Author Archives for Grant Montgomery

2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria

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“Today there exists an alarming misconception that the conflict in Syria is drawing quickly to a close – it is not. Children in parts of the country remain in as much danger as at any other time during the eight-year conflict.

“In 2018 alone, 1,106 children were killed in the fighting – the highest ever number of children killed in a single year since the start of the war. These are only the numbers that the UN has been able to verify, which means the true figures are likely much higher.

 “We are particularly concerned about the situation in Idlib in northwestern Syria where an intensification of violence has reportedly killed 59 children in the past few weeks alone.

 “Meanwhile, neighboring countries in the region are hosting 2.6 million Syrian refugee children who face their own challenges despite support from host governments, the UN and the international community. Many families cannot send their children to school and, with few income-earning opportunities, are turning to negative coping mechanisms – including child labor and child marriage – to get by.

“As the war enters its ninth year, UNICEF again reminds parties to the conflict and the global community that it is the country’s children who have suffered most and have the most to lose. Each day the conflict continues is another day stolen from their childhood.”

[UNICEF]

Women worldwide spearhead humanitarian aid but not its decision-making

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Women have always been on the front lines of humanitarian action. Women such as Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton not only faced the most brutal conflicts and epidemics of their day, they helped lay the foundation for modern humanitarianism.

Today, more than half of Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteers around the world are female, and women are among the first to respond in disaster, epidemics and conflict, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Philippines and Syria.

They are also just as likely as their male counterparts to pay the ultimate sacrifice for their compassion and courage. Just last year, 25-year-old Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa and 24-year-old Hauwa Mohammed Liman were providing post-natal care at an ICRC-supported health center in Rann, Nigeria, when they were kidnapped, and later killed, by an armed group.

Despite this legacy, women are still not equally represented in top decision-making roles in the humanitarian sector — a profession based on basic principles of impartiality and humanity and on the belief that all people have inherent dignity. “If you had a visual representation, the [humanitarian sector] would be a pyramid with women forming the base,” says Margareta Wahlström, president of the Swedish Red Cross and former official at both the IFRC and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. “As the pyramid gets narrower at the top, there are fewer and fewer women. Women are the base, as the workers, and the men tend to take positions of higher responsibility.”

In the United Nations system, the report noted, there is a similar pyramid. “Women comprise 42.8 per cent of all employees, but with a much greater concentration of women at the entry-level.” As of February 2019, ten of the UN’s 27 humanitarian coordinators are women.

In the Red Cross Red Crescent network, women make up only 31 per cent of the governing boards that oversee Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies. At the global level, women make up 17 per cent (5 of 30) of elected members on the IFRC governing board.

[Red Cross and Red Crescent]

Flash flooding damage in Afghanistan

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In Kandahar province, some 21,200 people have been assessed requiring humanitarian assistance as a result of recent floods. 25 people are known to have died and 40 people have been injured. According to joint assessments conducted by the government and humanitarian partners in Kandahar and seven flood-affected districts, 1,340 houses have been damaged and a further 1,276 have been destroyed.

In Hilmand province, almost 6,000 people have been affected by the floods and require humanitarian assistance, including 5,400 people who have been displaced from their homes. According to partners on the ground, more than 770 houses in the province have been destroyed.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) has also managed to reach 644 affected households in Khoshkaba and Nahr-e-Saraj which are in hard to access areas. Further assessments are ongoing, including in contested areas, and the numbers of affected people will likely continue to rise.

Assessment teams have noted the most affected households gave access to boreholes for drinking water, and that no damage has been reported to schools or health facilities with people able to access necessary health services. However, communities in Khoshkaba and Nahr-e-Saraj are reportedly drinking unsafe water, raising concerns over outbreaks of diarrhoea and waterborne diseases.

In Farah province, ANDMA has reported that 9,250 households in Farah city have been assessed as flood-affected, including 3,600 families whose houses have been completely destroyed and more than 5,600 whose homes have been damaged.

In Hirat province, 254 households in Shindand district have been identified as affected by the floods. Assessments are ongoing in three other districts, Zawol, Pusht Koh and Zir Koh.

[UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]

Investigation finds FEMA aid favors the rich and white

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Who gets public money after natural disasters — and who doesn’t?

A new NPR investigation and analysis of previously unreleased Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data shows that, regardless of need, post-disaster government funds tend to favor the privileged over the poor.

The story opens with the tale of two Houston families, both of which lost their homes due to storm-related flooding in 2017: a newly married, financially comfortable home-owning couple who received $30,000 in FEMA funds and more than $100,000 in tax refunds, and a family of renters consisting of a single mom and three kids, who were only given $2,500 in federal aid for a rental deposit.

The disparities in the two families’ financial situations only snowballed after the flood. While the wealthier couple was able to qualify for a low-interest loan to rebuild, the single mom landed in hot water with FEMA for choosing to use her funds on a vehicle for her family members to commute to work and school, and was not able to qualify for other sources of federal aid due to her low credit score.

Here are some of the investigation’s main takeaways:

  • FEMA funds are calculated based on risk reduction — which means people with more money are more likely to get help. Federal disaster aid is allocated based on a cost-benefit calculation meant to minimize taxpayer risk. Thus, money is not necessarily given out to those who need it most; it’s doled out to those whose property is worth more, which means the system tends to favor those who live in whiter and higher-income neighborhoods.
  • FEMA funding favors homeowners over renters. Due to FEMA’s cost-benefit calculation, poorer people, people of color, and people who are more likely to rent are less likely to get the much-needed cash after a major disaster. “Put another way, after a disaster, rich people get richer and poor people get poorer,” the investigation states. “And federal disaster spending appears to exacerbate that wealth inequality.”
  • FEMA’s flood program has the biggest racial gap. NPR examined one particular federal program that buys out homes that have been flooded or otherwise impacted by natural disasters. Their investigation found that of more than 40,000 records in the FEMA database, most buyouts went to whiter communities (more than 85 percent white and non-Hispanic), even though natural disasters.
  • Experts predict climate-driven disasters will become more frequent and severe. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, released last year, detailed the impending impacts of climate change across the country. Already, nearly 50 percent of U.S. counties experience a natural disaster each year, compared to fewer than 20 percent in the early to mid-20th century. “Hardworking Americans who are working class are going to find their communities stressed even more than they are now,” Andrew Light, an editor of the federal climate report told NPR. “If you’re already a community at risk, you’re going to be at more risk.”

[Grist]

Tornadoes in the United States

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A pair of tornadoes killed at least 23 people on Sunday in Alabama, causing infrastructure damage with at least 150 miles per hour (241 kph) winds in the deadliest twister to hit the United States in almost six years. More than 100 rescuers are digging through rubble in search of victims of the half-mile-wide tornado.

The following is a list of some of the deadliest single tornadoes and tornado outbreaks in the United States over the last quarter century:

* A so-called Super Outbreak of 362 tornadoes hit the southeastern United States over three days in April 2011, killing an estimated 321 people, and causing about $11 billion in damages across 12 states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Three of the tornadoes were rated EF-5, the top of the five-step Enhanced Fujita scale that meteorologists use to measure tornado strength.

* The deadliest tornado to hit the United States in the last several decades struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011 and killed at least 158 people, NOAA said. Damage from the storm exceeded $3 billion, the most of any single tornado in U.S. history.

* The so-called Super Tuesday Outbreak of 87 tornadoes in the southeastern United States on Feb. 5, 2008, killed 57 people, according to NOAA. It had the longest footprint of any tornado in U.S. history, according to private forecaster Accuweather, touching down continuously for 122 miles (196 km) through Arkansas.

* A tornado outbreak in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, metropolitan area on May 3, 1999, spawned 61 tornadoes and killed 55 people, with one single tornado responsible for 36 deaths, according to the Weather Channel.

* An outbreak of seven tornadoes in central Florida in February 1998 killed 42 people and injured 260 others in the state’s deadliest tornado outbreak since 1962, the National Weather Service reported.

* In April 2014, an outbreak of dozens of tornadoes stirred up by a powerful storm system hit the Southeast and Midwest over a three-day period and killed 32 people in Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, according to NOAA.

* A tornado killed 24 people on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado had winds over 200 miles per hour (322 kph), giving it the most severe rating of EF-5. It lasted about 40 minutes, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage, according to NOAA.

[Reuters]

What’s next for Venezuela? Anti-Maduro allies regroup after the fight for humanitarian aid

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Venezuela’s opposition has formally urged the international community to keep all options on the table, after deadly clashes broke out in border towns over the weekend.

On Saturday, at least three people were killed and hundreds more were left injured, Reuters reported, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban to bring food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements into the country.

It comes at a time when the South American nation is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.

President Donald Trump has consistently refused to rule out the prospect of military intervention in Venezuela and the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has called on the international community to “keep all options open.”

Pressure is building on Maduro to step down. The socialist leader has overseen a long economic meltdown, marked by hyperinflation, mounting U.S. sanctions and collapsing oil production. As a result, some three million Venezuelans have fled abroad over the past five years to escape worsening living conditions.

More than 50 countries, including the U.S. and most Latin American and European countries, have now recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. It has thrust the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country into uncharted territory — whereby it now has an internationally-recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to Maduro’s regime.

[CNBC]

Charitable giving in the U.S

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A study published on Monday by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project reported that charitable giving contributions in the USA only increased 1.6% last year despite a strong economy.

The report also highlights the 4.5% decrease in total donors from 2017, indicating a shrinking pool of individuals involved in philanthropy.

Donations under $1,000 from smaller and middle class donors fell by more than 4%, while gifts from major donors increased 2.6%, the Washington Post reported.

The Council of Foundations and other groups within the charitable sector have warned lawmakers about the impact that the 2017 tax overhaul could have on charitable giving. Under the new tax law, millions of Americans no longer qualify to take the charitable tax deduction, which is a giving incentive.

[Council of Foundations]

Iraq facing “aid deserts” as more areas become No-Go Zones

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Global organization Mercy Corps warns that extremist activity is increasing in Iraq, which is threatening to create no-go areas, and creating the risk that these areas could become “aid deserts.” The rise in insurgency threatens humanitarian operations in parts of Iraq as access and safety are increasingly precarious.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there have been almost 2000 security incidents involving extremist groups since January 1, 2018; and despite ISIS having been pushed out of Mosul, ISIS elements have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar.

“What we are reading in the media and what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq simply doesn’t add up,” says Tanya Evans, Iraq Country Director for Mercy Corps. “If anything, extremist groups are growing in confidence. As the reconstruction efforts continue to stall, groups like ISIS are filling the cracks. In some of the worst-affected areas, we face daily challenges in reaching vulnerable populations. If aid workers can’t reach communities, we face the very real danger of creating aid deserts in areas where the humanitarian needs are overwhelming.”

Mercy Corps has operated continuously in Iraq since 2003, providing assistance to 5 million Iraqis affected by war, violence and displacement in all 18 governorates. Currently the organization is addressing the needs of people affected by conflict, providing lifesaving supplies and working with communities to recover and rebuild.

[Mercy Corps]

How old is the typical American donor?

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How old is the typical U.S. donor?

[  ] 35 years of age
[  ] 50 years of age
[  ] 75 years of age

Donors aged 65 and older comprise (by far) the largest slice of the American charity pie.

Those under age 35 make up the smallest slice of the same pie. 

In 2017, one of America’s top 10 brand-name charities, a group serving the homeless and addicted, analyzed its vast donor database by age. Its largest group of “active” (i.e., repeat) donors was 87 years old on average. Its largest group of first-time (i.e., new) donors was age 70 on average. 

Even in Australia, a philanthropic market that vigorously courts younger donors, older donors end up ruling the roost. Sean Triner, co-founder of Pareto, that country’s largest direct mail and phone fundraising agency, ran the numbers. He simply concluded: “Older donors are better.” Why? They tend to stick longer and hence give more in total. 

Are younger people less generous? Not at all. But they lack one essential: money to give away.          

Young adults are building lives. They’re buying stuff. They’re forming and furnishing households. They are as caring and concerned and compassionate as anyone else. But unless they were born with the proverbial silver spoon, they probably don’t have all that much disposable income to throw around (especially if they choose to have children, an expensive proposition in America).           

And then things change.           

“At age 55,” Jeff Brooks observed, “people start to become reliably charitable. They’re starting to have some extra money.” There is some surplus in their wallets: the kids are launched, the house is almost paid for. “Then households begin giving to charity,” said Jeff. “And their giving ramps up until age 65, where it levels off.

[GuideStar blog]

The climate crisis has arrived –start imagining your future

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Evidence of the devastating impacts of anthropogenic climate change are stacking up, and it is becoming horrifyingly real. There can be no doubt that the climate crisis has arrived. The climate disaster future is increasingly becoming the present.

The billion-dollar question, of course, is whether these most recent disasters can be used to motivate real change. No doubt it is important to keep this kind of commentary up. It is key that we consider how to give the climate crisis traction in a culture so accomplished at distancing us from uncomfortable realities.

But let’s be honest. No one really knows what works. We have never been here before.

Are you shocked, horrified, scared, bored, tired? What do you do with the terror? Do you compartmentalize it somewhere “safe”? Perhaps like me, you know you care. You attach importance to climate change, you want to act correctly, avoid risking other lives, damaging homes and habitats. Perhaps you know you are scared too – scared of contemplating what we have already lost or of what will happen as the crisis gets closer still.

Halting the climate crisis is still predominately framed as a matter for individual choice and change – use less plastic, cycle to work, fly less. But the behavioral response required is way more complicated than that.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the personal is political. I am talking about a politics that grows from opposition and critique of our current systems. This is evident in young people organizing school strikes and protesters willing to get arrested for their direct action. Some conservation scientists, at least, see recent cultural change as a hopeful sign of a growing sense of care and responsibility.

[The Conversation]