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Notes from the Field
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:48AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
As a humanitarian worker for the past sixteen years I have seen some pretty shocking scenes. Before this trip to East Africa, I was particularly not looking forward to witnessing suffering children. However, when I saw the dedication and commitment of the CARE staff working on our response in very difficult surroundings, it made me feel proud to work for CARE.
Helping pastoralists in Borena
People in Borena are well known for their strong social bonds. They are also well known for feeding their children first, a practice which is key to ensuring survival of the next generation in this toughest of times. This, along with the monitoring from CARE and the local government, ensures the program reaches those who need it most. But our program is only reaching five per cent of people living in the targeted districts – further funding is desperately needed to extend this highly impactful and timely program.
A health centre in Miyo district
First they are checked for diseases like diarrhoea and given treatment. Then they start a careful course of therapeutic food, starting with low-strength milk powder. It normally takes four to five days for their weight to stabilise. Then they progress to a more nutritious formula that helps them regain weight fast. Finally, they can be discharged with two month’s ration of oil and corn soya blend to take home.
Making sustainable change in people’s lives
With CARE Ethiopia already meeting the needs of over 406,000 (as of Aug. 22) people and plans to reach up to a million in the next three months, I am confident CARE is playing its part in reaching the most vulnerable during this drought, the worst in a generation. It’s our job to make things better in a tough situation and that is something I feel positive about. We need help from the Australian public so that we can extend our programs and benefit more people who are suffering from this devastating drought with long-term solutions.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:59AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
The green trees, cool mountain climate and well-stocked shopping malls of Nairobi are in sharp contrast to the camps in dusty Dadaab. The warm smiles and healthy faces of the Kenyans I meet are very different from the haggard faces of the new arrivals from Somalia I saw lining up for food just a couple of days ago.
Many Kenyans are also suffering in the terrible drought sweeping across the north and east of the country. Today I met with CARE Kenya senior staff who explained how CARE is working to improve the situation in Kenya by investing in communal management of water and pasture. They told me that most of the people affected by the drought are pastoralists who live and move with their herds. In the drought, lack of water and pasture has seen herds decimated and no rain is in sight until September.
In the north-east of the country CARE is supporting people to renew communal management of grazing lands and water pans. Where there was some local rain in April, the water pans still have water and there is still some pasture, but even they are badly off. That’s why CARE is supporting off-take of weak livestock at a reasonable price and the vaccination of stronger animals so they can withstand the drought. This should help herds to recover and people to bounce back if the rains come.
Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan, CARE’s Country Director in Kenya, visited Gafo in late July and saw the difference these investments have made. Water pans that were rehabilitated last year with community labour through CARE’s support still have water. What’s even more encouraging is that the community have managed them well, collecting small fees from users, which have allowed them to clear out the silt this year. If they continue maintenance, these should last for twenty years.
We have also supported district-level planning so that communities and the local government know when to take emergency measures such as de-stocking of livestock. Pastoralists move across the border with Ethiopia, so CARE has worked on both sides to bring communities together so they can make agreements that allow access to pasture for the animals when times are hard.
Gary McGurk, Assistant Country Director of CARE Kenya, explained why CARE will only consider water trucking and food aid in the most dire situations. “Water trucking is expensive and encourages people to stay in places that cannot sustain them rather than moving on with their herds.” By investing in community management of water and pasture, we can reduce pastoralists facing a crisis and needing expensive food hand-outs or water trucking.
But support for such interventions is hard to get. Even though studies show that a dollar invested in preparedness will save on average seven spent on crisis response like food aid, we find it hard to gain funding. With the situation so bad, we now also need to help the many who are in crisis. Tomorrow I will travel to Ethiopia to see how we are doing that there.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:48AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, CARE Australia's Emergency Response Manager
Today, I spoke to a young woman who had walked for twenty days with her two children. They left their home due to the drought which has dried up all drinking water sources.
She was sitting in a makeshift tent made from rough branches and covered in bits of cardboard and scraps of cloth. She and the other new arrivals have taken refuge outside the established camps.
Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s Water and Sanitation Adviser, has been working with the local team to ramp up water supply. He says, ‘We have been setting up new water tanks and tapstands so that people can easily access the water that we truck in.’
We are also supplying 19 litres of water per day to people as they arrive in Daghaley camp. We are redrilling seven boreholes so they produce more water, increasing storage capacity, and extending the piped water system out from the main camps to the influx areas next to them. This reduces the need for expensive trucking and ensuring we can meet the needs of the 30,000 new arrivals in this camp.
The ongoing drought and conflict in Somalia – where famine has been declared in several districts in the south – means the influx of refugees will probably continue for several months. CARE estimates that over 500,000 people will be in the camps by Christmas. Clearly this is a big challenge. Jason says, “We are increasing water provision in the influx areas and water in the camps to above UNHCR global standards of 20 litres per person a day, and we will keep going until we are sure we can meet the needs of further new arrivals.”
I ask him what the biggest challenge is and there’s no pause in his reply: “Funding is the biggest challenge.” It’s also a challenge to get skilled water and sanitation professionals to work in Dadaab as conditions are hard, even for the staff working there.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:32AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
It’s 6.30am on a crisp Nairobi morning. The dawn chorus has just finished and I am standing in the CARE Kenya compound. Abdi, our driver, has just arrived with a broad smile and wearing a bright cap typical for Somalis. I am joined by Alain Lapierre, Director of Emergencies for CARE Canada who has been overseeing the expansion of our activities in the region this past month.
He says the situation in Dadaab is of great concern. People are still arriving in a terrible state. Although the numbers arriving have reduced slightly in the past few days, he believes this is only temporary. CARE is scaling up to meet the needs of an increasing number of refugees. This includes recruiting more national staff and for long-term planning with existing staff, such as Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s global WASH Adviser, working at the strategic level to develop plans to cope with the projected influx of people.
As we reach a rendezvous point, three CARE Kenya staff who work in Dadaab join us. They are highly skilled Kenyans working in the construction team. One of them, Oumari, tells me that he has been working for nine months in the searing heat of Dadaab, providing administrative support to the construction team who build and maintain boreholes, latrines and five schools. I ask him how he feels about working in Dadaab. He replies, ”I feel really motivated. We are giving hope to people who had lost hope in life.”
We are now joined by another CARE vehicle packed with field staff and provisions for the camp. There are also vehicles with staff from UNHCR and other NGOs. It’s 6.45am and time to hit the road!
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:11AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
As the plane took off from Canberra yesterday I looked down on the dry hills below. My thoughts turned to the dusty plains of Eastern Kenya where CARE is working in the world’s biggest refugee camp, Dadaab. We’ve been working there for twenty years leading the provision of water, food and education. While we and other agencies working in the camps are able to provide assistance to the more than 414,000 [as of Aug. 22] refugees now there, the problem is that the numbers just keep growing. I’ll arrive there on Sunday to work with the team on increasing our capacity to deal with the projected increase to over 500,000 refugees by Christmas.
Newly arrived refugees from Somalia collect water provided by CARE at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Photo: Kate Holt/CARE
Yesterday I spoke with Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) Adviser who has been working with the team in Dadaab to increase water supply and storage for the new people arriving since early July. He told me how they’ve managed to increase water supply for people on the edges of the three main camps. We are now providing people with up to 12 litres of water each per day. The target is to exceed 15 litres, which we have been able to provide to long-term refugees. Jason is confident we can reach this target in the coming weeks by redrilling bore holes, improving distribution lines and storage capacity for water.
Just as important is public hygiene and we are working with animators from the local community to spread simple hygiene messages like the need to use soap and to wash hands before eating. By doing this we can limit outbreaks of diarrhoea and other infectious diseases which can kill the malnourished, especially young children.
We leave at 6am sharp. I will be accompanied by CARE’s Regional Coordinator, and two global education experts. The road takes a bumpy six hours, but this is a trifle compared to the journeys of several weeks the new refugees arriving have made.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:31PM EST on August 23, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer, Dadaab
I am standing in front of the borehole well, waiting for the clicking sound of my camera. But there is no sound. The CARE engineer has just explained how ground water is pumped up and then distributed to water stations. We are wandering around Dagahaley, one of the three refugee camps in Dadaab. A photographer working for a newspaper is gathering images of how a refugee camp works. But now as we stand at the borehole I feel yesterday’s long hours creeping up on me: my camera battery has obviously run out, plus I forgot my pencil and notebook on the desk. But there are solutions to these minor problems: The photographer lends me a pen and I use the back of my permission papers for the camp to take notes. In fact, I am starting to like my day without a camera.
But now, sitting down in the sand near a water tap stand, I am quietly watching the hustle and bustle going on around me. I close my eyes as the wind blows fine-grained sand my way. I gaze around in all directions. The photographer stands on top of a water tank to get a better angle. None of the women or children fetching water pay much attention to us -- water is much more important than the strange sight of a visiting foreigner. I curiously watch two young women leaving with their jerry cans full of water. But they don’t carry them on their heads; instead, they roll them across the sand. This really calls for a picture: Two women in long veils and torn sandals kicking their jerry cans full of water through the desert. But with my camera batteries empty, my eye batteries seem to be more charged than ever.
After a while I move to the side of a latrine. It’s just four walls of corrugated iron, but at least it guarantees some privacy. Standing in the shade I watch a man with his donkey cart. Bit by bit women lift their jerry cans onto the cart, tightening them with ropes and rags. Getting places here in Dadaab takes time. The three camps cover some 56 square kilometers. Owning a donkey cart is a pretty good business. It is so hot that everything here seems to happen in slow motion. Finally the cart starts to move. I wonder how much the women have to pay for their transportation and whether they will still have enough money left to buy food for their children. While I sit in the sand, their skinny legs are at eye level. I can count the children wearing shoes on the fingers of one hand.
Humanitarian aid means reaching as many people as possible with at least minimum needs, given limited resources. In Dadaab, CARE and other agencies provide about 500 grams of food and about 12 litres of water per person and day, some basic medical assistance, some counselling. Every one of these 414,000 refugees is a unique person with a particular history, hopes and sorrows – but the scale of this emergency is so vast, we can’t possibly meet all those individual, specific needs. What we can do is slow things down for a while and pay attention. Observe. Understand. And adapt our programs to what we see. For example, CARE might soon pay the owners of the donkey carts so that weak and poor women don’t have to spend the rest of their money for transportation of water and food.
It is quick and easy to take a picture, upload it to your computer and then store it somewhere in your archives. But the pictures I saved in my head today will linger on for some time before I will be able to store them anywhere.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:27AM EST on August 18, 2011
Interview with Michael Adams, Director of Operations for CARE’s Refugee Assistance Program in Dadaab
With an influx of almost 1,000 refugees per day, most of them from Somalia, humanitarian assistance in the refugee camps of Dadaab, Kenya is becoming more difficult each day. Michael Adams has been responsible for CARE’s Refugee Assistance Program for the last two years and talks about the current challenges and the road ahead.
How does the situation compare now to the beginning of the year?
The big difference is simply the high number of new arrivals. They have stretched our capacity to deliver the essential services for humanitarian aid, especially because many families are settling in informal, undesignated areas where there is poor access to services. They are scattered around the camps, but it is hard to reach them quickly enough to prevent further suffering. After 20 years of providing humanitarian aid in the camps, CARE and other agencies are now confronted with a new complication: in order to meet the increasing needs, we have to stretch the resources that we have as much as possible to help all new people arriving in very weak and vulnerable conditions. Another complication is that the refugees are taking up more and more space outside the formal settlements which is having a detrimental effect on the local environment; they need firewood to cook which results in the deforestation of the sparse land which in turn creates conflict with the host communities whose grazing land is being destroyed. In the first five months of 2011, we had weekly registrations of about 2,000 people on average. In July, this number went up to more than 5,000. And this only counts the individuals being registered; we currently have a backlog of about 35,000 people still waiting for registration.
What is the difference between those refugees who have been here for some time and those who are new arrivals?
Most refugees here are quite resourceful, that is natural in any setting. People are not going to sit around for 20 years; they want to get on with their life. There are thriving markets in each of the three camps where you can charge your phone for 25 Kenyan shillings at a shop that has a small generator, you can find tailors and hairdressers and so on. Those who have a little bit of money buy products from the local markets in the area and sell them in the camps. But the newly arrived families, those who have fled drought, poverty and instability in Somalia within the last few weeks, they come here with next to nothing, barely carrying clothes on their backs. So, the provision of basic emergency services such as food, water, health and shelter are very important to sustaining life. As a measure of how serious this crisis is, the refugee community that has been long settled here in Dadaab have come together to compliment the international response. A Muslim charity created from within the camp population is now providing clothes and shoes at the reception areas to help the aid agencies. This is really encouraging for us to see because it demonstrates this crisis affects everyone. And help comes from many directions.
The areas around the camps are also suffering from drought and chronic poverty. How can you balance assistance for refugees and Kenyans?
This is a very important concern. People outside the camps are also in dire need of assistance, and of course they see the services provided in the camps and want to receive similar support. CARE has been working in the region for years, and we are now scaling up our emergency regional response to meet the ever increasing need beyond the Dadaab refugee camps. But we cannot feed and water everyone in and around the camps… we simply don’t have the capacity. The mere existence of the camps, offering relative safety and security and access to basic essential services, that is like a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak and desolate environment for all those Kenyans who also suffer from the impacts of severe drought. Ready markets and access to trade and business offer alternative livelihoods or income generation opportunities for families no longer able to continue their pastoralist lifestyle. The refugee operations bring jobs, businesses and contracts. The area of Dadaab has grown from 30,000 people to more than 200,000 people over a twenty year period. This said, the camps are stretching the existing resources and the environment to a point where it will be very difficult and slow to recover. CARE has always engaged with the host community, they have always been a part of our response in this region. Our support to the cost community has included activities such as borehole maintenance through repairs of the generators and pumps, chlorination of the boreholes to reduce contamination; we created water pans for livestock watering, built classrooms and trained teachers. And we are currently looking into ways to provide even more support. But we also have to think in terms of how this can be sustainable in some way, because there will always be droughts in this area. We need to find ways to build resilience; boreholes can only be a part of the solution. The key is to support the communities to help themselves. Let’s say through cash transfers so that they can hire their own water trucking, by training to maintain boreholes, by conflict-resolution forums. But all of this costs money and unless there is a severe humanitarian crisis and people here about it in the news, aid agencies really struggle to obtain funding for these activities.
What role does the Kenyan government play?
Kenya has had its doors open for 20 years, and continues to keep it open. They are not turning people away. The international community has provided some support, but nowhere near enough, and before pointing a finger at the Kenyan authorities we have to remember the impact this refugee population has on both the communities and the environment. And with Somalia still lacking security and governance, there is no solution for the refugees to go home again. Kenya has a right to continue ringing the warning bell, and the country cannot carry the burden by itself for another 20 years.
What are the biggest challenges right now?
As for food distribution, WFP and CARE have done an exceptional job to provide food when and where necessary. Every refugee receives an average of more than 500g of food per day. But it remains a challenge to disseminate information about how much and where food is available for the new arrivals. When so many people are coming in, we don’t know where they are coming from and where they end up. Before, when the number of new arrivals was still manageable, the information focused on reception centers. But now we need to do outreach into the so-called influx areas around the camps, where people settle while waiting for registration.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is also a backlog of people received but not yet officially registered as refugees. Since there is no screening center at the border, people arrive here and have to go through the registration process, which takes time. People who have been received, but not yet registered, get food for 21 days and some supplies such as water cans, blankets, cooking items, soap etc. But if they have to wait longer than those 21 days to get registered, we have to organize a second round of distributions. Another problem is transport, because many families settle quite far from the reception areas. So many single mothers or people suffering from weakness and malnourishment have to pay someone to carry their food home. This is a big concern for us, so we are working very hard to fill that gap.
And then there is water: CARE has done quite well in providing water to the influx areas to new refugees, where we can we’ve been able to extend piping from the existing water lines out, so that pressured water is provided from boreholes to temporary taps. CARE is also trucking water to temporary tanks and taps. But we still face challenges in that some of the current borehole systems bordering the influx have insufficient pressure to fill up the water tanks more quickly, so in some cases this leads to long queues. We are replacing these low pressure boreholes so we can provide enough water to the refugees. Technically, it is always a challenge to bring in the equipment and set up a structure in the middle of nowhere. But water is such a crucial part of the response that we cannot slow down now.
