As the international community is closely following the recent rejection of the peace deal in Colombia, another key issue has long been ignored in this war-torn nation: there has been an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the northern Colombian province of La Guajira, a remote and impoverished desert peninsula.
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A few months ago I was given the chance to reconnect with my roots, roots I was hardly holding on to. I was going to Africa for the first time since I was a child. With barely any memories of my home country, Somalia, I travelled carrying the western stereotypes of my home continent.
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As a global collective grounded in humanity as a common value and fully aware that millions of people in humanitarian crises and conflicts worldwide are in need of solutions, now is the time to put differences aside and begin to address the suffering of millions of people affected by humanitarian crises -- particularly young girls.
Plan International Canada
The global humanitarian system is failing at the same time as it has also never been better equipped to respond to emergencies and crises. There are countless aid organizations and hundreds of thousands of experienced and dedicated humanitarian aid workers helping the most vulnerable around the globe.
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The painful fact is the first thing to be compromised during a humanitarian emergency is the integrity of girls' rights. The everyday realities of many adolescent girls -- which often include early marriage, discrimination and lack of access to education -- are made far worse in the wake of a major disaster.
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A desperate Syrian mother in a refugee camp tried to give me her sick little girl on my last visit to the region's conflict zones and neighbouring countries filled with fleeing people. She wanted me to take her child back to Canada for medical care. That day, I saw misery and despair that no one should bear.
All societies have challenges with gender inequality, and GBV is not limited to humanitarian crises and emergency situations. But the risk and prevalence of GBV is exacerbated in emergency or conflict situations as people suffer displacement, separation from support networks, overcrowding, loss of documentation, the breakdown of social norms against violence, and other effects that increase vulnerability.
In South Sudan, domestic violence is widespread and largely tolerated. In the all-too-common words of two young women from Warrap State: "We are often beaten. When we make a mistake, we are beaten -- and there are so many mistakes." It was unfortunately not surprising that gender-based violence was a major threat for women living in IDP and refugee camps.
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Despite there being no shortage of reasons for despair, we must start this new year with hope. There is no doubt that the situation in Syria is dire. But just as with Ebola, we can mitigate the dreadful human toll if we retain our instincts for empathy, and remain steadfast in our defence of fundamental humanitarian principles.
The suffering we're witnessing because of loss of land, culture, ways of life and identity may portend what is to come for all of us. Now is the time to come together and decide how we will respond. Let's make sure it's the best humanity has to offer.
Amnesty International Canada
On World Humanitarian Day, August 19th, the United Nations asks us to "recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others." There are many Canadian humanitarians working with aid agencies to help people in desperate need all around the world.
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For four years, the Sudanese military has waged a terrifying war against its own people, in the besieged state of South Kordofan. As the fourth anniversary of this disgraceful human rights crisis approaches next month; it is long past time for the world to finally do something about it.
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In today's wars -- no less destructive than others in history because they are undeclared -- how do we bring the fighting parties to the table? None of the usual diplomatic and military carrots and sticks are working. So what to do?
The number of major crises taking place around the globe this past year has been unparalleled in recent history. In fact, 2014 often seemed filled with intractable emergencies that were simply too big, too complex and too daunting to fathom, let alone solve. This felt particularly true when it came to humanitarian action.