The 71st Session of United Nations General Assembly kicked off on 13th of September, where Summit for Refugees and Migrants will be held next Monday, with another summit about the refugees held on Tuesday. Representatives of different nations and NGOs are following the discussions closely although they are not anticipating something overly positive. Meanwhile they still hope that the members of UN would be reminded of their leading roles in solving the global refugee crisis and in acknowledging the human rights of the refugees.
IFRC health workers start the day praying with Ebola patients in the outside area in front of their tents (October 2014)
As we step into the 9th month of the most serious Ebola outbreak in history that first started at Guinea in March 2014, the epidemic has subsequently spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal with one imported case from Liberia and associated locally acquired cases in healthcare workers in USA. The total number of reported cases has reached over ten thousand people and resulted in nearly 5,000 deaths, most of them coming from severely affected Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The grave situation is believed to worsen in the coming months – it is estimated that there will be as many as 1.4 million cases by the end of January 2015 (if corrections for underreporting are made) unless robust interventions take place.
[ePrayer – Pray for those people vulnerable to human trafficking]
In the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. government has downgraded Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela to Tier 3, the lowest ranking of fighting against modern-day slavery. Ironically these 3 countries are among those that promote themselves as modern and fast-developing countries.
The report cites evidence of forced labour and sex trafficking in Malaysia and Thailand. It highlights Malaysia’s problem with migrants from other Asian nations who seek work on farms, factories and construction sites only to be trapped and have their passports taken and wages withheld.
In Thailand, according to the report, there are tens of thousands of migrants from neighboring countries being exploited in the commercial sex industry, on fishing boats, and as domestic servants. This downgrading could cause some multinational companies to reconsider investments in industries accused of using trafficked labour such as fisheries, which is a lucrative business in Thailand (Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of shrimp).
And in Venezuela, women and girls are often lured from poor interior regions to tourist centers with the promise of false job offers. When they arrive, they are often forced into prostitution.
Meditation on Scriptures:
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ Proverbs 31:8-9
When we think that human trafficking is far from us, are we aware that the prawns we eat may be caught by the modern slaves working on the fishing boat, the clothes we wear may be sewed by the forced labourers in the factories, and the domestic workers in our society may be treated as slaves and with their wages withheld. They are voiceless and destitute. Will you speak up for them?
Pray for those people vulnerable to human trafficking:
- Pray that the government of Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela will respond actively to their human trafficking issues;
- Pray that God will rescue and heal those people who suffer from modern slavery;
- Pray for good cooperation between nations and international NGOs, and for a comprehensive and feasible strategy to stop human trafficking.
[ePrayer – Pray for the World]
Efforts to improve the distribution of international food aid amounted to roughly US$2 billion each year by the US Government achieved some successes in the recently enacted Agriculture Act of 2014 – commonly referred to as the Farm Bill – but the food aid mechanism used by the world’s largest donor continues to be driven by the needs of US commercial interests.
The positives are: a pilot project taken in the 2008 Farm Bill aiming to test the feasibility of local and regional procurement of food aid during emergencies has been transformed into a regularised programme that results in $80 million of local and regional procurement (LRP) each year. The new Farm Bill also increases the percentage of funding that can be spent on non-emergency components in the largest food aid programme, Food for Peace, from 13 to 20 percent, so more funds can be spent with cash-based resources or commodities rather than through the much-criticized vehicle of monetised food aid.
These are important developments. But the Farm Bill still fell well short of providing USAID with flexibility to use cash, vouchers or LRP where those would be the most appropriate food assistance tools. The main US food aid programme still remains legislatively restrictive in demanding that commodities be bought in the US and shipped from the US (at least half of the cargo must be on US flag vessels). This causes needless waste and delay without generating much benefit to the US economy.
The modest reforms of the Farm Bill are hopeful intimations of things to come. NGOs trust that this is actually the beginning of a reform conversation.
Meditation on Scriptures:
‘When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.’ Deuteronomy 24: 19-22
Deuteronomy 24 teaches us to leave what remains for the poor. May we follow the teaching of Deuteronomy, to donate, share and care individually or as group for the need of the poor alone.
Pray for the world:
- May the donor nations and NGOs put the need of the poor and disaster victims as the top priority in allocating the aid resources;
- Pray that all governments and international aid agencies will continue to collaborate closely together to improve the existing relief and aid operation so more effective and appropriate assistance can be provided to the impoverished and suffered communities.
[ePrayer – Pray for Ukraine]
The deteriorated health of Ukrainians probably get worsened because of the political crisis in the country.
Ukraine, once a Soviet socialist republic, became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine is in a very important strategic position to both Asia and Europe and thus has always been a significant and political base. Russian and American influences are particularly strong in the country. East Ukraine is mostly populated by Russian-speakers who believe in Orthodox Christianity and being in favour of Russia. West Ukraine is mostly populated by pro-European Ukrainian-speakers believing in Roman Catholicism. People staged fierce protests in last November at the President’s refusal to sign an EU association agreement. Deadly street conflicts resulted in multiple deaths in mid February this year.
Ukraine’s prime minister stepped down from power then and a pro-European new government started to rule the country in February. Pro-Russian forces began to gradually take control of the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian military base in South Ukraine. Over 95% of the voters in the Crimean referendum on 16 March support the move to join the Russian Federation and Russia immediately took an action and signed the reunification treaty with Crimea. European Union and United States strongly opposed this and imposed sanctions on Russia afterwards.
Russia, the dominant supplier of natural gas to Ukraine, threatened to withdraw discounts on natural gas from Ukraine in April. This will further weaken Ukraine’s economy and push the country over the brink into bankruptcy. United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund are now considering subsidies for Ukraine. Ukraine’s future is however still uncertain at least until the Presidential elections which will be held on 25 May 2014.
The health of Ukrainians has been profoundly affected by economy and politics. In the 1930s, Stalin’s collectivism of agriculture led to food shortages, and life expectancy in Ukraine fell briefly to record lows of 7 years in men and 11 years in women. World War II and the Stalinist repression in the late 1940s caused further setbacks. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Communist countries that developed reasonably functioning democracies see earlier and stronger life expectancy growth than those countries remaining under partly autocratic or partial democratic rule, such as Ukraine where life expectancy see no improvement only until 2005. In a recent analysis that compared the performance of 43 European countries in health policy areas, Ukraine is the worst of all.
Within Ukraine there is a clear east-west gradient, with western regions having lower mortality than eastern regions, suggesting that the Ukrainian health situation is largely determined by cultural backgrounds and positions. More specifically risk factors including smoking, alcohol, and lack of access to good quality health care account for the difference, other than the desperate economic situation. In late 1990s, people lived under absolute poverty in Ukraine rose to more than 30%.
The remedy of Ukrainian health recovery, therefore, is political change: a peaceful transition to full democracy, and the establishment of effective institutions that promote the public good. The outcome of the current struggle will determine whether this will happen or not. The new government in Kyiv needs to tackle money shortage and will likely require funding and support from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, etc. Yet these potential donors might be tempted to prescribe stringent austerity measures which will likely bring bad consequences for the Ukrainians. [TheLancet]
Meditate on Scriptures:
‘Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour…’ Exodus 1:8-11
The change in a country’s government significantly influences the fate of its people. May God be in ultimate control in these leaders’ tactics, strategies and policies.
Pray for Ukraine:
- Pray for the presidential elections in Ukraine which will be held on 25 May 2014. May it be an open and fair election, and a president who truly cares about people’s needs will be elected;
- Pray for wisdom and mercy be given to the new government, that it knows and will be committed to introduce favorable policies for the well-being of its people and deliver the country out from its crisis;
- Pray for improvement in the country’s health policies and systems, that the health and living of Ukrainians will be improved and protected.
[ePrayer – Pray for the Typhoon victims and the relief work]
CEDAR Fund’s local partners are responding to the desperate need of 9.5 million people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, working with local churches to deliver food packs to 7,000 affected families in Leyte and Samar provinces. Poor communications and access difficulties are still hampering relief efforts. Integral Alliance, in which CEDAR is a member agency, is currently meeting local partners to carry out a crisis mapping to further support relief operations in badly hit areas. Integral Alliance members from UK, Switzerland, USA and CEDAR partners from India and Indonesia who are well experienced in disaster management are arriving the Philippines to support relief effort there. [CEDAR’s Philippines Typhoon Relief]
Pray for the Typhoon victims and the relief work:
- Pray for God’s healing and protection to the victims; and for His comfort to those who have lost their beloved ones and homes;
- Pray for debris clearing of roads so that the main supply route can be passable for transporting necessary relief goods and reach affected populations;
- Pray for smooth emergency operations and for the safety of all types of frontline aid workers;
- Pray for good planning and coordination from the Philippine government on disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Emergency and Relief Donation:
- Please make cheque payable to ‘CEDAR FUND’
- Deposit to HSBC A/C No. 600-385678-001, enclosing with the Pay-in slip
- Visa/ Master Card (Download donation form)
- Online donation
(Please mark “Philippines Typhoon Relief”)
 CEDAR is an approved charitable institution and trust of a public character under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Please click Inland Revenue Department website to check for details.
 Donations over $100 are tax deductible in Hong Kong with our receipts.
 Please DO NOT fax any donation information.
Add>G.P.O. Box 3212Hong Kong
* Integral is a global alliance of 19 Christian relief and development agencies, working together to present a more effective response to poverty worldwide. CEDAR is one of the member agencies.