Human Appeal Australia (HAA) hosted a group of young Muslim Australians for its fifth annual Aspiring Leaders Umrah Tour of four countries – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and UAE. The tour, comprising fifteen participants from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, it started on the 5th February and will conclude on the 22nd February 2019. The group of young university students and graduates are led and mentored by Bashar Al-Jamal, director of HAA. Read more
Dubbed “boat people” by the global media for their flight to many countries in rickety boats, the Rohingya people have a storied history as a Sunni Muslim minority group based in western Myanmar. Their problem exists, ultimately, to the lack of international infrastructure needed to ensure basic human rights ensured on a global level are honored.
To put it simply – the government considered them Bangladeshi without ensuring that Bangladesh would extend citizenship to these people. This resulted in a group with limited recourse against both civilian and military malfeasance as evidenced by numerous military campaigns targeting villages throughout the region, as exemplified by what has been claimed by many to be acts of ethnic cleansing conducted in 2017 by Myanmar’s military.(1)
Government supported persecution alongside endemic poverty due to lack of access to work and education cumulated in the largest refugee crisis to hit the region in the 21st century. Now – with winter once again making itself felt in the region – it is time to take stock on the situation faced by these refugees situated in Bangladeshi camps.
State of Camps
A fundamental problem with establishing and running refugee camps lies in making certain that there is enough housing and supplies for the future residents. Sadly, this crisis grew much faster than planners anticipated. The result is that the largest camps, situated near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, became swiftly overfilled. Before long more than 30 unregistered camps were established in the surrounding countryside.(2)
Too many people have created extraordinary strain on the resources available in nearly every regard: water, food, medical care, psychological support, and education.
Too high of a population creates many significant issues regarding basic health and social services, including:
- Economic Opportunities (Training, Job Placement)
- Medical Care (Hospitals, Regular Health Screenings, Medication)
- Education (All Levels)
- Basic Sanitation (Latrines, Drinking Water, Food)
- Security (Law Enforcement)
One of the greatest challenges in any community is maintaining an active workforce capable of generating resources that can support both dependent youth and the aged. With refugees this problem is often compounded by a large presence of children, injured/ill individuals, and the elderly – mostly traveling without the tools needed to continue practicing their professionals within the ad hoc camps. This pattern has repeated itself with 55% of the total refugee population being under the age of 18.(3) Making things even more difficult, from a demographics standpoint, 16% of the families were identified to be single parent.
This demographic situation would make any normal community hard pressed to maintain order, let alone economic and social growth. Factoring in the limited advanced skill sets of the Rohingya people (due to limited access to advanced education) and the already strained economic resources of the host nation, then it can be argued that the community is not capable of true self-sufficiency without a long-term infusion of outside capital (both human and fiscal) with the goal of building a functioning community from the ground-up.
Bangladesh’s economy has grown in fits and spurts throughout most of its history – a factor that makes ensuring that there is ample funding sufficient to maintaining a large refugee population highly dependent on foreign donations. Sadly – even when fully funded it is essential for the local economic environment to be resilient enough to incorporate the newcomers without depressing quality of life for permanent residents.
That delicate balance does not exist in this situation. The situation has created a sever drain on the Bangladeshi economy, with the government expending approximately $15.24 million per year(4) during a time in which the GDP for the country stands at only $1,700.
This situation has put added pressure on the government to end the refugee situation – putting pressure on the Bangladeshi government to arrange their reparation to Myanmar without resolving the underlying condition that led to the crisis to begin with.
Bangladesh has three primary seasons, pre-monsoon from March to May, monsoon from June to October, and a cool dry winter season from November through February. For the refugees this means that they have just come off the monsoon season and are in the midst of the coldest time of the year.
The 2018 monsoon season was moderately heavy with numerous incidents of flooding and property damage.(5) In particular, these months saw numerous issues with access to latrines, clean water, and general mobility throughout the camp.
This leads to a contradiction in terms – the refugees will be experiencing pleasant temperatures alongside potentially damaged shelters, poor health situations caused by disruptions in basic sanitation systems, and little in the way of economic growth due to commerce being disrupted for significant stretches just months prior.
The general state the Rohingya refugees find themselves during Winter 2018-2019 is approaching the same as the average conditions faced by the community over the last couple of generations. In other words, the conditions are quite poor with little indicators of future progress in resolving the underlying conditions that resulted in the problem to begin with.
Limited fiscal resources have hampered economic growth, with no significant progress being made to resolve the statelessness that has deprived the community of the security it needs to thrive in a secure manner in Myanmar.
Long term, the situation will require strong outside intervention in order to remove multiple institutional challenges for finding a solution to the problem. Many nations are already applying economic and diplomatic sanctions against Myanmar(6) (7), making it an inevitability that a change will either come from government officials backing down from pressure or the general population rising up against worsening economic conditions and demanding a swift resolution of this issue. The only question that remains is whether or not the people that fled these camps will ever feel secure enough to return to their home villages once the dust settles.
Palestinian refugees are persons previously residing in Palestine but whose residency was disrupted as a result of the conflict in 1948. Nearly a third of the registered Palestinian refugees live in recognized refugee camps. This number is approximately 1.5 million people.
They are spread across Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, The Syrian Arab Republic, and the West Bank.
Where do the Refugees Live?
The refugee camps are plots of land designated by host governments for the accommodation of refugees. They are usually at the disposal of United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency and partner agencies responsible for catering to the needs of the refugees. Areas not designated are not recognized as camps.
The lands on which the camps stand do not belong to the refugees. In most cases, it’s state-owned or leased from local landowners. The refugees have a right to use the land for residence but cannot lay claim on it.
Some of the facilities UNRWA maintains are health centers, schools, and distribution centers in areas surrounding the designated camps.
The other two-thirds of refugees, about 3 million people, live in towns and cities within the host countries. They also occupy the environs of official camps. All services by UNRWA are accessible by all refugees regardless of where they live.
Health Living Conditions
In most Palestinian camps, provision of water, housing, and other essential amenities are usually inadequate. This contributes to poor health and sanitary conditions. An assessment of physical and mental health conditions showed that approximately 31% of individuals in the camps had chronic illnesses. 24% of the population suffers from acute diseases.
The study also showed that refugees living in deplorable conditions are almost two times likely to have a member with a disability in the family. Impoverished families are also more likely to have a chronically sick member.
In other words, the conditions are cyclical. This means that conditions of poverty are likely to cause ill health and consequently create a financial burden on families. Households with more than one chronic illness to deal will spend more on healthcare expenses.
Maternal and Pediatric Health
A team of community midwives has come together to provide unique services to the communities. They provide checkups and healthcare advice to pregnant women and new mothers. In so doing, there is improved health through increased breastfeeding, better nutrition, and specialist care.
The success rate of these teams demonstrates that the conditions can improve if there’s intervention by the international health community. There’s a need for increased research on health and healthcare requirements of the Palestinian refugees. Advocacy for more intense international action is crucial the realization of the rights of the refugees to dignity and health.
Physical Living Conditions
A report in the Journal of Palestine Studies indicates that studies covering all aspects of the living conditions are yet to be done. The two primary sources of information are UNRWA statistics and the Lebanese Ministry of Planning.
Housing and Sanitation
The camps in Lebanon were set up on small uncultivated land and abandoned military sites. Their set up in the 1950s was primitive, but improvements have been made in the years that followed to make the environment habitable. For example, the bare earth was covered with cement and tents were issued to replace the shacks.
Eventually, the tents were replaced by brick-built houses. Modernization of the houses followed with the public latrines that served all being replaced by private installations. According to the Lebanese Survey of 1971, approximately 80% of the occupants of the camps possess private toilets, while some have to share among themselves.
Much of the terrain where the camps are located is harsh, and access to water resources is tough. Initially, water would be supplied by United Nations tankers. However, in the current day, most camps have reliable water distribution networks.
One challenge that the camps face is the construction of above-ground sewage systems that attract mosquitos and increase the risk of acquiring malaria. Flooding also becomes a significant problem during winter.
While the camps hardly increase in space, the population has doubled over the last twenty-five years. This has led to high population density and overcrowding. Resources are scarce in some of the camps because essential amenities intended for use by a certain number of people become overstretched.
For example, the Al Karameh camp was set up to accommodate 5,000 Palestinian refugees. Unfortunately, today the camp is home to about 17,000 inhabitants. The low standards of living and lack of adequate amenities mean that only a few refugees manage to leave the shelters.
Some of the consequences overcrowding in the camps are the transmission of epidemic diseases. These include cholera, typhoid, and acute respiratory infections. Outbreaks of these diseases are more severe and frequent where population density is high.
In emergencies, it’s unavoidable for hospital-associated infections will rise.
In addition to the Palestinian refugees, the camps are also occupied by approximately 11,500 Lebanese nationals. Most of them are unable to afford housing, and they find their way into the camps for shelter.
The social organization in the Palestinian camps is not a chance collection of families or individuals. From a social point of view, they are unlike the slum areas of the host countries and closely resemble village types. An analysis of their groupings shows that they occupy the camps in small villages depending on where their village of origin.
The basis of social life is the extended family, which are socially active and coherent units. The units jealously guard their social consciousness and village ties. If they were to be resettled, these ties would be of great importance in helping them re-construct their Palestinian lives.
However, social conflict is not absent on family and community levels. Disputes carried over from Palestine sometimes surface in the communities mainly over water supplies and housing. All in all, there is a shared sense of being a refugee community; hence solidarity is exercised in overcoming daily challenges.
Living conditions in the Palestinian camps are still wanting. Basic supplies are in shortage, and housing standards are below par. Social life for the inhabitants is inhibited, with the younger generation having no access to training opportunities for the courses considered prestigious.
Health and sanitation conditions could do better with intervention from international aid communities. Child and maternal health status in the camps have not received the attention it deserves. While there’s help coming from UNRWA, a lot still needs to be done to make the shelters more habitable, and to empower the refugees.
Think of winter and the image of thick blankets of snow covering the streets and freezing temperatures come to mind. For most of us, we dread leaving our homes and prefer to stay inside by our fireplaces with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in our hands. But for many Yemeni refugees this winter, their realities will be much direr.
Forced from their homes because of the outbreak of violence in their country, these refugees have little more than the clothes on their back. In January of 2018, more than 32,000 refugees were displaced by violence. Those numbers have continued to grow throughout the year.
What will happen to these refugees? Let’s take a look at some of the issues these Yemenis will face as they head deeper into frigid winter.
Surviving Winter Without A Home
The escalating civil war in Yemen is displacing thousands of refugees every month. They have had their homes destroyed, and often have to resort to using caves as shelter. But these makeshift homes do little to protect them from the harsh elements.
These families usually have small children, and even with the best efforts of humanitarian groups, they are unable to get access to enough food and water to sustain them. Because of this, their bodies are not strong enough to withstand the harsh temperatures that winter will bring.
In the countries that many of these refugees are fleeing to, temperatures can fall to below freezing point. Coupled with little access to clean water and food, it is easy to see why hundreds of Yemenis die every few weeks from these harsh conditions.
The Yemeni Civil War is stretching into its fourth year. Even with help from the UN in resettling these war-stricken people, many of them have to resort to living outside in the elements and in tents in refugee camps. Surviving winter without a home is a life-threatening challenge for these displaced Yemenis.
What’s more is that in addition to displacement, thousands of Yemenis have been displaced for years which presents even more challenges. More than two million Yemenis are currently refugees, as recorded by the UN in January of this year. This means that this refugee community is on the brink of famine.
The Stark Reality for Displaced Refugees
The kind of discomfort that these refugees face far surpasses the kind we feel when we forget to eat lunch or leave the house with fewer clothes than we’ll need to stay warm that day. In September of 2018, the UN issued a warning that the millions of Yemeni refugees are on the brink of famine. Put another way, millions of Yemeni refugees are on slowly dying because they do not have enough to eat. Such intense starvation coupled with the harsh temperatures are essentially a death sentence for these adults and children, who left their homes to survive.
In an interview published by Al Jazeera, reporter Andrew Simmons said after seeing a dangerously malnourished little girl, “I could count the ribs on her chest.” There are very few clinics available to these refugees, so they are unable to get the treatment they need.
This begs the question of why we haven’t heard more about the struggle that these Yemeni refugees have to endure?
Yemeni refugees in the Jordanian city of Amman only have access to one charitable health center. Even if they arrive at dawn, it can take as much as seven hours to see a nurse. For people already in a dire situation, this is more than agonizing.
Additionally, Yemeni children in Jordan have no access to schooling. Many of these children are turned away by school administrators. The future of Yemeni children is at risk.
The Struggle to Survive for Yemeni Refugees
For the Yemeni refugees in at least one country, they face public derision and open discrimination by the people who live in the countries that they have settled in. Contrary to the belief that refugees just want to mooch off of the resources of the country they settle in, the Yemeni refugees do not want cash handouts or aid.
Instead, they just want an opportunity to provide for themselves. Many of them had to leave their jobs and businesses after the outbreak of war in their countries, so it only makes sense that they would want to become productive members of the society they find themselves in. One refugee who was interviewed by The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi had this to say, “I have a degree in law and I am desperate to mop floors and pick up trash. But each time they turn me away and deny my permit.”
Yemeni refugees find themselves caught between a “rock and a hard place.” They were forced from their homes because of violence that would kill them, and they’ve lost everything they own. After enduring grueling conditions and making it to another country, they find themselves unwanted and disliked by the people of the country.
Clearly, the upcoming winter will be a deadly one for the Yemeni refugees. Those who survive will have to face inhuman conditions and get by on very small rations of food.
Millions of families around the world are looking forward to enjoying the holiday period with their families. However, for families caught up in the Lebanon winter crisis, thoughts of the holiday period are far from mind. The only thing important to them at this time of year, winter, is keeping warm and surviving the cold harsh weather. Read more
The delivery of goodness
To Provide Urgent Relief to drought-affected farmers.
On Saturday 18th August Human Appeal Australia launched The Farmers Drought Appeal to help affected farmers with urgent relief.
Human Appeal with the help of our generous community has been able to raise and allocate an amazing amount of $90,000 to help alleviate the hardship faced by farmers.
What comes to your mind when you think of winter? Maybe you dread the cold temperatures that call for multiple layers of clothing to stay warm. Or perhaps, you look forward to it, because of the warm drinks, delicious baked pastries and more. However, for a set of people, the winter temperatures mean life or death. Read more
Balaroa, Sidera Village, Sigi, Petobo, Loli Donggala, Loru village
- Food Packs
- Hygiene and sanitation kits
- Baby kits
- Emergency shelters
- Clean Water
On the 25th October 2018 a team from Human Appeal Australia visited Indonesia to oversee the relief efforts and help in distributing aid to brothers and sisters affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Sulawesi – Indonesia on Friday 28th September 2018. Read more
On Sunday the 23rd of September 2018 our community has again shown solidarity with local projects and needs. Close to 2000 participants enjoyed a fun-packed family open day at Belmore Sports Grounds all came for the purpose of raising funds for the Farmers Drought Appel initiated by Human Appeal. The day started at 5am with […]
Fundraising for a Great Cause Livestreamed on Three Social Media Platforms
Human Appeal Australia’s Call to Support the People of Burma, Gaza and Syria
By Abdnaser Ali Elghirani, Wednesday 13 June 2018
On Friday 8th of June 2018, one of the best blessed nights of Ramadan at 9:30 pm Sydney Local Time, Human Appeal Australia in partnership with OnePath Network ran a live-stream fundraising campaign on the social media channels Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. The fundraiser was also broadcasted live on the Voice of Islam Radio in Sydney in a quest to help save lives, relieve hunger and provide shelter to the needy in Burma, Syria and Gaza. Read more