Month: January 2022

UMR Joins Forces with Academia to Strengthen Projects in Gaza and Bangladesh

UMR Joins Forces with Academia to Strengthen Projects in Gaza and Bangladesh

UMR has partnered with the Access to Health (ATH) Project at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law to advance the organization’s healthcare projects in Palestine and Bangladesh. ATH is an interdisciplinary health and human rights initiative composed of graduate and faculty across Northwestern’s law, business, medicine and public health programs. The collaboration will provide ATH students with a new experiential learning opportunity working in the humanitarian sphere. Our goal is to utilize academia and research to better inform UMR’s approach to providing better healthcare access to vulnerable populations across the two regions.

In Palestine, UMR has long worked in areas like Gaza to provide basic necessities such as food, water, medical supplies, medications, medical equipment, winter items, fresh meat, children’s backpacks, and more. This time, UMR is searching for longer-term solutions to some of the challenges brought on by the limited access to resources in the Palestinian Territories. One such project will be an assessment on water access, and how UMR can increase consistent access to clean drinking water for families living in Gaza. A collaboration with the ATH team might include the development of a needs assessment, or a landscape review of the practices of other organizations to circumvent restrictive import policies that affect the delivery of international aid into Gaza.

In Bangladesh, UMR is seeking to tackle healthcare access for Rohingya women and girls, due to the fact that they make up more than half of the population of Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. A large portion of these girls and women are in their reproductive age and are in need sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services including pregnancy and delivery care, family planning services, menstrual health, safe abortion, STDs, etc. In spite of the interventions of many national and international organizations, there is a serious lack of clinical management for sexual and reproductive health care for girls and adolescents in the camps. Moreover, this group of Rohingya refugees are reluctant to seek SRH care since their healthcare seeking behavior is highly influenced by the orthodox and conservative religious and cultural values, and the continuous deprivation of services that this community experienced in their own country in Myanmar. Lack of awareness and limited access to SRH cares results sexual violence, child marriage, unintended and unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, higher rates of maternal mortality, etc. Therefore, these problems need a multidimensional approach. UMR’s partnership with ATH will seek to address these issues to make sure that SRH care is not only accessible but to also provide health education and awareness around these issues within the community.

This partnership will provide Northwestern University students who enroll in the course to research, assess and innovate new approaches to these common issues based on feedback provided by UMR, which will ultimately strengthen UMR’s interventions for years to come.

The Lebanese Economic Crisis

In 2019, Lebanon’s economy crashed and it has not recovered since. There is a shortage of many necessities such as food, fuel, electricity, and money. There is currently an ongoing humanitarian crisis that people are not being educated on, and most don’t know even exists. 

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975 and lasted until 1990. When this war ended, it was decided that the country needed to change its currency and tie it to the US Dollar. “Lebanon’s central bank promised that 1,507 Lebanese lira would be worth exactly $1 and that Lebanese banks would always exchange one for the other.” However, this didn’t work as it was intended to: Lebanon’s banks ended up storing US currency which was stable for a bit, but ended up crashing in 2011. In order to keep money coming in, banks offered generous interest rates to anyone who would keep depositing money. This turned into a “Ponzi Scheme,” and people wanted to pull their money out, but were unable to. Now the value of the lira has gone down by over 90%.

This crisis, according to the World Bank, “is in the top 3 most severe crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century.” Their GDP dropped from US $55 billion in 2018 to $20.5 billion in 2021. There are multiple reasons as to why the crisis has gotten this dire, and one of them is because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most countries, Covid-19 hit the economy hard. Lebanon receives a lot of income from the tourist industry, being a main place to visit the Middle East. However, once the pandemic hit and travel was halted they lost this main source of income. This instability caused by the pandemic has led to unstable living conditions for millions of Lebanese people whose disparities were only more evident since the country already faced unequal wealth gaps. 1/3 of the Lebanese population live under the poverty line, while the youth unemployment rate is 37% and the overall unemployment rate is 25%.

Along with the pandemic, the Lebanese economy suffered greatly due to the Port of Beirut Explosion in 2020, which killed 200 people and also caused a great deal of property damage. It not only caused structural instability, but also dwindled the water supply, and increased the deteriorating conditions in the country. There was billions of dollars’ worth of damage from this explosion. Due to this shortage of money, people are unable to pay their importers in cash. This has led to a number of strikes specifically with food suppliers and gas stations because wheat and fuel importers cannot get their money. Also, with the influx of Syrian refugees due to the unrest in Syria, it seems as if Lebanon has reached its breaking point and was never able to build back after their Civil War because frankly the country itself has never gotten a break.

In order to attempt to help gain money back, the government imposed a tax on WhatsApp calls, an app that lets one call or text whoever one may choose in any part of the world, for no charge. This $6 monthly tax angered people and led to government protests. The government soon cancelled this tax, but this once again exposed the instability of the country.

Due to the pandemic, the Beirut explosion, and inflation, Lebanon’s economy is in deep trouble. The citizens of Lebanon are in deep trouble considering the economic position of their country. This is a humanitarian crisis that the public needs to be educated on for the sake of humankind.

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