REMEMBERING THE ‘OTHERS’ UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES: REFUGEES AND PANDEMIC

The world is going through tough times for almost a year, due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The requirement of social isolation caused considerable damage on people both
psychologically and economically. The fear of death occupies people’s minds almost 24/7.
Education is interrupted in most of the countries. Considering these and other factors that
the outbreak of coronavirus has brought to people’s lives, it’s fair to say the whole world is
going through a psychological battle. However, there’s a group that is being affected from
the outbreak in the worst possible way: Refugees.
There are more than 70 million refugees all over the world. More than 85% of them
are located in poor countries. During the coronavirus outbreak, they’re having extra hard
times. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR)
mentions the situation as: “Pandemic is a catastrophe for vulnerable migrants.” Tiziana
Bonzon, who is Migration and Displacement Lead at the IFRC, says “It’s a health crisis for
many of us but it’s also a socio-economic crisis and protection crisis.”
Why is the global struggle of experiencing a pandemic harder for refugees? Firstly, in
densely crowded refugee camps social isolation is almost impossible. For instance, the
Moria Camp in Greece, which had a place for 3000 people, was hosting 13 000 refugees
until it burned down in the beginning of September. In Jordan, there are around 120 000
refugees and more than 5 coronavirus cases are reported in 2 refugee camps already.
Bangladesh holds more than 600 000 Rohingya refugees and according to the World Health
Organization (WHO), a covid-19 outbreak in the camp can exhaust the medical resources
and overwhelm camp hospitals in only 58 days. This would lead to other infectious diseases,
such as malaria. Second reason for the refugee’s comparadly negative experience of
pandemic is the lack of hygiene supplies in their living conditions. In most of the refugee
camps the water sources are limited and shared by many people. Also, washing facilities are
not even close to enough, especially under special hygiene requirements of a pandemic.
Thirdly, most of the refugees were living under fragile economic and social conditions even
before the outbreak. With the outbreak, their situation worsened. According to a research
Relief International made on 879 refugees in Turkey, 26% of them reported a deterioration in
their use of public services due to covid-19. 81% reported that they lost access to essential
needs. In this 81%, 59% lost their access to food, 37% to hygiene materials, and 5% to
water. Also, 87% of these 879 reported that at least one person from their family or
household lost their jobs because of the outbreak. Considering that most of these refugees
were suffering from poverty even before the pandemic, losing their jobs can put them in a
very hard economic position. Besides, in these people, only 53% of the 326 who had a
medication they regularly use, still have access to their medication. The rest stated that they
lost their access to their regular medication.
All these out together, it’s fair to say that there’s a serious problem sitting in front of
us and waiting to be solved. Of course, the refugee issue is a complex problem which
includes social, economic and political dynamics. Thus, it’s not possible to solve it in an easy
way. However, to seek a solution, we firstly need to be aware of the struggles they go
through. In these tough times that we’re globally experiencing, it’s very easy to forget others
while focusing our lives too much. Under these circumstances, refugees aren’t able to speak
for themselves, but we can and we should speak up for them.

This article is written by Beyza Kumanova

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Trump Cuts U.S. Ties With World Health Organization Amid Pandemic

Democrats and NGOs slammed the White House decision, saying the U.S. president was ceding influence to China and further undercutting the coronavirus response.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks at reporters asking questions as he returns to the Oval Office after delivering a statement on China at the White House May 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

On May 19, U.S. President Donald Trump gave the World Health Organization an ultimatum: Start implementing reforms in 30 days or else the United States would halt funding for the international body. But 11 days after the pronouncement, Trump pulled the trigger anyway, abruptly declaring on Friday the United States would be “terminating” its relationship with WHO and cutting off the institution from any U.S. cash.

The move culminates months of growing U.S. anger with the international organization against the backdrop of spiking tensions between Washington and Beijing. It also throws into question the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. global health funding at the peak of a global pandemic.

