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COVID-19 in Colombia
Officials have reported 16,295 cases of COVID-19 in Colombia and 592 deaths as of May 19, 2020. In an effort to contain the virus, the government has closed all international travel. It has also recently extended its nationwide stay-at-home order through May 25. Testing is available at the Colombian National Institute of Health facilities.

Most public locations remain closed. Individuals over the age of 70 will need to self-isolate until at least the end of May 2020. Municipal authorities allow one hour per day of exercise, at prescribed times, for individuals ages 18 to 60. Though the virus poses a nationwide public health threat, here are three particularly at-risk groups in Colombia.

COVID-19 in Colombia: 3 At-Risk Groups

  1. Indigenous Peoples: With historically limited access to food, shelter and health care, indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities and towns remain unprepared for the pandemic. A scarcity of clean water and hygiene products has left many without the means to maintain personal cleanliness and prevent infection. In addition, some of these semi-nomadic groups are now at risk of starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, indigenous communities cannot move around to access their means of subsistence. They may be unable to grow their own food or survive by working temporary jobs. Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) are working to raise awareness about this urgent issue and garner support from Colombian authorities. Along with the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, AI petitioned the government to deliver food and supplies to at-risk indigenous groups. In response to these efforts, Colombian officials initiated a campaign to provide indigenous communities with food and supplies. The first round of deliveries went out in April 2020 but still left many without aid. AI and partner organizations will continue working with leaders of the campaign to reach more people in future deliveries.
  2. Refugees: Venezuelan refugees are another group at high risk due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Colombia. The virus has compounded instability from low wages and rampant homelessness. Many have lost temporary jobs as economic concerns heighten nationwide. With fear and social unrest on the rise, refugees also face increased stigmatization. Some states, for example, are forcibly returning refugees in response to the virus. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Migrant Organization (IOM) have instigated a call to action. Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, explained in an April 2020 statement that “COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill – but the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased and our concerted action remains more necessary than ever.” U.N. representatives are seeking out innovative ways to protect Colombia’s migrant population and provide refugees with information, clean water and sanitation. Some organizations have also set up isolation and observation spaces for those who have tested positive. Others, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are distributing food and supplies to refugees and their host communities.
  3. Coffee Farmers: As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout South America and the world, Colombian coffee farmers are grappling with new economic uncertainties. Since extreme terrain limits the use of mechanized equipment, these farmers tend to rely on manual labor. In a typical year, some farms hire between 40% and 50% of their workforce from migrant populations. Now, however, travel restrictions have left many with a shortage of manpower. Large-scale farms are seeking out unemployed retail and hospitality workers from local areas, offering pay rates at a 10% to 20% increase. On smaller farms, family members can manage the crops. However, medium-sized operations, in desperate need of labor and unable to match the wages of larger competitors, are feeling a significant strain. Even the largest farms could struggle to meet their expected harvest in 2020. Public health officials have ordered strict distancing measures in the fields, which reduces picking capacity. Though disruptive in the short term, these efforts should help contain the spread of the virus and allow farmers to resume full operation as soon as possible.

COVID-19 in Colombia has undergone rapid growth, bringing economic and social challenges in its train. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon world leaders to support vulnerable populations in Colombia and help the nation emerge from this world crisis.

– Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Worldreader Empowers Communities to Create Lifelong Readers
Illiteracy is not much of a problem in developed countries, but for developing countries, rates of illiteracy are high. Around 617 million children are not meeting the minimum reading level because the regions they live in do not always stress education as much or it simply is not available. Illiteracy is a huge problem, especially in this day and age. It can cause an average decrease of 35 percent in income, and a lack of reading can lead to a lack of cognitive development. Worldreader empowers communities to create lifelong readers.

Worldreader Empowers Readers

When people have an education, they tend to give posterity a better chance. Children born to literate mothers are 50 percent more likely to live past 5 years old. Worldreader is an application with a library of 35,000 books in 52 different languages. It is available on advanced but affordable e-readers and other devices. The content of these books depends on the reader but all titles aim to be culturally relevant.

There are four categories of reading on the application. Worldreader has tailored the programs to each of its audiences to best address the main problems for each crowd. These programs include pre-reading, library reading, lifelong reading and school reading.

Pre-reading is for younger people up to age 19 but can also help illiterate adults. This program promotes positive interaction, cognitive development and school preparedness. Library reading focuses on promoting reading culture through libraries no matter the age. The goal of this program is to get more people to visit libraries and more librarians to emerge in their areas.

Lifelong reading is for people from 16 and up to read digital books on the Worldreader Open Library application. This program seeks to build a reading habit in people and promote an overall joy of reading. It also wishes to gain more regular readers by transitioning users to readers. That may sound similar, but really it is for a noncommittal user to develop a reading habit and become a lifelong reader.

Lastly, school reading is just how it sounds. School programs have e-readers with books for any age or grade level, language or even cultural context. It has a teaching program for educators to help cultivate learning and reading cultures. Worldreader also works to train families, schools and libraries so they can reap the most benefit from its programs.

Worldreader’s partners help to make this happen. Worldreader’s partners provide the resources that it needs to reach people in need. Its main partners are Binu, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Opera Mini. Binu helps to promote Worldreader on its Moya app. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation helps to launch e-readers in all national Kenyan libraries. Opera Mini promotes Worldreader to its users from 34 sub-Saharan African countries. Other prominent partners include USAID, The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LinkedIn, Pearson and Amazon. Penguin Random House, Sub-Saharan Publishers, Longhorn Publishers, Modjaji Books and Rosetta Books are the partners that help to publish and translate books for Worldreader.

Worldreader’s Accomplishments

The year 2018 saw an increase of 3 million readers with over 10 million readers overall. Worldreader has gained 100 million hours of reading since 2014 and has received $12.1 million total in donations. These donations have made it much easier for Worldreader to reach more potential readers from around the world. These funds mostly went toward program services, but other notable areas are management and fundraising. Worldreader empowers communities through this funding. As of 2018, Worldreader is already in 49 countries including Mexico, Ghana, India, Kenya and Jordan.

The Future for Worldreader

Worldreader empowers communities to improve literacy rates. Worldreader’s plans for the future consist of continuing to provide cheap but good technology for under-resourced people, which should in turn help schools to save on book money. The application also plans to expand on its pre-existing book collection. While 35,000 titles is a lot, it aims to add much more. It will also collect the data from its readers to provide future insights into technology improvements. Through this data collection, Worldreader will be able to improve its technology and books. Worldreader encourages sharing costs and responsibilities for sustainable impact. Its donors and supporters help to do so. Worldreader is always searching for more supporters to bring reading to the under-resourced. The Worldreader website has options to sponsor schools, volunteer or join its Reading for Opportunity campaign.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ending Violence in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a small African nation that lies between the more well-known countries Ghana and Mali. Like many other underprivileged nations, Burkina Faso experiences excessive rates of violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations noticed and began efforts to calm the violence. Keep reading to find out who and what organizations are ending violence in Burkina Faso.

The Statistics

In Burkina Faso, the United Nations’ report reveals the harsh reality that citizens live through. The homicide rate is 9.8 per 100,000 people. The homicide rate for men is 14.1 out of 100,000 people, while the homicide rate for females is 5.2. In addition, with a population of 20,321,378, the total number of homicides for 2019 was 1,991 deaths. For comparison, the homicide rate in the United States in 2018 was 5.0 people per 100,000 people, which is nearly 50 percent less Burkina Faso’s homicide rate. These astronomical homicide rates are why ending violence in Burkina Faso is a crucial issue.

