News Article | April 19, 2017
In its annual study of more than 4,000 brands across more than 500 categories, the Harris Poll has recognized Mercy Corps as the 2017 EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” and “Most Loved Brand” in the category of International Aid Nonprofits. This recognition comes from both cultivating outstanding brand equity and creating a brand that people love. “We could not have earned this recognition without the support of our donors and countless other champions, as well as the unrelenting dedication and hard work of our team members everywhere,” says Dara Royer, Chief Development and Marketing Officer at Mercy Corps. “We see the possibility of a better world, and so do you – and we thank you for that.” The annual Harris Poll EquiTrend Study is a syndicated brand equity survey that measures and compares a brand’s health over time and against key competitors. Other categories measured include travel, financial, automotive and entertainment. Over the past four years, Mercy Corps has undertaken a robust, data-driven effort to refresh the organization’s brand and bring it to life across all its touch points, from fundraising to digital marketing to advocacy. “We are proud that so many people have joined our cause to empower children, women and men to survive through crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good,” says Royer. Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work around the world. Mercy Corps received the highest numerical Equity Score and the highest numerical score relating to Love among International Aid Nonprofit brands included in the 2017 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study, which is based on opinions of 102,617 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online between December 30, 2016 and February 21, 2017. Your opinion may differ. “Highest Ranked” was determined by a pure ranking of a sample of International Aid Nonprofit brands.
News Article | April 20, 2017
The global organization Mercy Corps has begun providing civilians in the eastern half of Mosul with cash assistance, the first international aid organization to do so. The government of Iraq estimates that military operations in Mosul have led more than 362,000 people to flee their homes. “As we’ve entered previously inaccessible areas in the city, we’re learning more about the very difficult circumstances under which families are living,” says Su’ad Jarbawi, Iraq Country Director for Mercy Corps. “Adults are telling us they try to eat less and skip meals so that their children can eat. Most families we’ve spoken to so far say they can’t afford the basics, even food and medical care.” Mercy Corps surveyed 712 families in east Mosul in March and April, revealing a concerning level of humanitarian need: Mercy Corps is delivering cash distributions of $400.00 to families in need, and currently expects to reach nearly 4,000 families – approximately 20,000 people – impacted by the crisis in Mosul. “Cash is the quickest and most efficient way to help people because they can buy what they and their families need most,” Jarbawi says. “And an important side benefit to cash is that by spending money, people are supporting the local economy.” Mercy Corps has operated continuously in Iraq since 2003, providing assistance to 5 million Iraqis affected by war, violence and displacement in all 18 governorates. Currently the organization is addressing the needs of people affected by conflict, including refugees from Syria, displaced Iraqi civilians and Iraqi host communities. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | November 16, 2016
For the hundreds of thousands of refugees still navigating the often treacherous journey from the Middle East to Europe, the challenges don’t end once they hit safer shores. The complex bureaucracy of governments and aid organizations can make finding basic necessities like shelter, food and medical care maddeningly difficult. A big issue for humanitarian organizations is finding an efficient and effective way to get up-to-date information to refugees and other aid groups. Typically, these organizations maintain their own lists of services that they might share with other groups. But it’s difficult to keep the lists current because of a high turnover of staff , and the fact that the activities and services they offer change frequently. Now, a new web app, created by Canadian nonprofit PeaceGeeks, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), aims to bring all this information together in one place to make it easier for refugees to find what they need . The app, called Services Advisor, is available in both English and Arabic, and can be accessed using a smartphone or computer. It lists categories including shelter, health, education, protection, food and clean water. Users click on a category, and a list appears with detailed information about when and where they can access the type of service they want, including a map with clickable pins. For example, if someone selects “food”, a list comes up of charity organizations, such as International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), that provide items such as vouchers and parcels of food. In this instance, whoever is clicking will see that the service is only available to Jordanians and Syrians and that opening hours are Sunday to Thursday. The app is also aimed at humanitarian and aid organizations to help them guide refugees to the right services. For instance, a health worker may see a child for a medical checkup, but discover the child isn’t in school. The app allows the worker to find the right education service for that child, and make a referral to the organization if needed. “Refugees arriving in a new country have no job, no home and no support system to access even their most basic needs,” said Renee Black, executive director of PeaceGeeks. “Technology can play a critical role in empowering refugees to be active agents in their own future.” Services Advisor is trying to eliminate the need for every organization to maintain their own lists of services offered by them and other groups. With the web app, organizations only need to update information about their own services, which is then shared in one central place online. PeaceGeeks hopes to launch the app this month, first to service providers, and then to refugees in December. Once the app is ready, UNHCR will send a text message to the more than 650,000 refugees under its mandate in Jordan to alert them. The agency will also distribute brochures to advertise the app. PeaceGeeks presently doesn’t charge any ongoing licensing fees and the app will always be free to service providers and refugees. The company has put more than $200,000 into the app to date, according to Black, and is now hoping to raise a further $40,000 to launch in Somalia and Turkey in January. It might seem incongruous that refugees have access to smartphones, when many have fled their home countries with scarcely more than the clothes on their back. But according to humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, 85% of Syrian refugees have a smartphone. It’s not all that surprising that the current flock of refugees are technologically-minded, said Paul Spiegel, a professor of health systems and director of the center for refugee and disaster response at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Syria is a middle-income country, meaning people are well educated and were already using smartphones and various social media apps at home. According to a report from phone manufacturer Ericsson, there were 395m mobile phone subscriptions in the Middle East in 2016, a number the report says will increase by more than 200% between by 2021. “Now they’re using social media to help them deal with a new situation,” Spiegel said. Spiegel has seen firsthand how integral smartphones have become for refugees to communicate with family and friends. “When I was in Greece, the first thing that the Syrians did when they got out of the boat was not to ask for water or food,” he said. “It was to unwrap their smartphones that were intricately wrapped in cellophane or Ziploc bags – and call either home or their relatives and friends who arrived ahead of them.” Services Advisor isn’t the first web tool of its kind. Mercy Corps, together with the International Rescue Committee and Google, launched a website and app called Refugee.info (formerly Refugeeinfo.eu) in 2015, which helps refugees arriving in Greece find services such as lodging, medical facilities and transport. The website, available in four languages including Farsi and Arabic, has about 1,000 unique users a day and reaches about half of all the refugees in Greece. “At the height of the European migrant crisis, people were moving through borders and countries very quickly, the context changed from day to day,” said Sonal Shinde, director of migration response at Mercy Corps. “We found that technology was best to respond to this need for information – it’s flexible, responsive and can be adapted to meet changing needs and contexts.” Mercy Corps recently relaunched the site following focus groups with both female and male refugees in Greece. The site was first geared towards an emergency setting, offering information on food and shelter for people moving from place to place. Since the EU-Turkey refugee deal and the closing of borders, the website was modified to include information more suited to a static population. For instance, refugees in Lesvos, Greece can find information on education and schooling. The new site also links to the app and a Facebook page, “given that many people use the social media site as a portal of information,” said Shinde. One of the biggest challenges with these kinds of apps is managing the data over time, said Black. “It’s really complicated. You need to have really good relationships with the different groups doing this work to make sure that the tools you’re developing are working for their needs.” The key is to have someone managing the data and staying in close contact with the humanitarian organizations on the ground to ensure the information is regularly updated. With Services Advisor, that job falls to UNHCR. “It’s absolutely essential,” Black said. “If you don’t have someone who owns the problem of managing the data, then all of a sudden you have an app with a whole bunch of data, but you have no idea of the quality of it.” If that happens, refugees will quickly realize the information is out of date, and stop using the app, she said. There are also other considerations, particularly to do with access to electricity and technology. Refugees living in camps often don’t have access to electricity to power up their phones. Access to a smartphone also depends on nationality and gender. While the majority of Syrian refugees own smartphones, few Afghan refugees do, according to Mercy Corps. Afghans that do have smartphones are typically men. “Through our focus groups in Greece, the majority of Arabic speaking women told us that they obtained most of their information in communal bathrooms,” Shinde said. UNHCR Jordan has contracted PeaceGeeks to maintain and do ongoing development of the app, and UNHCR Turkey has contracted the company to deploy Services Advisor there.
