“It’s a Suicide Act to Leave or Stay”: Internal Displacement in El Salvador
El Salvador has just achieved the grim distinction of becoming the murder capital of the world. In the first six months of this year, almost 3,000 people were murdered, and hundreds of thousands more were subject to extortion, death threats, forced recruitment, and rape by the country’s two major gangs. So far, the government has been unable to stop this extraordinary level of violence, which is forcing tens of thousands of Salvadorans from their homes. The government is unwilling to acknowledge that gang activity is responsible for this forced displacement. However, neighboring countries are well aware of the consequences of this violence, as tens of thousands of Salvadorans are arriving at their borders requesting protection. El Salvador needs to implement a comprehensive national humanitarian strategy to respond to and assist the forcibly displaced. Until such a strategy is implemented, Salvadorans will continue to seek refuge outside the country.
Sudanese Refugees in Chad: Passing the Baton to No One
More than ten years after first arriving in Chad, over 360,000 Sudanese refugees are now dealing with a new reality. In the face of dramatic food ration cuts, and after years of shrinking support from the international community, aid agencies are pushing these refugees to become self-sufficient and more deeply integrated with their Chadian hosts. With the global humanitarian system overstretched, a more sustainable and targeted assistance strategy for this population would seem reasonable. But the early stages of this transition have encountered serious problems. These ration cuts, now in place for 18 months, have been devastating for already vulnerable households. Humanitarian funding has dried up and not been replaced by desperately-needed development activities. It is unrealistic to expect refugees to become self-sufficient in a place where livelihood opportunities are hard to find, government services are limited, cost of living is high, host community tensions are increasing, and most crucially, little development funding exists. It is time for the international community to recommit itself to this long-suffering population, and to do so in a sustainable way.
Central African Republic: The Spotlight is Gone, the Crisis Continues
The civil conflict that has engulfed the Central African Republic for more than two years has displaced nearly a quarter of the 4.6 million population, both internally and in neighboring countries. In the past year, certain parts of CAR have stabilized, including the capital, Bangui, and international donors have begun to turn their attention toward early recovery programs and planning for national elections. But the crisis is not over. Areas of conflict and volatility have simply shifted as rebel groups and militias relocate throughout the country. A number of towns and villages that were at the center of the conflict a year ago are now calm, whereas some that were once calm are now the scenes of massive population movements. Strong humanitarian support from donors is essential to mitigate the impact of continuing violence, and aid agencies must take steps to ensure that the aid systems in place are as effective as possible.
Aid Inside Syria: A Step in the Right Direction?
Providing humanitarian aid in a conflict zone is a challenge all over the world. But perhaps no situation has proved more complex than that of Syria. A particularly stubborn and brutal regime, a fragmented opposition movement, and ever-changing alliances among fighting groups have resulted in an operational context defined by irregular access and major security risks for humanitarian workers. Every day, millions of vulnerable people across the country live with food and fuel shortages, homelessness, and an absence of vital medical care. Almost 5 million of those people are in places that are difficult for humanitarians to access. Syrian groups working inside the country have been able to offer some support in hard-to-reach areas and to a lesser degree in besieged areas where the United Nations and international non-governmental organizations do not send their staff.
Birth Registration in Turkey: Protecting the Future for Syrian Children
There are millions of Syrians today who are living without a home. Almost 12 million women, men, and children are displaced either inside or outside of Syria. But within this population, there are tens of thousands for whom “home” is challenging even to define. These are the babies born to those displaced Syrians. In Turkey, where an RI team studied the issue in March, more than 60,000 Syrian babies have been born in exile, and these numbers will continue to increase as the civil war rages on. None of the neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees, including Turkey, provide citizenship just because a child was born in its territory. Even if a birth is recorded, Syrian nationality law only permits Syrian fathers to transmit citizenship, with very few exceptions. Tens of thousands of Syrian fathers are dead, missing, or fighting in the civil war. In their absence, children born in exile since the war began, and even some of those born in Syria, may not be able to assert their Syrian citizenship if and when they are able to return home.
South Sudan: A Nation Uprooted
Since December 2013, conflict in South Sudan has forced 2 million people from their homes. In the north of the country, where fighting is most severe, populations have been pushed to the brink of starvation. Tragically, this war in South Sudan is unlikely to end anytime soon. Donors and aid organizations have mobilized to deliver significant amounts of humanitarian aid, but logistical and security challenges continue to hamper the effectiveness of the response. Improvements can and must be made, both to better respond to people in need and to prepare for new waves of displacement within South Sudan and into neighboring countries like Ethiopia, the largest South Sudanese refugee hosting country. This is a critical moment, before the rainy season begins in earnest in May and logistical challenges become even more difficult. United Nations peacekeepers, armed with a new mandate that prioritizes civilian protection, can also take steps to better implement that mandate and keep people safe.
Philippines: Post-typhoon resettlement plan carries risks
In November 2013, the strongest typhoon on record tore a path of destruction across the central Philippines, displacing four million people. In the disaster’s wake, the government adopted an ambitious plan to relocate 200,000 households away from at-risk coastal areas and resettle them out of harm’s way. While well-intentioned as a strategy to mitigate displacement from future typhoons and climate change, observations to date suggest that without sufficient planning and safeguards, government-led resettlement is a highly risky undertaking that threatens to prolong displacement and leave affected populations more, not less, vulnerable.
Congolese Women: What Happened to the Promise to Protect?
It is impossible to talk about the Democratic Republic of the Congo without talking about sexual violence. The widespread acknowledgement of gross levels of conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC spurred the international community to act in an unprecedented manner to protect women from these atrocities. In particular, there were two major investments by the United States and the United Nations, one with an unprecedented level of programmatic funding, the other with a novel coordination strategy.
Philippines: Displaced and Forgotten in Zamboanga
In September 2013, fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a Muslim rebel group in the port city of Zamboanga on Mindanao forced 120,000 people – primarily minority Muslims – to flee. More than a year later, tens of thousands remain displaced, living in deplorable conditions.
Myanmar: A Tipping Point for Rohingya Rights?
Two years after a wave of violence hit the region, Myanmar’s Rakhine State has become a segregated zone. Two million ethnic Rakhine live apart from 1.2 million stateless Rohingya, who are trapped inside displacement camps or barred from leaving their villages. Ending this segregation and protecting the rights of the Rohingya are necessary components of Myanmar’s move toward democracy.
Waiting for Winter: Displaced Iraqis in the KRI
About 850,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled the conflict in central Iraq to seek safety further north in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). They are scattered across the KRI in a variety of temporary housing situations: though a small number of them are in camps, most live informally in local schools, unfinished buildings, and public parks. Half a million of them are in the city of Dohuk alone. The great majority of these 850,000 internally displaced are members of religious minorities – Christians from the Ninewa Plains and Yazidis from the Sinjar area, in particular.
A Daily Struggle to Survive: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Well into the fourth year of the conflict in Syria, it is clear that Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries will not be able to return home in the near future. In Lebanon, where one in four residents is a Syrian refugee, the demands of providing emergency assistance to refugees while trying to support disadvantaged host communities have become especially complex. Lebanon’s government has not been able to come to agreement on approving a range of support projects for both Syrian refugees and disadvantaged Lebanese nationals. And while this political debate goes on, tensions between hosts and guests continue to rise.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Somali Refugees in Kenya
Somali refugees in Kenya are facing pressure on multiple fronts. Earlier
this year, the Kenyan government announced that all urban refugees must
report to refugee camps. At the same time, the government launched a
security operation aimed at rooting out alleged members of the Al Shabab
terrorist organization from Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali
neighborhood in Nairobi. Together, these two initiatives opened the door
to increased levels of abuse, extortion, and harassment of refugees by
the Kenyan police. This comes as the Kenyan government is publicly
urging large-scale returns of Somali refugees even though the
humanitarian situation inside Somalia is deteriorating severely.
DR Congo: North Kivu’s Long, Rocky Road to Stability
The deployment of the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade and the
expulsion of the M23 rebel group have led many to herald a new era of
peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province. Yet
much of the province remains unsafe, many humanitarian needs are not
being met, and stability over the long-term is far from guaranteed.
Las Víctimas Ocultas de México
México atraviesa una crisis humanitaria encubierta. Comunidades rurales enteras han sido vilmente expulsadas por violentos cárteles de la droga, los cuales buscan apoderarse de sus tierras y recursos naturales. Los residentes han escapado de ciudades y estados donde las fuerzas armadas mexicanas están sumamente involucradas en un conflicto armado contra los grupos del crimen organizado. Como resultado de los asesinatos selectivos, secuestros y extorsiones, familias mexicanas se han visto forzadas a escapar abandonando sus hogares y medios de subsistencia.
Mexico's Unseen Victims
Mexico is in the midst of a hidden humanitarian crisis. Entire rural communities have been viciously emptied by violent drug cartels looking to appropriate their land and natural resources. Residents have fled cities and states where the Mexican military is heavily engaged in armed conflict against organized criminal groups. As a result of targeted assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion, Mexican families have been forced to escape by abandoning their homes and livelihoods.
DR Congo: Katanga in Crisis
Katanga, the richest province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
is experiencing a humanitarian and security crisis that is worsening by
the day. While the United Nations and donor countries have been heavily involved
in other parts of the DRC,
international efforts to protect civilians in Katanga are falling short
and must be enhanced well in advance of the 2016 national elections.
South Sudan: On the Precipice
South Sudan is on the verge of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Ongoing conflict since mid-December 2013 has forced mass displacement and limited humanitarian access to people in need.
Tough Times for Syrian Refugees in Egypt
Egypt’s political upheavals, along with national policies that obstruct
the work of humanitarian organizations, have left Syrian refugees there
with little visibility or assistance outside the communities where they
live. More international attention must be directed towards these
Central African Republic: No Time to Lose
international community was unable to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe
in CAR. But action can be taken now by the United Nations and major
donor governments to stop the crisis from getting worse and assist those
who can be reached.