How Violence Affects the Nation

The extreme homicide rate in Burkina Faso is detrimental to society, but in many more ways than just an increased death toll. Between January 26 and February 15, 2020, approximately 150,000 people fled their villages in the Sahel region. In addition, United Nations News reported that nearly 4,000 people flee their communities every day. The violence in Burkina Faso forces communities from their villages. Additionally, the violence forced over 2,000 schools to close due to threats toward education personnel, military usurping school facilities and assaults directed at the schools themselves in February 2019. As a result, about 133,333 children had their education interrupted, and 3,050 teachers became jobless.

Who is Ending Violence in Burkina Faso?

Fortunately, the violence in Burkina Faso is not going unnoticed. Many different humanitarian organizations are working toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a branch of the United Nations that focuses on the well-being of refugees, people forcibly removed from their communities and stateless people. The UNHCR is working to provide safe zones for fleeing individuals. Its distinct focus is relocating the elderly, children and single women.


The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) works to decrease the impact of the closure of schools on the youth’s education. Additionally, UNICEF works toward this goal by implementing innovative learning methods. For example, radio learning is a way that UNICEF works toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. Radio learning is an inventive way to provide education to the many children who have to flee their homes because of violence. The radio lessons follow a basis of literacy and arithmetic.
 Moreover, UNICEF works with education and government officials to bring a resolution to the table. The organization works on the ground to assist teachers in resolving the threat of violence to their schools. Also, UNICEF provides psychological support to students and teachers who have become emotionally scarred from the harsh reality they witness daily.


– Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Understanding the Venezuela Crisis
Venezuela’s socioeconomic debacle has been grabbing headlines over the past few years, especially as the crippling inflation rate—recently eclipsing 10,000 percent—hit the country’s economy and began to unravel its health sector. But these are just two of the key components to understanding the Venezuela crisis and its various impacts as the humanitarian crisis continues to debilitate the region following many years of unrest.

Many Years of Strife

Since the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the appointment of the current leader, Nicolás Maduro, the country has experienced a dire financial crisis as a result of low oil prices and financial mismanagement. Various power struggles and changes within the country’s National Assembly marked the political and humanitarian crisis that ensued.

The country’s military largely continues to back Maduro despite domestic, international and widespread condemnation of his authoritarian government. The political crisis has now spread to all levels of the economy and society, with nearly 4.5 million individuals having fled Venezuela due to the escalating unrest.

Following anti-government protests in 2014 after the victory of Maduro’s party the previous year, the economy and health care sector began their plunge and had all but collapsed by 2016. Malnutrition, child mortality and unemployment rates began to rise as a result. The United Nations estimates that the undernourishment rate in the country has quadrupled since the year 2012, putting more than 300,000 lives at risk due to limited access to medical treatment and medicines. Aid and relief efforts continue to face major hindrances due to mounting strife.

As the economic and humanitarian crisis grew over recent years, there was significant backlash and condemnation from foreign nations including the U.S. followed by significant international sanctions, especially over the increasingly authoritarian measures that Maduro took to pass laws autonomously and virtually unchecked.

Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis

Another dimension to understanding the Venezuela crisis is its refugee crisis as the economic and political problems have resulted in a dire humanitarian emergency. Since the beginning of the crisis back in 2014, over 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Mass displacement and humanitarian challenges continue mostly unabated due to integration obstacles, immigration and border pressures.

In 2019, the UNHCR-led joint effort, the Regional Refugee and Migrant Rescue Response Plan, along with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) called for the provision of $738 million in assistance to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America that were dealing with the impacts of the migrant exodus. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan refugee crisis remains one of the most underfunded in the world.

Aid and Other Positive Developments

Throughout 2019, the Venezuelan government under Maduro refused aid relief headed by Brazil, Colombia and the U.S., relying on Russia’s 300 tons of humanitarian assistance instead which included food as well as medical supplies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been overseeing foreign aid, especially medical and food supplies from Russia and other countries. However, at the same time, aid relief and efforts such as the distribution of crucial medicines have stalled owing to the escalating political crisis and mounting corruption.

