Usamah Ali

Press Release 5/20/22: Yemen Famine Threat

Yemen is suffering from an extreme wheat shortage, putting millions at risk of a deadly famine.

 

Due to more than 7 years of war, political unrest, and a stagnant economy, Yemen is considered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Of the 31.18 million people who live there, approximately 17.4 million of them are hungry. This does not even touch on those who are suffering from disease, malnutrition, and injuries from violence. The situation, it seems, is only getting worse.

When the war in Ukraine began in late February, Yemen lost a large portion – over 30%-  of its wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. In a country where more than 80% of the population already suffers from hunger, this was a devastating loss.

However, earlier this week, things went from bad to worse when India – the world’s second largest producer of wheat – banned wheat exports entirely. The UN expressed strong concerns for countries like Yemen that were already experiencing widespread hunger.

“The US envoy said that Ukraine used to be a breadbasket for the developing world, but ever since Russia started blocking crucial ports and destroying civilian infrastructure and grain silos, hunger situations in Africa and the Middle East are getting even more dire.”

Prior to the wheat shortage, 16 million people in Yemen were already ‘marching towards starvation.’ Now even more will join them.

UMR’s Emergency Plan

 

UMR has a multi-step approach to bringing both immediate relief and creating long-term sustainable solutions to help the people in Yemen.

First and foremost, we plan to deliver emergency food aid to the most vulnerable communities throughout the country, with a focus on the elderly, mothers and children, and persons with disabilities.

On a longer-term scale, we plan to rehabilitate the local markets, construct and maintain water points for people and livestock, and support local farmers through home gardens, drip irrigation units, and other services. Our ultimate goal is to stimulate the economy as well as provide sustainable food sources.

Press Release 5/4/22: Palestine Relief Partnership

PRESS RELEASE

Partnership announcement between United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR) and MedGlobal.

Washington, May 2022: United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR) announced that we will be partnering with MedGlobal, a humanitarian organization whose mission is to serve vulnerable people across the world by providing free and sustainable healthcare to refugees, displaced persons, and other marginalized communities in crisis-affected areas. This partnership is focused on facility-based healthcare services to those most in need in the Gaza Strip, with a focus on the elderly. In coordination with the Ministry of Health, UMR and MedGlobal are deploying healthcare professionals to provide medical and surgical support, life-saving medical equipment, and capacity building for local healthcare providers. This partnership aligns with UMR’s mission to address the dire need for healthcare in Gaza. Approximately 1.5 million people in Gaza lack consistent access to healthcare, which leads to deteriorating health benchmarks at all levels. 80% of Gazzans are below the poverty line. Our objectives are to improve the health of the Palestinian people in Gaza and their quality of life. The nature of the assistance required in Gaza can be grouped into three categories:

1) lack of protection and displacement;
2) limited access to essential services; and
3) erosion of resilience and preparedness.

Based on an assessment completed by MedGlobal, the top needs of elderly individuals were medication and lab tests, awareness and education sessions, and home adaptation and assistive devices. As it stands, 55.7% of the elderly patients in Gaza are suffering from three or more diseases. Additionally, one third of older individuals do not have access to healthcare services. This partnership will allow UMR and MedGlobal to reach more individuals and provide them with the healthcare and medical services they need not just to survive, but flourish.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, UMR is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on providing disaster relief and recovery services both domestically in the U.S. and internationally across the globe. MedGlobal is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on providing life-saving care through deploying healthcare volunteers, supporting local partners and medical providers with training, and supplying hospitals and clinics with medical equipment, medications, and more.

Emergency In Lebanon 2020

As of August 04, 2020, over 4,000 were injured in the Beirut warehouse explosion.  A state of emergency has been declared in Lebanon.

Lebanon needs your help and your assistance. 

“Lebanon is at great risk for a food crisis. Both the Human Rights Watch and the World Bank are predicting that over half of Lebanese households may not be able to afford to purchase food by the end of the year. A full collapse of the Lebanese pound has left thousands of Lebanese unemployed, desperate, and hungry. More than 220,000 jobs in the private sector have been lost since mid-October, and the unrest among the people has reached its boiling point.” — Wejdan Jarrah, UMR’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Representative

As it will take time for Lebanon to fully recover from the explosion, the sharp economic collapse, and the overall political unrest throughout the country, this country needs as much extra help as possible. When you give, your donations are supplying doctors with the medical supplies they need to save lives, providing mothers with food to feed their children, and sharing with the elderly pain medication that they can no longer afford– and that’s a start.

