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Notes from the Field
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:44PM EST on April 10, 2013
Two weeks ago, Yawo Douvon, CARE's country director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), found himself showing Angelina Jolie and U.K. foreign minister William Hague around the Lac Vert camp for displaced people near Goma, DRC, where they visited to meet with rape survivors. Today, as the G8 foreign ministers gather in London to sign a declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict, Yawo calls on them to listen to the voices from Goma, support Hague's initiative and provide the means to make the initiative work.
GOMA, DRC (April 10, 2013) – Eastern DRC is known as the "rape capital of the world" and, as VIP visitors have come and gone over the years, it is easy to become cynical and wonder if warzone rape can ever truly be tackled given its prevalence and complex causes.
Some within the media were skeptical when the British Foreign Secretary and the Hollywood actress visited CARE's work in DRC, thinking perhaps it was more of a PR trip than anything. But, guiding them around the camp as part of William Hague's initiative for preventing sexual violence in conflict, I was struck by their sincerity and passion.
We introduced them to women like Marie and Josephine who recounted the horrific experiences they had suffered. We also showed them CARE's work helping survivors of sexual violence with their immediate needs for medical care, shelter, water and food, as well as the longer-term psychological support and financial assistance they need to move on with their lives.
William Hague was particularly interested in hearing about the situation of rape survivors in order to better understand how they can be supported in the aftermath of an attack and protected from future violence. He was moved by meeting unaccompanied children and asked what was being done to reunite them with their parents. Angelina Jolie was shocked by the level of atrocity experienced by the women she met, and wanted to know more about what could be done to help them. She was interested in how important cash transfers were to the women she spoke to and how they represent hope for them to be able to rebuild their lives.
As the G8 Foreign Ministers' meeting takes place in London tomorrow, I hope that William Hague will bring the voices of Marie, Josephine and the others like them who he met on his visit to DRC and Rwanda to the attention of his fellow foreign ministers. The task of tackling warzone rape may be colossal, but I applaud his efforts to seek an end to an atrocity that has brought so much misery and terror not only to so many ordinary Congolese people, but also to countless others the world over.
William Hague has declared a campaign to tackle impunity. By seeking to put in place an international protocol to increase prosecutions, he aims to send the message to perpetrators of warzone rape that their crimes will no longer go unpunished and rape will no longer be seen as an inevitable consequence of conflict. He has invested in a team of experts to gather evidence, investigate and prosecute such crimes. This is important first step on what will be a long and arduous journey.
It's encouraging to see a world leader – and a man – take a stance on this difficult issue and stake his reputation on it. I see in the villages in which CARE works in DRC how much more progress is made when not only women but also men challenge custom and practice, and take a stand against sexual violence.
I know of course that more is required to address the root causes of violence in Eastern DRC, which are complex and deep-seated. They involve competition for control of natural resources by various armed groups and deep grievances over power between different ethnic groups. Impunity for sexual violence crimes is rooted in wider lawlessness, which requires the wholesale reform of the national justice and security sectors.
An international protocol to tackle impunity together with deployments experts can help, but they cannot substitute for – and will not work without – long-term, difficult work to reform such institutions on the ground.
So, the diplomatic initiatives launched at the G8 will need to link to long-term aid programs, to address the unique and complex set of circumstances faced by the DRC and the different – but no doubt just as complex – sets of circumstances faced by every other state or region affected by conflict.
And, if they are to benefit from this work, the survivors themselves must see their immediate needs met – for lifesaving medical assistance, as well as longer-term health, counseling and livelihoods support to put their lives back together.
This is what I showed William Hague and Angelina Jolie during their visit to Lac Vert and it is this support that remains chronically underfunded.
What I hope now is that the G8 nations will review their funding to countries affected by conflict, and work with the UN and agencies like CARE to assess how to plug the gaps in frontline services for survivors. It should not be beyond our collective ability to ensure that whoever needs lifesaving assistance receives it. We have just lacked the resources and political will to make this happen, until now.
As I said earlier, I hope that the stories of Marie and Josephine are still vivid in William Hague's mind and that he will share these with his fellow foreign ministers. I ask the other G8 countries, on behalf of the many rape survivors we at CARE have assisted over the years in DRC and other war-torn states, to listen to the voices from Goma and act to end the heinous crime of warzone rape.
By launching his initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict, William Hague has said "enough is enough." Now it is time for the other powerful governments of the G8 to join his call and provide the means to put it into action.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:35PM EST on April 9, 2013
Marie, 30, fled her home in Kitchanga when armed groups arrived and violence broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo in March. Her long journey to safety – a week by foot, through fields and forest – was anything but safe.
One day, at dusk, not long before reaching the Lac Vert camp, the group of women she was with found themselves surrounded by armed men.
"As soon as we saw them, we knew what would happen," she says. "It is either die or accept your fate."
For women in DRC, "fate" often means rape
In the forest, at dusk, in front of their children, Marie and all the other women with her were raped.
Marie has a four-month-old baby. She doesn’t know where her husband is; they lost sight of each other when they fled. He doesn’t know what has happened to her, and Marie worries about how he is going to react once he does.
Somehow, after their ordeal, the women made it to Lac Vert camp. She arrived a week ago, and has been in pain and ashamed ever since.
"Everything hurts." She points to her abdomen, back, neck. She touches her head. "And here, too. I can’t sleep. What happened has been keeping me awake."
Support for rape survivors
Yesterday, Marie heard about the "house for mothers," a tent in the camp where women who have suffered sexual violence are offered support. Mustering up her courage, she came here to seek help. Now, she will receive emotional support and referral for medical care at the nearby health center.
Marie found out about the house from an educator trained by CARE. The job of educators is to let women in the camp know that such a place exists. They talk to survivors and encourage these women to reach out for help. They also speak to men to help foster a change in attitudes towards rape.
Marie says of the group with whom she traveled, "I will tell the other women to do the same, to come here. Many are ashamed and don’t want to admit to what has happened to them."
Rape with impunity
Marie says that the men who commit these horrific acts are never punished. "How can they be?" she asks. "They appear from nowhere, and disappear into nowhere. Who is going to find them?"
Her only hope is when the war stops, life will be better.
"Tell people to help us so that this stops, and we can go back to our homes," she says suddenly, a trembling plea in her voice.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:13PM EST on March 29, 2013
Nov. 5, 2012
I have reason to be excited. It's my first trip to Africa. As an African-American woman, I'm trying to process the significance of what it means to finally be on the continent. It's also the first time in my life that everywhere we go and on every street we walk down, the people all look kind of like me.
I'm eager to see CARE's poverty-fighting programs. For a long time I've wanted to use my position to help improve people's lives. Now, I'll get to see first-hand how CARE does exactly that. CARE's approach is to attack the root causes of poverty instead of just addressing the symptoms. Hearing CARE staff talking about it reminded me of when we were growing up and our dad would lead family sit-down meetings. He'd ask us questions like "Why is it that when you do something for someone it doesn't work as well as when you help them help themselves?"
Nov. 6, 2012
On the road to Hawinga, a small town in western Kenya near Lake Victoria and the border of Uganda, we passed the Equator! That was definitely worth a picture and we stopped to snap one.
The road was rougher than I anticipated. For much of the two-hour drive from the nearby provincial capital, Kisumu, there was no road at all – but a lot of mud. Instead of driving straight, our driver had to carefully swerve left and right across the road to avoid the huge, mud sinkholes.
Along the way we saw women and children walking, some carrying baskets on their heads. Cows grazed nearby. I noticed a group of children carrying long, green sticks. Some were swinging the sticks in a carefree gait; others were chewing the tops of the sticks. "Sugar cane," our driver told us; a popular snack.
Finally, we arrived at the Hawinga Health Facility. The clinic is a small white house with a wrap-around porch. Behind the house is a peaceful river out back. It's the community's water source.
At the clinic we heard from Greg Allgood, head of Procter & Gamble's Children's Safe Drinking Water program. Clean drinking water is critical to helping people in poor communities live healthier, more productive lives, he explained. Then a mind-blowing statistic: More than 2,000 children die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe drinking water, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
CARE and P&G have teamed up to support local mothers and children with 53 clinics in the small towns like Hawinga that surround Kisumu. For nearly 5 years, they've been providing clean water to prevent waterborne illnesses. CARE and P&G provide the communities with P&G water purification packets that transform unsafe river, creek and well water into safe drinking water. And CARE provides comprehensive community education in hygiene and proper sanitation.
Beatrice Nafula, a health worker at the facility, demonstrated a hand-washing technique. Then we followed her to a bore hole, or a well - a quick three-minute walk- to fetch water. Nearby, I heard screaming babies. It was vaccination day at the clinic and the babies were clearly not enjoying their shots. Greg told us that clean water is an incentive for moms to go to the clinic so they can receive other critical services including immunizations or even giving birth.
We walked next door to Beatrice's house and watched her clean the water. I asked her what life was like before having access to clean water. While stirring the purification packets in a large plastic bucket of water, she told me how she contracted typhoid fever from drinking contaminated water. She got so ill that she slipped into a coma. She also told me about the time one of her kids got a nasty burn while boiling water to purify it. One of her neighbors, Janet Meda, told us her children got diarrhea two or three times a month before they had access to clean water. With the purification packets, the people have easy access to safe water. They're healthier and life is a little easier.
From the clinic we made the short drive to Goro Primary School, where students learn hand-washing techniques and how to purify water.
Wearing green school uniforms, the students welcomed us it with a song and dance. The lyrics to the song – in English - were fitting: "Bye Bye Cholera, Typhoid. Kids are now healthy and wise."
I joined them for a dance. I couldn't resist.
On the drive back, I kept thinking about Janet and Beatrice. Their experiences underscored the vital role of women as household stewards in rural communities. Given access to the proper resources, in this case access to clean water, they make sure everyone around them is taken care of.
I'm encouraged that something as simple as clean water can save and improve lives and that I was able to witness it.
I can't wait until tomorrow.
Posted by: BARUME BISIMWA ZIBA at 3:19AM EST on March 22, 2013
Im BARUME BISIMWA ZIBA Secourist Red -Cross in Uvira south-kivu rep democratic of congo im looking for a jobs in rdcongo .contact mail firstname.lastname@example.org tel 243 971603199 243 853195164 . fanks for your helping job .
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:48AM EST on March 15, 2013
Claudine Mensah Awute, Country Director with CARE Mali, describes the humanitarian crisis in the West African nation.
About a year ago, the world started to watch with alarm the growing number of people suffering from a severe food crisis engulfing the Sahel region, which, at its peak, affected more than 18 million people.
To make things worse, Mali, once one of the most stable and peaceful countries of the region, saw an escalation of violence as fighting erupted in the north of the country. Thousands of families spilled into neighboring countries, taking refuge in camps hastily patched together on the border of Niger or Mauritania, whilst many others sought relief and shelter with friends and families in the south of the country.
In recent weeks, Mali has been grabbing headlines as government, French, ECOWAS and Chadian troops continue their fight against armed groups in the north of the country. Every day, there has been news of the troops reaching one town after another.
But what has been grabbing fewer or no headlines at all is the number of people who have been forced to flee their homes amidst the fighting–wives torn apart from their husbands, children from their parents, families from their communities. They have been forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.
And the numbers keep growing. During three weeks in January alone there have been nearly 18,000 refugees and 12,000 displaced people in Mali.
These numbers can be overwhelming, but behind them, there are people – in flesh and bone, each with a story of their own. Such as Rokia, a mother of four, who told CARE that she had fled by herself with her four children. Months before, her husband had to flee their village in the north after being attacked by armed groups. She is constantly worried about him and distressed as she doesn’t know how she could fend for her children by herself.
Haussa, a mother of four in Bamako, who fled Timbuktu in early January, told us that she would like to return home, though she was well aware there is nothing waiting for her.
The needs are many. As our recent assessments have shown, displaced families lack even the most basic necessities. They are in desperate need of food, water, adequate shelter and essential items such as kitchen utensils, blankets, mats and soap. For those who are planning to return home, the unknown awaits – how much of their belongings have been stolen? What about the next harvest and will they be able to plant? And there is a need to come to the aid of those living in trying circumstances in various refugee camps across the border, all of them still suffering from the strain of last year’s food crisis.
On January 29th, the Consolidated Appeal Process for Mali was launched in Bamako, two months after an international launch. The appeal sums up the global humanitarian needs across the country for the current crisis and is based on assessments by United Nations Agencies and International NGOs.
During these two months, less than 1 percent of the US$ 373 million needed has been funded. Yet during the recent Donors Conference in Ethiopia, more than $450 million was provided to support military operations in Mali. So obviously, the international community can mobilize resources for Mali, and they can do it fast.
Today, an international support group for Mali is meeting in Brussels to discuss how to support the political process leading to Mali's elections. CARE and other humanitarian agencies on the ground ask for a similar level of commitment, mobilization and attention to meet the urgent humanitarian needs as well. Established actors on the ground know what needs to be done, and if funding is made available, relief can be provided quickly.
CARE has been distributing food in two of the five regions which are the worst affected. CARE supports both internally displaced people and host communities who are still recovering from last year’s food crisis with programs such as cash for work and the provision of much needed inputs such as tools and seeds to ensure a decent harvest. More than 130,000 people in Timbuktu will receive life saving food supplies over the following months.
CARE’s Appeal – $6 million for 1 year – will fund an emergency response that includes life-saving activities, which include providing access to food, water, sanitation and cash programs for 30,000 families, and better access to school for 25,000 school children who have been displaced due to conflict.
CARE is also responding with long-term development solutions that include disaster risk reduction and food security programs. Many of our activities, including cash and food related initiatives, focus on women, as they often suffer the most during times of crisis.
Mali is a clear example of where aid will save lives. It is the very essence of why most donors support our aid program. It is also why so many individuals give donations.
Despite the fact that Mali and its people might be a world away, they are in dire need of our help. And they need it now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:45AM EST on March 15, 2013
In NGO jargon, they are called ‘host communities.’ Most often, they are people who, despite going through a difficult time themselves, welcome and support others who are even less fortunate. In brief, they are good people.
Fifty-six-year-old Fatimata, a widow from Mali, is one of them. Ségou, the region where she has been living, has seen the arrival of more than 2,000 people over a period of three weeks in January alone – people who, fearing for their lives, have fled the north of the country and its recent fighting.
They are part of nearly 12,000 people displaced within the country since Jan. 11 and an addition to approximately 18,000 who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
“We can not abandon them,” says Fatimata over the phone. “They are our brothers and sisters.” Her voice falters every few minutes – not so much because of the connection, but because what she is recounting is obviously distressing for her.
She hasn’t had an easy life, she says. She is a widow, sharing her modest pension and house with some of her children and eight of her grandchildren.
Then followed the arrival of her sister and two children, her brother with his wife and two children, and a cousin with more children. They all fled Gao – the largest city seized by armed groups – amidst scenes of violence and dread.
Now they all share Fatimata’s house and everything she has. Little as that is.
When asked to describe her day, she points out that most of it is focused on scraping things together, on ensuring there is some food, especially for the children. “Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t,” she says. “We live from one day to another. Only God knows how we manage,” she concludes after a pause.
How do they manage? They borrow money. They buy food, cook it and sell it in the street. “We try to manage with the little we have. It is not easy for anyone. For my brother especially. He is not comfortable being here with his whole family and having to rely on his younger sister. He doesn’t like the fact that he can’t work.”
But sadly, until there is full peace in their hometown, or help arrives in their host community, they are forced to continue living as they can. On scraps of food and hope.
Note: CARE has been distributing food in Ségou and Mopti. CARE supports both internally displaced people and host communities who are still recovering from last year’s food crisis. CARE is also responding with long-term development solutions that include disaster risk reduction and food security programs. Many of CARE’s activities, including cash and food, focus on women as they often suffer the most during times of crisis. CARE is particularly concerned about them.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:07AM EST on March 15, 2013
Following recent fighting in Mali, CARE interviewed the people of Diabaly about their experiences. Sadly, many of them had tragedies to share. The following are a few stories as told to CARE by the survivors.
“We were awakened by gunfire. Very alarmed, my husband, my three children and myself went into hiding in our room until the following day.
