Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Bad News

Sub-Saharan Africa is in the throes of a humanitarian crisis that the international community is not ready to address. The number of displaced persons has reached an all-time high of 60 million, but a quarter of those are in sub-Saharan Africa. Of that total, 3.7 million are refugees and 11.4 million are internally displaced.

African refugees and internally displaced people face numerous issues – from security in the places in which they seek refuge, to death and mayhem trying to reach places of refuge, to conflict with surrounding populations to warehousing that consigns generations to be born and live in foreign countries.

Social chaos in sub-Saharan Africa has created a full-blown humanitarian crisis. African host countries already cannot meet the needs of refugees pouring across their borders, and the international community is also stretched thin having to address the soaring number of refugees across the world. This creates an urgent problem because displaced persons, many of whom are women and children, are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, at risk of human rights violations, without access to basic services. Once they leave home, they are dependent upon friends, family, governments, and international organizations for basic needs. And their needs are myriad. Not only must they receive water, food, and shelter to survive, but they also face long-term problems like finding a livelihood in a new country. They also need psychological assistance, many of them having experienced severe trauma along their route or having fled violence and torture in their country of origin.

Boko Haram in Nigeria, along with the state’s military response, has displaced upto 3.2 million Nigerians. Violent conflict in South Sudan between the government and rebels – both entities have terrorized the populace through mass killings, torture, and raps – has driven masses of people into refugee camps but also into the “bush,” a wilderness area where they are completely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. The Central African Republic was gripped by violence for two years after Muslim-supported rebels ousted the regime in March 2013 and terrorized the populace. Largely Christian militia groups formed to resist their reign of terror and have carried out violent acts of revenge. Almost a million people have been displaced there and almost a half million are living as refugees in neighboring countries. Countries that have not seen extensive violence lately, such as Chad, have borne the burden of taking in refugees from war-torn areas. But Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world and does not have the infrastructure capable of sustaining the myriads of refugees that are pouring in by the month. The World Food Program cut its rations for Sudanese refugees in Chad by 50 percent in 2014. Mothers left their children for weeks on end to find work for food, putting both themselves and their children at risk of exploitation.

Eritreans have suffered egregiously on their journey out of what some call the “North Korea of Africa.” They flee one of the most oppressive governments in the world. The U.N. Human Rights Council in June reported “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” to have been committed by the Eritrean government. There is “organized repression of the freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly, association and religion,” the report added. The government forces many men and women into “abusive, essentially unpaid endless” military service, referred to by survivors as “slave labor.” . Soldiers are tortured for slight infractions. However, those fleeing Eritrea face a quagmire of hopelessness in refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia, with no positive future outlook. Some ran into a horrific system of torture where traffickers would capture them in Sudan and sell them to Bedouins in Egypt, where they would be taken to torture camps in the Sinai Peninsula. Victims were subject to gruesome suffering while a ransom was demanded of their families. “The plight of Eritrean refugees is so dire, so complex, so little known, and in some countries so misunderstood that it shocks all normal sensibilities,” noted John Stauffer of the America Team for Displaced Eritreans. 

People  must be able to provide for themselves their children, and children must have access to education. Capitalism cannot supply those needs. 

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