Refugees bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle

Lost in the debate over the Trump travel ban, which has now partially gone into effect, is a vital fact about refugees. Many of them bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle — because time and again, starting up businesses is a part of starting over for those finding a new home.

In Canada, one of the country’s most talked-about — and sought-after — sweets companies is the product of Assam Hadhad who launched Peace by Chocolate out of his kitchen in his adopted home in Nova Scotia after a missile struck his factory in Syria and his family finally decided to flee the danger.

The Canadian catering company Syrian Cuisine Made With Love has a similar story of a family thrown out of its own country by the conflict’s violence and now creating growth and opportunity for others by feeding Canadians — and hiring other Syrians.

Likewise, in the United Kingdom, one cheese company is winning fans — including among the country’s royal family and the nation’s prime minister — as it provides a living to Syrians who’ve lost everything to the war.

Turkey is now home to roughly three million Syrian refugees. Only 10% of this group lives in refugee camps; nearly all are working to find homes in cities and battling high rents and stiff competition for work in a very tight labor market full of people seeking to make a living. Today, Syrians are leading the list of foreign nationals launching businesses there.

A recent report from the non-profit organization Building Markets finds that since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, Syrians in Turkey have started more than 6,000 new companies. If you add in informal businesses that aren’t registered with the government, that number would top 10,000. This year alone Syrians are on track to start 2,000 new enterprises. On average, the companies in the Building Markets study offer jobs to nine people — with close to a third of the companies saying they plan to expand.

[Read full CNN article]

Refugee entrepreneurship in the United States

Near Washington DC, Syrian refugee Nader Briman is sewing wedding dresses. And his wife is cooking shawarma and meat pies. The Brimans’ new community stands to gain from their arrival.

One study out of Cleveland in 2013 noted that “in advanced economies, once refugees have adjusted to their new life after resettlement, they can provide substantial contributions to the workforce and economic development in the long run at the regional level.”

Other American entrepreneurs have tread a path reminiscent of the Brimans and made a difference not just for their neighborhoods, but their new nation. Hamdi Ulukaya came to the United States in 1994 to escape escalating political tensions in Turkey, where his status as a politically active Kurd — albeit one who disavowed violence — earned him the attention of Turkish police.  Just over a decade later, he launched Chobani, a category-creating Greek yoghurt company that today is America’s biggest-selling yogurt brand, earning $2 billion in annual revenues.

Today close to a third of Ulukaya’s workers at Chobani’s Idaho plant are refugees. Or newly arrived Americans. As Ulukaya has said, “the minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

The same is true of former refugees like Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin, Intel (INTC, Tech30) co-founder Andy Grove, or WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum — some of the world’s most innovative and successful businesses simply wouldn’t exist if they had been turned away in their time of need.

[CNN]

Independence Day: Remembering America the land of immigrants and refugees

America is a nation of people who chose to become Americans. Even the oldest family tree in the New World has immigrants at its roots.

Blood: Blood itself does not give the country any mark of distinction. The individual American has more in common genetically with the people his people come from than with his fellow Americans.

Language: A Frenchman has to speak French. A German has to speak the language of the Vaterland. But an American could speak anything. And often does.

History: Nor is there even a common history. The average immigrant didn’t arrive until the early 20th century. By then, America’s history was already three centuries old. The average citizen missed the whole thing.

Neither blood, history, language or  religion,– what else is left?

Only an idea: that you could come to America and be whatever you wanted to be.

[Excerpts of an article by Bill Bonner]

Watchdog says State Dept. failing to adequately track US foreign aid

The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have failed to adequately track the more than $30 billion they spend annually on foreign aid, according to a government watchdog report released Friday.

The report released by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General noted that the department has failed to build infrastructure for tracking billions of dollars in foreign aid despite being ordered to do so in 2015. According to the report, little progress has been made at all. The report’s summary faults the State Department, saying it “had not complied with the report’s recommendation” in 2015.

The Trump administration has suggested cutting the State Department’s budget for foreign aid by 37 percent. The move was blasted by members of Trump’s own party, who called the idea a “disaster.”

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan responded to the report in a memo, saying the department accepted the watchdog recommendations and would begin implementing them.

[The Hill]

Electricity from ocean waves possible for developing nations

Ocean Power Delivery (OPD) announced the signing of an order with a Portuguese consortium, led by Enersis, to build the initial phase of the world’s first commercial wave-farm to generate renewable electricity from ocean waves.

The initial phase will consist of three Pelamis P-750 machines located 5km off Portugal’s northern coast, near to Póvoa de Varzim. The €8m project will have an installed capacity of 2.25MW, and is expected to meet the average electricity demand of more than 1,500 Portuguese households whilst displacing more than 6,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional generating plant.

Gonçalo Serras Pereira, Chairman of Enersis, commented: “After seventeen years of experience developing, constructing and operating mini hydro schemes, and nine years with wind farms, we believe wave energy will be the new Portuguese endogenous renewable resource.”

The flow of destitute refugees to Europe continues

“What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy. In the course of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year,” said High Commissioner Filippo Grandi.

“Let me stress that saving lives remains a top priority. Search and rescue by all those involved, including by NGOs, the Italian Coast Guard, and government authorities, is critical. We are only at the beginning of the summer, and without swift collective action, we can only expect more tragedies at sea.

“This cannot be an Italian problem alone. It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach. Europe in particular needs to be fully involved, added Grandi. “And the response to the immediate crisis must be matched by broader efforts by all concerned, to address the root causes behind migratory pressures, create better protection for people in transit, and address smuggling and trafficking.”

In total, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of the year, which represents an increase of almost 20 per cent compared to the same period last year.

There is alarmingly high rate among arrivals of unaccompanied children or victims of sexual and gender based violence. Many have suffered extremely traumatic events, including extortion, kidnapping, sexual violence, and abuses back home and in countries on their way to Europe.

[Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]

Study concludes mud bricks best for cool, green housing

Simple mud concrete bricks provide the most affordable and sustainable houses in the tropics, a Sri-Lankan study suggests. Comparisons of four different types of walling materials revealed that mud concrete bricks have the lowest environmental impact and keep houses cool. They are also the cheapest, and easiest to dispose of when it may become necessary to knock a house down.

Researchers compared mud concrete bricks with red bricks (modern fired clay bricks), hollow cement blocks and Cabook, the Sri Lankan name for bricks made from laterite soil, which are common in the tropics. The goal of the study was to find out which types of walling material are the most suitable for constructing affordable houses in the tropics, where population density and poverty are generally high.

Mud concrete bricks are also the cheapest, at less than US$1,000 in Sri Lanka for an average-sized house, whereas red bricks cost nearly US$3,500. Mud concrete bricks are widely used in many other tropical countries.

“Why spend more money and destroy the environment more?” asks Rangika Halwatura, a civil engineer at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, and one of the authors of the paper.

Mud concrete bricks are made from soil in the same way as traditional mud bricks, but contain gravel and sand to improve their strength. The researchers looked at the carbon footprint of all four walling materials, and found that mud concrete bricks were the most environmentally friendly to produce and dispose of.

 [SciDev.Net]

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]

A fresh look at Global Africa

Global Africa is a striking, original volume that disrupts the dominant narratives that continue to frame our discussion of Africa, complicating conventional views of the region as a place of violence, despair, and victimhood.

This new book documents the significant global connections, circulations, and contributions that African people, ideas, and goods have made throughout the world—from the United States and South Asia to Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere.

Through succinct and engaging pieces by scholars, policy makers, activists, and journalists, the volume provides a wholly original view of a continent at the center of global historical processes rather than on the periphery. Global Africa offers fresh, complex, and insightful visions of a continent in flux.

“In much writing about Africa, the continent is portrayed either as a self-contained space or as a region whose fate has been determined from outside—by enslavement, colonization, and, indeed, ‘globalization.’ The rich variety of contributions to Global Africa point to more diverse and complex ways of thinking about the importance and limitations of Africa’s connections to the rest of the world.”—Frederick Cooper, author of Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State

[Amazon]

Life goes on in Afghanistan

Excerpt written by Katherine, Medair Relief Worker:

As I fly from Kabul to southern Afghanistan, I wonder about how people survive on what looks like endless, barren, sand-colored land stretching to the horizon.

After the plane touches down, a rosebush garden greets us at the airport, and contradicts the stereotypical picture of southern Afghanistan—the oft-cited center of conflict in the country. Men wrapped in various shades of brown and tan patus, a sort of shawl/blanket, ride through town on motorcycles and bicycles. Although sunny, the winter air still holds a chill. The rest of the road is filled with its mix of cars, small trucks, and local trolleys, while the land outside town extends into the desert.

On days like this, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that the country is at war. But even on this calm sunny day, checkpoints along the road and cautious discussions of recent incidents are a reminder of the insecurity and daily risks. A reminder of the conflict that has lasted for nearly four decades.

I think of the impact of the last 40 years on the people of Afghanistan. Of the many acute emergencies, both minor and major, that have spanned those years. The communities that have had to adapt, to learn how to cope.

Life here goes on, but the effects of conflict have slowly and relentlessly taken their toll on the availability of services, and on the people who need access to them. Meanwhile, the world speeds into the future, leaving them behind. As my eyes pan beneath the green mesh, I wonder if the people here feel left behind. I wonder if they still feel hope.

WiFi router for first responder humanitarian needs

MeshPoint is a smart and rugged WiFi hotspot designed to provide instant Internet access in adverse conditions, suitable for crisis situations.

The idea for MeshPoint was hatched in 2015 when volunteers from project Open Network (Otvorena Mreža) in Croatia were helping humanitarian organizations and refugees during Syrian refugee crisis. They saw that humanitarian organizations needed communication for coordinating volunteers in the field, for logistics (having enough food and blankets in field warehouses, etc.). They also noticed that even all the biggest NGOs like Greenpeace, Red Cross, International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and others struggled to setup communication with their teams in the field, and how all current networking products are not suited to be used in crisis events by first responders.

Open Network volunteers setup mobile and fixed wifi hotspots and gave them to volunteers and humanitarian organizations that were working in the field.

In order to setup communication in crisis situations like floods and earthquakes devices first and foremost have to be easy to use, especially by first responders, but they need:

– Open source hardware and open source software
– Setup needs to be easy, as easy as creating social networking profile
– Needs to work autonomously for at least 6-8 hours (via battery pack)
– Needs to be able to charge battery pack over any power source (solar, wind, AC generator, car battery, etc)
– Can form a mesh network so coverage is spread really fast
– Has capacity to server lots of people (multiple radios and frequencies)

Find out more   

The silent disaster for migrants and refugees reaching Libya

In 2016, about 5,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean, and in 2017 the toll is already estimated at 2,000 people as of June. But how many die before reaching the coast and embarking on boats?

There is every reason to believe that this is a silent disaster.

As they pass through Libya in hopes of traveling on to safety in other countries, many refugees and migrants are robbed, abused, jailed, tortured, or even killed.

Since July 2016, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided lifesaving health care to refugees and migrants detained in Tripoli, and, in early 2017, expanded its operations to include a new project in Misrata.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are over 380,000 migrants currently in Libya. The majority of health issues affecting the patients are directly linked to the detention conditions and the violence that marks their journey: skin diseases, scabies, diarrhea, respiratory infections, muscular pain, wounds and psychosomatic disorders.

Some came to work in Libya, which once was an economic “El Dorado” for nationals from neighboring countries. Others work to try to secure funding for the Mediterranean crossing, working under conditions that fell within the scope of forced labor and were interrupted by periods of detention or are at the very beginning of their journey across Libya.

[ReliefWeb]

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]

Bill Clinton on proposed US foreign aid cuts

Drastic reductions to the U.S. foreign aid budget would be “a bad thing” because the relatively small amount of money is well-spent, former President Bill Clinton told a coalition of U.S. humanitarian and development groups on Tuesday.

“It’s a bad thing if the government cuts US AID, because it’s a little bit of money doing an outsize amount of good,” Clinton said.

The Trump administration wants to cut funding to the U.S. Agency for International Development by nearly one third in the fiscal year starting in October. There is strong congressional opposition to the proposal, part of efforts to slash the diplomatic and development budget from $54.9 billion to $37.6 billion.

Clinton was speaking to InterAction, which says the cuts would be “devastating” at a time when famine threatens the lives of 30 million people and conflict has displaced 65 million worldwide, an all-time high.

He said responding to challenges such as climate change and poverty required interdependence rather than an “us and them” mentality, which has gained traction in response to some of the negative effects of globalization.

[Associated Press]

World Refugee Day, a time to reflect

World Refugee Day is observed each year on June 20.  On this day, refugee advocates urge people to focus on the plight of those who have been displaced by famine, war and oppression.

By the end of 2016, more than 65 million people worldwide were forced to leave their homes due to conflict and persecution, data published by the U.N. Refugee Agency reveals.  That’s an average of 28,300 people per day, almost 20 people every minute.

“As an editor, I think about who is going where, and why,” shares Tiffany Harness, Middle East editor. She recalls one such experience: The young mother was crying, uncontrollably it seemed, as the rescue boat that had picked her up off the coast of Libya drifted in the sea.

She and more than 600 others had piled into a smuggling vessel that was probably overloaded, unseaworthy or both. When the boat capsized, most of those onboard were rescued. At least 30 were not, including the woman’s baby.

I will never know more about them than that.

Her photo (click icon at left), taken last month by Chris McGrath of Getty Images, conveyed a heartbreakingly common story in a crisis marked by death and numbers.

More than 5,000 migrants and refugees drowned last year in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe. More than 1,600 have drowned in the same waters this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, a slower pace than last year but still horrifying.

[Washington Post]

Famine impacting 6.7 million Somalis

An elevated risk of famine persists in parts of Somalia due to severe food consumption gaps, high acute malnutrition and disease burden. Over 6.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance; more than 700,000 have been displaced since November 2016 and diseases such as AWD/cholera and measles continue to spread.

Humanitarian partners have significantly scaled up assistance, but these efforts must be sustained to avert famine, particularly in the worst drought-affected areas that are already facing severe food insecurity, alarming rates of malnutrition and disease outbreaks.

The United Kingdom has announced an additional aid package of 60 million British pounds (about $77 million) to Somalia to help tackle the current humanitarian crisis caused by the prolonged drought. The announcement was made yesterday by the United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, who visited Somalia to assess the drought situation that has forced hundreds of thousands of residents to abandon their homes in search of food and shelter.

The Secretary of State noted the latest assistance was in addition to the 100 million pounds of aid disbursed by Britain to Somalia since her last visit earlier this year.

[ReliefWeb]

Foreign aid can work wonders

Foreign aid can work wonders. It set South Korea and Taiwan on the path to riches, helped extinguish smallpox in the 1970s and has almost eliminated polio.

Aid can also burden weak bureaucracies in developing nations, distort markets, prop up dictators and help prolong civil wars.

A decade ago governments rich and poor set out to define good aid. They declared that aid should be for improving the lot of poor people [and] it should be coordinated.

Official development aid, which includes grants, loans, technical advice and debt forgiveness, is worth about $130 billion a year. The channels originating in Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo and Washington are deep and fast-flowing; others are rivulets, though the Nordic countries are generous for their size.

More than two-fifths flows through multilateral outfits such as the World Bank, the UN and the Global Fund. Last year 9% was spent on refugees in donor countries, reflecting the surge of migrants to Europe.

[The Economist]

Foreign workers send home 3 times the amount of money spent on foreign aid

The amount of money worldwide that migrants and foreign workers send back home increased by more than 50 percent over the past decade, according to a new analysis.

Technically known as ‘remittances,’ the total amount of these cash transfers grew from $296 billion dollars in 2007 to $445 billion in 2016 – triple what is spent by rich countries on foreign aid each year.

Roughly 1 billion people will either send or receive money, from abroad this year, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which sponsored the study and published the report Sending Money Home.

The upward trend in remittances worldwide represents a significant increase that has weathered a global financial crisis and increasing anti-immigrant policies in many wealthy countries. The money sent back home by foreign workers does a lot to reduce poverty globally, a fact not widely recognized by the public or policy makers.

Nearly half of the money sent home goes to people living in rural areas, according to the analysis. Families use the money to pay for food, health, education and to support businesses, which for the poorest communities typically are focused on farming.

World Bank head Jim Kim called remittances an important way to help end extreme poverty by 2030 because of their ability to ‘increase prosperity.’

[Humanosphere]

86% of Europeans believe that the EU should help any country worldwide affected by disasters

  • 9 of 10 Europeans think that it is important that the EU helps to coordinate the response to disasters in individual countries.
  • 81% say that coordinated EU action on disasters is more effective than actions by individual countries.
  • 86% believe that the EU should help any country worldwide affected by disasters.

[Eurobarometer]

The latest perk for tech workers … doing good

In the cutthroat technology industry where companies go to great lengths to attract and retain talent, employers have offered workers high salaries, company stock and unlimited vacation time. They’ve done free breakfasts, free lunches, free dinners and free booze. There’s kombucha on tap, ping pong and pool, nap rooms, yoga rooms and on-site gyms.

Now some tech firms eager to keep their employees engaged are turning to ways to have fun and do good.

“Millennials make up around 45% of the workforce, and they’d rather spend their money doing something cool and having an experience than buying or having material things,” said Jai Al-Attas, the 33-year-old founder of Loqules. “They’re a lot more socially aware, and they want to be part of companies or groups that give back to the community in some way.”

With Loqules, companies have the option of sharing the experience with people in need by partnering with a local nonprofit such as Safe Place for Youth, a homeless youth organization; A New Way of Life, which works with formerly incarcerated women; or the Salvation Army. Through these partnerships, companies often foot the bill so those in need can participate in workshops and experiences alongside employees.

This comes as little surprise to researchers and human resource experts, who in recent years have noticed a shift in how millennial employees want to be engaged and rewarded at work. As this demographic of workers continues to grow, “millennial values,” which Brookings describes as an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, a higher worth placed on experiences over material things, and community building, will come to shape the workplace.

“Years ago you never had a 25-year-old kid making $150,000,” said Karen Ross, chief executive of tech firm Sharp Decisions, who has seen her own employees increasingly express interest in doing more for the communities in which they operate. “Now they’re making good money. Nobody cares about free food or free beer. They’re more interested in making a difference.”

“People want to feel like they’ve had an impact,” Al-Attas said. “We’re not just saying, ‘Hey, we gave some money to a charity’ and then everyone pats themselves on the back. We get people from the charity into a room with employees so they can share stories and change their perspectives. That’s where this is going.”

[San Diego Union Tribune]