Migrants-at-risk blocked from crossing US border near Tijuana

A group of Central American asylum seekers spent Monday languishing on the ground outside a border crossing after U.S. officials said they did not have space to process them. On one side of the standoff are 220 migrants, who cite their right to seek shelter from persecution back home and have traveled through Mexico in a caravan to highlight the suffering of asylum seekers. On the other side is the Trump administration, which is trying to crack down on illegal immigration and says many asylum claims are fraudulent.

Trump tweeted last week that he had ordered the secretary of homeland security “not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” adding, “It is a disgrace.” But under international treaties it has signed, the U.S. government is obliged to allow foreigners to apply for asylum.

The San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego has detention space for about 300 people. U.S. officials have not said how many people are being held there. Asylum seekers are typically detained until officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conduct interviews to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution or torture if they are sent home. Many of the migrants say they face threats to their lives in their native lands.

Suany Rodriguez, 6, who had been running to the bathroom all day with a bad case of diarrhea, grabbed a Barbie before sitting down in the street in front of a pharmacy. Her mother, Irma Rivera, 31, said that the girl had woken up sick after a bitterly cold night at the border. The family had left Honduras after Rivera’s husband was killed in a cornfield…She said she received anonymous phone calls stating that … other members of her family would be slain. That’s why she’s seeking asylum.

“We’re asking for them [U.S. authorities] to be fair. You don’t leave your country because you want to. The violence makes you leave,” Rivera said. “My life is at risk and so are the lives of my children.”

[Washington Post]

Twice a refugee

Amira is 61 years old, each wrinkle on her face reflecting a sorrow, a heartbreak. Amira had a normal life in Syria not that long ago; she was happily married with six children before the Syrian Civil War came and tore apart her country and her family.

When a rocket exploded outside her family’s apartment in Aleppo, Amira’s husband went to help the injured. A second rocket exploded, killing her beloved husband and father of her children.

The next year Amira’s son died during a missile attack where people were waiting for water. To add sorrow to sorrow, soon another son would die, leaving behind his wife and four orphan children.

The following year the husband of Amira’s newly-married daughter was killed, leaving behind another orphan, a daughter who has meningitis.

2016 brought an intensified bombing campaign of eastern Aleppo, and with it untold pain, suffering and misery. The UN’s humanitarian chief warned that eastern Aleppo was being turned into “one giant graveyard” as the rebel-held area was being overrun. During this nightmare, Amira’s grandchild, the fourth child of her widowed daughter, was injured when a bomb blast threw her against a wall, smashing her skull.

So Amira left Aleppo through an established safe corridor to Idlib, hoping to recover from the horrors she has lived through. But in September and October of 2017, the hospitals where she had been taking her grandchildren for treatment were bombed. In early 2018, the fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaced thousands more and she decided to join the thousands of Syrians willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey.

Amira arrived in our city on the first of February with her family of 12: herself, a daughter with an injured child; her disabled son, his wife, and their daughter with meningitis; her youngest son, aged 13; and her widowed daughter-in-law with four kids, the youngest with a damaged skull. She moved in temporarily with her sister in a clean but over-crowded abode in a crime-infested slum area.

We met brave Amira one week after her arrival. Her brother lives here in Turkey; an injured man in immense pain with part of his head badly damaged. Amira just wants to find a safe haven for her remaining family, far from the sounds of war. You see the deep insecurity in her children, having fled Aleppo in 2016, and now, a year or so later, having to run for their lives again from Idlib. It is hard to imagine what these children must be going through, living in war zones for most of their lives and having to move twice already while still so young.

It seemed beyond our totally volunteer team’s capability to adopt a new refugee family, with our limited resources and so many other families to assist. Yet how could we not help them and try to take them under our wings?

An angel from abroad sent us $1000 to secure housing for Amira. A friend from the UK gave a generous gift for the mothers to purchase new clothes. We returned the next day with clothes for all the children, courtesy of a local Foreign Woman’s Club. Other friends went on a crusade to gather as many household items as they could.

Fast forward three weeks. They now have a new house in a better part of town, with a green area nearby where the children can play. Recently we did our second delivery of household items. The Foreign Women’s Club delivered two carloads and a truck of aid and we gave a nice bed and mattress from our former home.

We were also able to register them all to get their ID cards –in a single day! For those who work with refugees, you know that this process can take weeks and at times even months. The authorities bent over backwards to help us do this. We are in regular communication with the police here about our work with the refugees. We often enter neighborhoods that even the police usually do not enter. Our good relations with the authorities have paid off as they have been a big help to us.

Seeing Amira and her family’s utter joy as we delivered the different donations was such a reward. In a matter of three weeks I personally went from feeling overwhelmed to an overwhelming happiness in seeing how our donors in the West have once again risen up to the occasion to help others.

Bill and Melinda Gates accomplishments from giving away over 40 billion dollars

It’s been 18 years since Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they intended to give away their fortune—now an estimated $91 billion—to better the planet, along with the lives of its most vulnerable inhabitants. Since then, they’ve hired over 1,400 employees and spent $40.3 billion to tackle some of the hardest-to-solve problems—like healthcare, poverty and education—in both developing countries and here at home.

“The human condition, by all key measures, has improved dramatically,” says Bill. “People are living longer and less children are dying; the death rate for children under five has been cut in half over the last 15 years.” Adds Melinda: “Last week I was in West Africa and Kenya. The amount of entrepreneurism and people lifting themselves up is palpable. The world is changing for the better and we want people to know that.”

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Bill: Global health is our biggest area, and it’s going well. With any luck we’ll have the last polio case this year.
Melinda: There are literally millions of children alive because of the vaccines that we’ve been involved with.
Bill: And there are things that are much longer term, like getting an HIV vaccine done, which unfortunately will probably take another decade. Eradicating malaria will probably be a 20-year quest.

Q: You often bring your kids on your humanitarian trips to the Third World. What have they learned?
Melinda: All three of our kids have spent a lot of time in the developing world, not just on nice safaris but sometimes living with these families. So it’s become central to our lives and, I’d say, has changed us all for the better. I think it will probably affect the path they’re each on in life. It certainly grounds us in what’s important.

[People]

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]

Trump Administration’s threats to retaliate after UN Jerusalem vote concerning

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, has voiced its deep concerned by the Trump Administration’s recent stance that countries should not receive U.S. development assistance because of their differing views on the location of the U.S. embassy in Israel.

While any such move will be subject to congressional checks and balances, CARE believes that American leadership is reflected by full funding for international programs, particularly where there is the greatest need.  U.S. foreign assistance has saved lives, reduced poverty and limits the spread of disease; and in turn creates a safer, stronger, and more prosperous world.

[CARE.org]

Outcome of the abduction of 4 British missionaries in Nigeria

The British government says one UK missionary who was kidnapped in Nigeria last month has been killed but three others have been freed.

The Foreign Office said on Monday that Alanna Carson, David Donovan and Shirley Donovan have returned to their families, but Ian Squire “was tragically killed.”

The four were abducted in the Niger Delta region on October 13.

The missionaries had been operating a series of clinics in Nigeria for the past 14 years, despite the high risk across Delta State from kidnappers, armed robbers and pirates.

Friends of Ian Squire branded his captors “despicable” as they paid tribute to the optician who had set up his own charity to save people’s sight in Africa. The 57-year-old ran his own opticians in Shepperton, Surrey, and had been founder and chairman of the Christian charity Mission for Vision since 2003. He founded the charity to provide training and eye equipment for clinics in countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique.

Monica Chard, a friend, said: “He was a lovely, quiet man who everyone knew and loved as the village optician. “He went out to Africa every year with the charity and his wife was also involved. He just wanted to help people see who otherwise would not have had any help.”

According to his website, Mr Squire had made 13 trips for the charity since 2003, accompanied by other opticians and volunteers, and in 2013 had joined forces with the Donovans on his first visit to Nigeria. Mr Donovan, a GP from Cambridge, and his wife, both aged 57, run their own Christian health charity called New Foundations, with a string of remote clinics in the Delta region.

[AP/The Telegraph]

Money spent on MDGs well-invested

A recent Brookings study revealed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the development agenda set by the US and others for the first fifteen years of this century – were more successful than anybody knew. Bottom line: The study concludes that at least 21 million more people are alive today as a result.

This tells us that the simple MDG approach worked; the U.S. and other, smaller donors helped save a number of lives equivalent to the entire population of Florida. If USAID continues to focus on effective targets, the American public could be reassured that every dollar is achieving the most possible.

The reduction of childhood malnutrition deserves funds. Evidence for Copenhagen Consensus showed that every dollar spent providing better nutrition for 68 million children would produce over $40 in long-term social benefits.

Malaria, too, deserves attention. A single case can be averted for as little as $11. We don’t just stop one persons suffering; we save a community from lost economic productivity. Our economists estimated that reducing the incidence of malaria by 50% would generate a 35-fold return in benefits to society.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been overlooked and under-funded. Despite being the world’s biggest infectious killer, in 2015 it received just 3.4 per cent of development assistance for health. Reducing TB deaths by 90 per cent would result in 1.3 million fewer deaths. In economic terms, this would bring benefits worth $43 for every dollar spent.

There are 19 such targets that deserve prioritization, because each dollar would do a lot to achieve a safer, healthier world – a result that leads to lasting benefits for the US. When it comes to development, everyone’s goal should be the same. Rather than slashing funds for development, the United States should maintain its global leadership by focusing on the areas where every dollar achieves the most good.

[Inter Press Service]

Donor fatigue grips USA

The charity World Vision International is a major provider of disaster relief across the globe. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the group revved up its fundraising big-time. “We’ve raised just under $4 million in cash donations,” said Drew Clark, the charity’s senior director of emergencies.

Two weeks later Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and Florida. This time World Vision brought in $900,000.

Then came the big earthquake in Mexico that killed more than 340 people. That fundraising appeal netted $150,000.

And for Hurricane Maria–which has left many of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico without reliable sources of power, food or even water–World Vision has only taken in about $100,000.

“There is clearly evidence of donor fatigue,” says Clark. “There’s just a limit to the amount of responses that we can successfully fundraise for.”

“I would say it is somewhat unprecedented,” says Leisel Talley of the epic cascade of disasters. She is leading the international component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to the hurricanes. Talley says it’s not just that the U.S. has been clobbered with three disasters in a row. It’s that this happened alongside multiple other new crises since August.

[NPR]

LDS Church’s humanitarian aid to Africa and the Middle East

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will use $11 million in funds to assist victims of famine in eight countries in Africa and the Middle East. According to a press statement , “LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, is partnering with 11 global relief organizations to support 25 projects in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Niger, Kenya, Uganda and D.R. Congo.”

The church’s donation of cash and commodities will benefit more than 1.1 million people for up to one year, according to the church.

LDS Charities is partnering with key non-governmental and faith-based organizations, including CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Convoy of Hope, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief USA, Rahma Relief, Real Medicine Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, USA for UNHCR and the World Food Programme.

“With 20 million people on the brink of starvation and 5.7 million children dangerously malnourished in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria, it’s more important than ever for the international community to take action to prevent people from dying,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, in the church statement. “Our brothers and sisters in these countries need our help to beat back famine and stop the suffering of innocent people.”

“LDS Charities has consistently stepped up to help those who need it most in times of emergency,” said Prerana Issar, World Food Programme director of private sector partnerships. “Their trust in WFP and their compassion and drive to help those who cannot help themselves has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition around the world.”

[Daily Herald]

Honoring a great humanitarian Dr. Ruth Pfau

Very few Americans are familiar with the work of one our greatest humanitarians, the late Dr. Ruth Pfau. The German-born nun and physician devoted more than half a century of her life to the cause of eradicating leprosy in Pakistan and died last week at the age of 87.

Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929. Her earliest memories were of a world disfigured by evil: the flash of swastikas, the inexplicable disappearance of Jewish schoolmates, the screams of friends and neighbors during Allied bombing campaigns. As an undergraduate studying medicine at Mainz she met a Dutch concentration camp survivor who spoke of her ability to forgive those who had imprisoned her. Her encounter with this exemplar of mercy changed Pfau indelibly. She was received into the Catholic Church and after completing her medical studies she joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary.

Later, as a missionary nun assigned to work in Bombay she found herself held up with visa issues in Karachi, Pakistan. Here by another providential turn of events she happened to visit a so-called leper colony in which sufferers from Hansen’s disease had been left to die in conditions of indescribable agony. Pfau saw this and refused to leave. At first she worked with nothing but a tent. Three years later she was able to found a clinic, the first of what would eventually be more than 150, many of them in areas of astonishing remoteness. Her patients, many of them children, often came to her from caves or remote hills where they had been left by relations who feared that seeking treatment for them would spread their infection.

In 1996, Pakistan was declared officially leprosy-free, and the vast network of hospitals and clinics Pfau established continue to this day to provide treatment for a variety of illnesses, including tuberculosis, and to coordinate relief services in the event of natural disasters.

In the words of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pfau “may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan,” where she came “at the dawn of a young nation, looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease, and in doing so, found herself a home.” It is unsurprising that in her adopted country she was one of the most admired living people or that, in this officially Muslim nation, her Catholic requiem at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi will be an official state funeral.

In the rotting flesh of Pakistan’s lepers Pfau saw the beauty of men and women made in the image of God. Her example reminds us that the world, even at the worst of times and in the most wretched and miserable of places, can be full of light.

[The Week]