When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

THE WASHINGTON POST

Why The U.S. Should Emulate Canada On Syrian Refugees

Lifeline Syria, a Toronto-based organization that helps Syrian refugees.
Lifeline Syria, a Toronto-based organization that helps Syrian refugees.

-Editorial-

When the photo appeared Sept. 2 of Alan Kurdi, a lifeless 3-year-old boy facedown on a beach, the plight of refugees from Syria's civil war shocked the world. In Canada's election campaign, rivals responded with pledges to accelerate their resettlement. The election winner, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, outlined the most ambitious agenda, to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by year's end. Trudeau has extended the deadline eight weeks, out of prudence over the logistical challenges. It is a small adjustment to a generous response that serves as a rebuke to the senseless xenophobia heard lately in the United States, and that should serve as a model.

Canada has long welcomed refugees and immigrants. A timeline published by the government shows an amazing parade of beneficiaries: waves of Poles, Italians, Jews and Ukrainians in the first half of the last century; a quarter-million displaced Europeans fleeing Nazis and Communists during World War II; 37,000 Hungarians in 1956; 11,000 from Czechoslovakia in 1968 and 1969, fleeing the Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion; 60,000 boat people from Vietnam; and Kosovars, Bhutanese and others in more recent years. On top of this, the country is a crazy quilt of immigrant communities that are diverse, vibrant and a source of national strength.

In the latest wave, Canada will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by year's end and the remaining 15,000 by the end of February. The arrivals are coming from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Canada's plan is impressive: resettling them to 36 cities, 13 in Quebec and the rest across the country; temporarily lodging 6,000 on military bases in Ontario and Quebec; and flying the refugees to Canada largely on privately chartered aircraft but promising military airlifts every 48 hours if needed.

Contrast this alacrity with the cold-shouldered hostility that has been ricocheting around the United States. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who had described himself as the most pro-immigration governor in the country — and in September said of accepting Syrian refugees, "Isn't that part of a being a good Michigander?" — slammed on the brakes after the Paris terrorist attacks. He announced he was suspending the state's effort to bring refugees from the Middle East to Michigan, where there is a large Arab American population. On Nov. 20, 27 Republican governors (although not Snyder) wrote to President Obama asking him to suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees. The president wisely defended the plan to bring them to the United States, pledging that the country will take 10,000 next year. It is a start — but more could be done.

When people flee war and upheaval, they reach North American shores with immense gratitude and eagerness to succeed in their new home. Properly screened, very few ever pose a security problem. Canada is showing the way, with compassion and sound judgment. The United States could use more of both.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest