What Went Wrong in the World in 2013?

(Photo: World Vision)A Syrian refugee peers out from a tent in one of the makeshift settlements in Lebanon

What was the world like in 2013 for the planet's most marginalized and vulnerable communities?

1. Syria's Civil War

Now entering its third year without an end in sight, the Syrian civil war has displaced hundreds of thousands. Currently, 2.3 million people have been forced to flee the country, and in the process have been overwhelming receiving countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Despite the conflict's length and scope, fundraising on behalf of Syria has proved a challenge for relief organizations — it took several years for Christian humanitarian organization World Vision to raise just $1 million.

(Photo: World Vision)Hiam (age 5, on the left) and her sister Asma (age 3, on the right). In the Bekaa, one of the coldest areas of Lebanon, it is a critical time for many Syrian refugees living in tents or housing that are flimsy or without heating, leaving them especially vulnerable to the cold. World Vision started working with partners to provide unconditional cash assistance of 0 to 25,000 families over a five-month period. This money covers the cost of stove, and fuel plus providing them with 5 blankets. "Without the stove, my legs would freeze and my little sister would cry," said Hiam.
(Photo: World Vision)Visit with Syrian refugees at Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan. World Vision is providing flood control and a variety of GIK assistance to the refugees.

2. Relentless Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In a two-decade long conflict that barely registers on the American consciousness, two million people have fled their homes, livelihoods, and families due to relentless conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. No more explicitly can the toll of the violence be seen than in Congolese children; 170 children out of every 1,000 Congolese children die before the age of five, and the majority of these are lost in their first year of life. In 2013, 60 percent of Congolese families went hungry, resulting in more than one million children suffering the effects of under-nutrition.

(Photo: World Vision)More than 200 children live unaccompanied at Mugunga 1, without parent or guardian protection. World Vision distributes food there in partnership with the World Food Programme, and families receive a monthly supply of maize meal, rice, beans, vegetable oil, salt and other staple foods.
(Photo: World Vision)Innocent, 11, was orphaned during the war. Rebels entered his family's village and they were forced to flee - his parents over the border to Rwanda and Innocent into the Congolese wilderness. He later discovered his parents died, and today he lives alone in the Mugunga 1 IDP camp in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. He spends his days combing the forest in search of food, hoping to somehow return home.
(Photo: World Vision)Muombi, 15, was separated from her mother when her family fled fighting in their village. She was then abandoned by her older brother, and now lives with family friends in the Mugunga 1 IDP camp in Goma, DRC. Every day Muombi goes into the forest in search of food, exposing herself to risks such as sexual violence and abuse in order to eat.
(Photo: World Vision)Rene Genosa and some of his children looking at the place where their home used to be. His wife, Edwina, gave birth to their daughter, Josephine, the day before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.

3. Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Just six weeks after the strongest tropical storm ever recorded made landfall in the Philippines, 3.6 million people have lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. Over 6,000 people lost their lives, not only at the hands of the storm, but also due to the inadaquacy of the Filipino leaders. A damning Wall Street Journal article published last month shows that this inadaquacy came when the Filipino government used a "term for the storm that wasn't widely understood," and when they "grossly underestimated the havoc the storm would wreak, stocking far too few supplies for a city to survive on in an emergency."

"That failure of imagination, combined with residents' skepticism that the storm would be worse than any of the other 20 or so that lash the scattered archipelago every year, had a deadly and devastating impact."

(Photo: World Vision)A child surveys the destruction following Typhoon Haiyan.
(Photo: World Vision)Hannah was lucky to survive the flood when super-typhoon Haiyan struck in Salvacion, Palo Leyte. Two of her siblings Divine (7), and brother, Paul (11 months) died.
(Photo: World Vision)In Kpalang village, Ghana, the only water source is this dirty pond. The water tastes foul and is the color of green pea soup. Nearly every family seems affected by the Guinea worm in this remote farming village of 600 people.

4. Ongoing Lack of Access to Clean Water

Roughly 10 percent of the world or 780 million people, lack access to clean drinking water—leaving communities susceptible to chronic malnutrition and diarrhea, a disease that kills an estimated 1,600 children under five daily. A lack of accessible clean water also has social consequences and keeps thousands of children, especially girls, out of school because of the manual labor required to bring water to the family.

(Photo: World Vision)Three-year-old Nsereko Jagenda drinking water from the water jar at home with a cupped hand. from donors in the United Kingdom through World Vision UK
(Photo: World Vision)Women carry water home in Mozambique.
(Photo: World Vision)Everyday Shahin is working the tailoring shop around eight hours.

5. Child Labor Trafficking

While a recognition of the horrors of sex trafficking has penetrated the Christian social issue conversation in recent years, forced labor trafficking remains an understated issue. More than 115 million children are excluded from the education system and instead forced to work often physically and psychologically dangerous agriculture, mining, quarrying, fishing, factories and sexually exploitative jobs.

(Photo: World Vision)Shahin earned 50 taka (.51 USD) per day. He helped his family through his little income.
(Photo: World Vision)15-year-old Savoeun went to work in Leuk Daek in southeastern Cambodia. Leuk Daek is a place of rice fields and rivers, its scenery strewn with ornate pagodas that bespeak the country's Buddhist heritage. Savoeun quit school to work at the sewing factory when she was 12. Back then, she rode a bicycle to work. But on this day, the teenager took a motortaxi, her hands clutching a small bag containing the items she had been instructed to bring: her clothes and her sister's birth certificate. That, she'd had to steal. At the factory that morning, Savoeun's sister Simean was the first to notice. "I did not see her working," says Simean, 21. "I asked where she was. People told me that she'd gone to work in Malaysia. I called my family." In making that call, Simean set in motion a Cambodian-style Amber Alert. Savoeun's family, friends, local officials, co-workers, the police, community members, and the children of two villages joined in a singular task: bringing Savoeun home--alive.