Calls grow louder for urgent action to protect Syria’s children | 

children study

The present situation for Syria’s children is bad. Three years have passed and a generation is caught in the middle.  It’s not hyperbole when considering that there is no end in sight to the civil war.

Physical danger is an immediate concern. Numbers are hard to know, but estimates put the number of children killed during the conflict at 10,000.

Need is driving some children into labor, something that was not the norm for Syria before the fighting started. Salah is only 15 years-old, but he works in a mine near the Beka’a valley of Lebanon, with his brother. School is not an option for the boys and the family needs income. So they must work.

“I didn’t use to work in Syria,” Salah said to UNICEF. “But I am working here because I need to help with the expenses. My brother is working too. We can’t go to school, so it’s better if we work.”

Also worrying is fact that some 3 million kids are not going to school, roughly half of the country’s school age children. If the disruption lasts for much longer the impacts could be long lasting, worry humanitarian organizations.

A total of 5.5 million children have felt the impacts of the fighting. The number of children affected by the Syrian civil war doubled in the past year and it keeps growing.

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Ground zero for the next potential genocide: Central African Republic | 

Doctors Without Borders tried to once again call attention to the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic. The organization has treated tens of thousands of people for injuries from grenades, machetes and more, since December. It said that the world was not doing enough to address a problem that has continued to deteriorate since the overthrow of the government last March.

This week, I speak with Muriel Tschopp, International Rescue Committees’ Emergency Field Programme Coordinator.  She is on the ground in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, where much of the international response to the crisis is focused. Bottom line is that this crisis can likely be averted, before it gets worse with the rainy season, simply by beefing up the peacekeeping presence. Says Tschopp:

“The majority of the people are trapped in the middle” between Muslim and Christian extremist militias, explains Tschopp. Much of the  fighting may be drawn across religious lines, but current tensions are not deep rooted. There’s a long history of the two sides getting along just fine, with lots of intermarriage and little bloodshed.

The opportunity to change the course of violence and restore order to the Central African Republic is there, but security is sorely needed. Tschopp’s sentiments reflect that of many humanitarian organizations working in response to the crisis, including the UN.

In the headlines portion, Tom Murphy and I discuss an interesting new study on savings and loans groups in Uganda. After the NGOs left, people started forming their own group, to the surprise of the researchers. We also heard from Tom about his new series, Migration Matters. He explains why he is interested in the issue of immigration and brain drain.

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Map of the Day: Refugees Accepted by US States, Population Adjusted | 

In 2012, more than 87,000 people were resettled as refugees or granted asylum. People from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq made up more than 70% of the refugees arriving that year. The majority of US states take in refugees each year. Roughly 1 out of ever 5 refugees end up in the giant states of Texas and California.

However, adjusting for population, California and Texas are not overburdened.

Refugees per million residents yearly, 2009-12.
Refugees per million residents yearly, 2009-12.
Casey Cupp

This map by Casey Cupp is warped to show which states take on the highest number of refugees relative to their population. For example, the densely populated New Jersey takes in a far lower rate of refugees than that of the two Dakotas. What the map shows is that the distribution of refugees looks very different when considering state populations as opposed to strictly the number of people living in each state.

HT Cherokee Gothic

Data: Migration Policy Institue

Feeble effort dooming Central African Republic, activists say | 

A survivor of a suspected Anti-Balaka grenade attack waits to go to hospital with the help of MISCA.
A survivor of a suspected Anti-Balaka grenade attack waits to go to hospital with the help of MISCA.
Laurence Geai/NurPhoto/Sipa USA

Extreme violence persists on a daily basis across the Central African Republic.

The inability to protect civilians affected by targeted violence is evidence that the international community is failing the Central African Republic, said humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today.

MSF says it has treated more than 3,600 people for injuries caused by gunshot, grenade, machete and more, since December 5.What little that is being done falls well below acceptable humanitarian standards.

When regular violence returned the country that has been in crisis for nearly a year, in December, people had few options for humanitarian assistance. Medical aid was the only form of assistance many people received for roughly four weeks, claimed Hurum. She described the situation in the Central African Republic as the “roughest mission” in her eight years with MSF.

“There is an exceptional situation going on. I’ve never seen such a high level of violence, in the last few years,” agreed Dr Joanne Liu, President for MSF International.

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Coming to your local refugee camp: Ikea | 


Everybody’s favorite do-it-yourself furniture warehouse, Ikea, is getting in on the humanitarian game.

The charitable arm of the Swedish company Ikea unveiled a new partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Refugee Housing Unit to design better homes for refugees.  It is a part of a €73 million commitment to improving the lives of refugees in camps in Ethiopia, Sudan and Bangladesh. Shelters are one facets of the commitment which also touches on education and family reunification, but they are certainly catching some attention.

The “Refugee Shelter” comes with solar panels, higher ceilings and insulated walls. It is a sturdier structure than the tents are often used and one that can maintain temperature for regions that face harsh winters, such as Syria and its neighboring countries. Continue reading

Taking On Food Aid Reform, Metrics, the Refugee Crisis, and TOMS Shoes | 

humanosphere_podcastlogoStart your week off right with the latest Humanosphere podcast! We appreciated having Tom Murphy, Humanosphere’s East Coast correspondent, on the program so much in the previous edition that we invited him back to hash out all the news with us.

First, we tackle last week’s failed attempt in Congress to reform aid – what could have been, the politics of the decisions, and the future prospects for changing how we feed the world’s hungry.

Then we go wonky and discuss metrics of poverty and inequality. Everyone seems to have ideas and proposals, but what about the data? The two Toms explain how a new landmark study provides a solid grounding for the debate, as the next generation of the Millennium Development Goals develops.

We move on to the UN’s startling announcement that the number of refugees worldwide has reached a high point, fueled by the crisis in Syria. There’s something fundamentally wrong with the way the humanitarian system serves people who’ve been displaced – dividing them into two categories of “refugee” and “internally displaced person,” placing them in camps – we all agree. But with national borders and government sovereignty at issue, it’s not clear how to make that system better.

And to conclude, we get into the criticisms and counter-criticisms of the notorious and popular TOMS Shoes charity. You’ll want to hear this.

Tune in below and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes!

Syria: Refugee Crisis Worsens and Money Dries Up | 

Children of Zaatari camp
Children of Za’atari camp

At its current pace, there will be 3.65 million Syrian refugees by the end of the year. That means an estimated 2 million people will flee from the violence in Syria to a neighboring country in the span of six months.

Another 4.25 million Syrians are displaced within the country and the UN estimates that 6.8 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance. That is more than one out of every four Syrians.

A request for $1.41 billion for the first half of the year received only 70% (corrected) of the funding. Despite the shortfall, 2.4 million people have been reached by feeding programs, one million children have been vaccinated against polio and measles and safe drinking water has been provided for 9 million people.

The continued fighting, increased displacements and worsening situation add up to a greater humanitarian need. An appeal for an additional $4.4 billion for the rest of the year reflects the challenges ahead.

“After more than two years of brutal conflict, almost a third of Syrians need urgent humanitarian help and protection, but the needs are growing more quickly than we can meet them,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos. “Today we launched the biggest humanitarian appeal ever and we are asking our donors to continue to give generously.”

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Syria’s Children: A Lost Generation? | 

Syrian boy in refugee camp
Syrian boy in refugee camp
Flickr, UNICEF

More than one million people are on the run in Syria, and most experts say this massive refugee situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better.

As always, it is often the children who tend to suffer the most.

The crisis in Syria today compares to massive historic tragedies, Iraq in 1991 and Rwanda, 1994, in terms of the number of people displaced. An additional 2 million Syrians are internally displaced. With as many as 8,000 people leaving Syria every day the UN is concerned that the number of refugees may triple by the end of the year.

That means as much as 15% of all Syrians could be refugees by the end of the year.

Several new reports out this week emphasize the harm this crisis is doing to children – a harm that can persist after the crisis passes, which makes responding to it now more urgent than ever. Continue reading