South Sudanese Civil War
After 20 years of fighting and more than 1.5 million lives lost, the 10 most southern Sudanese states seceded, forming South Sudan. Though this action was part of an agreement intended to end the civil war, conflict barely paused to allow the country’s inception. In 2013, President Salva Kiir Mayardiit accused his vice-president, Riek Machar, of planning a coup, and the newly formed country launched into civil war.

Peace accords were signed in 2015, but conflict remains the norm. This month, the city Pagak (a traditional rebel stronghold) was retaken by rebel groups less than a week after government forces had captured it from insurgents. These events have all occurred despite a unilateral ceasefire signed into effect by the president more than a year ago.

Much like the racial divides that ignited the Rwandan civil war and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the South Sudanese Civil War is one predicated on inter-ethnic violence. However, with over 60 different tribes living in South Sudan, the conflicts are much less predictable and even harder to contain and control.

Perhaps the biggest fallout from the Rwandan Civil War was the two million refugees pushed out by fear of conflict. This same mass exodus is being seen in the South Sudanese Civil War, where nearly 3.5 million people have been displaced.

Though it seems that there is no end in sight for the South Sudanese Civil War, groups around the world are stepping up to help. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that five million people in South Sudan are in need of immediate help, and they have stepped up admirably to the task. The IRC trains community and government leaders on the importance of law and human rights; provides medical, psychological and legal assistance to survivors of sexual violence and has improved access to medical care and clean water in the area.

A recent cholera outbreak in the region has also prompted significant humanitarian assistance from many countries. China donated $1.8 million to the South Sudanese Ministry of Health, and more than 97,000 doses of cholera vaccination have been distributed on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even with such substantial assistance, the South Sudanese Civil War remains one of the great humanitarian crises of today. Every day, more people are displaced or killed outright by the conflict at a rate which far outpaces that of current aid. The end of the conflict will come only when the area has achieved stability. With millions of lives at risk, now is the time to act.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Syrian Refugees
It has been six years since the outbreak of civil war in Syria that has resulted in a reported 470,000 Syrian deaths. The war began with anti-government demonstrations and escalated into armed opposition groups fighting the government after a violent crackdown on the protests. The ongoing threat of the civil war has caused 11 million Syrians to flee so far. Here are 10 facts about Syrian refugees:

  1. Of the 11 million people displaced by the conflict in Syria, five million Syrians are refugees. This means that the other 6.3 million are displaced within Syria.
  2. Four out of five Syrian refugees are children.
  3. In just over a year after the civil uprising began, 500,000 Syrian refugees had left their homes.
  4. Many Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East. They reside in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, although an estimated 10 percent have relocated to Europe.
  5. Many Syrians who fled into Northern Iraq are now trapped inside Iraq’s internal conflict. Because of pre-existing conflict, Iraq struggles to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees.
  6. In order to flee, many Syrian refugees attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Not all of them make it across alive.
  7. In January 2016, a reported 2,647 refugees fled to the United States, amounting to roughly 0.06 percent of the total refugee population.
  8. Around 40,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Canada.
  9. Nearly the entire population of Syria lives in poverty, with about 70 percent lacking access to clean drinking water.
  10. In 2016, the U.N. declared that $4.5 billion was required in order to meet the urgent needs of Syrians, yet only $2.9 billion was actually received.

These 10 facts about Syrian refugees illustrate the always-escalating nature of the crisis, showing that aid is needed more than ever before.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Uruguay
Prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, many countries have implemented stricter immigration policies. However, some Latin American countries, specifically those with a higher proportion of Muslims or Syrians, responded to the refugee crisis with more sympathy. Uruguay is one such country. Nestled in between Brazil and Argentina, the territory of Uruguay is roughly the size of Washington state and is home to only 3.4 million individuals. Here are some essential facts about refugees in Uruguay:

  1. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America that showed a willingness to receive refugees.
  2. According to one political analyst, Uruguay’s economy will largely be unable to assimilate refugees into their workforce.
  3. Refugees publicly lamented the country’s limited economic opportunity.
  4. According to most recent statistics, Uruguay accepted 117 immigrants up to September 2015.
  5. Refugees now appeal to other countries and even to the United Nations to help them leave the country.
  6. Some refugees tried leaving the country, but such efforts failed because most countries do not accept their Uruguay-issued documentation and the immigrants also lack their Syrian-issued passports.
  7. Amidst such social discord, public opinion toward Syrian refugees began to sour. Many citizens felt that the refugees in Uruguay are ungrateful.
  8. Due to such public backlash, President Vasquez temporarily suspended any further allocation of Syrian refugees.
  9. The country’s first group of Syrian refugees was to take Spanish classes to help them assimilate.
  10. Uruguay hoped that, with their initial open door policy, they would have a type of contagion effect on surrounding countries.

The following information about refugees in Uruguay reveals that countries with already suffering economies are, in many cases, unfit to offer refuge to large numbers of displaced persons. Therefore, more prosperous nations ought to show Uruguay’s initial willingness to accept refugees.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Assad Diverts Foreign Aid
The U.S has spent a total of $6 billion in Syria as of 2016. The need for this assistance is extensive. USAID estimated that there are 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. However, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria diverts foreign aid from those who need it. He uses it for political goals.

Every day, Russian aircraft drop tons of food in the government-controlled neighborhood of Deir Ezzor. This has saved the lives of countless Syrians in the city. However, in towns controlled by the opposition, countless Syrians starve. Through the use of systematic regulations, President Assad diverts foreign aid from those in need. He then uses foreign aid as a political tool to increase his authority. Syrian expert Joshua Landis said that the Syrian government needs to manipulate foreign aid because “food is loyalty.”

The U.N. admits that it can only work with a small number of partners approved by Assad. Assad’s wife and close friend run two of these partnerships. Other humanitarian relief contracts are awarded to individuals under sanction and members of the Syrian regime known for their brutality and oppression. This is because the Syrian relief effort is the most challenging and complex operation the U.N. has ever seen. This gives Assad more bargaining power. He diverts foreign aid only to areas he controls. He only allows the U.N. into the country without interference if they play by his rules.

Moreover, a Russian airliner company, Abakan Air, carries out the aid transportation. Two Russian nationals, Nikolai Ustimenko and his son Patel, own the company. Both have previously been barred from doing business with the U.N. on account of bribery. It is unclear to what extent they play in Assad’s distribution of foreign aid.

It wasn’t always this way. Initially, the U.N. and Syrian Red Cross delivered aid impartially to the Syrian people. However, as the world turned its attention elsewhere, the Syrian government began blocking aid deliveries to rebel-controlled towns.

Advocates of the foreign aid program point to the amount of good aid have done in the region. Even through the aid only affects certain areas, civilians in need are still being fed. They say it would be unfair to punish those civilians in desperate need by withdrawing aid.

The USAID and UNICEF have done well to give aid. However, it is not good enough. The fact that Assad diverts foreign aid must be addressed. People are starving in Syria and aid needs to be distributed equally.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Google

As Maya Angelou once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Unfortunately, millions of Syrians do not have that safe place Angelou talked about because of the ongoing civil war in their country. The question for the rest of is how to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The statistics are grim: 400,000 Syrians have been killed in six years of war. Another 6.3 million people have been internally displaced and 5 million have fled Syria altogether, and all in need of assistance.

With limited resources, high rates of poverty and continuous violence putting their lives in severe danger, Syrians need all the help that they can get. There are many ways to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic–here are three very simple and effective ones:

  1. Take the time to study the Syrian civil war. In a world with what seems an infinite number of media outlets, determining which facts are real can be confusing. But for those who genuinely care about those who have lost their homes, education is key.
  2. After learning about the crisis, take the opportunity to educate others. One advocate fighting for Syrians’ safety can transform into a group of advocates simply by informing people. It is very easy to get individuals involved through the influence of social media. Raising awareness about the injustices in Syria leads to more people who want to help and make a difference.
  3. Reach out to local congressional leaders. At The Borgen Project, political involvement is always encouraged so that one can have a say on the issues that matter the most to them. Be the voice for those who don’t have one.

Humanity may suffer from some flaws, but compassion and empathy remain common attributes. Many individuals sincerely want to help those less fortunate. Using the tips from this article, it is no longer a question as to how to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic but rather a matter of assuming responsibility and doing so. Syrians do not need superheroes to save them; they simply need people that care.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Located on the northwestern coast of Africa, Senegal is lauded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. It is the only country in post-colonial Africa that has avoided a military coup against its democratic government. However, the democracy of Senegal still experiences lapses in its democratic process, a common ailment of African nations establishing independence post-colonization.

2004 marked the beginning of the most significant violent conflict in Senegal’s recent history. Located in the southwestern corner of Senegal lies Casamance, a province which has been vying for independence from the Senegalese government since 1982. Civil unrest in Casamance came to a head in 2004, with instances of violent conflict being documented well into 2014. The conflict between the Casamance rebels, known as the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC), and the official Senegalese military has displaced thousands and taken a serious toll on civilian life.

While a ceasefire was signed by both warring factions in 2014, fighting between the Senegalese army and the MFDC continues today, albeit at a much smaller scale. Little has been done to reincorporate internally displaced Senegalese people into the state and remediate the living conditions of those affected by the civil strife of the separatist movement. Below are 10 facts about Senegalese refugees and their status as liminal bodies in a warring state.

  1. Sixty percent of Senegal’s population lives on less $3.10 a day, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain even the most basic human necessities such as food, water, shelter and vaccines.
  2. The richest 20 percent of Senegal hold 46.9 percent of the country’s wealth, illustrating that those displaced by conflict have limited economic resources to rebuild their lives.
  3. The most recent data concerning casualties resulting from the conflict states that approximately 14 civilians, including persons of refugee and internally displaced status, have been killed since February. The continued destruction of human life despite the three-year-old cease-fire illustrates that the conflict still seriously threatens the stability of the nation.
  4. The Senegalese government reports that the MFDC has repeatedly looted local villages to fund its military campaigns. However, the only official report on this comes from a readily biased Senegalese account, illustrating that the control of information is perhaps detrimental to the nation’s democracy.
  5. According to the most recently conducted study, there are an estimated 62,638 internally displaced people (IDP) in and around Senegal as a result of this civil strife.
  6. While physical displacement is the most severe form of displacement, less extreme forms of displacement, including the postponing of infrastructure development, has decreased post-war job opportunities and caused economic stagnation.
  7. Stigmatization of the entire Casamance region has also had impacted civilian life and citizens’ ability to relocate and establish themselves within the larger Senegalese economy.
  8. Humanitarian efforts to aid IDPs have largely focused on conflict resolution and the rebuilding of infrastructure and have not necessarily addressed the most basic and urgent needs of returning IDPs.
  9. The number of non-military landmine deaths was estimated to be around 748 as of December 2008. Efforts to remove landmines exist but are typically run by the Senegalese government, which is more or less unresponsive to the needs of Senegalese refugees and IDPs located in war-torn areas.
  10. Corruption within the MFDC led to a largely war-based economy, which has since devolved into drug trafficking and has initiated a new wave of terror for the people of Casamance. Drug trafficking is especially heavy between Casamance and Guinea-Bissau, and some Senegalese refugees in this area have looked to the notoriously violent narco-trafficking trade for work.

While the recovery statuses of the Casamance region and the Senegalese refugees’ areas are problematic, political and social stability is slowly being reinstated. Approximately one-third of IDPs have returned home in recent years, and the worst of the bloodshed has subsided. Further international intervention seems to be required for complete resolution.

Spencer Linford

Photo: Flickr

The Geneva Convention declared in 1949 that targeting healthcare workers and hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law. Yet in the past six years of conflict, more than 800 Syrian healthcare workers have been killed. More than half were due to bombings or shelling; at least 160 of these deaths were due to either torture or execution. The Syrian government and its allied forces are held responsible for 92 percent of these healthcare worker killings.

