The Bayaka People

Charity: Water's September campaign this year is focusing a lot on the the Bayaka who live the Central African Republic. The Bayaka have been forced out of the forest in C.A.R. because of logging and now live near villages where they are treated like slaves. To get water, children have to walk 40 minutes to a water source and another 40 minutes back with heavy water containers. If they had water wells nearer to their villages, life would not only be easier for them but it would also promote the use of clean water which would be extremely beneficial to their health. Get to know the Bayaka people a little bit more with these photos and the video above.
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Weekly Roundup

Source: HRW
Sudan - LRA Spreading Reign of Death into South Sudan: It seems like the LRA of Uganda are now rebuilding and regrouping as attacks in South Sudan, Congo, and Central African Republic are rising. Over the past few months, hundreds have been kidnapped (most of whom are children) in a massive abduction campaign in C.A.R. and DRC. The leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, continues to evade being captured by the Ugandan army. Violence is now rising in South Sudan, which is not good as the referendum is drawing near.

Democratic Republic of Congo - Rebels gang-rape almost 200 women in Congo attack: This completely sickens me. The Democratic Republic of Congo is named the 'rape capital of the world' for a reason. As a result of the war in DRC that took place from 1998-2003, various rebel factions have split off and reigned terror in eastern Congo. Now a proxy-war is taking place there where rebel groups raid villages, rape women, and kill opposition. In the early months of 2009, 5,400 women reported being raped. In early August, rebel groups attacked a village in eastern DRC and raped 179 women. Despite the violence that continues to take place, the U.N. is still removing peacekeeping forces in order stay on track to end the mission by next year. To me, ending the mission at this point is just asking for the terror to get worse and the situation to deteriorate even more quickly. Although this news is horrible to hear, I hate that we don't get it on our news. It's things like this that the world doesn't know. I think if more people knew of what was occurring there, they'd feel more obligated to help.

Gaza - Water supplied in Gaza unfit for drinking; Israel prevents entry of materials needed to repair system: I knew the water situation in Gaza in Palestine was bad, but I didn't know it was this bad: 95% of the water in Gaza is polluted and unfit for drinking. Since June 2007, Israel has prevented the entry of materials that would rebuild the water system in Gaza. Clearly something needs to change here to allow these innocent civilians to have the right and access to clean drinking water.

Kyrgyzstan - On the heels of ethnic violence, U.N. fears hunger in Kyrgyzstan: After the ethnic violence that took place in June, malnutrition now threatens the country. The WFP reports that in July 1.4 million people (over 25% of the population) was at risk of malnutrition and hunger and that is when food was easily available. Hundreds of thousands more are at risk in the coming months. WFP is beginning an initiative to deliver monthly rations of food to 300,000 people by the end of the year.
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5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises

The response to the flooding in Pakistan has been despicable. While on twitter the other day I found that  3.1 million Americans texted $31 million after the earthquake in Haiti, while the similar campaign for Pakistan has only generated $10,000. Has the world become tired of giving out money or are there other underlying reasons for the lack of donations?

However, Pakistan is not the first humanitarian crisis the world has ignored. UN Dispatch came out with a list of the 5 most ignored humanitarian crisis in recent times. Some of them are quite surprising too. (read the full article)

#1 - Iraqi refugee crisis
According to the UNHCR, the U.S. occupation and invasion has resulted in 1.7 million refugees living in Jordan and Syria and 1.5 million IDPs in Iraq. The U.N. has declared that over 30,000 youth in Iraq have not had the opportunity to attend school because of the war. The funding needed to provide assistance to these refugees is also greatly lacking.

#2 Guatemala; Tropical Storm Agatha
Little is known about tropical storm Agatha that hit Guatemala at the end of May right after a volcanic eruption. Perhaps the image of the gigantic sinkhole that was 200 feet deep is recognizable by a few people, but other than that, it was off our radar. 200 people died during Agatha and thousands of others were displaced. Of the $15 million that was needed to rebuild after the storm, only $5 million was donated. 

#3 - Uganda
Source: New York Times
The LRA is beginning to regroup again and attack villages in Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo again. In the recent months, the LRA conducted a massive abduction campaign where it took hundreds of children to fight as well as to become sex slaves. 2 million are still displaced in Uganda and rely on humanitarian aid. Of the $184 million dollar appeal, only $64 million has been donated. 

#4 - Central African Republic
C.A.R suffers not from its own issues, but those of its neighbors. LRA attacks occur in border towns in C.A.R, the Darfur conflict is spilling over the boundaries as well as refugees from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last year 18,000 refugees from DRC crossed over the border into the Central African Republic. 

#5 - Kyrgyzstan
The violence earlier this summer in Kyrgyzstan was severely underreported. In the span of a few short days, 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks were driven from their burning homes and forced to flee into Uzbekistan where they were not received well. Now they are returning home to nothing and the world still doesn't know. To date, only 36% of the funding needed to provide assistance has been received. 
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The Malnutrition that Shouldn't Be

195 million children are suffering from malnutrition around the world. MSF's Starved For Attention seeks to raise awareness of the dire situation and to change the food policy for humanitarian organizations. The humanitarian food aid system currently gives out nutritionally inadequate food to children under 2 years old. Most of the damaging effects of malnutrition are done by the time a child reaches the age of 2, so those first two years are crucial in a child's development. MSF is calling for people to sign the Starved For Attention petition to call for governments to demand that humanitarian food aid meets nutritional requirements.

The video about is about the Democratic Republic of Congo where there is a malnutrition where there shouldn't be. In some of the most fertile land on Earth, there is no shortage of food. However, armed militias from the war raid villages for food when they are in need, which forces the inhabitants to flee and crow cassava to feed the children. Unfortunately, cassava has no nutritional value so the children begin to develop malnutrition amongst an abundance of food. It isn't just access to food that is the problem, there are several underlying issues such as the war that are causing children to suffer. Watch this extremely well done video that highlights the situation in DRC and sign MSF's petition to rewrite the stories of hunger.
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Charity: Water September Campaign

Charity: Water's September campaign is now officially launched (with over $55,000 raised so far!). About a week ago I wrote about the premise of the September campaign as well as some information about the Central African Republic which is where the money that is raised will be going this year (read the post). 

The September campaign is raising money to give the people of C.A.R. access to clean drinking water and you can help in three ways: to give up your birthday, donate money to the campaign, or start your own fundraiser. The goal for this September campaign is to raise 1.7 million dollars which would give the 16,000 Bayaka people clean water as well as 74,000 other people living in C.A.R. That is 90,000 people who will be impacted because of donations from people like you! The need for clean water in C.A.R. is clear - in a population of 4.3 million people, 1.5 million don't have access to clean water (that is 34%!). Having clean water could improve the health for millions. 

Just $20 can give a person clean water, so it's clear that the money you would raise from your birthday or campaign can impact several people. Start September off on the right foot by donating to Charity: Water's September campaign and providing thousands of people with the gift of clean water.
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Wikileaks and the War

The other day I came across this post from The Road to the Horizon and thought it was... very intriguing. The war in Afghanistan has been increasingly scrutinized since the release of the Wikileaks documents (read more) and the video above shows a visual representation of what the Wikileaks document divulged to the international community. It's now clear to me why the documents and the war in general have come under fire. The darker the red spots on the map, the more military incidents. It's quite clear that the incidents have been becoming more frequent and widespread. No wonder why the war is gaining opposition...
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News of the Week

Source: AfricaNews
Sudan - Referendum will "increase humanitarian needs": The time for referendum in South Sudan is coming up in less than 6 months now. Although the people and authorities in South Sudan are anticipating the vote, they are worried for increased humanitarian needs that might arise with the return of millions of refugees that are residing in northern Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.

Sudan - Aid agencies granted access to Kalma amid expulsions: The largest IDP camp in South Sudan, the Kalma camp, was cut off from all aid for 14 days. Finally, three aid agencies have been allowed access into the camp (the UN Children’s Fund, World Food Programme and OCHA) to deliver fuel for the water pumps and medicine. As access was granted to this camp, other aid agencies were again expelled from the Darfur region and international aid workers were kidnapped (and later released), so the problems are still far from over.

Niger - Food hoarding ‘puts children at risk’: The World Food Programme recently called the Niger food crisis as the worst in its history. The food shortage is being exacerbated by people who are hoarding food and taking advantage of the market fluctuations to make a profit by selling their grains at extreme prices that the average person cannot afford.

Israel - New Peak in Arbitrary Razing of Palestinian Homes: The Israeli government continues to demolish homes in the West Bank and Palestine at new, faster rate. In July alone, Israeli authorities destroyed 141 Palestinian homes which is the largest number since 2005.

Niger - Hunger 'worse than 2005': 7.3 million people in the West African nation of Niger are in need of food. The World Food Programme's threshold for declaring a emergency is when 15% of children are acutely malnourished, and currently in Niger 17% are malnourished. At first there were droughts in the area and recently there was severe flooding. The droughts ruined the first set of crops and now the flooding has destroyed the second crops as well as livestock, making the situation only worse. Aid agencies are utilizing the various Plumpy'doz products to help combat malnutrition in children (read more).
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A Hopeful South Sudan

Source: BBC
In early 2011, South Sudan is set to vote on a referendum to decide whether or not they wish to secede from the North. Some think that the referendum will bring another war between the North and South, while others think the two regions will split peacefully. Others are questioning the South's ability to govern itself independently (read more). The majority of people, however, agree that the South will vote for independence.

Less than 6 months from the vote, the authorities in South Sudan are becoming optimistic and released the plans to turn the major southern cities into the shapes of animals and fruits - yes...animals and fruits. 

Despite the large oil reserves in the South, 90% of the South Sudan lives on less than a dollar a day. However, the authorities revealed a 10 billion dollar plan to transform Juba (the southern capital) into a rhino, Wau into a giraffe, and another into a pineapple. The plans for the cities are well thought out and quite frankly amusing - In Juba, the regional president's office is located near the eye, in Wau the sewage plant is under the tail (ha ha clever...), and there are even amusement parks in ears and residential areas on legs. 

As...interesting for lack of a better word...as these plans are for South Sudan, I'm not sure if they will actually become a reality. Hunger is common to those living in Sudan, mud huts are the average home, and roads have become a recent introduction to the area. So what makes South Sudan believe that they have the money to build such crazy cities even if they are granted independence? If they are able to pull these plans off, then great - but I'm highly dubious as to whether or not it is the best idea. When people are malnourished and living in deplorable conditions, building elaborate cities that remind me of Dubai's palm tree islands are not the best idea in my opinion...at least not until everyone has food to eat and clean water to drink.
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WFP Fighting to Get Food Aid to Pakistan

Photo via WFP
Although I wrote an update about the dire situation in Pakistan just the other day, today I wanted to share with you what the World Food Programme (WFP) is doing to help feed those who are stranded in the flooded regions.

With the possibility of the situation in Pakistan getting worse and not better, it is becoming crucial to get food aid to those in need immediately. Since the beginning of the flooding, WFP has given a 1 month supply of food to 1.2 million people; however, there are still millions in need of food aid (they estimate about 6 million people are in need of food assistance). Children and women often times suffer the most in disasters like these, so to ensure that children are receiving proper nutrition, WFP has distributed extra stocks of plumpy doz and high-energy biscuits. Up to today, WFP has distributed enough biscuits to feed 350,000 children for a month (read more).

By the end of next week, the World Food Programme hopes to bring food aid to 2 million people which is nearly 1/3 of the total number of people in the country who are in need of food assistance.  So far WFP has reached 430,000 people in the hardest hit areas of Pakistan and is preparing to feed 825,000 more in areas where the flood waters are heading next (read more about their distribution efforts).

Over 15 million people have been affected by the floods which leaves them without any food, clean water, or shelter. People have been forced to become refugees inside their own country - left completely helpless until aid finally reaches them. With livestock killed and farmlands destroyed, the possibility of a worsening food situation is likely.

Help PakistanThe crisis in Pakistan is far from over and the need continues. WFP has received 46 million dollars so far for a needed 150 million dollar food assistance operation. For the 13.9 million dollars needed for logistics operations, they've only received 1 million dollars. Donations are greatly needed to help assist those in Pakistan. You can help by clicking on the widget in this post or by donating $5 by texting AID to 27722 (only for people in the U.S.).

Thanks for helping out and I'll continue bringing updates on the crisis in Pakistan as the situation unfolds. 
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Humanitarian Photos

Source: Reuters
For World Humanitarian Day, Reuters came out with these really excellent photos showing humanitarian assistance in action. These photos show humanitarian aid in Haiti, Russia, Cambodia, North Korea, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, and most recently, Pakistan. These photos remind us of the tough yet admirable work that humanitarians do as well as the people whom they are aiding.
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World Humanitarian Day 2010

Today (August 19th) is World Humanitarian Day and I wanted to take the time to recognize the hard work of humanitarians around the globe. August 19th marks the anniversary of the Canal bombing in Baghdad in 2003 where 22 people died. World Humanitarian Day was then chosen to be held on this date to commemorate those who lost their lives in the bombing as well as draw attention to the humanitarian workers who've died in recent years. 

World Humanitarian Day not only seeks to remember those who've lost their lives, but also to draw attention to the various humanitarian needs and crisis worldwide, as well as to explain what humanitarian work entails (more Q&A here). 

Humanitarians base their work on four primary principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and operational independence. They believe that humanitarian aid should be available wherever there is human suffering - regardless of race, religion, nationality, class, gender, or political affiliation. Humanitarians must not choose sides and must carry out their work based on need alone. Humanitarian assistance must also operate separate from any political or military operations so as not to exclude anyone from the assistance they need and to remain completely neutral. 

In recent years, there has been a saddening pattern of rising humanitarian deaths. Particularly among national staff, the reports of death, kidnappings, and victims of other security incidents have been getting more frequent. In 2009 alone, 278 humanitarians were victims of security incidents, while in 1999 there was only 65. In 2009, 102 humanitarian aid workers were killed (88 national staff and 14 international workers) which was significantly higher than the 30 humanitarians killed in 1999. 2009 also ended with 92 kidnappings of which 59 were national staff and 33 were international. 139 more humanitarian workers were victims of other security incidents like assassinations, ambushes, combat crossfire, and suicide bombings. (read more...)

Humanitarian workers in the field also have the difficult job of actually providing aid and doing their job. Especially in Darfur, aid groups are constantly being prohibited to enter the region and are being expelled quite frequently, making the job of delivering assistance a very difficult task. The worsening security situation for humanitarians was also in the news very recently when 2 UN peacekeepers were kidnapped in Darfur and thankfully released 3 days later unharmed and also when 3 Indian UN peacekeepers were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this week (remember to send a thank you letter to UN peacekeepers!).

So as you are going about your daily life today, keep in mind the people who are serving around the world to bring aid to those most in need as well as the people receiving the assistance. Thanks to all the humanitarian workers risking their lives today, tomorrow, and everyday - I hope to join you in four years!
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Pakistan Update

Credit: Mk Chaudhry/European Pressphoto Agency (found via NY Times)
Life in Pakistan is getting no easier for those living in the region affected by severe flooding that is the worst in 80 years. In fact, the situation is getting worse as the threat of disease is high and aid groups still struggle to reach those most in need of assistance. Pakistan's Prime Minister has announced that 20 million have been displaced from these floods (which is 1/9 of the total population) and now millions are without food, water, shelter and sanitation.

Disease: With aid coming in very slowly to Pakistan, the threat of disease is becoming a very large issue - mainly for women and children who always take the brunt of the suffering from disasters such as this. Contaminated flood waters and the lack of clean drinking water are causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases - like cholera.

Food Shortage: The flood waters have damaged countless acres of Pakistan's farmland and killed hundreds of thousands of livestock which raise fears for a possible food shortage. Getting food to the victims is a difficult task as it is, but even when the flood waters dry up, the farmland normally used to grow crops will be damaged - creating the possibility that the farming seasons will not be as fertile as they normally are, which would create a further food crisis. This UN Dispatch page shows the extent of the flooding as well as has an informative video showing how farmland in Pakistan's breadbasket has been destroyed. 

Funding and Aid Shortage: For some reason, the world has turned its back on Pakistan. I'm getting most of my news about the situation through humanitarian/aid news websites such as AlertNet, IRIN, and Reliefweb. I've only seen one segment on TV about the Pakistan floods which lasted only a minute or so, besides that, news from Pakistan has been hard to come by. It's not just the news that has been slow for Pakistan, but also the funds for relief efforts. The U.S. has sent the largest humanitarian response to Pakistan when compared to other countries, but according to the New York Times, the U.S. hopes that its aid to Pakistan will "reclaim" America's tarnish imaged (full article). The article goes on to say:

...68 percent of Pakistanis have an unfavorable view of the United States. American officials hope that images of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters ferrying supplies and plucking people from rain-swollen rivers will at least begin to counteract the bad will generated by American drone strikes against militants in Pakistan...“If we do the right thing, it will be good not only for the people whose lives we save but for the U.S. image in Pakistan,” [said] Richard C. Holbrooke.

I understand that the U.S. is seeking to 'reclaim' their image in Pakistan because (especially with wikileaks) it is now important to have those living in Pakistan on our side to win the so-called 'war on terror'. However, if the reason the U.S. is sending this much aid to Pakistan simply because they want to improve their image, what would've happened if the flooding didn't happen in Pakistan? What if it occurred in a country where the U.S. has no interests? Would they be sending aid then? Unfortunately, I think no. No matter what officials say, I think the U.S.'s main reason for sending the large sum of aid to Pakistan is primarily to boost the image - with a second priority being aiding those in need. 

Rajeet Ghosh wrote an interesting article for AlertNet (read full) which explores the lack of funding for those in Pakistan and the overall decrease in giving to humanitarian disasters worldwide, including the current famine in Niger. The follow statement from the article does a great job at highlighting the funding shortage and possible reasons for the lack of giving:

Donations from governments for the victims of that disaster [the 2004 flood in Haiti] topped $495 per affected person, according to Oxfam. The floods in Pakistan have been making headlines worldwide for more than two weeks and yet so far donations are only around $3 per person...Maybe one problem is that there are so many bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, conflicts and natural calamities these days that it is difficult for any one disaster to grab our attention and open our pockets.

 It's hard to tell whether the lack of funding for Pakistan is because of political reasons or if people just don't feel like taking out their checkbooks for all the natural disasters and humanitarian crisis that are now commonplace. Haiti won large segments on news stations for weeks, while Pakistan has to struggle to get mentioned at all! Is that because Haiti is located in the Western hemisphere and Pakistan is in an area where fighting and tragic events are commonplace? I'd hate to think that the reason for the lack of funding would be politically, religiously, or ethnically charged because after thousands have died, millions displaced, and countless people having their lives forever changed - none of the reasons will be able to make up for the people who are suffering.

My heart goes out to those having to live through the aftermath of all the flooding. I really hope that the monsoon season does not bring more rain and flooding to the area. My appreciation also goes out to all the aid workers that are located in the regions of flooding and for giving up their time to help those most in need. 

To get some perspective as to how horrible the flooding and situation is in Pakistan, take a look at these following photo slideshows from the New York Times:

I'd also recommend watching this video put out by MSF about their water distribution efforts in Pakistan and the threat of waterborne diseases there:

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Things are Getting Started!

Yesterday I had my 2nd interview at Caribou Coffee in Chicago which I was pretty darn nervous about! After spending 6 hours total commuting on trains and $40 spent on tickets, I was really hoping I was going to get the job. After about 5 minutes in the interview, the job was offered to me!

It looks like I'll be doing another 4 years of coffee shop work, which I actually like! I practically live at Caribou Coffee now, so I'm pretty happy to be working for them finally. The thing I'm most excited about is that Caribou sells Project 7 merchandise and the shop that I'm going to be working at sells artwork where the proceeds go to building a school in Haiti! It looks like this couldn't be a better fit for me!

The biggest relief is knowing I can walk on campus next week and not have to worry about finding a job. That is a huge relief! 

I'm just 6 days away from moving out of my small town to the big city of Chicago, which means I have lots of packing to get accomplished these next couple days and many 'goodbyes' to say - so I apologize in advance if my posts are not as frequent as I move out and settle in to my new home. Life will be pretty crazy until around September 7th for me, but I'm going to try to get updates out as much as possible!

Finally, yesterday I got some information about my first class in college: Discovering HIV/AIDS, which I'm so thrilled about! It looks like during the first week of school we'll be talking with youth who have HIV and visiting prevention and treatment services through the city. I'm looking forward to learning a lot about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the coming semester!

Thanks for sticking by me as my schedule gets a little bit more hectic! Let the journey begin!
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Hyperinflation at Its Best

The south African nation of Zimbabwe is known for its problems - from President Mugabe, to diamonds, to the economy.  The wars that Zimbabwe was ingaged in caused the country to fall deep into debt, and to make up for the deficit, more and more money was printed which caused severe hyperinflation. Until 2009 the Zimbabwe dollar was used (now the US dollar, Euro, South African rand, and a few other currencies are used), but the intense hyperinflation made it so there were 100 trillion dollar notes in circulation! At one point, 25 million Zimbabwe dollars were equal to just 1 US dollar. I found these following photos from Bin's Corner (more photos on the website) that I found pretty amusing. Luckily for those living in Zimbabwe they don't have to carry around stacks of money anymore to pay for their lunch, but still, the problems for that country are still far from over... 

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A Big Thanks to WFP!

Yesterday was a whirlwind day for me - I'm still trying to recover! Here is the series of events that made for a very exciting day:
1. Got a call Thursday night about an interview with Caribou Coffee in Chicago (job = good!).
2. Woke up at 4:30am out of nervousness for interview.
3. 1 hour train ride then 20 minutes of mass transit in Chicago (and $20 spent on transport for the day...that was no good!)
4. Walked around my college campus and then had an epiphany that I'm moving in 10 days.
5. Got to my job interview a half hour early.
6. Decided to kill some time by walking up and down the streets and began salivating over the wide variety of ethnic restaurants so near to my new apartment. (falafel, north African, Vietnamese, Chinese...what more could I ask for?).
7. Had the interview which turned out well! 2nd interview schedule for next Tuesday!
9. Finally arrived home and realized I was named World Food Programme's Blogger of the Week!
10. Made about $150 selling old childhood toys (not a bad deal for a college student!).

#9 was a real shocker! I've only been Blogging Against Hunger for 1 week, so I wasn't expecting that at all! Since WFP is one of the organizations I could see myself working for one day, this is a huge honor to me! So I want to give a big huge thanks to World Food Programme for naming me Blogger of the Week, I'm so thrilled about it and excited to be blogging for them! I look forward to continue blogging for WFP and raising awareness on hunger for many years to come! 

Thanks to all the new readers who've come through WFP to check out my blog, I hope you all enjoy it and will continue coming back! And another big thanks to all my regular visitors who've been coming for weeks, months, or since I've started the blog - thanks for being so supportive as it has evolved over the year!

Just a reminder to all my readers (new and old) that you can donate to WFP through the widget on the side of my blog. Just click on the 'Give Now' button and fill out the needed information to donate or go through WFP's website. The money will be used to bring food to Haiti, buy school lunches for students, or to provide food during emergencies - so even the littlest bit can make an enormous difference! Also, make sure to follow them on twitter, join them on facebook, and stay informed on what they're doing around the world.
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I Need to Become an Aidworker (1)

For the past few months I've been thoroughly enjoying the "You've Been An Aidworker Too Long" posts on my favorite blog, The Road to the Horizon. The blogger, Peter, is a serial expat and longtime aidworker who periodically does these "You've Been An Aidworker Too Long" posts that keep me laughing (as I write this there are currently 12 of them). Besides the enjoyment I get at laughing pretty hard at them, I also appreciate them because it's sort of a glimpse into my future. 

Besides the obvious reasons for wanting to become an aidworker (helping those in need, bringing peace to unstable areas, and so on), I've come up with some other viable reasons I want - no, need - to become an aidworker. So to pay homage to Peter's hilarious posts, I will periodically be doing my own "Why I Need to Become an Aidworker" posts as  I think of more and more reasons why aidwork is the only career that's fit for me.

Reason #1 why I need to become an aidworker: I can't cook or bake to save my life. The bowl of fruit that's pictured above is about as fancy as I get. I tried baking muffins and cooking potstickers the other day, but all that resulted was a floury goop for muffins and hot cooking oil splattered on my arms from the potstickers. Needless to say, it wasn't a success. The good thing I've come to find about aidwork is that there are people who cook for the expats, or at least that's the impression I get. Even if there is no cook, at least the one thing I know how to make is rice - and that I could live on for years. 
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The Truth About Water

Water Kills
I found these two ads recently from Unicef that shed some more light on the water crisis. Charity: Water recently announced their September Campaign (the money will be raise for the Central African Republic) and water was recently declared a human right, so needless to say that the attention is finally being brought to the water crisis. 

The add above says, "Bad water kills more children than war" which can seem like a huge exaggeration at first. If you think of all the wars occurring right now and the large impact they have on kids, it can seem nearly impossible that something as little as unsafe water can do more damage. But in reality, 4,500 children die everyday because of unsafe water and lack of sanitation. Worldwide, 42% of people don't have access to toilets which contributes to the high death rate from diarrheal diseases. Poor sanitation alone accounts for 88% of the deaths from diarrheal diseases which kill 1.5 million children under 5 years old each year. The statistics are shocking - unbelievable. 

You can read more about what Unicef is doing to help bring water and sanitation to children around the world as well as what they're doing to meet the Millennium Developmental Goals. What to help? Take part in Unicef's Global Handwashing day, follow them on twitter, and join them on facebook. It's hard to imagine something as harmless as water killing so many children every day, but if more people become aware of the crisis then I believe that we can make a difference.
Source: Ads of the World
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Thank a UN Peacekeeper

The 100,000 men and women that are part of the UN peacekeeping forces risk their lives to bring peace and stability to 17 of the most dangerous and underdeveloped regions of the world. From Timor-Leste, to Syria, to Kosovo, to Haiti - these men and women are providing the people in these regions with hope that peace can be obtained. They've recently been in the news for telling Sudan to lift the blockade on the Kalma refugee camp in Darfur and for also being threatened to be expelled from Sudan by the Sudanese government (it seems as if Bashir is kicking up his genocidal tactics). 

The other day I found out that you can send a letter to a UN peacekeeper, thanking them for all that they do. Check it out and thank the people working to bring peace to the world. 
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Shell or Living Hell?

Niger Delta, Nigeria - Home to a Continuous Oil Spill
When someone says "oil", the Middle East inevitably comes to mind. But what about Nigeria? Nigeria is one of Africa's biggest oil producers and America's 5th largest energy supplier. As the demand for oil rises, Nigeria plays a more vital role. Foreigners have been kidnapped in Nigeria's Niger Delta region and armed militant groups seize oil pipelines in order to demand larger shares of the oil profits. Despite the abundance of oil in the Niger Delta, it still remains one of the poorest regions in the world. It should come as no surprise that the oil profits are often lost to the government and corruption. If you think the oil spill in the Gulf is bad, imagine living in those conditions all the time for decades! That is what life is like for the people living in the Niger Delta. For an excellent look into the situation in the Niger Delta, I'd recommend watching this episode of Vanguard, a great documentary T.V series.

One of my favorite organizations, Amnesty International, who I admire for fighting for human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or anything else, has also been raising awareness about Shell's actions in the Niger Delta. For a slightly entertaining video on Shell's activities in the Niger Delta, watch the quick and informative video posted above.

Back in May, Shell's shareholders met in London for their Annual General Meeting and Amnesty International did not pass up the opportunity to spread the world on Shell's true actions in the Niger Delta. According to Amnesty International, over 9 million barrels of oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta over the last 50 years, 75% of the local population have no access to clean water, and Shell continues to use gas flaring (despite it being declared illegal in the '80s) which poses serious health risks to the population (read their full report on Shell's activities in the Niger Delta). 

What better way to catch the Shell shareholders' attention then to run ads in newspapers and driving a truck around that tells about the real situation in the Niger Delta? Below is the ad that ran in two newspapers in London the day of the Shell Annual Meeting. Great job Amnesty for drawing attention to a mostly unknown issue!
 Photo and Video via Amnesty International Blog
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Water for CAR

Charity: Water September Campaign
Every year, Charity: Water launches their September Campaign. The premise behind the September Campaign is that everyone born in the month of September will ask for money for their birthday and donate it to Charity: Water. Every September (the month Charity: Water was born),the staff chooses a new country to raise money for and...drumroll...this year they chose Central African Republic. For all those people who weren't born in September, Charity: Water urges them to bike, swim, run or do anything to raise money for their cause. 

Why Water Instead of Gifts
80% of all diseases are the result of unclean water and lack of sanitation. Currently there are nearly 1 billion people without access to clean drinking water. It isn't just disease that stems from unsafe drinking water, but also violence. Women and young girls have to walk long distances every day in order to get clean water, and along that walk they are put at a greater risk of being the victims of sexual violence - especially in war-torn regions where rape is being used as a weapon of war. 

Through Charity: Water's projects, they've given over 1 million people access to clean drinking water and sanitation, funded nearly 3,000 projects, and work in 17 countries worldwide. The September Campaign makes a big impact in the region in which Charity: Water focuses on for that month - giving people not only access to water but also a chance at a healthier, more prosperous, and happier life. So instead of receiving the gifts that you quickly forget, raise some money for an amazing cause this September. The money you raise will improve the livelihoods of no just dozens or hundreds of people, but tens of thousands of men, women, and children.

About CAR
The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is not very well-known. It was recently one of the countries declared as a 'failed state' due to the violence, conflicts, and problems that have been occurring there. The Presidential elections that were meant to take place in April were put off, but recently rescheduled for October; however, it remains to be seen if they'll actually take place and be democratic, transparent, and corruption-free. 

According to the Charity: Water blog, there are 4.3 million people living in CAR and 34% of the population does not have access to clean drinking water. The life expectancy is only a meager 48 years and a shocking 69% don't have latrines. The reason for the lack of water, sanitation, and education in CAR is a result of the immense poverty there - nearly 64% live on less than 1$ a day.

This year for Charity: Water's fourth birthday, they wish to provide the 16,000 people belonging to the Byaka tribe with clean water and also to an additional 50,000 people living throughout the country. Now that is one heck of a 4th birthday gift! 
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More Scrutiny on the War in Afghanistan

Photo via Zoriah War Photographer
I don't know about everyone else but I haven't seen the war in Afghanistan in the news so much since...I can't even remember when! Although I was too young to draw opinions on the Afghanistan war when it originally started, I'm beginning to become informed now and form my own opinions. 

I'm against war of any kind. No surprise there. I think that no matter what, it will involve civilians and that's wrong. If two leaders what to shoot at each other, be my guest, but don't get innocent people involved. Especially recently, I've become extremely critical on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although I believe the idea of 'hunting down terrorists' was originally a nice plan, it clearly isn't working.

Being an American, it's almost heresy to go against a war that your country is involved in. I'm thankful for the soldiers that have given their lives, really, I am. But there has to come a time when a country realizes it's doing more harm than good. After reading the book Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees, I've come to realize that the presence of foreign soldiers also has grave implications in ways that many of us don't realize. 

Anyways, I'm rambling. With the recent Wikileaks report in the news lately, the war in Afghanistan has been getting some opposition and questioning. One of TIME magazine's recent issues features an 18-year-old Afghan women who's ears and nose have been cut off by the Taliban for fleeing her abusive in-laws (read the full article here).  This issue that TIME seeks to illuminate is the situation of women in Afghanistan at the moment. It serves as a 'what will happen if we pull out' sort of message. The TIME editor said,
The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war. Our story and the haunting cover image by the distinguished South African photographer Jodi Bieber are meant to contribute to that debate. We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground.
Although the editor said that, I still can't help but to notice a 'pro-war-in-Afghanistan' slant to the article. 

The Tailiban attack on the young girl in the picture occurred only a year ago, not before the US invasion/occupation. This shows that the Taliban stills has a strong presence in Afghanistan (and Pakistan as the wikileaks point out). 

So did all the bombing really help? Will more bombing really help these women? I understand their point - if the US pulls out now then the Taliban and current Afghan government will have to compromise, but has our presence there made the situation any less grave than what it would be without us there? The article Time, Photography, Propaganda? does a great job at analyzing the situation of women in Afghanistan, TIME's article, and a possible better approach than bombs: real aid. And although I don't believe that handing money to governments is always the best approach (it sure hasn't gotten Haiti very far yet), I agree with the author that it would be a whole lot better than bombing the entire country. 
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