Some of the worst examples of these states are Syria and South Sudan, the report explained.
For instance, "within two years of the start of the Syrian civil war, the country had lost 35 years of development gains, including 3,000 schools damaged or destroyed, another 2,000 converted to shelters for displaced people, nearly a third of all public health centers destroyed, half the population living in poverty, and half the workforce unemployed."
And "not all fragile states are low-income," the report said, noting that "Syria and Iraq are middle-income fragile countries" because of sustained conflicts in those countries. "No amount of humanitarian and development assistance can help if large groups of armed people continue killing one another or sowing terror."
And the causes of instability, like climate change and conflict, can be interrelated.
"For example, Somalia, one of the most conflict-affected countries in the world, is among the most vulnerable to climate change," the report noted. "According to one analysis, seven of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are also at risk of conflict. The potential for climate change to destabilize countries in some of the most volatile regions of the world is why the U.S. military considers climate change a threat to national security."
What can be done to solve the problems in these countries, which are either rising or already full-blown crises? The U.S. must focus on not only effectively delivering aid, but empowering the citizens to support themselves, through investment.
The report cited Pope Francis here, noting that a solution "requires participation from people who are living in poverty and enduring hunger." It quoted from Pope Francis' Sept. 2015 address to the Sustainable Development Goals summit, "to enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny."
Some of the other policy recommendations included "allowing for much greater flexibility" in foreign aid, investing in rural agriculture and the creation of jobs to fight poverty and unemployment, and helping other countries "respond to natural disasters."
"The challenges we see are not new to people of faith. Vulnerable communities are part of the sacred stories highlighted in Scripture," the statement by religious leaders read, noting Biblical accounts of natural disasters and conflict.
"Floods (Genesis 7:7), drought (1 Kings 17:7-9), famine and vulnerability of women (Ruth 1-5), political instability (1 Samuel 21:10), ethnic struggles (Acts 18:1-2), and religious persecution (Acts 8, 11, 12) have affected peoples throughout the ages," the leaders stated.
"With abiding faith and courage, we address this challenge called fragility as a barrier to ending hunger-for all people regardless of their faith tradition. We urge the U.S. government and the international community to come together to invest more in fragile countries to promote peace, create stability and opportunity, and build resilience."
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