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Türkiye, Syria earthquake; death toll expected to rise

Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Rateb al-Nabulsi speaks on the devastating aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude that slammed Türkiye and Syria and just how crucial humanitarian aid is at this time, especially for the often-forgotten Syrian refugees in Ghaziantep

Both Syria and Türkiye have declared a state of emergency after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the two countries early Monday morning.

At least 11,500 people are dead, more than 50,000 people are injured, and at least 11,000 buildings were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise sharply as rescue workers continue to search for survivors in the rubble.


This comes at the worst possible time as it is the middle of winter in Syria and Türkiye. Hundreds of thousands of people will now be struggling to survive without access to food, medical care, or protection from freezing temperatures.

UMR is responding in the form of food baskets, winter care kits, emergency health kits for households, and Interagency Emergency Health Kits for hospitals and medical clinics.

To reiterate, in a disaster of this proportion, any donation will make a difference in the lives of individuals who lost everything.

7.8 Magnitude Earthquake Slams Turkey and Syria (UMR’s Emergency Response)

UMR CEO and President Dr. Abed Ayoub spoke about the devastating earthquake, “UMR currently is working with international communities teams on the ground, which are also providing emergency aid, as we look to see what the other major needs are. Our resources are heading to the areas most heavily affected by the earthquake yesterday, where huge numbers of houses, markets, and hospitals have been destroyed and the food supply is dwindling. This means international aid is more important now than ever.”

The main needs include access to clean water, food, and shelter, particularly for women, children, and other vulnerable communities. UMR is responding in the form of emergency aid including food baskets, essential winter items, shelter, water and sanitation, and other core relief items.

Dr.Ayoub adds, “At the moment, aid agencies are obviously operating in an even more challenging environment.” UMR has been working in responding to emergencies around the globe for many years, helping communities prepare for disasters, and providing emergency relief and recovery when disaster strikes. UMR has ongoing programs across the region and has access to areas including the areas affected by the earthquake. UMR has activated its emergency response protocol and has assessment and response teams on the ground assisting in coordination with partner organizations and local government units.

Unaccompanied Minors: A Childhood Interrupted

The global humanitarian crisis has the worst effect on children’s lives resulting in having their childhood interrupted. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines a child as every human being below the age of 18 years. Children belong to families and the families take care of them until they reach a certain age. Parents or guardians make decisions that consider the child’s well-being.

When families move from one place to another, then children move with them. The minors do not make decisions to migrate or undertake such journeys alone.  But more children than ever before are fleeing without adults to look after them.

Unaccompanied and Separated Children:

War and political violence around the world are the reasons for these circumstances. These children are – unaccompanied minors or separated children. Unaccompanied children are not looked after by parents, relatives or any adults. Besides, there are children who are separated from their parents or primary caregivers. Sometimes they remain under the care of relatives. Hence the term ‘separated children.’

Why Children Migrate Alone:

There are different reasons why children migrate alone. They could be fleeing persecution or  might be the victims of natural disasters. Some of them are trying to avoid conflict, gang violence, or enlistment into rebel armies.

Sometimes, the flight process separates children from their parents or older relatives. These are the times when the children need their families the most. The separated children face these turmoil alone, without the protection of their families. Which makes their stories even more heartbreaking. Parents have had to make the difficult choice to send their kids alone. Such a decision comes down to the hope of ensuring their survival.

In some cases the parents have to migrate and seek asylum first, leaving the children behind. After they have secured a safe place, only then their children migrate by themselves. More often than not these minors have to take very risky routes without any adult protection.

Current Scenario of Unaccompanied Minors:

The number of unaccompanied or separated children (USAC) are at an all time high. Now more than ever the discussions on the rights of these children have become necessary. There are 35 million children below the age of 18 who are refugees. Thousands of these children arrive in a country either on their own or with relatives. There are 153,300 unaccompanied minors and separated children worldwide. (according to a UNHCR report estimation:  )

It is almost impossible for a child to face the world alone and remain the same. The interrupted childhood compels them to assume adult responsibilities.

Older children become caregivers, protectors, and providers to their younger siblings. Often they do the unimaginable to survive. Thus, they are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Migrating alone is physically and psychologically tiring and dangerous. It exposes them to physical violence, rape, manipulation, and human trafficking.

Girls are at a greater risk of sexual and gender-based violence. The police or immigration officers also exploit these children instead of protecting them. Moreover they do not get access to adequate medical services, education. They do not get official identity or appropriate documents. Getting registration of their refugee status is also difficult.

There is not much consideration given to their needs as children. Some of these children remain in detention facilities in inhumane conditions. It contributes to them having childhood interrupted. The detention facilities force them to stay with adults they do not know. Children in such facilities suffer physical, emotional, and psychological trauma.

Sometimes the children do not get asylum and end up returning to their countries. There are possibilities of mismanagement in their asylum requests. The authorities are not attentive to their needs. At least not in an age-appropriate or gender-sensitive manner.

Some Commendable Initiatives: 

The European Court of Human Rights has recently ruled on the unlawful detention of migrant children in EU states. As per international law, authorities should not detain the children. Humanitarian organizations around the world have made a strong stance favoring this law.

UNICEF and UNHCR insist on a Best Interest Analysis (BIA) before a decision to detain a child. It should identify the action in the child’s best interest. Authorities can only detain children after carefully considering their physical and mental safety. BIA should also highly consider their age and gender before deciding to detain them.

UNHCR also advocates child-appropriate alternatives to detention. They suggest connecting children with relatives in the country of asylum. They also suggest for children the foster care systems or residential quarters. UNHCR is also pushing initiatives, such as:

  • Supervised independent living in Greece
  • Guardianship program in Italy
  • Protection coordinators initiative in Germany

These projects have benefitted from the direct input of children. Moreover these projects have made a positive impact in a lot of migrant children’s lives.

Awakening Amongst Everyone:

The issues faced by unaccompanied children have prompted people everywhere to speak out. People are making an effort to learn more about migration issues. Some governments and policies add more trauma to these children’s lives.

People are speaking against such tendencies.  They are also educating others to become more involved in this movement. Also, they are encouraging people to support local NGOs by donating time and money. All these efforts have been successful in raising awareness about this sensitive issue.

Standing for the rights of refugee children is long overdue. No child deserves to have their childhood interrupted. The recent initiatives for the unaccompanied minor and separated children have positive impacts.

Jasmine Project

Jasmine Project

6.6 million people have had to flee from the civil war in Syria— almost half of them being women and children. Every part of their lives has changed a lot, but their roles in the community have changed the most. UMR has launched the “Jasmine Project” to empower these women.

As refugees, women have to serve as the main breadwinners and caretakers. They support themselves and their families without community support. 

The majority of Syrian women in Jordan have skills in many things. Such as – handicrafts, clothes, school uniforms, soaps, and cosmetic creation and recycling.

Story of Fatima

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.

Story of Fatima

UMR has sensitized its network with the private sector, youth, and social entrepreneurs. All of us should work together to solve the social and economic problems that young women in Jordan face. UMR’s Jasmine Program empowers women financially through skills and business training. 

UMR aims to teach women how to turn their abilities into marketable skills. This will allow them to survive and prosper. Fatima joined UMR’s Jasmine Project and is now the breadwinner of her family. She is the team leader for the project. She makes enough money each month to support her family. Besides, she helps other women 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. Another 10,000 private and business Jasmine customers will also benefit.

In Future

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

Jasmine’s training is not limited to community women. But also targets the youth in universities and schools during summer break. The goal is to teach them professional crafts and handicrafts.

You can also see

Ambulatory Clinics

Ambulatory Clinics (Rohingya)

UMR works with its partner IMANA to provide ambulatory clinics to Rohingya refugees. Rohingya refugees are seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar. Currently the largest refugee camp in the world. 

We are one of the few medical teams that the Bangladeshi government has given permission. This means that we can treat young children. Otherwise, they would get easily preventable diseases like the flu. These diseases can kill people in camps. 

We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support. They give us access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is being run with the help of meetings of the UN’s health cluster and volunteer doctors hired through IMANA.

The Sufferings of Rohingyas

This project, Ambulatory Clinics for Rohingyas, has been running since 2017. It has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is home to more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees. They 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. 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 the sweltering heat. It is impossible to maintain social distancing. 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.

Overcrowding is a problem in itself. But many refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar have also health problems. On top of that, many haven’t gotten the standard vaccinations. It puts them at an even higher risk of contracting COVID-19. 

We have introduced Ambulatory Clinics to provide healthcare for the Rohingyas residing in Bangladesh. In order to reduce their misery and keep them safe from diseases like Covid-19. It is a significant project of ours.

Bangladesh Water Wells

Bangladesh Water Wells

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It has more than 1000 people per square kilometer. Bangladesh water wells are urgently needed for clean water.

Three-quarters of the people live in rural areas, where things like running water and clean toilets are often thought of as luxuries. Bangladesh has one of the fastest rates of urbanization in Asia. Most of the 7 million people live in urban slums. Their numbers are growing quickly. They don’t have access to clean water, toilets, waste disposal systems, or sewer drainage.

The rural poor and people living in urban slums often have to drink and cook with unprotected surface water. Because they don’t have access to water supply infrastructure like tube wells and pipes.

World Bank’s Agglomeration Index is an alternative measure of urban concentration.  According to them, there is a lot of urbanization in Bangladesh that is not included in official definitions and statistics. With poor WASH coverage and community awareness, an undercounted rural population that is moving to cities poses a high risk of disease outbreaks.

UMR’s funded project has given 112 deep tube wells, semi-deep tube wells, and shallow tube wells to 4,304 rural and urbanizing beneficiaries. And conducted beneficiary sensitization training on water safety, benefits of safe water, personal/environmental hygiene and maintenance of wells.

Beneficiary Feedbacks for Our Project

Below are the most common examples of beneficiary feedback, indicative of the general living conditions of the recipient population:

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

[S.J.] (Aged 52) is a marginal farmer. His family consists of 6 members: “We collected safe water from a far distance. He said, “We could not install the tube well due to lack of money. Most of the people in this area have been suffering from water-borne diseases for a long time. The people of this area are very poor. […] After the 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 consists of 7 members. He said “We could not install the tube well due to lack of money. We used pond water. Most of the people in this area have been suffering from water-borne diseases for a long time. We were collecting water from a far distance. The people of this area are very poor. After the 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 in neighboring villages, and the 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 was installed. The people of this area are very poor. We were collecting drinking water from the neighboring villages. Most of the people in this area have been suffering from water-borne diseases for a long time. We could not install the tube well due to a shortage of funds. After the 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

For more information:

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.

Rohingya Refugees

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 help.

The plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar is immense right now.

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 had 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

Rohingya refugees are straining services and resources as the emergency and pandemic continue. According to the UNHCR;


Approximately 671,000 Refugees settled in Cox’s Bazar district since 2017


Materials like bamboo, rope, and tarpaulins have been used to build more than 50,000 shelters. 75% of families share households/shelters


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 because the weather changes with the seasons. From November to March, it is dry, and from April to October, it rains 72% of the time.  Cyclones may also hit Cox’s Bazar.


Over 23,000 people are at risk of serious landslides


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’s Rohingya Refugee sites. As the pandemic gets worse, there are more deaths and diseases. There are a lot of respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases, like cholera, hepatitis E, and measles.

Nutrition & Food Security 

Acute malnutrition and anemia are common in 6-59-month-olds, exceeding the emergency threshold.

Water & Sanitation 

They need longer-term and sustainable sanitation solutions There are 7,275 hand pumps in the refugee campsites,

  • 80% functional hand pumps.
  • 99% of refugee populations live within 200 meters of functioning hand pumps.
  • 3,275 of the hand pumps are in landslide or flood-prone refugee campsites.
  • Escherichia coli has spread to 42% of water samples (Dec 2017).

UMR Interventions

UMR, in coordination with partners, works to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh has authorized very few medical teams and we are one of them. The government lets us treat young children who would otherwise get diseases that are easy to avoid. Such as the flu, which is 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. UN’s health cluster and volunteer doctors hired through IMANA is running this project.

Since its beginning in 2017, our project has helped many Rohingya refugees.

As COVID-19 spreads, experts expect that:

“This pandemic might give Bangladesh a decades-long setback.”

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in the 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:

UMR Institute

UMR Institute: Operates domestically and internationally as an institutional context for capacity building for organizations and local communities and serve as a nonprofit incubator that forms young leaders in the Nonprofit sector, charity, voluntarism, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship champions. In this context, UMR Institute will collaborate with its partners for external resources and training materials. Furthermore, UMR Institute will serve as a think tank for UMR by providing research and evidence-based rationale for UMR work by exploring the community needs and social investment potential and providing the feasibility and funding potential when needed, and also through being a monitoring and evaluation platform that tracks and measures the impact of UMR projects worldwide and provide post-implementation assessments and recommendations. The Institute will also help align UMR’s work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Syrian Refugee Medical Missions (Jordan)

Working with our field office in Jordan we have sent a number of medical shipments to assist Syrian refugees. As well as sending medicine to tackle chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, we supply essential medical supplies including syringes, aluminum canes, crutches, hip arthroscopy kits, oxygen masks and surgical packs.

In coordination with our partners, UMR also conducts cataract surgeries in Jordan. Each mission involves highly qualified and experienced doctors from the US who worked with their counterparts at Shami Eye Center, Amman and conduct surgeries.The Save Syria Medical Mission, implemented in conjunction with IMANA, is an ongoing project that brings volunteer doctors to provide low-cost primary and acute care to refugees of all nationalities that reside in Jordan.Services are provided in the Zarqa and Mafraq governates of Jordan. In 2018, UMR and IMANA provided health consultancies and primary health services to 6,500 patients primarily from Syrian and Palestinian refugee backgrounds.

East Africa Emergency Appeal

In Somalia, poverty, armed conflict, political instability and natural disasters continue to drive humanitarian needs. Diminishing water sources caused livestock to perish and crops to wither and die, further deteriorating cases of malnutrition, dehydration and starvation. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance reached 5 million, which is more than 40% of the entire population. Over 1.1 million people are internally displaced, and Somalia remains one of the poorest and most food-deprived nations in the world.

UMR launched a project to provide immediate assistance to drought-affected IDPs and host communities in and around Mogadishu and Luug District, Gedu region. The scheme enabled people to access food as they waited for additional humanitarian interventions. The project helped feed 3,000 beneficiaries. UMR used World Food Program’s (WFP) support to improve food security through the SCOPE approach. This project targeted the most vulnerable IDPs passing through or staying in the region. It also registered beneficiaries from the IDP camp as well vulnerable households. The targeted beneficiaries received family/household rations equivalent to the ones delivered by WFP and recommended by the Somalia Food Security Cluster. The quota included 25kgs of rice, 25kgs of sugar, 5 liters of cooking oil, 2kgs of tea leaves and 5kgs of powdered milk.

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