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Notes from the Field
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:54AM EST on December 21, 2011
By Richard Wecker – CARE International in Vietnam
Nguyen Van Ngat lives with his wife, Le Thi San, and their four daughters on the edge of Tra Su national landscape reservation, near Văn Giáo commune of Tịnh Biên district.
The tree-lined road to their home remains some four metres below the surface of what is now a lake. Water levels have remained high for six weeks after the peak of the floods in An Giang province, Vietnam.
Ngat and his neighbours had the experience and foresight to elevate their wooden floors in preparation for this flood season. Their homes are sitting just above the water, propped up by makeshift stilts. "We were aware the floods would be high this season so we helped each other to prepare," he says. Without knowing the signs to look for and without taking heed of warnings, the family of six would otherwise be stranded, homeless.
At first glance, this isolated cluster of floating houses look purpose built, however all of inhabitants tread lightly as the renovations were rushed and the support beams were weakened by termites prior to the floods. "We need to reinforce our house as it may collapse at anytime but we have no money to do this," Ngat says. Many of the houses in his area were evacuated before the peak of the floods. Some residents have returned but many cannot live in their house due to risk it may collapse.
Ngat usually works as a hire-labourer, mainly farming rice, however his usual employers have no work for him. Seasonal flooding is normal in this part of the world but this year the water has reached record highs, destroying a large amount of the season's crop and creating a risk of poor people going hungry since they are the most affected. There are many people in Ngat's position, who is now faced with the challenge of feeding himself and his family for the next 3-6 months until floodwaters recede and the next season comes around.
Ngat usually fishes to supplement the family's income but the wind and tides are in motion, unsettling what might otherwise be a surrounding bounty for his family.
Furthermore, his fishing tackle is old and worn and his boat has holes in it. What Mr Ngat might catch on a good day might fetch 20-30.000 VND (US$1-1.50) at the market, which could buy just enough rice for the whole family of six. He expects the calm to return in December but he insists: "the weather has been unpredictable in recent years and no one can say what the future will bring".
Ngat's wife San suffers from chronic heart disease and so the eldest daughter stays at home to take care of her and the younger siblings. Occasionally she will also go out fishing with her father, leaving the house early in the morning to return around lunch time.
Of the four girls only one goes to school. She had been faring the floodwaters by boat with no safety gear and would take raw rice from the family's reserve rations for her teacher to prepare her lunch. As Ngat and San cannot pick up their daughter from school they rely on other members of the community to watch after her.
The lights of this household are extinguished early and the evening meals of rationed rice are cleared quickly to avoid attracting the swarms of mosquitoes from the nature reservation - dengue is rife this time of year. It's a precarious situation for Ngat and his family but they are looking out for each other.
CARE International in Vietnam has provided immediate food support to strengthen to capacity of people affected by the floods.
Ngat and his family are one of over 1,000 households in An Giang province that have received immediate food support. "It's enough for us to live for a month, we are very grateful for the support," Ngat says. Follow-up distributions are intended to provide additional support during this period while livelihoods have been disrupted. Any subsistence stocks of rice that remain in his area are inaccessible. Having this staple will prevent him and his family from falling in to a credit-debt spiral that threatens to prolong this period of hardship.
CARE has also distributed non-food items funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to strengthen the coping capacity of communities at high risk from the floods, including elderly people with little family support, people with disabilities, female-headed households with dependent children and infants, as well as poor families, landless families and those reliant on casual labour.
Ngat and San's daughter can now take filtered water to school in a bottle after they received a silver-impregnated water filter and training on how to manage their water using this device. They also received mosquito nets that will help to protect them from the mosquito swarms at night; hygiene kits to reduce the risk of contracting water-borne diseases or infections; a 10 litre bucket for hauling water; blankets for the coming cool months and lifejackets.
CARE is working with communities to plan how they can provide further support to families such during this peak-flood period and over the course of the next 3 to 6 months. The plans are to focus on livelihoods support while the water levels recede and families such as Ngat and San's wait for the next rice harvest season.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:33AM EST on December 21, 2011
Richard Wecker – CARE International in Vietnam
Le Thi Dieu is 72 years-of-age but she possesses the sharp wit of a curious teenager. She offers her warm smile and laughs aloud, speaking candidly of her life in An Giang province - one of the most flood-prone areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
For many years Ba Dieu had resided under a makeshift shelter on the banks of the river only 10 minutes by boat from the centre of Thạnh Mỹ Tây Commune. She recounts stories of trudging through floodwaters, her house being uprooted and searching for food.
In her recent years, Ba Dieu has supported herself by collecting morning glory (an Asian vegetable) and selling it at the market to buy rice to eat. A day's collection might amount to VND 10.000 (US$0.50).
The Mekong Delta is her home and she has lived in this region her whole life.
An Giang is the northern most province of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, which borders with Cambodia - the start of the floodplain. The floods are the source of livelihoods in this region as rich sediment and ample water moving downstream creates a nourishing environment for rice production. However, every so often – like this season – the floods are beyond normal levels, destroying the current crop and disrupting farming for some time after. This year the water has peaked at levels that were last recorded during the devastating floods in 2000, putting people like Ms Dieu in a serious situation. "I hadn't eaten rice for 2-3 days," Ba Dieu says.
Ba Dieu received a fortnight's worth of rations in an immediate distribution of food from CARE International in Vietnam. "I was so happy when I received the invitation to collect my rice. It means I now have enough to eat and I don't need to borrow from other people in the area. It's enough to support myself and my family for my family during the most difficult time of this flood," she says.
Ba Dieu says that she decided to give one of the three 10 kilogram rice bags she received to her adult son. "His eyesight is poor and it's difficult for him at this time too. It's hard to catch fish as the winds are still strong," she says, "he helps me tend to the garden and lift heavy things."
CARE's food distribution aimed to provide assistance for the most vulnerable people - the poor, women-headed households, people with disabilities and the elderly in flood-affected areas of An Giang. The food rations were intended to strengthen the coping capacity of the community while floodwaters remained high.
The area where Ba Dieu lives is surrounded by a ring dyke that has protected her from the full force of the floods, however she recounts when the floodwaters of previous years would rise between the cracks of her house. Ba Dieu smiles as she says: "if the dyke holds, I can survive like this".
It's a difficult time for many people living with the floods, especially this year, but Ba Dieu refrains from complaining about her own circumstances. Her strong character and charm has kept her in good stead with the community as a support network.
CARE International in Vietnam will provide additional food distributions to strengthen the coping capacity of at-risk communities in An Giang province. Livelihood interventions are also being planned in consultation with local communities to assist with the recovery period for 3 to 6 months from now.
Posted by: Olamiposi Turton at 8:10PM EST on December 16, 2011
Hello everyone, I just saw the 'ad' on cable and joined, I really don't know much, but i noticed that there is no Care office in Nigeria and we really need you here, i really don't know if you help with cancer ? because it is becoming very alarming in my country, i just lost a friend's mother and she has already lost her father, i know HIV/AIDS is very serious but AIDS can be prevented but Cancer can not, women don't have the access to the right equipment to test themselves while some are not even allowed to talk or go for a test, please if you can set up an office here or even come for a visit we would really appreciate it.
Posted by: Carrie Ferguson at 1:50PM EST on December 12, 2011
All is not well with the status of motherhood in the United States. While we’ve become more empowered in our right to choose whether or not we want children and how we balance family life, we’ve not fully claimed our power in the way it all begins: birth.
Women have limited information and therefore limited choices, and outcomes are not good...
We fall behind 49 other countries in our rate of maternal death, despite spending more per capita on maternity care than any other nation.
A woman giving birth in the US today is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was.
These outcomes are unacceptable in this wealthy, progress proclaiming nation, yet they are also our invitations to improve not only maternity care in the US, but also the status of women everywhere.
Join the transformation for Improving Maternity Services at Childbirth Connection. And urge your Congress member to co-sponsor the Maternal Health Accountability Act.
And women...Now is the time to own your experience, to make conscious decisions around the birth of your child. As we do so, we also birth our own potentials to create a different world. A world where a woman giving birth is not losing her human rights, but is rather a woman claiming her amazing creative power!