Protection is also a big issue. The families arriving here, especially single mothers and young children, are often very tired, malnourished and sometimes sick. They are the most vulnerable having traveled many weeks in the sun with little food and or water with barely enough clothing to cover their back. They need to get support as soon as they arrive. The health agencies are trying to keep up but the malnutrition rates are still high. We need to help them settle in a more secure community environment where they are not exposed to sexual violence or banditry and close to essential services. However, we simply don’t have the people-power to reach all of them with the information they need to know to help them. In an effort to address this issue, CARE has set up temporary kiosks at strategic locations in the outskirts of camps where people can come and seek help and information. It also acts as a base from which our community development mobilisers move out on foot into the influx areas to talk with as many new arrivals as possible giving them basic information: where to get food and water and that both are provided for free, where to seek counseling services for those who are survivors of conflict and or violence etc.
What are you most worried about for the months to come?
At current rates of arrival we will still have significant challenges to meet the needs. We have new extension areas where people will relocate to, but if the influx continues, those will be full by the end of the year, so we will not have been able to decongest the current camps as hoped. We also don’t know where all of the refugees are going when they arrive here, some go into the camps so that the density increases, there’s encroachment around schools, youth play areas, community centers and so on. This puts an extra burden on the existing refugee communities. Another thing we are very worried about is the levels of malnutrition seen in the new arrivals. Food needs to have sufficient caloric value to reduce malnutrition rates, but this is also more expensive.
How do you ensure that women are protected in the camps?
Just as in any city of this size around the world, we cannot fully ensure that women are protected in the camps. There are too little police officers per person and camp, protection remains a major challenge. Women generally don’t go out after dusk, but there is some community patrolling during day time. There are police stations in the camps. Imagine a city of 400,000 people without enough police. But previously settled refugees have been able to form community support networks and work well with the religious and community leaders. The most serious challenge we face now are the new arrivals. They are exhausted, uninformed about where to get help and an easy target for abuse and violence. CARE works directly with the communities and religious centers themselves to prevent violence through information sharing, educational sessions on conflict management, and to support existing community structures, neighbors watching out for each other. For example there are referral systems: if a woman feels threatened, she can come to a CARE office and seek refuge and may be brought to a safe house. We also have helpdesks in the police stations. But we want to extend our services, currently there is about 1 counselor for 30,000 refugees.
It is impressive to see our counselors in action. We have this one very confident young woman, Fardoza, and I recently accompanied her to one of the communities. She goes to one of the camp neighborhoods and sort of holds court, meeting with young men and women who have very set ideas about women’s place in society. And she challenges it in a very positive way and generates discussion. People can connect to her because she is their age, and since she is a Somali Kenyan, she speaks their language.
Do you lobby for the refugees to be granted citizenship or work permits in Kenya?
This is an issue for the Government of Kenya. Our focus is on providing services and working to reduce refugee vulnerability and to maintain their dignity as much as possible. The best case scenario, what we are all hoping for, is of course a return to peace in Somalia. But would all refugees go home then? There is now a second generation born in the camps who have been educated with Kenyan curriculum, and who have never been to their home country. But I still think that many of them would like to go home. And then they will have the unique chance to build their nation with the skills they have acquired here in the camp schools. We are now seeing the same in South Sudan: Refugees who were educated in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps as well have now returned home and are a vital part of nation building.
What other issues are important for you to communicate to everyone who is now interested in Dadaab?
I have been saddened by the voices from home who say things like charity begins at home, and that we shouldn’t be helping because there is so much corruption, or that we have already given too much. Every person in the camps of Dadaab is a refugee. But let’s not forget that people don’t want to be here, they want their freedom to move like anyone else, to be free to access higher education, better business opportunities. Even though there is no fence around the camps, they are legally not allowed to work in Kenya and are restricted to the regions of the camps. And what is most heartbreaking is the daily struggle for dignity. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine having to line up for food twice a month, for 20 years now. These are highly proud people, and a man in this culture who cannot provide for his family – well, that is just very hard for everyone. A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a refugee who was previously a full time employee for CARE in Somalia and now cannot work legally here in Kenya. Though we cannot give them legal jobs, every agency employs workers from among the refugee committee to help with distributions, translations, housekeeping of the compounds etc. They receive a salary and can thus support their families. But like I said, it is not a regular job. He would be very well qualified to be a part of our operation, with all his skills and knowledge of CARE. But all we can do is employ him as an incentive worker. That is one of the many limits they are constantly facing in Dadaab.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:19AM EST on August 18, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer CARE International
August 12th, 2011
Early morning in Dadaab, a nice breeze announces a day that will most likely not be too hot. Outside of the CARE canteen, people are scattered at tables under trees, taking their breakfast. CARE’s 270 members of staff live and work in so-called compounds, one in each of the three refugee camps of Dadaab, one in the main part of town, attached to the compounds of UN agencies and other aid organizations.
I sit down with a group of four colleagues who are having what seems to be a lively discussion in Swahili. As much as we speak the same “language” as part of the CARE family, I sometimes wish for a button I could push to be able to speak the local languages of the countries I am deployed to. But there’s no button, so I just watch and listen before they change into English. As a newcomer, it’s hard to figure out who does what here, with so much buzz and activity everywhere. So I start asking around what their jobs are.
“I work in maintenance of our vehicles, making sure that they function properly”, tells me one the guys. “I’m part of the WASH team”, says another. WASH is one of our most common acronyms and everyone who uses it tends to forget that the outside world needs interpretation for it. WASH sums up all activities in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene promotion, one of the most crucial programs in any emergency to prevent disease outbreaks and ensure that people have sufficient potable water to survive. “We get called when there are problems with the boreholes, pipelines or water stations”, he adds. So is he going out to one of the camps today? “That depends, I am basically on call for any emergency. Otherwise I stay in the office and catch up on paperwork.” Paperwork in a refugee camp? Yes, sure. Quality management, accountability and proper information management are crucial for any successful operation, even more so in the fast-paced environment of a humanitarian crisis. If we don’t document what we are doing and how things are working out, we cannot communicate our needs and plan for the upcoming months. Moving on to the third person at the table: “I work in construction.” Constructing what? “Anything that is needed, whether that be new rooms or sanitation facilities in our compounds, or services for the refugees in the camps. We just rehabilitated some classrooms in a school.”
This conversation gets me thinking as I wander off to the office: There are two faces to the humanitarian work CARE is doing: One face consists of the men and women who appear in the photos and TV images, those who get interviewed by newspapers and radio stations: doctors treating patients, staff distributing food to refugees, and of course the spokespeople of our organizations. But behind the scenes, there is a whole army of workers managing the operation every day. They work from early morning till late at night, lacking private life and comfort, missing their friends and families. Journalists often ask whether we employ Western volunteers who have given up their life of comfort to help people in need. As honorable as this is, humanitarian assistance demands expertise, local knowledge and a long-term presence. All over the world, CARE’s staff is over 95 percent local, speaking the language, understanding the social dynamics, and committing to these difficult working conditions for longer periods of time.
When I leave Dadaab, my colleagues will still be here. And when the cameras leave and the public eye wanders off to the next crisis, they will continue to do their jobs to provide water, food and social assistance to the more than 400,000 refugees here. And I hope they will have many more laughs in Swahili at the breakfast table to start their day with a smile.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:53AM EST on August 18, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer CARE International
August 12th, 2011
The realities of a refugee camp are hard to explain to the outside world. Many people think of Dadaab as a fenced-in area, overcrowded with tents, and people lining up for assistance. Some of this is true, to a certain extent. But Dadaab has grown for over 20 years now, and developed into an almost urban settlement of huge dimensions. There are actually three refugee camps in Dadaab, Dagahaley, Ifo 1 and Haghadera. And we spend about 10 to 20 minutes in the car getting from one camp to another. There are no fences around the camps, so people are generally free to go from one place to the next and into the town of Dadaab. But with long distances to walk in the sand under the blazing sun and no legal rights to actually leave the camps and settle outside, freedom is not the right term to use. Tents can be seen everywhere, but many new arrivals in the outskirts have simply put up wooden sticks and cover the structure with tarps, for now. Those who have been here for decades, who have raised their children here, have grown old in Dadaab and still see no way to return, those families have built more solid houses, constructed of bricks or mud, fenced and well-maintained. When I enter one of those homes, it reminds me of other places I have visited in some countries in Africa. Clothes hang up to dry, children play around in the court, the elders sit together in the shade of a tree.
But whether settled or just arrived, all 400,000 refugees in Dadaab depend on assistance to meet their basic needs. They cannot legally work or leave the camps, and the sandy soil and lack of water make it difficult to plant vegetables or other staples. This is where CARE, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the World Food Program WFP and others come in: Many of us have been here from the start and it is encouraging to see the level of cooperation. I think of critical media coverage about how aid agencies compete for funding and don’t coordinate their work that usually comes up with any emergency. But everyone who has been to Dadaab quickly understands that our humanitarian mandate is a much stronger bond than any talk of money, influence or popularity. Over 400,000 refugees are in need of assistance, there is enough to do for all of us. CARE manages two cycles of food distribution per month and hands out food and relief items to new arrivals; our engineers maintain and extend the water supply systems; counselors and social workers help the most vulnerable, mainly women and children suffering from violence and exhaustion; teachers are trained and schools set up.
It’s also hard to describe to the outside world how aid workers cope with the suffering and misery they are confronted with every day. Over the years, I have had many discussions with colleagues, and although it is a very personal affair, I feel like we have a common understanding: Most of the time, you cannot look beyond the crowd to acknowledge the individuals, your work needs to be about quantity: Handing out food to as many people as possible as quickly as we can. Disseminating information about counseling services and support for women victims of gender based violence to a whole area as fast as possible. Hurrying to a bursting pipe to get the water supply going again.
But this line of work would not be called humanitarianism if you would not care deeply for every single person. And every now and then, you cannot blend out one of the faces in the crowd. At the reception center of Dagahaley, I catch the eye of a young father; he sits at the reception area with his three kids, his wife next to him. It is impossible to explain how and why this connection happens, but his smile is so inviting and their relief of arriving here safely, their family intact, is almost palpable. We exchange smiles, I ask for a photo. Then I just sit next to the reception table and watch them for some time. Then something else comes up, I leave. When I turn around again, the family has gone. Back to be a part of the crowd. But I know that they now have food to last them for 21 days, water, and have met people who can assist them with their needs. And that must be enough, for now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:52AM EST on August 15, 2011
Daniel Seller, Program Quality and Accountability Advisor
August 12, 2011
I have just visited Balich Village in Garissa district, North Eastern Province of Kenya. Inhabitants of Balich belong to the Somali-Bantu community, an ethnic minority which is highly marginalized. The region is experiencing a severe drought, as many other areas in the Horn of Africa currently. According to some estimates, 2.4 million people are affected in the North Eastern Province, where Garissa district is located – this is more than 50 percent of the province’s population. But amidst the drought, there is a glimmer of hope, because in Balich villagers were prepared for the drought. They are able to plant and harvest food and animal feed as they have a functioning irrigation system. But let’s start from the beginning:
Some areas of the North East Province are difficult to reach because very bad roads and long distances of up to 1,000 kilometres, and in those far away places, children, pregnant women and lactating mothers and elderly people are mostly affected. I heard of some men who had to migrate in search of pasture for their livestock or for work in the towns. Women and children staying behind depend on assistance from relatives, the Kenyan government and humanitarian organizations.
As the drought goes on water pumps cannot keep up with the demand. People use it during the day, animals at night. People rely on mechanised pumped water more than ever, and because of the over-usage the pumps often break down. Ground water levels are dropping, and some areas that were once sustained by pumped water now have to be served by expensive water trucking, which can only be a short-term solution. In some villages, pastoralists had to wait for three days to get water for their animals. Some had to walk for 30-40 kilometres to reach water points. Many of their livestock died while looking for water – and that means their source of income has perished. Garissa is mostly a pastoralist area; animals mean everything. One colleague said to me: "Animals are meat, milk, and cash. If they are gone, everything is gone”. Prices of livestock have decreased and often pastoralists have to sell their animals for very unfavourable prices. Once they make it to the market they have to sell their animals at any price offered because they do not have the means to transport them back home. Livestock might even die on the way back, because they are too emaciated. Approximately half a million people and 90 percent of all cattle already migrated out of some areas in search of water, pasture and food. And naturally, these movements cause conflicts.
Resilience is key
However, Balich village showed me a picture of strength and perspective. CARE’s long-term support in Balich has helped people to resist the impacts of the drought and to prepare for times of hardship. CARE assisted the community to plant animal feed and crops by erecting water pumps and canals for better irrigation. Before, fetching water was a dangerous job: “My children are safe now when they get water. Before, they were threatened by crocodiles living in the nearby Tana river”, on woman told me. The key is resilience: empowering vulnerable people to overcome drought without losing all assets. With access to credit facilities, market linkages and a sustainable livestock marketing model, people are able to generate an income and save assets.The CARE projects in Balich show how important Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives are. But it has a side effect: Pastoralists from nearby villages are now increasingly bringing their livestock to Balich, putting pressure on the valuable water sources.
My visit to Balich reiterated what we know in theory and what we need more in practice: emergency support and long-term development initiatives that focus on creating resilience need to go hand in hand. This is the only way to break the hunger-cycle in chronic emergencies. However, funding for emergency is often easier accessible than funding for disaster risk reduction. I hope that the example of Balich shows how much we have achieved and how much money we can actually save when we invest in preparedness.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:41PM EST on August 11, 2011
By Trond Skramstad
My fourth week in Mozambique was spent in the northern part of the country. We visited with financial services businesses, NGOs and VSLA groups in and around the towns of Pemba and Nampula which lie in the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula respectively. A relatively large and stretched out country—almost two times the size of California and the distance from north to south almost twice that of California’s as well—traveling around takes time here. Adding poor roads and infrastructure to the equation means that distances become multiples of what we are used to back home and as such the cultural differences and state of economic activity are also magnified. So, getting around to observe these differences is important for our project.
Pemba lies on the Indian Ocean in Cabo Delgado province which borders Tanzania to the north. It is a majority Muslim province and one of the poorest regions of the country (Mozambique is about 25% Muslim in total). Being closer to the equator it is a lot hotter than Maputo and the “cultural” differences, not to mention the distance to the capital and central administration gives it a very different feel. Combine that with a beautiful stretch of beach and a bit of a backpacker’s destination, the mix of people there is interesting indeed.
Probably four or five years old and hardly a toddler anymore, this little boy sat completely still in my arms, most of the time just resting his little head on my chest. He did not want to let go—more than 30 minutes later I finally just had to put him back down… Photo by Alessandra Valent
One of the most exciting things about life in general I think, is the opportunity to not just experience the unexpected and serendipitous, but also that which makes you feel something genuinely new and surprising—something that sets your thoughts off on a different path and ends up tweaking your view of the world and yourself just a little bit. Travelling to new places is one of the ways that affords you a chance to take these small steps into the unknown. While I am hardly a Dr. David Livingstone travelling up the Zambezi here, this trip has provided me with more than one such occasion.
Alessandra, my colleague on this project and a regular churchgoer, managed to find a place for herself to attend Sunday’s service located inside the Iris Ministries’ orphanage at the outskirts of Pemba. Having been invited to come back, she asked me to return with her to get a tour of the place and meet some of the kids. We went back later in the day and found our way into the orphanage—a first for me. The setting is special with baobab trees, notable for their enormously thick trunks and being many centuries old—dotting a gently sloping hill down towards that blue of the Indian Ocean which in the late afternoon light no painting or photograph ever can do justice. By no means a fancy place though, the kids are fed, taught, nurtured and perhaps more important than anything, regularly given a little affection and a warm human touch. There are a good number of volunteers as well as the regular employees there but of course, the adults are far outnumbered by kids. It didn’t take long after we entered the little area set aside for toddlers and babies before a little friend stood in your way, arms stretched up just looking at you and wanting to be picked up. How could you not? I can’t see how anyone goes untouched by such experiences…at least it makes you stop and think.
No, its not a Christo art installation. Samora Machel under wraps in Nampula, protected from damage from road work. Trained as a nurse, he was a socialist revolutionary leader and the first president of the country (at the age of 42) following its independence from Portugal in 1975. He was killed in a plane crash in 1986—not sure what the circumstances were around that...
In Pemba we visited with the Aga Khan Foundation’s (AKF) offices. The AKF is a multi-sector charity and has a fledgling microfinance operation in Cabo Delgado and is launching a VSLA type project in the area as well, and as such someone we might garner further insight about our project. Also getting a glimpse into how another, and very different NGO type operates and understanding their underlying structural differences was fascinating. Although a charitable organization with Shia Ismaili roots, AKF has a secular mission but says it is guided by the Islamic principles of consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and respecting human dignity—ideals one hardly can argue with. The Imam Aga Khan is the leader of the organization and part of his family fortune is used to help fund it.
One of the things I had hoped to get out of this trip was to better understand how different charitable organizations operate and the types of people they employ—not to mention how the “business” of aid and development function at a grass roots level. The one thing I have found, whether it is a Christian orphanage, the Aga Khan or the people at CARE, at the source of the engagement there lies is a deeply shared intent of doing good, something I believe all healthy people share as part of their humanity. How one best helps out however, and which organizational types are the most effective is another and much more complicated question. I plan on getting back to that later, perhaps in one of my “weeklies” towards the end of my stay here.
One hen. Not leaving empty handed. It was given to us by a VSLA group as a “thank you” for taking the time to visit. What do I do with this thing—its alive! It would be very rude not to accept the gift…Photo Alessandra Valenti
After a few days in Pemba, we took the short flight inland to Nampula, which is the second or third largest city in Mozambique (depending on who you ask). The place has an industrious feel to it but little of the cosmopolitan flair of Maputo. Nampula is also the regional, and for some the national headquarters location for a number of NGOs. It is the site of CARE's second largest office in Mozambique, and the Natural Resources Management sector, for example is administered from here. One of the very helpful things about CARE’s significant presence in the country is that there usually is some infrastructure in place to handle the logistics and a friendly face to greet us when we arrive—indeed, seeing someone with the "CARE" logo in hand as you exit the airport terminal in a place you have never been gives you a slight sense of relief in the knowledge that you will be well taken care of when in town.
The visits in Nampula were entirely focused on microfinance and VSLAs outside the auspices of CARE and we got an opportunity to visit several VSLA type promoters and NGOs as well as microfinance and "technical support" organizations. The main purpose of these meetings were to learn more about alternative models for delivering financial services to the poor, including ways to do linkages of VSLA like groups (other NGOs also organize savings groups but the structure is often a bit different).
Some General Thoughts on Microfinance and VSLA Groups
When it comes to giving financial services to the poor, there are some significant differences in how NGOs and microfinance institutions do this, not just in Mozambique, but around the globe. There are also some big questions with regards to what the objectives should be, what realistic expectations are as well as the efficacy of such programs. In my opinion, the biggest distinction is whether to take a “savings first” or use a “credit driven” approach. Importantly, microfinance is an umbrella concept and microcredit is not synonymous with microfinance—it is just one of its dimensions as is savings, small ticket insurance and so on. While an oversimplification and not an “either or” issue, in my opinion the main question is whether the better way to help is one of the immediate impact of microcredit vs. the more gradual one of a microsavings-led approach. Both have their advantages and shortcomings. The second and very important difference in my opinion is whether microfinance is provided as part of a “bundle” of financial literacy education with other components of a broader development effort within a community or if it is done in isolation. In other words, the longer-term positive impact is likely to be broader and more lasting if microfinance is offered as part of a bigger picture effort although the measurement of the impact of the microfinance component in such “bundled” deliveries of aid become near impossible to measure. In any circumstance, in my opinion microfinance is just one of many ingredients in aid, and that if done right may contribute to economic development in a meaningful way only over longer time horizons.
One way to do microfinance is to take a credit led approach where you effectively start out by immediately putting fresh cash into the hands of the poor in the form of a loan. This is typically done after a brief training period, usually a week or less—sometimes none. While practices vary, some microcredit organizations administer a “financial literacy” test before credit is extended, probably a good idea. The main thrust behind microcredit is that it provides an immediate economic lift through the financing of cash for working capital, like money for a farmer to buy seeds for planting his crop or perhaps a woman buying a sack of beans wholesale and repackaging them into small bags for "retail" sale at the local market. Such credit also can go to funding “capital investment” like a seamstress buying her first sewing machine and thus dramatically enhancing her own productivity. Money borrowed on such credit also at times is used for tuition, school uniforms or perhaps buying medicine. This kind of use of microcredit is typically what donors like to hear about and is trumped as “how microfinance works” on many NGOs’ and microfinance institutions' websites. Often though, the actual numbers tell a somewhat different truth—indeed a lot of credible research show that a lot of microcredit is just plain old consumer lending for small items like food, a basic TV set, taking a trip to visit relatives, in some parts of Africa even paying for a little girl's circumcision (yes, that's unfortunately a fact), or perhaps paying off another loan and so on.
More than one hen. An entrepreneurial VSLA member has built her own prospering poultry business using her savings and borrowings from the group. We found this place one hour’s drive north of Nampula. Truth be told though, these success stories while great to see, are not all that common here. Photo: © 2010 Trond Skramstad/ CARE
Another microcredit “story line” is that poor people can be very good credits and that women in particular pay loans back as promised. While this is true in general, the reality that someone pays back a loan may not correlate with any significant increase in their level of prosperity but rather that if ones reputation in a tight knit community is on the line (or one is hooked on credit) the borrower will go to extraordinary lengths not to default. While there is definite evidence that microcredit can provide an economic uplift to the recipients of the loans and does help a number of people out of poverty, other studies that look more broadly and longer term at the overall economic impact (i.e. also including the non-recipients of microcredit) show that the total community may only be moderately better off. In other words, it is perhaps not quite the magic bullet some rather well know figures in the development community claim it to be. So, the exceptional stories of rags-to-riches entrepreneurial types getting their start with a $100 loan that you can find on a number of websites are just that—exceptions, and probably say more about the unique entrepreneurial talent of some people than it does of the merits of microcredit, although the latter may have been an important catalyst in the mix. Microcredit, that is if it is used for economic activity in the first place, is for the great majority just a means of basic self-employment. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t set the stage for sustainable growth either. The petty trading it often funds and the jobs it creates because of the lack of skill and available opportunities of the borrower does often not amount to much more than a “lemonade stand on steroids” and has such has little to do with true entrepreneurship. Real entrepreneurial talent and drive, as in the developed world, is not something most people are naturally endowed with but is rather something that occurs “naturally” in a few people. In the US for example which is one of the most dynamic economies around, only about one in ten people are self-employed. All this doesn’t mean to say that a credit led approach is all bad. Rather, it suggests that one may have to lower ones expectations and look very carefully at the details and try to understand how a microcredit program is structured and how it is delivered as well before deciding to get involved.
Although a bit of an “aside,” from a very important “bigger picture” perspective the history of consumer credit in the so-called developed world has generally been that your average citizen started to save first. These savings became an additional source of capital for industry that then could invest in size and employ a large number of people, a critical component in putting these economies on a path to prosperity driven by economies of scale and the very important productivity gains that were generated on the back of this. And, looking to Asia as a real life example today, places like China are growing rapidly from low levels of income based on a culture of thrift that likely is an absolutely critical component in funding the manufacturing capabilities that now has made that economy a global powerhouse. Neither VSLAs nor microcredit in their own right can provide this capital, but at least with a savings led approach as promoted in the VSLA framework, there is hope that the building block of “thrift” is put in place, eventually leading to a more significant economy wide capital deepening on a much longer but more realistic time horizon. Indeed, an ample supply of microcredit (particularly if it comes at the expense of the availability of funding to SMEs and bigger businesses) may not encourage scale but could perhaps actually encourage economic fragmentation as an unintended consequence.
The "other" model then, is a savings led approach. A savings led approach doesn’t necessarily mean that credit is not involved but rather that the guiding principle is that one learns to put aside savings first before one gets to borrow. While it may sound disingenuous and arrogant to teach people barely above subsistence the value of deferred gratification, if done on a small scale the longer term educational component from learning how to save may be more valuable than quick access to credit. While there isn't that instant impact of fresh cash into your hands, you are starting a process of teaching financial literacy and understanding that “delaying” now can result in greater “gratification” later but where “later” still is within a reasonable horizon (for the VSLA groups less than one year). To me, financial literacy involves a lot of components. Some of the more important ones, like understanding what it takes to live within ones means by doing “savings first,” provides an opportunity for a person to learn how much money they can put aside each month—and importantly, understanding what the limits are to how much they can borrow to reduce their risk of over indebtedness later. Understanding that there are meaningful rewards from routine and diligent discipline, whether it is with your money and savings over time, or something else that demand such “skills,” I believe this kind of training also can be of great value. Hence, if you skip the savings step I think there is not just a greater risk of getting into more debt than what you can handle, but perhaps more importantly, a missed opportunity for learning and personal growth.
While I by no means am an expert on aid and development, one of the most important things I have gotten out of my visits around Mozambique thus far is that I have an even greater level of conviction than before that the longer-term efficacy of development probably is much, much more dependent on the “mindware” than the “hardware” in giving aid. What I mean by “mindware” are things like education in the broadest sense of the word and work effecting attitudinal change—some as basic as helping build the self confidence and self respect of individuals and communities—another important byproduct of the VSLA approach as well. When the VSLA group methodology works as intended there is almost a year’s worth of NGO involvement and learning, and “mindware” development can go hand in hand with the practical benefits of the VSLA that can help put more food on the table.
The VSLA methodology does have its own limitations on the path to financial literacy and economic development though. Inherently, the VSLA groups are a “closed” system. i.e. the savings and borrowings as well as the learning once the NGO assistance is over, is limited to the group’s own resources. Indeed, the poverty reducing impact (and improving financial literacy and “mindware” development) can only go so far for the VSLAs. What I am very excited about with respect to the bank linkages project we are working on now is that this may perhaps be one good way of clearing a path to the next level of financial literacy while building on the very important lessons already learned by the VSLA members in their group.
The table below is taking a look at a study done of a relatively similar group format in India and shows that there is an initial uplift from implementing a VSLA type, or Self Help Group (SHG) methodology, as it often is called there. It also points out that if left to its own devices, there are clear limitations on how far such groups can take it which may not just be borne out of this study but also makes intuitive sense to me. What I am hopeful about and what would be very exciting to me indeed, is if “linkages” could become one of the components that help produce a further incremental reduction in poverty after the initial round of benefits from the “traditional” VSLA methodology have been harvested.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:58PM EST on August 11, 2011
This last week was spent working from CARE’s head office in Maputo, a fairly typical developing-country capital city with slums, trash laden streets and crumbling infrastructure. It is not unpleasant though as is sits on the ocean and usually catches a nice fresh-air breeze and is not yet completely swamped by polluting traffic. Indeed, you can sense that the potential is there to make it special. There is culture, some attractive colonial-time buildings and wide avenues. There is a good music scene and some fun art galleries and bars as well. While there was a little bit of time to check the city out, the week was spent meeting with a number of financial institutions and consultants relevant to our VSLA linkages project as well as working in the office.
As you all know, the pleasure of going to work every day greatly depends on a few important things such as working on something that is an interesting challenge and feels personally meaningful, having good colleagues, and feeling rewarded emotionally and/or monetarily. I have been lucky. The bigger task at hand—helping people help themselves escape poverty, even if in a very small way—at time feels like an insurmountable challenge, but working on such puzzle can’t help but make one feel humbled but also being part of something that just has to be important. The colleagues at CARE are also great, most all of the ones we have been in touch with positive and very helpful with this project—having robust infrastructure and “industrial scale” capacity is essential in providing ongoing assistance. I often puzzle how smaller organizations/NGOs (in places such as Mozambique in particular) can get more complex things done in anything approaching and economical fashion.
I have also been lucky to get Alessandra as my colleague on this project. Alessandra is a consultant hired in from Accenture (the big global consultancy firm some of you may have heard of that used to have a certain Tiger as their poster boy—now replaced by an elephant on a surfboard…hmm). She is extremely capable and energetic and a pleasure to work alongside on an everyday basis. She joined me on this project here in Maputo and we share the responsibility to get this work done by mid-December but will of course take all the blame if it doesn’t go well J. One interesting dimension of Accenture’s involvement is that they have something called Accenture Development Partners (ADP) which is the non-profit consultancy arm of the organization and bill out—and also pay their consultants who “volunteer”—half of what they ask of commercial clients.
Our work here involves a couple of key components. The first and most essential, is to determine the VSLA groups’ need for access to the formal financial services sector and if so, develop the criteria used to identify which groups should be linked. Additionally, we need to figure out how the VSLA group methodology should be “tweaked” to make the link happen while doing no harm. After three weeks here it is clear to us that there is a need among a number of the groups and we are finding a general interest in using banks among group members—a few are fearful of them but seem in a great minority. CARE has been implementing the VSLA methodology—initially developed in Niger by Moira Eknes (a fellow Norwegian)—in 33 countries in Africa over the last two decades. One of the key sources of success of this approach has been that each group is a “closed system” meaning all the saving and lending is done within the group and that once trained, the groups become self-managing. This allows this methodology to be scaled up and implemented just about anywhere. The “downside” is that with the success of some groups and a modicum of prosperity, the VSLA group has clear limitations—i.e. the savings in the “box” become a real security risk for robbery or fraud and the availability of funds within the group’s resources fall short of members’ borrowing needs. So up against these constraints, what do you do? The key hypothesis is that while these groups may have outgrown the basic VSLA structure, the inpiduals in the group are typically not ready or in a position to approach the formal financial services sector on inpidual basis. Here the “linkages idea” comes in—using the VSLA methodology but making some important changes to make the connection with the formal financial sector. Figuring out how this bit should be done is a work in progress at this stage.
A second key component is to understand what financial service “delivery channels” can work in a cost efficient manner so that the implementation becomes sustainable. What seems to make the most sense to us is to use technology as a key ingredient in linking VSLAs with the formal sector. In countries like Kenya a mobile phone payment system where you “trade” pre-paid airtime for cash in or out, has taken off. More than 14 million people now move money “safely” around using the M-PESA service there and tens of thousands of small shopkeepers or other “agents” effectively become “bank branches” where you can go and “deposit” or withdraw cash, and basic “banking” can thus be made available except perhaps in the most remote areas. At this point such a service is not yet operable here, but mCel, the largest mobile phone operator in Mozambique will launch its M-KESH product over the next couple of months and Vodacom, the second operator (and sister company to M-PESA in Kenya) is not far behind. Cellular usage is taking off and “penetration” is now well over 50%. Indeed, one of the questions we ask of the VSLA groups we meet with is how many members have a mobile phone. Even in the poorest groups there will typically be a handful of members with phones—in the ones we think could fit the “linkage ready” profile, the majority have them. If this could work and the phone based payment system can be connected to the IT system of the banks, it could potentially be a very low cost option. Another strategy (or maybe a combination thereof) may be to use very low cost branch networks and biometrics (finger print recognition and photos allow even the illiterate to be banked) to facilitate the services connection. BOM (Banco Opportunidad Mocambique), part of Opportunity International (a multinational charity focused on financial services for the poor), is probably the furthest along in developing such a low cost network, including using very small branches—effectively a 40-TEU container that can be put down anywhere there is a road and internet connectivity (could be mobile broadband). These branches have as many as five networked PCs, six employees, a safe and a toilet inside. There is an armed security guard outside.
Above: So excited about low cost banking we can hardly contain ourselves—inside a branch in the BOM network
Above: Illiterate in both Xitsua and Portuguese, this customer can still make his deposit!
The third main piece is to figure out what financial institution(s) we should be using for linkage and what products they possibly should and would be capable of delivering in a sustained fashion. Given the regulatory framework and expertise available, VSLA group deposits can probably be taken by most banks and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). We think the credit piece will be more difficult, and it is already clear commercial banks simply are not in a position to deliver. Unfortunately, there are less than a handful of MFIs in Mozambique of reasonable size and the last year was very difficult for many of them. The global financial market turmoil due in part, there has been lots of turnover among the top management in just about all of these institutions and one of the things we have to worry about is also finding partners that we have confidence are financially viable. There is also very little experience with, and willingness within these institutions to do group loans—understanding the creditworthiness of groups, while well developed in places such as Bangladesh by Grameen Bank and others, is not really something that is a very well understood here. Some creative thinking and further research is in the works to figure this bit out.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:31AM EST on August 11, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer, CARE International
August 9, 2011
“It is unfortunate that the rains have decided to not fall for the last two years.” The Kenyan man sitting next to me on the plane to Nairobi has a very poetic choice of language, which makes for a rather stark contrast when you consider what he refers to: His country and the whole region are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis triggered by a severe drought, which is affecting almost 11 million people. And yes, some parts of this region have not seen rainfall in two years. My neighbor continues: “It is all about water. If you don’t have water, you cannot raise animals. And without animals… well, that is their life insurance.”
Touching down in Dadaab the next morning, I remember that friendly voice. The refugee camp in the North of Kenya is now home to more than 400,000 mostly Somali refugees. Their numbers have risen immensely in the last weeks, due to the ongoing drought and insecurity in their own country. The landscape is dry and plain up here, and one wonders how any group of people, let alone such a high number of refugees, can survive in these difficult circumstances.
This is my first time to Dadaab, but weirdly enough, everything seemed very familiar. Maybe that’s a CARE thing: The refugee assistance program for Dadaab is one of our longest humanitarian missions, many colleagues have worked here at one time or another. And for years, we have continuously talked about it to the public, launched appeals and tried to get journalists interested. But now, with an average of more than 1,000 new arrivals every day and extremely high numbers of malnutrition, Dadaab has become something like the epicenter of the current humanitarian crisis in the horn of Africa.
But a walk through Dagahaley, one of the three camps, also shows the impressive efforts by all the agencies on the ground to provide basic services to all these people. We pass by the reception area where CARE distributes food and other relief items to new arrivals, we see trucks delivering water, and visit the service tents – all of this I have heard about before, but it is still a whole different story to see the work with your own eyes and listen to the admirably energetic colleagues explaining their work.
And we meet Amina Akdi Hassa, who serves as chairlady for the camp Dagahaley. She has been living here for 20 years and is a leader and an advocate for her community. “I want the world to know that they should please share our problems with us”, she explains. “We have had five schools here since the 1990’s, but now there are so many more children.”
The people of Dadaab are talking. But is the world listening?
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:36PM EST on August 8, 2011
Even though the fields of East Haraghe look green, the area has been gripped by a drought due to insufficient rainy seasons.
By Sandra Bulling
Green plots of land cover the lush mountains of East Haraghe in Ethiopia. Small brown huts dot the landscape, their owners busy working in the fields. Thick grey clouds hang above the peaks as high as 3,000 meters, seemingly bursting with rain any moment. On a first look, East Haraghe looks like postcard idyll, perfectly suited for agriculture that yields enough crops to sustain the farming families. On a second, the area is the scene of a severe drought. Malnutrition cases East and West Haraghe zones increased steeply in the past months. The reasons: insufficient rainy seasons, high food prices, chronic poverty and a weather phenomenon called La Nina.
The large majority of Ethiopian households, 87 percent, relies on agriculture as source of income and nutrition. A good rainy season brings relief, a failed one desperation. The past twelve months were determined by worry; the Meher rains that usually arrive from June to September in East Haraghe ceased prematurely last year. As a consequence, the complete harvest was lost. The following Belg rains which are scheduled by nature from March to May were delayed for about two months, insufficient in amount and erratic in distribution. For many farmers it was impossible to plant; and those who did are still waiting for their maize to ripen. One month ago, in June, farmer would have normally started to harvest. But instead, people have no food left in their homes. Scientists credit the insufficient rains to La Nina, a weather phenomenon that changes weather patterns and causes drier conditions in East Africa.
Maize porridge, twice a day
Kado Kaso came with her son Sabona to a government run health center in Kurf Chele district. “My son was vomiting, he had diarrhea and could not hold any of the food I fed him”, she says. Sabona was diagnosed as severely malnourished. The three year old has lost his appetite. His feet, legs and eye lids are swollen – characteristic signs of edema, a medical complication of severe malnutrition. He stares into the room, there is no energy left in the little body to play or move around. Sabona arrived one day ago and the therapeutic food provided by CARE has not regained his energy yet.
When the Belg rains began this spring, Kado started to plant barley and beans on her small land. But the rains stopped earlier and all her crops withered. “We have barely anything to eat. During normal years, we eat three meals a day. Now we are lucky if we eat twice a day,” the 30 years old mother says. She takes Sabona into her arms. “We only eat maize porridge, I cannot afford anything else.”
On the bed next to Kado sits Abdi Mahommed with his five year old daughter Milkiya. She has been here for one week, has recovered her strength and appetite. Both father and daughter will leave the center the next day. They will continue receiving weekly rations of therapeutic food, to ensure Milkiya’s condition stays stable. But Abdi has sold his ox to buy food for his family of eight. “I don’t know how to plant for the next season, I have no ox and no seeds,” he says. He is glad his daughter has regained her appetite and started playing again. “All that matters is saving my daughter’s life.”
Searching for labor
Kado’s husband has moved to the nearest town in search of work. But he is not alone. Fathers stream into the towns offering their labor – and salaries have dropped by 50 percent. “My husband now earns 10 Birr a day, in normal years he can earn 20 Birr”, says Kado. Ten Birr are USD 0.60; and that is how much a kilo of maize costs. A price, that has risen significantly over the past months. “My husband comes back every four days, giving me money to buy food. My four children and I are dependent on him, we have no other income.” She now stays with Sabona in the health center, until the little boy can eat again and reaches a stable condition.
Kado’s other children are at home, alone. Neighbors look after them, but they have no meals to share either. And the health center has run out of resources to hand out food to mothers like Kado coming to stay with their children. “CARE is now starting to provide food for the mothers in the health centers. Because if they don’t get anything to eat, they might be forced to leave or refrain from coming here with their malnourished children,” says Jundi Ahmed, CARE Ethiopia’s Emergency Nutrition Advisor.
A malnourished generation
Today, almost every tenth pregnant woman or lactating mother in East Haraghe is malnourished due to the insufficient rainy seasons. However, malnutrition is a chronic condition for many Ethiopians. Even during years with normal rainfall, the small plots owned by households in East Haraghe do not yield enough to cater for balanced and sufficient meals. Malnourishment during pregnancy determines the entire life of a child. Sons and daughters, who do not receive sufficient nutrition in the first five years of their life will not fully develop their mental and physical capabilities. “It is a chronic hunger cycle that can last for generations. Malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished children and have no means to feed them with most needed vitamins, iodine and iron. Children are smaller in height than well-fed children their age, they are stunted. And it is very likely that they will also have malnourished children,” says Jundi Ahmed.
CARE started food distributions to reach 66,000 people in the zones of East and West Haraghe and Afar. Kado’s family and others in her district receive monthly rations of sorghum, vegetable oil, supplementary food such as corn-soy-blend and beans whereas pregnant mothers and lactating women get special supplementary food. But CARE also has long term development programs in the area, supporting families to overcome poverty and hunger. Through Village Savings and Loan Associations, for example, women can contract small loans to open shops and small businesses. With an additional income families can save assets that protect them in times of drought.
Drought comes in different shapes in Ethiopia. But whether in the dry areas of Borena in southern Ethiopia or the lush green mountains of East Haraghe – the pain and consequences of drought and hunger are the same throughout.
Posted by: Maikeru Roran at 8:01AM EST on August 8, 2011
The deep nature of sport is Education and social links, not scores or physical tests. Modern companies invest in pro sports TO BE SEEN by thousands or millions of people. Athletic performance is the key of pro sport today; however the decrease of mass consumption, in the upcoming years and decades, will be closely related with the decrease of mass communication. Sport performance will be less useful. We must be inventive to find a new paradigm. …
“To be seen” is the current main paradigm in sport, “to influence” should be the next one. I imagine breaking into an “Experimental sport” era….. For a basic company, it’s really important to develop its network, diversify human resources, find new talents, new data, and communicate on a social action to promote its own image. Sport is a universal language and I believe in the communication of sport from IDEAS, VALUES, PROJECTS, instead of performances.
Traditional sport groups in South America, Africa or Asia…. could also provide to the world the most hidden skills in any areas on Earth……and, above all, sport is an experimentation ground.
A social business of sport is a team or only a talented and serious athlete who becomes a link between human communities, and even outside national borders…..because exchange creates wealth. A sports team is not just a service, used by big companies as an advertising tool. Pro sport must be a link between skills everywhere in the world and be used by social groups. Companies and individuals have no needs to fill in, they have talents to express … The social business of sport is a status which will develop Traditional sports and vernacular games, as part of Intangible Heritage. Internationally, we must consider South-South and Local-Local cooperation to obtain an economic impact.
