#BringBackOurGirls. This slogan has been trending since April, when the Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school in Borno State, Nigeria. Countless celebrities around the world – including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama – have lent their voices to the social media campaign. But three months later, “our girls” have not been brought back. Although reports say approximately 50 have managed to escape, 276 girls are still missing.
Four months ago, the Kenyan government launched a major crackdown against Somali refugees living in urban areas that involved mass arrests, extortion, and even deportations back to Somalia. This week, my colleague, Alice Thomas, and I are traveling to Kenya to assess the deteriorating situation for those refugees.
When my colleague, Garrett Bradford, and I met Pablo and Ana in Mexico City they had been displaced from their home, lost their fifteen-year-old son and son-in-law to an ambush by organized crime, and were still searching for their seventeen-year-old son, Juan, who had been kidnapped two months before. They are two of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have been displaced by organized crime and other armed actors in the last few years.
On December 15th, 2013, violence broke out in the young nation of South Sudan. What began with accusations from President Salva Kiir of an attempted coup d’état by former Vice President Riek Machar has since enflamed underlying ethnic tensions and sparked a much larger conflict in which more than 10,000 people have died.
“There was war in my home. The Mai Mai came to our village and burned everything there. I came here with my wife and eight children two months ago with nothing but the clothes on our backs. I came to this village to try to get some food.” These are the words of Emmanuel, an internally displaced man in northern Katanga Province. “Look,” he said, pointing to a makeshift house of branches and leaves. “We have no shelter, and no food.”
Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that revises the mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The Mission will now focus on four key tasks: protection of civilians; monitoring and investigating human rights; creating the conditions for delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
In November 2012, the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was on high alert. The notorious M23 rebel group had just taken over, pushing out the Congolese armed forces and rolling past the bases of United Nations peacekeepers.
My colleague Garrett Bradford and I are currently in Mexico, where we are meeting with people displaced by organized crime, gangs, and other armed actors throughout the country, including in Tijuana, Mexico City, Veracruz, and Sinaloa. No one knows how many people have been forced to leave their homes in Mexico due to extortion, kidnapping, forced disappearances, or murders, but it is widely reported to be more than 100,000 people.
Since fighting broke out in South Sudan last December between government troops, who support President Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, more than a million people have been forced from their homes. The UN estimates that a staggering $1.8 billion is needed to fund the response to the crisis through 2014, of which only 30% had been secured by mid-May.
Little Mogadishu has been under siege for more than four weeks. Half of the Somali population here is either in Kasarani camp (a makeshift camp set-up at a football stadium 10 kilometers outside of Eastleigh), has been deported back to Mogadishu, or sent to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps. The remaining half, including my brother and I, are forced to stay indoors for our own safety. We can’t go out for food, water, and medicine.