Here’s how your contribution to UMR’s emergency campaign will support Lebanon: 

Emergency Medical Intervention:

UMR already shipped its first medical shipment by air to Lebanon. Each health kit will help 10,000 people receive medical aid for 3 months. These emergency health kits include vital items such as:

  • Gauze
  • Pain medication
  • Surgical instruments
  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Sterilizers
  • Trays and more

Food Intervention:

UMR has been working in Lebanon for years, providing cash assistance, food parcels, fresh meat, and medical assistance to the poorest areas of the country. UMR is conducting food parcel distributions carrying items such as:

  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Oil
  • Sugar
  • Tomato paste and more

Each package typically feeds a family of 5 for an entire month.

  • The cost of household staples have risen up to nearly 70% —  butter now sells for $8.00 USD, powdered milk costs $40.00 USD, and diapers cost up to $43.00 USD
  • Over 2.2 million people are living in poverty in Lebanon. According to The World Bank, food insecurity numbers reinstate that “poverty levels could reach as high as 50% if the economic situation worsens.”
  • More than 220,000 jobs in the private sector have been lost since mid-October, and the unrest among the people has reached its boiling point.

Beirut Cleanup:

UMR volunteers are organized on the ground in Beirut to help clean up the city and restore its peace. Cleaning up the debris from the streets is vital for the country to begin to heal.

As the country begins to rebuild after the explosion, Lebanon faces countless roadblocks.

An estimated 300,000 people are now homeless, more than half of the population is facing poverty, and hospitals are operating without electricity as doctors fight to save the thousands of people caught in the explosion. As the spread of COVID-19 overwhelms the region, unemployment rises to over 30%, and overcrowded hospitals oversee mortality rates, Lebanon now finds itself in the middle of a humanitarian disaster. 

Rebuilding Beirut:

Our dedicated team has identified and begun construction on apartmentsin Beirut. We are on track to repair 40-50 apartments per week to ensure that families can safely quarantine.

UMR is restoring homes and apartments by rebuilding windows, doors, and more that were shattered in the blast. We are doing this by employing local workers and providing opportunities and jobs to people who need it most.As COVID-19 cases continue to hit historical daily highs in Lebanon, and with winter on the horizon and cold rains threatening to make matters worse, we are ask you to consider making a donation to support our work. 

“It still feels as if it happened yesterday. The exhaustion, the fear every time we hear something loud; the frustration, the worries… it’s still all there, and it will always remain there.

Your donations will allow us to expand and intensify our life-saving efforts for as long as it takes to rebuild this country.”

Click to Read More:

[1] UNHCR – Lebanon Fact Sheet 2020

[2] WFP – Saving Lives/Global Hotspots 2020

[3] UNDP – Spotlight on Youth in Lebanon 2015

[4] The World Bank in Lebanon 

Jasmine Project

6.6 million people have had to flee from the civil war in Syria— nearly half of them being women and children. They have faced dramatic changes in every part of their lives, particularly involving their roles in their community.

For women, life as a refugee has meant becoming the primary breadwinner and caretaker, fending for themselves and their families, away from their communities and traditional sources of support. The majority of Syrian women in Jordan are skilled in handicrafts, clothes, school uniforms, soaps, and cosmetic creation and recycling.

Fatima* sought refuge in Jordan with her family in 2020. She tried looking for job opportunities, but unfortunately could not join the market due to government restrictions.

UMR has sensitized its network with the private sectors, youth, and social entrepreneurs to come together to creatively contribute to solving social and economic challenges among young women in Jordan.UMR’s Jasmine Project is a way to empower women economically through skills development and entrepreneurship training. UMR’s goal is to teach women how to turn their abilities into marketable skills that will allow them not just to survive, but to prosper. Fatima joined UMR’s Jasmine Project and is now the breadwinner of her family. With a monthly income that allows her to comfortably support her family, she is the team leader of the project, helping inspire other women just like her.

Direct Impact: 225 women will directly benefit from the Jasmine Project, aged 18-50; 80% of them are Syrians, and 20% are Jordanians from Amman.

Indirect Impact: 1,125 family members of this project will benefit indirectly and another 10,000 customers– including business and the private sector who will purchase Jasmine products– will also reap benefits.

Jasmine’s goal for the future is to build the capacity of its participants and accredit its courses. UMR also plans to teach them practical entrepreneurial skills to develop a website, teach e-marketing, and visit some international exhibitions to promote Jasmine’s activities as a women-led company.

Jasmine’s trainings are not limited to community women but also targets the youth in universities and schools during summer break to teach professional crafts and handicrafts.

Ambulatory Clinics (Rohingya)

UMR works with its partner IMANA to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar-currently the largest refugee camp in the world. We are one of the very few medical teams authorized by the Bangladeshi government, which allows us to treat young children who would otherwise suffer from easily preventable diseases such as the flu which are lethal in camp settings. We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support to gain access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is coordinated in conjunction with UN health cluster meetings and volunteers physicians contracted through IMANA.

This project has been running since 2017 and has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is home to more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee their home due to a violent government crackdown in Myanmar in 2017. This area is more densely populated than some of the largest cities in the world, and the majority of the refugees living there lack access to healthcare, proper sanitation, and decent living conditions. With the onset of COVID-19, experts are predicting that:

This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in sweltering heat, making social distancing impossible. With numbers upward of 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Bangladesh, it is only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the entire camp.

“On top of overcrowding, many refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar, have underlying health conditions or have not received standard immunizations,” putting them at an even higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

Bangladesh Water Wells

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with more than 1000 people per square kilometer.

Three quarters of the population live in rural areas, where running water and sanitary latrines are often considered luxury items. As Bangladesh experiences one of the fastest urbanization rates in Asia, most of the 7 million people living in urban slums – the population of which is rapidly increasing – have no access to safe water sanitary latrines, proper waste disposal systems and adequate sewer drainage.

Lack of access to water supply infrastructure such as tube wells and piping are a major issue for the rural poor and urban slum dwellers who often resort to using unprotected surface water for drinking and cooking.

Further, according to the World Bank’s Agglomeration Index, an alternative measure of urban concentration, Bangladesh has considerable hidden urbanization4 that is not captured on official definitions and statistics. An undercounted rural-but-urbanizing dense population as such poses significant risk of epidemic outbreaks with poor WASH coverage and community awareness.

UMR’s funded project has delivered 112 deep tube wells, semi-deep tube wells, and shallow tube wells to 4,304 rural and urbanizing beneficiaries, and conducted beneficiary sensitization trainings on water safety, benefits of safe water, personal/environmental hygiene and maintenance of wells.
Below are most common examples of beneficiary feedback, indicative of general living conditions of the recipient population:

1. Traveling long distance for water, and spread of water-borne disease:

[S.J.] (Aged 52) is marginal farmer. His family consist of 6 members: “We collected safe water from far distance. He said, “We could not install tube well due to lack of money. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. People of this area are very poor. […] After field survey Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well. Now we are getting safe water for drinking and domestic uses.” 5

2. Use of unprotected unimproved surface water, and spread of water-borne disease:

[A.S.] (aged 38) is a Rickshaw Puller. His family consist of 7 members. He said “We could not install tube well due to lack of money. We used pond water. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. We were collecting water from far distance. People of this area are very poor. After field visit Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well. Now we are getting pure water for drinking and domestic uses.” 6

3. Water available only at neighboring village, and spread of water-borne disease:

[M. A. H.] (age-55) is a poor mer. He said, “We had no tube well before this tube well installed. People of this area are very poor. We were collecting drinking water from neighboring village. Most of the people of this area have been suffering from water borne diseases for a long time. We could not install tube well due to shortage of fund. After field survey Muslim Aid installed a new shallow tube-well, so, we are very happy. Now we are getting fresh water for drinking and domestic uses.” 7

UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
UNICEF (2012) Bangladesh SHEWA-B Factsheet.
https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/SHEWAB_factsheet_-_FINAL-21April12.pdf
World Bank (2015) Bangladesh Country Brief. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/bangladesh/brief/leveraging-urbanization-bangladesh
Recorded by Muhammad Kotha Wala 7846 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Bagharpara, District: Jessore.
Recorded by Hadia Hamuri 7296 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Bagharpara, District: Jessore.
Recorded by Abul Azad 9029 – July 2015. Address of the beneficiary: Upazila: Jessore Sadar, District: Jessore.

The Plight of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar

As of 31 July 2019, UNHCR records that over 742,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to refugee camp sites in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017.

  • Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is currently the largest refugee camp in the world.
  • Rohingya Refugees are in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.

Who are the Rohingya Refugees?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Rohingya as, “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world.”

Rohingya Muslims are one of the many ethnic minorities in Myanmar. However, in 2017, there was an extreme government crackdown and Rohingya Muslims were forced to leave Myanmar to protect themselves from violence. The vast majority fled to Bangladesh, where they now live in tightly packed refugee camps. 

Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

As the emergency and current pandemic extend in duration, Rohingya refugees are overstretching already-limited services and scarce resources. According to the UNHCR;

  • Population – approximately 671,000 Refugees settled in Cox’s Bazar district since 2017
  • Shelter – More than 50,000 shelters have been structured using materials including bamboo, rope, and tarpaulins. 75% of families share households/shelters
  • Congestion – 93% of refugees live below UNHCR’s emergency standard of 45 square meters per person
  • Natural Disaster Risks – Tropical monsoon climate weathers Cox’s Bazar. The area is prone to natural disasters seasonally as climates change between dry season from November to March and rainy seasons from April to October (72% of the yearly rainfall between June and September).  Cox’s Bazar is also exposed to cyclones.
  • Landslides – over 23,000 people are at risk of serious landslides
  • Floods – over 400 hectares of flood-prone areas in Bangladesh; floods affecting nearly 80,000 people
  • Public Health Services – there are 149 clinics and 20 vaccination centers in Bangladesh Rohingya Refugee sites.  Morbidity and diseases are increasing as pandemic escalates; high level of respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases: notably cholera, hepatitis E and measles.
  • Nutrition & Food Security – acute malnutrition and anemia sufferance is prevalent among children 6-59 months, exceeding the emergency threshold.
  • Water & Sanitation – Longer-term and sustainable sanitation solutions are needed; there are 7,275 hand pumps in the refugee camp sites
    • 80% functional hand pumps
    • 99% of refugee populations live within 200 meters of the functioning hand pumps
    • 3,275 of the hand pumps are in landslide or flood prone refugee camp sites
    • 42% of water samples were contaminated with Escherichia coli (Dec 2017).

UMR Interventions

UMR, in coordination with partners, works to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar. We are one of the very few medical teams authorized by the Bangladeshi government, which allows us to treat young children who would otherwise suffer from easily preventable diseases, such as the flu, which are lethal in camp settings. We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support to gain access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is coordinated in conjunction with UN health cluster meetings and volunteers physicians contracted through IMANA.

This project has been running since 2017 and has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Refugees.

With the onset of COVID-19, experts are predicting that:

This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in sweltering heat, making social distancing impossible. 

With numbers upward of 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Bangladesh, it is only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the entire camp. 

Click to Read More:

[1] UNHCR – Rohingya Emergency 2020

[2] UNHCR  – Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

[3] HRW – “Bangladesh is Not My Country” – 2018

Somalia Water Wells

The water crisis is a severe issue in Somalia, with just 45% of Somalis having access to sufficient water sources. 75% of the population don’t have access to improved sanitation or hygiene practices, which can lead to diseases such as cholera among women and children. Below-average rainfall in 2016 paired with El Nino-induced weather extremes, which had a severe impact on the livelihoods, as well as the food and water systems, across the Horn of Africa. The water shortage led to a humanitarian crisis in these countries, including Somalia.

UMR WASH Project focuses on improving the availability of clean water and sanitation to 2,500 vulnerable households located in IDP camps and host communities in the Gedo Region, Somalia. This program will be achieved through the rehabilitation of existing water sources, providing water treatment systems, and the provision of adequate hygiene facilities, including latrines. Hygiene promotion sessions will also be carried out by trained hygiene promoters to push for positive behavioral change.
UMR is constructing water wells in remote areas of Somalia, where women and children are forced to walk for miles through unsafe areas each day in search of clean water.

Adopt a Village Project (AVP)

“Over one third of the population still lives under the international poverty line and social, economic and gender disparities remain.”  — World Food Programme

Life in Kenya – Wajir County

  • 48.5 Million population
  • 35.6% of the population live on less than US $1.90 per day
  • Inhabitants concentrated in four villages (Bulla Elmi, Bulla Abdiaziz 1, Bulla Abdiaziz 2, and Bulla Hareri) are ethnic Somalis
  • Over 70% of the population derive their livelihood chiefly from livestock and livestock production.
  • 2.9% rapid population growth – food insecure families live in rural areas and depend on daily agricutltual labour for income

UMR’s Intervention

To improve access to basic social, health, WASH, and educational services, as well as safe houses; expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for communities in Wajir County.