I think a sports manager must be able to bring the most important value for teams and athletes: a socio-economic role. It’s really an economy of sport for the “bottom of the pyramid”.
Posted by: Maikeru Roran at 1:28PM EST on August 5, 2011
Historical Entrepreneurial Science is a
research field dedicated to the social and mitigational development of
the entrepreneurial capital of human societies. The entrepreneurial
capital encompasses all the cognitive and technical assets that have
been in use since the dawn of Mankind. Experimental History and
Archaeology illustrate a nice manner to consider the past and address
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:52AM EST on August 5, 2011
By Juliett Otieno, CARE Kenya
Aug. 4, 2011
Muna* is the envy of her friends in Dagahaley camp. She is also a newly arrived refugee, in fact just nine days in the camp, but unlike her friends who have to live in the outskirts, she has what seems like the comfort of a room within the camp. As soon as she arrived, she managed to trace some of her clan members, who let her use the room in their homestead. Muna is 40 years old, and arrived in Dadaab with her seven children.
Her story, however, is nothing to envy.
She left her husband behind because bus fare for all of them was too expensive. They had to pay Ksh 15, 000 each for the journey on a bus, so he let them go ahead, remaining behind to raise more money for his own trip. “I will join you soon,” he said as he waved them goodbye.
Muna’s journey from Somalia took her 18 long days, having to feed her children wild fruits and look out for wild animals and hyenas. Her children are all safe, and they did not come across any wild animals on the way. However, what her friends would not envy about her is that she was raped on her way to Dadaab. It was midway through their journey, bandits (shiftas) stopped their bus and ordered all the women to step out. “We were eight women on total, so they separated the older women from the younger ones, and told them to get back into the bus. The five of us stayed behind, with our children, and the bus driver was ordered to drive off and leave us behind. That is when they raped us,” she said.
They were in the middle of nowhere, with their children, and strange armed men. The children were pushed away behind some bushes and instructed to be quiet by one of the men, as the others went back to the women and raped them. Some of the other women were gang raped.
Although it was in broad daylight, no other vehicle passed by, and even though they all screamed for help and their children were crying in fear, nobody came to help them. “Afterwards they told us to take our children and keep walking,” Muna and the other women ended up walking 17 kilometres before coming to Dif, where they told some village elders what had happened to them, and they raised some money so the women could go on their journey.
Muna and the other ladies finally came to Dadaab, and she is happy to stay away from her fellow newly arrived refugees, in some private space with her children, among her larger clam. She has gone through reception, and her registration date is set for November 11th. “I am glad we arrived here, and all my children are ok. We finally got some food and water and I have a tent. There are so many people here, even those who came with us, but it is still like we are alone, because my husband is not here.”
The most dangerous period for refugees is when they are on the move. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to rape, abduction, illness and even death on the journey. Many women set out on the journey alone with their children, leaving husbands behind and they may walk for weeks in search of safety.
According to UNHCR reports, the numbers of sexual and gender-based violence cases have quadrupled in the last six months in Dadaab: 358 incidents reported from January until June 2011, in comparison with 75 during the same period in 2010.
CARE has set-up a screening tent at reception centers in Ifo and Dagahaley camps in Dadaab to help identify survivors of sexual abuse or other violence on their journey. In the first six months of this year, since the refugee influx began, 136 cases have been documented, compared to 66 in the same period in 2010. Upon identification, counseling and referred emergency medical attention is administered.
“The deep psychological affects that drought, conflict and subsequent movement can have on woman refugees is immense. We have witnessed high levels of anxiety, panic and trauma due to loss of family members along the way and women are sharing stories of rape, violence and hunger,” said Wilson Kisiero, CARE’s Gender and Community Development manager in Dadaab. “CARE is providing immediate psychological support to the newly arrived women and girl refugees and we are doing all we can to ensure follow-up visits.”
Muna was referred to the MSF clinic by the CARE staff that interviewed her, but she has not gone to the clinic yet, she is afraid she may be pregnant from the ordeal, or she may have a disease. She said she would wait a few more days and then go, but not just yet.
*Not her real named
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:13AM EST on August 5, 2011
by Juliett Otieno, CARE Kenya
Aug. 4, 2011
In Hagadera camp, Fatumo Osman Abdi, 50 has just settled into her tent. She is weary from the journey of 20 days from Somalia. She came with her three grandchildren (aged 13, 5 and 4), her son and pregnant daughter-in-law. Back in Somalia they were farmers, in a place called Kurdun where they grew food for her family. The lack of food became a bigger and bigger problem with time, until they decided to leave.
“Every night as we traveled here, we slept out in the open land, under the stars. We were very afraid, we did not know what was out there, or if there were people coming. We had heard many stories of man-eating lions so we could not even sleep,” she said.
The journey was a difficult one, but Fatumo is thankful that they did not meet any robbers. On their way to Dadaab, they were given food by Muslims on the way, just well wishers who decided to lend a helping hand.
“We arrived here so hungry, so tired. My grandchildren were so tired, I was afraid they would die on the way. Even my daughter-in-law. We slept out in the open for many days, we were under the stars again, but we were safe. After so many days I finally have my tent,” she said.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:43AM EST on August 5, 2011
By Juliett Otieno, CARE Kenya
Aug. 4, 2011
Seventy year old Habibi* came to Kenya as one of 72 people who traveled together from Somalia. That was almost her entire village, she says, and was made up of her family and friends. Her son had heard of Dadaab and told them about it years ago, he had said that they could run to it because of the fighting. Habibi’s husband had declined, opting to stay in Somalia longer.
Back home they were farmers and pastoralists, growing sorghum, and keeping cows, goats and sheep. They left Somalia because of drought, came here with her friends and neighbours, children and grandchildren. She describes the journey to Dadaab as the ‘worst thing she has ever experienced’.
“We were attacked by strange men, they looted all our belongings, women were raped and men were beaten, but we thank God nobody died,”. Habibi was also raped, and manages to talk about it openly, her anger and confusion still evident. “Our husbands and sons were all there to see it happen to us, it was very bad!”
She is still in the influx area of Dagahaley camp, with only 16 other friends and relatives. The others settled in another camp, Hagadera. One of her relatives gave up his tent for her so she could have shelter with her four grandchildren. All they had to eat on the way was maize, and more maize as they traveled the long journey to Dadaab.
“I do not want to go back to Somalia, all our problems are still there! I am here with nothing, but I would rather stay here. Life here is hard, the food they give us is little because now we have to wait for registration, but I would rather stay here than go back,” she said.
*Not her real name.
Posted by: Tyler Harper at 10:33PM EST on August 3, 2011
It has been a lifetime problem for the villagers of Africa. Some cry with tears, some are in pain the very moment I wrote this and some are gasping their last breath. All because of one thing, Poverty. Poverty seems to be a part of their everyday lives. From the moment they were born up to their moment of death. With nothing to eat, they struggle. Would you know how it feels to see your children or grandchildren starve to death? Could you imagine innocent infants, suffer and die because of HIV/AIDS?
The percentage of citizens dying in Africa is increasing every year. According to a custom writing from UNICEF, a child dies from HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty often before their fifth birthday and about 4 million newborns die worldwide during their first month of life. Poverty leads to deprivation of one's everyday necessity. Without proper food and nourishment, what could be the tendency? Statistics show that more than 1 billion children do not have access to one or more of their basic needs nad 90 percent of them suffer from long-term malnourishment.
If we analyze carefully, Africa has the potential to stand up as one of the richest countries in the world. Now the question is, what could be the reason why Africa is so poor? Poverty is present in Africa because of greedy leaders. The truth is Africa always have the resources ever since. The only problem is that the African politicians only thinks about themselves that they only serve the educated and the people of the higher class. What happened to the true meaning of being a public servant? Graft and corruption still rules the whole continent and that is the reason why poverty is rising.
So what can we do to help the people of Africa? Our donation can be a big help and we can extend our reach through the help of fund raising institutions for Africa. At the same, Prayer is good especially for those who ar sick and suffering from hunger. Let us pray to God for them to be given enough strength to handle situations and pour them blessings. We all know how heavy their burden is every single day. It is never too late to help. Act now!