• August 2011

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    August 2011

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    • Youth Zones Film Screening at UN High-Level Meeting on Youth
      On July 26, the Women’s Refugee Commission and the United Nations Population Fund co-hosted a special screening of Youth Zones, a film created by Lisa Russell that profiles youth in combat zones around the world.
    • Children in Conflict Areas Express Themselves through Art
      On July 12, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict opened the exhibit "In their Own Words: Attacks on Schools and Hospitals in Children’s Drawings." The exhibit featured work created by children from Nepal, Afghanistan, Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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    Dear Friend,

    The images and stories emerging from East Africa are absolutely horrifying—including women carrying their dying or already dead children as they flee drought. While the world’s attention was drawn elsewhere, one of the worst droughts in decades was developing in the Horn of Africa, creating a massive humanitarian crisis and leaving 12 million people in urgent need of assistance. Conflict-torn Somalia is now bearing the brunt of the drought and consequent famine. An estimated 3,000 Somalis are fleeing daily to surrounding countries—straining the limited resources of already overcrowded refugee camps. An estimated 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

    We at the Women’s Refugee Commission are extremely concerned by the worsening situation. The magnitude of the crisis calls for a huge humanitarian response to meet the refugees’ basic survival needs: food, cooking fuel, water, shelter and health care. The work we have done and guidance we have produced on a range of issues, including critical reproductive health services, safe access to cooking fuel and measures to prevent gender-based violence, can help guide the international community as it carries out relief plans. You can read more about our recommendations for immediate action and how you can support aid efforts.

    We thank you for your support and partnership, now and always. With your help, we can advocate for better assistance and policies that bring lifesaving services and change to the world’s most vulnerable.

    Sarah Costa's Signature
    Sarah Costa
    Executive Director

    Take Action to Assure Stronger U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Funding

    The devastating situation in the Horn of Africa makes it all the more urgent for Congress to provide the strongest possible funding for humanitarian assistance programs. "This money provides lifesaving assistance to victims of natural disasters and war," says Joan Timoney, director of advocacy and external relations. "It also supports important programs to prevent violence against displaced women and children, and initiatives to provide essential medical and mental health care for survivors of sexual violence." Congress will make critical decisions this fall about funding for humanitarian programs. You can help save lives by urging your Congressional representatives to strengthen funding for humanitarian assistance in fiscal year 2012. Take action now.

    Women's Refugee Commission Recognized for Work on Disabilities

    Though rarely recognized, there are millions of displaced people who are living with disabilities, and they face extra hardships. This week, the Women’s Refugee Commission was awarded InterAction’s 2011 Disability Inclusion Award for our leadership in putting disabilities on the humanitarian agenda. In 2008 we released the first-ever major report to address the critical needs of displaced people who suffer from physical, sensory or mental disabilities. Learn more about our work and the challenges displaced individuals living with disabilities face.

    Security Council Adds Groups That Attack Schools to "List of Shame"

    Hard as it may be to believe, armed forces and groups sometimes deliberately attack schools and hospitals. On July 12, the United Nations Security Council took steps to end this egregious practice when it passed Security Council Resolution 1998. The resolution added attacks on schools and hospitals to a roster of grave violations that will trigger Security Council monitoring and action and can place violating parties on the UN’s "list of shame."

    Read about the advocacy on this issue conducted by Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a program of the Women's Refugee Commission.

    Shining a Light on Safe Access to Cooking Fuel

    Lack of safe access to cooking fuel puts the lives of refugee women and children at risk: at risk of rape when they go to gather firewood and at risk of respiratory infections when they breathe smoke from open fires in their shelters. Women’s Refugee Commission’s Executive Director Sarah Costa moderated a panel, "Making Cooking SAFE: Addressing Household Energy Needs in Crisis Settings," during the UN’s recent Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Segment in Geneva.

    The speakers described the challenges humanitarian providers continue to face in ensuring that women and girls in refugee camps have safe access to cooking fuel. They also discussed the progress that has been made in recent years as a result of guidance issued by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (SAFE), and the new Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

    Read a summary report of the event.

    Push to Protect Detained Immigrants from Violence and Rape

    In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which contained groundbreaking provisions for victims of abuse, crime and violence. But 17 years later, immigrant women in detention remain at risk. "Immigrant victims face an impossible choice," says Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission’s detention and asylum program. "If they come forward to report violence or abuse, they risk detention and separation from their children and loved ones while their case is determined. Or, if they choose not to come forward, they must face the painful silence of enduring assault, abuse and rape." Additionally, the Department of Justice has issued draft regulations finding that immigration facilities are not bound by the Prison Rape Elimination Standards. This means that while convicted criminals serving criminal sentences are protected from rape, immigrants waiting for their cases to be heard are not. Congress intended for these protections to apply to ALL persons held in confinement. We are working to ensure that all facilities where immigrants are detained are covered by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and for better access to legal protection and relief when they are victims of crime. Read our statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee outlining existing gaps in the legislation with regards to immigrant women, and calling for improvements.

    In the News

    Fuel and Firewood Initiative senior program officer Erin Patrick was quoted in an article by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on increased levels of gender-based violence faced by Somali refugees.

    The Huffington Post published a piece by Erin Patrick on the cooking fuel needs of women and girls affected by the Horn of Africa crisis.

    Detention and Asylum program officer Jennifer Podkul was cited in a Colorlines article on the detention of unaccompanied immigrant youth, "Thousands of Migrant Kids Trapped Inside the World’s Border Politics."