By Lara Kajs
In 2011 when human rights activists, humanitarian aid workers and journalists were calling for something to be done to abate the refugee crisis simmering in Syria, no one listened.
In 2011 when human rights activists, humanitarian aid workers and journalists were calling for something to be done to abate the refugee crisis simmering in Syria, no one listened. Today, on the cusp of 2016, the fact remains that the new year will bring an increased need for humanitarian response to a desperate and ever growing refugee crisis, in which there is no end in sight.
In 2014 the number of displaced persons totaled nearly 20 million. By the end of 2015, the number is three times that amount at 60 million. In 2016, the United Nations projects that more than 87 million people will need humanitarian relief. To meet the needs of so many they are asking for a record $20.1 Billion.
The dominating factors in the global refugee crisis are instability and conflict which played a significant role in displacement throughout 2015 and will be equally critical in the coming year. Additionally, the existing displacement is a result of long-term conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and Myanmar. It is expected that there will be an increase in violence in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Nigeria and Yemen – which will continue the demand for the need of peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts.
Countries of Concern
As the civil war in Syria moves into its fifth year, the number of displaced persons continues to rise. Although more than 4 million have escaped the country to become refugees, there are still nearly 8 million left behind and internally displaced. Worse still is that ongoing conflict in the country has prevented many humanitarian organizations from entering areas where there is a need for aid including medical supplies, food, and water. Without a peaceful resolution in place, the situation is expected to decline and will require continued humanitarian support in 2016.
Of additional concern is the impact externally displaced persons are having on the economies of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Greece. Lebanon has already witnessed an increase in political instability and sectarian violence from their absorption of refugees. Jordan is also feeling the effects of the enormous increase to its population. Without adequate resources, it is only a matter of time before economic collapse occurs.
Civil conflict in South Sudan, combined with extreme poverty and severe drought has witnessed a downward spiral of the very young country over the last several years. Since 2013, more than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced and at least 600,000 have sought refuge in other countries. Even though the leaders of the opposing sides, President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar signed a peace agreement in August 2015, the conflict continues. There have been numerous human rights violations committed by all sides including beatings, extrajudicial killings, and rape for torture as well as several accounts of forced cannibalism. It is expected that fighting will continue into the next year which will increase the need for humanitarian efforts.
The ongoing persecution of the Muslim Rohingya population of Myanmar has resulted in at least 100,000 Rohingya to flee the country and nearly 200,000 are internally displaced and living in camps. At least ten percent of the Rohingya population of Myanmar has taken to the sea to make the dangerous voyage to neighboring countries. Many have been further victimized by human traffickers.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been wrapped in war since the 1990s. More than 5 million people have been killed thus far and despite the efforts of the UN, there is no end to the violence in sight. Unrest in the DRC has left nearly 3 million internally displaced persons and as many as 400,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
As militant forces such as Boko Haram, continue to terrorize the people of Nigeria, more than 1.5 million people (800,000 children) have been forced to flee their homes and are internally displaced. Additionally, more than 200,000 have escaped Nigeria to neighboring countries (a large number are in Chad) to seek refuge due to the violence and insecurity.
In response to a political rebellion and coup by the Houthis, a Saudi led coalition launched an aggressive intervention campaign in Yemen. Caught in the middle of the conflict in Yemen are 21 million civilians in desperate need of shelter, food, water and medical supplies – nearly 11 million are children. However, due to security factors, conditions have made it near impossible for humanitarian organizations to provide the much need aid. Without a peacekeeping intervention that will bring all sides together, the situation will continue to decline.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi has struggled with ethnic tension between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. In 2015 President Pierre Nkurunziza made a bid for the third term, plunging the country into an outbreak of violence. In December 2015, the African Union said it would send peacekeeping troops in an effort to prevent civil war, however, President Nkurunziza said that Burundians would fight against the peacekeepers. Violence in Burundi could potentially spiral into human tragedy in 2016
There is no single solution that can fix the humanitarian crisis the world faces in 2016. The common word people will here is ‘more.’ More money and more resources needed to help more people.
Featured Image: Taken January 31, 2014 in the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Syria; this photo shows men, women and children waiting in line for desperately needed food and medical supplies. Photo: Associated Press