The U.S. and President Donald Trump have not only pledged humanitarian financial assistance but have declared their support for the democratic opposition group led by Juan Guaidó. In October 2019, USAID signed a major development agreement with Guaidó’s shadow government, thereby raising aid and assistance to $116 million and allocating a further $568 million to helping Venezuelans displaced by the conflict. Though the U.S. and its allies remain committed to toppling Maduro’s regime and reinstating rule of law, they are in serious conflict with Maduro’s international allies, namely Russia, Turkey and China.

Hope for the Future

The Center for Prevention Action from the Council on Foreign Relations believes it is imperative to consider important policy options to help promote democracy as well as channel crucial humanitarian aid and assistance, perhaps even by means of forced humanitarian intervention and post-transition stabilization.

Even though the Venezuelan crisis at times may seem to be reaching an impasse, it remains possible that the humanitarian and pro-democracy efforts of foreign powers could ultimately lead to a post-Maduro scenario. The year 2020 will be an important year in determining the ultimate fate of the country and the internal power struggles. The international community will hold an indispensable role in helping to create a better understanding of the Venezuela crisis and to help create a promising future for the country.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Myths about RefugeesRefugees have long been a much-debated topic in the United States and Europe. As the internet and media technology grows, so does the potential for the rapid spread of false information. It is imperative to separate fear-driven inaccuracies from tangible facts in order to dissolve inaccurate myths about refugees. Here are 10 myths about refugees.

10 Myths About Refugees

  1. Refugees pose a health risk to U.S. citizens. Refugees’ medical problems usually arise from a lack of access to appropriate medical care in their home country. Other refugees may also contract illnesses while running from persecution. Either way, preventative measures are readily available. Medical treatment in first-asylum camps and in refugee processing centers are two examples of these measures.
  2. The U.S. does not take sufficient preventative measures to make sure terrorists posing as refugees do not enter the country. The refugee screening process is one of the most rigorous screenings for people entering the U.S. The entire process takes approximately 18 to 24 months and involves collaboration with a number of security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The U.S. considers fewer than 1 percent of incoming refugees for residency in the country.
  3. Smartphones are not a necessity for refugees. Social connectivity across the internet platform is a vital part of job networking, maintaining finances and staying up-to-date with the news. Although refugees should have access to smartphones, less than 50 percent of them have access due to the inflated price rates for smartphone plans and maintenance.
  4. Refugees and migrants are the same. Refugees and migrants are distinctly different groups of people. Refugees are people who must leave their homes and flee for safety because of life-threatening internal conflict happening within their homeland. Migrants are people who voluntarily leave their homeland in order to search for better job opportunities and living arrangements.
  5. Refugees take away jobs from local communities. Unemployment exists independently from refugees seeking asylum in other countries. In fact, migrants and refugees have helped increase the workforce in the U.S. by 47 percent over the past 10 years. This is because they tend to take jobs that most people are not willing to do, thus filling in gaps in the job market.
  6. Most refugees seeking asylum are young men. Approximately 75 percent of incoming Syrian refugees are women and children, according to UNHCR. Additionally, more than half of the refugee population entering Europe to seek aid are women and children.
  7. Refugees are all Muslims. Although Muslims do fall into the mix of refugees that are fleeing war and persecution, not all refugees are Muslims. Only 24,768 refugees who arrived between January 2016 and August 2016 were Muslim, according to the U.S. Office of Admissions Refugee Processing Center. More than 30,000 refugees were either Christian or of another religious faith.
  8. All refugees that come to the U.S. lead financially comfortable lives. This varies substantially based on their origins and other important factors. For example, Russian and Iranian refugees may come to the U.S with better education and income than the U.S. average. On the other hand, fewer than 60 percent of Liberian and Somali refugees that arrived were literate in their native language.
  9. Refugees are exempt from paying taxes. Refugees have an obligation to pay employment, property, sales and other types of taxes just as every U.S. citizen. However, they cannot vote.
  10. History is repeating itself and the inevitable is bound to happen, no matter what people try to do to prevent mass persecutions. Refugee crises like these stir up fears that a travesty could occur in the near future. People should use education about history should as a motivator to take preventative measures to ensure that such an attack on human rights may never happen again. Displacement could be a sign of dictatorships forming, but through international unity and intervention, preventing such formations is possible.

The inaccuracy of these 10 myths about refugees can be harmful to their integration into new countries like the U.S. With further understanding and knowledge, however, their refugees’ transition into a new life should be much easier.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen
The Muhamasheen (the marginalized) pejoratively known as the Akhdam (servants) constitute a distinct community in Yemen that the broader Yemeni society consigns to the lowest part of the social hierarchy. Though Yemen has officially abolished its caste system, the legacy of centuries of discrimination persists today. Below are eight facts about the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

8 Facts About the Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen

  1. Over 50 percent of the Muhamasheen population suffers from unemployment. Systemic exclusion from most employment in the agrarian sector, despite the community’s concentration in rural areas, contributes heavily to this unemployment rate. Muhamasheen workers compete for nomadic seasonal labor such as thrashing grain at harvest time. These deeply-embedded exclusionary practices cement the subordinate status of the Muhamasheen.
  2. Entrenched custom relegates urban sanitation jobs, such as street cleaners, to the Muhamasheen. Thus many urban Muhamasheen people encounter and treat waste products that higher castes view as contaminating and taboo. Inadequate compensation and the possibility of pretextual termination with little notice often awaits Muhamasheen sanitation workers employed by the municipal authorities in the cities.
  3. Inadequate housing, vulnerable to destruction by natural disasters, depresses the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. Rather than the solid and sturdy adobe construction characterizing traditional Yemeni home structures, many Muhamasheen reside in homes constructed from cardboard and thatch or even from sheets extracted from empty containers. Exposure to the elements, whether intense heat and cold or inundation during the rainy season, invariably characterizes life in these dwellings. Other Muhamasheen live in small and cramped concrete structures, the living conditions therein little better than those residing in makeshift cardboard structures.
  4. Southeastern Yemen’s October 2008 floods were particularly devastating to the Muhamasheen. In response, UNHCR provided shelters to Muhamasheen reduced to the status of internally displaced persons. The Yemeni NGO al-Dumir implemented this initiative, encompassing the construction of 100 two-room shelters, with financial backing from the Japanese government amounting to USD $300,224. Akhdam also received household items from UNHCR in the course of this relief program due to how flooding affected it.
  5. Regular exposure to the elements and inadequate access to clean water subject the Muhamasheen to increased health hazards. Respiratory and ocular infections and skin diseases all pose a greater risk to the Muhamasheen than to other groups. Muhamasheen children, many coming of age in lowland drainage areas or near landfills, are more likely to die of malaria and chronic infectious kidney disease than of other illnesses. Poor sanitation contributes to a high rate of infant deaths from parasites, while malnourishment worsens both maternal and infant mortality rates. The marginalization of the Muhamasheen limits the willingness of the health care sector to treat them.
  6. In 2014, a UNICEF study concluded that poor literacy rates pervade the Muhamasheen community. A survey sample consisting of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, encompassing 51,406 persons, yielded a literacy rate of one in five among Muhamasheen ages 15 and older. Survey data yielded school enrollment rates of two in four for youths between ages 6 and 17.
  7. In 2014, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor administered a survey of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, which revealed significant inequities in education, sanitation, shelter and medical care. The following year, the government of Yemen began designing initiatives for the improvement of the social and economic standing of the Muhamasheen community. These ameliorative programs include the creation of family-targeted financial inclusion programs involving both the Social Welfare Fund Office in Taiz Governorate and nonprofit organizations such as Alamal Microfinance Bank. Other initiatives encompass enforcing the right of Muhamasheen children to attend school without discrimination and providing students with uniforms and school supplies.
  8. Testimony that WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights obtained attests to the epidemic of public abuse of Muhamasheen women by non-Muhamasheen men. Out of this research, the organizations above filmed an award-winning documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” successfully spreading awareness of these endemic attacks. Given the Muhamasheen community’s limitations of access to the full weight of the justice system, such documentaries as “Breaking the Silence” play an invaluable role in revealing the systemic abuses contributing to the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

