This is a guest blog written by Stephanie Heyden from Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)
Aggressive military action by the Burmese army has caused over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in the last month, but the Rohingya are not unique in their troubles. The UN reported earlier this year that 65.5 million people were uprooted from their homes because of conflict or persecution by the end of 2016. However, unfortunately many of these struggles go unnoticed.
Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) is actively working in 8 countries with 14 local partners, supporting those who suffer from oppression, exploitation and persecution, unreached by major aid organisations and unheard by the international community. We concentrate on areas affected by conflict, combining a distinctive approach of providing both much-needed aid and awareness-raising advocacy.
Working in partnership with local people
At HART we believe it is most effective working together with local people, which creates a sustainable positive change and helps us identify human rights abuses when sovereign governments restrict major aid agencies to enter the country.
In Sudan, the Government is restricting access for humanitarian aid agencies – an attempt to cut off many people from the help they desperately need. In the Nuba Mountains, regular aerial bombardments from the Government have caused thousands to flee. Many have been forced to live in caves with deadly snakes for shelter.
In the Blue Nile State, our partner Benjamin Barnaba from the New Sudan Council of Churches told us, ‘No other organisations are bringing food and medicine, so HART has been the only source of help.’ The Government isn’t able to restrict HART’s access as we aren’t present on the ground in Sudan. Our local partners are, and we can support them with humanitarian aid.
Providing aid and advocacy
We make sure our partners are driving their projects forward, with our support. They tell us what aid they need and what their priorities are, giving them the dignity of choice. This can range from healthcare equipment, emergency food relief, education supplies or capacity-building tools.
In Burma, our partners SWAN (Shan Women’s Action Network) and Health and Hope (Chin State) both concentrate on healthcare, training health workers to enable remote villages to have basic healthcare. HART funding enables SWAN to have an all-year-round supply of medicines and to assist refugees from Shan state in Thailand who have escaped over the border, but have no legal status and healthcare status. These people suffer the same marginalisation as the Rohingya.
Health and Hope in Chin State trains Community Health Workers to enable remote villages to have access to basic healthcare. It is estimated that these workers – currently over 1000 already trained – are able to prevent 8 out of 10 deaths by treating patients quickly. To support this project, HART sends funds for medical supplies and training equipment.
While we don’t have a partner working directly with the Rohingya, we still speak out for them as a persecuted group in Burma. We have been blogging and participating in campaigns to influence the UK Government to take action and condemn the violence.
We listen to our partners and amplify their voices. For example, the little-known historically Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is located within Azerbaijan. They have been locked in a ‘frozen’ conflict with Azerbaijan since the early 1990’s following a full-scale war, killing 30,000 people.
When we visited in August we heard how Azerbaijan is continuing to promote negative propaganda about Armenians, perpetuating a negative mentality instead of looking for a peaceful solution. We wrote a report about our visit and circulated it to raise awareness for Nagorno-Karabakh. We work for peace and reconciliation as we do in northern Nigeria where Boko Haram is active.
“I cannot do everything but I must not do nothing”
This is HART’s motto, stated by our founder Baroness (Caroline) Cox. We believe that even small action can have a big impact. Therefore we must all try to do something.
If you are interested in what HART does, please visit their website to learn more about all the countries they we work in; Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Uganda.
HART are always looking for volunteers who want to help spread the word, write a blog or help fundraise. Please register your interest with their supporters form and they will be in touch.