Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage and a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, as well as being the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Puerto Rico suffered catastrophic damage, including destruction of its previously damaged electrical grid. Many people are living without electricity and clean water. With such widespread destruction the island and its people have a great need for supplies – everything from drinking water, food, medicine and personal care items to fuel for generators and construction materials for rebuilding the island.
In collaboration with professors at the University of Puerto Rico, the Rights and Opportunities Foundation has sought to identify community-based organizations that have a history in their areas and that have the capacity to use the donations people provide. Some of these organizations build capacity and provide training or are involved in community organization/development; some are supplying material goods to the regions of greatest need on the island.
Click HERE to see a list of recommended community-based organizations and hurricane relief efforts.
Advocating for a Humanitarian Response in the Europe Refugee Crisis
Migrant Child Storytelling. Dr Lynne Jones has created a beautiful page with children’s photos and stories documenting their experience as migrants and refugees. This is important and people need to know about what is happening. See the photos and read the stories HERE.
The biggest refugee crisis since the second world war is now taking place in Europe… and we hardly hear of it in the media. Refugees from the war in Syria, from eastern Africa, Turkey. All are struggling to reach Europe. European countries are reluctant to accept so many refugees for economic and social reasons as well as a general fear of foreigners and Islam. Racism is never far from these sorts of fears. Thousands have died in boats trying to cross into Greece or Italy. Now many are massed in camps in Greece, where they arrived on the island of Lesvos, and on the border with Macedonia. The Rights and Opportunities Foundation supports the JAFRA team of refugees helping other refugees in the camps of Greece. Specific projects in the camp include assistance in the production of a refugee newsletter and a children’s photography workshop that allows child refugees to document their lives and express their feelings about their families and the community they are in.
Another camp, called the Jungle, formed in Calais across the channel from England, but has now been disbanded.
It is wrong to have so many people living in overcrowded camps without access to basic necessities, without legal status, without knowing if they will be able to enter Europe or be sent back to an unsafe place, or forcibly moved. The solutions to these problems will require political action. A world that stands by and watches wars develop, tyrants control countries and people suffering under oppression must deal with the humanitarian consequences. Also, countries that close their borders to people fleeing for safety must find ways to protect the vulnerable and relieve suffering.
This is an uncomfortable truth not being widely reported in the media. In an effort to bring public awareness to this situation Dr Lynne Jones, child psychiatrist, experienced humanitarian, scholar and author has spent time in the camps and worked with refugee children in the Calais Jungle and Greece. Read about her findings HERE. The Rights and Opportunities Foundation is helping to support Dr Jones work with the refugee crisis so that people can know of children’s experiences as refugees.
Public outcry can force governments to respond and lead to political changes to alleviate this humanitarian catastrophe.
Addressing Violence Against Children in Central America
Since 2014 we in the US do not hear so much of the child migrant crisis. The US instigated Southern Border Plan has pressured Mexico to stop the flow of migrants and refugees to the US border and while the numbers of migrants deported rose sharply under the Obama administration there are fewer now getting to the border.
This does not mean the problem has been solved, or even addressed. The violence and deaths in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have increased and are now greater than in any countries not at war and poverty and inequality remain prevalent. The Central American governments are doubly failing to protect their citizens: socioeconomic conditions remain poor and an increasingly violent environment permeates every corner of their countries, which causes people to flee in record numbers. Please see the references below, including the recent report from Amnesty International for more detailed information about the causes and effects of migration and especially the consequences of governments failing to provide protection to those who are deported back to the same dangerous climates from which they ran. It is becomingly increasingly common for child migrants, deported from the US and Mexico, to be murdered on their return to Honduras and El Salvador.
The human rights violations include failure to recognize that many of these “migrants” are truly refugees, fleeing for their lives, and they have the right to protection. Additionally, Mexico and the US really are overwhelmed by the numbers coming and have inadequate shelter and infrastructure to house, protect and process applications for amnesty. It is a violation of human rights and international law to send refugees back to the countries they fled if their lives are at risk there and this is occurring frequently.
There is, additionally, a custom of beating children and physical chastisement in countries of the Northern Triangle. Children are routinely beaten by gangs, in the schools and at home and this contributes to the numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing to the north.
The Rights and Opportunities Foundation recognizes that it is this violence that leads to many social problems in Latin America and with consequences in Mexico the United States as well as to the many who have been victims.
The solution to the children immigration crisis in Latin America and the United States is not to build walls or deport families and children back to countries where their lives are at risk, but to change the patterns of violence that makes children feel unsafe in their homes. Clearly, authorities must bring gangs under control, economic development must provide alternate opportunities for those now involved in gangs. And, more acutely, those fleeing violence must be protected and given a chance to live and to succeed. For this to happen the world must be informed of the scale of the problem and implement political action.
The Foundation will continue its work to support the needs of refugees and migrants around the world and bring to the public eye conditions that must change.
Additionally, models have been created for community interventions to change this pattern of violence in Northern Triangle nations and the Foundation will bring these interventions into the communities where conditions of poverty, social inequality and isolation contribute to violence to children.
Resources in Humanitarian Assistance:
- Migrants, Refugees or Asylum Seekers What is the difference and why does it matter?
- Relief Web
- World Health Organization
- Amnesty International
Understanding Migration, Refugees and Asylum Seekers:
Humanitarian organizations we support: