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  • When Food Is Not Enough to Stop Famine

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    Read the Huffington Post piece by Senior Program Officer Erin Patrick on the cooking fuel needs of the thousands of Somalis fleeing famine and pouring into Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

    Vaccination campaign reaches vulnerable refugee children in Kenya

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    Antonia Kamore, IRC community health program officer in Dadaab, vaccinating a young refugee against measles. Antonia Kamore, IRC community health program officer in Dadaab, vaccinating a young refugee against measles. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

    Hagadera, Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya — Our car is skidding across the deep sand tracks that cut through Hagadera, one of three sites that make up the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border. More than 1,300 refugees, fleeing drought and famine in southern Somalia, are arriving every day in the already overcrowded camp. Under such conditions infectious disease can spread quickly.

    This morning, I’m traveling with an IRC medical team that is vaccinating refugee children against polio and measles, part of a mass immunization campaign that aid groups are conducting in Dadaab. All told, some 120,000 refugee children under the age of five will be inoculated over the next five days, a quarter of them by the IRC’s medical teams.

    “The Somali refugees are malnourished and very weak,” says Antonia Kamore, the IRC’s community health program officer, who is sitting beside me. “This makes them even more susceptible to disease.”

    Youth Zones

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    Each year, millions of young people are affected by wars and natural disasters. With their worlds turned upside down, they often face huge challenges and are forced to assume adult responsibilities. Yet, in the midst of great adversity, young people manage to raise their younger siblings, put food on the table for their families, form youth groups and peace movements and contribute to their community in many positive ways. But, their stories are rarely told. The Youth Zones project allows these voices of struggle and survival to finally be heard.

    For Immigrants, Is the United States a Safe Haven or Prison Ward?

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    This blog was originally published on the Huffington Post.

    Names can be misleading, and that is certainly the case with representative Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) new disturbing piece of legislation, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act. The bill, H.R. 1932, purports to make Americans safer by authorizing the indefinite detention of individuals who have been ordered to leave, but who cannot be deported either because they are stateless or because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with their country of origin (for example, Cuba and Iran). It also authorizes the prolonged detention of individuals whose cases are pending, which includes those with valid asylum claims and victims of human trafficking and torture, and denies them an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge.

    Department of Justice Rule Fails to Shield Detained Immigrants from Sexual Assault

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    Last month federal charges were filed against Donald Dunn, a former guard at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Taylor, Texas. Dunn is already serving time for state charges of sexual assault of detainees, and is now accused of abusing his power by groping four more women while on the job. Last fall, Dunn pleaded guilty to charges in Williamson County for groping five women he was escorting to airports and bus stations; on the way he would pull over and while claiming to frisk them, would grope them instead. Unfortunately, this kind of sexual abuse by guards against detainees is not uncommon. Evidence suggests this abuse is rampant in detention facilities, and the victims in such facilities have no way to protect themselves.  

    2011 Voices of Courage Honoree Publishes Piece in Guardian on Ratko Mladic's War Crimes Trial

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    One of our 2011 Voices of Courage honorees, Zrinka Bralo, published a blog on the Guardian website sharing reflections on the trial of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic at the Hague war crimes tribunal. Zrinka fled Sarajevo when the city was under siege in the early '90s. Read her thoughts on the trauma she faced and how important it is to see Mladic finally brought to justice.

    Working Hard for Their Money: Children in Crisis Settings

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    Hundreds of millions of girls and boys around the world are engaged in work that deprives them of education, health and basic freedoms. More than half are stuck in the worst forms of child labor—slavery, drug trafficking, war and sex work. This Sunday marks World Day Against Child Labor, and I join the International Labor Organization in raising awareness of and condemning these widespread egregious human rights violations. But we should also be careful that our desire to end the exploitation of children doesn't end up doing harm to many of those we're trying to help.

    In the Western world, when we think of child labor, we probably imagine a kid slaving away in a dirty, sweltering factory, under the eye of an abusive boss. In reality, however, this is only a tiny percentage of the work children do. The majority of children in resource-poor and crisis-affected environments are economically active. They help their families in business; they do handiwork and domestic work; they do physical labor and sell items on the street. In the absence of a social safety net, a child's contribution to the household economy can mean the difference between the family eating and going hungry, siblings attending school or not. Hundreds of thousands of households around the world are headed by children who must work to survive and to keep their families going.

    New Videos from Our Detention and Asylum Program

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    The Women’s Refugee Commission has just completed a series of short videos on some of the most pressing issues facing immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States. Learn more about the conditions they face, how their rights are routinely violated and the ways in which we advocate for reforms in policy—and practice.

    Alternatives to Detention
    On any given day more than 32,000 people are detained in the United States for immigration reasons, many in prison-like conditions. Yet most have no criminal convictions and are waiting for a hearing to determine whether they have violated civil immigration laws.

    In this video, find out about alternatives to detention that are not only more humane, but much more cost effective and practical.

    The Movement for Clean Cooking Stoves Gathers Steam

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    In the Somali refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia where she has lived for over a decade, Habiba* uses firewood to cook food for her family. Even though the smoke it produces irritates her eyes and makes her children cough late into the night, she has no other choice. She goes out to collect wood every other day, but finds that it is not always available. She walks for hours into the bush, leaving before sunrise and not returning until the afternoon. She usually goes with a group of other women for their own protection—but even in groups, they are constantly at risk of physical and sexual assault by the men they encounter along the way.

    Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises

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    One thousand women and girls die every day from pregnancy-related causes—that’s about one every 90 seconds. And the overwhelming majority of the countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality are conflict-affected. Yet, the numerous campaigns and programs working to reduce our staggering global maternal mortality numbers don’t reach the health care providers working in these dangerous and isolated areas. Working in a relative vacuum with little peer interaction, doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers in crisis-affected settings face tremendous challenges without the peer support, information, skills-building opportunities and training that they desperately need.

    Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises, a new initiative designed by the Women’s Refugee Commission and social media and development company M4ID, will be launched April 21. Mama is designed to improve maternal health care and reduce maternal death and disability in crisis-affected settings specifically by using social networking to open up new channels of communication—to connect frontline providers in disparate areas to one another and to give them access to training and advice from experts.