This Week in Restoring Family Links

Yemen is currently considered the largest single humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 18 million people are currently reliant on aid with more than 300,000 suspected to be infected with cholera.

Mosul, Iraq was recently liberated by the Iraqi government from IS but while this may be a momentary win, the civilians in this area are still unsafe. Those stuck inside the city lack access to food, water, and medical care. IS’s hold on the region may be nearing an end but the humanitarian crisis is not.

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This week in Restoring Family Links: 05/23/2016-05/27/2016

This week in Restoring Family Links: 05/23/2016-05/27/2016

World Humanitarian Summit: From May 23 to May 24 in Istanbul, Turkey, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon initiated the first World Humanitarian Summit. The summit was convened at a time period when “protracted conflict, instability, and forced displacement are the defining features of the global landscape,” and when the growth of financial needs for these crises increases significantly. The summit thus urged world leaders, organizations, and others to take more actions to aid those needs as well as to prevent further human suffering. 

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This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/28/2016 - 4/1/2016

This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/28/2016 - 4/1/2016

This week, Europe saw dramatic changes in the flows of migrants and refugees reaching its shores from the Middle East and North Africa. Over the course of the month, March saw the number of arrivals halve from what they were in February, from 57,000 to 25,000 new arrivals. Yet, the last week in particular has seen contrasting trends, with Italy rescuing 1,482 migrants over two days off the coast of Libya, indicating that arrivals along the North Africa - Italy route are on the rise. Further supporting this observation comes yesterday's tragic sinking of a dinghy carrying about 100 migrants from Libya sinking in the Mediterranean, with the total number dead so far unknown. In Greece, the numbers of arrivals entering from Turkey had drastically reduced as well, with only about 1,000 entering from Turkey per day compared to about 2,000 per day over the past few months. 

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This Week in Restoring Family Links News 07/06/15 - 07/10/15

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Syria: Yesterday, the international community learned of a sobering reality: The UN declared that the number of Syrian refugees has officially climbed to 4 million, over half of Syria's population. In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said, "This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation.”

Bryan Denton / NYT

Bryan Denton / NYT

Though many choose to flee to bordering countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, 7 million are displaced within Syria, and in its 5th year, conflict still rages on – over the past few weeks, rebels have attacked the city of Aleppo by bombing government buildings, universities, and community centers. Aleppo was once named the city of scholars, as well as a secure home for Syrians. Now, Aleppo is marked as a city of war.

Though refugees are separated from violence, they face a life with poorer conditions than before. Families driven by deepened poverty and desperation turn to extreme survival strategies, such as marrying off their young children or forcing them to work. Guterres stated, "Worsening conditions are driving growing numbers towards Europe and further afield, but the overwhelming majority remain in the region. We cannot afford to let them and the communities hosting them slide further into desperation." UNHCR appealed for $5.5 billion to support the Syrian refugees in 2015, but the plan is only 24% funded. Humanitarian organizations have cut rations due to a lack of funds. Help is desperately needed, but the growing numbers carry a heavy weight on aid moving forward. 

South Sudan: On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence as an individual nation in Africa. 4 years later, South Sudan is not participating in celebrations, and the world’s newest nation is one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations. Conflict began in December 2013, and since, 2.25 million South Sudanese are displaced, including more than 600,000 refugees who have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. As many frail parents struggle to make the journey out of their homes–life expectancy in South Sudan is only 55 years–the crisis has majorly impacted the next generation of South Sudanese: 70% of those displaced are children.

UN / Martine Perret

UN / Martine Perret

Last week, we reported about the ruthless attack on a peacekeeping base that killed one and injured many others. This week, in anticipation for the rainy season in South Sudan, world health organizations are concerned about the possibility of cholera infecting those internally displaced. The Red Cross has resulted to air drops to deliver food, water, and health supplies, due to the remote locations of displaced persons, and along with other humanitarian organizations, are calling for action. Watch these two videos from the British Red Cross and UNHCR for more information about South Sudan since their independence.

Yemen: Last Saturday, a rocket attack struck a kindergarten shelter in Aden, Yemen, killing 12 refugees. Among them were 11 Somalis, 1 Ethiopian, and 5 being children. 12 others were also injured. Supported by the UNHCR and Solidarity Association for Development, (SAD), Al Tadamon Kindergarten is home to hundreds of displaced families. UNHCR reported that the shelter was well-known for hosting refugees, and called for members of the conflict to respect and protect all civilian lives. Currently, over 1 million are internally displaced people in Yemen, 250,000 are refugees and millions more are in need.

Connecting Sisters after more than Twenty Years

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross — Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross message from a sister she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross — Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross message from a sister she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

Story by Marissa Davis, North Florida Region, Volunteer

Photography by Amber Bierfreund, North Florida Region, Communications Manager

Fleeing what had become a horrific conflict in Somalia, Khadra Farah escaped with nothing but the clothes on her back. She left behind her home and all of her possessions to find safety in Yemen in 1988. From there, she went to the United States, her brother to Europe, not knowing what had become of their younger sister. The family thought that she remained in Somalia for another year, but heard rumors that the boat she was on in 1990 sank. For more than twenty years they feared their sister was dead.

Earlier this year, Farah was so saddened about her sister and the recent passing of their mother that she chose to confide in a friend who then gave her the number to the local American Red Cross office, suggesting she ask them for help finding out what really happened to her sister all those years ago.

Liz Smith, the Service to the Armed Forces and International Program Manager for the North Florida Region of the American Red Cross, received her call and documented the following from their first meeting. “I visited Mrs. Farah when her husband was at work and her kids were at school. She shook my hand as I took off my shoes, and she led me into her kitchen. Mrs. Farah had brewed hot green tea and served homemade flat bread with dates on the table. As we sat at her table and had tea, she showed me a picture of the sister she was seeking, and her younger sister and brother. They were all very young and quite handsome. I conducted an interview and obtained more details about the circumstances of their last communication with the missing sister.”

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross. Khadra Farah pauses for a photograph with her caseworker, Liz Smith, after reading a Red Cross message sent from her sister in Yemen.

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross. Khadra Farah pauses for a photograph with her caseworker, Liz Smith, after reading a Red Cross message sent from her sister in Yemen.

After the interview, Farah’s information was submitted to the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. Smith was pleased to hear that it was accepted and forwarded to the Red Cross partner in Yemen. The Northeast Florida Chapter was then notified that they had located Farah’s sister and that there was a Red Cross message from her, which Smith chose to deliver in person.

Upon arrival, Farah was filled with great joy because she had already spoken with her sister by phone through the Red Cross partner in Yemen. She “almost died” when she heard her sister’s voice, and was overcome with happiness and relief knowing that after more than twenty years, her sister was alive and well. But tugging at her heartstrings was a longing to reunite in person with her sister once again.

Within the Red Cross message, Farah’s sister explained that she has lived in a refugee camp all these years, never knowing the whereabouts or well-being of any of her family. Farah has asked the Red Cross to send another message verifying that her family can accept and provide for her sister in the United States, with hopes that the family will one day be able to reunite. That Red Cross message is now being processed.

“It was amazing to be a part of something like this and it happened so fast,” says Smith. “This is what Red Cross is all about, helping people. I am thankful to the thoughtful neighbor who suggested our organization and provided direction to her friend in need.”

The Restoring Family Links program at the Red Cross helps reconnect families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. To learn more about the program and how it can help you reconnect with loved ones, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

For more stories from the Red Cross North Florida Region, please click here.