A conversation with MSF worker Muhammed Hannan in Bangladesh

Posted on: February 14, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

  Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is active in Cox’s Bazar and in the US Covid-19 continues to impact all our lives, unevenly so, with those historically on the margins being hit the worse. Many who live in poverty are often forced to make a choice between working wherever they are able and thus risking infection or isolating, staying safe from the virus only to face starvation. MSF, active in nations around the world, has been responding to the coronavirus health needs of millions, including those affected in the United States. Talking with Hannan in Bangladesh Muhammed Hannan and I have talked many times over the last year or so, mostly about the MSF response to COVID-19 in Bangladesh where he works as a Personnel Administration Manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).1 Based in the capital city of Dhaka, Hannan lives with his family. Thankfully, he and his family have remained free of the…

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More Rohingya being moved to Bhashan Char is a win for national sovereignty

Posted on: December 30, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Hydra "privileging forces"

“Homo homini lupus [man is wolf to man]. Who in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?“ –Sigmund Freud Civilization and Its Discontents (1930) More Rohingya being moved to Bhashan Char is a win for national sovereignty More Rohingya being relocated Less than a month ago I wrote about the move of over 1600 Rohingya refugees being ‘voluntarily’ relocated from Cox’s Bazar to the small island of Bhashan Char. As I write this a second wave of 1,804 Rohingya have been transported to the island by the Bangladeshi navy. I put ‘voluntarily’ in quotations because there is reason to question how these families were chosen for the move.  The UNHCR has not been given access to key details about the move but has urged the Bangladeshi government to not relocate any refugees against their will. Despite statements and pleas…

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Violating the humanitarian space in Ethiopia

Posted on: December 15, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

“Humanitarian organizations are not free from politics.” -Samual Lemma, humanitarian Violating the humanitarian space in Ethiopia #notatarget   National humanitarians killed The recent violence in Ethiopia has led to the death of four humanitarians, three working with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and one for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). UN staff have been targeted as they attempted to reach those in need of humanitarian assistance in the hotly contested Tigray region. Cell phone and wifi access has been limited since November 4th when these services were cut off by the central government. Ethiopian leadership, based in the capital Addis Ababa, is pushing the narrative that this is an internal matter. The leaders are providing limited cooperation with both UN and INGO organizations. This conflict has generated many IDPs and refugees, and among those impacted are Eritrean refugees in Tigray Regional State.  The UN and the Agency for Refugee and Returnee…

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Questions about the relocation of Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char Island

Posted on: December 6, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

  See 29 December 2020 update on this post here.   “We aren’t born to float and drown/Nor to be refugees …” -Ro Anamul Hasan, from his poem The Dead Island Humanitarian questions about the relocation of Rohingya to Bhashan Char Island   In their own words This report by Amnesty International, LET US SPEAK FOR OUR RIGHTS: HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION OF ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH provides an excellent and up to date overview of the plight facing the Rohingya. In eight sections using first person accounts from Rohingya, both women and men tell detailed and compelling stories. The section titled “This is worse than prison” gives the accounts of Rohingya who were brought to Bhashan Char in May, 2020 having been turned away by Malaysian authorities after a traumatic months long sea journey. The title of this section (“This is worse than prison”) summarizes the feelings of those already on…

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International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Posted on: November 25, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

“Listening is very important and then understanding the messages that come out of that.”  Heba, a humanitarian workers from Jordan International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women The United Nations has designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In this age of COVID-19, the UN calls gender based violence (GBV) the “Shadow Pandemic”. Though gender based violence is as old as humanity, change can happen through actions -big and small- at both the personal and organizational level. I have talked with humanitarians in various places around the world and each has observed this distressing pattern. As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, so does GBV. Zooming in to Kurdistan I was honored to contribute today to a Zoom conference jointly organized by the Kurdish Regional Government, the Ministry of Culture, and the Youth Department of Gender Equity. Along with one of my students, Megan…

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World Relief’s Jennifer Foy talks about the transition from Trump to Biden

Posted on: November 19, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Local aid and development workers in the US

World Relief’s Jennifer Foy talks about the transition from Trump to Biden   From Trump to Biden The US Presidential race has now been called, and this means many policy changes given that ideological contrasts between Trump and Biden are deep and profound. This change in US administrations will touch most aspects of the humanitarian sector, from WHO membership, the Paris Agreements, and US support for humanitarian aid. One of my first thoughts when I began reading about the Biden administration goals regarding policies related to immigration and refugee flow into the United States was how these changes would impact the nine resettlement partner INGOs that work with the US State Department and UNHCR. Since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980 the United States has admitted more than 3 million refugees. The nine resettlement organizations are responsible for the hard work of processing, placement, and settlement of all refugees…

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Bringing two worlds together

Posted on: October 27, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

Update 11-26-20 Pan Thar’s “Life tale of a Rohingyan Soul” was recently featured on Litlight.   “I communicate and work with many Rohingya poets and poetesses who are writing poetry for various platforms. Our writing makes us not only feel glad but also to be proud of our activism for our community. Our pens are our guns. Our words are our bullets. Our ink is our activism.” -Pan Thar, Rohingya poet Bringing two worlds together Par Thar, Rohingya poet In the past 18 months I have been in contact with many young Rohingya men and women now living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.  Most are victims of genocidal persecution from the Myanmar government and military, fleeing along with over 700,000 other Rohingya to Bangladesh in August of 2017. I have written many posts about what I have called ‘refugee humanitarians‘ and have kept up with…

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More on the origin of the Hydra concept

Posted on: September 25, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

  On the origin of the Hydra concept I have been teaching sections of Introduction of Sociology every semester for the last four decades. Over the years every course text I’ve used has had useful chapters on ‘Race and Ethnic relations’, Social stratification’, and ‘Sex and gender.’  Through trial and error, I have adapted various definitions of the many ‘isms’, but about a 20 years ago I began using this definition of racism: Racism is an ideology of domination and subordination based on the assumption of the inherent biological and/or cultural inferiority of other groups and the use of this assumption to legitimize or rationalize the inferior or unequal treatment of this group. About ten years ago I started testing my students ability to ‘connect the dots’ by giving them the definition of racism and then immediately asking for a good definition of sexism, and then classism. Most picked up…

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An example of humanitarian support from a small NGO

Posted on: July 27, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

  An example of humanitarian support from a small NGO Prologue This essay is a continuation of my ruminations about the humanitarian imperative, the edges of the humanitarian ecosystem, bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice, and basic human nature. It is mostly about a small act motivated by humanitarian concern and involving what I consider to be an array of everyday heroes. Michael Kojo Orleans Michael Orleans is a young tour company operator in Cape Coast Ghana. I met Michael 21 years ago in 1999 on a university organized faculty tour of Ghana.  We had an immediate connection, and continued regular communication over the years; we have developed a close mentor-mentee relationship.  Each of us has always felt strongly about our civic duties, and we have worked together on almost a dozen community outreach events in the last 15 years, all in response to Michael’s knowledge of and…

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The humanitarian imperative as seen in the flow of remittances

Posted on: July 15, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Local aid and development workers in the US

  Remittances as part of the humanitarian ecosystem Critically important for every 1 in 7 people on Earth A very high percentage of refugees and immigrants now living in the minority world (aka ‘Global North’) regularly send money back ‘home’ to family and friends they left behind. These funds, typically in small amounts and sent every month, are mostly used for health care, living expenses, school fees, and other necessities.  The term for this transfer of funds is ‘remittances’. I make a point of defining this term because in conversations with both my students and with even generally well informed friends and colleagues I have found that they know little to nothing about the fact that remittances exist and, more importantly, how critical they are to the alleviation of poverty in the developing world. Here are a few relevant data points about remittances. According to the World Bank in 2019…

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