September 2013

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September 2013

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Spotlight on Humanitarian Crises: Syria

On September 3, a tragic milestone was reached, as the number of Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq passed two million. Half of the refugees are children. An additional 4.25 million Syrians are displaced within their own country. An astonishing one-third of the population has been displaced by the conflict; more than 100,000 have been killed.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Syria had become "a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history." He added that "the only solace is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."

Despite the urgency of the situation, humanitarian funding is falling far short of the needs. Only about 40 percent of the UN appeal for aid has been funded.

Earlier this year, the WRC carried out assessments in Jordan and Lebanon, in which we looked at the situation for refugees with disabilities (Lebanon) and examined the availability of critical reproductive health services (Jordan).

Read more about our work on Syria on our crisis page.


ICE's Parental Interests Directive: Helping Families Caught Between the Immigration and Child Welfare Systems

When the Women's Refugee Commission met Marta (not her real name) in a migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico, she had recently been deported from the U.S., leaving behind her four children – three of them U.S. citizens. The children were split between foster homes, facing permanent separation from their mother. Marta had spent two years in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility, and her children placed into the child welfare system. Once in Mexico, she continued to struggle to meaningfully participate in the child welfare case, but eventually, her parental rights were terminated for all four of her children.

In August, ICE released a long-awaited directive on “Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities.” The Women’s Refugee Commission has played a leading role for several years advocating for the protection of the rights of families impacted by immigration enforcement. We have succeeded in bringing this issue to the attention of policy makers, have made various recommendations and played a critical role in ICE’s development of the directive.

The Directive’s purpose is to ensure that detained and removed parents can maintain a relationship with their children and make decisions in their best interest. It is not a fix to our broken immigration system which is still in desperate need of reform. However, it is an important step towards the implementation of immigration enforcement practices that take into account the realities of transnational families. It is, quite simply, commonsense, humane, smart and noncontroversial best practice that reflects our national values and recognizes the paramount importance of the family in the life of a child.

The Women’s Refugee Commission has been asked by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead the effort to coordinate NGO and government collaborative training and implementation of the directive.

Read about our work on parental rights, our press release and blog on the directive and a two-page guide for parents who have been separated from their children.


Faces of WRC: Get to Know Walei Sabry, Disability Program Intern

Walei Sabry, program intern for WRC’s Disability Program, has a Master’s degree in disability studies and specializes in disability awareness, physical and social accessibility, and assistive technology. We sat down with Walei to learn more about him and his work with the Disability Program.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Egypt and immigrated to New York when I was 9 with my family. I have been progressively going blind since I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 4. I was able to see colors, shapes, faces and read regular size print until I was 19. For the past 9 years, I’ve been adjusting to living as a blind person.

What made you interested in working with the Women’s Refugee Commission?
I found a posting for a disability intern online. It was very similar to what I wanted to do. The unique thing about it, is that it focused on persons with disabilities on a global scale. I was mainly experienced in disability matters on the local level. I thought it would broaden my understanding of disability outside of the United States and perhaps reshape my understanding of disability in general.

Read the full interview with Walei, then check out his recent blog piece on the United Nations Conference of States Parties for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Sexual and Reproductive Health: Piloting Disaster Risk Reduction Training in the Philippines

Our Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) team recently visited the Philippines as part of our work on disaster risk reduction (DRR). The SRH team identified a community group in the small town of Santa Magdelena (see map above) that  it will train in the coming months as part of a pilot project that seeks to integrate sexual and reproductive health into emergency planning and disaster preparedness. The community was selected for the pilot project because it is considered a very high-risk area for disasters such as typhoons and volcanoes, and also because it has a progressive mayor who is open to gender mainstreaming and addressing women’s health for the well-being of the community.

Natural disasters currently account for some 42.3 million of the world's displaced people, and the impact appears to be increasing each year. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by such disasters. The Women’s Refugee Commission has been leading global efforts on the integration of sexual and reproductive health within disaster risk reduction and management systems. Additionally, since 2010, the Women's Refugee Commission has incorporated preparedness and planning for sexual and reproductive health needs in an emergency into our advocacy and in-country training activities.

Read more about our work on Disaster Risk Reduction.


New York: David Miliband Begins New Role as Head of the IRC

On his first day as President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband met with the staff of the IRC and Women’s Refugee Commission. In his September 3 address, Miliband emphasized his desire to build the organization’s reputation as a leader and innovator in the humanitarian field, to visit the frontlines, where IRC is delivering critical aid, and to build and strengthen partnerships. Miliband replaces George Rupp, who retired after 11 years of service to the organization.

Watch Miliband talk about what led him to IRC.