UMR’s Stages of Rebuilding follows a 6-step process:

  1. Education: Rehabilitate and restructure local schools
  2. WASH: Build boreholes to make water more accessible
  3. Housing: Construct mud houses
  4. Primary Health Care: Build medical centers in schools
  5. Environment: Build eco-friendly solar systems and eco-san toilets
  6. Community Committee: Community engagement through committees

Adopt-a-Village Project (AVP) Approach

The Adopt-a-Village Project (AVP) implements a holistic approach toward the overall livelihood improvement in Wajir County through synchronous development efforts in health, water & sanitation, education, housing, energy and environmental management, and community participation.

AVP covers four villages in Wajir County:

  • Bulla Elmi
  • Bulla Abdiaziz 1
  • Bulla Abdiaziz 2
  • Bulla Hareri
  • Elmi Primary School (shared among the villages)

AVP is an effort to develop village-level capacity toward meeting the SDGs, as part of an integrated community-level development strategy to end extreme rural poverty. This strategy is in line with the recommendations of various U.N. sectoral monitoring commissions to eliminate inequalities (especially the urban-rural gaps) in service delivery, and to “leave no one behind”. As such, we aim to bring together the best parts of development thinking in terms of local knowledge and commitment to sustainability in order  to apply a new approach to poverty alleviation.

UMR’s AVP First Steps:

  • Contract Surgeries Between the 25th – 27th of February 2020, an ophthalmologist from UMR led an eye team that screened 300 patients. Out of the tested patients, 134 qualified for and received free cataract surgeries (77 female & 57 male). The remaining patients received the necessary medication to treat their eye conditions. Another 300 patients were treated as outpatient cases and provided with eye medication, reading glasses, protective sunglasses, and health education. The 103 who were unable to receive surgery due to the limited time frame and resources were provided with interim treatment like eye drops, ointment, and eyeglasses, and were placed at the top of the registration list for the next eye clinic.
  • Water Wells UMR  also built two shallow wells in two villages, Maygag and Star Wario. The shallow wells serve 300 households, ensure clean water, improve essential health, increase hygiene levels, and ultimately will develop alternative livelihood opportunities. The water wells will regenerate the arid lands of their environment, so they can produce alternative sources of food security and income that would result from an overall better health outcome.
  • Orphan Protection UMR distributes vouchers to orphans and their caretakers and will continue to do so quarterly. This sponsorship is a vital lifeline for the orphans, many of whom are in families where the assigned guardian earns very little. Our intention is to ease the financial burden for not just the child, but the entire family as well.
  • Education UMR will be distributing over 17,000 of children backpacks filled with school supplies and books.
  • HealthcareUMR delivered two 40ft. containers of assorted medical supplies valued at $2 million USD to Wajir County, Kenya. The medical shipment consisted of facial masks, gloves, pain relievers, diabetic and cardiovascular medications, wheelchairs, hospital beds, among other items.

Immediate improvements in holistic livelihood conditions will enable the community to regain self-reliance, improve their standard of living and continue to maintain such standard with locally-driven community efforts once the project is completed.

USA Emergency Response Program

UMR’s community outreach efforts under Emergency Response include educational trainings for disaster response/recovery, environmental health hazards, emergency preparedness, and hazard mitigation programming. Strategic areas of operations include distributing food and items to survivors, such as hygiene emergency kits, immediate health supplies, blankets/bedding, and providing assistance with other unmet needs of the community or populations affected. The UMR Emergency Response program also helps provide individual assistance by providing cash cards, disaster financial education, housing clean-up, and debris removal.

The UMR Emergency Response uses comprehensive fundamentals of planning to develop emergency operations and efforts in the areas of preparedness, education, response, recovery, and mitigation.

UMR Emergency Response Strategic Areas of Operation and Programs:

  • Preparedness: includes planning and preparedness activities before emergencies occur
  • Response: putting preparedness plans into action, response activities, sustaining life
  • Recovery: recovery activities, financial assistance for survivors, relief programing
  • Mitigation: prevention of future hazards, working to minimize effects, reducing harm
  • Education: training and educating the public and/or volunteers on areas of emergency response

Working under national preparedness policies for disasters or major incidents, UMR:

  • Conducts community-based planning that engages the whole community
  • Develops a response planning process that represents the whole community population
  • Engages community leaders, government, and the private sector in the planning process
  • Creates risk analysis and identify operational needs and resources
  • Prioritizes planning efforts to support the needs of survivors
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