Syrian Refugees in LebanonSince the outbreak of war in 2011, millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, creating one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent history. Natalie, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon and shared her challenges in an interview with The Borgen Project. She mentioned the support received from organizations like the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the current circumstances of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Impact of the Crisis

The Syrian refugee crisis was born out of the devastating war that ravaged the country. Lebanon, as a neighboring country, became a significant host country for Syrian refugees, including Natalie, as they sought safety and stability away from the conflict.

Natalie’s story provides a glimpse into the human side of the crisis, highlighting the strength and determination of Syrian refugees.

Arrival in Lebanon

Natalie embarked on a challenging journey that brought her to Lebanon, where she encountered various challenges. The devastating war inflicted widespread destruction, resulting in the displacement of families, the disruption of lives and a strain on resources. Like countless others, Natalie had to start anew, rebuilding her life from the ground up.

During the interview, Natalie shed light on the invaluable support she and her family received from the UNHCR. She expressed deep gratitude for the neighboring country, highlighting Lebanon’s generosity in opening its borders to all Syrian refugees.

Before Natalie sought refuge in Lebanon, she lived in Homs, a city bordering the northern town of Tripoli in Lebanon. This proximity enabled her to manage her escape somewhat more easily when the civil war escalated. She made the decision to leave Syria on June 29, 2012.

Undoubtedly, leaving behind friends and family in Syria was a difficult experience for Natalie. However, she found solace in the fact that Lebanon shares a border with her hometown, allowing certain family members to visit occasionally. Unfortunately, her friends have dispersed across various parts of the world in search of refuge, resulting in limited opportunities for them to reunite.

UNHCR’s Support

Amid the crisis, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) played a vital role in coordinating the protection response for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. UNHCR provided assistance in various forms, including health care, shelter, education and addressing gender-based violence.

Upon their arrival in Lebanon, the UNHCR provided Natalie and her family with essential provisions. Before leaving Syria, her family had fallen into a state of extreme poverty, with nothing left but her mother’s gold jewelry, which proved inadequate for their survival.

Natalie expresses her gratitude for her fortunate circumstances. Her uncle, who worked as a professor at Kuwait University, sent them financial assistance to cover rent, food and basic necessities.

Natalie regarded herself as comparatively more fortunate than many other Syrian refugees due to her Lebanese heritage from her mother’s side. This meant she had a place to stay and her uncle continued to support her family until they regained stability. Furthermore, her father, a successful dentist in Syria, successfully secured a position at a dental clinic in Lebanon. It took the family approximately five months to regain their financial footing.

Notably, Natalie’s resilience and determination led her to accomplish remarkable achievements. She pursued and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from the Lebanese International University.

The Current Reality

Unfortunately, the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon has become increasingly difficult. Reports indicate rising incidents of deportation and harassment, casting a shadow of fear and insecurity over the Syrian community residing in Lebanon.

Natalie explained that while the ongoing economic crisis in Lebanon has significantly exacerbated the challenges faced by Syrian refugees, her family did not experience an exceptional amount of suffering. Her family encountered similar experiences to those of a typical Lebanese household. They lost their savings and, like many others, are now facing financial constraints due to hyperinflation.

The latest figures provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlight that Lebanon currently grapples with a complex and challenging situation concerning Syrian refugees. The country faces an overwhelming number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, with a staggering 3.9 million individuals requiring support. Among these, 2.1 million are Lebanese citizens, 1.5 million are Syrian refugees, 211,000 are Palestinian refugees and 81,000 are migrants.

The Economic Impact

The influx of Syrian refugees has strained Lebanon’s already limited resources and infrastructure, worsening existing socioeconomic issues. It has created an increased demand for public services such as health care, education and housing. Consequently, both the Lebanese population and Syrian refugees have experienced rising poverty rates, contributing to the challenging circumstances faced by these communities.

The economic repercussions of hosting a substantial refugee population have also affected employment opportunities, leading to higher unemployment rates for both the local population and refugees. Job scarcity has resulted in wage depression and exploitation in some instances, further compounding the difficulties experienced by both communities.

The strain on resources and the socio-economic situation have heightened tensions between host communities and the refugee population, posing challenges to social cohesion and integration.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the European Union (EU) has stepped forward to provide substantial funding for Lebanon’s support. In 2023 alone, the EU allocated €60 million in humanitarian aid. Since 2011, the EU has contributed a total of €2.7 billion, with nearly €860 million specifically designated for humanitarian aid. The primary objective of this generous support is to alleviate the burden on Lebanon and ensure the provision of essential services and assistance to both the local population and refugee communities.

Looking Ahead

Natalie’s story provides a glimpse into the lives of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, accentuating their struggles and resilience in the face of adversity. As the Syrian refugee crisis persists, sharing such stories can potentially nurture empathy and understanding, fostering greater support and compassion for those impacted by the crisis. Addressing the needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains an urgent concern, demanding continuous attention and collaboration from both national and international stakeholders.

– Tanya Hamad
Photo: Flickr

Olympic Refuge FoundationAn increasing number of people around the world face the daunting task of fleeing conflict, violence and poverty, leaving behind their livelihoods to start anew in unfamiliar territories. The circumstances of refugees make them vulnerable to poverty. Projects that cater to the well-being of refugees are of utmost importance given the current global refugee crisis. The Olympic Refuge Foundation employs sports to aid young refugees in finding a sense of belonging, building confidence, establishing purpose and even developing careers that can pave the way to a prosperous future.

4 Facts About Refugees

  1. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the number of people forced to flee their homes has reached an all-time high, with currently 35.3 million refugees worldwide.
  2. According to UNICEF, around half of the world’s refugees are children. This is particularly worrying as refugee children are three times more likely than refugee adults to be poor.
  3. Developing countries host 85% of refugees, exposing them to disproportionate rates of poverty.
  4. Turkey now hosts the highest number of refugees with 3.7 million, followed by Colombia with 1.7 million.

World Refugee Day, observed annually on 20 June, aims to highlight the strength and courage of people who have been compelled to leave their home countries.

The Olympic Refuge Foundation

Since the 1990s, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been developing sports programs in the camps and settlements where refugees often find themselves. People from various countries, speaking different languages, have united through sports, finding joy in simple games like basketball.

Sports projects have grown beyond the camp boundaries since then. In March 2016, the IOC announced the formation of the Olympic Refugee Team. During the Summer Olympics in Rio, 10 athletes were chosen to be part of the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

During the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, 29 refugee athletes competed across 12 different sports. The increased number of top-level athletes also reflects the global expansion of sports programs working to assist refugees. In December 2017, the IOC established the Olympic Refuge Foundation with the aim of providing consistent support not only to high-level refugee athletes but to refugees worldwide. The foundation currently supports 12 programs in eight countries: Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Turkey and Uganda, with plans to extend the project to France.

The sports projects in refugee camps provide safe and inclusive spaces for young people escaping violence, abuse, negligence and exploitation. Young people of different nationalities are able to communicate with each other through the common language of sport, making valuable friendships and building trust and confidence in themselves. The day-to-day activities contribute to the social cohesion and development of people who have been scarred by their past. Fighting the feeling of hopelessness and desolation is so common in camps and is key to their future growth and recovery.

Terrains D’avenir

The IOC and Olympic Refuge Foundation are also eager to leverage the upcoming Olympics in Paris as a means to promote sports in local communities in France. With the support of the French Ministry of Sports and several other partners, a program known as Terrains d’Avenir was launched. It aims to provide access to sports for 7,000 young people affected by displacement by 2025. The program, initiated in June 2023, seeks to support refugees in their recovery from traumatic experiences and to integrate them into French society through sports.

The project is open to all displaced young people, regardless of their administrative status or ability to speak French and will offer organized activities across a variety of sports.

Overall, starting over in a new country can be quite challenging. It often involves learning a new language, adapting to new customs, finding a new job and integrating into the local community. However, with the support of organizations like the Olympic Refuge Foundation, young displaced individuals can aspire to a brighter future through sports.

– Almaz Nerurkar
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Somalia
Amid a drought, political conflicts and extreme food insecurity, Somalia is facing a severe humanitarian crisis. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification projected that between January and March 2023, 6.4 million Somalis would endure “crisis” or worse levels of food insecurity. Of these people, 1.9 million individuals would endure “emergency” levels of food insecurity and 322,00 would endure catastrophic levels of food insecurity. Further, through July 2023, about 1.8 million Somali children will suffer acute malnourishment. These statistics are likely to worsen as the year progresses. With the forecasted continuation of a dry spell, foreign aid to Somalia is critical.

Famine, Drought and Poverty

Somalia has faced humanitarian crises since the civil war broke out in the 1990s, continuing to materialize in the famines of 2008, 2011 and 2017.

Droughts and famine have only brought Somalis deeper into crisis as the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that 260,000 Somalis died on top of expected deaths between the years 2010 and 2012 alone. The population of the country is difficult to precisely calculate due to the mass movement of Somali refugees in response to food insecurity and conflict. In 2018, Somalia stood as the world’s fifth-highest source of refugees, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to 2014 data, Somalia had only about 0.02 doctors for every 1,000 citizens and a hospital bed density of 0.9 beds per 1,000 people as of 2017. Infectious diseases run rampant, such as hepatitis, typhoid, malaria and polio. Along with food insecurity, Somalia faces problems with water scarcity, deforestation, water contamination and improper waste disposal. Due to political instability and poor governance, terrorism and extremism are prevalent in Somalia. According to Somalia’s Voluntary National Review report of 2022, “Nearly seven out of 10 Somalis live in poverty, the sixth-highest rate in the region. Poverty averages at 69[%] among nomadic pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and [internally displaced persons]” while urban poverty stands at 60%.

US Foreign Aid to Somalia

The U.S. Department of State’s website has reported that U.S. foreign policy in Somalia strives “to promote political and economic stability, prevent the use of Somalia as a safe haven for international terrorism and alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by years of conflict, drought, flooding and poor governance.”

Since 2006, the U.S. has given more than $3 billion in humanitarian aid and $253 million in developmental aid since 2011. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated $411 million in December 2022 to respond to the drought and prevent famine in Somalia. In total, the U.S. contributed $1.3 billion in 2022 alone.

More Action

The U.S. can still do more to aid in the Somali crisis. Stephen M. Schwartz, a foreign policy and diplomacy expert and “the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991,” recommends the United States,  in an article published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “apply a whole-of-government approach” to alleviate tensions and extremism, something that could strengthen relations and national security.

He also urges the U.S. to support Somalia by improving corruption, establishing an economic connection between Somalis and U.S. citizens and businesses, accelerating and expanding developmental assistance and continuing efforts for military reform, which would improve quality of life and lessen conflicts.

In November 2022, the United Nations requested 25% more financial aid for 2023 to better aid and continue to fund humanitarian operations globally, highlighting that people in Somalia are already facing hunger-induced mortality.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also warned about the growing gap between those suffering and response, reporting that it is working to increase its food assistance to benefit 4.5 million people per month, but required “$327 million until January 2023 to continue saving lives.”

In December 2022, UNICEF appealed for $10.3 billion to help more than 173 million people globally, including 110 million children, which would cover the millions of children impacted by famine in Somalia. By increasing funding for this appeal, UNICEF can send sufficient resources to fully meet the humanitarian needs of each struggling country. UNICEF projects that it requires $272.3 million to help the 7.7 million Somalis in need through nutrition, health, education and social protection. As countries continue and increase support financially, foreign aid to Somalia can save the lives of vulnerable people in the country.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR
Across Europe, the world’s finest football teams often sport morally reprehensible betting companies and loan sharks abreast their jerseys. Fans across Europe not only accept but also expect trading moral integrity for financial gain. In December 2022, Nottingham Forest Football Club decided that its football players would wear the crimson-red Garibaldi symbol of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) on their shirts in the premier league to advocate for global change. Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR have forged a partnership that could raise expectations of sporting institutions across Europe.

About the UNCHR

Since its foundation in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has provided aid to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and those without a state to call home. The UNCHR is the largest and most significant NGO to wage war against the displacement of the persecuted.

The Issue of Displacement

Despite forward momentum in many socio-economic issues across the globe, there is unprecedented displacement in both the developed and undeveloped worlds. For the first time in recorded history, approximately half of the displaced individuals reside in urban areas.

Displacement occurs due to conflict, violence and persecution, which are all abundant in the modern world. There are active armed conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine and Afghanistan, mass human rights violations in Myanmar and ongoing genocide in China. Consequently, 2021 yielded the highest number of forcibly displaced people the world has witnessed since World War II. Indeed, 89.3 million people forcibly fled their homes in 2021.

How the UNCHR Provides Shelter

As of 2022, more than 6.6 million refugees are living in camps, demonstrating how homelessness manifests as a result of displacement. Whilst camps can provide decent emergency shelters, issues such as isolation, aid dependency, disease, fire, sanitation and personal safety arise.

When all other solutions have been exhausted, the UNCHR constructs settlements for displaced individuals. The UNCHR has formulated a master plan approach, which strives to provide shelter that does not fall foul of the previously stated risks. Well-planned settlements are not prone to fire or disease outbreaks, as sanitation and spacing are well-managed. Food, water, toilets and medical care are all within walking distance of a resident of the ideal settlement. Footpaths should always be well-lit, as there is also a particular emphasis on safety for women.

To avoid the risks that encumber vast refugee camps and settlements, the UNCHR distributes tents and materials from centers in Dubai, Copenhagen and Durban. It also invests in communal shelters and new homes. Furthermore, the UNCHR provides self-help schemes that assist displaced individuals in reconstructing and constructing new homes.

The UNCHR in Pakistan

When a barrage of severe flooding struck Pakistan in late 2022, the UNCHR sprung into action. The enormous monsoon impacted the lives of 33 million Pakistani people, killing more than a thousand. Those who remained faced the grim prospect of homelessness during a natural disaster, as the flood destroyed 300,000 homes and damaged 650,000 more.

During the aftermath, the UNCHR coordinated closely with Pakistani authorities. Tireless UNCHR volunteers helped distribute some 10,000 tents to the devastated Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan regions. The UNCHR has pledged to assist 50,000 households by providing shelter, food and clean water to the most vulnerable victims of this disaster. In addition to providing immediate relief, the UNCHR is liaising with local authorities to build up stockpiles of essential amenities should the flooding escalate.

Why the Partnership Between Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR is One to Celebrate

Fans of Nottingham Forest should be proud of their club. Sitting in the Trent End or the Brian Clough Stand, they will see the UNCHR featured on red banners, screens and flags. They will hear the announcer pay tribute to the refugees of Pakistan and elsewhere. But most importantly, the 4.7 billion fans who tune in to watch the premier league will see a football club that proudly uses its enormous platform to fight against poverty. If every football team in team Europe were to trade a sponsor for a charity of the UNCHR’s merit, billions of people would have exposure to charitable causes daily. Indeed, if every team in every sport were like-minded, the televised sport could become a vehicle for enormous social change. In the meantime, fans of positive change can celebrate that Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR are making a start.

– David Smith
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in Pakistan Pakistan experiences a yearly monsoon season typically beginning in mid-June and lasting until late August. An abnormally extreme monsoon season in 2022, primarily affecting the Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, has led to torrential rainfall. This 2022 rainfall has led to disastrous flooding in Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 1,700 and displacing 7.9 million.

As living conditions rapidly decline for those in the most heavily affected regions, the people that have been historically discriminated against receive the most serious repercussions. The provinces hit hardest by the flooding were housing an estimated 800,000 Afghan refugees. Given the falling value of their currency, coupled with the destruction of their homes and schools, many in most affected areas, 70% of which are women and children, have no options to reconstruct their lives, UNICEF reports. Waterborne diseases are raising concerns in these areas, as many are unable to leave despite the destruction.

Why Does This Keep Happening? 

Global climate change was not the only factor that led to the flooding, nor was this the first instance of extreme flooding in Pakistan’s recent history. In 2010, Pakistan experienced similarly extreme flooding. Since then, Pakistan has done little to reinforce its natural disaster prevention infrastructure and on top of this, Pakistan faces an imminent economic crisis. The inflation rate in Pakistan approached 27% in August 2022 and the Pakistani rupee crashed, causing Pakistan to require aid from wealthier countries to pay for the immense amount of damage caused by the flooding.


The UNHCR is spearheading the efforts to provide tents, blankets and other necessities to those affected most by the flooding in Pakistan. In September 2022, the UNHCR delivered over 10,000 metric tons of goods to those affected, with a special focus on the Afghan refugees. Additionally, UNHCR ran rapid needs assessments with the aid of the Pakistani government, along with mobilizing female-centered support, as women and children are among the most affected by the floods.

In addition to the UNHCR, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has been working to provide food to those Pakastani flood victims, including those in relief camps. The WFP has “reached more than 400,000 people with food assistance in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces.” The WFP has also provided especially nutritious food to children and pregnant women in an effort to push back against increasing levels of malnutrition in the wake of widespread crop destruction.

A post-disaster that the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives led has begun in an effort to develop a recovery plan for the government moving forward. 

How Does the Future Look for Pakistan?

Though climate change played an important role in causing flooding in Pakistan, it is important to note that Pakistan contributes “less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” The New Humanitarian reports. Because of this, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, has suggested that Pakistan has plans to demand climate reparations from the countries that play a much larger part in global climate change, according to The New Humanitarian. Efficient and productive strides have been taken in the direction of recovery for Pakistan in the wake of these cataclysmic floods. 

– Christopher Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Fighting against statelessness
Being stateless happens when a person does not enjoy any nationality. Therefore, not having citizenship means that a person does not have
any bonds to the legal obligations and rights of any country. In a world where nations are still the dominant players, nationality is one of the core aspects of forming one’s identity. Currently, more than 10 million people around the world are stateless. It is important to see how statelessness enhances other problems, such as economic uncertainty, and how the international community acts in order to improve this situation.

Why is Statelessness a Problem?

Nationals from a country receive certain rights. Participating in political and social tasks, such as a right to social security, freedom of movement and voting are rights that citizens take for granted. However, in some countries, there are residents which are stateless and so they have no access to these basic rights. If a state denies a stateless person protection, it is denying him or her basic human rights. As a result, they have limited access to development and have challenges progressing in life successfully. This situation leads on many occasions to perpetual economic instability. Stateless people have no legal right to work in their country of residence, which makes it very difficult for them to have reliable job opportunities. Residents which the formal economy largely ignores, are vulnerable victims of exploitation such as forced labor and prostitution.

Moreover, statelessness is often the result of discriminatory laws against women. More than 20 countries around the world still have gender-discriminatory laws that make both women and children more vulnerable to becoming stateless. Unequal legislation such as the Qatari does not allow mothers to pass their nationality to their children, even if there is no recognized father and it will render the child stateless. Another example is Jordan, where women married to non-nationals cannot pass their Jordanian nationality to their children. Fighting against statelessness and avoiding the risk in countries with gender-discriminatory legislation, reduces the prevalence of other problems, such as the perpetuation of patriarchal societies and domestic violence. It also helps reduce the risk of child marriage for girls whose only opportunity is to acquire their spouse’s nationality.

International Law is a Key to Change

The main issue for people fighting statelessness is that they cannot count on the protection of a specific nation, so the international community becomes an important ally to monitor statelessness and help people going through the toughest challenges. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an agency to which The United States is the largest donor, is also dedicated to helping reduce statelessness worldwide. UNHCR drafted the 1954 and 1961 Conventions, through which stateless people received recognition and a guideline focused on reducing statelessness.

Based on Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the 1961 convention has as a core objective to avoid statelessness as a result of deprivation of nationality, as everyone has the right to a nationality. While the loss of nationality is a possibility and the national legislation contemplates it, what the 1961 Convention attempts to eliminate is the deprivation of nationality based on discriminatory laws. Therefore, based on Article 9 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention established that both men and women should have the same right to acquire and pass on their nationality.

What is Improving?

In 2014, UNHCR launched the #IBelong Campaign, an action plan focused on fighting against statelessness and optimally eliminating it within 10 years. The most important actions taken are the following:

  • Solve major cases of statelessness
  • Ensure every child has a nationality
  • Fight against gender discrimination
  • Increase the number of members to the 1961 Convention

The latest data revealed by UNHCR in 2021 shows that 96 states are party to the 1954 Convention and 77 are party to the 1961 Convention. This suggests that ever more countries worldwide are committed to the process of fighting against statelessness. Furthermore, since the #IBelong Campaign:

  • Kyrgyzstan reduced the number of statelessness cases to zero.
  • Eleven countries made significant reductions.
  • Seventeen countries implemented efforts to identify and help stateless people in their territory.
  • Twelve countries facilitated the naturalization process.
  • Fourteen countries compromised to give every child the right to a nationality.
  • Two countries improved their gender discriminatory laws in favor of mothers’ rights to transfer their nationality to their children.

Looking Ahead

Recent action regarding statelessness proves that the international community is making a significant effort to improve the situation. The extent to which international law can make a difference is limited to member states. States are independent to decide if the Conventions regarding statelessness become binding in their legislation. Thus, even though it is difficult for international law to make a difference, the growing commitment to solving statelessness is mainly what allows international law to play a crucial role in fighting statelessness globally.

– Carla Tomas Laserna
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Children Refugees
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, there have been mass casualties, millions of displaced citizens and uncertainty about the country’s future.  According to the UNHCR, the war has forced nearly 5.7 million Syrians to find refuge in Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, more than half of whom are children. In total, the UNHCR estimates that more than 13 million Syrians have been displaced or forced to leave the country. With the disruption of the war, Syrian children refugees are at a higher risk for mental disorders like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Psychosocial Problems

A 2015 UNHCR review suggests that Syrian refugee children have heightened psychosocial problems such as fear, grieving, withdrawal, hyperactivity, warlike play and behavioral problems. According to a UNICEF report in 2019, there were 8 million Syrian children in need of resources and 10,000 unaccompanied or separated children.

Providing mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees is no easy feat. With refugees spread out among several countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Germany and Turkey and with some still residing in Syria, it is difficult to know just how many children need help.

However, providing mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees is a necessary and time-sensitive issue. The disruptions of the war have created barriers to physical and mental health and could affect generations to come.

Current Treatments and Organizations

As of now, countries around the world offer mental health support for Syrian children. For example, the UNHCR uses a community-based approach to provide the most helpful mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees in different areas. Its child protection programming assists Syrian children in counseling, recreational activities and life skills.

Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also provide care, although they mostly operate outside the country. Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) provides mental health and psychosocial support in Syria and in host countries, such as Jordan and Turkey. It manages eight safe spaces for women and girls in northwest Syria, where counselors provide support for those gender-based violence affects.

However, despite efforts at the local, national and international levels, many Syrian children refugees lack mental health resources. There are many overlapping reasons for the lack of resources, ranging from burnout among mental health officials to financial barriers, medication or supplies.

What Experts Recommend

Experts in medicine, psychosocial support and individuals working closely with the Syrian mental health crisis have proposed several new avenues for helping Syrian children. Isra Hussain, a research assistant and program coordinator with the Global Health Policy Center, pushes for a “multilayered system of response.” Instead of only providing basic mental-health resources, Hussein suggests a coordinated approach involving local officials, public and private organizations and humanitarian agencies.

The American Psychological Association proposes a three-step intervention for Syrian refugee children: culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services, providing services at the client’s preferred location and having trained professionals who can detect mental health difficulties in refugee children.

Apart from direct mental health counseling, Michelle L. Burbage and Deborah Klein Walker with the National Academy of Medicine urge more social and community support for Syrian refugee children. In addition to adjusting support according to different cultural backgrounds and social influences, Burbage and Walker emphasize community outreach and health education to engage Syrian children refugees in mental health programs.

Looking Forward

As the Syrian war continues, more children will undergo life-changing events and potentially traumatizing experiences. It could eventually fall upon the children now to sustain the country’s economy and infrastructure. As many health experts have suggested, it is imperative to address the humanitarian and mental health crisis at hand and look for possible solutions.

– Anna Lee
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake in Afghanistan
In June 2022, the citizens of Khōst, Afghanistan faced the aftermath of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake. The tragedy that claimed more than 1,000 lives is responsible for the annihilation of hundreds of houses, increased poverty in Afghanistan and the need for aid to support Afghanistan’s already large homeless population.

Poverty in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is infamous for having some of the most brutal poverty in the world, with many families living in houses solely made out of mud. Anthony Pantlitz, an immigrant from Guyana, compared the poverty in Afghanistan to “living in the 17th century” because of their lack of basic necessities such as electricity, plumbing and water.

In 2020, nearly half of the population of Afghanistan was living below the national poverty line. During this year, the mortality rate for children under 5 years old was 58 out of every 1,000. Many Afghan citizens have very low expectations for an improvement of the country’s economy, with 87% reporting a struggle to make enough money to upkeep their household. It is estimated that 95% of the people in Afghanistan suffer from consistent monetary issues and are frequently unable to purchase food.

The Earthquake’s Effects

The earthquake in Afghanistan created even more difficult living conditions for the country’s poverty-stricken citizens. These neighborhoods, already treated as outcasts, note that their future looks grim based on their treatment prior to the disaster. The citizens say that many outside countries have come to their aid with short-lived items, like food and tents, but have not done much more to help them rebuild their now-destroyed region.


UNHCR has prepared to build earthquake-resilient houses in Afghanistan. Funded with $14 million, the project is able to provide the cost of not only the supplies for the homes but around $700 to give each family in order to cover the payment for builders’ labor. With this budget, they will begin to construct over 2,300 homes, 2,000 in Paktika and 300 in Khōst. The houses will be earthquake-resilient and “winterized,” built in order to withstand the grueling winter weather.

UNHCR is also increasing various types of aid for poverty in Afghanistan. The agency, acting on an “emergency response,” has provided water, shelter, heat and much more to families in danger. A very important issue to the UNHCR is providing these items during the winter months, as many families have no more than a blanket to survive the freezing temperatures; the agency has provided “blankets, stoves, solar lanterns, insulation kits and support for heating, clothing and vital household supplies.”

However, UNHCR still urges others to help. A single organization cannot fight an entire crisis on its own, especially because the company estimates that Afghanistan needs around $8 billion to fund its humanitarian plan. With this budget, UNHCR will be able to send out emergency items at a much more rapid pace. UNHCR accepts donations towards decreasing the number of citizens who fall into poverty in Afghanistan.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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