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

Difficulties for Return

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

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

UNHCR Help

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

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

Work of the Red Cross

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

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

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

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

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

The Za’atari Project

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

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

The Exile Voices Project

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

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

Art for Refugees in Lebanon

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

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

The Amsterdam Painting Project

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

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

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

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

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

Boko Haram Role in Conflict in Nigeria

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

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

Health and Education Issues

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

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

Effects on Agriculture

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

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

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

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

Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

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

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

United Nations Work on Displacement in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

The Case of Idlib

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

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

Displacement in Syria and Water Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr

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

Ai Weiwei: Inspiring with Art

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

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

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

Ai Weiwei and the Refugee Crisis

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

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

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

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

Ai Weiwei’s New York Art Project

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

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

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

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

William Wilcox

Photo: Flickr

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

Food Scarcity & Weight loss

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

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

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

Population and Inflation

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

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

Education Decline

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

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

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

Lack of Hygiene

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

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

Businesses Cannot Operate

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

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

Lack of Medicine

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

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

Water and Electricity Shortages

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

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

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

Violence and Protests

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

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

The South American Refugee Crisis

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

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

Aid and Access

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

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

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

Giving Hand, Willing Heart

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

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

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

Fundraising

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

Various Types of Volunteer Work

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

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

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

Writing to Refugees

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

Legal Support

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

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

Orçun Doğmazer

Photo: Flickr

The recent use of chemical weapons in Syria has once again brought attention to the country and its citizens, those remaining within Syrian territory and facts about refugees who have been forced to flee. The conflict in Syria has created an unprecedented amount of refugees, the largest number on record. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees defines a refugee as “any person forced to flee from their country by violence or persecution.”

The journey of the refugee is riddled with uncertainty. The person is forced to leave their home and become an asylum seeker. The asylum seeker enters a foreign state in search of refugee status. For many asylum seekers, the journey is perilous. Traditional and safe forms of transportation across state boundaries are rare. For Syrians hoping to make landfall in Europe or Libya, options were limited and sea voyages were often part of the journey.

The lack of adequate vessels and safety equipment led gave way to unfortunately high mortality rates on the sea. The images emerging from the shores of Greece, Turkey and Libya capture the dire situation under which this journey was made. Major media outlets have published images showing refugees tired, distressed or worse. What is missing from this seemingly hopeless narrative are the rights guaranteed to these people as global citizens.

Refugees are entitled to certain rights. These persons are entitled to security, are not to be involuntarily returned to the country from which they are fleeing and should receive the same rights as other foreign nationals. Often, the influx of large quantities of people into already fragile economies creates an environment that does not allow the refugee the living conditions and opportunities for education, work and healthcare that are called for by human rights standards.

Often the very meaning of the word refugee is misunderstood. Surrounding the issue of displaced persons are numerous misconceptions and the facts are lost in assumptions. In hopes of clarity and dissuading any misconceptions about who refugees are, here are some facts about refugees:

Facts About Refugees

  • Around 65 million people are displaced currently; this number accounts for refugees living inside and outside the country where they are facing persecution.
  • More than half of refugees are produced by only three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
  • More than half of the refugees around the world are under the age of 18. These children are five times less likely to be enrolled in school.
  • Lack of economic opportunity and poverty do not qualify a person as a refugee.
  • Refugee crises are far-reaching and impact almost every continent. The Middle East and North Africa is not the only region impacted by refugees.
  • The average length of displacement is more than 10 years.
  • Being granted asylum in a state does not guarantee resettlement in that state.
  • In 2016, 189,900 refugees were resettled, compared to the 22.5 million refugees that were living outside their home country.
  • African and Middle Eastern countries host more than half of all current refugees. European countries and the Americas account for a little more than 30 percent of refugees.
  • The United States accepted the largest amount of refugees in its modern history in 1980.
  • The United States Refugee Admission Ceiling in FY 2016 was 85,000 persons.

The story of the refugee cannot be easily described through numbers and statistics. The larger narrative is more complex than can be easily summarized into key facts. The numbers neglect the individual experience of the refugee. These facts about refugees not do justice to the larger issue of statelessness but rather offer a snapshot of the problems facing displaced persons and the global community.

As these facts about refugees illustrate, refugees are often subjected to living in extreme poverty due to lack of resources available in camps and the slow, bureaucratic process of resettlement. These individuals lack access to adequate healthcare, education and opportunity for economic growth. Camps intended for emergency shelter become long-term solutions. There are many organizations doing incredible work to provide food, shelter and services to displaced persons.

– Madison Shea Lamanna

Photo: Flickr

Sudan
The political climate of Sudan is one that has been unpredictable for several years, and resulted in many refugees fleeing the country. Thankfully, aid from Uganda and organizations has been successful in easing the burdens refugees face when they leave their country.

The Civil War in Sudan

Wars in Sudan have occurred since the 1960s, with the most recent civil war in Sudan beginning in 2014 over a political argument: Salva Kiir, the president of Sudan, believed Vice President Reik Machar was attempting to overthrow his presidency and undermine his power, and the disagreement divided the country.

Since 2014, attempts at peace have been interrupted: stolen oil and ethnic cleansing resulting from the civil war in Sudan and the nation’s violent political climate lead to a total of one million refugees leaving their homes by last fall.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, many of these refugees escaped to Uganda and more than 1,800 refugees leave South Sudan every day. Fortunately, Uganda’s open border policy has made it possible for refugees to find temporary rest where land, food, water and education are accessible.

Refugees

In an interview with UNHCR, Tabu Sunday, a South Sudanese refugee, discussed her experience in leaving her parents to find safety in Uganda.

“Where I was living they were killing people,” she said. “My parents said they didn’t have enough money for travelling. So we had to walk on foot with my aunt. It was a long and hard journey. We had to use the Congo route to reach Uganda. My aunt stayed for a week and decided to return home.”

There are several aid organizations assisting refugees fleeing the civil war in Sudan. For instance, the Cooperative Assistance and Relief Everywhere organization (CARE) provides nutrition assistance to refugees in addition to the efforts of Uganda’s families and governments. According to CARE, approximately two million citizens from South Sudan have fled their country.

UNICEF has been involved in Sudan with the goals to improve health, nutrition, water, sanitation, education and safety. Making education more accessible in South Sudan is an endeavor of which many organizations have seen success — through UNICEF “Education in Emergencies” programs and the establishment of United Nations Protection of Civilians Sites, a 2013 project was able to improve such accessibility.

However, aid organizations have overcome some challenges in assisting South Sudan in the past. In the spring of 2017, the government of South Sudan blocked aid organizations from providing food to the country. Not only was a Save the Children base stolen from, but aid was blocked by the government as a form of brutality.

Despite these challenges, aid organizations persist and maintain a strong focus on improving the present and future lives of refugees.  

The Future   

As aid organizations persist in their efforts to help refugees, several organizations will need to take into account the political climate where aid workers are placed; for instance, being aware of the potential famines that will most likely result from the political climate of the civil war in Sudan. However, knowing this ahead of time will assist organizations in providing better care to refugees in need.

According to the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the violence in Sudan combined with famine and a history of an unstable political climate has made the issue of assisting the people in South Sudan very complex.

It is estimated that by March 2018, 8 million people will experience food insecurity. The European Union, and its partnerships, have contributed 43 percent of the aid to South Sudan.

Humanitarian Aid Efforts

The efforts of aid organizations make indisputable difference to refugees on the ground. According to UNOCHA, 5.4 million of the 7 million people in need of help received assistance by December 2017.

Below are a few of the organizations making a difference in addition to the European Union and its partnerships.

  1. The International Rescue Committee
  2. Save the Children
  3. USAID
  4. CARE
  5. UNOCHA

These organizations will continue to provide resources for people to learn about the issues in Sudan as well as give aid to the people there, steps that will continue the progress international groups have already set in motion.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

Higher Education for RefugeesIn 2016, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published its annual Global Report on the state of the world’s refugee crisis. Among other things, the report highlights a 6 percent rise in what it terms ‘populations of concern’ over the past year alone. That is a total increase of one million people.

Specifically, the global number of refugees — people who have been forced from their home countries due to war or other life-threatening occurrences — has risen by 6.7 million in just five years.

Imagine if nearly the entire population of Washington state was suddenly forced to leave, and depend entirely on their ability to convince a political body, over which they have no control, of the unequivocal necessity of their leaving home. The total number of people living this reality stands at 16.5 million.

What does this situation mean for college-aged adults? What access is there to higher education for refugees? According to UNHCR statistics on refugee education, the situation is bleak. Just 1 percent of all college-aged refugees are able to seek higher education, while the other 99 percent is left out.

However, there is one program that seems to have had a profoundly positive impact on thousands of college-aged refugees. The UNHCR’s Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI).

DAFI was first implemented in 1992, and has continued to receive a majority of its funding from the government of Germany. Through the financing of higher education for refugees at approved universities, DAFI aims to:

  • Promote self-reliance and empowerment for sponsored students and their family
  • Help sponsored students to become adept community leaders capable of assisting their home countries
  • Provide the training necessary for scholarship recipients to work within refugee communities while awaiting repatriation
  • Facilitate host country integration for scholarship recipients and their families
  • Demonstrate to all, especially women and girls, the value of education

So, what does it take for a potential scholar to be granted a DAFI scholarship? First, students must be in what the UNHCR terms “developing countries or countries in transition”, as well as have been granted asylum from the country in which they will pursue their studies. Second, they must be under 28 years of age when their studies begin.

Additionally, as the program is intended to arm a generation with the necessary skills required to help rebuild their countries of origin, all students must decide on a course of study that will see them quickly employed upon repatriation.

As of 2015, 2,321 people were able to achieve their dream of attending university. This is a substantial increase from a total of just 4,774 scholars in the first 15 years of its operation.

For its relatively short history, it would seem that the program of higher education for refugees has been hugely successful. Indeed, one of its only critiques may be that it cannot reach more would-be college students faster.

Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr