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Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country roughly three times the size of Texas, rich in fertile land, minerals, precious metals and potential for green energy initiatives. Despite this, approximately 72% of Congolese people live in extreme poverty. Located in central Africa, the DRC has experienced decades of dictatorship and civil war after gaining its independence.

The DRC enjoyed a brief respite from tension when its civil war ended in 2003, and in 2019, the nation saw its first peaceful transfer of power since independence. Though these developments are promising, many of the nearly 90 million people who call DRC home do not consistently have a home. Here are some facts about homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are worth knowing.

Understanding Homelessness and Displacement

Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is better understood in terms of displacement. While displaced people may actually have had resources to build a home, they have been forced to move repeatedly, usually suddenly, because of violence or disaster. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that more than five million people are currently internally displaced in the DRC, making up one-tenth of the entire world’s internally displaced people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is second only to Syria in terms of the magnitude of its displacement crisis.

Several factors overlap to contribute to homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Violence by armed groups, ethnic conflicts, natural disasters, joblessness and scarcity of accessible resources all play a significant role in displacement. Any of the more than 120 armed groups operating in the region may clash with one another or the military because of political tensions or illegal mining operations. On the other hand, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, fires, floods and landslides may combine with these conflicts to cause homelessness.

A significant number of the DRC’s homeless people are refugees from other countries. While Congolese people often leave the DRC for other countries, about half a million displaced people in the DRC are actually foreign refugees themselves. They come mainly from Burundi, Rwanda and the Central African Republic. Many of these refugees have fled disaster, violence or instability in their own home countries. Because of this, patterns of displacement are complex, ever-changing and challenging to track.

Homelessness Among Children

Families are especially impacted by these incessant conflicts, and the instability takes a toll on children. Farming families miss planting and harvesting times due to drought or forced flight from their homes. Other displaced people may be exploited for prostitution or child labor. Similarly, some children whose parents die live unattended in the streets. In the capital of Kinshasa alone, there are about 30,000 “street children” who are at risk for assault and exploitation every day.

To combat these obstacles, between 2015 and 2017, the Danish Refugee Council helped 26,000 school-aged Congolese children return to school and trained over 1,000 teachers and volunteers. The organization has also partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR and other NGOs to provide basic necessities to households, as well as counseling services to children who have experienced trauma.

Organizations Making a Difference

Aid organizations, nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations do not always have adequate funding and capacity to protect people from homelessness. Without assistance, homeless people may stay with relatives or a host family; those without that option may resort to living in settlements made up of makeshift structures. Others find shelter in more secure displacement camps, such as UNHCR’s South Ubangi Mole refugee camp in northwestern DRC, which has 15,000 inhabitants.

However, none of these situations is totally secure; armed individuals occasionally pass security checkpoints to assault inhabitants of displacement camps. Limited funding, close living conditions and insufficient sanitation do not allow residents of camps to protect themselves. This makes it easier for communicable illnesses like cholera, Ebola and COVID-19 to spread.

Humanitarian aid organizations and data-gathering agencies, along with local volunteers, lead the charge in helping track and mitigate homelessness and its effects. It is no small task to accurately measure the extent of displacement. The DRC’s massive size, porous borders and challenging geography all add to the challenge of this job.

Although the Congolese government does not have its own mechanism for tracking internal displacement, outside organizations present in the DRC have developed tools to assist. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre uses the latest technology to compile information from organizations and locals to provide an accurate picture of displacement in the region. Its tools bring together research, real-time reports and satellite imaging to assess where the greatest needs currently are. Some other organizations also assisting displaced people in the DRC are USAID and Amnesty International.

Hope for the Homeless

Though the DRC may still have miles to go, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee recently introduced H. Res 531 and H.R. 1191, a simple resolution and bill, respectively, which are aimed at protecting Congolese children. These measures, along with other existing laws, could help create more accountability for foreign entities who allow exploitation and violence that contribute to displacement and homelessness.

At a recent security council meeting, Leila Zerrougui, Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) commended President Tshikesedi’s “reform agenda and improved relations with neighboring countries” as evidence of improvement in the DRC. President Tshikesedi himself seemed optimistic during these talks; he reiterated the gains he has made in securing the country since his election in 2019 and renewing his commitment to securing a brighter future for his people.

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare In DjiboutiDjibouti is a coastal country located in the horn of Africa. In 2017, the country’s population was 1.1 million. However, despite the issues the country faces, there have also been recent major achievements of Healthcare in Djibouti.

Battles of Healthcare in Djibouti

Djibouti battles occasional natural disasters and receives many refugees from neighboring countries. These two challenges increase the displacement of people. As a result, this exposes them to different dangerous diseases and also leads to uneven health care accessibility. As reported by Reliefweb, regular measles outbreaks were recorded in 2018 and 2019 in Djibouti City. Additionally, 30,304 malaria cases were reported in the first half of 2019. The country’s health sector budget takes 6.73% of the government’s expenditures. The health sector focused on improving health care accessibility in rural areas, distribution of vaccines, maternal services to mothers and children and universal health coverage in the country.

From Issues to Achievements

To go on, Djibouti faces high hazards like consistent extended periods of droughts and occasional floods. Towards the end of 2019, DownToEarth reported that Djibouti faced floods that displaced around 250,000 people in the capital city. As said by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, approximately 33% of the Djiboutian population live in areas of high hazard risk. Additionally, Djibouti faces a long time of droughts. There is a shortage of enough water which leads to the droughts and over-exploitation of underground water resources. Because of these natural disasters, there are poor sanitation and pollution-related diseases, dehydration and malnutrition. In response to this problem, the government established a Disaster Risk Management program. It has helped in sensitizing the public, better planning for resource management and preparing for better responses towards disasters. Fortunately, these steps will improve healthcare in Djibouti for its people as well.

More Major Achievements

Furthermore, Djibouti is one of the countries that receive high numbers of refugees in Africa. These refugees are mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. In May 2019, the World Bank released an additional $6 million towards the Improving Health Sector Performance Project in Djibouti. This program has been operating since 2013, and they have helped 143,000 women and children access essential health care services. These services are able to control communicable diseases like HIV and Tuberculosis. Additionally, In 2017, Action Africa Help International, UNHCR and the Government of Djibouti started the project Protection and Assistance to Refugees in Djibouti. The project provided essential health care to about 26, 915 refugees and asylum seekers. These interventions paid off when UNHCR reported that 100% of the refugees had access to primary health care services at the end of 2019.

Overall, Djibouti faces many challenges that affect the health of the population. However, it is important to be aware of the steps being taken to improve the health of the population. By addressing the problems caused by natural disasters and population displacement, all of these efforts have improved healthcare in Djibouti.

 

Renova Uwingabire

Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in NorwayNordic countries have been historically renowned for their social security and high living standards. They are seen as a safe haven and an aspirational goal among the international community. Norway is no exception, and a prime example of the exceptional Norwegian welfare state is the condition of homelessness. Here is everything you need to know about homelessness in Norway.

How Norway Defines “Homelessness”

The Norwegian government has defined homelessness as an individual or family that is unable to independently maintain a safe, consistent and appropriate housing arrangement. Norway has one of the smallest homeless populations in the world, with only 0.07% of the total population being homeless as of 2016. This proportion is less than half of that found in the United States where 0.17% of the population is homeless.

Causes

While only 0.07% of the Norwegian population is homeless, certain groups are at greater risk than others. Four key causes of homelessness in Norway include insecure housing markets, economic hardship, addiction and mental illness. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 54% of homeless people are reportedly drug dependent, 38% suffer from mental illness and 23% are under the age of 25. Additionally, migration poses a challenge to homelessness in Norway, with 20% of the homeless population being immigrants.

Government Initiatives to Fight Homelessness

Norway’s success in regards to having a low homeless population is not random or coincidental. Instead, it is thanks to targeted, effective and long-term policy initiatives. One of the first major policies announced to combat homelessness in Norway was Project Homeless. Project Homeless was launched from 2001 to 2004 and led a collaborative effort among multiple government departments to develop effective methods for combatting homelessness. After Project Homelessness ended, the Strategy Against Homelessness was announced in 2005 and ran until 2007. This strategy built upon the success of Project Homelessness and aimed to:

  • Reduce eviction petitions by 50% and eviction itself by 30%
  • Prevent individuals recently released from prison or a treatment institution from requiring temporary housing
  • Improve the quality of overnight shelters
  • Limit temporary housing stays to less than three months

Most recently, the Norwegian government launched a strategy in 2014 that in many ways furthers the work of the Strategy Against Homelessness. This new strategy specifically targets families with children and young people up to the age of 25. This is a long-term strategy that will last through 2020 and aims to:

  • Ensure safe rental housing for families with children
  • Limit temporary housing to exceptional circumstances, with these arrangements not exceeding three months
  • Reduce and prevent homelessness among families with children and young people

The 2014 strategy plans to achieve these goals by providing assistance to individuals shifting from temporary to permanent housing, assistance in obtaining a suitable home within an insecure housing market, preventing evictions and social innovation.

Repeated reassessment of needs and continued support has been key to Norway’s success in reducing poverty through effective policy. These methods are not unique to Norway, they can be seen across the globe in countries with similarly low homeless populations. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the insights gained from Norway can be used to inform policies and initiatives against homelessness in countries that are currently struggling.

Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay

duolingo helps refugees“Language is what ties us all together in our cultures, in our own countries. Being able to communicate is a vital part of the human experience.” – Photojournalist Justin Merriman

Duolingo is a popular language-learning platform available on desktop and mobile phones serving to boost the language skills of people around the world. Known for its iconic green owl mascot, Duolingo offers free courses in 38 different languages. These include widely spoken languages like English and Spanish, as well as endangered languages such as Navajo and Hawaiian. It even offers courses in fictional languages like Klingon from Star Trek and High Valyrian from Game of Thrones.

While not specifically an original intent of the platform, Duolingo has grown in popularity among immigrants and refugees who seek to learn the language of their new homes. Recently, the company even made a documentary film about how Duolingo helps refugees.

The Importance of Communication

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2019. Among the world’s displaced people, 20 million are refugees or asylum-seekers who have crossed borders into another country. Most refugees come from Syria, who have seen 6.6 million displaced people.

Language is extremely important to everyday life. In unfamiliar situations, language can act as a barrier to interactions and opportunities among those who can’t understand each other. For impoverished refugees, learning the local language is both vital and extremely challenging. The resources refugees need to learn a new language are often unavailable or not easily accessible.

Duolingo’s Role

In 2018, Duolingo’s creators noticed an intriguing pattern in their 300 million person user base. The most popular languages being learned in many countries were actually the native language of the area. In Miami, most Duolingo users were learning English and in Sweden, most users were learning Swedish. They found that most of these users were immigrants and refugees learning to speak the language of their new home.

Duolingo helps refugees by making language learning accessible and convenient. Available to anyone with access to an electronic device, the learning platform teaches basic conversational skills in a fun and easy way. It teaches reading, writing, listening and speaking through conversational situations where users simultaneously learn vocabulary and grammar. After receiving thousands of thank you letters from global users who benefitted from the app, Duolingo decided to create a documentary film following real refugee users as they learned new languages and navigated their new environments.

Something Like Home

“Something Like Home” highlights the stories of four refugees. Photojournalist Justin Merriman went to Turkey and Jordan to interview these refugees and create the film, which is available for free on Youtube or at duolingomovie.com. Merriman states that “It wasn’t really, in the beginning, about Syria and displaced refugees. It was about people using language to change their lives.”

One of the featured refugees, Noor, is a Syrian refugee who fled to Iraq, Dubai and finally to Turkey. Noor was the only refugee from the film able to attend its premiere at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, as her Iraqi citizenship allowed her to obtain a travel visa over the others who are Syrian citizens. She now works as a computer programmer and software engineer in Turkey, speaking five languages.

Another featured refugee, Ahmed, also fled Syria for Turkey where he now works as an engineer overseeing water and sanitation programs for internally displaced Syrians. Ahmed, formerly an engineer in Syria, was only able to find employment in Turkey after using Duolingo to learn the language and communicate his skills to employers. He is a prime example of how Duolingo helps refugees in these critical situations

Noor and Ahmed are just two examples of the global refugee experience—being violently torn from normal life and forced to start over somewhere completely unfamiliar. Duolingo helps refugees by freely offering an opportunity to make the transition into their new lives easier.

Kathy Wei
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Sanitation in Lebanon
Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country located in Western Asia. Bordered by Syria and Israel, Lebanon has a population of about 6.8 million. In the past 40 years, Lebanon has faced a civil war, spillover from the Syrian civil war, years of political unrest and a two-and-a-half-year leadership gap in 2014. Lebanon’s sanitation issues have been a task the government has not yet solved due to the amount of political and governmental unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, foreign aid groups are intervening to keep the Lebanese people safe. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Lebanon.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Lebanon

  1. Lebanon is facing a garbage crisis. In 2015, Naameh, a large Lebanese landfill site, closed due to unsanitary conditions and capacity issues. Government authorities struggled to find a contingency plan in time, leading to what Human Rights Watch calls a “national health crisis.” Garbage is piling up on streets and in riverbanks in its capital, Beirut. Burning waste is a method that Beirut and Mount Lebanon has used since Naameh closed, but it poses a threat to the Lebanese people. The Human Rights Watch reported that, since the closure, doctors near Beirut saw an increase in respiratory illnesses. In addition, experts have linked the inhalation of smoke from burning waste to heart disease, cancer and skin conditions. During the COVID-19 outbreak, this crisis has worsened. Nongovernmental organizations have to take Lebanon’s medical waste because the country cannot properly dispose of it.
  2. Water quality has deteriorated, in part due to the garbage crisis. USAID wrote that the dumping of waste in rivers, in combination with urbanization and the lack of a waste management system, has led to a deterioration in Lebanon’s water quality. Waterborne diseases, such as dysentery, hepatitis A, leishmaniasis and typhoid, are leading diseases that affect children.
  3. The Syrian crisis spillover into Lebanon has had harmful effects on the country’s water. The war has led to an influx of more than 1.5 million refugees to Lebanon. Consequently, this has added significantly to the country’s water stress. Access to a public network of water as a drinking source dropped from 57% to 35% between 2004 and 2009. Currently, UNICEF is working with the Lebanese government to improve access to both safe drinking water and waste services.
  4. Access to clean water is expensive. Nearly one in three Lebanese buys their drinking water from an alternative source because of the issues with official water supplies. These sources often come at a cost. Additionally, an average Beirut family can spend up to 15% of its monthly income on just water.
  5. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has coordinated with Lebanese authorities to improve sanitary conditions and safe water access. UNHCR’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) efforts designs to help both refugees and Lebanese communities meet their basic needs and strengthen infrastructure. Its interventions helped sanitation in Lebanon. In fact, it improved sanitary conditions for 108,000 people and access to safe water for 27,000 people by the end of 2016. By June 2017, it had improved the sanitary conditions for 110,700 refugees and installed more than 147 km of pipeline in nine water supply systems.
  6. Lebanon’s air quality is unsafe. Recent data indicates that Lebanon’s annual mean concentration of PM 2.5 is three times the recommended maximum amount. Tourism and cement industries, food processing, mineral and chemical products, oil refining and vehicle emissions are all contributors to Lebanon’s poor air quality. Exposure to air pollution short term can lead to symptoms such as itchy throat, nose, eyes and chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, nausea and upper respiratory infections. Moreover, longterm effects include lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Globally, one can attribute 5 million deaths each year to air pollution. Around 93% of the population in Beruit experiences exposure to high levels of air pollution. As of 2019, Lebanon is still looking for solutions for this.
  7. UNICEF helped more than 134,000 refugees learn about health and sanitation. About 18% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in tents or makeshift shelters. In addition, 73% of refugees rent units that are in poor condition, lacking kitchens, toilets and running water. The lack of these resources — especially for those living in makeshift settlements — is a sanitation risk. UNICEF reached out to more than 134,000 refugees living in Informal Settlements (ISs) to communicate “custom-tailored public health promotion messages” on topics relating to sanitation including safe water, hygiene, solid waste and communicable diseases.
  8. Rotary International has worked to improve hygiene in Lebanese schools. As of 2019, the Rotary wrote that it had installed a water filtration project to provide safe water to more than 1,000 schools. A second and third phase will work on advancing hygiene conversations between teachers and students and installing proper sewage systems and toilet seats in schools. It plans to continue its work by implementing water filtration in prisons.
  9. There has been an uptick in foodborne and waterborne diseases. The Ministry of Public Health’s epidemiological surveillance program has recorded increasing levels of water and foodborne illnesses. The cases rose from 1,072 in 2005 to 2,053 in 2018. This is likely because of people eating food that has come in contact with contaminated water. While the Rotary has worked on improving water conditions for schools and prisons, advocates are still attempting to bring awareness to the pollution issues in Lebanon.
  10. Foreign aid helps with Lebanon’s sanitation and access to water problems tremendously. In 2019, 98% of people had access to safely managed sanitation services. Meanwhile, about 93% of the population had access to safely managed drinking water services. More than 570,000 people gained access to improved drinking water through U.S. government assistance. The Lebanon Water Project, a five-year program with USAID, has funded $65 million in an attempt to create cleaner, more sustainable and reliable water sources in Lebanon. The project supports the Noth Lebanon Water Establishment with water infrastructure works and encourages the use of drip irrigation, which saves water.

While Lebanon still has a garbage crisis on its hands, something that the pandemic has made more difficult, organizations like USAID, WHO, UNICEF and UNHCR have helped improve sanitation in Lebanon outside of that crisis. As a result, more people have access to clean water.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Flickr

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