Blog Archives

International Impact of the Debt Ceiling

One of the most publicized issues this summer has been the arguments on Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling. The political stalemates have been so much on the forefront of the public agenda that other dire issues, such as the famine in the Horn of Africa have been somewhat overshadowed. However, the two issues are linked more than one might initially think.

As most are aware at the end of the day on August 2nd, Congress finally came to an agreement on the debt ceiling debate which avoided the detrimental U.S. default. What is known about the agreement is that it cuts almost $1 trillion, however, what hasn’t been made immediately visible is the precise details of such cuts. We do know that important programs for the poor – throughout the globe – are at serious risk. It is also important to be aware of the appropriations bill that was passed by the House for the State Department and Foreign Assistance. Within this bill were cuts to the UN’s regular budget and UN peacekeeping. The simple truth is that if the bill is passed by Congress and signed into law, the UN will return to its previous state of cycles of debtCuts to the UN’s budget detrimentally impede the organization’s ability to aid in foreign catastrophes such as the current humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Horn of Africa – with Somalia suffering the most from the drought-induced famine.

In his op-ed, U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia writes: ” “from terrorism to the threat of pandemics, the United States faces challenges that are beyond the power and financial means for any single nation, no matter how powerful, to address alone. Our contributions to the UN enhance our national security and our foreign policy priorities, save dollars while growing jobs and our economy and strengthen our leadership in the international community.”  And as Massachusetts’ own US Senator, and ardent foreign relations advocate, John Kerry so eloquently put it, “We can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security…This is not time for America to pull back from the world. This is a time to step forward.”

The UN and the U.S. are currently making substantial efforts to help the about 11 million people directly affected by the famine. Efforts include:

  •  UNICEF is working to help over 250,000 children from Somalia who are suffering from acute malnutrition. They have already provided 8,300 bags of nutritional supplies to 2,800 children. The goal is to reach 70,000 children within the next six months and to provide them with nutrition and water.
  • As of late, World Food Programme is reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia and is scaling up to reach an additional 2.2. million in the previously inaccessible south of the country. Airlifts to Mogadishu began earlier in the month to bring special nutritious foods to malnourished children.
  • UNHCR – through its partners – has delivered emergency assistance packages to benefit 15,000 internally displaced persons in Somali camps. The organization plans to distribute 7.500 additional packages in the upcoming weeks.

The U.S. is currently the largest donor to the UN and to the relief in the Horn of Africa – what will happen if important funds are cut from such initiatives? It’s important that we stay engaged and involved in the coming months in order to demonstrate to our representatives in Capitol Hill just how important our international commitments are.

That is why we hope you will join UNA-GB and our fellow chapters around the country in engaging in dialogue with our elected officials this fall.  We will be in touch with ways to take action and specific asks that will be good to make, especially when your representatives are on fall recess. Email us at info@unagb.org if you’d like to be involved more in depth on these advocacy efforts.

Also, if you want to learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa and what we can do to make a difference, on September 12th UNA-GB is co-sponsoring the DocYard’s screening of Rain in a Dry Land, a film which provides an eye-opening look at what it means to be a refugee in today’s “global village.” Purchasing tickets to view the film, which chronicles the lives of two Somali Bantu families, is a great way to get educated more on what refugees face in the transition process.  There will also be information shared about how you can help end the famine crisis in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

-Alexandra

Help Starts Young

Here’s another post for our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! This week you can learn about Child Poverty throughout the world and the efforts being made to help the fight against child poverty and child labor so that future generations can develop. You can also check out our past blog posts to learn about more global topics: “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure”, “A Necessary Priority”, “A Reform For The World” and “The Rural Challenge”. Check back next Monday for another blog post!

About 45 % of children in Latin America and the Caribbean live in a state of poverty.

his means that child poverty affects nearly 81 million children and adolescents in these regions of the world! As defined by the UN General Assembly in 2007, child poverty is “the deprivation of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation, and protection”. Nutrition is immensely important in a child’s life for lack of it can cause damage in early childhood and have harmful long-term effects on the child’s health. Despite this, about 30 million children are born each year with impaired growth due to poor nutrition. Possible solutions to unhealthy diets include proper education on healthy eating habits and income support (healthy food tends to cost more than unhealthy substitutes).

Education, including that learned in school and from one’s social interactions and environment, can be a means of escaping poverty because it improves the chances that the child will have a good income and be able to afford the necessities denied him/her by poverty. Unfortunately, a child’s ability to receive a quality education is largely based on the family’s finances, seeing as how an education costs money. Sadly, a family’s low financial status increases the chances of the child being forced into child labor so as to help support the family and himself/herself. While working as a child can make school for the individual possible (working for the money that will fund their education), child labor can also be a means of a child getting stuck in poverty by hurting the child’s health or keeping him/her tied down by low-skilled work. However, child labor that offers the child the ability of a formal education or out of poverty and is not dangerous to the child is not the worst option. As a country, it is important to determine the nature of the child labor before completely banning what may, in fact, be helping.

A range of factors contributes to child poverty. An example of such are the natural disasters that constantly plague the Caribbean, leaving the countries in disrepair and economic strife. The fact that children are not represented in policies to the same extent as adults also allows child poverty to prevail because they are not being protected by laws or governments. Despite the various contributors to child poverty, one theory remains quite evident: the failure to effectively end child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean produces a cycle of hardship that passes on to generations while further limiting the future opportunities for these children.

United Nations milestones such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted in 1989) and the establishment of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1946 have made great strides to dealing with and eventually ending child poverty. Defined by UNICEF, the Convention is “an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years old”. The Committee on the Rights of the Child ensures that countries are working towards “ensuring that all children have access to education and healthcare, the ability to reach their potential and abilities, grow up in a positive environment of love and happiness, and benefit from protection and assistance”. UNICEF has participated in much humanitarian work aimed at child poverty and works through TACRO (UNICEF’s regional office for the Americas and the Caribbean) to support and work with other organizations like the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization in order to advocate for good nutrition practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall, although child poverty remains an issue of international affairs, the UN and its organizations continue to work towards the cease of this epidemic.

-Amanda

A Week Calling For Action: Week of 8/1 News Roundup

It’s August! This week was a week full of opportunity to educate and help those in need around the globe as we welcome a new month. The UN Security Council welcomed both a new month and president, as India was given the position of Presidency for the month. India seems to have some plans for going about its time as president including a peacekeeping debate and creating a strong image of itself within the UN community.Monday also brought along the start of World Breastfeeding Week, as the theme this year was “Talk to me! Breastfeeding – a 3D Experience”. The theme suggested the idea of using communication tools through technology to better educate the world about the benefits of breastfeeding. Along the topic of communication tools comes a new tool introduced this week focused on giving access to resources that are propelled by technology for those that don’t have the financial support to access these resources now. The use of technology will focus on access to women in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in creating “mobile identities” that they will be able to access from any mobile phone that will allow them to have phone access through the device as well as resources to be able to educate themselves about health topics and find jobs.

Assistance is still needed throughout the world this week, as the UN declared that the famine in Somalia has spread to three other areas of the nation this week and the crisis in the Horn of Africa is in need of major support in its fight for resources.


There are many ways that you can get involved too through a variety of different organizations to help nations in the Horn of Africa recover from this crisis. UNICEF this week proposed an idea for other organizations to get involved as well, as it asked airlines to generously give less-costly space for resources to be flown to the nations in need in the Horn of Africa, and some airlines have already agreed to either free transportation of resources or discounts. It also continues to stay involved in helping as it supports those that come to refugee camps with basic resources and child protection as a majority of those coming to the camp are women and children. The World Food Programme is getting involved with the refugee camps as it has assisted with providing food and other resources to those that arrive to the camps as well, as malnutrition is a major concern for those that arrive. As nations continue to develop and get past crisis and people come together to help in whatever way they can, Sudan which had a recent development as Southern Sudan declared its independence weeks ago faced an unfortunate tragedy this week. Four Ethiopian UN Peacekeepers lost their lives from a the effects of a landmine this week and seven other Ethiopian UN Peacekeepers were injured during a mission in Sudan.

Starting the lead for assistance in the world the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues to stay dedicated to helping those in need around the globe. This weekend he will be traveling to Japan to support the post-earthquake development of the nation. We look forward to hearing more about his trip and the development of assistance to those in need around the world as next week progresses.

