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NGO Innovation AwardEach year the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) host more than 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations around the world in their Annual Consultations in Geneva. These delegates debate refugee issues affecting both international and regional audiences as well as discuss new advocacy issues.

These annual consultations discuss data analytics as a pathway to better welfare systems; the implementation of the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees; the maintenance of moral, legal and safe aid to refugees; and UNHCR’s transition to an increasingly decentralized, local system.

Starting in 2018, the UNHCR has presented annual NGO innovation awards to celebrate NGOs they believe embody innovative practices required to truly integrate refugees into their new societies.

Honoring Partnerships and Connectivity in NGOs

Through the NGO Innovation Award, the UNHCR showcases exceptional NGOs with new kinds of solutions in refugee aid in order to inspire further innovation in the field. Recipient NGOs fall into two categories: inclusive partnerships and connectivity.

UNHCR describes previous winners of the partnership category as having people-centered, community-based, non-traditional and creative partnerships. Focusing on inclusion and diversity, these organizations drive solution-based, positive interventions in their environments.

In the category of connectivity, UNHCR looks for organizations that demonstrate creative and novel solutions to connectivity challenges of displaced people (e.g. literacy or access to finance).

The Winners Are Archetypes of Innovative NGOs

One of the 2018 winners was SINA Loketa (SINAL), a team of six Africans from different countries helping young refugees and marginalized youths become self-sustainable and self-actualized members of their (new) communities. Specifically, this NGO aims to help individuals from these two disadvantaged communities to design and launch social enterprises from their refugee camp and host community in Uganda.

Each year, SINA Loketa leads 90 new scholars through a personal and professional transformation based on project-based learning and hands-on experimentation. After being matched with a mentor, these individuals go through training covering team building, trauma healing, one-on-one life coaching, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

SINA Loketa envisions directly creating thousands of jobs by their startups and reducing Ugandan youth unemployment by three percent by 2028.

The second winner of the 2018 NGO Innovation award was Artemisszio, a charitable foundation based in Budapest, Hungary. It strives to build an open, tolerant society based on interculturality. Artemisszio focuses on young people disadvantaged by rural circumstances, incomplete schooling, Roma ethnicity and migration. This organization helps them integrate into the labor market and into society as a whole.

Artemisszio works with central members of these marginalized individual’s communities to create supportive relationships outside of the NGO. For example, the organization hosts classes for health care workers, educators, police and military personnel, about interculturality and stress management. Artemisszio also spearheads a multitude of other innovative outreach programs, including teaching at local primary and secondary schools.

An Archetype for Future NGO Innovation

The first two winners of the NGO Innovation Award, SINA Loketa and Artemisszio, engage disadvantaged members of society as well as society as a whole to create cohesion between them. Their multifaceted approach bridges what initially seems like a fixed divide between these two groups in both Hungarian and Ugandan communities.

UNHCR is calling for innovative solutions to issues that are constantly evolving. Each year they celebrate solutions that introduce refugees as positive influences in their new communities.

The answer to what is the NGO Innovation Award lies in the annual celebration of organizations that fill a need in their communities that had not been duly addressed previously. These two winners can serve as an inspiration for current and future NGOs to better their communities.

– Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation ProgramChina has contributed to more than 70 percent of poverty reduced globally, making it one of the countries with most people lifted out of poverty in the past four decades. China has also recently become one of the leading nations in poverty reduction efforts by implementing a poverty alleviation program. Here are five facts about China’s poverty alleviation program.

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation Program

  1. Main Goals: China’s main goals for this program are to address issues such as food security and clothing, compulsory education, basic medical care and housing. It wants to solve these issues by 2020. Additionally, by 2020 it wants to have a zero percent poverty rate in rural areas. Furthermore, the government wants to increase the income growth rate for farmers while also solving the regional poverty problem.
  2. Implementation of the Program: In order to achieve its goals, the government has focused on developing the economy through local industries, combating corruption within the poverty alleviation efforts and making changes to the education and healthcare systems as well. The Chinese government has registered the poor population in order to target the specific regions that need help the most while also tracking the progress being made. By targeting specific regions and having the entire poor population registered, the Chinese government can provide assistance to certain households or individuals. There are five parts of the poverty alleviation program which are being implemented to raise more people out of poverty and those are industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security.
  3. Progress being made thus far:  As of 2019, more than “700 million people have been lifted out of poverty” according to the country’s national poverty line of $1.10 a day, which is more than 70 percent of the world’s poverty reduction efforts. When using the poverty line of $1.90 a day more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty between the years of 1981 and 2013. In 2016, more than 775,000 officials were sent out to different rural areas within the country in order to further development and aid the poor-stricken people living in the less-developed parts of China. This has proven successful given that, after this tactic was employed, the population living in rural areas that were still affected by poverty dropped to 30.46 million people. Additionally, the poverty incidence was also reduced to 3.1 percent. Although great progress has been made far ahead of the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, China must still raise an additional 10 million people out of poverty in order to reach its 2020 goals of zero percent poverty.
  4. Citizens’ living conditions: China has worked closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to improve its citizens’ living conditions. It has done this by providing a better social security and welfare program which covers unemployment, pension, medical care, employment injury and maternity for urban employees. Additionally, this program includes what is known as the “Dibao,” the minimum living guarantee program, which ensures that even the poorest residents in either urban or rural areas would be supported by the government.
  5. Global impact: China’s poverty alleviation program is not only a domestic policy but also an international policy. It has benefitted many developing countries around the world. The Chinese government has provided about 400 billion yuan ($59 billion) in aid, which has benefitted 166 countries and international organizations. Additionally, more than 600,000 aid workers were sent overseas to contribute to the poverty-reduction efforts. China has also pledged $2 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation in order to support developing countries to reach the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

As a result of China’s poverty alleviation program, people countrywide are overcoming the challenges of poverty. Not only is the percentage of poverty globally declining because of China’s efforts but people are also thriving. China is the only country worldwide to have improved its citizens’ living conditions to such an extent in such a short period of time.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Non-military dronesIn the modern world, the term “drone” has developed two very different connotations. Media coverage about drones is either about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in war zones or about the recreational use of drones for photography or entertainment. But what about drones being used for serious purposes, excluding military combat. Around the globe, people are using non-military drones for humanitarian purposes and to support global development. Here are five ways that non-military drones are saving lives across the globe:

5 Ways Non-Military Drones Help People Globally

  1. Transporting Medicine and Medical Equipment
    Often faster than helicopters and other traditional methods, drones are ideal for carrying blood, vaccines and small pieces of medical equipment. The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) plans to begin using drones to deliver blood to rural areas for blood transfusions, and Ghana is already doing so. In 2018, Vanuatu was the first country to use a drone to transport vaccines to rural areas. Norway has begun using drones to quickly bring defibrillators to the scene of emergencies. In medicine, time is of the essence, and quick delivery can save lives.
  2. Assessing Disaster Areas
    Drones are a relatively fast and inexpensive way to obtain images of natural disasters so that emergency responders are aware of the situation and well-equipped to act accordingly. In 2012, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) used drones to assess the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Haiti. According to the IOM, when they used drones “The complete analysis specifying which houses had been destroyed and damaged was available four days after the flooding event, on November 1. In comparison, satellite imagery requested at the same time from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) was not available until one week after the drone analysis.” In addition, to the advantage of their speed, drone images are clearer than satellite images and drones are able to fly below the cloud cover, enabling them to capture images that a satellite might miss due to cloud obstruction.
  3. Fighting Wildfires
    Fighting fires is a dangerous job, and every year firefighters die in the line of duty. In recent years, California has used drones to assist firefighters from the sky. Fighting fire aerially is not a new concept, but in the past planes and helicopters have been manned by a crew, which is also a dangerous job. NBC News reports that between 2006 and 2016, 24 percent of wildland firefighter deaths were due to plane and helicopter crashes. Unmanned aircraft are safer for firefighters, can operate for long stretches of time, and are not limited by conditions as much as helicopters and planes are.
  4. Tracking Mosquitoes That Spread Disease
    Mosquitos are a frequent carrier of malaria in Peru. In a 2019 study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, drones in Amazonian Peru were able to identify bodies of water containing mosquito larvae. With this knowledge, scientists can intervene in these sites to control the mosquito population in an effort to curb malaria transmission.
  5. Bringing Internet Access To Remote Areas
    In 2016, Facebook launched a project to use drones to provide internet access to people living in remote areas. The Aquila drone, powered by solar energy, would fly at 60,000 feet and help people in isolated regions connect with others around the globe. The Aquila project was shut down in 2018 as Facebook shifted to other projects, but the idea of drones being used to connect people in remote areas to the internet remains a compelling one. Airbus is reportedly working on a similar project, the Zephyr S, which includes the capabilities of providing internet access.

While unmanned aircraft are relatively new technology, it is already clear that non-military drones are making a difference around the globe. As such technology continues to advance, more talk of these innovative uses of drones should be expected.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Flickr

Visual Impairment in Refugees

Last year, there were an estimated 70 million forcibly displaced individuals in the world. NGOs and governments stepped up by providing funding for food, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare, but visual impairment in refugees is rarely ever prioritized.

Vision Impairment is a Major Life Obstacle

Eye care is something often overlooked when organizations are administering urgent medical treatment to refugees–in most cases, eye injuries are not considered life-threatening. While an eye injury may not be fatal, it can greatly reduce the quality of life. This was the case for 10-year-old, Hala Shaheen, who suffered retinal detachment before the outbreak of the Syrian War and was undergoing treatment to fix the issue. She required specialist care and regular check-ups.

However, when chaos and violence broke out in Syria, Hala and her family were forced to flee to the Rukban refugee camp between Syria and Jordan, where no eye care specialist could be found. Now Hala is blind in one eye and her vision in the other eye is continuing to deteriorate. When asked about her condition, she told reporters, “I don’t want to continue living with this level of pain and suffering.”

Refugees like Hala do not have the resources to prevent or tackle blindness, Hala could have retained her vision. Blindness prevents her from experiencing life fully. Since braille is not readily taught, getting an education is difficult. Hala’s condition forces her to be dependent on her family. When blindness presents itself in adult refugees, it stops them from being productive workers and the extra burden is placed on their family’s shoulders. Thankfully, some NGOs have identified this problem and are on their way to creating better conditions to fight visual impairment in refugees.

Bringing Clarity to the Visually Impaired

NGOs and charities are assembling coalitions all over the world to find solutions for visual impairment in refugees. The main mission is to provide diagnostic services and visual assistance to those who need it.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is working in Cox Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp of over 900,000 people, has created an eye care plan to fight visual impairment in refugees. They plan to provide over 150,000 eyeglasses each year and deploy 30 optometrists and 30 ophthalmologists to conduct Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) exams. These exams are vital in the prevention of blindness and vision loss, which can be the result of neglected chronic eye disease. In Cox Bazar, there is an estimated 30,000 at risk for diabetic eye disease and 70,000 at risk for glaucoma. If left untreated, it could result in a massive amount of vision loss.

There are numerous other coalitions like the IAPB. VisionSpring works with EYElliance in Ghana and Liberia to provide glasses to children and launch country-level initiatives to identify visual problems in refugees. SightGeist is an annual conference of companies and organizations from various sectors who come together and use their resources to provide visual assistance and preventative care to those affected by visual impairment. NGOs like Light for the World work together with Warby Parker, an eyewear company, and Aravind Eye Care System, a chain of hospitals in India, to come up with solutions to problems that are too large to tackle alone.

Gender and Visual Impairment

Another aspect of visual impairment in refugees is gender. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by visual impairment, accounting for two-thirds of those with severe vision loss. This can be due to the impact of traditional female roles, like having to collect water and wash clothes. These duties put them at risk of being bitten by blackflies which transmit parasites that destroy vision. In developing countries, women are typically not in charge of finances, so they have less control over the budget and cannot pay for healthcare. Women are also often too busy taking care of the home and may not even know where to go to access eye care.

Visual impairment in refugees, particularly females, deepens their plight; those who are visually impaired are more likely to suffer sexual violence and shamed by their families. Programs like CATCH in Uganda and Lady Health Worker in Pakistan are reaching out to these women. CATCH conducts exams to detect visual impairment early and provide preventative care to women. The Lady Health Worker program empowers female workers to provide healthcare and eye care to women and children in their own communities. Simply bringing attention to eye care and reducing the stigma of visual impairment can vastly improve lives.

Visual health underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. It is up to these organizations now to spread the word and see to it that visual impairment in refugees and developing countries become a greater priority for donors.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Kamala Harris's foreign policy

With such a broad field of candidates in the Democratic Primary, twenty in all, it is difficult to identify and to process the political positions of the various candidates. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has spoken on her positions on many topics including a $15 minimum wage and tax-cuts to the middle class. One issue that has not yet been discussed at length is Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform. Like many of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Harris does not have any direct foreign policy experience. As a former district attorney of San Francisco and later the attorney general of California, Harris holds strong experience and policy stances in regards to domestic policy. Harris currently holds opinions on the following issues: U.S. and Israel Relations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, direct U.S. involvement abroad, and North Korea.

U.S. and Israel Relations

Harris is a long-time supporter of strong relations between the U.S. and Israel, a topic that has become contentious within the Democratic Party. In 2017, Harris cosponsored a Senate resolution that challenged an earlier resolution from the U.N. Security Council which called for an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements into the West Bank region. This particular Senate resolution stated that it felt that the U.N. resolution condemned the state of Israel as a whole and not just the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. In the past, Harris has stated that she believes in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and that she supports U.S. backed discussion between the two states. It is too early to tell, but Kamala Harris’s foreign policy platform will likely include a continuation of her support for a two-state solution with an emphasis on a continued relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Senator Harris, along with senators from both parties, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was introduced at the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016 and was promptly withdrawn by President Trump in Jan. 2017. The deal would have connected the U.S. in a formal trade agreement with Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. The agreement had the potential to increase U.S. trade and investment abroad. Harris’ own reasons for voting against the TPP include her belief that the agreement was not as apparent as it should have been to garner the full support and trust of the U.S. and that she found its intended changes to invalidate “California’s landmark climate change and environmental laws.” It is currently unclear if Harris intends to advocate for a re-entry of the U.S. into the TPP under revised conditions.

Direct Involvement Abroad: Syria and Yemen

In February of 2019, Harris voted against a Senate resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that admonished President Trump’s removal of U.S. troops from Syria. Senator Harris did not publically explain her vote but may have been motivated by a desire to remove U.S. troops from Syria or a reluctance to be associated with a military presence that had not been authorized by Congress. Harris has also been vocal in her disapproval of U.S. support of a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen stating that she “believes we must reassert our constitutional authority to authorize war and conduct oversight.”

North Korea

Senator Harris has not made any direct statements regarding her planned approach to the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea but has declared that she disapproves of President Trump’s current approach to the situation. Along with eighteen other senators, Harris signed a letter to President Trump in 2018 stating that he did not have the legal authority to declare a strike on North Korea. From such a statement alongside her other positions in regard to U.S. foreign involvement in conflict abroad, Senator Harris’ foreign policy platform will likely include an emphasis on the power of Congress.

Though it is still early in the Democratic primary and many of the candidates have not yet discussed their foreign policy platforms, the above descriptions of the history of Senator Harris’ foreign policy positions will certainly guide the debates to follow.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

Kofi Annan QuotesBorn into an aristocratic family in Ghana in 1939, Kofi Annan’s experience with advocacy began at a young age. His education taught him early that suffering anywhere was an issue of global concern. By the time he graduated in 1957, Ghana had achieved independence from Britain, igniting his passion for international relations. That would follow him into a lifetime of civil service, beginning at the United Nations in 1962. He served in a number of capacities during his time at the U.N., including Peacekeeping Operations during the Rwandan genocide. He eventually filled the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations Security Council in 1997. Kofi Annan was a gifted speaker who left an impression on many people worldwide.

Top 12 Kofi Annan Quotes

  1. “We are not only all responsible for each other’s security. We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other’s welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure.”
  2. Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is.”
  3. “What governments and people don’t realize is that sometimes the collective interest – the international interest – is also the national interest.”
  4. “Today’s real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national security crises in another.”
  5. “I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead. Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.”
  6. Open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world.”
  7. “We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.”
  8. “We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will.”
  9. “If one is going to err, one should err on the side of liberty and freedom.”
  10. “You are never too young to lead and you should never doubt your capacity to triumph where others have not.”
  11. “In the 21st century, I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion.”
  12. “The world is not ours to keep. We hold it in trust for future generations.”

Themes of Kofi Annan Quotes

These top 12 quotes by Kofi Annan focus on themes of peace, global stability, leadership and advocacy. These are themes that defined Annan’s career and legacy. In December of 2001, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside the United Nations, for his work towards ending the HIV/AIDS crisis. This was a landmark achievement in his career and a massive step in combating the epidemic.

Kofi Annan’s Legacy

His retirement from the United Nations by no means signaled an end to his commitment to civil service and advocacy. Annan went on to continue promoting a more peaceful and stable world through work with multiple organizations in his home country, even contributing to peace efforts in Syria’s civil war.

On August 18, 2018, the world lost Kofi Annan to illness. But his legacy lives on, not only in these top Kofi Annan quotes, but in the continued impact of his actions and words on the world of advocacy and peace.

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea and its offshore islands, sharing the globe’s second-largest island with Papua and West Papua. The country supports a diverse populace and variety of languages; 8.2 million Papua New Guineans speak 820 distinct languages, giving rise to various local communities and rich cultural histories. But PNG faces a number of challenges including stifling economic conditions and persisting gender inequalities. These two factors, along with others, contribute to low rates of girls’ education in Papua New Guinea.

The Gender Gap

Only 73 percent of primary school-aged and 30 percent of secondary-aged girls attend school in PNG. One can understand these strikingly low numbers in light of the country’s broader educational context; many schools lack quality equipment and while very few teachers receive adequate training, almost all manage overstuffed classrooms, according to Professor Ravinder Rena of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology. As a result, total net enrollment rates for primary and secondary school sit at 76 percent and 33 percent.

Still, Papua New Guinean boys are much more likely to enroll in school than their female counterparts. According to the U.N.’s Gender Parity Index, PNG’s most recent ratio of girls to boys in school was .91 for primary education and .76 for secondary education. This gender gap undermines Papua New Guinean girls’ access to crucial literacy, numeracy and social skills. In turn, the bulk of the country’s economic opportunities, especially in the formal sector, go to men.

Reasons for the Gap

For PNG women, economic disparities exacerbate other debilitating gender inequities. Tragically, a majority of PNG women fall victim to rape or sexual assault during their lifetime and the country’s police forces neglect most of their cases. Moreover, traditional, gender-based expectations often mean scant autonomy for females in PNG, where almost a quarter of all girls marry before the age of 18.

This subjugation of women directly relates to girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. As Carolyn Benson, Professor of International and Comparative Education at Columbia University, argues, “The need to move away from home to enroll in schools partially explains lagging rates of female enrollment, as many families fear their female children will become more vulnerable to sexual assault by moving away.”

The need to be at school, in the midst of potentially predatory teachers and male classmates, discourages families from allowing female children to pursue an education. Finally, norms encouraging and/or enforcing early marriage lead to the rigidification of traditional views that disvalue female education. Thus, girls’ education in Papua New Guinea is caught in a vicious cycle since the gap between female and male rates of enrollment contributes to the continuation of oppressive gender relations, which in turn makes the task of getting girls in school even more difficult.

The Solutions on the Table

Many are challenging this vicious cycle. Indeed, girls’ education in Papua New Guinea is a central focus in a number of recent policy initiatives.

One example is the PNG government’s decision to join the United Nations’ campaign to end violence in schools. In so doing, the PNG government will raise awareness around violence against its school attendees and encourage schools to take protective measures. If adequately resourced, these measures may make families feel better about sending their girls to school.

Another initiative is the PNG government’s comprehensive National Education Plan (NEP), which passed in 2015. The NEP has six major goals, including the improvement of teaching quality and the strengthening of local school systems. If the government reaches the former goal, it will probably experience an uptick in overall school enrollment. If it reaches the latter, female enrollment rates will likely receive a special boost, since local schools represent a safer choice for PNG families choosing where to send their daughters. The most exciting feature of the NEP is that gender equality is a cross-cutting theme throughout, meaning that the NEP will implement gender equality into each of its six goals.

Evidence suggests that rates of girls’ education in Papua New Guinea will continue to rise considering that the net rate of female primary enrollment rose six points from 2012 to 2016. If the government’s recent policies are successful and if international organizations continue to help along the way, those rising rates of enrollment will be met with better, safer schools. Thanks to the help of many, the path to gender equality in Papua New Guinea is finally coming into view and it starts with girls’ education.

– James Delegal
Photo: Flickr

Education in VenezuelaSince 2015, approximately 4 million people have fled Venezuela. For those who have not left the country, food, water and jobs are scarce in the wake of a collapsed economy and hyperinflation. Perhaps the most victimized of the population are children who are unable to find basic access to education in Venezuela.

Why Are Children Not Attending School?

As Venezuelans struggle to afford basic necessities for survival, many children in Venezuela have stopped attending school. For families facing severe hunger, the extra cost of school supplies and uniforms is a price they often cannot afford. Students are unable to perform at school without proper nutrition or clothing. Many parents decide that their children should stay home where they have a chance at a meal.

More than 3 million of the country’s 8 million students have dropped out of school. Some of these students have emigrated with their parents, while others have quit to work and adopt caretaker roles within the family. As Venezuelans face widespread malnutrition, the educational needs of the children in Venezuela remain secondary. It is estimated that 1.1 million children will remain in need of basic education in 2019.

Although education was a hallmark of President Maduro’s campaign, the government can no longer afford to supply schools with proper maintenance and lunches. Public education previously provided a food bonus with a healthy lunch for students. That food program no longer functions, and students cannot rely on meals. In addition, with prices doubling every other month, the transportation system has failed, and both schools and parents struggle to afford bus fares for students.

School Closures without Teachers

Because of low enrollment, hundreds of schools have closed, and thousands of teachers have left their jobs. According to the Venezuelan Teacher’s Association, 176,000 of the country’s 860,000 registered teachers have quit. With wages amounting to about $8 a month, instructors of both private and public schools can no longer afford to work.

Many struggling schools only operate three days a week. Additionally, students from various grade levels are often combined into one class. These schools are desperate to keep the children in Venezuela from dropping out and missing years of formative education under harsh circumstances. Due to the teacher shortage affecting Venezuelan schools, parents are taking on teaching roles, despite a lack of experience or education. Parents believe that any schooling is better than none. As Maria Carmona, a mother-turned-teacher says, “Our children must learn, so I became their teacher.”

Efforts to Help Children Receive An Education in Venezuela

Nonprofit organizations, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation and Pasión Petare, offer places of refuge and free meals for students. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has provided school supplies for more than 350 families and sent 58,000 pounds of food. Pasión Petare uses soccer to motivate children to stay in school and provides a daily meal for 2,000 students.

Catholic relief organizations like Fe y Alegria and Caritas also raise money to provide food and school supplies. Fe y Alegria provides free education to 170 schools across the country and has implemented a food program for school children. The organization also began a campaign called “A Notebook for Fe Y Alegria,” which raises funds to provide school supplies that most families can no longer afford.

Because President Maduro recently conceded to requests for foreign aid, there are more opportunities for organizations such as the U.N. and Red Cross to offer assistance for Venezuelan schools. UNICEF has partnered with Fe y Alegria and reached more than 100,000 people through radio communication with information on how to help children continue their education. UNICEF and its partner organizations have also provided educational kits for 150,000 children and supply food and water for children in schools. This motivates children and parents to send their children to school.

The Venezuelan government continues to deny problems with their country’s education system. If not for the herculean efforts of international relief organizations, private charities and hands-on assistance from parents and local volunteers, hope would not remain for school children in Venezuela. Children face a bleak future and are vulnerable to exploitation without education. With less than 2 percent of all humanitarian aid allotted to education, it is vital to continue calling for assistance amid the rising crisis. As Susana Raffalli, an advisor to Caritas and renowned nutrition expert, says, “We need our children back in school, because that’s one of the few care and nutrition spaces left.”

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in AfghanistanAfter suffering through an extreme drought for months, Afghanistan now faces a new crisis: severe flash floods. As many as 112,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Afghanistan and entire homes or villages have been swept away. In light of both droughts and conflict, the U.N. has estimated that 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2019. The country has faced extreme adversity and is in desperate need of crucial and life-saving aid.

Drought and Flooding

The extreme drought the country has been facing has made it more difficult for the soil to absorb water, which makes flooding more likely. The El Niño weather phenomenon is also largely responsible for the extreme amounts of rainfall experienced by Afghanistan. Some forecasters have predicted that due to this chaotic weather pattern, rainfall could increase by 40 to 50 percent through May. These chaotic changes in weather have had disastrous effects on Afghanistan and its neighbors. Although the rain has stopped, many in Afghanistan fear that even worse flooding is yet to come. The region is often hit by flash floods due to its rocky terrain, but many claim this is the worst flooding the country has seen in years.

Humanitarian Aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross requested an emergency appeal of 7 million Swiss francs, which they mean to use to support up to 650,000 people affected by the flooding in Afghanistan who need immediate relief. The IFRC wants to use this money to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to those affected by both extreme drought and flooding. Recently, USAID with support of the Department of Defense airlifted over 200 metric tons of relief items regions in Afghanistan. The U.S. also announced that they would be providing an additional $61 million in aid relief funds to provide food assistance, hygiene and safe water.

World Disaster Report

Every year the IFRC conducts a World Disaster Report in order to provide more insight into the causes and effects of disaster situations. The IFRC, in partnership with ARC, launched a campaign last year to research natural disasters in Afghanistan. The report’s findings found that not enough money was being invested in risk prevention and a majority of financial aid was being spent after disasters rather than before. It concluded that building resilience and preparedness within communities before disaster strikes is one of the most important factors in reducing the effects of natural disasters.

Extreme drought and severe flooding in Afghanistan have left its people in a state of emergency. The flooding has also begun to hit Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and is causing the same kind of destruction and displacement. Thousands have been displaced and even more are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Both U.N. organizations and IFRC are providing crucial aid to combat the aftermath of the flooding in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Developing CountriesThe fight against global poverty starts by investing in women.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, the world has made progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment through equal access to primary education. However, discrimination against women still happens in every part of the world.

Current statistics show only 24 percent of women sit in national parliaments internationally. Only 13 percent of women are agricultural landholders, and over 19 percent of women from ages 15 to 49 have experienced physical and sexual violence. If this is not enough reason to treat women as equals in developing nations, consider that women make up a disproportionate 70 percent of the world’s poor.

Interventions by the United Nations, World Bank and USAID are pushing women’s empowerment projects. However, more can be done. The health and education levels of women and girls in developing countries continue to trail behind men and boys due to a lack of investment.

Economic Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries

One of the most important ways to promote peace and stability is to provide economic opportunities to empower women. Through economic partnerships between public and private sectors that enable women to be part of a nation’s growing economy, research has shown a ripple effect against poverty that will extend across families and societies.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Rwanda’s pro-women empowerment reforms after the 1994 genocide have contributed immensely to the country’s recent economic success. Between 2000 and 2015 average income in Rwanda more than doubled, outpacing the average development of sub-Saharan Africa. These reforms require a 30 percent quota for women in decision-making positions, including 24 out of 80 seats reserved for women in the Lower House of Parliament. Rwanda’s women parliament members are also focused on ensuring that their girls are being educated so that they are able to lead economically.

Educational Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries

Empowerment aims to move persons from oppressed powerlessness to positions of power. Education is a vital component in empowering women in developing countries. Through the provision of confidence, knowledge and skills, women can rebuild impoverished communities. Studies by the World Bank have shown that across 18 of 20 countries with the highest levels of child marriage, girls have no access to education.

Educating adolescent girls about their rights has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in developing countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

In Indonesia, the International Center for Research in Women has worked on making public spaces safer for women by creating women empowerment programs. The programs advocate for safer spaces and a workplace integrated with men and boys.

In Sri Lanka, the World Bank had been raising awareness to reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS. Because of this, women can obtain the help that they need and decrease infant mortality associated with early child marriage.

Technological Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment

Worldwide, 200 million more men have internet access than women. Women are also 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone, a key resource in developing countries where phones provide security, mobile health care and facilitate money transfers.

Technology has great potential in closing the gender gap and empowering women in developing countries. Educating girls in STEM and IT will help women and girls pursue opportunities in these fields. For instance, in Egypt, women have developed an application called HarrassMap. The application maps out areas of high sexual assault and allows women to feel secure within their communities.

Poverty Alleviation through Women Empowerment

By empowering women to participate in growth opportunities, developing countries will accelerate their economic and social development. Working women invest 90 percent of their earnings back to their families, leading to greater health and education for their children. This, in turn, creates a cycle that sustainably alleviates poverty.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr