Posts

Human Rights in Central AmericaCentral America, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, has a history of human rights violations. The three northern countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are considered the most dangerous countries in the region for vulnerable communities. The United Nations defines human rights as rights thought to be inherent no matter any status. Violations of these rights include violence, discrimination and injustices.

Vulnerable Communities

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community, women and children are the most prone to violence and discrimination in Central America. Violence against LGBTQ people is severe and spread far throughout the region. In northern Central America between 2014 to 2019, 243 LGBTQ people were murdered.

The northern region is also the most dangerous for women. This is because El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-motivated killing in the world. Guatemala follows closely behind at third-highest while Honduras is sixth. In 2017, 2,559 cases of gender-motivated murders were reported in Latin America and the Caribbean with Central American nations making up a majority of the countries with the highest risk for women. El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua are included within the top 10.

Another highly vulnerable group is children. Children suffer from gangs, sexual violence and poverty. Many are forced to flee from Central America to the United States in the hopes of living safer lives, but this journey is often dangerous due to the drug-trafficking gangs. In addition to violence, poverty is also a significant driving force for children and families fleeing Central America. More than two-thirds of children live in poverty throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In El Salvador alone, 86.8 percent of children live under the poverty line. However, families who do make it to the U.S. border are detained and often separated.

Human Rights Defenders

There is constant work to expand existing organizations and encourage a public environment that allows human rights defenders, local civil society groups and individuals to carry out their vital work without fear of violence. The people on the ground doing research, providing aid and services and protesting injustice are the foundation of the cause.

OutRight Action International, founded in 1990, works to improve the lives and protect LGBTQ people in Central America. In Guatemala, OutRight hosted a security training for LGBTQ activists in 2016. They document abuse and work towards creating a more tolerant society.

Journalists and activists that carry out such work are often detained or arrested for speaking out against the violation of human rights. 87 human rights activists were murdered or died in detention in Central America in 2016. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) recognizes the importance of activists in the fight for human rights and has launched many campaigns advocating for laws protecting human rights defenders. In many cases, the violence and crime against activists are ignored by law officials and in response, human rights organizations have implemented devices, such as contact buttons and emergency plans, to keep people from being punished for speaking out.

Furthermore, the Pan American Development Foundation, based in Washington D.C., is currently 4 years into a 5-year plan to strengthen human rights in Central America. The project began in 2016 and has provided help to at-risk communities and has established protection systems for civil society groups and human rights defenders.

Moving Forward

Human rights in Central America are challenged every day. These rights are often abused due to the ineffectiveness of government intervention efforts and gang-related violence. Central America has a long way to go in providing a safe and enriching society for its citizens, but with the continued efforts of activists and community groups, there is a possibility for improved safety and livelihoods.

Taylor Pittman

Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Saudi Arabia
Many know Saudi Arabia as one of the richest countries in the world. With the second largest natural oil reserve underground, Saudi Arabia is rapidly accumulating wealth and political power in international affairs. However, there is a dark side to the flashy urban lights of Saudi Arabia. The wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, coupled with the country’s patriarchal tradition and its recent conflict with the Houthi movement in Yemen, puts many Saudi and immigrant children in danger of child labor, violence and economic exploitation. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Saudi Arabia

  1. Poverty is the main cause of Saudi Arabia’s Child Labor. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, thanks in large part to the second-largest oil deposits in the world, there is a big economic disparity between the poor and the rich. According to a study that the Saudi Arabian government funded in 2015, 22 percent of families in Saudi Arabia depend on their children’s income.
  2. The minimum employment age is 13. In the royal decree of 1969, Saudi Arabia enacted a law that set the minimum employment age to 13 years old and banned children from working in hazardous conditions. This does not apply to works in the family business, domestic labor and agricultural work. Some employers of Saudi Arabia exploit a loophole in the law. For example, this law does not address the child brides of Saudi Arabia. If a child bride does any house chores or agricultural work for her husband’s family, it will not be a violation of the minimum employment age law.
  3. There are cases of child labor trafficking from neighboring countries. Stemming from Saudi Arabia’s recent conflict with Yemen, which left Yemen devastated, wartorn and practically lawless, some Yemeni parents are seeking illegal agents who will traffick their children to Saudi Arabia. While some Yemeni parents traffick their children to Saudi Arabia to save them from the desperate conditions in Yemen, other parents traffick their children in hopes of economic relief provided by their children’s labor in Saudi Arabia. While deportation is the main concern of many Yemeni parents for their trafficked children, many trafficked Yemeni children are in danger of violence, hunger and sexual abuse.
  4. Child workers usually have parents who have low professional and education level. The low education and professional level of child workers’ parents, coupled with economic disparity, make poverty in Saudi Arabia hereditary. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ameliorate this issue. In early 2018, the Saudi government declared that it aims to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2024. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education established adult education centers across the country and launched the Learning Neighborhood program in 2006 in pursuit of this goal.
  5. Children of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia do not have protection under a law that prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Saudi Arabia’s labor law does prohibit forced labor, however, these measures do not extend to over 12 million migrant workers in the country. Some employers exploit this loophole in the labor laws, which sometimes results in physical, mental and sexual abuse of migrant workers and their children.
  6. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship requirement puts Saudi children in danger of child labor and human trafficking. A Saudi child’s citizenship comes from his or her father. If a child has a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, or from a mother who is not legally married to a citizen father, there is a chance that the country will consider the child a stateless person. As a result of being stateless, Saudi Arabia can deny a child state education, and in certain cases, medical attention. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 5 percent of street begging children in Saudi Arabia are Saudi nationals of unknown parents.
  7. The Saudi government is working with the international community to combat child labor. In 2016, with technical advisory services support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Saudi Arabia ratified its report for ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973. According to the United Nations’ 2016 report on Saudi Arabia’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia adopted and implemented regulations against child abuse and human trafficking. As part of the new labor reforms and regulations in 2015, for example, the Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia can impose SR $20,000 ($5,333) on employers who employ children under 15-years old.
  8. In 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched a campaign against child labor in Saudi Arabia. For 19-days, WWSF campaigned to raise awareness for child labor, abuse and violence against children and youth. The National Family Safety Program of Saudi Arabia also launched its four-day program which raised awareness for economic exploitation and abuse of children in Saudi Arabia. Through these campaigns, both WWSF and the Saudi government aimed to reduce child labor in Saudi Arabia by highlighting that child labor contributes to the abuse of children by harming children’s health, physical development, psychological health and access to education.
  9. UNICEF and the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs opened a reception center for trafficked Yemeni children. Many trafficked Yemeni children end up in the streets of Saudi Arabian cities as beggars or street vendors. In the worst cases, these trafficked children are under severe danger of exploitation and abuse. When the Saudi authorities detained them, these Yemeni children usually went to prison or open-air enclosures with adult deportees. The center provides shelter for these children.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to address the country’s poverty. Launched in April 2016, the Saudi government plans to address the country’s poverty by improving state education and empowering nonprofit organizations. These improvements can lead to making more opportunities available for the children and parents of poor economic background, potentially reducing child labor in Saudi Arabia. In this pursuit, the Saudi government granted $51 billion to the education sector. The Ministry of education established educational centers all around the country to improve adult literacy and theories determine that this improvement in adult literacy will also improve child literacy.

Child labor in Saudi Arabia is both a local and international issue. While the stateless and poor children of Saudi Arabia turn to street vending and begging to support their families, many trafficked Yemeni children in the country are under constant threat of violence and exploitation. These 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia show that with the help of the international community and the Saudi government’s increasing awareness of its less fortunate populace, a better future awaits for the children of Saudi Arabia.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents El SalvadorLatin American countries tend to be represented as third-world countries compared to more prosperous ones like the United States. El Salvador is not exempt from such narratives. One such way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is by only covering the negative aspects of the news and not the positive. Some of the negative portrayals include stories about drugs, murders and gang violence.

A Better Future for Salvadorans

While there is this negativity present, there is also a garment factory that is trying to help turn the life of its workers around. This garment factory hired people “who are normally left out of society, including ex-gang members,” according to PBS News Hour. The factory combines school and works to give El Salvador a brighter future.

The factory’s general manager, Rodrigo Bolanos, said, “I saw the American dream, where lower- and middle-class kids can work and study at night in community colleges. And for me, that is a good way to resolve and to give the American dream right here in El Salvador to all these poor people.”

Carlos Arguetta, a previous gang member, wore long sleeves to his interview to try to cover up his tattoos, as described in the report. Through an interpreter, Arguetta stated that if he “didn’t have a job like this one, [he] would probably still be part of the gang and be doing killings.”

Improving Living Conditions in Slums

Another way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is in the way that its citizens live. Descriptions of wooden shacks are abundant when describing living conditions. While that might be true, there are two companies that are trying to change the places that Salvadorans live in.

Recently, a Texas-based construction technology company by the name of ICON partnered with New Story, a company that builds homes in developing countries, in order to provide better living conditions for those stuck in the El Salvador slums. ICON and New Story plan to transport a 3D-printer in order to produce 3D-printed homes for people at a highly reduced building cost.

The companies hope to give people who live in the slums an opportunity to live in a safer housing environment. As reported by Arab News, the mixture that produces the homes contains “a mix of concrete, water and other materials [that] are pumped through the 3D-printer.” The mixture hardens as it is being printed. It only takes 48 hours for a house to be built from the ground up. This is a much better alternative to makeshift shacks that citizens currently live in.

Using Art to Combat Violence

The final persistent misrepresentation of El Salvador in the media is the violence, and while the violence does occur, the nation is often presented as inescapable. However, art is one way that Salvadorans are able to escape their realities.

Marco Paíz is an artist and organizer of a festival by the name of “Sombrilla Fest,” or umbrella fest. It is a festival that is part of a bigger celebration called the World Social Circus Day, which takes place annually on April 7. This day is organized to be an international day to spread joy and is celebrated by 20 nations worldwide.

The goal of the festival is to have people “take over these spaces and these activities so that they [can] come out of the darkness of the violence that surrounds the country,” said Marco Paíz to TeleSur. It can also be an opportunity to motivate Salvadorans to learn the artistic practices so that they are able to improve their own living situation.

Despite the ways in which the media misrepresents El Salvador, there are numerous positive developments happening across this Central American nation.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

Big Four Causes of Poverty in HondurasHonduras is the second poorest country in Central America, with more than 66 percent of the population living in poverty. In rural areas, it is even worse, with about one in five Hondurans living on less than $1.90 per day. Poverty in Honduras has been exacerbated by several issues.

Here are four main causes of poverty in Honduras:

Hunger and Malnutrition

Honduras has a population of over nine million people, yet hunger proves to be a severe issue, with over 1.5 million facing hunger at some point each year.  Chronic malnutrition also proves to be a tremendous problem; approximately 49 percent of people living in rural areas experience malnutrition, with a stunting rate of 34 percent. According to the World Health Organization, stunting refers to a child being too short compared to the Child Growth Standards median. The stunting rate is largely related to frequent hunger and chronic malnutrition.

Natural Disaster and Drought

Honduras is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters. Hurricanes, heavy rain, flooding and frequent drought often destroy crops. Rural populations are severely dependent upon agriculture, as a source of livelihood and food security. The country’s GDP also relies heavily on agriculture, as its two main exports are bananas and coffee. In times of severe weather conditions or natural disasters, many vulnerable populations are at risk for hunger and food insecurity, which in turn continues to perpetuate poverty in Honduras.

High Unemployment

High unemployment rates have also contributed to the causes of poverty in Honduras. As of 2016, unemployment rates were at nearly 15 percent, which is more than triple the unemployment rate in the United States. Unemployment often increases the risk of poverty, as individuals are not able to adequately provide for themselves or their families.

Violence

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, with 59 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. This high rate of violence costs an estimated 10 percent of the annual GDP. The prevalence of violence and homicide is largely related to drug trafficking and gang warfare. Crime and violence often negatively impact the economy, as resources that could be used elsewhere to provide additional food security or a better educational system are instead allocated to deal with the issue of crime. This, in turn, perpetuates poverty in Honduras.

While the causes of poverty in Honduras appear to be deeply rooted in a variety of issues, many organizations such as the World Food Programme have provided support and services to people in need by providing well balanced meals to school children, food to vulnerable populations following a natural disaster as well as creating a program called Purchase for Progress. This a poverty reduction effort that supports agricultural production for small-scale farmers, encouraging Hondurans to buy local products while also helping to lower unemployment rates and provide farmers an opportunity for greater financial security. These efforts, coupled with a greater sense of awareness, can help to reduce poverty in Honduras.

Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Rohingya MuslimsAs a minority group, Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to violence throughout the entirety of their existence. In what is being called “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”, more than 400 Rohingya Muslims were killed in Burma in the month of August 2017.

The extreme violence that Rohingya Muslims have been facing in Burma has caused almost 90,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in search of safety. The violence was reportedly set off by a group of Rohingya insurgents who attacked police posts in the Burma state of Rakhine on August 25, 2017.

Rohingya militants are being blamed by Burmese officials for burning homes and killing civilians. However, rights monitors and Rohingya Muslims argue that the Burmese Army is using this claim to force them out of Burma.

Rohingya Muslims living in Burma do not receive full citizenship rights, and they often need to seek official permission to marry or travel outside of their villages.

The violence has prompted responses from various world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who brought the matter before the United Nations General Assembly this month. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also endorsed this call.

Zarif denounced the “global silence on continuing violence against Rohingya Muslims” saying that “international action [is] crucial to prevent further ethnic cleansing—UN must rally” in a post he made on Twitter.

Additionally, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has been encouraging Burma to investigate the alleged atrocities against the Muslims of Rohingya.

According to a United Nations spokeswoman, the Rohingya Muslims are “probably the most friendless people in the world” as they have struggled to find safety or permanent civilization in any area of the world.

While the Rohingya Muslims are facing violence, rape and injustice carried out by the Burmese army, their attempts to flee Burma are often met with more violence and brutality by human traffickers and coast guards of other nations.

This month, former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan filed a report that urged the Burmese government to restore citizenship rights, which were stripped in 1982, to the Muslims of Rohingya.

Although conditions seem nearly hopeless for Rohingya Muslims living in Burma, world leaders are working together to support this minority group. Help for Muslims of Rohingya is on the way, although it is in question whether it will arrive on time.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Violence Against WomenGender-based violence is a human rights violation. The use of violence against women (VAW) and children as a war tactic is inhumane and a way for extremist men to keep women “in their place”. Activists fighting for human rights often face considerable hostility, and many VAW activists recognize that creative activism along with a proclivity for affecting change from within goes a long way towards raising awareness of gender-based violence. While an innumerable number of people work tirelessly to bring positive changes to women’s lives, these eight campaigns are creatively fighting violence against women.

  1. Maps4Aid – India

India ranks eighth on WondersList’s ten worst countries for women. The statistics are mind-numbing. Around 70 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is a victim of crime every three minutes, a woman is raped every 15 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes and around 100 million women and girls are estimated to be victim of human trafficking. In a country with such staggering crime rates, P. Sheemer created the Maps4Aid app, which uses SMS and email to submit reports of any crime committed against women. This data helps map out the areas that are the most unsafe for women to travel in. Eventually, this data will be used to map out the most dangerous streets and areas across India and to press authorities to provide extra security measures in these areas.

  1. MenEngage Alliance – Kenya

MenEngage Alliance is an initiative of international NGOs to involve men and boys in promoting gender equality. Gender equality cannot be achieved in isolation; men need to be a part of the solution. The campaign aims to educate and work with men and boys around the world to change their perceptions of masculinity and to learn healthier ways to relate to each other. In addition, the campaign also aims to advocate for newer and better laws to end VAW, including female genital mutilation.

  1. The Burka Avenger – Pakistan

Creating alternative narratives in line with popular culture can be a powerful tool to reach a wider audience with maximum impact. This is one of the reasons why countries like India and Pakistan are using comic strips as tools to reach its younger generation. The Peabody Award-winning “Burka Avenger” is a children’s cartoon series about a good-natured female Pakistani school teacher with secret martial arts training who dons a burka to tackle a range of issues, from discrimination against women to environmental protection to fighting polio.

  1. Fathers’ club – Haiti

Most gender-based violence campaigns exclude men. In Haiti, Rorny Amile, a father from Haiti, started a fathers’ club to initiate a conversation on issues like meaningful consent and the importance of not using violence. The members receive training from CARE, an international organization with a mission to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. The organization spreads its message by going door-to-door in their community to talk to men about violence against women. According to Amile, “children see their fathers beating their mothers and some carry on the cycle of violence when they grow up. We’re trying to show other fathers it’s not okay to do that”.

  1. Bead Game – Worldwide

The international organization CARE is creatively fighting violence against women by designing innovative games that challenge societal taboos. The Bead Game is designed by CARE to address issues related to the age-old blame that women take on if they are unable to produce a boy. With the help of two colored beads representing the X and Y chromosomes, the game demonstrates how the father determines the sex of a child. These domestic and cultural misunderstandings often result in gender-based violence, a problem CARE is committed to ending through community outreach, education and simple activities like the bead game.

  1. Paradise – Norway

Photographer Walter Astrada is known the world over for using photography as a tool to fight VAW. Recently, he took his fight to Norway to show the world that gender-based violence is not just a third-world problem; it occurs even in a country with an impeccable reputation as one of the wealthiest, safest, well- educated and most democratic countries in the world.

  1. Affordable Wood-Fired Stoves – Sudan

Zam Zam camp in North Darfur is home to 200,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Sudan. The women of Zam Zam risk rape by Sudanese militiamen every time they leave the camp to collect wood for their cooking fires. If they chose otherwise, they would have to spend scarce money on firewood. Ashok Gadgil worked with Darfuri women and other engineers to create an affordable wood-fired stove that uses less wood. The stove reduced assaults, saved families money and made the homes of thousands of refugees healthier by considerably reducing carbon emissions.

  1. Orange Day – United Nations

In light of the recent barrage of cases of gender-based violence, the United Nations designated the 25th of every month as “Orange Day.” The UNiTE campaign, started by the United Nations Secretary-General’s, is dedicated to raising awareness and ending VAW. Orange Day is creatively fighting violence against women by calling upon everyone to mobilize people and highlighting issues relevant to preventing and ending VAW every month.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in SudanSince Sudan’s independence in 1956, the country has been wracked with volatile conflict. The unyielding violence, an unforgiving climate and a tumultuous government controlled by military personnel are significant causes of poverty in Sudan.

Although Sudan’s GDP per capita rose to $2,140 in 2016, unequal distribution of wealth and resources has exacerbated socioeconomic inequality through different regions of the country. Poverty levels differ depending on location, with a smaller percentage of severely impoverished citizens in metropolitan Khartoum than rural North Darfur. Altogether, 46.5 percent of the population of Sudan lived below the poverty line in 2009.

The harsh climate and scarce natural resources create adverse conditions for farmers. Low levels of rainfall particularly affect subsistence farmers living in remote areas outside of irrigation zones. Short growing seasons and lack of access to new technology contributes to low agricultural productivity. These factors seriously impact poor farmers in isolated communities and further perpetuate the inequality present between urban and rural citizens.

Poor allocation of government resources has worsened existing inequality. Military expenditures and government spending on the development of populous towns in the Nile valley greatly exceeds spending on outlying farming communities. This culture of inequality and the extreme poverty faced by the isolated poor led to civil conflicts that culminated in the cession of the southern states and the formation of the Republic of South Sudan in July 2011.

Explosive violence has long been among the causes of poverty in Sudan. The recent civil war and the resulting divide of the country only deepened the country’s resource deficit. The secession of the oil-rich southern states resulted in a loss of over half of Sudan’s government revenues and more than 95 percent of its exports.

Furthermore, civil war in South Sudan has led to an influx of refugees to Sudan. As of March 2017, approximately 332,885 people have fled to Sudan. This population explosion further strains Sudan’s small resource pool.

However, Sudan’s parliament approved the Five-Year Program of Economic Reforms in December 2014. This plan emphasizes further development of agriculture and livestock to combat low productivity and poor crop yields, leading causes of poverty in Sudan. The new economic plan could provide a solution to the loss of South Sudan’s resources and could lead to an increase in economic stability.

Furthermore, the U.S. eased sanctions on Sudan in 2017. These sanctions were implemented in 1997 and expanded in 2006. The trade and financial sanctions were imposed as a response to human rights violations carried out by the Sudanese government. The Obama administration temporarily lifted some of the economic sanctions as a response to improved conditions in Sudan. The Sudanese government now allows humanitarian aid to reach inhabitants of conflict areas and has orchestrated a ceasefire with the rebel army, the People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO).

This temporary reprieve from sanctions allows trade between Sudan and the U.S., creating some small economic stimulus in Sudan. The policy is under six-month review and pending approval to become permanent. The removal of these sanctions would finally offer an opportunity for some economic growth in a country long plagued by explosive violence and poor governance.

Katherine Parks

Violence in Latin AmericaEvery year, the Citizen’s Council for Public Security in Mexico releases a ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world. The list is based on homicides per urban residents and does not include conflict zones such as Mosul, Iraq. The recently released 2016 ranking demonstrates the range of violence in Latin America: of the top 50 cities, 42 are in Latin America.