Trump Cuts U.S. Ties With World Health Organization Amid…
Democrats and NGOs slammed the White House decision, saying the U.S. president was ceding influence to China and…

“We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” Trump said in a press conference on Friday. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”

Top Trump officials and Republican allies in Congress have criticized WHO for being too friendly with China and providing cover for Beijing in the wake of its initial cover-up and mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak.

But the announcement also drew swift condemnation from public health experts, who said it would undercut WHO’s ability to address the pandemic just as its spread in the developing world picks up. “This is the most counterproductive move in the middle of a world health crisis,” said Megan Doherty, a senior director of policy and advocacy at Mercy Corps and a former White House National Security Council director for North Africa during the Obama administration. “In places with poor health infrastructure that don’t have an existing strong presence, this is creating a gap that we can’t fill.”

Other experts fear the decision will threaten the fate of other public health and vaccination programs around the world, beyond the current pandemic. “What it will do is rupture global vaccine programs, polio eradication, Ebola response, and a thousand other global health tasks that the U.S. relies on WHO to deliver,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former senior U.S. aid official now with the Center for Global Development.

Democratic lawmakers slammed the move, asserting Trump was scapegoating the WHO to cover up his administration’s own failings in the domestic pandemic response. This week, the U.S. coronavirus death toll reached a grim milestone, surpassing 100,000.

“Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a statement to Foreign Policy. “WHO could have been more assertive with China and declared a global health emergency sooner, but it is performing an essential function and needs our strong support, especially now.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the move would only hasten the rise of Chinese influence in international institutions. “The big winner today is the Chinese government,” he said. “They will now leap into the void created by the United States withdrawal from the WHO, and seek to become the world’s go-to power for global health. China will now write the global public health rules, not the United States. What a nightmare.”

Trump’s speech on Friday was centered on hammering China as the war of words between the two rival powers heats up. He rebuked China’s plan to impose a sweeping new security law on Hong Kong, declaring the territory no longer autonomous from Beijing and revoking Hong Kong’s special trade and economic status with the United States.

His announcement on the WHO also leaves more questions than answers—including questions the administration hasn’t even sorted through internally yet, according to several officials familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear whether the United States “terminating” its relationship with the WHO meant it was legally withdrawing from the institution. Trump also gave no additional details on how the United States would reallocate its nearly $450 million a year in annual funding to WHO to other public health programs.
The decision appeared to have taken the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and the world health agency by surprise, several diplomats told Foreign Policy. “I don’t think anybody knew. Nobody ever knows what Trump is going to do,” said Ilona Kickbusch, a global health scholar with Chatham House, a think tank. “You have a president who needs to deflect attention from other problems and WHO seems to be the right organization [to target] right now.”

If WHO is completely cut off from U.S. funding—making up 15 percent of the institution’s budget—it’s largest funder will become not another major global power, but rather the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (China only contributes about 0.21 percent of the budget, around $40 million.)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been a leading critic of WHO, using his agency’s podium and conservative talk shows as a bully pulpit to batter the world body as the pandemic continues to spread worldwide. The former Kansas congressman accused WHO of protecting the Chinese government and failing to help provide samples of the virus from where it originated in Wuhan, China.

“When I see whether it’s the left-wing media or Democrats saying, ‘Well gosh, if you all would just cooperate with the World Health Organization,’ I am astounded,” Pompeo said in an interview with the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro earlier this month. “They failed us. It’s not the first time the WHO has failed the world in the time of a pandemic. You can’t go back to business as usual; we’ve got to fix it.”

Despite the criticisms coming from Washington, U.S. efforts to influence the direction of WHO appear to have fallen flat. Trump’s announcement on Friday follows weeks of efforts by his ambassador to the Geneva-based organization, Andrew Bremberg, to prod WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus into taking a tougher line with China. This includes an unsuccessful U.S. push at an annual WHO meeting this month to get the institution to open an investigation into the origins of the virus in China and invite Taiwan back into the health agency as an observer. China ardently opposes Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, seeing it as a sign of Taiwan’s sovereignty from Beijing.

 

BY ROBBIE GRAMER, COLUM LYNCH, JACK DETSCH | MAY 29, 2020, 6:53 PM

This article taken from foreignpolicy.com

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