Monthly Archives: August 2015

Foreign aid can benefit United States

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The United States should be doing more to help end global poverty.

Foreign aid is rarely talked about in the context of creating jobs. With small investments into impoverished regions, the United States can help improve the lives of many and create new markets for trade. Germany and South Korea once received foreign aid from the United States, and now they are reliable trade partners.

Beyond economic incentives, ending poverty is in the best interest of United State security. Countries with unstable economic and political systems provide havens for extremist groups. After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1980, no international aid was brought to rebuild the war-torn region. Shortly after, al-Qaida took control and planned the 9/11 attacks.

The Iraq war cost the United States almost $2 trillion. Considering economists estimate $30 billion would be sufficient to end hunger globally, the United States and other developed nations can and should make poverty eradication a priority.

[Kevin Meyers, Wisconsin State Journal]

Celebrities donate their social media accounts to humanitarian refugees

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Influential people are “donating” their social media accounts to refugees and humanitarians to raise the profile of worldwide conflicts.

In the lead-up to World Humanitarian Day (12 August), the UN invited people to hand over their Facebook and Twitter accounts to shine a light on stories that don’t always get the coverage they deserve.

A number of celebrities took up the challenge, with the Australian musician Cody Simpson giving his account to a Syrian refugee for a day so that he could document his journey from Damascus to Italy. Simpson, who has a Twitter following of more than 7.5 million people, provided a significant platform forThair Orfahli’s story.

Humanitarian aid for war-torn Central African Republic

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The United Nations has allocated over $13 million dollars for the immediate distribution of life-saving assistance targeting those affected by the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Organization’s relief arm reported today.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN’s Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), has released $13.2 million to help support local aid agencies deliver clean water, education, healthcare, livelihoods support, nutrition, protection, and shelter to people displaced by violence, returnees, refugees and vulnerable host communities.

“Thanks to donors who have contributed in 2015, this CHF allocation allows humanitarian partners to continue helping thousands of displaced people and host families,” said Aurélien Agbénonci, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the African country. “However, it is only three per cent of the $415 million we still need by the end of the year if we are to save more lives and reach all people in acute need in 2015.”

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in CAR amid ongoing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian. In addition, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to operate in the south-eastern part of the country.

The UN estimates that some 450,000 people remain displaced inside the country while thousands of others have sought asylum across the borders. OCHA confirmed, however, that overall some 2.7 million people in the CAR remain in direct need of “urgent humanitarian assistance.”

[UN News Centre]

Going Above Two Percent Giving

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Charitable giving has been stuck at 2 percent of U.S. GDP for 40 years, ever since we started measuring it. And in a world of increasing demands and ongoing fiscal belt-tightening — a world where government looks unlikely to step back in to support needed social programs — the nonprofit sector fundamentally has to contend with this fact: two percent just isn’t enough.

So what can we do in response? Basically, we have to do three things: 1) work to increase the amount people give, 2) make the most of every penny we get, and — crucially — 3) go beyond giving entirely.

Number 1 is the work of expert fundraisers, though it’s also the work of everyone else in the social sector. For one thing, we can encourage more giving by being better storytellers. We need to learn to express more clearly and creatively the problems we seek to address and the successes we are having. Too often nonprofit appeals and reports are wonky, overly complex, and just plain boring. Boring doesn’t inspire giving — great storytelling does.

Number 2 is the core work of most of us with jobs in the nonprofit sector, from the folks doing their best to deliver impact to the funders who support them. Rewarding organizations for under-investing in people, technology, effective management, and infrastructure is dumb.

And that brings us to number 3: getting beyond giving. At the end of the day, we are unlikely to get where we need to go merely by getting people to give more. While traditional donor-supported activities are critical to having large-scale impact, alone they probably won’t get us where we need to be. Many of our biggest challenges will require financially self-sustaining solutions. And we can find those solutions in at least two areas.

First, a growing pool of nonprofits employs business-like practices to sustain themselves. Second, as a century of American philanthropy has demonstrated, much of our best work is done when it’s in our economic self-interest. Whether by supporting socially-driven start-ups through impact investments or encouraging socially-driven innovation at major corporations through our purchasing power, we can move forward farther with the business community alongside us.

[Huffington Post]

International Red Cross says Yemen is ‘crumbling’ under humanitarian crisis

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Yemen is “crumbling” under a deepening humanitarian crisis after months of civil war, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

Peter Maurer, the head of the Geneva-based humanitarian organization, said “The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” and called for all parties to negotiate a peace deal. “Medicines can’t get in so patient care is falling apart. Fuel shortages mean equipment doesn’t work. This cannot go on. Yemen is crumbling. As a matter of urgency, there must be free movement of goods into and across the country.”

Fighting between Iran-allied Houthi forces and pro-government militias has raged since March when the Houthis advanced towards the port of Aden.Iran denies that is supplying the Shiite Houthis with military aid.

A Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes since March in a bid to help pro-government forces restore President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, in exile in Riyadh, to power.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that nearly 4,000 people have been killed and 1.3 million forced to flee their homes during the conflict.


Youngest refugees bear brunt of Syrian war woes

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Gathered on the desert floor, the Askar family chants prayers for their 1-year-old daughter Jawahir, who died of malnutrition and is buried beneath the sands of their informal refugee camp far from their Syrian hometown. Her father Mohammed Askar recounts, “I wish the circumstances were different and I could have saved my daughter, but we are poor and powerless and we have only God with us.”

Of the 4 million refugees who fled Syria’s grinding civil war, it is the conflict’s youngest exiles, like Jawahir, who often bear the brunt of its woes. More than 10,000 children have died in the four-year conflict, while over 2.8 million in and out of the country don’t go to school, according to the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF. Many suffer emotional problems from their experiences, while others get pressed into working to support their families, who struggle to have enough to eat.

Aid agencies have asked for $4.5 billion for 2015 to help refugees, but have been forced to slash support programs because of large funding gaps, which had a devastating effect on the amount of food aid coming.

“We survived the barrel bombs in Syria but I’m afraid we won’t survive the lack of health and food,” Kutana al-Hamadi  says.


Angelina Jolie Pitt on humanitarian trip to Myanmar

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On a humanitarian tour of Southeast Asia, special envoy for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Angelina Jolie Pitt is giving a voice to the people of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The actress met with Rohingya community representatives in Yangon on Friday, who spoke with her about the difficult conditions of life in Rakhine State. 

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group who have suffered waves of ethnic violence and oppression. In 2012, two outbreaks of conflict left almost 200 dead and about 140,000 displaced, according to the Myanmar Times. Many still remain in camps for internally displaced persons.

“The situation for the displaced inside this country is extremely serious,” Jolie Pitt said. “One man I met expressed his concerns by saying he was afraid that in years to come his community would be found only in history books – and that the lack of medicine and healthcare is a top priority,” she adds.

Jolie Pitt, who’s been following the situation since her first visit to Myanmar refugees in Thailand in 2002, is offering to help the government bring medical assistance to people in the Rakhine and Kachin States.

She also met with first-time female voters in Myanmar, during a trip to the “She Leads” program in Yangon. The women showed her how they check online if they and their family members are registered to vote, ahead of crucial elections in November 2015.