Are Syrian Children Bearing the Brunt of the Conflict?

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When learning about the Syrian conflict it is important to realize that there is a lot more to the Syrian crisis than arms and ammunition, opposition and supporters, or Assad and the Free Syrian Army. The severity of this conflict expands beyond these few descriptive words and beyond the regularly televised political reports. The current events taking place in Syria have stolen and crippled the lives of many civilians living within the country and in neighbouring refugee camps. With almost 100 000 casualties and millions of internally and externally displaced refugees, what started off as a peaceful revolution in Syria has turned into one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts and saddest tales.

Placing the political issues aside, reports regarding the humanitarian plight of Syrians have emphasized the lack of basic survival needs that Syrians are experiencing. Requests and appeals for food, shelter, clothes and water have been made for refugee camps and the barely reachable 10% of Syrians inside the country. However, humanitarian appeals should extend beyond these aspects.

It is not a matter of Food vs. Education vs. Trauma Healing.

Despite the fact that food, clothing, shelter and water are, without argument, absolute necessities, education and psychotherapy are crucial components to the healing process of Syrians caught in the midst of this crisis. It is also important to understand that children are bearing the brunt of the Syrian conflict. They have been put out of school, forced to flee their homes, lost loved ones and friends, witnessed horrific war scenes, and are now living with great levels trauma.

Therefore, it is not a matter of food vs. education vs. trauma healing, it is a matter of food AND education AND trauma healing. Clearly, funds are tight and various organizations are constantly sending out appeals for donations and funding. Thus, it is understandable that aspects such as education and trauma healing have taken a backseat in this issue. However, it is essential, for the success of the healing process, to establish some sort of educational and trauma healing programs to assist Syrians.

Why education?

In the current state of events, education is crucial to help Syrian children understand what is happening to their country. Cutting off education takes away any sense of normalcy that these children have attempted to maintain. It deprives them from the sources of comfort that education systems can provide. Schools can greatly assist in helping children comprehend the horrific events they are witnessing and reliving on a daily basis. A lack of education at an early age can also hinder children’s job prospects in the future. Unfortunately,many  schools that have, in the past, provided children with a way to fill their days and continue to be contributing members of society now stand abandoned, in ruins, or have become new homes for displaced internal refugees.

Why trauma healing?

NGOs, such as Save the Children, have expressed their concern regarding the horrific events these children have experienced. Many have lost their families, witnessed massacres, were tortured, or forced to abandon their home and friends. Children have been reported to be suffering from various traumas such as inability to speak and sleep, flashbacks of horrific events, phobias from the dark, nervous ticks etc. These traumatizing experiences have the ability to forever scar an entire generation. Such implications can deeply hinder the children’s ability to grow up to be healthy and functioning members of society.

 

It is important to keep in mind that these children are their country’s hope to a peaceful future. Once the conflict subdues and the country is in need of being rebuilt it’s these children that Syria will depend upon. Unfortunately, a neglected generation that lacks any level of education and mental support can produce a dysfunctional and permanently scarred adult workforce that will have to deal with the pressures of rebuilding a country from its ruins. Paying closer attention and speaking out about the importance of psychotherapy and education for Syrians still living in the country or in refugee camps can stop an entire generation of Syrian children from being lost to war. In an ideal world, aid should not only provide basic needs and necessities, it should also provide children with an opportunity to recover their childhood. Unfortunately, despite the presence of a few initiatives that address these problems, the lack of funding aimed at aiding the Syrian crisis is still presenting the biggest hurdle in the way of tackling these issues.

Let me know what you think, share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Syrian Children at Al Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

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But What About Caste Based Discrimination?

Racial discrimination, religious discrimination, social discrimination, we have heard about them all. To many the news of caste based discrimination may come as a surprise.

So what does caste based discrimination mean anyways?

Caste is derived from the word Casta, which symbolizes a sense of purity of breed used by Portuguese observers to describe the division of the Hindu society in Western and Southwestern India into socially ranked occupational categories.

Now lets take a look at how Caste is defined in the dictionary:

caste  (kst)

n.

1. Any of the hereditary, endogamous social classes or subclasses of traditional Hindu society, stratified according to Hindu ritual purity, especially the Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra castes.
2. A social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary rank, profession,or wealth.
3.

a. A social system or the principle of grading society based on castes.
b. The social position or status conferred by a system based on castes: lose caste by doing work beneath one’s station.
They are the “Untouchables”:

To separate themselves, those practicing caste based discrimination exclude lower castes and ban them from interacting with anyone of higher caste. Such thoughts and beliefs have evolved over the year to create a stigma around lower caste people, labeling them as “untouchable”. This concept of untouchability is a well-known discriminatory practice that is followed by various groups throughout the world. It centers on the claim that people of lower caste are untouchable and should not be associated with. Those of higher caste avoid coming into physical contact with them while banning them from walking in their shadows, forcing them to take off their shoes when walking through their villages and similar practices as they fear they will “pollute” them. Caste based discrimination can also take a very violent turn, for example, in India there are at least 13 murders happening weekly due to caste based violence in the country.

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This concept of discrimination rarely receives any media coverage or social research, and was only recognized as a violation of human rights by the United Nations in the 1990s. Unfortunately, caste based discrimination does not only stop at exclusion of certain groups within the community. It has created a deep rooted affect upon the societies and countries where it was and still is heavily practiced.  Such aspects of caste based discriminatory actions have, over the years, continued to severely lower the quality of life that these individuals experience. Negligence to deal with this prominent issue of discrimination has affected these countries’ ability to further develop economically, socially and politically.

Caste based discrimination has rarely been addressed in the international sphere, thus the majority of people are unaware of what it encompasses and the serious implications it might have upon a society. Various societies where caste discrimination still exists deny its presence or claim that the problem has been tackled. Some countries such as India and Nepal have addressed the problem by creating various governmental programs to raise awareness about the issue of caste based discrimination. Various local NGOs created and run by the “untouchable” population in these countries have also been providing victims of caste based discrimination with resources and assistance.

What are your thoughts on Caste based discrimination? Do you think if this form of discrimination was more publicized then more initiatives would be in place to solve the issue?

Climate Change Produced Millions of Environmental Refugees in 2012

Climate Change Produced Millions of Environmental Refugees in 2012

Climate change around the world has created a new category of people known as environmental refugees. Millions of people worldwide are fleeing their homes because of environmental disasters. Here are some issues that environmental refugees suffer from:

  • Environmental refugees are a new phenomena, therefore, they are usually not recognized as refugees. Currently these refugees have few rights.
  • International law provides protection only for political refugees, thus, climate and environmental refugees are inadequately covered.
  • No clear guidelines to the type of support these refugees are supposed to receive.
  • There loss is a long-term loss. Political refugees might have the chance to return to their homes after violence subdues. However, if environmental refugees are fleeing a rise in sea level, returning home may not be an option.

The image above shows that 32 million people were displaced by natural disasters throughout 2012.
98% of these displacements were related to climate change.

Let’s take a minute and think about that. 

Are you a victim of Greenwashing?

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

Have you ever been out shopping and opted towards buying an environmentally friendly product that may cost

Imagea couple of extra dollars? Did that product promise to be better for YOU and the environment?

Well next time you make the decision to purchase these products, make sure you are completely aware of what they really contain. More often than not, products that claim to be “Green” and environmentally friendly end up causing more harm than good.

If you take a look at your local grocery store you will probably be able to spot these products easily. Some of them include:

1. Dawn Antibacterial dish soap

It claims to help save wildlife by cleaning up animals affected by oil spills. However, the soap itself contains elements harmful to animals.

2.Vim PowerPro Naturals

The label on Vim PowerPro Naturals bathroom cleaner says 98 per cent natural ingredients. However, after inspection it turned out that the product includes a large component of petroleum based chemicals.

3. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner

On the label, this cleaning product states it’s non-toxic. But aMarketplace expert determined that one ingredient in the cleaner, 2-butoxyethanol, is listed by Environment Canada as a toxic health hazard that can damage red blood cells.

4. Sunlight Green Clean laundry soap

This product claims to be made up of solely plant based cleaning products. However, tests conducted on this product proved that it is 38% made of petro-chemicals.

This is a  very small number of examples compared to the real amount of deceiving “Green” product. So next time you choose to purchase such items, make sure you are making an educated and informed decision. 

What’s Your Most Prized Possession?

Today, I stumbled across a project completed by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti. He travelled the world for 18 months and photographed children with their most prized possessions/toys. He then composed an album that highlighted the blatant contrast of living conditions around the world. Here are few of what I found to be some of the most striking photos.

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Here is a link to his album: http://www.gabrielegalimberti.com/projects/toys-2/

By viewing these pictures, it is easy to notice that they portray a striking inequality of income between children photographed from different parts of the world. Some pictures featured children surrounded by mountains of toys in beautifully decorated rooms, while others proudly displayed their favourite worn out dinosaur or race car in makeshift tents or crummy rooms.

However, if you were to take a second thorough look at the pictures, you will be able to find more similarities than differences. The subject of the project seemed to unite all kids of different backgrounds as they all were given the chance to display their favourite toys or possessions. All the children featured throughout the album, regardless of the expenses or simplicity of their possessions  enjoyed the same feeling of joy and happiness as they spent a few minutes a day playing with these toys.

In fact, when Galimberti was asked about his project, he spoke of a girl in Malawi and a boy in Texas, who both used their dinosaurs to protect them from “danger”. Similarly, he stated that  all children’s choices in toys were influenced by their parent’s professions or surrounding environments.

Do similarities matter?

YES, instead of drawing a distinction between children around the world, we should attempt to link them through their similarities. Maybe once the world is viewed more as “one”,  more compassion for those suffering would be created. It is important to remember that children are usually the biggest victims of conflict while being only innocent bystanders. They do not instigate conflict, do not plan military coups, and do not hide nuclear weapons. However, they usually end up paying the price for the action of the “adults” of the world.

Next time you see a child suffering from the side effects to war, conflict, hunger etc. do not remove yourself from the situation or consider them to be “different” than you or your children. Just remember what Galimberti said “Children are all the same, they just want to play”.

It was just brought to my attention that another awesome blogger has previously covered this topic. So I thought I would link her so you guys can take a look at her great blogpost as well! Click here to check it out. 

Who Cares About Climate Change?: The Green Fatigue.

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If you were asked to list the types of fatigue you are familiar with what would your answer be? Would it be physical and emotional fatigue? Or maybe the highly publicized donor and voter fatigue? Well make room for a new type fatigue that is about to become all the rage, The Green Fatigue.

According to recent studies, completed by GlobScan, the world has cooled down on global warming (see what I did there?).  Worldwide concerns about climate change have dropped dramatically since 2009, marking the setting in of the Green Fatigue.  From the 22,812 people surveyed from 22 different countries, fewer people consider things such as pollution, species loss and water shortage to be very serious.  Environmental concerns among citizens around the world have been falling and have now reached a twenty year low.  Along with the drop in concern, environmental reporting has taken a hit and has been declining in recent years. With climate change being ranked as the lowest concern, worries may have gone away but the problem has not.

Bad news for all of us on earth:

climate-change_1509200c

Evidence of environmental change is stronger now than ever. A few days after the GlobScan results became public; another press release emerged and caught my attention. Last year, the world became the hottest it has been since the end of the ice age, 11,300 years ago. Findings from the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, stated that the world’s temperature is still rising and will continue to reach a record high. The study highlighted that the most rapid change has occurred in the past century.

The emergence of evidence showing that

last year

earth scored the hottest temperature since the ice age puts to rest scepticism that global temperatures are no higher than they were in previous centuries, long before the increase in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.  Another recent press release, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted the second biggest leap in carbon emissions since 1959 (the year record keeping began). The study states that the amount of heat trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped “Dramatically” in 2012.

So why is the Green Fatigue setting in when climate change and global warming are at their worst?

Through some research the most obvious answer that came about is the timing of the Green Fatigue and the economic crisis. With concern about the environment declining in 2009, shortly after the recession hit, people began worrying more about the present economic situation and neglected future environmental issues. The drop in concern also coincides with the timing of the unsuccessful UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, which took place in December 2009. The conference created an air of confusion, disagreement as politicians failed to reach a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The survey conducted by GlobScan also comes into question since it only surveyed 22 countries around the world. By examining the list of countries you will notice that only a few environmentally friendly countries such as Germany and France made an appearance. While the list was dominated by  some notorious environment bad boys such as China, U.S.A, India and good old Canada, which could have created unbalanced research results.

Share your thoughts! Is Green Fatigue here to stay? What factors do you think are contributing to it? Will environmental concern regain momentum in the future?

What if I Told You the World Map is Wrong?

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Take a look at the map above. After examining it for a few seconds, would you agree that North America is bigger than Africa, that  the state of Alaska is larger than the country of Mexico, that China is smaller than Greenland?  Well, what if I were to tell you that, in real life, Africa is three times bigger than North America, Mexico is larger than Alaska, and China is four times bigger than Greenland?

The map above is one of the most commonly used maps in Canada and the United States. It is known as the Mercator projection which is found anywhere from classrooms to boardrooms. Unfortunately, the Mercator projection map is not precisely accurate. It provides a distorted perception of the real size of continents and countries relative to each other. In 1596 the Mercator projection map was created merely for navigational purposes. The poles were enlarged and continent sizes were distorted to make crossing an ocean easier.

In 1974, Dr. Arno Peters created a new type of map that improves the accuracy of how we see the earth.  He produced a map projection known as the Gall-Peter’s Projection, which he claims to be an area accurate map that displays the true size . The image below shows the Gall-Peters projection and will help you compare between the actual sizes of continents and countries.

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Does size really matter?

I Believe that simple things, such as maps, can truly influence the perceptions individuals might have about certain countries. People usually equate the size of a country to importance and power. By exaggerating the size of western countries and under-sizing developing countries, in the Mercator projection, people further buy into the notion that developed countries are more important. Making developing countries look smaller than they are on a map portrays them as weak and helpless. Using a map that remains true to size is essential for success in the International Development fields, it can help the notion of equality spread further throughout the world, produce better research within the field, and place development issues, such as migration, further into perspective.

*** Keep in mind that, just like every other map projection, both the Mercator and Peters projections are not completely accurate. They both display various forms of distortion and are created to only serve certain objectives. The reason Peters projection was chosen for this blog is because it deals with the size of continents relevant to development.

Please let me know what you guys think.  Do you strongly support one of these two projections? Do you believe that the size of a country can influence the way developing countries are perceived? Is there another projection that you find is more relevant to the field of International Development?