Keeping an eye towards the plight of international human rights is critical for the fight against global poverty. Here is a spotlight on what may be considered the 4 worst humanitarian situations occurring around the world.
Syria: Civil War
Who: The Syrian population, engaged in a vicious civil war against a slowly crumbling government led by Bashar al-Assad.
Why: Like many other countries in the region, Syrians were mobilized by the Arab Spring and rebelled against numerous years of political oppression. Yet Syria’s revolution was met with violent resistance by Assad’s regime, which has been accused of a number of human rights violations that are severe in both nature and scale. Widespread civilian massacres, torture, detention, and sexual violence have been reported since 2012, with attempts at negotiation between the two sides proving futile. While atrocities have been committed on both sides, Human Rights groups state that the grand majority have been perpetrated by government-backed militia.
International Reaction: Syria’s civil war is one of the most prominently featured stories in global media today, in part for its brutality and in part for its length. The international community has largely expressed support for the Syrian rebels, with few key exceptions. Russia and Iran are both powerful friends of the Assad regime, and their continued support prolongs the conflict. The United States has urged Assad to step down, but so far has refrained from direct military involvement. Most recently, they have increased non-military aid to the rebel forces.
Yemen: “The Forgotten Crisis”
Who: The Yemeni people.
Why: Reeling from a 2011 revolution, the country has been plunged into poverty. According to ReliefWeb, 13.1 million people are lacking access to clean water while 45% of the population is lacking a reliable food supply. Basic services have collapsed, spurring the outbreak of multiple diseases. Adding to the problem is an influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa, whose desperate situation has led to an increase in exploitation for labour and sex work.
International Reaction: While aid is arriving in Yemen, it is not nearly enough. Oxfam’s regional director, James Whitehead, commented, “Colleagues who work on food and hunger issues globally always come up short when they see the figures on Yemen.” Moreover, with international interest in the region waning, the UN is struggling to surpass 2% of what they were pledged in aid.
Myanmar: Ethnic Divisions
Who: The Rohingya Muslims.
Why: In late 2012, the rape of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by 3 Rohingya Muslim men, sparked revenge violence that increased in intensity until it became a full-on assault on the Rohingya community. Raids in which residents, including women and children, are indiscriminately killed and their houses burned are becoming commonplace, and survivors are left to eke out an existence in squalid refugee camps. A conflict fuelled by deep ethnic divisions, the persecution of the Rohingyas is seemingly ignored by the government, with reports of security forces sometimes participating in the violence. Even Buddhist monks are participating, stating that the Rohingyas are known to be inherently evil and not rightful citizens of Myanmar.
International Involvement: The most tragic part of the Rohingya’s plight is that aid groups are prohibited from interfering. The government has restricted medical care and supplies such as food, water and basic goods, stating that the Rohingyas are not an oppressed group. Reports from Al-Jazeera show a desperate picture of a people without hope. Considering the inability of the international community to intervene in a country that will not permit it, and the political animosity towards them, it seems the UN was right when they called the Rohingyas the most oppressed people in the world.
Greece: An Economic Nightmare
Who: The Grecian population.
Why: Perhaps no other country has felt the brunt of the global recession quite like Greece. Though the E.U. is struggling, Greece itself has fallen far, fast. Historically the birthplace of literature, sport and culture, ranked 18th in the world in 2008, Greece never imagined its NGOs would be formally requesting UN intervention in 2013. Yet the stories emerging from Greece paint a grim picture indeed: a desperate lack of employment, limited available medical care, and an economy that refuses to recover despite the union’s desperate attempts to revive it. There has been a dramatic spike in the number of citizens living below the poverty line, relying on food handouts and also in the number of homeless in the country as the middle class slowly collapses.
International Reaction: Aside from the E.U’s bailout packages, there is limited international involvement on the ground. Perhaps because of the incongruence of such a traditionally powerful country in such desperate circumstances, the international community has been slow to recognize the severity of the Greek crisis.
– Farahnaz Mohammed
Sources: ReliefWeb, The Guardian, Al Jazeera
Photo: Daily News