This Week in Restoring Family Links: 05/30/2016 - 06/03/2016

A Sea-Watch crew member holding a drowned baby after a wooden boat transporting migrants capsized off the Libyan coast on May 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Christian Buttner / AFP

A Sea-Watch crew member holding a drowned baby after a wooden boat transporting migrants capsized off the Libyan coast on May 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Christian Buttner / AFP

The deadliest week so far in Mediterranean Ocean: On Sunday, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said that at least 700 people may have died as they tried to cross from Libya towards Italy, an alternative sea route after the closing of Greek routes, resulting from three confirmed instances of boat sinking. Meanwhile, Medicins San Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) estimated that about 900 people have died. Since Monday, at least 14,000 people have been rescued from the overcrowded ships so that they can flee from the wars, oppression, and poverty that they faced at homes.

As summer approaches, the season of human trafficking business also picks up. The fleeing migrants paid thousands of dollars to cross the waters between Libya and Italy, in which they are placed in unsafe vessels, such as old flimsy rubber boats or old fishing vessels. Many have reported that they are subjected to inhumane treatments, such as brutal beatings and sexual abuses. This week’s event pushed the total death toll for 2016 to more than 2,500 people – mostly women and children.

This tragedy underscores the migrant crisis that Europe is currently facing. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies urges governments to ensure and improve the protection of migrants by “expanding legal channels and search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and by creating faster and fairer asylum processing systems at arrival.”

The American Red Cross continues to offer its support to aid those in needs and resources for contacting loved ones through its Restoring Family Links program. For more information and updates, please click here.

A fisherman sits to smoke on his boat at a Bak Angrout dried-up pond at the drought-hit Kandal province in Cambodia. Southeast Asian countries have experienced rising temperature, which caused heat waves and dry spell as El Niño weakens in the region. Photo credit: Samrang Pring, Reuters. .

A fisherman sits to smoke on his boat at a Bak Angrout dried-up pond at the drought-hit Kandal province in Cambodia. Southeast Asian countries have experienced rising temperature, which caused heat waves and dry spell as El Niño weakens in the region. Photo credit: Samrang Pring, Reuters. .

El Nino phenomena in Southeast Asia: The El Nino effect is currently creating havoc in the Southeast Asia region where countries suffer from dry spells and severe droughts. This then causes extended water shortages and prolonged lean seasons in these countries. For instance, according to the Philippines Red Cross, 12,000 farming families in the North Cotabato Province, have lost about 70 to 100 percent of their rice, banana, coconut, and corn crops, resulted in shortage of food and increasing community conflicts. Meanwhile, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos have recorded temperatures up to 112.4°F.

The El Nino effect also causes the Mekong River to dry up, hitting its lowest level since 1926. The low water level causes “water from the South China Sea intrudes inland causing a salinization of the soil,” resulting in major crop losses in the region. The economic losses that Southeast Asia suffers is now $10 billion.

The regional drought caused by the El Nino is considered the most severe one in more than 20 years. It also exposes a lot of vulnerabilities that the Southeast Asian countries have as they have limited disaster preparedness and response capacity. Governmental agencies, and humanitarians and development partners have worked together to mitigate future risks that El Nino phenomenon presents.

Currently, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is intensively assisting vulnerable individuals in Timor Leste who are being affected by the El Nino-triggered droughts. To learn more about their response and how you can support their work, please click here.