By the following night, we managed to flee. We reached a rice field. Soon, we were taken in by the first family we met. They were very welcoming. They gave us food and water, and did not ask many questions.
I then took a bus with my kids to Siribala to join my aunt. I did not have any money on me, and my aunt paid for our transport when we arrived. My husband continued to Bamako and since then I have no news from him.
It's really hard for my aunt and all of us.”
From Awa and Assan:
Red eyed from insomnia, still covered in the black burqa imposed by armed groups, Awa has a sad story to share. As she is still very distressed, it is Assan, her sister, who tells CARE Awa’s story.
“After the January shooting in Diabaly, my sister Awa walked nearly 100 miles from Diabaly to Sibirila with two of her children and eight other unaccompanied children.
Traumatized by the events in Diabaly, she doesn’t talk much now, and she is not her usual self. She is currently receiving medical treatment so that she can better deal with her distress.
Things are tough for us now with having to look after all the children as well.”
Following the fighting on Monday, January the 11th, in Diabaly, a man in his 50s describes the longest night of his life.
“It was a nightmarish night,” he says. “We were hiding in the house, with a gut wrenching fear, but the worse was yet to come. Suddenly a bullet pierced the bedroom door of my children; it hit my 10-year-old son in the head as he was sleeping; he would never wake up again. My 12-year-old daughter was also wounded. I confess that since then I have not been functioning well; I have been feeling very down.”
Note: to date, CARE has supported internally displaced people in Siribala with essential food distributions; over the past few weeks, CARE distributed 528 kg of food to 605 people. Overall, in the months of January-February, a total of 46,888 people in the regions of Mopti and Segou have been assisted, with 668 metric tonnes of food being distributed.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:06PM EST on January 30, 2013
By Adel Sarkozi, CARE
In an outer suburb of Bamako – Mali's capital - with half finished buildings on dusty dirt roads covered in litter, you enter a two-storey house. Like many other derelict houses in the neighborhood, you're told, it is inhabited by "Northerners."
They are most often women with their children, or just children, torn apart from the rest of the family and forced to flee the Timbuktu region, its violence and chaos, its dread-filled streets, empty shops, schools and health centers shut down since last April.
Their stories sound the same, with small variations, punctured by half sentences, and words, such as – "fear," "had to flee," "on the road for four days," "could not take anything with us," "husband left behind," "life turned upside down." They are probably the best summed up by Komjo, a grandmother in her 60s:
"Everything that was good in my life, I had to leave behind. I live on memories, those before the fighting," she says.
I find her seated on the floor, surrounded by younger women and their children, some her relatives, some neighbors from Timbuktu. There are about 40 of them in the house, having joint relatives or just good-hearted people. At night, they cram in two semi-bare rooms, and on a bare balcony.
As every morning since she fled to Bamako six months ago, Komjo is bending over a large plate full of small shells. ‘She is reading the future," says Haussa, a woman in her 30s, seated on her right.
"So what do the shells say today?," I ask.
I expect her to say something about her future, that of Timbuktu – liberated just the day before – or that of Mali, but she starts telling me about my own future. And from the way she touches upon my past, I cannot help believing that her predictions might be true as well.
When I ask about Timbuktu, she says, "Only God knows…We cannot be sure." She starts tossing the shells in front of her for a few seconds, and then she adds, "But I would go back straight away, this very instance if I could."
For the first time, there is passion in her voice, and a shade of smile on her face neatly lined by the trace of time, tucked under a bright headscarf.
"We will go back as soon as there is complete peace there," Haussa picks up the story.
She arrived in Bamako on January 10, after a four-day journey, most of it by boat. The story of her family's journey over the past seven months is intricate, marked by painful decisions. Last May, Haussa and her husband decided to send their three older children – between 7 and 12 years old – to Bamako, in the safe hands of helpful relatives. The parents were worried about the children's safety after violence erupted in Timbuktu last April, but they also wanted the children to continue going to school.
"In Timbuktu," she says, "there has been nothing since last April – no schools, no clinics, no electricity, no water, no services whatsoever. It was hard for the children."
They kept only their youngest son with them – Abdul, a playful, 2 year old. Then, a few weeks ago, fearing the worst, her husband insisted that Haussa leave with their little one. The two set off leaving the husband and father behind. He stayed because he was worried that their house would be vandalized.
Abdul found the journey difficult, Haussa explains, and often cried out of tiredness, pleading for them to stop.
Haussa pulls Abdul over to her lap while Abdamane, the eldest son, joins them on the floor. When asked what he misses about his life in Timbuktu, Abdamane says shyly, "Everything … my school … my friends … my father, most of all."
His story is sadly too common – of families torn apart, predicting a future just as uncertain and disrupted, they say, as their recent past.
A bright, articulate boy, Salif, is taking refuge in the same house with two of his younger brothers. School is important to him, he says. He wants to become an agricultural engineer, and is now in his last year of high school. Last year, he spent five months out of school, until he too fled from Timbuktu.
I turn back to Komjo who is still staring at her shells.
"More news?" I ask.
She pauses, eyes still cast on the shells.
"Life is hard here. Everything is expensive. We live from one day to another. We have to borrow money, cope with whatever little we have. When we heard Timbuktu was freed, we were filled with joy. It was unbelievable. There is little left there. It will be hard, but we want to go back … as soon as we can," she finally says.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:24PM EST on January 28, 2013
Struggling to Survive
As told to CARE by Ibrahim, 57 years old
I had to leave my village of Temara (near Timbuktu) eight months ago because of the crisis in the north of Mali. Since then, I have been living in Sévaré [near Mopti] with my family and that of my brother – about 20 people – in a house we have been renting.
I don't work and the other family members don't either, so we don't have any revenue. The children are not going to school either. God to be praised, we manage to eat once and often twice a day thanks to donations by NGOs such as CARE, or support from our parents.
We are facing enormous difficulties. The main issue is the lack of food as I can't even ensure the three daily meals for my family. Also, my family and I have problems with the accommodation despite the two tents and the one toilet that we were given by the Red Cross.
We need help from aid organizations, especially clean drinking water as at the moment we are using untreated water from the well. I would like especially to receive the emergency supplies that CARE and the World Food Program are currently distributing in Sévaré.
A Mother on Raising Her Family in a Conflict Zone
As told to CARE by Rokia, 40 years old
I am from Niafounke (near Timbuktu).
I have been living in Mopti for nine months. I came here after my husband was assaulted by armed groups and he had to flee. He left me with the four children and we are living now with the village chief of Massaya Daga in Mopti in a small house.
I am very worried about my husband as I don’t often have news from him. But I thank God that my children and I can eat three times a day thanks to food distributions by CARE and the World Food Program. As for water, we use water from the river, mixing it with bleach. Not having an activity to enable me to earn money means that I am faced with a lot of problems trying to raise the children by myself.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:49AM EST on January 23, 2013
As told to CARE on January 19, 2013:
My house is about a dozen meters from the military camp in Diabaly. This Thursday at 5:00 in the morning, we heard gunfire between armed groups and the Malian army, which had rigorously counter-attacked the armed groups in Alatona, at the entrance to the town.
We heard loud gunshots everywhere and, tragically, one civilian was killed in the gunfire. I quickly ran to take cover at a friend's house. I was relieved that my family had already traveled to Markala for the weekend.
It was total panic everywhere in the town of Diabaly and the population had only one choice: hide in their houses and pray to God.
I hid for three days in horrible conditions, without any food. The second and third days were particularly nightmarish for me, because as a worker for a water company, one of the armed groups was looking for me to kill me. According to their philosophy, you are not allowed to sell water.
Thanks to a source that I would rather not name, I was quickly informed of the situation. I will never stop thanking the population of Diabaly: not only did they refuse to hand me over to the armed group; they disguised me as a woman and helped me flee the town. On my lips were but one sole refrain that came from the bottom of my heart: May God protect us, God is great.
I walked for 35 kilometers by foot before I came to a place with telephone coverage, and I called a friend in Niono, a town about 60 kilometers away, who came to rescue me by motorbike.
I arrived exhausted and traumatized by the events that occurred in Diabaly. Now, by the grace of God, my morale is better, and I am asking everyone to immediately come to the aid of the people of Diabaly – particularly with food – because they are in desperate need.
*The name of the person in this story has been withheld to protect his identity.
Safe humanitarian access is critical at this point and remains a major challenge for all humanitarian actors in Mali. However, with close to 9,000 people uprooted from their homes since the latest round of violence began on January 10, CARE is eager to better understand the situation and needs of the people. We have a rapid assessment team in the region of Ségou and another team will go to the Mopti region when it's deemed safe.
Please make your donation today to support CARE's lifesaving and life-changing work in Mali and other poor and war-torn countries around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:59AM EST on January 14, 2013
A few days before Christmas, CARE teamed up with partner organizations to distribute relief items in displacement camps around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, where a recent surge in violence has displaced an additional 150,000 people, adding to what’s one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the world.
Countless sporadic settlements have sprung up, with most shelters mainly consisting of sheets and flimsy wooden frames that will be no good during the rainy season. To bring some relief, CARE helped distribute more than 17,500 relief kits containing items such as kitchen sets, blankets and plastic sheeting.
Meet some of the beneficiaries:
My name is Mwamini Bagirisha. I am 20 years old. I’ve lived in Mugunga camp since April 28, 2012, fleeing the conflict between the government forces and the M23 group.
Since I have come from the territory of Masisi to Goma, we have received support two times. First, the Red Cross gave us food and plastic sheeting. Then, the government distributed some food, too. But when M23 took over Goma in November, we lost everything again. The fighting happened here, just right outside of our camp.
I am very happy to receive these relief items because now I can cover my hut again. The cooking utensils and clothes will help us, too. But all I really want is to return to my home village and bring in the harvest. We had to leave our land and the fields when we fled in April.
My name is Jeanne Mujawimana and I am 52 years old. I’ve fled my home in Masisi Bihambwe and now I’ve lived in this camp for three weeks. I haven’t found a place to build a hut yet, so I live in a hangar. I have seven children and am very happy to receive this assistance. This will help me construct a shelter for my family.
I would like to thank all the humanitarians who come and bring us relief like this. It will help us overcome the rainy season. I wish we could also get some food assistance, because we do not have enough to eat. Christmas and New Year’s will be difficult.
My name is Natutarumbo Sofina and I am 72 years old. I fled Masisi five months ago and now I live here with my grandchildren. Their parents died during the war.
In August, we received some support, a plastic sheet and some blankets from the Red Cross. But when Goma was attacked in November, we lost all we had. I am happy to receive these items, the plastic sheeting, the cloths, the blankets and pots will help us tremendously. But we also need food.
And security is a big concern. There have been thefts here, because we cannot lock our doors. And it is hard to find firewood to prepare food because we live next to a national park and it is not allowed to cut wood. Our biggest hope is to find peace and return to our villages.
My name is Florence Hategeka and I am 19 years old. I come from Rutushuru, both my mother and father have passed away. I have come to this camp, Mugunfa, about four weeks ago with my two little brothers. We live in a hut covered with leaves from trees. Every time it rains, we suffer.
Now that we have received this plastic sheeting, I am sure that our situation will improve. We are thankful for this support. Our hope is to return to our home village where we had to leave our land and the food we used to grow because of the war.
I am a husband and father of three. My wife is sick, so I have come to this distribution with one of my children. Before, we were literally empty handed, because all the assistance that we received in Kanyarutsinya camp was lost when we had to flee. Now I am very happy to receive this support, especially the plastic sheeting for our shelter. This will help improve our difficult lives here.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on January 14, 2013
by Sarah Zingg, CARE DRC
Hands clap and fingers snap as a group of women and men watch CARE staff Rose Vive Lobo’s lips and respond to her questions.
"What does sexual violence mean? Do you know different forms of such violence? What are women’s and men’s rights and obligations?"
Twenty women and men have been selected to participate. They’re representatives from each of three displacement camps in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
After several months of escalating violence, more than 150,000 people have been newly displaced, uprooted from their communities and mostly left to themselves in spontaneous camps.
To prevent sexual and gender-based violence, and care for survivors of it, CARE trains men and women to become community educators. They will share their knowledge within the communities to help break the taboo – and stigma – associated with these types of violence. Husbands, families and even whole communities often marginalize and discriminate against survivors because of the shame they are believed to bring.
As a result of the fear of isolation and stigma, survivors seldom dare to speak about their experience and hardly ever reach out for help. CARE works with women and men to change attitudes and views about sexual and gender-based violence and break the cycles of violence and discrimination against women and girls.
The topic is not new to the group; they all have experienced some kind of sexual or gender-based violence or know someone who has. This is as much a problem in the camps as it was in their villages before they had to flee.
Now, women and girls face the threat of being raped when they venture out to look for firewood, but domestic rape is common as well, yet less talked about.
The participants also know other forms of gender-based violence – the topic of today’s training session – and the group members share their own experiences, some hesitantly, others more freely.
Many forms and norms of violence
Violence and discrimination comes in forms. Rose explains that privileging sons over daughters when it comes to education and heritage is not fair. The group members first react with consternation, but as the discussion takes off, more and more agree that this treatment hinders the economic success a woman can have in her life.
One of the women stands up and explains with a quiet and sad voice that she could not find any words when her daughters asked her one day why they had not been educated while their brothers had. An elderly woman also speaks up and says, "I took the decision to educate my daughters because it is through them that their own children will benefit as well." However, she adds that she lacked the money to send her daughters beyond the first years of primary school.
The men and women participate enthusiastically in the discussions. Those who can write take notes, and others listen attentively and share their own experiences and opinions. As the group takes a short break, 32-year-old Patrick speaks.
"I have learned a lot during the last two days and I will share it with everyone in the camp." He adds, "In my family, my sisters didn’t inherit anything. I know now that this is also a sort of violence against women."
Nineteen-year-old Aline, mother of two, expresses a similar point. "Before the training, I knew that rape existed, but I didn’t know the different types of sexual violence," she says. "I also learned that it mainly happens to women who wander off into the forest on their own. I want to use what I have learned here today to tell people how to protect themselves from violence."
"If ever I am in a situation of being attacked, I would have two reactions," Aline continues, "Fleeing, and denouncing the perpetrator! I would tell the first person I meet what has happened, and would try to make sure that [the attacker] is being arrested."
With these powerful role models, sexual and gender-based violence hopefully will become less acceptable, and women will gain more respect. Survivors of rape will also have more confidence to talk about their experience and reach out for help, which will allow them to receive the necessary medical and psychological care.
Changing practices and norms takes time, but it starts with community educators as these 20 women and men who are determined to share their knowledge and lead the way.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:38PM EST on January 11, 2013
On December 15, a CARE team returned from an evaluation mission to South Masisi territory in the North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — the first one to take place in the region by any humanitarian organization.
Starting in mid-November, the rural areas surrounding Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, had been inaccessible due to increased fighting. A CARE team of three visited several villages in south Masisi in a convoy organized by the World Food Programme as soon as the security situation allowed.
In the villages they visited, CARE found large numbers of new arrivals — internally displaced people who've recently fled fighting near their homes. CARE already had programs in the area; organizing food distributions through a cash and voucher system at the local market, providing plastic sheets to cover huts against rain and supporting local health centers with medicine and advice.
When fighting intensified, CARE and other humanitarian organizations had to temporarily withdraw from the region. The CARE Masisi team continued to work around the clock from Goma to ensure an immediate intervention could be launched once the humanitarian corridor to South Masisi was reopened.
CARE's three field staff came back a week after they had left for South Masisi with many observations and analyses of the current needs of the displaced populations, and recommendations for interventions CARE could undertake given the conditions on the ground.
"Most of the displaced persons have been here for five months," reported Emmanuel, one of the CARE staff who visited South Masisi. "They were working in their fields when they heard the fighting in the villages. They fled immediately without having the chance to go back home to take some belongings such as plates or pots."
"They arrived there without anything," he explains. "They sleep on the ground. You know, it's very cold in Masisi and without any household goods it's difficult to prepare to eat. They also don't have easy access to water."
Emmanuel recorded the stories of some of the people he met
Munyarubuga, 62, father of four
Uwizeye Therese, 35, mother of five
Madame Nyirabazairwa, 30, mother of two
Madame Agishanimana, 28, mother of one
A few days after the assessment, CARE, in partnership with the World Food Programme and the Government of Luxemburg, distributed food and shelter items to more than 8,000 displaced families.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on December 21, 2012
NOTE: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
It is 3:30 a.m. and everyone in Goma is asleep.
A group of 50 people from CARE and two of its partner organizations are awake and on their way to their designated meeting point. Seven NGOs and four UN organizations have teamed up to do a census at all of the sites in Goma that have become spontaneous camps for displaced persons. The mission: To count everyone, record their names and determine their needs.
Though we often see reports about the distribution of relief items during emergencies, the public knows little about the many rounds of coordination, data collection and logistical preparations that make the effective distribution of aid possible. So what exactly happens before much-needed help such as food, blankets or hygiene articles are given out to those who have lost everything?
The recent surge of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu, the easternmost province of the country, has brought with it a sharp rise in the number of people forced to flee their homes. Many of these families have settled in spontaneous sites in Goma, the provincial capital. They shelter under flimsy plastic sheets, in makeshift huts, or in overcrowded classrooms and churches. They need food, water and other relief items. But how exactly do you count the number of people living in such spontaneous sites? How do you ensure that everyone receives support while no one is benefitting twice? How do you identify those in need of special assistance, like breastfeeding women and unaccompanied children?
To get to their census locations on time, many CARE staff have been awake since 2:00 a.m. At 4:30 a.m., everyone puts on their CARE shirts to be easily recognizable once they enter the camps. For this census, CARE will cover one part of Mugunga I camp, where an estimated 12,400 households have settled in recent weeks.
Every census team member receives spray paint and 120 yellow coupons. Their job is to go from hut to hut to find which are inhabited and by whom. People come and go quickly, so some temporary shelters have already been abandoned. The head of the household, if present, is given a coupon to go to a registration desk and submit more information about their situation. CARE staff prefers to give the coupons to a female head of household as they are typically more reliable caretakers of everyone else in their family. The census takers also find out other key information such as if there is a pregnant woman or someone with a chronic disease? How many children live in this household? In the language of emergencies, this is called a "vulnerability analysis."
"In an emergency situation, this type of census is the most reliable method of getting accurate numbers," explains CARE's emergency response manager Sébastien Kuster. "There will never be a perfect method, but with this exercise we have tried very hard to take all possible circumstances into account."
Once they've handed over a coupon, CARE staff spray paints a mark by the door to make sure no household is counted twice. While the team goes about the job, security officers make sure that the situation stays calm. This is a tense situation for the camp population and this is why all teams have been thoroughly briefed about what to say and how to engage. CARE's values – dignity, humility and respect – were being put to test on this day and the reaction spoke for itself.
"We have largely been welcomed. The people here are very friendly and it was humbling to see how patient these families were about their dire living conditions and how thankful they are for our support," says Joseph, a CARE staffer.
CARE reached out to close to 3,800 households that morning. To ensure that no one was left out, a few CARE staff members and other partners also worked extra hours at a complaint desk. Here people could state their case and they were then accompanied back to their shelter to see whether or not it had been overlooked.
"It was really encouraging to see the whole team getting mobilized for this," says Aude Rigot, CARE's Provincial Director for North Kivu. "From our project officers to the cleaning staff, from finance staff to the emergency team leader, everyone worked hand-in-hand to get the job done."
After all the data is consolidated, CARE and its partners can begin the distribution of necessary relief items. CARE will provide plastic tarps and team up with other agencies to hand out several goods at the same time.
The next morning, everyone is back at their desks in the CARE office and goes about their usual activities to keep CARE's programs running. These early birds might still have tired eyes and swollen feet, but their spirits are high and the job has been done. For today, that is all that counts.
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Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:28AM EST on December 21, 2012
NOTE: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
Claudine* has lost everything. Only 22 years old, she has lost her family, her health, her dignity and has no way to earn a living.
Claudine is one of an estimated 130,000 people who have fled conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province during recent weeks and is one of countless women there subjected to brutal sexual attacks. When she describes what happened to her, she speaks softly, with her head tilted down, never looking up into the listener's eyes.
Claudine was forced to leave her home in Bweremana, a village in the territory of Masisi. There and in surrounding areas of North Kivu, violence flared up again in May between armed groups and the army. Claudine's family fled their home so quickly, they lost track of each other. Claudine found shelter in a camp outside Goma, but had no idea where her parents and siblings had gone.
When she went to look for wood in the nearby national park to construct a hut, she was approached by two guards with sticks.
"They said I was not allowed to cut wood and they asked me to hand over my machete," says Claudine. One of the men then walked away. The other one took Claudine by force, tore off her clothes and raped her.
This pattern is frustratingly common in eastern Congo. Women and girls are forced to venture out of their camps or villages to collect sticks or firewood. When walking long distances all by themselves, they are easy targets for attack and rape.
"When I went back to the camp, I didn't talk about it. I was ashamed." Claudine recalls. "Two months later though, I was still not feeling well, so I decided to look for help. I was hospitalized and found out that I am pregnant."
In November, a new wave of fighting in and around Goma forced Claudine to temporarily leave the camp. When she came back a few days ago, she found her hut destroyed and her few belongings stolen. She spends nights with friends and neighbors who can sometimes accommodate her. During the day she carries goods across the camp as a way to make a little bit of money to buy food. The heavy loads make her back hurt and endanger the unborn child.
In eastern Congo, rape is systematically used as a weapon of war. It destroys not only countless women's lives, but breaks apart families and communities. Despite epidemic levels of rape, survivors are still severely stigmatized. Husbands, families and communities often marginalize and discriminate against survivors because of the shame they are believed to bring. As a result of the fear of isolation and stigma, survivors seldom dare to speak about their experience and hardly ever reach out for help.
Furthermore, sexual and gender-based violence is also deeply engrained in the norms and structures of society there. More than half of the men responsible for sexual violence in North Kivu over the first six months of 2012 were civilians, according to the United Nation's Population Fund. The region is dominated by patriarchal norms and rape-supportive attitudes among men that subordinate women and normalize rape, as shown in a recent study by Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice Network.
To provide survivors such as Claudine with timely and adequate medical and psychosocial assistance, CARE works in camps and villages to train educators to identify sexual and gender-based violence. Community workers organize activities and spread messages to break the taboo of sexual violence and encourage survivors to reach out for help. CARE trains these community workers in three camps around Goma—one of them where Claudine is sheltered. CARE also provides psychosocial assistance and medical support to health centers, such as post-exposure prophylaxis kits and antibiotics to help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
Medical and psychosocial support are paramount to support survivors. But they also want to get back on their feet economically and regain a respectable position in their communities. Therefore, CARE supports survivors and other vulnerable people to form groups and helps them start small activities to earn money. Claudine will be part of this program. CARE also provides socioeconomic support through village savings and loans groups, which allow poor communities to collectively save money and start small businesses.
After connecting with CARE staff, Claudine now plans to visit the health center for regular pregnancy checkups and to get treated for the abdominal pain she's had since her attack. Through one of the camp groups she is now part of, she hopes to save enough money to pay for a trip back to her home village. Someone told her they saw her mother there recently, she says, her face lightening up for the first time. The thought of being reunited with her mother is a beacon of hope for Claudine in this desperate time.
December 11, 2012
*name has been changed
Last year, CARE worked in 84 countries around the world to assist more than 122 million people improve basic health and education, fight hunger, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, confront climate change, and recover from disasters. To learn more, visit www.care-international.org.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:00PM EST on December 13, 2012
My name is Safari Ngayabaseca* and I am here with my husband and children. We are living in this classroom at Don Bosco orphanage – it is the only place that we can find where we feel safe.
Everywhere now is very dangerous – there is nowhere to run to where there is not fighting or bombing. We have come from Kibumba originally, and fled to the camp at Kanyaruchina where many other displaced people went. We were told that we would get help there and that we would be safe.
We were given some food and some other things like a water container and a plastic sheet. We stayed there four months but things were not very safe. Every night we heard shooting and there were always soldiers around. Then, last week, there was some heavy fighting nearby and we were told that we had to leave the camp by rebels so we ran here to Don Bosco.