An analysis of attacks on healthcare facilities indicates that certain facilities are targeted to cut off access to care and potentially force civilian displacement. Repeated attacks on facilities are noted, with one specialty hospital built in a cave bombed six times already in 2017 and 33 times in the past three years. In 2016, there were almost 200 reported attacks on healthcare facilities.

Not only are healthcare workers in danger, but the attacks on healthcare facilities and the overall destruction due to conflict leaves many facilities without electricity, water or necessary equipment to treat and diagnose patients. In 2016, 95 percent of the doctors who had once worked in Aleppo, formerly the most populous city in Syria, had fled. Current estimates are that only 42 percent of the Syrian population lives in an area with a sufficient proportion of healthcare workers, while almost one-third live in an area where there are no healthcare workers at all.

Conflicts between Syrian healthcare workers and the government have been ongoing since 2011, when healthcare workers were arrested during protests. In 2012, the Syrian government declared that it was a crime to provide medical care to any persons injured in anti-government protests. Current targeting patterns indicates that the Syrian government views any facilities in opposition-controlled areas as terrorist affiliates and therefore legitimate targets.

Because of the low number of Syrian healthcare workers and the dangers they face, many healthcare professionals are trying to find innovative ways to help from outside of the country. A network of underground hospitals has been established, and cameras are being installed in facilities so that doctors can monitor patients and provide consultations remotely. Phone lights are used in underground hospitals that do not have access to electricity.

These solutions are beneficial, but until there is an end to the violence, Syrian healthcare workers are likely to continue to be targeted and care for victims of the conflict will suffer.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Angola runs high; roughly 40 percent of the population currently lives below the poverty line. The combination of a long, drawn-out civil war, systematic political corruption and economic crisis have prevented the country from establishing itself as a stable and prosperous state since Angola received its independence from Portugal in 1975.

While Angola does not have many lucrative exports, oil does make an important contribution to the country’s economy. Between 2006 and 2016, it accounted for as much as 97 percent of exports on average each year and, while there has been some reinvestment into national infrastructure, the president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has received criticism for not redistributing the profits fairly and using the financial boost from oil exports to reduce poverty in Angola as much as he could have.

Beyond its meddling in the oil industry, other forms of government corruption and nepotism are also rife in Angola. One particularly prominent example is the appointment of the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, to the position of chief executive of the state-run oil firm in 2016. Forbes ranks her the richest woman in Africa, and she has an estimated net worth of more than $3 billion. Meanwhile, there is extreme poverty in much of Angola and subsistence farming is the main source of income for the majority of her countrymen and women.

This over-reliance on oil causes another problem: Angola is especially vulnerable to the fluctuations in the global oil market. Just last year, a global drop in oil prices resulted in an economic catastrophe for Angola. This triggered a rise in prices on everything from food and fuel to healthcare, putting an even greater strain on the country’s poorest inhabitants. The situation was exacerbated when the government imposed tough austerity measures, a move the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights deemed regressive and concerning.

Meanwhile, in a bid to diversify the economy with additional sources of revenue, huge land grabs have taken place at the hands of government officials and private businesses. In many cases, citizens have been forcibly evicted without adequate housing alternatives and proper compensation. Instead, they have been resettled in makeshift housing with little access to amenities such as healthcare, education, water and electricity.

Even before this move, access to healthcare and education has been severely limited, helping to reinforce a cycle of poverty. So while progress – although slow – has been made in both areas since peace was established in 2002, there is still much progress to be made. More investment is needed in the country’s public services to alleviate levels of poverty in Angola.

Rosie McCall

Photo: Flickr

Since the Arab Spring, Libya has been a hotbed of division. Ongoing internal conflict, economic stagnation and loss of infrastructure have affected one of the most important sectors: healthcare. Lack of help from the government and an influx of Syrian refugees are increasingly adding to the chaos. Here are 10 facts about the current state of healthcare in Libya.

  1. Prior to the 2011 Arab Spring, Libya had a functioning healthcare system that could fairly support its nation’s citizens. Post-2011, the complete division of the country into multiple governments left the healthcare system extremely underfunded.
  2. Healthcare in Libya before 2011 was mostly facilitated by foreign workers who fled once war broke out. Now, with a nearly decimated healthcare system, foreign workers from universal government organizations like Doctors Without Borders are the main providers of health services in the nation.
  3. In the last six months of 2016 alone, 60 percent of hospitals became inaccessible or closed. Hospitals and clinics have closed because of shortages of resources, including: Shortage of staff with experience, basic medicines such as insulin and basic equipment such as dialysis equipment.
  4. Healthcare in Libya has also become divided in two. East Libya’s government is recognized by the Western World with the capital of Tobruk, but the Western government based in Tripoli is controlled by rebels and the Islamic State.
  5. Mothers are heavily affected by the ongoing civil war in the country. The stress of life during the war has led to numerous miscarriages. Many pregnant women have also become anemic because they cannot access the right foods. Several women have even resorted to staying at home for their births, which has increased the number of deaths for mothers at birth because of lack of sanitation and medical knowledge. The International Medical Corps has set up a midwife and OBGYN pop-up clinic only for pregnant women.
  6. The influx of refugees and asylum seekers entering into Libya add another strain to the already collapsed healthcare system. The lives of all of these people are at risk because of the lack of a functioning asylum system.
  7. According to the World Health Organization, there are about 250,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Libya. They add to the already displaced 430,000 locals.
  8. Doctors Without Borders has set up seven mobile clinics in Tripoli and its bordering areas. As of December 2016, the organization’s doctors have performed 5,579 medical consultations, meeting with around 500 patients weekly. The consolations focus on infections, diarrhea, skin diseases and urinary tract infections. Many of these infections are caused by the lack of infrastructures caused by the war in the country. About 680,000 people are still in need of help to access clean water and sanitation.
  9. The mobile clinics, though helpful, also have problems of their own. Most do not have enough food to provide for their patients, feeding people by community bowls. Outside of the clinics, people in Libya are also struggling to eat, with 1.2 million people struggling to access food.
  10. Luckily, the World Health Organization has mapped out a Humanitarian Response Plan to improve healthcare in Libya. The plan is comprised of three steps:
    1. Making sure people have access to basic and lifesaving healthcare services;
    2. Reducing communicable diseases and outbreaks;
    3. Strengthening the entire healthcare system to allow hospitals to open up again so more people have access.

It is important to note that although the future of the Libyan government remains unknown, many organizations are coming together to help citizens receive some sort of healthcare. Hopefully, things will begin to look up for healthcare in the nation as a whole.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Saudi Arabia and War in Syria
The ongoing war in Syria has left many of its citizens desperate for a safe place to live. In response, government officials in Saudi Arabia have allowed the entry of Syrian refugees. However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considered a Gulf state and thus not part of the 1951 United Nation Refugee Convention. It is, therefore, entirely up to state officials to determine if and how many refugees should be allowed entrance into the state.

Refugees in Saudi Arabia are required to possess a passport and a visa prior to entry. Moreover, the state’s interactions in the Syrian war coupled with its unwillingness to let in more Syrian refugees as compared to other Gulf states has made it subject to much criticism.

Syrian scholar Ali Al-Ahmed has inferred that one of the reasons why officials are cautious of allowing the entry of refugees in Saudi Arabia is the notion that Syrians present a major “cultural and political risk.” In other words, they fear that allowing in too many Syrians at once would constitute a major threat to security.

Currently, there are roughly 895,000 Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia. Some are students and a large amount are adults who work full-time within the Arab state. Yet it has been predicted that the kingdom will never allow access to more than one million Syrian refugees at a given time.

According to Abdulla Al-Rabeeah, chief of the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief), more effort has been put forth towards assisting individuals who are in desperate need of relief. Al-Rabeeah stated that KSRelief has “carried out 127 projects in Yemen providing relief and humanitarian aid, as well as shelter, in addition to agricultural and water programs.” Furthermore, Al-Rabeeah reported that Saudi Arabia has allocated a total of $700 million in humanitarian aid and relief to 37 countries, including Syria.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr