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Turkey’s Foreign Aid
By contributing more than a quarter of the entire world’s humanitarian aid, Turkey became the leading country in providing aid to those in need in 2019. Needless to say, its strength in foreign aid is with humanitarian assistance. With combined efforts of government organizations, nonprofits and private donors, Turkey’s foreign aid comes through giving homes to refugees, aiding during natural disasters and providing relief for struggling countries.

Giving Homes to Refugees

Turkey is currently leading the world in hosting refugees. As of 2020, there are about 4.1 million refugees residing in Turkey. In addition to giving them homes, Turkey also has legislation to keep the foreigners and asylum seekers protected. The Regulation of Temporary Protection (RTP) allows those who are fleeing to Turkey to stay under its protection by making sure they do not have to return to the countries they fled. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) ensures the implementation of the RTP within and around Turkey’s borders.

UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) is working with the government and other organizations, like UNICEF and Global Compact for Refugees, to make sure that the refugees receive proper aid once they are in Turkey’s borders. Living in refugee camps that the country provides, children obtain access to education either in Turkish public schools or temporary education centers. UNHCR encourages social cohesion between the refugees and local community members while monitoring tensions and issues. There are also efforts towards encouraging refugees to begin to rely on themselves and assisting some refugees towards resettlement.

Out of the 4.1 million refugees, about 3.7 million are Syrian. Syria has been in a civil war since 2011 and as a neighboring country, Turkey has been hosting its refugees since 2014.

The rest of the 400,000 refugees are all from different parts of the mostly Middle East but also Africa as well. Around 46% of the 400,000 are from Afghanistan, 39% from Iraq, 11% from Iran and a little less than 2% are from Somalia. The rest of them are other nationalities.

Aiding Countries During Natural Disasters

In addition to taking in refugees, Turkey is very active in its response to natural disasters by sending money or on-site relief. Since the early 2000s, it has conducted emergency foreign aid operations for a number of notable tragedies including:

  • Sending search and rescue teams as well as baby food, food and body bags to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
  • Providing $2 million in aid including medical units, first aid items, tents, blankets, clothes, food and body bags to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
  • Donating $5 million and sending cargo planes with food packages, blankets, sleeping bags and beds to Pakistan for its floods in 2010.
  • Responding the fastest to the typhoons in the Philippines in 2014 by sending a rescue team and around 90 tons of aid including blankets, tents and kitchen equipment.
  • Sending food, clothes and cleaning products including blankets, diapers, sandbags and hygiene supplies to the Balkan floods in 2014.
  • Dispatching a search and rescue team and a medical aid team, and providing 1,000 blankets and 300 parcels of food to the victims of the Nepal earthquake in 2015.
  • Evacuating 1,000 people and sending food and clothes to the 2016 floods in Macedonia.

Helping Struggling Countries

 The last (and possibly the most important) is Turkey’s foreign aid to struggling and underdeveloped countries. Yemen, which is experiencing the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” due to war and famine, has been continuously receiving foreign aid from Turkey. Turkey has two operational offices in Yemen: one in Sana’a and one in Aden. Out of the $7.6 billion that Turkey donated in 2019, almost $5 billion went to Yemen. The offices and funds went toward providing the locals with food and water, preventing diseases like cholera and collecting garbage.

Meanwhile, Turkey provided $2.3 billion to Syrians in Syria during 2019. This aid not only involved helping refugees but also went toward other “diversified humanitarian operations,” according to a conference report of Turkey’s Humanitarian Role. Turkey has worked to relieve the suffering of those still living in Syria near war and siege. For example, in 2016, it was the first to enter Aleppo and assist in the evacuation of its citizens.

In addition, Turkey has been a huge donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has helped those who are struggling in Gaza, Palestine. Turkey has also directly assisted Palestinians by donating $1 billion in 2017 towards community and development projects, specifically building a hospital (in Gaza) and a number of education centers. Recently, a hospital opened that has been assisting those affected by COVID-19. Other notable countries that Turkey has aided in the past and/or continues to aid include Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Georgia.

Turkey: A Model and an Inspiration

Turkey’s demonstration of continuous generosity serves as a leading model for other countries to utilize great amounts of foreign aid in assisting the world’s poor. By combining efforts of government and nonprofits, Turkey has shown that its methods are useful and effective, ones that may serve as a template for others who wish to follow in its footsteps.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Venezuela
As the political, economic and social unrest continues in Venezuela, an increase in awareness and response to human trafficking is more urgent than ever. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits someone for labor, slavery, servitude or sex. Some of the causes of human trafficking (relentless poverty, high unemployment rates, violence, civil turmoil and a lack of human rates) are motivating 6.5 million Venezuelans to flee their country. About 94% of Venezuelans live in poverty, with an estimated 300% increase in human trafficking between 2014 and 2016. The former Venezuelan President, Maduro, administration prioritized maintaining power and carried out tenuous trafficking eradication attempts, including a lack of investigations, prosecutions and convictions. In response to the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis, organizations like UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR and IMO are contributing strong efforts to meet the needs of citizens, refugees and migrants and prevent human trafficking in Venezuela.

Inconsistencies in Human Trafficking Criminalization

From 2013 to 2019, the Maduro administration was responsible for managing economic adversity, increased crime rates and immense migration in an attempt to obviate human trafficking in Venezuela. The Maduro administration utilized Misiones (government social aid programs) as a deterrent to poverty and human trafficking in Venezuela. Misiones benefitted some communities by providing basic needs and education but became ineffective in 2014 due to its shifting political agenda, administrative instability and insufficient funding.

Venezuela has established human trafficking as a crime, but it still does not have an anti-trafficking law and policy. The Maduro administration demonstrated the intention to combat the development of human trafficking. However, Venezuelan law in 2019 only criminalized select forms of trafficking with insufficient penalties, prevention, reporting and protection of vulnerable groups. The human trafficking industry usually percolates between developing countries, making the rapid increase the only quantifiable data. Despite the challenge in obtaining evidence, eradicating human trafficking is most successful through prevention methods, the punishment of the perpetrator and adequate protection for the victim.

UNICEF and UNFPA

Venezuelan women and children are particularly vulnerable to the risk of being trafficked while migrating to neighboring South American countries. The urgency Venezuelan migrants feel to send money back to their families increases the risk for criminal gangs and guerrilla groups to force children into begging and women into sexual and labor exploitation.

On May 28, 2019, UNICEF and UNFPA signed an agreement heightening the humanitarian aid response to nearly 1 million children, pregnant women and mothers. This joined effort provides drinkable water, sexual and reproductive health services, high-quality birthing support, educational resources and information to increase safety for those who gender-based violence affects.

UNHCR

With an 8,000% increase in Venezuelans pursuing refugee status over the past six years, hundreds of thousands prevail without access to basic necessities. Without the authorization to stay in neighboring countries, arriving Venezuelans are highly susceptible to trafficking and desperately in need of documentation, shelter, nourishment and medical attention.

In December 2018, UNHCR collaborated with IOM and host countries to commence the Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants which prioritizes 2.2 million Venezuelan migrant’s needs and improves overall assistance. UNHCR has increased protection along dangerous borders, provided basic resources for relief and ensured that refugees and migrants receive adequate information about advantageous opportunities.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The 1 million Venezuelan children working in the informal labor sector and an estimated 200,000 children in servitude is likely to increase due to human trafficking in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government supported programming to improve conditions for working children and assist victims of human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) imposed a campaign translated as “Your Life Challenges with fiscal support from the U.S. This campaign aims to protect Venezuelan children, women and men from traffickers during their transit. “Your Life Changes” is a song that conveys cautionary implications for travelers who are vulnerable to human trafficking. The campaign includes live demonstrations and the propagation of informative materials to increase awareness of forced labor and human trafficking in Venezuela.

The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)

Colombia currently hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants, making The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) a crucial development in the prevention of and support for youth victims of human trafficking. From March to June 2018, ICBF determined that there were 350 Venezuelan victims of child labor in Columbia. ICBF provides care, programs, assistance, shelter and evaluations for Venezuelan child trafficking victims. The Institute focuses on the prevention of human trafficking through its educational training and increased awareness strategies.

A Continued Response

The responses from International Conventions, government policies and agencies to aid Venezuelans have undoubtedly protected many from their dangerous reality. However, Venezuela has remained a Tier 3 country as the government is not doing enough to eradicate human trafficking. The inconsistencies in the Venezuelan criminalization of trafficking and anti-tracking laws have compromised the well-being and lives of far too many. The Venezuelan crisis has stripped citizens of their humanitarian rights, calling for continued, collective efforts to assist those in need.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian RefugeesAlthough the majority of Malaysian refugees reside in or near the country’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, thousands live outside this area and struggle to access urban centers for crucial services. As a result, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has opened its first outreach and community center outside Kuala Lumpur.

Refugees In Malaysia

Nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR across Malaysia. Currently, refugee community groups estimate that tens of thousands more reside in the country undocumented. Rohingya Muslims make up the majority of Malaysia’s refugee population. Malaysia currently hosts the largest number of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Other refugee populations originate from countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Rising Hostility

Although initially supportive of refugees and asylum seekers, Malaysia has become increasingly hostile towards these vulnerable populations. For example, the country is not a signatory to the 1953 UN Refugee Convention. This means it does not recognize the legal status of refugees and asylum seekers. Classified as illegal immigrants, refugees in Malaysia risk arrest, detention, and deportation. Xenophobia towards foreigners has risen in recent years. Many now view Rohingya refugees as a threat to the nation’s social, economic, and security systems.

Malaysia’s refugee populations are especially vulnerable to aggressive crackdowns on immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysian authorities have increased immigration arrests in refugee and migrant neighborhoods and turned away nearly 30 boats of displaced Rohingyas since the virus began. Human rights groups warn that the virus could spread through the country’s overloaded immigration detention centers, and reduce the likelihood of refugees seeking coronavirus treatment. The Malaysian government’s COVID-19 relief package excludes refugees despite their need for food and essential services.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre

As there are no refugee camps in Malaysia, most settle into urban areas of the greater Klang Valley Region including Kuala Lumpur. However, thousands of refugees live outside this region and struggle to access urban UNHCR centers. These refugees have to travel long distances just to access crucial services. UNHCR is working to make essential services accessible to refugee communities living outside Kuala Lumpur through the establishment of outreach and community care centers. The refugee agency has recently opened a model outreach center in Johor, a southern state near Kuala Lumpur, and plans to develop more centers across Malaysia in the coming years.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre (JOCC) will make essential services accessible to over 16,000 refugees in Southern Malaysia. This will save these vulnerable communities over three and a half hours of travel time and excessive bus fare costs. Moreover, the outreach center is life-changing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will bring vital services to Johor’s refugee population while preventing the movement of people and gathering of crowds in urban areas.

The JOCC will be managed by Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB), a partner of the UNHCR. Since 2013, the Malaysian-based NGO has provided community-based support to Johor’s refugee community. CSB works to ensure the education of refugee children in Johor and develop resilient communities through the establishment of schools, refugee empowerment programs, health services and outreach initiatives like food distributions. The JOCC will help CSB strengthen its existing community-led initiatives and provide a safe space for refugees throughout the state.

The Importance of UNHCR Documentation Services

Outreach and community centers provide critical UNHCR registration and renewal services to Malaysia’s refugee populations. Registering with the UNHCR provides refugees claims of asylum and identification as “Persons of Concern”. UNHCR cards demonstrate official identity and refugee status and are usually respected by Malaysian authorities, protecting refugees from illegal immigration arrests. In addition, UNHCR cards incentivize businesses to employ refugees in the informal economic sector and reduce the foreigner’s fare at public hospitals. Refugees are deemed illegal immigrants with no rights if their UNHCR card is not updated every five years. The JOCC will make UNHCR registration and renewal services more accessible and prevent card expirations from upheaving the lives of Johor’s refugee community. The center will also provide accurate, up to date information on refugee protection in Malaysia, as well as available services.

Looking Ahead

The JOCC is a symbol of hope for refugee populations outside Malaysia’s urban areas. Expanding UNHCR outreach and community centers across the country will give refugees greater access to documentation and essential services. Therefore, this is a vital step in enabling them to contribute to society and rebuild their lives.

Claire Brenner

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in JordanAs of 2019, 83% of the refugee population in Jordan lives in cities, not camps. Many of the refugees in Jordan survive on low-paid work in the informal sector, picking up odd-jobs when they can. Considering the substantial number of refugees living in Jordan, nearly 750,000 registered refugees and almost two million Palestinians, the Jordanian government has protective stipulations in place to preserve jobs for Jordanian citizens.

However, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the informal working sector shut down. Most refugees did not have savings to fall back on while roughly 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line. When Jordan began to reopen in late April, the government mandated that businesses first give employment preferences to Jordanians.

The International Labor Organization recently published a survey confirming that of all the vulnerable working populations, refugees have been hit the hardest amid the pandemic. Nearly all refugees are ineligible for governmental aid. Moreover, only about 30,000 refugee families receive cash assistance from UNHCR. The NGOs in Jordan were non-essential, and many shut down in the spring. However, with easing restrictions, NGOs are reopening and providing necessary assistance again.

Collateral Repair Project

Collateral Repair Project (CRP) is a nonprofit in Amman that provides many services. These services include a community center with programs for refugee children, women and men. Additionally, CRP runs a Basic-Needs Assistance program. It is essentially a food voucher program for refugees to trade in coupons for fresh produce. CRP know how essential this program is for refugees. As a result, it found a way to operate during the shutdown. By partnering with local markets, CRP managed to keep over 700 refugee families fed throughout the lockdown.

Reclaim Childhood

Reclaim Childhood provides sport and leadership training to refugee girls ages six to 18 in Amman and Zarqa. While it had to stop programming during the lockdown, its return is significant. Reclaim Childhood employs nine female coaches, some refugees, some Jordanians and has nearly 300 girls play each season. Refugee children are suffering from the effects of the pandemic. Girls in particular are hurt with schools shutting down. Children from families facing increased poverty are more likely to be forced into child labor or early marriage. Reclaim Childhood, beyond providing these girls with a meal each day, reminds them that they are strong, capable and surrounded by girls and women who support them. Even amid poverty and pandemics, children should always have the right to play, learn and grow.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger (AAH) is an organization that operates in Jordan. It provides water, sanitation, hygiene, food security and livelihoods and mental health services to both host communities and refugee populations. In 2019 alone, it reached 86,522 people with water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Additionally, the organization offers cash-assistance programs for refugees. During the height of the Jordanian lockdown, it became clear to AAH that the majority of people receiving its services also desired a way to access more information about the pandemic and preventative measures. In response to this need, AAH launched a free telephone hotline that offers updated information about the risks associated with the pandemic. They currently have 38 operators managing phone lines, communicating essential information.

Overall, the work of these organizations is essential to the livelihood and safety of many refugees in Jordan, especially during this global pandemic.

– Grace Harlan
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Camps in Greece
Over the past five years, Greece has struggled to accommodate the thousands of migrants arriving on its borders. Since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015, over one million migrants have arrived in Greece in order to seek asylum in the European Union (EU). While many have traveled onward to stay in other European countries, large numbers have remained in migrant camps in Greece. The nation has struggled under this pressure.

Greece’s location makes it a prime port of entry for incoming migrants. However, the country has recently been accused of refusing to accommodate refugees due to overcrowded migrant camps. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation, as Greece has struggled to maintain a high standard of sanitation and healthcare within migrant camps. The EU and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are working to improve the situation and support Greece.

Who Are the Newest Migrants?

The refugees currently arriving to migrant camps in Greece originate from countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Palestine and Syria. Fleeing war-torn countries, oppressive regimes and extreme poverty, they travel through Turkey and Northern Africa, risking their lives to seek asylum in Europe. Greece has become a hotspot for arrivals since the start of the migration crisis. The nation acts as a European port of entry due to its geographic location near Africa and Turkey.

Turkey also worsened the situation by announcing in March 2020 that Europe is open for asylum seekers and urging migrants to travel to Greece. These declarations came in response to the EU not providing funding for Turkey’s own refugee arrivals. In response to Turkey’s statements, Greece declared that it would not accept illegal immigrants and vowed that it would protect Europe’s external borders. However, Turkey does not qualify as a safe third country and therefore, according to EU law, Greece should not return migrants to Turkey. This situation has increased pressure on Greece to accept and support increasing numbers of migrants. No new deal between Turkey and the EU has been reached yet.

Greece’s Actions

In August 2020, Greece was accused of refusing over 1,000 asylum seekers that arrived from Turkey by sea, turning them away in rafts. Pushbacks at land borders and police brutality have also been reported in the last year. These actions go against the EU’s laws regarding respect for human rights. It also goes against the obligation to not return asylum seekers to dangerous environments. The Greek government denies these allegations, suggesting that Turkey is responsible for conducting a misinformation campaign to diminish Greece’s credibility.

However, credible footage and interviewed victims have recently added to the mounting evidence that Greece is not upholding the standard of human rights required by the EU. To ensure the protection of human rights and those of asylum seekers, the UNHCR is currently investigating reports of Greece’s abandonment of migrants. The organization is also supporting migrants’ rights within migrant camps in Greece.

Migrant Camps and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated conditions of the thousands of migrants currently located in migrant camps in Greece, on both the mainland and the islands. Greece’s measures have generally been beneficial in controlling the spread of the virus; however, the migrant camps lack specialized sanitation and healthcare and have become increasingly overcrowded since arrivals spiked in early 2020. These circumstances contribute to an environment that is particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic, the Greek government has tightened restrictions on the movement of migrants in camps. Major outbreaks within the camps have been prevented, but some camps, like those in Moria and Lesbos, have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and imposed strict lockdown measures to avoid spreading the virus. The camps are also routinely providing thorough health checks. Furthermore, in an effort to address the overcrowding of migrant camps, officials have been relocating migrants to hotels or apartments, which sometimes reduces the availability of public services.

In Search of Solutions

Greece’s migrant crisis has continued since 2015 and has recently been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, tensions with Turkey and an increase in asylum seekers. Despite the country’s best efforts to control the situation, migrant camps in Greece are under extreme pressure.

In September 2020, UNHCR officials visited Greece to assess the situation and create a plan to help Greece cope, focusing especially on accommodation and the COVID-19 response within migrant camps. The UNHCR is now working with Greek authorities to implement accommodation transitions and cash-based assistance programs. It is also calling upon the EU and its member states to increase their support for Greece through financial assistance and the relocation of asylum-seekers.

Through these measures, Greece’s new and current migrants are receiving support until the EU can provide increased assistance. Solving the migrant crisis in the long-term, however, will require coordinated efforts between the EU, surrounding nations and humanitarian organizations.

Angelica Smyrnios
Photo: Flickr

 COVID-19 in Sudan
Sudan, a country in northeastern Africa, has weathered a civil war that resulted in the creation of South Sudan, a coup d’état and food shortages, all within the last decade. The results of these events include a stunted healthcare system and an influx of refugees, which has affected the nation’s response to the coronavirus. With the number of cases reaching tens of thousands, Sudan’s leaders must find a way to keep citizens and refugees safe from the virus. Here are six facts about COVID-19 in Sudan.

6 Facts About COVID-19 in Sudan

  1. As of August 2020, the number of cases in Sudan is continuing to rise. The total number of cases is over 13,000, with 833 deaths. Most of the cases are in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Since March, the virus has spread to all 18 regions of the country. This is alarming because rural areas do not have the same access to healthcare as the cities.
  2. Sudan’s healthcare system was fragile before COVID-19 entered its borders. Before 2020, an estimated 9.3 million out of Sudan’s 41.8 million people lacked basic healthcare and were in need of humanitarian assistance. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, community resources and previously accessible services are limited. For migrants and displaced communities, losing what little healthcare they did have puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
  3. The government has restricted movement within the country. Since healthcare infrastructure is still being built, the government is taking containment measures into its own hands. While lockdown restrictions have eased in Khartoum, a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. is still in effect for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, though a handful of internal borders reopened and are resuming bus transportation, wearing face masks and social distancing are still required. As of August 2020, Port Sudan International Airport remains closed for entering and exiting the country; however, Khartoum’s airport is open for repatriation flights of Sudanese citizens stranded abroad because of the virus.
  4. At the same time as the pandemic, Sudan is experiencing heavy flooding, the worst in a century. As of September 2020, 125,000 refugees and displaced persons are suffering from these floods. Most of the flooding is in regions of East Sudan, Darfur, White Nile and Khartoum. As a result, makeshift shelters, latrines and buildings were destroyed, heightening the risk of disease in general, let alone the risk of COVID-19 in Sudan. Without access to latrines and clean water, many refugees in these communities are unable to wash their hands regularly, an essential COVID-19 prevention measure. Additionally, since the roads are too muddy for transportation to get through, these communities are not receiving the much-needed aid as quickly as they should.
  5. Luckily, global aid organizations are responding to this call for help. Working with the Sudanese government, the UNHCR is providing emergency aid to the refugees and displaced communities across the country. They predict the results of this flooding will be long term and have successfully appealed for support in this endeavor.
  6. Turkey is also assisting in Sudan’s battle against the virus. The organization Turkish Red Crescent’s donation has 1,236 items, including ventilators, masks and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Irfan Neziroglu, Turkey’s ambassador to Sudan, welcomed the donations when they arrived by way of an airplane in Khartoum.

Sudan was already enduring the aftermath of a war, political unrest and food shortages before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, unprecedented flooding destroyed the lives of over 100,000 refugees and displaced Sudanese. However, this has not stopped the nation’s efforts to contain the virus to the best of its ability. With help from humanitarian organizations, COVID-19 in Sudan will hopefully decline.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

 

Increase in Poverty in Libya
Following the 2009 overthrow of the authoritarian Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, the country underwent serious social upheaval. Many citizens faced an increase in poverty in Libya. Libya is home to a wealth of natural resources. Markers such as life expectancy and literacy rates are substantially higher than other countries in the region. Nevertheless, ongoing political conflict combined with various refugee crises has dramatically elevated the number of people living below the poverty line. In fact, roughly one-third of the population lives in poverty, which is about 2.2 million people.

Violence and Politics

Numerous domestic parties and foreign countries have a stake in the political landscape. As a result, violence and fractured political relationships characterize Post-Qaddafi governance in Libya. Current Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leads the Government of National Accord (GNA). It has garnered substantial support from the international community. However, the presence of militias and former Qaddafi supporters in the region have created lasting violence and contributed greatly to the impoverishment of its citizens. Opposition leader Khalifa Haftar has been leading a violent campaign against the GNA for the past several years. He envisions himself “a bulwark against extremists,” but his ties to the Islamic State worry his critics.

The Economic Aspect

Additionally, there are various international actors with an economic interest in the region. Countries like Italy, Russia and Turkey all have investments in Libya’s economic prosperity, and these investments tie closely to its remarkable oil and natural gas reserves. Historically, these countries have contributed to poverty in Libya by exploiting these natural resources. Ultimately, the conflict prolonged and intensified. It led to an increase in poverty in Libya by foreign leaders with personal interests in the outcome of the war. The fighting has destroyed important infrastructures such as roads and functioning sewage systems. This leaves many Libyans without access to clean water or food.

Improvements to Fight Libya’s Poverty

The political instability and constant violence increased poverty in Libya over the last decade. Moreover, the 90% of refugees migrating to Europe from Libya has compounded it. About 217,002 Libyans are currently displaced within the country, according to the UNHCR. This is in addition to another 43,113 asylum seekers who are passing through in search of a country that will take them in. Also, the number of “people of concern,” or those in dire need of aid, has increased by 50% since 2018. The political and social infrastructure to handle such numbers of displaced people is not available. However, groups like the IRC and UNHCR are working to improve the lives of Libyan citizens and asylum seekers. These organizations, among others, provide services such as community development centers and telephone hotlines in order to help identify, register and assist those who need it.

Furthermore, they work to provide humanitarian assistance to refugee camps and end the practice of detention centers in the region. Although terrorist and militia attacks on foreign aid centers have complicated efforts, there is noticeable improvement due to programs like these.

The Outlook

Ultimately, political violence and the competing desires of colonial powers has resulted in the increase of poverty in Libya in recent years. Religious conflict and foreign involvement have made the road to progress difficult. Aid will only reach 39% of those identified to be in need of critical assistance in 2020, according to the U.N. However, the outlook is not entirely bleak: the international aid community is working to provide relief to those in need. Also, the natural resources Libya possesses put the country in a unique position to recover and prosper. The region draws more international attention and humanitarian organizations continue to direct resources to Libyans in need. Therefore, there is reason to be hopeful that the country will soon be out of poverty.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Montenegro
Montenegro is a country located in the western Balkans. Neighbouring Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the country spans approximately 13,800 square kilometers of land. With an approximate population of 622,300 people, the country has very few homeless people at an estimate of 300 people. This is partly due to the country’s high socioeconomic development. With a low number of homeless people when compared to the majority of the globe, the Montenegrin government has recently taken interest in minimizing the number of people in need. Here is some information about homelessness in Montenegro.

How Montenegro Defines Homelessness

The Montenegrin government officially defined the term “homeless person” in 2013. The legislation passed to officially recognize a homeless person as an individual that does not possess any property or means of living. They are expected to reside within a public space or center that is not habitable.

Four years later, there was a revision of the definition. In 2017, a homeless person was now defined as an individual that does not possess a residential address and is located within a public space or center that is not habitable.

The previous definition categorized people living in temporary conditions and conventional properties as homeless. However, the revised definition excluded them from being classified as homeless.

The Current Statistics

Montenegro’s government currently has insufficient information for a good estimate of the number of homeless people in the country. The 2013 national legislation is the only place where classification was introduced. As a result, homelessness in the country did not have accumulated data.

Alongside introducing the classification of a “homeless person” in 2013, the Strategy for Social and Child Protection System planned an initiative. This initiative determined the number of such individuals within the country. Due to the lack of existing records and failed attempts to implement the project, the statistics are only derived through social service facilities and unofficial sources. In 2015, several social service facilities reported that 36 individuals were homeless in Montenegro while other unofficial sources reported a different number ranging up to 300.

Government Initiatives to Fight Homelessness

The low amount of homelessness in Montenegro is in part due to several government initiatives that have helped Montenegrins for decades. The global housing market remains highly unstable and worrisome to many. However, Montenegro’s government initiated its year-long Housing Mortgage for Low-income Persons project in 2010. This project yielded an overwhelmingly positive effect. Approximately 433 families and 1,239 Montenegrins did not have any more housing issues.

The country’s government launched phase two of the project nearly six years later in December 2016 to further deal with the housing issues. With a heavily funded €20 million project, the government was able to solve housing issues of more than 500 families. It also facilitated in subsidized mortgage and permanent housing processes.

As a neighbor to struggling nations such as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the government of Montenegro has facilitated approximately 150,000 displaced refugees over the years. Working alongside the UNHCR, the country has assisted and provided asylum for many. With displaced individuals looking for housing facilities within Montenegro, the country’s government has constructed more than 1,300 housing units for refugees to settle into.

With strong project management and several positive initiatives, the Montenegrin government has been very keen on minimizing homelessness in Montenegro. Alongside the continued efforts on the government-level and support from international agencies such as the UNHCR and Regional Housing Programme, Montenegro has been continually providing its citizens and refugees with permanent and guaranteed housing for years.

Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

refugee storiesOf the world’s population, 79.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. There are currently about 26 million refugees worldwide. Many of these individuals have been forced to flee their homes, experiencing extreme difficulty and hardship. At the peak of the 2015 European refugee crisis, headlines surrounding refugees’ stories of fleeing their home countries saturated the news. Combined with sobering photographs, these refugee stories provided the world with a glimpse into the realities of what thousands of individuals and families were experiencing and enduring. As the years have passed, this coverage has diminished, but thousands of refugees continue to flee their homes to find asylum elsewhere.

Refugee Stories in the News

One World Media, an organization supporting independent media coverage on circumstances in developing countries, advocates for continued media coverage of the European Refugee Crisis. To do so, it launched the Refugee Reporting Award. In partnership with the British Red Cross, the award encourages accurate and empathetic coverage of the state of the continuous refugee crisis.

The Executive Director of Communications and Advocacy at British Red Cross, Zoë Abrams, expounds on the importance of telling refugee stories. She explains that these stories are key to breaking down misconceptions and bias surrounding refugees and migrants. Abrams further states that “the relative trickle of stories nowadays means it is easy to wrongly assume that the situation for people on the move has dramatically improved.” This, however, is far from true, as issues regarding migration have increased across the globe.

How We Tell Refugee Stories

Although it is important to compile and share refugee stories, the manner in which individuals and their stories are portrayed should be carefully considered. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) advises readers not to focus on refugees’ pasts, but to consider what individuals can accomplish despite what they have experienced.

The UNHCR shared the story of Shahm Maskoun, a Syrian refugee now living in France. He was finding great success in his life in Syria, but then war broke out and he was forced to flee, leaving everything behind. When Maskoun arrived in France, he had nothing and was very lonely. However, taking advantage of the support offered to refugees and migrants, he received some financial and health support. He eventually enrolled in a master’s program and then began giving back, assisting students in his classes and using his skills in internships. Reflecting on his own experiences, Maskoun says that he wants people to understand that refugees themselves aren’t the crisis, but the manner in which the media tells their stories can be problematic, insinuating they are defined by the hardships they have experienced.

The Importance of Refugee Stories

All types of refugee stories, including those highlighting the difficulties that individuals experienced while fleeing their homes and those describing the success found by refugees in other countries, have their place. A recent study shows that children need to hear refugee stories because it makes them more compassionate and empathetic, especially if refugee children are living in their communities and attending their schools.

Testing three groups of children, the results illustrated the connection between empathy and a willingness to help others. In this case, hearing the stories and experiences of the refugee children who would be joining their school class made children act accordingly with kindness and mindfulness toward their new classmates.

Compiling and telling refugee stories can be a useful tool in educating and informing the public about the state of the refugee crisis. As these stories foster empathy, it is likely that communities will remember refugees and seek to help provide them with relief and safety.

– Kalicia Bateman
Photo: Flickr