Highlights - February 2016

The Aegean’s nameless dead
John Psaropoulos/IRIN

In February, IRIN's exclusive coverage from the frontlines of humanitarian crises includes reporting on the forgotten crisis in Yemen, airdrops in Syria, the spread of the Zika virus, and the global migration crisis.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • In February, IRIN launched its new web platform, enabling it to deliver more dynamic and visual content on a clearer and faster platform.
  • IRIN announced its newly constituted legal entity in Geneva, IRIN Association, its new board of directors, and the launch of its new website with a press release and letter to readers shared in the Geneva International Newsletter.
  • IRIN's review of the UN secretary-general’s vision for humanitarian reform and its synthesis and analysis of proposals for reform were widely praised and shared in the lead-up to the World Humanitarian Summit.

FIVE MOST POPULAR

1) Why does no one care about Yemen? In its most popular article in February, IRIN goes searching for some answers. Marginalised? Complex? Crisis fatigue? The reasons are varied but the conclusion is clear: Ultimately, “people will be asking this question: Why didn't we pay more attention to Yemen? Why didn't we take it more seriously when we had a chance to do something?" This piece is made all the more poignant by its hook: the loss, on 17 January, of Almigdad Mohammed Ali Mojalli, IRIN's regular contributor in Yemen.

 

 

2) Humanitarian reform: What's on - and off - the table: Consultations ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to be held in Instanbul in May have seen some 23,000 people come together to discuss how to improve crisis response. Hundreds of ideas are floating around. Which are now rising to the top? And which are being pushed to the side? In this report, IRIN's Managing Editor Heba Aly and Aid Policy Editor Imogen Wall provide their take on the emerging trends. Following this report, the International Development Committee of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom asked IRIN to testify before a parliamentary inquiry into the global humanitarian system.

3) The new Jihadist strategy in the Sahel: A country's political fragility makes it vulnerable to terrorism, explains Obi Anyadike, IRIN's Africa Editor. On 15 January, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched an assault in Burkina Faso that left 30 people dead. As other countries in the region become aware of their vulnerability, this briefing explores the changing tactics of militant groups in the Sahel, who is really under threat, and the regional response. This report will be published in the next issue of the "World Defence Almanac", an annual publication specialising in armed forces and strategies of defence.

4) The Aegean's nameless dead: “The girl was lying across the beach, her face down in the pebbles.” IRIN's most popular photo feature in February comes from Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean sea where volunteers have become accustomed to the sight of bodies reaching the shore in various stages of decomposition. This unsettling feature highlights the unidentified or unrecovered bodies in the global migration crisis, and the impact of the drowned on local fishermen who have lost customers due to rumours that the fish are eating the bodies.

John Psaropoulos/IRIN
The beach at Iero is littered with refugees' possessions

5) Sent back by Australia to debt in Sri Lanka: IRIN continues to highlight the legacies of civil war in Sri Lanka as asylum seekers in Australia are sent back, saddled with debt and facing criminal charges. As the conditions on Australia's notorious island asylum centres garner more attention, its strategy is made clear on billboards across Sri Lanka: “You will not even get a chance to step on to Australia… Think twice before you waste your money. Don’t get fooled by people smugglers.”

THE GLOBAL MIGRATION CRISIS

IRIN's focus on the global migration crisis this month uncovers the impossible living situations for asylum seekers and migrants stuck at country borders or haphazardly settled in host countries. As the number of migrants arriving in Europe continues to increase, IRIN also explores the difficulties in finding ways to solve the crisis and whether the solutions proposed are viable.

  • In Slipping through the cracks of a broken system, IRIN highlights the tens of thousands of unaccompanied child refugees that have arrived in Greece: their reasons for leaving, their journeys, and what they plan to do next. "It was easy because I've faced death so many times in Syria," said 16-year-old Mahmoud, talking about his journey. The biggest challenge now facing Greek social workers is to convince these minors to stay and pursue legal options that could take months, rather than journeys with smugglers that could take days but make them vulnerable to human trafficking, violence, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.

Shir Muhammad quote card
  • Fighting across southeastern Turkey has displaced more than 200,000 people since early December, according to Kurdish human rights organisations. In Turkey's hidden humanitarian crisis, IRIN sheds light on a conflict lacking international awareness that is seeing an increasing number of civilians killed, and is exacerbated by the government's crackdown on militants with no provisions made for the displaced. “We are all desperate,” 75-year-old Neaz Tanlikulu tells IRIN. “We don’t know where we can go.”

Jodi Hilton/IRIN
Neaz Tanlikulu with his granddaughter Elif
  • IRIN highlights The Turkmen loophole in the western Syrian province of Latakia where a small group of refugees have managed to escape despite the closure of most of Turkey's borders. But this can be explained by one major factor: most of them are not Arab; they are Syrian Turkmen. "As it wages a war against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the southeast, Turkey could hardly be seen to ignore the plight of its ethnic brethren," writes our reporter. 

     
  • As Sweden, Finland and Germany announce plans to deport several tens of thousands of migrants who have been unsuccessful in their bids to claim asylum, IRIN Migration Editor Kristy Siegfried explains Why deportations are hard to do. From the rules involved in deportations to the length of the process, this report questions whether deportations are a feasible solution.

     
  • "Another week, another project scrawled on the back of a napkin to try to solve the refugee crisis." As NATO deploys warships to the Aegean, IRIN columnist Ruben Andersson questions the perception that increased border security is an answer to the rising numbers of refugees and migrants reaching Europe by boat. He explains Why warships can't solve the refugee crisis, and offers some alternatives to this failed policy. Number one: Learn from other failed 'wars'. That sounds like a good place to start.

PHOTO, VIDEO AND DATAVIZ

IRIN continues to produce multimedia features, data visualisations and videos for social media to put complex issues into more accessible and compelling formats. 

PHOTO FEATURES

Two of this month's most striking photo features were The Aegean's nameless dead, reflected in the banner photo of this report, and Turkey's hidden humanitarian crisis, which highlighted the impossible living conditions and destruction brought about by war, from the perspective of those who are living through it.

Arik's Sur home, now reduced to rubble
Jodi Hilton/IRIN
Arik's Sur home, now reduced to rubble

DATAVIZ

As concern and speculation grow over what Europe should do with its Syrian refugees, IRIN produces a data visualisation that places the number in perspective. Even with Germany granting asylum to more than 56,000 Syrians in the last three months of 2015, the EU only has a tenth of Turkey's Syrian refugee population. 

As information on the Zika virus continues to emerge, IRIN observes the changing public interest and geographic spread on its popular Zika dataviz page. Other aspects of the outbreak are also explored in lengthier reports such as: Are mosquitoes the cure as well as the curse? and After 60 years of Zika in Asia, why worry?

FILM

In Needed but unwanted - Haitians in the Dominican Republic, filmmaker Susan Farkas highlights the plight of tens of thousands of people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, who are at risk of arbitrary deportation or of becoming stateless despite being born in DR or having lived there for decades. Haitians have been needed as workers but discriminated against and unwanted as citizens for generations. 

Heart to Heart International will be using the film to promote its ongoing work with UNICEF and the Haitian governement in the Kore Famni project, providing supplies and medical treatment to those displaced and living in camps in Haiti.

Needed but Unwanted: Haitians in the Dominican Republic

Hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic are at risk of arbitrary deportation or of becoming stateless.

NEW WEBSITE

In February, IRIN launched its new website, the result of months of preparation, including the migration of hundreds of thousands of pieces of content accumulated over IRIN's 20-year history.

IRIN received overwhelmingly positive feedback following its launch: 

Bliss, the web design firm in Manchester who supported the project, said it was the most meaningful project it had ever worked on: "The whole team was galvanised by the opportunity to work with such a worthwhile organisation. It changed, or at least focussed, our entire company outlook."

IRIN's new website allows IRIN to produce more dynamic and visual content as required by the ever-changing face of online news, in a clearer and faster platform that provides a more stable, secure home for IRIN's intellectual property. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

This month, our stories were shared on social media by - among others - Dr Joanne Liu, International President of Doctors Without Borders; Helen Clark, Admnistrator for the United Nations Development Programme; Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council; Mark Yarnell, Senior Advocate at Refugees International; and Adam Baron, Visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Despite a recent drop in social media impressions (linked to lower production, particularly of special projects, as a result of budget cuts), year-on-year growth in social media impressions continues, as does the number of followers, with more than 35 million people potentially reached through Twitter and Facebook in February. This month also saw 273,000 visitors to the website.

TWITTER GROWTH

  • Followers on Twitter have grown to 56,200, an increase of 32 percent from February 2015. 
  • In February, IRIN saw close to 1.2 million impressions, 14,200 engagements and 1,067 new followers - an average of 37 per day.

FACEBOOK GROWTH

  • At more than 28,900, followers on Facebook are up 27 percent from the same month last year.
  • IRIN’s Facebook reach has grown by 71 percent from an average of 2,397 people per post in February 2015 to 4,099 in February 2016.
  • Page impressions have increased from 312,390 to more than 503,392.

OUTREACH, PARTNERSHIPS & VISIBILITY

  • Upon request, IRIN submitted a proposal for funding to Stichting Vluchteling, a Dutch Foundation that works closely with the International Rescue Committee in aiding refugees.
  • Managing Editor Heba Aly spoke at the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva on how IRIN helps put affected communities at the front and centre of humanitarian response.
  • Former US Vice President Al Gore will use IRIN photos for presentations on climate change and other environmental issues. 
  • IRIN was quoted or syndicated by the BBC, Guardian Development Network, Yemen Observer, Mail & Guardian Africa, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Welt-Sichten (a German magazine for development and ecumenical cooperation), Nuba reports (reporting from Sudan's frontline) and GDELT Project (an open database monitoring media across the world).
  • IRIN has joined a newly-created network of "Humanitarian 2 Humanitarian" (H2H) organisations, akin to the concept of B2B in the private sector: organisations that support other humanitarian agencies to do their work, rather than supporting affected communities directly. Members of the new network aim to share skills and resources and collectively advocate and appeal for funding. 

IMPACT

IRIN continues to be a resource in classrooms and workshops around the world. In February, the University of Leicester added IRIN's article Typhoon Grindr: love, liberation and post-disaster sex in the Philippines to its research archive; a Hodder Education textbook for UK students taking an advanced level qualification in French used one of IRIN's photos; and the World Bank's AIDS/HIV unit is using IRIN photos in government reports. A member of a private group in Quebec sponsoring Syrian refugees also contacted IRIN for more information on the situation for refugees being hosted in Lebanon.

"I believe IRIN to be something horribly missing in our so called 'news sources' which sadly you can not believe or trust. Congrats to you and IRIN on accomplishments and may there be many more years of success and celebrations for you both. The world is waiting." 

IRIN continues to be a trendsetter, its coverage inspiring mainstream media to report on humanitarian issues. Most notably this month, AFP published its own version of IRIN's briefing: All you need to know about sieges in Syria, three weeks later; VOX followed IRIN's lead in looking into genetically-modified mosquitoes as a solution to Zika; the Associated Press focused on the spread of Zika in Asia three days after IRIN; and Radio Tumazuj, a news service covering Sudan and South Sudan, covered the new crisis faced by people in Malakal based off of an IRIN piece published just the day before.

LANGUAGE SERVICE

In February, IRIN's Arabic service published 19 articles and the French service published 13 articles. IRIN's Arabic version of Hard lines: Access issues deepen Ukraine aid crisis was republished by UKR press (covering news in Ukraine of particular interest to Arab and Muslims). Al Aan TV, based in UAE, also republished parts of First UN Syria airdrop lands in trouble.

PRODUCTION BY THEME, REGION & FORMAT

Thank you to our donors: the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Foundation, the European Asylum Support Office and the Jynwel Foundation; and to our partner: the Overseas Development Institute.