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]

Christians protest as new report shows devastating impact of Trump’s refugee policies

The global standing of the US when it comes to the world refugee crisis has dramatically slipped in the past six months, according to a new report released by Human Rights First, a leading non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization.

As a result of changes in US policy under Donald Trump’s presidency, global refugee resettlement is now predicted to fall by 30-40 per cent in 2017 as compared to 2016. The refugees most affected by this decline are women and children, including those who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence, as well as survivors of torture.

Emily Gray, the senior vice president for US ministries of the Christian charity World Relief, said: ‘In addition to women and children, the decision of the United States to allow fewer refugees also means that the US will accept the lowest number of refugees who have been persecuted for their Christian faith in a decade.’

Scott Arbeiter, World Relief‘s president, added that ‘we must appropriately balance security and compassion. This report clearly shows that we are not achieving that balance, and that people are suffering as a result.’

‘Through our work in Jordan, we see very directly the impact of the refugee crisis there, and these actions by the administration are compounding the struggles of refugees who are trying to find safety in countries that are already struggling,’ said World Relief CEO Tim Breene.

[Christian Today]

International Rescue Committee: “Americans oblivious to overseas suffering”

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered.

Lack of awareness, however, does not imply deliberate lack of concern, IRC is quick to observe. Once Americans are briefed on the relevant facts, the organization notes, “the issue immediately rises to a top global concern.”

IRC goes on to note that “[n]ear-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time,” implying that the media is at fault for not keeping such a crucial issue at the center of public discussion.

The survey also found that most Americans favor providing more humanitarian aid, not less, as President Donald Trump has proposed: 68% of registered voters agree that foreign aid from wealthy nations like the U.S. is needed now more than ever.

“Millennials [78% concerned] see humanitarian aid as a defining issue for their generation, and the United States,” IRC‘s report notes. “On nearly every measure tested in the poll, millennials are more concerned than other generations, believe it is a moral obligation for the U.S. to provide assistance, and are most willing to engage.”

 [Common Dreams]

Former refugee: “Refugees will contribute to society”

In the 1980’s, faced with a swelling number of arrivals and growing reluctance from western governments to maintain resettlement opportunities, governments in Southeast Asia threatened pushbacks. In response, the multilateral Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) was signed in 1989, bringing together commitments made by countries of origin, asylum and resettlement.

Saigon-trained architect Thanh Dang was among 63 people who packed onto a boat to leave Viet Nam in June 1989. After a week at sea, the crowded vessel reached Indonesia, where Dang ended up in the Galang refugee camp. He was ‘screened in’ as a refugee and subsequently resettled to the United States, where he became an architectural designer working on schools and medical facilities in Atlanta, Georgia.

Looking back on the life that the program gave him, he makes an impassioned plea to the international community and ordinary citizens grappling with today’s multiple refugee crises.

“Put yourself in the refugee’s position. They are just normal people. I don’t think anybody wants to uproot their lives and face an uncertain future if they don’t have to,” he said.

“If you give them a chance to rebuild their lives, refugees will contribute to society where they live. Please don’t be afraid of them, and welcome them.”

[Read full UNHCR article]

The best countries in the world to be an immigrant

A new ranking of the best countries to be an immigrant has placed Sweden in the top spot, closely followed by Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Germany. The United States, a country which was largely founded through mass immigration, came in seventh.

U.S. News and World Report, which compiled the ranking, said it looked at measures such as economic stability, income equality and job markets to create its list, using a special survey of the opinions of more than 21,000 business leaders and other elites, as well as members of the public.

Eric Gertler, co-chairman of U.S. News and the New York Daily News, said, “With the recent spotlight on immigration in the U.S. and abroad, we wanted to dive into its potential benefits and challenges on a country’s perceived economic status in the world.”

Specifically, immigration in Sweden became the subject of an unusual public debate in the U.S. this year, with President Trump suggesting at a rally in February that immigration had led to problems in Sweden and that the country should serve as a model for how the U.S. should not allow some immigrants in. “They took in large numbers and they are having problems like they never thought possible,” Trump said, sparking a flurry of angry responses from Swedes.

Sweden had become a popular destination for refugees from Africa and the Middle East over the past few years, taking in more per capita than any other European nation at the height of the migrant influx in 2015. Sweden wasn’t the only Nordic country to fare well–Norway, Finland and Denmark also took places in the top 10, largely due to favorable perceptions found in the survey about their economies and commitment to income equality. Other countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, were given positive marks not only for their economy but also integration measures for immigrants, such as language training.

[Washington Post]

Volunteers helping Syrian refuges in southern Turkey

This trip to the border was again a heart-wrenching trip.

Visiting several homes for amputees and victims of war left us stunned. This new center we visited is run by a single man, Abdulrahman, who with his own meager savings has pieced together two wooden dorms on a little plot of land for victims of the civil war. Thirty to forty people live in these little dorms, with separate parts for men and women.

Meeting the victims of the horrific bombing of Aleppo moved us all to tears. Seeing the blinding orange/white flashes of the bombs over Aleppo on your TV is one thing, but to meet the survivors of those flashes is something else. It adds a whole new dimension to the horrors of war, and will never leave you the same. We all were nearly speechless and incapable of even talking about this for days.

What do you say when you meet people so badly burnt, a mother with no legs, young men without arms or legs, how do you respond? Some of the worst cases cannot leave their rooms, or even their beds without great difficulty.

We delivered several truckloads of aid to families, and to a large orphanage. The orphanage has 24 rooms, and at times one room may house three mothers and their children.

The caretakers of the orphans told us that they were in desperate need of money for the rent before the 1st of the month or they would be thrown on the streets. One of our student volunteers gave his last 20 liras.The next day, I checked our mail and thankfully we can pay their rent for a few months. We can’t express how overjoyed we are, and they are, for your gifts, and helping us to adopt this family. We were elated, as it would be unimaginable to see these kids on the streets. They are in such difficulty, yet they recently received another mother and child, who had just crossed the border after fleeing Raqqa. Incredible!

The residents are eager for friendship, human warmth and radiate when you come visit them and treat them with dignity. They want you to stay, drink tea, and in their difficult situation, they will offer you a meal. How could we even think about complaining of our long hours in the heat when you meet those who have lost all?

Investing in poor children saves more lives per dollar spent, UNICEF study finds

Investing in the health and survival of the most deprived children and communities provides more value for money than investing in less deprived groups, saving almost twice as many lives for every $1 million spent, according to a new study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The evidence is compelling: Investing in the poorest children is not only right in principle, it is also right in practice – saving more lives for every dollar spent,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a press release on the study, titled Narrowing the Gaps.

The study backs up an unconventional prediction UNICEF made in 2010: the higher cost of reaching the poorest children would be outweighed by greater results.

“This is critical news for governments working to end all preventable child deaths at a time when every dollar counts,” Mr. Lake said, noting that investing equitably in children’s health also helps break intergenerational cycles of poverty and gives them a better chance of learning more in school and earning more as an adult.

The study analyzed new data from the 51 countries where around 80 per cent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur. It assessed access to six high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions: the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, early initiation of breastfeeding, antenatal care, full vaccination, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery, and seeking care for children with diarrhea, fever or pneumonia.

[UN News Centre]

The man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen

Batool Ali-yemen-civil-warBatool Ali is six years old, though you would never guess that from her huge, haunted eyes and emaciated frame. Ribs jutting out over her distended belly, Batool weighs less than 16 kilograms (35 pounds). She is one of nearly half a million children in Yemen suffering from severe malnutrition. (For photo of Batool Ali, click icon at top left.)

What makes these images particularly painful to look at is the realization that this humanitarian crisis is entirely man-made.

Yemen is in the grip of a vicious cholera outbreak and a near famine that have coincided to create one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet.

But you won’t find the story splashed on front pages and leading news bulletins around the globe — Yemen’s grinding two-and-a-half-year civil conflict is often called “the silent war” because it receives relatively little attention in the media.

CNN has found that the Hadi government of Yemen and its Saudi Arabian-led backers are actively seeking to block journalists and human rights organizations from flying in on aid flights.

Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, warned CNN of the toll that the lack of media coverage is taking. He said the UN has been unable to raise even 30% of the funding it needs to deal with the crisis.

“Yemen is very much a silent, forgotten, I would even say a purposefully forgotten emergency,” McGoldrick says. “And because we don’t get the media attention, we don’t get the political support and therefore we don’t get the resources we need to address this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Since the conflict began, the Saudi-led coalition, which has US support, has imposed a blockade on the country that has left nearly 80 percent of Yemenis reliant on humanitarian assistance for their most basic needs.

[CNN]