Highlights - March 2016

Mongolian herders in search of pasture
Joanna Chiu/IRIN
Mongolian herders Daashka (left) and his brother, Batzozig, in search of pasture in February 2016

In March, IRIN's exclusive coverage from the frontlines of humanitarian crises includes investigative reporting on the humanitarian aid industry, the mental health of refugees and five years of war in Syria.


  • IRIN’s influence on policy-makers continues as an IRIN story is cited in the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing’s report to the Secretary General.
  • An IRIN article on Afghan refugees in Europe republished by a Swiss daily newspaper leads a reader to pledge a large donation to the Afghan family interviewed in the article.
  • IRIN increases its production of data visualisations, making complicated statistics more digestible for readers and social media friendly.


1. Spies Sans Frontières? IRIN’s most popular article this month, the result of a months-long investigation, reveals the close (bordering inappropriate) relationship between the intelligence-linked firm Palantir and various aid organisations, including a sensitive UN agency.

2. The Grammar of Impotence: That Security Council resolutions are very carefully worded is no surprise, but what does diplomatic language tell us about crisis resolution? Through a statistical analysis, IRIN uncovers the institutional failure and impotence unintentionally reflected by these cautiously selected phrases. For example, on Syria, the Security Council did a lot of "demanding" in 2014, later falling back on the more mild "requesting". 

3. No way out: How Syrians are struggling to find an exit: Close to 4.8 million Syrians have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey over the last five years. But as the war drags on and countries begin closing their borders, Syrians' options for legally escaping the conflict are dwindling.

4. The neglected mental health of refugees in Europe: In this distressing report, IRIN analyses how stigma and lack of attention are leaving the psychological trauma of asylum seekers untreated. “When they come to us destroyed, we tell them, ‘Look, you have brought your family to safety; you can continue onwards in your journey',” says one aid worker. 

5. The Gates of Perception: “Another New Year, another Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates in which the richest man in the world tells everybody else how to stop being so bloody poor.” As always, IRIN columnist Paul Currion doesn't hold back, arguing that while Bill and Melinda Gates address critical problems in society, they fail to tackle the political and economic system that “impoverishes us all”. Perhaps because it's the source of their own power in the first place?


In March, IRIN published four special multimedia reports: 

What’s it like to be a young Palestinian refugee in Lebanon today? This interactive package takes readers into the lives of young Mohammad, Sara and Ali, revealing their daily reality in Lebanon’s refugee camps, and giving readers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their world through WhatsApp chats, videos, photo slideshows, audio recordings and handwritten notes.

Quote from Sara - Palestinians in Lebanon

Once upon a time it was Kin la belle: In this stunning multimedia feature of colourful words, photos and film clips, journalist Gianluca Iazzolino and photographer Eloisa d’Orsi reflect on the changing landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kinshasa, from a capital formerly known for its beauty, “Kin la belle”, to a slum that now resembles a garbage bin, “Kin la poubelle”. From overflowing sewers and hills of waste to sex for sale and tiny local health centres treating thousands of people, Kinshasa’s growing populace deals with extremely grim and ever-deteriorating living conditions.

A child sits by the rising tide of faeces and organic waste near her home
Eloisa D’Orsi/EJC/IRIN

Syria: five years on

In light of the fifth anniversary of the war in Syria on 15 March, IRIN collates its coverage in a Syrian war in-depth page comprised of multiple news articles, features, graphics and films. This infographic highlights five of the most notable impacts of the war:

Syria 5 years infographic

In the second of our “Look back and learn” series, Safe zones in Iraq and Bosnia, IRIN migration editor Kristy Siegfried evaluates whether establishing a “safe zone” inside Syria is a realistic - or even useful - ambition, based on past experiences.


This month, 35 percent of IRIN's reports contained multimedia content, such as slideshows, graphs, films or timelines:

This video is an unfiltered view into the impossible situation faced by Syrian asylum seekers now stranded on Turkey’s borders, unable to move forward or back:

Sustainable Diplomacy Goals: Does taking a super-sized delegation to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals summit suggest profligacy, or punching above your weight? IRIN examines which countries sent the largest teams in comparison to their national per capita income. Nearly 7,000 names are listed, most of whom enjoyed flights and hotel bills at taxpayers' expense. 



This month, our stories were shared on social media by - among others - Dr Joanne Liu, International President of Doctors Without Borders; Somini Sengupta, NYT journalist and author; Kenneth Roth, Bill Frelick and Gerry Simpson of Human Rights Watch; Melissa Fleming, Chief Communications and Spokesperson at UNHCR; FAO in Emergencies; Joshua Landis, expert on the Middle East and Syria; The World Post; Chris Gunness, UNWRA Spokesman; and Refugees International.

More than 27.8 million people were potentially reached through Twitter and Facebook in March. This month also saw 230,000 visitors to the website.


  • Followers on Twitter have grown to 56,800, an increase of 30 percent from March 2015. 
  • In March, IRIN saw close to 914,000 impressions, 13,800 engagements and 761 new followers - more than 24 per day.

IRIN Twitter stats March


  • At more than 29,400, followers on Facebook are up 30 percent from the same month last year.
  • IRIN’s Facebook reach has grown by 69 percent from an average of 2,553 people per post in March 2015 to 3,692 in March 2016.
  • Page impressions have increased from 407,000 to 420,000.

IRIN Facebook likes March 2016


  • IRIN establishes a new funding partnership, complementing existing 2016 funding from the Swiss Development Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
  • IRIN was a media partner at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference (DIHAD), where Managing Editor Heba Aly moderated a high-level panel on bridging the humanitarian-development divide, in discussion with European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides, Deputy-Commissioner General of UNRWA Sandra Mitchell, and UN Assistant Secretary General Rashid Khalikov.

  • The Open University, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the World Defence Almanach, among others, used IRIN material in their publications. IRIN articles were also cited and linked to by The Guardian, De Correspondent, PreventionWeb, Freemouvement.org.uk and the Mail & Guardian Africa.


  • An IRIN story on how technology is transforming emergency preparedness was cited in the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing's report to the Secretary General.
  • Inspired by an IRIN article republished in the Swiss daily Le Courrier, a reader in Switzerland offered to make a donation to the Afghan family interviewed. 


In March, IRIN published 26 articles in Arabic and 16 in French. The award-winning Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat republished IRIN articles Israel ramps up home demolitions and Auditors give thumbs down to EU migration spending.


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

Partner logos IRIN March 2016