The biggest Latin American country, Brazil, accounted for the highest number of cities on the list at a whopping 19. Mexico and Venezuela rounded out the top three, and the Venezuelan city of Caracas topped the list. It is also worth noting that a number of smaller Latin American countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, all had cities on the list. The concentration of urban violence in these 43 Latin American cities is alarming.

The link between global poverty and violence emerges clearly from this ranking. Many of the causes of violence in Latin America can be directly linked to symptoms of poverty such as hunger, political instability and weak public institutions. Venezuela, the country with the chart-topping city of Caracas, demonstrates this connection clearly.

Caracas ranked as the most violent city in the world for the second year in a row. In addition, four of the top 10 most violent cities were Venezuelan. Venezuela currently finds itself in a crisis state from a mix of political instability, extreme hunger and economic desperation. Venezuela’s financial woes spring from the collapse of the oil industry, governmental corruption and economic mismanagement. The crisis has become so extreme that 75 percent of the population has lost an average of 19 pounds in five years. The desperation and frustration from this situation have inspired massive government protests, many of which have turned violent. This confluence of factors has contributed to Venezuela’s prominent position on the list of most violent cities.

Venezuela presents one of the most extreme examples of the connection between poverty and violence, but a number of other trends also characterize the Latin American cities that dominate the list. Drug trafficking throughout the region is a large contributor. Violence between rival cartels placed Acapulco, Mexico in the number two spot on the list.

Brazil, the country with the most cities on the list, faces many of the same challenges as Venezuela. Governmental corruption and poor public services have spurred massive demonstrations that have led to widespread violence.

A few small Central American countries also face their own unique challenges. Countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have a disproportionately high number of cities on the list given their tiny sizes. Drug trafficking and weak public institutions are important causes in these countries. But impunity and histories of civil war and divisive social issues also play into the high violence rates in these small countries.

The range of violence in Latin America is large, but there are various factors that can be generalized across the region. Foreign aid from countries like the United States can help alleviate some of the common causes of violence. For instance, Venezuela’s economy has reached its last $10 billion. Providing food and economic support to the Venezuelan people could help stabilize the country and lead to more democratic and peaceful state than the violence currently ravaging the country. More than anything, people in Venezuela and the region at large need money and resources to stem the tide of violence across Latin America.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr


Since 1987, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony have caused conflict throughout Central Africa. Differing from typical anti-government insurgencies, the LRA has targeted citizens rather than the military. Ending LRA violence has been a goal of the Ugandan government since the 1990s, but attempts were initially unsuccessful.

In 2010, the U.S. became actively involved in ending LRA violence after grassroots advocacy movements brought the issue to the attention of Congress. In October 2011, President Obama deployed 100 U.S. Army Special Forces members to serve as advisory personnel and to aid the African Union Task Force, comprised of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Congress has four objectives for ending LRA violence in Central Africa:

  1. Protect of Central Africans from LRA attacks

    There has been a 92 percent reduction in LRA-related killings since 2012, partly due to the establishment of communication networks across the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These networks have allowed for the establishment of the LRA Crisis Tracker project, which provides timely updates on LRA attacks and abductions. The communication networks have also allowed for the establishment of an Early Warning Radio Network, which ensures that communities are warned if LRA troops are in a nearby area. This network has ensured that no large-scale massacres, such as the Christmas Massacre in 2008 that left over 600 dead, could occur in the last five years.

  2. Apprehend Joseph Kony and his senior LRA commanders

    Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding in Kafa Kingi in southern Darfur, and the Ugandan military has reported capturing or killing several senior LRA commanders between 2011 and 2014. In 2014, LRA commander Dominic Ongwen was arrested and placed on trial at the International Criminal Court. Court proceedings began last December.

  3. Encourage defection and reintegration among LRA soldiers

    Between 2010 and 2013, the number of LRA combatants dropped from approximately 400 to 250; in 2014, 80 percent of Ugandan male soldiers who left or defected from the LRA did so voluntarily. An innovative way in which the African Union Task force and the U.S. government have promoted defections is through the “Come Home” program. By collecting information on known remaining militants from their communities, the U.S. military has been able to record personal messages for soldiers, which they broadcast through loudspeakers from helicopters and personalized leaflet drops. These personalized messages, along with other messages telling soldiers they will be welcomed back, have had a tremendous impact. In the last six months alone, at least 44 soldiers have defected after receiving personalized messages asking them to return home.

  4. Provide humanitarian aid to communities affected by LRA violence

    USAID focuses on providing resources that assist in early recovery following attacks, including healthcare services and food security resources for displaced persons. They have formed 94 community protection committees in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two countries currently most affected by LRA violence. International NGOs have focused their efforts on community-based programs that reintegrate former soldiers into communities and aid with the effects of post-traumatic stress and experienced trauma.

The innovative strategies of the U.S. and the African Union Task Force have had a positive impact, weakening the grip of the movement in the region and improving the lives of those in Central Africa. While Joseph Kony is still at large, with the continued support of aid groups and the U.S. government, ending LRA violence in Central Africa and restoring safe communities is closer to being achieved.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Mozambique Refugees
Mozambique, on the southeast coast of Africa, gained independence from Portugal in 1975. Conflict marred much of the country’s recent history, first during a protracted liberation struggle, followed by a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992. Tension between the ruling Frelimo party and its opposition, the former rebel movement Renamo, has remained high. Clashes between government forces and armed elements of Renamo contribute to the flow of refugees from Mozambique to neighboring countries.

Here are 10 facts about Mozambique refugees:

  1. Mozambique has a history of a massive displacement of people. By 1992, 1.5 million Mozambicans fled the country due to the civil war, representing 10% of the population at that time.
  2. Mozambicans fled to neighboring Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Most of the refugees returned to Mozambique after the end of the war in 1992.
  3. Recently there has been an increase in the number of people fleeing Mozambique. Since 2015, 12,000 Mozambicans have fled from violence in their communities due to the longstanding conflict between Frelimo and Renamo. Tensions between the two parties have risen in the run-up to the 2014 Presidential election, and have only continued to escalate since then.
  4. Mozambicans are fleeing several forms of political violence reportedly perpetrated by government and opposition forces. A recent Freedom House report shows that Mozambicans are fleeing due to the perception that government and opposition forces are targeting them. This includes killings, assaults and the burning of homes, intended to create fear and punish sympathizers.
  5. For many Mozambique refugees, Kapise village in Malawi is the first port of call. At the peak of the current refugee crisis in March 2016, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recorded 250 people crossing the border from Mozambique to Kapise village every day. At this time, the makeshift camp at Kapise housed 6,000 Mozambicans in conditions that Doctors Without Borders classified as well below minimum humanitarian standards. The refugees have to compete for scarce resources with the 150 Malawian families already living in the village. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and Doctors Without Borders provided essential services in Kapise, such as water boreholes, food and healthcare. This has helped improve life in Kapise but conditions remain tough.
  6. In March 2016, Malawi reopened the Luwani Refugee Camp to house the influx of Mozambicans. Luwani Refugee Camp previously housed Mozambique refugees from 1977 to 1992 during the civil war and was finally closed in 2007. The Malawian government authorized UNHCR to reopen Luwani Camp and move Mozambique refugees there from Kapise village. Refugees have access to better facilities and services including healthcare, education, sanitation, security and self-sustaining activities like agriculture.
  7. Mozambique refugees are not the only Africans seeking asylum in Malawi. Dzaleka camp in Malawi is already hosting some 25,000 refugees from other African regions including the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.
  8. Some 3,000 Mozambicans also fled to Zimbabwe in 2015 and 2016. Many of the refugees that fled to Zimbabwe are living in makeshift camps and face severe food shortages. WFP classifies Zimbabwe as a low-income food-deficit country with 30% of the rural poor considered “food poor.” Zimbabwe and Malawi are both currently suffering the effects of a prolonged El Niño-induced drought. Mozambique refugees thus place an additional burden on already limited resources in these countries.
  9. Mozambique refugees in Malawi and Zimbabwe are largely dependent on food assistance from the WFP. The WFP works to achieve and maintain food security among refugees in the region through monthly food distributions in refugee camps. The WFP, however, has had to cut food rations since 2014 due to funding shortages.
  10. Mozambique itself is a destination for other African refugees. Mozambique currently hosts some 15,000 refugees originating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia. The majority of these people live in Maratane camp in the north of the country.

Frelimo and Renamo have engaged in mediated peace talks since mid-2016 and a ceasefire agreement was reached over Christmas and later extended to March 2017, which provides hope for a resolution to the instability in the country.

Helena Jacobs

Photo: Flickr