with 70 organizations is working towards alleviating the effects of the conflict in Nigeria. They have offered child violence protection, gender-based violence protection, economic support and other services to around 180,000 people. With a focus on displaced people, the UNHCR has increased protection in displacement camps, making a safe place for those affected by the conflict.

Evidently, these conflicts are damaging the lives already impoverished people in the country, restricting their already limited access to food, education and health care services. Various organizations are fighting against these effects in order to hopefully improve the conditions of people affected by the conflict in Nigeria.

Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Displacement in Syria
Syria is a country located in the Middle East that has been in constant warfare since 2011, leaving millions of people displaced.

Today, there are several nonprofit organizations that are directly affecting the lives of people that are affected by war and, as a result, displacement in Syria.

United Nations Work on Displacement in Syria

The United Nations estimates that 6.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria. Refugees considered, there are approximately 12 million people in and bordering Syria that need humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with other United Nations humanitarian and development agencies to appeal for $8 billion in new funding to help millions of refugees.

The first aspect of the appeal is the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for 2018-2019.

The plan will give $4.4 billion in support for over 5 million refugees in neighboring countries and close to 4 million people in the communities hosting these refugees.

The second aspect is known as the 2017 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and seeks to provide $3.2 billion in humanitarian support and protection to over 13 million people in Syria.

The Case of Idlib

Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, has been hit with bombings and airstrikes in the past few months. It is estimated that over 1 million people living in Idlib were previously displaced from elsewhere in the country and citizens still face uncertainty with constant violence.

Many citizens remain trapped in the city, with main exits of the city closed. It is estimated that 30,000 people from the city have fled the country since the violence began. More than 2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance even before the violence began.

Displacement in Syria and Water Issues

Overpopulated makeshift settlements in Syria are often reliant on unsafe drinking water.

It is estimated that 35 percent of the population rely on sources of drinking water that is not safe. Areas with the largest refugee populations have faced drastically low levels of water.

Many refugees rely on less than 22 liters of water a day, less than one-tenth of what the average citizen of United States uses.

The World Health Organization has tested and treated 650 unsafe sources of drinking water in 2017 alone. The production of water storage tanks and groundwater wells have provided water to over 200,000 people.

The WHO has developed a disease reporting system that monitors the spread of infectious diseases. Around 1670 sentinel sites have been built across the country. This system allows professionals to rapidly detect and respond to typhoid fever, measles and polio in Syria and in neighboring countries.

The WHO is also supporting the integration of mental health services into health care and community centers in Syria. More than 400 health care facilities have been built and are proving mental health assistance.

The WHO also started the Mental Health Gap Action Programme in northwest Syria in 2017. The program has trained more than 250 Syrian health care workers and mental health professionals.

Displacement in Syria is the direct consequence of the constant violence present in the country since 2011. Due to the unsafe situation in the country, people are moving from their homes in search of a safer environment in the country or abroad. Organizations such as WHO and UNHCR are providing important humanitarian support to those in need.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr

ai weiweiAi Weiwei, perhaps the most important artist alive, has found an interesting topic of study over the past couple of years: the global refugee crisis. Ai’s work has always had a social bend. He has shown his disdain and criticism of the Chinese government, particularly after the Sichuan earthquake, in many of his previous art pieces. In fact, his political activism even landing him in jail for 81 days.

Ai Weiwei: Inspiring with Art

In recent years, however, he has been working outside China in either a subterranean studio in Berlin or working in New York with the Public Art Fund. Ai Weiwei and the refugee crisis are hardly a surprising pair. Though he is veering away from the domestic politics that prompted many of his earlier works, tackling the global refugee crisis, nonetheless, inspires the same poignant and emotionally resonant works for which Ai has become internationally celebrated.

Ai’s art is certainly deserving of its reputation. “Remembering,” perhaps one of his most famous projects, was a massive art piece created in response to the Sichuan earthquake. Ai lined up thousands of backpacks along the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Each backpack represented a child who was lost in the earthquake. In addition, the backpacks spelled out a sentence written by one of the victim’s mother: “All I want is to let the world remember she had been living happily for seven years.”

The sensitivity Ai showed in focusing on the tragedy of a large number of people while highlighting the individual—in that case, the child’s mother—is how he has been able to approach the global refugee crisis. It is also that level of sensation, that which marked “Remembering” as an art piece, that should keep Ai Weiwei and the refugee crisis in the headlines.

Ai Weiwei and the Refugee Crisis

Ai Weiwei has responded to the crisis with several art projects and a documentary film, “Human Flow,” now available for streaming on Amazon. The documentary, as well as the project of combatting the refugee crisis, is ambitious. It is grand. It is wide in scope.

The film opens with an aerial shot of the sea. A refugee reception is soon underway as refugees come ashore from their boat on that sea. The image, the tiny heads adrift surrounded by impossibly small waves, conveys the immeasurability of the scene. Yet, as the film progresses, faces are visible, close-up. And, for a moment in this opening see, the audience sees the director.

The film isn’t just about the refugee crisis; it is about the international figure Ai Weiwei and the refugee crisis. He, the director, appears in many crucial scenes throughout the film. It is his documentary and his exploration of the crisis. Yet, his image is used sparingly. The audience sees him react to people organically; they see his emotional reactions, but the focus is always on the other people—the refugees.

The documentary spans several countries and jumps from location to location; not creating a story, but an especially moving tapestry of lives woven together by the different crises they experience. Close-ups highlight the individual while aerial shots from drone cameras create a sense of scale.

Ai Weiwei’s New York Art Project

As part of his work for New York’s Public Art Fund, with proceeds also going to the IRC and the UNHCR, Ai Weiwei used portraits of 300 of the refugees he encountered doing research and creating the documentary to create banners on display around the city. The banners are part of his “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” exhibition, in which the artist also created several fence or cage installations around New York City as a commentary on the tendencies to not treat refugees with the respect and humanity they deserve.

Moreover, the images of individuals, used as part of a massive and publicly accessible art projects deal, are a testament to the massive scale of the crisis, and yet they imbue the subject, the refugee, with individuality and emotional resonance. These pieces are guaranteed to be seen when walking around New York.

The documentary and his other art projects serve to create and propagate awareness. It is not just an awareness of the refugee crisis, but of the otherwise unseen humans who are affected by the crisis. It is the emotion behind the art of Ai Weiwei and the refugee crisis itself that needs to be shared. And a readily streamable documentary along with a strong public art project serve as excellent ways of spreading awareness. His work can be seen as a call for action to address the needs of the global poor and the world’s refugees.

Ai Weiwei is far from finished making a statment on the refugee crisis. His next project, entitled “Laundromat,” will be in Qatar. The artist uses 2,046 articles of clothing left behind by refugees when fleeing the Greek island of Lesbos. In an email interview about this new project with the New York Times, Ai asserts this call for action, noting “We cannot reject the idea that humanity is one.”

William Wilcox

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Venezuela
The situation in Venezuela, sparked by political turmoil and hyperinflation, has denigrated into a dire case of global poverty. Despite its former status as one of the richest countries in South America and its access to the largest oil rig in the world, Venezuela’s economy has sparked both a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis within South America. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela:

Food Scarcity & Weight loss

According to a study by three universities in Venezuela, 74.3 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds of weight in 2015, and around 9.6 million Venezuelans ate two or fewer meals a day.

Due to past government subsidies of oil production, the people of Venezuela have historically relied heavily on imports of even basic necessities rather than domestic production.

Now that Venezuela’s borders have been closed and its currency devalued, imported resources within Venezuela have become increasingly scarce, making food prices rise significantly.

Population and Inflation

Approximately 81 percent of Venezuela’s 31.5 million people are now considered to be living in income poverty, while over 50 percent are estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

Additionally, the IMF predicts that inflation will reach 13,000 percent in the coming year, making it the biggest recession in the history of the Western Hemisphere — twice as large as the Great Depression.

Education Decline

For a country that once boasted free education for all students under Hugo Chavez’s socialist regime, the education structure in Venezuela is crumbling under the current economic crisis. Many schools in Venezuela have closed or are operating at limited capacity.

Such conditions are due to insufficient salaries for school teachers who are working for just over a dollar a month, as well as lack of school lunches as the government has run out of funds for the state-run program that provided children with free lunch. An increasing number of children have stopped going to school because, without food, they may faint in class.

Of 8 million school children, approximately 3 million students have stopped attending some or all classes. Education professionals within Venezuela fear for a future of uneducated and unskilled workers if this trend continues too long.

Lack of Hygiene

As most families have been scraping by just to put food on the table, those receiving the minimum wage face a choice every time they receive their paycheck: food or hygiene? According to Jonathan Marquez, a security guard and now also a taxi driver, he always picks food, adding water to the little bit of shampoo that he has left to make soap.

Additionally, one reporter from Venezuela spent 86 percent of the monthly minimum wage on eight rolls of toilet paper, after failing to find it in any stores for a whole week.

Businesses Cannot Operate

Number five of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela is that lack of resources for the individual means lack of resources for small businesses as well. The economic emergency in Venezuela has led to declining business within Venezuela, resulting in layoffs and even many business shut-downs.

Hairdressers only have running water two days a week and hair products are scarce to find; bakers have no flour to make bread; restaurant owners have no customers to cook for and very little pasta to cook.

Lack of Medicine

The medical profession is suffering as well. While doctors can still prescribe medicine, there is hardly any medicine to supply to their patients as the country endures an estimated 85 percent shortage of medicine, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela. Chronic diseases like kidney disease or diabetes are not being treated due to this limited supply of medicine, which leads to serious health risks.

A box of ten pills for high blood pressure can be more than a retiree’s monthly pension. Even highly preventable and curable diseases can now develop into life-threatening illnesses from the lack of antibiotics and proper treatment.

Water and Electricity Shortages

Drought from the Guri Dam has sparked a country-wide rationing of water and electricity. The hydroelectric plants in the reservoir contribute to 70 percent of the nation’s electricity supply.

While a standardized 4 hour outage was enacted daily, residents have noted that some days there is no electricity for up to 14 hours. In efforts to conserve electricity, Maduro has cut public sector work weeks to two days per week.

Concerning water rationing, faucets only run once or twice a week for most people; however, in harder-to-reach places like Margarita Island, water is only supplied once every 21 days.

Violence and Protests

Street protests and looting have become almost commonplace in Venezuela as people continue to lose faith in their government. In three months, 111 protests were recorded in Sucre — one of Venezuela’s 23 states — as reported by Indice, a human rights group monitoring the protests.

Reporters have noted 5 or 6 protests per week, all demanding basic necessities and fighting through tear gas and rubber bullets to get it.

The South American Refugee Crisis

To escape the turmoil within Venezuela, there has been a mass exodus into neighboring countries, particularly Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. The UNHCR estimates that nearly 5000 people escape from Venezuela each day, totaling 2.3 million migrants from Venezuela since 2015.

While South American border policies have eased the refugee migration process for many Venezuelan people, neighboring countries are not equipped with the facilities and resources to host refugees in the capacity at which they’re arriving.

Aid and Access

Government restrictions under President Maduro have rejected humanitarian aid by obstructing shipments, particularly targeting medicine, but that does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. Church groups and non-profit organizations like Sanando and the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation are doing their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela.

Cuatro Por Venezuela began in 2016 when four Venezuelan women living in the U.S. decided to deliver relief to their country. They have since provided over 50,000 food servings per year and attended to over 17,000 medical patients. Neighboring countries, such as Colombia, have also been immensely helpful to Venezuelan refugees by providing food and shelter for hundreds of thousands of people.

While the U.S. is still pressing sanctions on President Maduro, Mike Pence has promised $48 million to support regional partners that are taking on the brunt of this crisis.

Giving Hand, Willing Heart

The humanitarian readiness to help is inspiring; however, the onus remains on Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan government to open its borders to aid and imports to ensure the safety and health of their people.

The U.S. government and the world is ready to help alleviate the situation in Venezuela. The hope is that these top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela will have significantly changed by next year.

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

How to Help RefugeesImagine a situation where a person’s homeland is cannot host that person and their family anymore. The word “home” loses its meaning, and people find themselves forced to find somewhere else to live in. President Roosevelt once said, “Peace, like charity, begins at home.” Unfortunately, many people around the world cannot find peace because they have no home. Refugee crises have been an issue in the world for many years, and it is important to learn how to help refugees, even in the smallest ways.

According to UNHCR, 68.5 million people are forcedly displaced worldwide, and 25.4 million of them have refugee status. A recent example is the Syrian Refugee Crisis; according to the Amnesty International, there are approximately 4 million refugees from Syria that are spread to different countries.

Refugees crises are real problems, and actions must be taken to overcome them as soon as possible. Many different actions can be taken at a governmental level, but individuals can take actions to help refugees as well. 

Fundraising

Individual fundraising and donation is one thing that any individual can contribute to the refugee problem around the globe. There are numerous organizations operating in both international and national scale, and all of them are just a click away.

Various Types of Volunteer Work

Money is not your only source to find an answer to the question of how to help refugees. Many organizations that help refugees are not only open to donations, but also to volunteer work. If a person wishes to dedicate more than their money, they can dedicate their time to refugee-focused organizations to become a helper in the field.

Social mobilization of the refugees is also related to volunteer work. Integration of refugees to the daily lives of the host country is very important, but not easy. Refugees must learn the language of the host country, and people in the host country can contribute by helping to teach refugees the host country’s language. Many NGO’s operate for this purpose, and a person who is willing to help can also speak with the municipality of any region about creating a volunteer group project.

Organizations also allow a person to connect with a refugee in need to host someone to live together with, saving them from refugee camps. Refugees Welcome International is one such organization where a person can take a refugee as a roommate, allowing the refugee freedom from the hard conditions of a refugee camp.

Writing to Refugees

If a person is unable to dedicate time or money to refugee crises, they can contribute by contacting a refugee personally. Knowing that someone cares provides important motivation that keeps hope alive for millions of refugees around the world. Organizations like CARE allow anyone to directly send a personal message to a person in need. The message is simple: “I see you and I care.”

Legal Support

Support for the legal needs of refugees is a way that attorneys can contribute to helping refugee crises. For any attorney who is ready to take action on this issue, volunteer attorney positions are available in different organizations. International Refugee Assistance Project is one example of the many organizations that help provide legal services for refugees. 

There are countless ways for an individual to contribute to helping refugees around the world. When a person takes the first step to help, even if that means spreading awareness of refugee crises, they take the first step in making the world a better place. 

Orçun Doğmazer

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