News Article | September 10, 2016
Outside, horses and donkeys pull creaking wooden carts of vegetables down the street. Inside, dozens of people are hunched over laptops, working out the code for mobile apps that they hope to take public within the year. This is the “Gaza Challenge,” a five-day tryout event for Palestinian entrepreneurs in the Gaza Strip, a Philadelphia-sized enclave in the Middle East that’s been under an Israeli- and Egyptian-imposed blockade for the past nine years. The organization behind the Gaza Challenge is Gaza Sky Geeks, a startup accelerator that mentors new tech startups in the Gaza Strip. Nuwar Abu Awwad, 21, is here to present her idea for a web platform that will provide new entrepreneurs in the Middle East with Arabic-language resources that they can use to solve problems they may encounter with starting a business. Abu Awwad, who is from a neighborhood in Gaza City called Al Twam, where the roads are made of sand, told Motherboard she had the idea for the platform a year-and-a-half ago while working for a different Gazan startup. “I noticed there was a lack of Arabic resources for people who want to start their own company,” she said. “Like, ‘how can I make a business plan? Or a financial study?’ or ‘How can I best manage my team?’” She said the information online is in English, which presents difficulties for Arabic speakers, of which there are 300 million in the Middle East. Users will have to pay a small monthly fee ($9.00 or $10.00 per month) to use the service, said the university student, who is clad in a neon-patterned dress and a green hijab. The service will be called Tashbeak, which means “making connections” in Arabic. Of course, this is still theoretical: Abu Awwad and her three partners are just one of 46 teams here at the Gaza Challenge, and only 10 to 12 of those teams will proceed to the next phase, a five-month “incubation” period where products are actually deployed online to see if people use them and like them and why. Gaza Sky Geeks is a project of the Oregon-based charity Mercy Corps, and is based out of a loft and co-working space in central Gaza City, a chaotic, lively city that is still being rebuilt from the 2014 war with Israel. The accelerator, which is the only one in Gaza, was founded in 2011 with a $900,000 grant from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm. Its bigger mission in Gaza is to grow the Strip’s nascent tech sector, which it sees as an area with great potential. The siege of Gaza means that starting a traditional business is fraught with myriad obstacles, first and foremost the movement of goods and people, on which tight restrictions are placed by both Israel and Egypt. Both countries consider Hamas, the ruling regime in Gaza, to be a terrorist organization, they restrict what comes and goes from the 25-mile Palestinian Territory. The blockade has had disastrous effects on Gaza’s economy: the Strip’s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen by 50 percent since the blockade was put in place in 2007. Unemployment in Gaza is now higher than anywhere in the world. But the beauty of the internet is that it can soar above the fortified walls and naval blockades that hem Gaza in. And since technical talent in Gaza is plentiful, and fiber internet here is strong (even in the absence of 3G), creative or tech-savvy people can invent web services and apps the same way they can anywhere else in the world and then target them at lucrative markets elsewhere in the region. “All the companies we work with are working on products that can maybe be tested in Gaza, but the real market opportunity is in places like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where people have money, and where smartphone penetration is one of the highest in the world,” Gaza Sky Geeks director Ryan Sturgill told Motherboard. Gaza City, where many roads are not paved. Image: Hunter Stuart. The 10-12 teams that are chosen to undergo Gaza Sky Geeks’ five-month incubation phase are then subjected to a further winnowing. “If teams don’t hit their milestones, we’ll filter them out,” said Sturgill, who is 31 years old. By February, Gaza Sky Geeks directors will have selected three to four teams to undergo an “acceleration” phase, which also lasts five months. At this point, the teams’ apps are already online, people are already using them, and the focus is on growth. This is the period when the investments start rolling in. Last year, four of the teams that went through Gaza Sky Geeks’ acceleration period got investments of between $20,000-$65,000 right off the bat. Investment comes from venture capital funds in the Palestinian West Bank as well as other parts of the Middle East and also from Europe and the United Kingdom, Sturgill said. Though some of the investors who are giving their cash to Gazan tech companies are doing it for philanthropic reasons, all of them are profit-oriented, Sturgill said. “It’s very important to teach people [in Gaza] that this is actually disciplined money coming in, that’s also going to help you. It’s not just grant money that’s being thrown out the window. This is money that’s going to be returned one day, and then some. And that discipline leads to real growth. That’s really important for the growth of the [tech] ecosystem here.” Want more Motherboard in your life? Then sign up for our daily newsletter.
News Article | February 21, 2017
Leading global organization Mercy Corps is calling on the international community to act now to avert a looming famine in Somalia. Drought conditions in the country mean that more than three million people will struggle to survive without emergency food assistance, the Famine Early Warning Systems network has warned. “We are witnessing the collapse of food, water and market systems at a scale beyond the country’s current capacity to respond,” says Abdikadir Mohamud, Mercy Corps Country Director for Somalia. “The international community must act quickly to prevent deaths – but must not simply look for quick fixes. Failing to implement long-term responses will trap Somalis in a cycle of drought, death and aid dependence.” Two seasons of failed rains in the Horn of Africa has seen three-quarters of the country’s livestock die, cereal production drop by 75 percent, and prices skyrocket, with a barrel of water tripling in price. This comes only six years after the 2011 famine which killed an estimated 260,000 Somalis. Forecasts suggest that the April rains this year are also likely to be below normal, just as they were in 2011 when the number of drought deaths sharply increased. “Vulnerable families are exhausting their resources and seeing their animals dying in front of them from disease and hunger, says Mohamud. “Disaster funds don’t last. The lesson of 2011 is not only about the importance of moving quickly, but about the necessity of planning for the future.” Mercy Corps has been improving access to food and water, rehabilitating water-ways, supporting local markets, and providing education and civic opportunities in Somalia since 2005. The organization currently supports more than 100,000 Somalis. Mercy Corps research has demonstrated that long-term responses can strengthen the ability of households to cope with drought in the Horn of Africa. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in Somalia and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Despite seemingly intractable problems including extreme poverty and one of the world’s highest populations of refugees, sub-Saharan Africa can potentially increase economic equity through investments in the financial sector. That’s according to a new report from the global organization Mercy Corps and Financial Sector Deepening Africa, supported by the UK Department for International Development. In the report, Financing the Frontier: Inclusive Financial Sector Development in Fragility-Affected States in Africa, researchers examine the impact of financial sector development on poverty and stability. The findings show that making financial services available to disadvantaged parts of the population may be one of the most effective strategies for cultivating stability in areas with high populations of refugees and internally displaced people. “Fundamental financial tools such as personal-identification-inclusive regulations and digital-payments infrastructure make a significant difference in fragile environments,” says Thea Anderson, Director of Financial Inclusion at Mercy Corps. “A strong, transparent financial sector can drive overall stability, address income equality and encourage the development of entrepreneurship.” Researchers note that despite this strong evidence of efficacy, institutional donors have been sluggish in prioritizing these kinds of market-focused responses in fragile and conflict-affected environments. As a group, so called “fragile-affected” countries lagged behind in reaching critical development benchmarks, including Millennium Development Goals. Today, the 50 countries and economies on the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development 2015 fragile states list – of which 30 are African – are home to 43 percent of the global population who live on less than US$1.25 per day. By 2030, this figure could reach 62 percent. “This report has implications not just in sub-Saharan Africa, but in places all over the world that are facing similar challenges,” says Anderson. “These places should not be overlooked as candidates for successful investments in long-term financial sector infrastructure.” Read or download the full report, and join us and support Mercy Corps’ work around the world.
News Article | November 28, 2016
PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A multi-year Mercy Corps program demonstrates that the combination of education and civic engagement plays a critical role in disrupting the path toward violence for Somali youth. Critical Choices, an analysis of Mercy Corps' Somali...
News Article | December 15, 2016
PORTLAND, Oregon, Dec. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- For years, Mercy Corps' team in Syria has courageously navigated battlefields to help alleviate the intense suffering of people trapped in the crossfire of this deadly conflict – no matter where they live. What we have witnessed in Syria over these nearly six years of war is shameful – and this week we are horrified to see more unrelenting, brutal violence. It appears that the evacuation of civilians from the city of Aleppo has begun, and Mercy Corps is prepared to receive newly displaced people across northern Syria. Our teams are standing by with food, blankets, cash and other supplies to help the countless men, women and children who are hoping to escape the fighting and find safety. We do not yet know how many people are on the move, or where they will end up. Mercy Corps remains committed to helping all Syrians in need. Everyone deserves to have clean water, food and medical care, no matter where they live or who controls their town. We call on the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table quickly and respect international humanitarian law. All parties must take immediate steps to guarantee the protection and safe passage of civilians and the aid workers helping them. And to the people of Syria – wherever you live – we say: We have stood with you since the start of this war. We will always stand with you because suffering anywhere is a call for action everywhere. We strive for peace and promise to keep working with you towards a brighter future in Syria.
News Article | February 22, 2017
Ahead of this week’s Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region taking place in Oslo, Norway, the global organization Mercy Corps urges governments to commit funding to meet humanitarian needs and tackle underlying causes of conflict. The United Nations appeal for the region in 2017 is $1.5 billion to fund assistance to more than 10 million people across the Lake Chad region, including more than 500,000 children expected to suffer from severe malnourishment this year. “The Lake Chad Basin, with Nigeria at its epicenter, is currently experiencing one of the world’s largest overlooked humanitarian crises, resulting from chronic underdevelopment and grievances that have created a self-perpetuating cycle of insecurity, violence and poverty,” says Iveta Ouvry, Mercy Corps Country Director in Nigeria. “The only way we will break this vicious cycle is by responding quickly to urgent needs in order to save lives. At the same time, we must support longer-term programs that can reduce vulnerability and prevent conflict.” Mercy Corps provides vital assistance such as food vouchers, cash, non-food items and water and hygiene support to tens of thousands of people across northeast Nigeria. In a recent assessment conducted in Dikwa and Ngala, two towns in northern Borno State hosting more than 120,000 displaced people, Mercy Corps found that food continues to be the main need, compounded by fuel shortages that limit many families to cooking only one meal a day. Mercy Corps will begin food distributions in Dikwa in the coming weeks. The assessment, conducted over a two-day period in January, also found that latrines are in short supply, causing people to resort to open defecation with limited access to water and soap for handwashing. Bathing also takes place in the open and usually at night, creating huge safety concerns for women and children. To tackle underlying drivers of the crisis, Mercy Corps is also working in Borno State to reduce youth vulnerability to radicalization, based on recommendations from its 2016 two-part report examining factors behind youth participation in Boko Haram. Read Mercy Corps' brief for conference attendees here. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in the Lake Chad region and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | February 15, 2017
The global organization Mercy Corps is expanding its programs in northern Uganda to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of thousands of South Sudanese refugees who have fled an escalation of conflict in their country. Over the past months, the number of South Sudanese refugees arriving at Uganda’s northern border has dramatically increased, with more than 1,800 daily arrivals according to the United Nations. Uganda now hosts more than half a million refugees from South Sudan. Mercy Corps will implement a cash program to help some 15,000 people in Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe, northern Uganda, which is home to over 270,000 refugees, of which two-thirds are children. “Our cash grants will allow refugees to buy what they and their families need most, while also injecting much needed currency into the local economy and supporting local livelihoods,” says Sean Granville-Ross, Mercy Corps Country Director for Uganda. “At Mercy Corps, we believe cash assistance is the most rapid, efficient and dignified manner of providing humanitarian aid.” The Mercy Corps program will focus on the most vulnerable groups of South Sudanese refugees, including the elderly, women-headed households, unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities. A cash-for-work program will be established to provide work opportunities for both refugees and residents of the host communities as part of the conflict-management measures for the settlement. Mercy Corps chose the cash-based response following its market assessment undertaken in November 2016. The study found that marketplaces within the Bidibidi settlement are growing to meet the demands of refugees, and that a cash-based response could stimulate the local economy and support trade. Mercy Corps has been working in Uganda since 2006 specializing in economic development, financial inclusion, maternal child health and nutrition, resilience, and peacebuilding and conflict management. To support Mercy Corps’ work in Uganda and elsewhere in the world, join us at mercycorps.org.