-Cara

A UNited response to Japan Earthquake

Five days after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s north-east coast at 2:46 p.m. local time, the official death toll is now more than 4,300. More than 8,000 people are still missing, and half a million are homeless. Hundreds of national and international rescue teams are leading the relief effort.

Friday’s earthquake in Japan was the country’s strongest recorded quake. It hit north-east of the main island of Honshu; its epicenter was undersea, about 400 kilometers northeast of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The quake triggered a powerful subsequent tsunami that inundated towns, villages and farmlands along the coast and devastated dozens of coastal communities. The devastation is of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine some of the communities ever being rebuilt. Town after town has been wiped away.

Source: freshnessmag.com

Now, Japan is facing another frightening reality — the possibility of a radioactive leak stemming from a second reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Since the earthquake knocked out the plant’s cooling systems over the weekend, the crisis at the Fukushima plant has mounted. The first three reactors have already exploded due to build up of hydrogen gases. The repeated releases of different amounts of radiation — some large, some small — are cause for concern.  (For the latest news and updates, check here).

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sorrow on Friday: “I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and Government, and most especially to those who lost family and friends in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami…” Mr. Ban said the UN would do all it could to mobilize humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction teams as soon as possible.

A United Nations disaster team arrived in Japan two days ago, and local officials have asked the world body to dispatch a team of nuclear safety experts as emergency operations continue in the wake of Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. The United Nations has also called an emergency meeting to discuss possible solutions to Japan’s deepening nuclear crisis.

According to the UN, a seven-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will set up an on-site operations center to help Japanese authorities disseminate accurate and timely information on the disaster and the emergency efforts. The team of specialists will travel to affected areas in the days ahead to assess the humanitarian needs, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They will also assist the Japanese Government in providing advice on incoming international relief goods and services.

Even though Boston is close to 7,000 miles away from Japan, there are ways for YOU to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Please consider making a donation through UNICEF, The World Food Programme, or The UN Foundation. Every contribution can help make a difference. Consider donating today and please stay tuned for additional ways to get involved as the relief efforts develop!

-Hanna

UN Continues Working Tirelessly in Haiti

While it may not have maintained dominant coverage on the 24-hour news networks, the United Nations’ relief efforts in Haiti remain in full force.

Just over six months after the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation in January 2010, destroying the country’s infrastructure and killing an estimated 230,000 people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced July 27 that the UN is hoping to reach an additional 500,000 children in the ravaged nation in a second round of emergency immunization.

The 7.0 earthquake hit the Caribbean nation on January 12, 2010.

Among the illnesses being vaccinated against are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, rubella, and polio. Haiti is considered by UNICEF as one of the nations where children are at the highest risk for contracting of these dangerous diseases.

In addition to providing health care, UNICEF and its partner organizations are providing water to 1.2 million people and food to an estimated 550,000 children and women.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) also recently announced on July 22 that they have assessed more than double their initial target of 100,000 buildings in Haiti for structural damage. With the help of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the United Nations have been working closely with the Haitian government in the recovery and rebuilding process.

The destruction caused by the disaster continues to dominate Haiti's landscape.

These announcements come on the heels of international football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi’s visit to Haiti, during which the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year visited a homeless camp and attended UNICEF meetings. In addition, the Barcelona player met with troops from his native Argentina serving the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Argentine football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi meets with children in Haiti.

Additionally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently launched “A Book for a Child in Haiti,” collecting French-language books in an effort to jumpstart the educational system for “internally displaced persons (IDPs)” in Haiti.  The program is also working to forge relationships between Haitian and French schoolchildren.

However, in spite of all the efforts, there is still much work to be done. Over 800,000 Haitians are living in tents with no access to clean water or sanitary conditions. Almost 500,000 buildings have been deemed unlivable and still need to be removed, and education and health facilities have yet to sufficiently recover from the disaster. UNICEF reports that over 1,200,000 children are being exposed to exploitation and abuse amidst the disorder and turmoil.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is spearheading the expansive relief effort, providing food, agricultural support, and both short- and long-term solutions to the island nation. This work is even more critical with hurricane season fast approaching and threatening the already fragile Haitian infrastructure.

Show your support and Help Haiti Rebuild by donating to the WFP’s Haitian relief efforts and stay informed by visiting their Haiti Emergency website.

-Patrick

There is work left to be done in the rebuilding process in Haiti.