The marginal living conditions of the Muhamasheen, a legacy of centuries of caste discrimination, remains a serious issue in Yemen. However, NGOs such as UNICEF have increasingly paid more attention to the community’s plight and designed initiatives to improve the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. These measures, alongside the awareness-spreading efforts of such organizations as WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, show that there is hope for the future of the Muhamasheen.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Helping Syrian Refugees After Arriving
The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for more than eight years since the civil war that started in 2011. More than 5 million people have fled Syria, while many more were displaced within Syria itself. Externally, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have the highest proportion of Syrian refugees in the world. Since refugees often try to live in urban areas for better employment opportunities, they frequently struggle with financial resources and end up living below the poverty line. In response, domestic and international organizations are helping Syrian refugees after arriving in each of these three countries.

Lebanon

As of June 30, 2016, Lebanon had the most Syrian refugees relative to its population, which was about 173 refugees per 1,000 people, or a total of 1,035,700. Lebanon also hosts a high number of refugees compared to its GDP, equating to 20 refugees per $1 million in GDP. While Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees, it is struggling to provide for them. There are around a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line. These refugees often have little to no financial resources, which leads them to live in crowded homes with other families in more than 2,100 communities.

One organization helping Syrian refugees in the country is the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication (LADC), which emerged to help both Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Its projects range from community-based projects to aid projects with both local and more than 500 international volunteers helping to establish more than 6,500 beneficiaries. One of its projects was the Paradise Wall, a community art project to smooth the integration process between 120 Syrian and Lebanese children by asking them to work together creatively to produce a wall full of designs.

Turkey

Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – currently at 3.3 million. Authorities claim that there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees, but that they have not registered. This is because they see Turkey as a transit country or fear deportation. The fear of deportation comes from the fact that Turkey offers temporary protection status to Syrians instead of internationally-recognized refugee status. This increases the likelihood of Turkey deporting the refugees while avoiding the risk of receiving international renouncement for doing so. Most refugees attempt to settle in urban areas in these countries, as opposed to refugee camps where only 8 percent of registered Syrian refugees live.

In Turkey, the UNCHR, EU and WHO have come together to fund the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which is a multi-regional organization that does a wide variety of work to help Syrian refugees after arriving in Turkey. It has many projects ranging from legal counseling to psycho-social support for children through playful activities. One of its projects titled Women and Girls’ Safe Space emerged to offer training sessions on women’s reproductive health.

Jordan

Jordan is proportionally the second-largest host of the Syrian refugees, sheltering about 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2016. Fifty-one percent of these refugees are children and 4 percent are elderly, meaning that 55 percent are dependents who rely on the remaining 45 percent of adult, working-age Syrian refugees. Consequently, more than 80 percent of them live under the poverty line.

To deal with this, the Jordanian government has initialized formal processes to help them escape poverty. In 2017 alone, the country issued 46,000 work permits so that Syrian refugees work. Recently, in collaboration with UNHCR, the International Labor Organization (ILO) established an employment center, The Zaatari Office of Employment, in the biggest camp for Syrian refugees. By August 2017, around 800 refugees benefited from this center by registering official work permits in place of one-month leave permits.

While the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, it is important to note that many are helping Syrian refugees to settle and integrate into their host societies. Many countries from all over the world are starting to resettle the refugees within their borders to lift off the burden of poverty and overcrowding in certain areas. People often recognize Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for their willingness to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees, but this must not erase the work a variety of organizations are doing to help refugees after arriving in their new homes.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr