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Middle East / North Africa

  • Written by Joseph O'Connor

Palestine: A Female Founder Providing Therapy to the Arab World


Attendees of a Nablus Tech Meetup event in association with Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC). Photo: Ayah Soufan.

World and Media aims to support journalists to improve media coverage of global development issues. It should not be surprising that we are highly critical of the quantity and nature of media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In common with most war reporting, media convey a distorted image of both Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of violence are highlighted, while normal life is sidelined, as are its voices. Joseph O’Connor travelled to the West Bank where he met a number of inspiring female entrepreneurs, among them the co-founder of a start-up providing therapy to the Arab world.

'Making it' as a female entrepreneur in Palestine is no mean feat. In fact, merely existing as any kind of entrepreneur poses particular challenges due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For instance, there is currently no 3G network available in Palestine. The Government of Israel controls mobile networks there and has still to grant 3G licences to Palestinian operators. Businesses can invest in better connections inside their offices but they’re expensive, certainly for cash-strapped start-ups or SMEs.

There is also the challenge of restrictions on movement. It’s difficult for Palestinians to travel freely to and from the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving visitors can prove complicated too. There’s no airport in Palestine and without Israeli ID, Palestinians have to fly out of Jordan and then undertake an arduous three-hour journey through the Jordanian border to come home, and these are just the lucky ones that can obtain travel visas. Then there’s the various checkpoints scattered across Palestine that make the most basic journey feel like an eternity.

However, the situation in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is very different to that in Hamas-controlled Gaza; the latter is still recovering from its 50-day war with Israel in 2014.

It is to Ramallah in the West Bank, which serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, where I focus my attention. It’s there that I meet a number of female entrepreneurs who seem undeterred by the social, political and cultural barriers that surround them.

  • Written by Senan Hogan

Lebanese school for the deaf is taking in Syrian refugees


Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID) teacher in a classroom with pupils, Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Barry Gunning.

A former Irish soldier is helping raise thousands of euro for a school for deaf children in Lebanon which is taking in terrified refugees from war-torn Syria.

Big-hearted Christy Kinsella (62) set up Lebanon Trust which gives vital assistance to the Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID) in Beirut which caters for more than 70 local kids including 11 who have fled across the border from Syria.

Dubliner Christy and friends set up the charity in 2009 to help poor families he met while serving on UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.

Lebanon Trust volunteers regularly travel to Beirut and recently delivered funds to help hire a speech therapist while tradesmen on the trip carried out repairs to the FAID school grounds.

Christy said: "We provide financial support and practical work and we rely on a network of volunteers.”

School director Krikor Khasholian said: "We are so grateful for all the support we get from Ireland because it wouldn't be possible to run our school without this assistance."

  • Written by World and Media

Donors pledge assistance to Syrian refugees, Concern chief draws parallel with Cambodia

Domiz Camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, is the temporary home to thousands of Kurdish Syrians, most of whom have arrived since September 2012. Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN.The Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D, today announced €1.65 million in funding to support thousands of Syrian families forced to flee their homes.

The funding, which is being provided to Irish NGOs, Concern, Goal and Oxfam, brings Ireland’s total support for communities afflicted by the conflict in Syria to almost €10 million. Announcing the funding today, World Refugee Day (June 20), Minister Costello said:

“Again Ireland is showing leadership in response to the worsening crisis in Syria, which has left almost seven million people in urgent need of assistance. This funding will enable Concern, Oxfam and Goal to provide clean water, sanitation, food and blankets to those who have been left homeless by the conflict both within Syria and in neighbouring countries.

“Countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have shown immense generosity in hosting such large numbers of Syrians seeking refuge, but have come under great strain as a result.”

The United Nations this month launched its largest ever appeal in response to the Syrian conflict, requesting $5.2 billion (€3.9 billion).

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has so far received 28% of the $3 billion (€2.3 billion) which it has appealed for.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

The hospital in a cave - MSF forced to work in secret locations in Syria

Retired surgeon and president of Médecins Sans Frontières UK, Prof Paul McMaster has been carrying out surgery in this cave, somewhere in Syria. Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières.As the conflict continues in Syria, hospitals have become a target making the work of medical charities more urgent than before, according to one agency working there.

Médecins Sans Frontières reported Monday (January 14) that hospitals in a town near the Turkish border are no longer usable, and the same is true of other towns in the country.

The head of mission for Syria told MSF Ireland: “Even after the airstrikes on medical facilities in the Aleppo region, local doctors and nurses remained committed to providing medical care and are doing their best to help the population.”

Speaking at an MSF event in Dublin shortly before Christmas, retired surgeon Prof Paul McMaster said bombing has wiped out two-thirds of Syrian hospitals.

Recently returned from Syria, he carried out surgery while working in a cave. Describing the cave as damp and chalky, he said the sound of nearby bombing could be quite clearly heard as he worked.

“I’ve never been under such consistent bombing. The helicopters fly and hover over the village, the Syrian call them butterflies. They carry drum barrels filled with metal and pieces of reinforced concrete – shrapnel bmbs.

“Then the barrels drop, the boom reverberates between the mountains, the valley and ground. Boom … the whole place shakes,” he said.

Prof McMaster said he removed large pieces of shrapnel from babies and children. While MSF treat fighters from both sides, he said the majority of their patients are civilians.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

High food prices and unrest in Egypt hit tour operators and horses

Horse tour operators waiting for animal feed, Giza, Egypt. A horse graveyard was found near the Giza pyramid in February. Photo: The Brooke.[UPDATED September 30*] Charities continue to offer aid to horse tour operators in Egypt as food prices rise again according to a report issued this week.

Family tour operators, already suffering a loss of income following the unrest which led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in January, do not have the cash resources to deal with increasing food and grain prices according to local charities.

The Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics found prices for grains and bread were up 10.6 per cent on June, vegetables up 10.9 per cent, meat up 3.07 per cent and a 9.4 per cent increase in the cost of sweet foods.

Egypt’s minister for finance Hazem el-Beblawi confirmed earlier this week that tourism earnings for this financial year are down $1.6 billion on 2009/2010.

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