The mental health needs of asylum seekers

In the wake of the 2015-16 European migrant and refugee crisis, mental health has emerged as a critical issue—not only for the well-being of asylum seekers who may have experienced trauma, but for the outcomes of their protection claims and the integrity of the processing system itself.

The primary mental-health conditions affecting asylum seekers are PTSD, depression, and anxiety, while alcohol and drug addictions and somatoform disorders have also been reported.

Asylum seekers can experience trauma before, during, and after their journey to Europe. In addition to living through painful situations in their countries of origin, some face violence, detention, or even torture along the path to safety. When they arrive at their destinations, long periods spent waiting in overcrowded and often isolated reception facilities can add new stress to an already grueling experience, as can a lack of optimism about the future.

Asylum seekers reported experiencing trauma during multiple stages of the trip. At origin, the most commonly reported traumatic events by asylum seekers include combat situations, sexual assault, and having witnessed violence and death. During the journey, in debt and under the control of smugglers, many asylum seekers spend long periods in harsh conditions and may be subject to continuous threats, violence, and even torture. Persistent worries about the whereabouts and fates of their loved ones add further anguish.

A study by psychologist Martina Heeren and her coauthors in Switzerland found that trauma-related mental-health disorders are also strongly influenced by resident status: Asylum seekers were more likely to suffer from PTSD compared to those whose protection claims were recognized earlier and had been granted permanent residency. Similarly, the rate of depression among those awaiting an asylum decision was nearly twice that of recognized refugees.

[Read full Migration Policy Institute article]

Numerical estimates of how Trump plan would shape immigration

As the US Administration presses for the most extensive revision to immigration law since 1965, with the largest cuts to legal immigration since 1924 in the proposed “Securing America’s Future Act,” a new Center for Global Development (CGD) analysis quantifies for the first time how the proposed cuts would affect the ethnic, religious, and educational composition of immigration flows.

  • Hispanic and black immigrants would be roughly twice as likely to be barred by the immigration cuts as white immigrants;
  • the cuts would bar the majority of Muslim and Catholic immigrants; and
  • the cuts would substantially reduce the number of university-graduate immigrants, and would reduce average years of education among immigrants overall.

[Read full CGD article]

Humanitarian and development to ensure that drought doesn’t turn to famine

The year 2017 was momentous for Somalia, with the inauguration of a new president and parliament following a historic electoral process. However, the peaceful transition of power was soon followed by the declaration of a natural disaster in the form of a prolonged drought that sparked fears of famine. By the end of 2017, 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and over 1 million people internally displaced.

Since the end of the 2011 famine, about $4.5 billion has been spent on emergency response to save lives. Joint efforts by the Somali Government and local and international partners in 2017 averted another famine, but indications are that the effects of the continuing drought will continue into 2018.

It was within this context that the Somali Government—with the support of the United Nations (UN), the World Bank and the European Union (EU)—carried out an assessment and frameworks to provide all development actors a blueprint for action that can decrease Somalia’s vulnerability to shock, strengthen livelihoods, and increase economic growth.

Continuing humanitarian assistance and livelihood support to Somalia is vital in 2018, paralleled by development solutions that focus on job creation, access to finance, and support to public service delivery, to ensure that drought never turns to famine again.

[World Bank]

Progress toward a malaria-free Africa has stalled

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s World Malaria Report 2017 signals that, for the first time in more than a decade, progress against malaria on the African continent, which accounts for almost 90% of the global malaria burden, has stalled.

“Malaria alone is estimated to rob the continent of US$12 billion per year in lost productivity, investment and associated health care costs. It is therefore critical that we sustain the political commitment, as articulated in our continental Agenda 2063, to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030 through increased domestic financing, increased access to life-saving malaria interventions, as well as more robust health systems,” said H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

African leaders previously committed to eliminating malaria by 2030. And while some African countries have seen a greater than 20% increase in malaria cases and deaths since 2016, others are showing that beating malaria is possible.

High-burden countries such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which account for 27% and 10% of the global malaria cases, respectively, also face significant gaps in financing their malaria efforts over the next three years. Alternatively, several African countries that have stepped up their efforts, such as Senegal and Madagascar, have achieved a greater than 20% decrease in malaria cases in 2016, according to the World Malaria Report 2017.

“African countries are at greatest risk of losing the significant gains made over a decade and must renew efforts to make fighting malaria a priority. Domestic funding needs to be urgently stepped up. These investments — only a fraction of what African nations will save if we succeed in eliminating malaria — will pay off, in millions more lives saved, health systems strengthened, economies grown and the world back on track to end this disease,” said Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.

[African Union]

The forgotten man: The refugee forced to flee, and then vilified in the media and politics

The humanitarian community presently faces a mammoth funding shortage for the problems it already faces, let alone being able to mitigate against new disasters, said Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the crowd gathered at Davos. “We are confronted in 2018 with a big gap between needs of people and the capacity of the international system as a whole to respond,” he said.

“Historically, migration has a positive force in societies and economies around the world,” said William Swing, the director general of the International Organization of Migration. “We need to recognize that migration is not an issue to be ‘solved.’ It is a human reality that we need to manage, humanely and responsibly.”

But that’s simply not happening in most Western countries. “People look to their leadership, and there just isn’t a lot of political courage and leadership on the issue of migration right now,” Swing said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lamented the disillusionment seeping into the West. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves,” he said. “It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening. … Everyone is talking about an interconnected world, but we will have to accept the fact that globalization is slowly losing its luster,” Modi said. “The solution to this worrisome situation against globalization is not isolation. The solution is in understanding and accepting change.”

Valter Sanches, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, which represents about 50 million workers in more than 140 countries, said that the chasm between rich and poor was only growing wider. And the politics of the moment don’t seem capable of breaching the gap.

[Washington Post]

World Food Programme honors UPS

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has honored David Abney, Chairman and CEO of UPS, in recognition of outstanding contributions the company and its foundation have made towards achieving Zero Hunger.

“UPS is a steadfast partner that is always quick to offer vital resources that are often in short supply during emergencies,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “UPS and its employees are true champions for Zero Hunger and great examples of what can be achieved working together with the private sector.”

Beasley presented the 2018 Hunger Hero Award to Abney at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Since 2009, UPS has provided critical in-kind support to WFP directly and as a founding member of its Logistics Emergency Teams (LET), a collaboration of global logistics and transportation companies that support the humanitarian community during emergencies.

UPS’s support to WFP has included deploying rapid response teams and calling up logistics personnel from an emergency roster to take part in coordinated responses; providing airlift services to deliver essential food and supplies to depots at the scene of a response; and providing warehouse facilities and equipment to WFP when needed. Additionally, UPS executives are often deployed to share logistics expertise to help prepare for future emergencies. UPS also provides capacity building grants to strengthen WFP’s capabilities to respond more efficiently to rapid onset and complex global crises.

In addition to the company’s in-kind resources and expertise, The UPS Foundation provides cash donations to WFP, often at the earliest moments following a natural disaster when flexible funds are needed most.

[WRP]

USAID announces launch of smart communities coalition with private-sector partners at Davos

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green and Mastercard Executive Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships Tara Nathan co-chaired the launch of the Smart Communities Coalition (SCC) today at the World Economic Forum in Davos. SCC will address technology challenges that refugees and host communities face, and increase their Internet connectivity, digital-payment capabilities, and energy access within refugee settlements. SCC will improve camp-management and service delivery, and help empower refugees to provide for themselves and their families.

Power Africa, a U.S. Government-led initiative coordinated by USAID, will spearhead efforts to provide energy access to refugees in a more cost-efficient manner. Within SCC, USAID’s Global Development Lab and other partners will increase Internet and mobile connectivity.

SCC’s private sector partners, such as Mastercard, will bring their payments technology and expertise to create efficiency, transparency, and accountability with new financial tools for refugees and the surrounding communities to give them a safe and secure way to access and pay for services like electricity, Internet, and school fees.

Among the non-profit SCC participants which have generously pledged their support: World Vision; Mercy Corps; Lutheran World Federation; Danish Refugee Council; and Norwegian Refugee Council.

[USAID]

The toll from landslides heaviest in developing countries

This month’s tragic mudslides in Montecito, California are a reminder that natural hazards lurk on the doorsteps of many U.S. homes, even in affluent communities. Similar events occur every year around the world, often inflicting much higher casualties yet rarely making front-page headlines.

Dave Petley, an earth scientist at the University of Sheffield, has calculated that landslides caused 32,322 fatalities between 2004 and 2010 – equivalent to over 4,500 deaths each year. For comparison, floods are estimated to have killed an average of roughly 7,000 people each year.

In the most destructive recorded cases of the 20th century, thousands of people died in single events. The highest numbers of fatalities from landslides occur in the mountains of Asia and Central and South America, as well as on steep islands in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. For example:
– Catastrophic debris flows from Nevado Huascarán, the highest mountain peak in Peru killed as many as 4,000 people in 1962 and another estimated 18,000-20,000 in 1970.
– During the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, 20,000 deaths were attributed to landslides – roughly one-fourth of the total deaths from the quake.

Wherever slopes are steep, there is a chance that they will fail. Heavy rainfall or a large earthquake can destabilize precarious balances and unleash the raw power of tumbling rocks and debris. The risks increase after wildfires. They also can be exacerbated by deforestation and land use change. Earthquake-triggered landslides, while less frequent than those induced by rainfall, have been responsible for some of the greatest losses of life.

Among the reasons the effects of landslides are disproportionately severe in developing countries reflect a number of factors, including the resilience of basic infrastructure and emergency services; the availability of health care to treat people who are injured or left homeless; and patterns of development that determine where people live, and the lack of early warning systems that can alert people to imminent risks.

[Read full article]

UN launches global funding push after US aid cuts to Palestine

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today launched a global fundraising campaign to sustain resources for its education, health and other assistance programmes.

The campaign follows the announcement by the United States to withhold more than half its funding commitment to the UN agency.

“I wish to confirm to all Palestine refugees that UNRWA schools […] will remain open [and] health care, and other services will be provided. It is a huge challenge, but it is absolutely imperative,” Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said in Gaza, launching the campaign, ‘#DignityIsPriceless’.

The UN agency said the reduction in US funding could have a significant impact on the daily lives of millions of vulnerable Palestine refugees across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

It added that basic education for 525,000 boys and girls at over 700 UNRWA schools; emergency food and cash assistance to 1.7 million Palestine refugees; access to primary health care for 3 million refugees, including pre-natal care; and dignity and human security for 5.3 million refugees, have been endangered as result of the limited funding.

[UN News Centre]

Thousands still dying at sea enroute to Europe

Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe. Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places.

Approximately 227,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route. Despite appealing for just 40,000 resettlement places last year, UNHCR has thus far received 13,000 offers of resettlement places.

After stories of migrants being sold at an auction and being held in horrific conditions in detention centers were revealed, both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have helped evacuate hundreds of vulnerable refugees from Libya to Niger.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity… what was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, adding that the EU’s policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean is “inhuman.”

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he continued, calling for the decriminalization of irregular migration in order to help protect migrants’ human rights.

Human rights officials have also criticized the EU-Turkey deal which returns migrants who have entered the Greek islands to Turkey. Many have found that asylum seekers are also not safe in Turkey as the country does not grant asylum or refugee status to non-Europeans.

[IPS]