Migrant Diaries: Insights from the border of Mexico and Guatemala

June 16, 2017 – “Our group wasn’t carrying much: a cross, a banner, and a bunch of palms and flowers that were being sold in the market to mark Palm Sunday. The point of crossing was to make a symbolic start on the Guatemalan side. And that’s what we did,” recalls Dr. Lynne Jones of her recent field mission to the border of Guatemala and Mexico.

Dr. Jones has worked as a child psychiatrist with migrants around the world. She recounts the narrative those who impacted her on a recent visit to Chiapas, Mexico on the FrançoisXavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (FXB) blog. Read more here.

Our fall course, Mental Health in Complex Emergencies, will delve into issues of psycho-social support for people affected by humanitarian crises under the direction of Dr. Lynne Jones this fall in Amman, Jordan.

You can read more from Dr. Jones in her new book Outside The Asylum: A Memoir of War, Disaster and Humanitarian Psychiatry.

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Practitioner Profile: Martine van der Does bridges humanitarian action and architectural design

New York, June 14, 2017 – An architect by trade, Martine van der Does now employs her unique expertise on functional design to improve the shelters that protect millions of people displaced from or affected by humanitarian crises around the world.

At the end of June, she will receive a Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action from Fordham University. We spoke with her about her interesting career path and the potential of design for humanitarian action.

What is the path you’ve taken in your career?

I grew up in the Netherlands and studied architecture, specializing in renovation and restoration. I did my Master’s thesis on the renovation of a Franciscan convent in Brazil.

Soon after that, I began volunteering in Africa and this is where my humanitarian career really began. After this, I returned to university to research emergency shelter models and then later continued my work in the field by taking a job as a construction logistician with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Niger.

I later secured a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Africa Department for the government of the Netherlands. In this role, I worked in Kabul, Afghanistan on various development projects, among which was the construction of a prison and air terminal.

I then moved back to The Hague where I am now mainly involved in the allocation of Dutch aid for direct response. I am the point of contact between the Ministry and the Red Cross movement. I am also an expert on the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination and on the roster of the European Civil Protection Mechanisms and can be deployed in an emergency.

Why did you make the switch from architecture to humanitarian work?

Not many trained architects end up working in humanitarian aid. But at some point, I just decided that I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. I realized that I’m among the two percent of the world’s population that has had the opportunities I have. I wanted to use my skills to do something significant. I also get a lot of personal fulfillment from it, I love traveling, getting to know other cultures, and the adventure side of it.

In your humanitarian career, what has been the main difference between working for an NGO like MSF vs. in a government ministry for humanitarian assistance?

MSF is a very principled organization where beneficiaries always come first, but in government ministries there is always some level of political influence.

The other major difference between the two experiences was the level of insecurity. At the time I was in Niger, I was not in a conflict area and, especially working with MSF, I was able to engage with the community. We did have security restrictions in Niger, but I could move more freely than when I was in Afghanistan where I couldn’t move without security personnel. Attacks happened on a weekly basis; I could hear bombings and shootings regularly. When visiting projects in the field I often felt like an alien, because I was wearing a flak jacket and a helmet with a military escort. As a result, it took more effort to get to know people and to have an equal conversation.

What is the most significant lesson you’ve learned in the field?

One lesson is to always be yourself, but also be as respectful and observant to cultural norms as possible. Also, I really learned to be alert but trusting of others who sometimes have my life in their hands. When I am on mission with the government, our security officers are the ones making decisions about my security. I have to trust that if a security officer tells me that going to a meeting or on a field visit – no matter how important – is not safe, then I have to trust them.

What do you see for the future of humanitarian response?

Ideally, we wouldn’t need humanitarian response anymore, but this idealism is not very realistic as we look at the progressing crises of the world. Right now, a lot of support for humanitarian response comes from Western donors such as the European Union and the United States, but we need to diversify by reinforcing national and regional structures in disaster and conflict-affected areas so they have a greater capacity to deal with humanitarian crises. Local communities know the people, environment, culture, and places, so building up the local capacities through training should be the direction of the future.

I saw this work very well when I worked with MSF. I was on a team of construction engineers with people who grew up in Niger. They had received some education, but never had the opportunities to go abroad to study. MSF really prioritized training and offering courses to these national staff members. There was one man I worked with who was more knowledgeable than I and who I was really privileged to work with and learn from.  I recommended that he get more training and last year he emailed me to say that he did this training and has been promoted to an international staff member. This is the way I think organizations should allow their staff members to grow and the way that leadership within humanitarian agencies should be built.

Why did you decide to get more training and join the Master’s in International Humanitarian Action with Fordham?

In 2008, I joined the IDHA course in Geneva with the goal of entering the humanitarian field. I then enrolled in the Humanitarian Negotiators Course in Barcelona and I stayed in touch with Larry and the other students working in the field.

After I returned from Afghanistan in 2014, I heard that Fordham had started the Master’s in International Humanitarian Action program. I joined to continue with my training. The Institute really feels like a family and has given me the opportunity to reflect and look at certain subjects in the field on a deeper level than I can in my workplace.

Receiving the chance to really discuss humanitarian issues with people in field who each carry diverse perspectives adds a lot of value to my work, too. These perspectives often come from NGO or UN workers and are really enriching for me as an employee of a national ministry. My fellow students have given me a lot of insight into how other organizations work and the challenges they are facing.

Do you have any examples of this coming to life in practice?

When I arrived to respond to the earthquake in Nepal, I realized one of my tutors from the IDHA was leading the efforts of the International Federation of the Red Cross. Because I knew them and had worked with them, I began from a different point and this was very useful. I made the use of this network often in my work and for research for my thesis.

What issues did you research in your thesis for the Master’s degree?

Previously, I researched innovative materials for emergency shelters, but I did not have any humanitarian experience. Once I had worked in the sector, I wanted to merge my former background to develop a process for identifying design requirements for emergency shelters in humanitarian settings. This requires a lot of investigation and consideration because unlike building a house, you have logistical and cultural requirements that provoke a different set of standards.

My goal was to identify these requirements and look through history to see if architects have taken humanitarian standards into account in the past in their humanitarian designs. I also looked at the different standards organizations use for emergency shelters, such as the Sphere standards; gathered a lot of feedback from practitioners in the field; and analyzed the latest versions of emergency shelters, like the IKEA shelter for refugee camps.

I used all this information to develop a list of seven design requirements that constitute an ideal shelter in humanitarian settings.

Now that you have completed your MIHA degree, what is next for you?

I plan to take a year off from the Ministry to get back to the NGO sector as a delegate at International Committee of the Red Cross. I think I have more of an NGO heart than a political one.

I hope to one day lecture for the IDHA, too. I really appreciate the commitment of Larry and Tony and all the other people involved, and I feel it is also my responsibility to give back to the program.

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IIHA Annual Report 2015-2016

In a year of ongoing global social justice issues, the CIHC and IIHA continue to bridge the gap between academia and humanitarian efforts. The success of the IIHA over the past year can be seen in the work of its students and alumni from around the world dedicated to solving humanitarian challenges.  The 2015-2016 Annual Report records the meaningful work of the IIHA over the past year and gives insight into the humanitarian efforts of its alumni. Read the report to learn more.

 

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Practitioner Profile: Naomi Gikonyo – Recent Graduate of the IIHA Master’s in International Humanitarian Action

Naomi Gikonyo ensured refugees accessed food rations in Maban, South Sudan.

 

Naomi Gikonyo has designed emergency response interventions amidst humanitarian crises around the world – from Kenya to South Sudan, Haiti to Libya – for nearly a decade. Currently she works as an Emergency Preparedness and Response Officer for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). This month she also graduates with a Master’s Degree in International Humanitarian Action (MIHA) through the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University.

Here she reflects on her vast experiences in the humanitarian sector.

How did you get started in the humanitarian field?

Like many people in the humanitarian field, it was purely coincidental. I first began to intern with International Medical Corps (IMC) and as a result, I ended up working with them for almost eight years in a variety of areas including finance, logistics, and then finally programs.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I enjoy working in the humanitarian field to contribute to something larger than myself. Each emergency is different so it is difficult to specifically say which is my greatest accomplishment, but I have participated or led several emergency responses in relatively difficult contexts.

I have been deployed at the height of emergencies to set up operations from scratch, and I have bonded and worked with individuals from all different walks of life, which I am proud of. It is humbling to be able to offer assistance to people who are vulnerable and looking to you to provide support in their time of need. This is what drives me.

The most fulfilling mission I have ever had is working in South Sudan. It is a difficult country to work in, but overall each of the missions is different and I do not categorize them as one being better than the other. Each experience is important to me in a variety of ways. It is more the people you work with – this is what is crucial in this line of work.

What is the most difficult experience you have had?

At the height of an emergency there is a great deal of pressure, usually in life or death situations. The most difficult task for me was setting up operations in South Sudan right after the conflict began at the end of 2013. It is a particularly difficult country to work in, not only in terms of access, but security as well. This includes harsh working conditions in the middle of nowhere without any of the resources you usually take for granted. It is basically you, your team, limited supplies, and one vehicle. Essentially you have to hit the ground running. Setting up operations, with heightened tensions, along with limited resources is always a challenge.

In addition to being a student, you served as a tutor during last year’s International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) course in New York. What were some of your main take-aways from this experience?  

It is fascinating coming back as a tutor after being a student. The IDHA is a very enriching course for most people, because students and lecturers come together to cross-pollinate ideas. It is a mid-career course where all of the participants have significant (humanitarian) field experience or some experience in other sectors. It is therefore a very interactive environment. The students learn as much from the faculty and lecturers as they do from themselves. They build networks for life with people from different perspectives and different backgrounds. There are 40 people from 29 different countries who participated in IDHA 48 and as a result there is a lot of diversity and perspective in the group. I experienced this as a student as well and I am still in touch with most of my classmates from IDHA 29, seven years later. It is definitely one of the more interesting courses offered at Fordham and in the humanitarian sector.

What was your favorite part of IDHA 48?

I find the case studies very interesting. I also enjoyed the guest lecturers. It was interesting to get perspectives from different areas of work that I did not have previous exposure to, such as the Ebola response or the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, which I found fascinating. I also enjoyed reflecting and gaining new perspectives about contexts I have worked in. It is hard to pick one highlight, but what I find most useful in the course is being able to listen to and reflect upon so many different perspectives. I also met some colleagues from WFP in the course and it was interesting to interact with them and hear their various experiences from the field.

What is one of the strengths of the IDHA course?

A strength of the course is that it is very adaptive. It is not rigid, but rather quite fluid. A lot of content shared on IDHA 48 is very different from when I was a student. When the faculty and students bring their current experience to the course, the content changes accordingly because of the knowledge in the room. It is nice to see the evolution of this sharing and learning.

What are largest challenges in humanitarian work today?

A lot of people say it is issues of access or funds, but I would say the level of complexity of the problems that we are dealing with is so great that the system has not necessarily been able to evolve as quickly in order to properly address these needs. We are struggling to adapt as fast. The game has changed but the players have remained the same, whether this be the scope of migration issues or politicization of aid. In general, these issues have intensified, but the humanitarian architecture has stayed the same. There have been attempts to evolve or adapt but they have not been sufficient enough to match the level of complexity we are dealing with. It remains a fundamental challenge to the system overall if we are to deal with future issues.

 

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Asylum Seekers Find Refuge in NYC Grassroots Organizations

 

New York City, May 8, 2017 In his home of Nigeria, Audu Kadiri was a relentless humanitarian: a human rights and healthcare advocate working on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients. But when he began to stand up against draconian laws criminalizing access to healthcare for the LGBTI community he faced opposition and eventually threats to his life.

Today he is in exile in New York City, waiting for his asylum interview that would allow him to fully start his life over. As a community activist at African Communities Together, he has not stopped in his pursuit of justice.

Last month, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) and the Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development hosted Audu at a Fordham University event entitled, Seeking Refuge in New York City. He was joined by Ellie Alter, Associate Director of Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RiF); Sydney Kornegay, Director of RDJ Shelter for asylum seekers; and Ahmed Awney, a Libyan architect, filmmaker, and asylum seeker.

Asylum seekers enter the country with a visa, such as a student or tourist visa. They apply for asylum upon arrival to seek protection from persecution, because of their religion, sexuality, political affiliation, or other reasons.

In other countries this process is commonly known as “Refugee Status Determination” in which an asylum seeker applies for refugee status, affording them sanctuary in their first country of arrival. The very lucky few, roughly one percent, are resettled to another country. The United States has had a long-tradition of resettling refugees after a long vetting process. Resettled refugees receive assistance from governmental agencies for access to housing, job placement, and documentation, which is not the case for asylum seekers.  

According to RiF, approximately 40,000 people applied for asylum in New York City in 2016 while 215 refugees were resettled in the city from abroad.   

“Resettled refugees are immediately assigned an organization, one of nine NGOs contracted by the US government, to support them from the day they get here with the basic needs that anyone should receive coming into the US as a refugee. In contrast, “when an asylum seeker gets here they are really facing a long road of a lack of support. There are not a ton of resources out there that we can lead them to, unfortunately…RiF was founded to fill this void of initial support,” explained Ellie.

Because asylum seekers arrive to a host country immediately after fleeing, they are often ill-prepared for the challenges ahead. In the United States, they have no legal right to work until they complete an arduous and lengthy application process. A shortage of attorneys who take asylum cases forces many to apply with little to no legal guidance, lowering their chances of securing protection. Furthermore, this application process causes many to live in what feels like perpetual limbo for asylum seekers who are also far from their families and support systems.

Many, therefore, rely on grassroots organizations like RiF and RDG Shelter to provide food, shelter and legal guidance. Organizations like these also offer physical and psychological space for community and acceptance in a foreign country.

When communities open their doors to asylum seekers, they participate in humanitarian action in their own backyards. Volunteers in New York dedicate their time to teaching English, cooking meals, organizing fundraisers, representing them in court, and donating food. Most importantly, they offer companionship, which the panelists agreed is a rewarding commitment.

“Just show up, show your face…that means a lot to a grassroots organization like ours,” said Ellie.

In today’s political climate, many asylum seekers waiting for their interviews fear they may not be successful in their pursuit of protection as they initially hoped.

“They are leaving it all behind, it is not easy. You are leaving all you have, all you have worked for to come to a new life,” said Audu.

In order to protect asylum seekers and other immigrants in the United States, Audu advocates that refugees and asylum seekers must be “shown respect instead of being looked at like a liability or a pest….and viewed as a human first, one who simply needs assistance.”

To learn more, watch the event on Facebook Live.

Rosalyn Kutsch, IIHA Student Outreach Intern

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Propel Your Humanitarian Career Forward

International Diploma In Humanitarian Assistance

Shaping Humanitarian Leaders

LIMITED SPOTS STILL OPEN for IDHA 50

Media reports and images inundate the world with humanitarian crises: refugees drowning at sea, populations ravaged by famine, and seemingly endless conflicts. Collective and coordinated responses to humanitarian crises have never been more essential. Good intentions to respond and act must be informed by practical experience, technical knowledge, and academic critique.

Grounded in social justice and humanitarian ethics, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University endeavors to make the global response to humanitarian crises more sustainable, effective, and dignified. Through the intersection of critical academic analysis and concrete hands-on experience, we believe that humanitarian action can transform the world.

Photo provided by IDHA Alumnus Rahul Singh, Founder of GlobalMedic Mission

The International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), the flagship program of the IIHA, equips mid-career humanitarian professionals to drive the humanitarian sector of the future in a more innovative direction. For 20 years, the IIHA has trained thousands of humanitarian workers in cities around the world – from Kathmandu to Amman, Geneva to Cairo.

This June the IIHA will commence its 50th IDHA course in New York City and we want you to join us! IDHA 50 students will join a cohort of diverse and highly qualified aid and development professionals from all over the world in a one-month intensive course to receive one-of-a-kind training from world-renowned experts in the humanitarian field.

The course provides the critical skills and knowledge to more effectively intervene in the complex emergency and protracted crises of the 21st century. The curriculum is highly interactive and participants will gain:

  • Extensive insight to the needs of people affected by conflict, disaster, and displacement;
  • Skills in facilitating cooperation and dialogue between international, governmental, and non-governmental agencies;
  • Awareness, understanding, and skills essential for effective service in emergency and protracted humanitarian crises;
  • Opportunities to collaborate and network with colleagues working for diverse international, governmental, and non-governmental humanitarian agencies;
  • Tools to evaluate interventions and identify examples of good practice; and
  • Methods for anticipating and preventing humanitarian crises.

Upon completion of the course, graduates will receive eight graduate level credits accepted towards a Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action at Fordham University, or potentially their studies at other academic institutions.

Course Fee: $5,500 includes tuition, course materials, lodging, and all weekday meals for one month.

Applications are still open for the New York course in June and another IDHA course in Vienna, Austria from November 5 to December 1, 2017.

Visit the IIHA website to learn more and apply.

Housed at Fordham, the Jesuit University of New York, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) educates a future generation of humanitarians in the classroom, shapes humanitarian leaders in the field, and innovates solutions to challenges in humanitarian crises.

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Humanitarian Innovation Rooted in Local Context

New York City, May 5, 2017 – From mobile cash transfers to drones, solar-powered water pump to prosthetic limbs, the democratization of technology has the possibility to revolutionize humanitarian response.

International organizations have recently forged the way for such innovative ventures by joining forces with tech companies from the private sector, piloting new and impressive solutions that can save lives during emergencies, and supporting visionary ideas for the future of humanitarianism. Many of these efforts, however, are unknown to the general public, and have rarely trickled down to local communities confronting humanitarian challenges.

Instead, what if local organizations and leaders on the ground – churches, schools, and community based organizations – were prepared to use, adapt, and design impactful technologies for disaster response? What if the humanitarian sector embraced risk, and possibly failure, as a modus operandi in order to develop the most refined and contextual solutions possible? What if private companies used humanitarian indicators to measure the impact of their engagement with local communities? Can we imagine a future where existing technologies are not just used, but actually introduced by local communities to save lives?

These questions are at the core of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs Innovation Hub (IIHA InnoHub), recently launched by IIHA Humanitarian Innovation Fellow and founder of High Tech Humanitarians, Giulio Coppi.

“(In development) it’s considered impossible to start a project without a community-based strategy behind it, while in the humanitarian sector it’s still considered normal by some actors to arrive, bring your solution, turn your back, and be gone leaving nothing behind you. We are trying to move away from this,” Giulio said in a recent Terms of Reference Podcast by Aidpreneur.

Open source potential. Giulio first realized the glaring gap in innovation for humanitarian action while working in Afghanistan and Cote D’Ivoire where he monitored the security situation for his teams using common tools like Twitter or by creating his own dynamic maps to track the movement of people and conflicts. Relying on these very basic information structures while knowing more effective options existed on the open source market was frustrating at best.

“There is a need for open source solutions to the current problems affecting humanity…This is important because in most patents or licenses are either too expensive or are not protecting technology.  Local markets are either not interesting for logistic distributors…or the items are just out of reach for most organizations and communities in the field.”

The IIHA InnoHub and High Tech Humanitarians seek to fill this gap by congregating as many open source technological tools as possible, adapting them to humanitarian contexts, and sharing them with diverse humanitarian actors through an online “toolbox.”

To be included in the toolbox, the technologies must be open source, ethically in line with humanitarian principles, and adapted for humanitarian action. They could include software, 3D printing, prosthetic manufacturing, excavators, water pumps, drones, or even small satellites.

“Each tool you find in the toolbox has its own history, its own community, its own people who believed in this idea and brought it forward. Some of these communities are still supporting the tools so you can get in touch and ask them for support. Some of those aren’t so they’ll need you to engage with the tool and find people to modify, adapt, and evolve it.”

Local solutions is the future. The World Humanitarian Summit, Giulio said, was an indicator that the sector is moving toward more innovation-centered response, but there is a long way to go until innovation is embraced as priority in the sector and reaches local communities best placed to utilize them.

“There is a need for localizing innovation processes instead of centralizing them…to provide local organizations and local humanitarian actors…with the tools.”

The IIHA InnoHub hopes to help bridge this gap by involving crisis-affected communities in the development of technological tools that mitigate complex emergency situations.

“We don’t need a perfect product. We need to empower communities and humanitarians to be contributors, to be those who provide the solution.”

In addition to sponsoring research on this topic, the IIHA InnoHub will conduct trainings and workshops on innovation for humanitarian action.

The first IIHA InnoHub course in Data and Innovation Management in Humanitarian Action will be offered  from July 6 to 10 in New York City.

To learn more follow us on Twitter at @iiha_fordham

Angela Wells, IIHA Communications Officer

 

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Tackling the Complexity of the Yemeni Crisis

Learn more at our upcoming event at Fordham University.

New York City, April 10, 2017 – Two years after the onset of conflict in Yemen, the country is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Despite the two million Yemenis internally displaced, seven million at risk of famine and 18.8 million in need of humanitarian aid, less than 10 percent of the United Nations two billion dollar humanitarian appeal has been met by donor nations and nations party to the conflict have done little to cease hostilities.

Giulio Coppi, Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs Innovation Fellow, recently embarked on a fact-finding mission to Oman and Djibouti to study the impact of the crisis and subsequent forced migration in the region. He sat down with the IIHA Communications Officer, Angela Wells, to recount his findings.

What was the goal of your recent research trip on the Yemeni crisis?

This recent research trip led me to study the regional impact of the Yemeni crisis, with a special focus on migration and health. I traveled through Oman and Djibouti, meeting local actors and visiting refugee and migrant communities. I also tried – unsuccessfully – to enter Yemen to meet people and local organizations. I really focused on understanding what lies beneath the surface of the most banal crises in the current media landscape.

 

How would you explain the Yemeni crisis to someone unfamiliar with what lies beneath the surface of the crisis?

To an outsider with little background, Yemen could look like just another case of civil war due to bad governance and political instability, or maybe another country engulfed in sectarian and religious violence. The truth is much more complicated than that: Yemen is being intentionally strangled economically, militarily and politically by internal and international actors involved in a conflict with profound historical and geopolitical roots.

Yemen was recently listed as one of four of the most serious humanitarian crises of our time. Can you explain the situation provoking people to flee the country and the complexities humanitarian workers are dealing with within Yemen?

The inclusion of Yemen as one of four of the most serious humanitarian crises of our time comes right after its definition as a forgotten crisis. The country passed from oblivion to full spotlight in a matter of days. This is mostly due to the adoption by some organizations and UN agencies of the keyword “famine”, that immediately made it to the headlines.

Unfortunately, this leads to yet another oversimplification. It generates the false impression that all is needed is to fund agencies that deliver food. This action alone would be shortsighted and ineffective, as the situation requires a much bolder response. Humanitarians are faced with a daunting task: replacing the whole public and private sector that has been wiped away by sanctions, embargoes, violence, and corruption. Overstretched and exposed, humanitarians increase their risk of being perceived as non-neutral, or partial, and becoming a target for further violence.

We know that mixed migration flows to and from Yemen are very complex with migrants from the Horn of Africa fleeing to Yemen and Yemenis fleeing to the Horn. Can you explain this in more detail?

Due to its strategic position, Yemen has always been a crossroad of nations and people. The escalation of the conflict in 2015 resulted in a temporary suspension of the migratory movements of people from the Horn of Africa, most notably Ethiopia and Somalia, towards the Arab Gulf countries.

It is counterintuitive, but with the conflict, these figures have actually increased. Some migrants do not know about the conflict, but others actually hope the collapse of internal governance could facilitate their journey. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Saudi Arabia and Oman have sealed and militarized their borders, and militias control most areas of Yemen, who kidnap for ransom and often abuse migrants.

On the other side, Yemenis fleeing to the Horn of Africa has actually dwindled. I found that Yemenis prefer to seek asylum in countries more culturally similar and with more economic opportunities. Most of the refugees who sought safe haven in Djibouti tried to move on as quickly as possible, once they realized the hardship of living as a migrant in the country.

What is the reality for Yemenis fleeing to nearby countries like Djibouti and Oman?

 For most Yemenis arriving in Djibouti, one of the poorest countries in the world, they are really shocked at the conditions in the camps. Markazi camp, where they are hosted, is a camp in the middle of a desolate desert. The closest city, Obock, is a provincial town without markets or livelihood opportunities. Food and other goods arrive from the capital city from time to time, while many items are still being brought in from Yemen. In summer, the camp is swept by the khamsin (dust storms with wind speeds as high as forty miles an hour), and temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Refugees endure these conditions in tents, huts or in containers with no electricity and really meager food provisions.

In Oman and Saudi Arabia, conditions are much better for those who manage to enter and stay. In contrast to Djibouti, which grants all Yemenis prima facie refugee status, Arab Gulf States are not parties to refugee treaties and only grant standard visas. While initially they made a display of generosity towards their neighbors, that attitude quickly changed as it became clear the conflict would not be a short one. Today, those under official visas – like medical or study visas – are granted the same services as local nationals. Those who are not so lucky face exclusion from any assistance, and a constant risk of deportation.

Where else are Yemenis seeking refuge and what are they experiencing in these reception countries?

Today, the majority of Yemenis are not hosted by their next door neighbors, but have rather continued on their journey to seek asylum in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, while some have been able to make their way to Europe or the United States. Yemen has a vast diaspora, and very often families have at least one member with a foreign citizenship allowing some refugees a chance of reunification with their community abroad, be it in Djibouti, Oman, Lebanon or Germany. Those who are able to join their communities abroad have a better chance for smooth integration and acceptance by local populations. However, coexistence isn’t always easy, especially when their expanded presence puts a strain on limited land and resources, which can destabilize local demographics and add further strain to existing public services.

Recently, a boat of Somali migrants was bombed 30 miles off the coast of Yemen by Saudi-backed forces. Do you see this as a worrying trend for the future or an isolated incident and why?

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident and I do not think it will be the last. The Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a vital commercial route, was already heavily militarized before the conflict and even more so today. Furthermore, this attack is representative of a worrying trend on the access of safe routes for forced migrants globally. We see around the world how increasingly innocent civilians trying to escape the perils of war are being directly and purposefully attacked in systemic and horrifying ways. This is not only in violation of international laws, but is a deeply worrying indication that humanitarian channels and national values for unfettered humanitarian access is more compromised than every before.

 Is there anything else you’d like to add?

In these times when all the attention is focused on Syria and the horrible tragedy in Syria, it is also important to remind everyone of the words of Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): “Yemen after five months looked like Syria after five years.”

The level and extent of the destruction in Yemen is unparalleled for intensity and impact. What is worse, very little efforts have been made by the UN Security Council to call for safe humanitarian access, cross-border protection, or cessation of hostilities in Yemen. It is about time the UN Security Council, and involved parties to the conflict, adopt a more proactive role to end this conflict, before Yemen and its population reach the point of no return.

Non-Fordham guests must register in advance for the upcoming event Tackling the Complexity of the Yemeni Crisis.

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Devex report emphasizes importance of higher education for humanitarian professionals

Devex Report, Make Your Mark, emphasizes importance of higher education for humanitarian professionals

Higher education is becoming an increasingly essential step for career advancement in international development and humanitarian fields. In their recent report, Make Your Mark, Devex identified growing humanitarian sector demands to be a key driver for specialist higher education programs.

“With emergency response needs around the world growing, international development graduate programs are increasingly focused on humanitarian education and training that can prepare students for careers with first responders, international organizations and INGOs operating on the front lines,” says the report.

This is especially true for professionals responding to medical epidemics and natural disasters.

“Responding to and recovering from a wide-range of health emergency situations, such as the Ebola outbreak, Zika scare, famines, typhoons and earthquakes, requires cadres of qualified and diversified health professionals across all segments of the development community.

Of those surveyed, 91 percent of recent graduates of Master’s degree programs in the global development sector believe their graduate studies were a worthy investment of their time and money.

Coupled with tangible experience, a Master’s degree can open up doors for humanitarians that would otherwise remain closed. A Master’s in International Humanitarian Action (MIHA) offered by the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs is a key to this door.

The MIHA program challenges mid-career level humanitarian workers to devise solutions alongside like-minded practitioners from around the world. Grounded in values of social justice, the Master’s program emboldens students to put the innovative approaches they study in the classroom to practice in their own careers.

Courses are designed to accommodate the hectic schedule and work patterns of humanitarian workers. They are offered throughout the year at varying locations around the world. Whether in Barcelona or Addis Ababa, Geneva or Kathmandu – we reach diverse professionals in their contexts.

Humanitarian workers can also choose to enroll in a one-month International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance or shorter individual specialized courses on issues ranging from mental health or education in emergencies to strategic issues in humanitarian response to forced migration and human rights, among others.

Visit our website for more information on how to apply for a Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action or other higher education opportunities through the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs.

Devex is “a media platform for the global development community and a social enterprise working to make the $200 billion aid and development industry do more good for more people.”

For more advice on higher education in the humanitarian and development field, download Devex’s special report.  

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Vote for GlobalMedic to Help Save Lives!

GlobalMedic is in the running to win $750,000 through Google’s Impact Challenge! The Impact Challenge rewards technological innovations that impact social problems. GlobalMedic would use the award to lead their innovative RescUAV program — using drones and other UAV technology to support communities affected by disaster around the world. 


Better information is needed to help rescuers save lives. GlobalMedic’s RescUAV program is using innovative drone technology to provide this information.

Through UAV technology, they are able to make aid delivery and monitoring more efficient.
 They provide search and rescue, situational awareness, emergency mapping and aid delivery.

CLICK HERE to vote!

 Andrew Seger, IIHA Communications Intern

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