We heard from others that we would be safe here. Now all we have is this mattress and some clothes that we are wearing. We have been given a little food and there is a medical center here if we need it, but this isn’t any way to live.
All I want to do is go back to Kibumba, but we have been told that our house has been burnt down so now we have nowhere to go. This is the third time in my life that I have had to flee my home and leave everything behind. Now, I don’t even have a home to go back to.
On Monday, I think that we will decide what to do next – but we don’t know what is going on with the government or with the soldiers. So it is hard for us to make a decision. We have no money and no means of returning to Kibumba and no means to build a new house.
I am scared for my children and scared for our future.
*name has been changed
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:56AM EST on December 13, 2012
by Sabine Wilke
This picture could have been taken in Switzerland or at any other lake surrounded by mountains, maybe in Bavaria or British Columbia. But I took this photo in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, an Eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A place where, for decades now, armed conflicts and chronic poverty have taken an unimaginably heavy toll on the civilian population.
The news we receive about DRC are always, always terrible. Human rights abuses, deplorable poverty, unsolvable conflicts. Maybe that is why the global public has grown tired of taking a closer look. Maybe that is why DRC simply is this big, black hole to the outside world. But three weeks ago, the world laid its eyes on Eastern DRC once more, when an armed group called M23 seized the town of Goma and forced out the Congolese army. It was the peak of an escalation of violence that has raged in this region for several months and has forced more than 800,000 people to flee.
During the latest wave of violence, 130,000 people alone have fled. Countless women and young girls have been raped and injured on their way, and the spontaneous camps and settlements around Goma are no safe haven for these survivors. Attacks and pillages are a daily ordeal. North Kivu has suffered from armed conflict, battles over commodities, chronic lack of infrastructures and ethnic rivalries for a long time; all the while, the international community mostly turns a blind eye on the region.
Looking back at the photo from the lake shore, I think (and hope!) that this could be a glimpse into a possible future – a future where Goma will be a town of peace and recreation, where tourists can enjoy the magnificent volcanic landscape and come face to face with mighty mountain gorillas. Where the population lives in peace and safety, where children can go to school and women are protected from sexual violence and abuse.
Goma’s current reality, unfortunately, is much better portrayed in the pictures taken by photographer Kate Holt, who recently travelled to Goma for CARE.
In light of the new emergency, CARE has scaled up its programs against sexual violence, supports health centers with medical items such as post-exposure prophylaxis against sexual diseases and trains community educators in the camps. Displaced families receive plastic sheeting for a dry shelter and CARE also implements a voucher program that helps poor families to purchase much-needed goods on the local market.It is difficult to describe the human side of this conflict without it sounding like a platitude. Is it a cliché to say that the people of Goma, despite all, have not lost their friendly smiles? That they are warm and hospitable, enduring and tough, angry yet determined to survive? No, it is a reality that needs to be put in words from time to time. Because eastern DRC is no black hole. Its colors and nuances are manifold – much like the lake when the sun hit its surface the moment I took the photo.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:03AM EST on December 13, 2012
By Sarah Zingg
"My husband won't come back. He heard that I've been raped. He will never come back,"Marie, a mother of seven and pregnant with her eighth, speaks as she sits upright, eyes fixed on the listener. "My husband left for Bunia [up north] where he went to look for work and food for the children. I tried, and still try, to keep what happened to me as a secret, but someone told him."
Rape in the conflict-ridden eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is epidemic, and continues to be a taboo. Husbands, families and communities often marginalize and discriminate against survivors because of the shame they are believed to bring.
Marie and her family are among almost 130,000 people who have been displaced as a result of the renewed violence between government forces and rebels in North Kivu, a province in eastern DRC. It is not the first time Marie had to flee. She left her home village Ngungu in Masisi territory in August when armed groups fought each other and attacked surrounding villages. She found refuge in a camp in Goma, North Kivu's provincial capital. But her feeling of safety did not last long.
"I went to look for wood to construct a hut. Two men came up to me and asked me for my machete. They took my machete, and then they took me by force."Marie was raped by both men, she explains with a clear voice, her hands calm on her lap.
This pattern is frustratingly common in DRC: Women and girls are forced to venture out of their camps or villages to collect wooden sticks or firewood. When walking long distances by themselves, they are easy targets for attacks and rape.
For a long time, Marie was too ashamed to speak of what had happened to her. She still suffers from abdominal pain. Marie only went to see a doctor four months after it had happened. By then, it was too late to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) that helps prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections and diseases. The PEP kit has to be taken within 72 hours to be effective.
When November came and with it another escalation of violence, Marie left the camp and sought refuge with relatives in Minova, a town about 50 kilometers south of Goma. A few days ago, Marie came back to Goma, but only with her youngest son; she didn't have the money to pay for the transport costs for her other six children.
When she returned to the camp, she found her hut had been destroyed. "I am scared to go out again to look for wood to build another hut,"she says. She found temporary shelter in a school. Classrooms are crowded, hosting anywhere from 165 to 300 people.
Despite these desperate conditions, Mary has a plan, "I am waiting for the food distribution. I will sell the food and with the money, I will send for my children."
Marie goes about small activities, such as working in the fields of the local community, to make a little bit of money to buy to eat.
CARE, in collaboration with International Rescue Committee (IRC), is working in three camps around Goma to train community workers to help prevent and treat cases of sexual violence. These community workers will organize activities and spread messages to help break the taboo of sexual violence and encourage survivors to reach out for support. CARE and IRC also are providing psychological and social assistance to survivors to help them overcome the traumatic experience.
In a recent survey undertaken in one of the camps, many women expressed a strong wish to start economic activities. That is why CARE now organizes small groups of survivors and other vulnerable people in the three camps to and helps them start a small business to get back on their feet so they can provide for themselves and their families. Marie will be a part of this program.
"Yes, I will participate, and I will also tell women about the importance of getting medical assistance as soon as possible after an attack,"she affirms as she tights up her son with a colorful cloth around her back and returns to her chores.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:25AM EST on December 10, 2012
On Saturday morning, a team of CARE staff left Goma for Rubaya, a town approximately 50 kilometers northwest of Goma. Due to the recent escalation of violence, CARE was not able to access our program sites in the territory of Masisi since mid-November.
Samuel says, "Our goal is to find out the needs of the communities. We will talk to local farmers and see if they have been able to work in their fields. We will visit markets to find out which products are available. We will assess water, sanitation, hygiene and shelter needs of displaced people and host populations.
"We will collect as much information as possible to see how CARE can best respond to the most urgent needs. Security remains a big concern but we hope to be able to scale up our work in Rubaya and the whole region of Masisi soon."
Before the recent escalation of violence, CARE has implemented a food voucher project in the Masisi region that enabled poor families to buy much-needed supplies in local markets.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:19PM EST on December 3, 2012
Notes: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
November 28, 2012
"I come from Kibati in Masisi, and came in August of last year. When I fled from Kibati, I took a truck to Sake and then from there came by foot to Goma after spending the night in Sake. It took nearly a whole day – the road is long. My father was the one who brought me here but after he dropped me I haven't seen or heard from him again. I heard from people in my village that he has gone to Rubero but he hasn't tried to contact me.
"This is my first-born daughter and she is just over a year old now. I didn't know her father – he took me by force and that is how I became pregnant. It happened to me when I was 17 and I am now 18 years old.
"In Masisi, we had a good life. My family were farmers and I had three brothers who are younger than me. After my mother died about five years ago, it was up to me to look after them and make sure that they were okay. My mother died during childbirth. Many women in Masisi do. I had an elder brother, too – he was in the FARDC (Congolese Army) but he was killed – we were not told how he died or where – my father was told by somebody that he was no longer alive.
"I want to go back to Masisi to be with my brothers – they are my family. I also want to be able to go back to school to study. I was in form five primary when this happened to me but, when I realized that I was pregnant, my father made me leave and brought me here.
"My father wants to put the men that did this to me in jail but when he told this to people in the village he made enemies and now he can't go back – this is why he has gone to Ruhero. The men were from an armed group – people knew who they were.
"One day I was walking home from school through the fields. I was with some girlfriends. Some men came towards us who we didn't know. Two men came up to me and took my arms by force and took me to the forest and did bad things to me. I was very upset. I went back to my house and told my father what had happened and he was very angry. But it was after four months that I started to feel strange and told my father, and that is when he brought me here. I cannot go back to the village even though I want to. I am scared of those men – scared of what they may do to me.
"My hope for the future is to have peace around us in Congo. There is too much violence here and there are no jobs for anyone. I do not know how to support this child when I leave this center. The men who did this to me should take responsibility for this child and for me because they have destroyed my life."
CARE's Response: As soon as access is secured, CARE plans to scale up our emergency response in the areas affected by the recent fighting, in particular by providing shelter to those displaced and assistance to women affected by sexual violence and help to prevent further cases of sexual violence. Our emergency response in other areas, including South Lubero, continues.
Donate Today: Your donation to CARE can help us respond to emergency situations like in DRC and carry out our lifesaving and poverty-fighting work around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:15PM EST on December 3, 2012
Notes: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
November 28, 2012
"My name is Bandora, and I have two daughters, Elizabeth and Merita. One is 9 and one is 10. I had four other children but they all died before we left Masisi. Merita has gone to fetch water this morning. We take it in turns to fetch water from the lake in the mornings. It is far. Sometimes there is water in the pipes in the camp, but more often the taps are empty.
"We fled from Masisi in April, from a village called Rukopu. We got very scared in April – there was a lot of fighting and many people were being killed. One night the fighting came very close to our house – my husband fled and left me with the girls. We then ran into the night. We followed everyone to Sake and when we go there, we were told to go to Kanyaruchina camp which is what we did. But when we go to Kanyaruchina camp, there was nothing for us there. People had told us in Sake that if we went there we would be given things that we would need. But we got nothing and were cold and hungry.
"So in September, I moved my family to Mugunga where we still are. For the first time since we got here in September, yesterday we got some soap and some plastic containers to collect water with. I haven’t yet got any food. We are still very hungry. I have my own pot that I brought from Rukopu but that is all I have. We also have a piece of plastic sheeting that I found in Kanyaruchina but it is old and not that waterproof. Some friends helped me to build my house from straw but when it rains it leaks badly and we get wet.
"At home my eldest daughter went to school but the younger one didn’t – we couldn’t afford to pay for her. There are no schools in the camps for them.
"At night I get very scared. We are alone – three girls and there is no security. There are other people around but we are scared of the war. At night people come to take things from us – civilian bandits. Last week, when there was fighting in Goma at night, some people came and stole my basin. I don’t know who they were.
"I don’t know what will happen to us but I know that if the war comes close to us here, I will run again with my children. I don’t know where we will go but I will run because we have to survive. Every day is hard for us."
CARE's Response: As soon as access is secured, CARE plans to scale up our emergency response in the areas affected by the recent fighting, in particular by providing shelter to those displaced and assistance to women affected by sexual violence and help to prevent further cases of sexual violence. Our emergency response in other areas, including South Lubero, continues.
Donate Today: Your donation to CARE can help us respond to emergency situations like in DRC and carry out our lifesaving and poverty-fighting work around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:10PM EST on December 3, 2012
Notes: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
November 28, 2012
"I am 57 years old and from Kibati, in Masisi. I came to Goma two weeks ago because I needed help. I was born in Masisi and am a farmer there. My husband is also a farmer and we cultivate things like beans and maize and ground nuts.
"I have had 14 children but only four are still alive. The others have died from diseases and one died from fighting. This was about three years ago. It was when the CNDP were fighting with government soldiers. He was 17 years old and there was fighting in our village and he was caught. There wasn't a health center to take him to and he died. During this time three years ago after he was killed, we fled to Goma and stayed in one of the camps and returned to Masisi when the fighting stopped. But since then Masisi has had fighting nearly every day.
"There is a lot of shooting and a lot of violence – much worse than before. In April, we fled to Rutshuru because of the fighting, but when fighting broke out in Rutshuru, we went back to Masisi.
"There are armed groups around us the whole time – they drink and push us around and loot everyone's houses. Two weeks ago, I was farming our beans when we saw armed men walking around the edges of the fields. We knew what they were going to do – everybody knows that when they come to the fields it is to rape women. So we hid in the greenery but they found us. One armed man took me and raped me. There were some other women around and the same thing happened to them so we decided that it was better that we all come to hospital in Goma together, which is why we are here. My husband was very supportive and said that he wouldn't abandon me even with what had happened. I am very lucky that he is so supportive and grateful.
"I have been tested for HIV and tomorrow I will get the tests – it was an armed man and we know that all armed men have HIV so I am worried.
"He was very violent with me and I am in a lot of pain. I will stay here until the pain goes and I feel better and then I must go home. I look after a lot of orphans from my family – children of people who have been killed. I have three from my sister and one of her children's daughters too. They need me to look after them even though I am getting old. All I want now in life is peace – I don't want to be raped again and I don't want to have to keep on running. This war has destroyed us – all we want is to live in peace."
CARE's Response: As soon as access is secured, CARE plans to scale up our emergency response in the areas affected by the recent fighting, in particular by providing shelter to those displaced and assistance to women affected by sexual violence and help to prevent further cases of sexual violence. Our emergency response in other areas, including South Lubero, continues.
Donate Today: Your donation to CARE can help us respond to emergency situations like in DRC and carry out our lifesaving and poverty-fighting work around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:57AM EST on December 3, 2012
(November 28, 2012) – Mamatsuri Mathinyane is a 33-year-old widow, and she is trying to find a way to feed her five children until the next harvest. She has tried everything to budget the money she has – and to find a way to bring in more income – but she knows it may not be enough.
Because she has no plough animals, Mamatsuri hasn't been able to sow her plots during the current planting season. Instead she has been able to rent half the land to a tenant who will pay her R400 (about $45 US) when the harvest season comes. But the harvest is not until May, and Mamatsuri does not know how she will buy food for her family during the coming months.
Lesotho experienced a poor agricultural season last year as well, and Mamatsuri did not collect a harvest then either. Currently, she has no food in storage, and her family's only income is the settlement money she receives from a neighbor who was found guilty after killing her only horse. This income provides just enough to feed her children, but the settlement payments will end next month, leaving Mamatsuri with no income – and four months until the harvest.
She does not have many assets left that she could sell. Once, she and her husband had five cows as well as the one horse. After her husband died of tuberculosis four years ago, Mamatsuri was forced to sell two of the cows to cover the cost of the funeral. Over the next few years she found herself having to sell two more cows to buy food and cover other household expenses during difficult times. Now she has just one cow, and she has sent it to a family member's farm so that it will not be stolen. She has tried to earn money by starting a small business brewing local beer, but found that she just couldn't make a significant profit.
Unfortunately, Mamatsuri's story is a typical example of how critical food shortages impact thousands of female-headed families, especially in contexts where a wide range of underlying factors make the crisis worse: poverty and already-exhausted savings (including livestock), insecurity, a high risk of HIV and AIDS, and years of poor harvests and unpredictable rains that may be linked to a changing climate.
Lesotho is a very small country, and media and humanitarian attention has been slow to arrive, perhaps in part due to the focus on high-profile crises in the Horn of Africa and across the Sahel. While these large crises require a great deal of attention, there is a risk that countries like Lesotho and families like Mamatsuri's may be overlooked.
CARE has been one of the first agencies to begin responding to this crisis, beginning with the distribution of seeds to vulnerable families so that they are able to plant in the current agricultural season. This is vital as unless farmers have the support they need to plant next year's harvest, the emergency is likely to deepen and affect an even larger population. In addition to seed distributions, over the coming months CARE plans to deliver a combination of cash vouchers and cash-for-work programmes to enable people to buy food in the market.
In addition to an immediate response though, long-term assistance for recovery and future resilience is also vital. Even when the next harvest season arrives, Mamatsuri will only earn R400 from her tenant, which is only enough to feed her family two meals of maize a day for about three months. With barely enough money to feed her family, Mamatsuri will have to wait to rebuild investments and safety nets, such as her cattle and horse. For this reason, CARE works to connect our emergency response existing long-term CARE programming in Lesotho, which includes efforts to improve agricultural production, irrigation projects, community gardens and vegetable cultivation, and other programs such as village savings and loan associations.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:48AM EST on November 2, 2012
September 27—600 people wait patiently until CARE sets up the place to start the distribution of seeds and agricultural tools. The distribution is taking place in Luofu, South Lubero in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but people from five surrounding villages have been registered for this assistance provided through CARE’s Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and FAO funded emergency response project, Umoja+.
Through this initiative, CARE is providing support to internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, as well as host families. While in South Lubero thousands of people remain and even continue to be displaced due to attacks by armed men, there is also a significant number of people who are returning home to restart their lives after periods of displacement. CARE is providing both types of households with enhanced means to gain a sustainable livelihood, as well as assistance for more immediate needs, including relief items and shelter.
"Thanks to this distribution, I have something to plant for this year’s planting season and we will have [something] to eat next year," 25-year old Jorgine says as she buttons together a cloth filled with seeds. Because people often go hungry, there is a danger that they will want to eat the seeds instead of planting them. "I will tell my family that the seeds contain poison so that they don’t eat them." Jorgine and her husband and two children have been displaced from their home and have been living with a host family in Mitero for six months. She will be planting the seeds in the field belonging to her host family.
A community volunteer tells the beneficiaries with a microphone that the seeds should be planted and not eaten, which requires patience, but will give them much more to eat at the end. The message resonates with most and only a few decide otherwise. "I will plant half of the seeds and eat the other half. I am already sick and need to eat today," Muhongya who is 72 years old understandably argues.
Kyakimwe, a 40-year old mother of six, who is back in her home village Kataro after having been displaced for one year, says that life continues to be unstable. "The manioc I planted last year was stolen by members of a local armed group. Even these seeds might be stolen once they are ready to be harvested," she laments as she looks at the corn, beans and soya seeds she just received.
29-years old Francoise who also lives in Kataro explains similarly, "We have learned to live with the torture of armed groups. We just give what they ask for and in most cases, they then leave us alone. One year and a half ago, they would have physically tortured us either way." Armed men often attack women working in fields and Julienne remarks, "It’s good that we received two hoes, like that my husband and I can work in the field together … The harvest will hopefully improve the life of my four children."
Despite all the insecurity and challenges, the beneficiaries smile and chant as they leave with the bags of seeds balanced on their heads and the hoes in their hands, full of hope that the harvest will provide the food their families desperately need.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:32AM EST on November 2, 2012
September 26—"We never thought we would be elected. No one expected us to be elected," a member of a village committee proclaims with an air of astonishment. CARE, through the project Ujasiri, funded by the European Commission, has recently supported the election of a ‘crisis committee’ in the remote village Kaseghe in South Lubero. It’s the second in a series of such elections in conflict-affected villages across the region.
The committees are responsible for developing an action plan to reduce risks associated with conflict and natural catastrophes. The plan will help these vulnerable communities respond effectively to crises, reducing their exposure to the threat of abuse and destruction.
The villages selected to participate in the Ujasiri project are characterized by a high number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and exposure to regular attacks by armed groups. In some places, people have difficulty accessing their land because of armed men roaming in the fields. CARE will support the committees in developing these action plans, which could include mechanisms to protect women working in the fields from abuse and sexual violence or indicators to evaluate the level of risk of an escalation of a crisis.
Kaseghe’s population of around 2,700 was represented at the elections through the participation of 320 people from different neighborhoods, organizations, such as the youth and traders’ groups, churches, as well as IDP representatives. Kaseghe already boasts a number of local committees, but the population insists that they are not representative.
The euphoria of having transparent and fair elections could not be missed as community members arrived at the voting site. 27 candidates stood for the 12-member committee. After the candidates introduced themselves, people waited in line to cast their vote. The voting was quiet, disciplined, and completed within a short period of time. The counting of the votes took place immediately after the vote and was conducted in front of the voters to ensure no rigging is involved.
Five women and seven men from different backgrounds were elected: The president represents the Catholic Church, the vice-president, a woman, is a displaced person, and a 22-year old woman is representing the youth population.
"I will be able to speak to the youth. I am ready to be sent anywhere and to do anything to represent the young people of this village. There will be no discrimination, everyone is represented," Faida of the youth group says enthusiastically with a big and confident smile.
"Yes, if we all collaborate, we will see a change," Kavugho, the vice-president, who has been displaced in Kaseghe for several months, agrees.
"IDPs suffer, there is no place for them, there is chronic malnutrition, and diseases like tuberculosis are an everyday struggle," another member, Kavira, who has seven children and who hosts another six displaced children at her house, explains. "I am happy. Through cooperation by all of us and transparency, we will change this village," she adds.
In addition to empowering these communities to respond to and prevent crises, CARE is furthermore planning food security interventions in these zones through micro-credit for seeds and farming parcels and food distributions through the cash and voucher system, which allows beneficiaries to choose at open markets what they need most, while the local economy is safeguarded at the same time.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:05AM EST on November 2, 2012
September 25— "I had no idea how to make a living, but now I know how to save money and reinvest it. I used to sell corn once a year; now it's several times. We live a better life now. My children go to school; I have no more debt at the health center; visitors get to eat at my house; we have enough cooking oil and salt; and I don't fight with my husband anymore when I want to buy a new dress. Thank you, CARE," Jacqueline, a 40-year old mother of eight, explains. Jacqueline is the president of a group of 30 that benefits from CARE's socio-economic program that advises members of poor communities on how to collectively save money and better invest it in small businesses.
Jacqueline's group lives in Mulo, a rural village of 8,500 people right outside Lubero center in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The group is mostly made up of women and they have gathered this morning to officially end the first one-year cycle of the group's existence. They sit in a circle on benches outside with the money they collectively saved presented in the open.
"The money is safe; no one steals here," the accountant tells the CARE staff that attends the meeting today. When they first came together as a group a year ago, some contributed 500 Congolese Francs (CF), which is around 50 cents, others up to 2,500 CF to a common pot. They continued with weekly contributions, which not only provided members with a savings mechanism, but allowed the group to provide members with small credits. With the interest paid, the group managed to accumulate a total of $1,341, which gets divided proportionally today.
"In the beginning, it was difficult to trust that the money won't get lost. But we all stuck to the agreement," one member says. Most of the group's members have invested in the production of a local alcoholic drink and the sale of palm oil and fish.
Through the project Pamoja, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CARE supports post-war communities in developing sustainable livelihoods. Celestine's group benefits from what is called Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), which allow very poor communities or groups to save money and invest to start small businesses. Pamoja has already established 228 such groups in Lubero and is planning to create another 122.
"I am so happy where I am today. As soon as we conclude the meeting, I will go to the school to pay for my children's fees. I don't have much to say, but thank you so much," Anastasia, 59 years old and a mother of ten, intervenes.
"It's the same for me," Dieu Donné, a 31-year old father of four, confirms. "Since we've started, our lives have changed. Our clothes are always clean because there is always soap."
Everyone agrees with a shout of ‘yes' that they will continue with the group's activities into the second cycle. Dieu Donné jumps up and says jokingly, "My wife pushes me every day to not drop out of the group and when I am travelling, she attends the meetings for me." The group giggles as Dieu Donné retakes his seat.
Also in Mulo, only about 1,640 feet away, the joy is similarly big. Through the project Ushindi, CARE works with seven vulnerable women, including survivors of sexual violence, to reintegrate into society and earn a living. As the CARE team arrives, the group is in the middle of a soap production—the first one since they have been trained in soap-making a few days ago.
"This will change our lives. It helps us to make some money and the community will benefit from soap at the same time," 25-year old single mother Imakele says. It's the first local soap production in Lubero and the group's members are proud.
Ushindi, funded by USAID through consortium lead International Medical Assistance, provides training for income generating activities to survivors of sexual violence and other vulnerable members, which helps them to develop sustainable livelihoods and regain a respectable position in their communities.
"We have also learned how to make soap. I will use what I make to send my children to school, feed them, and buy medicines," a mother of 12 affirms.
In addition to improving their lives, they will also be able to participate and pay their share in a VSLA. The seven women agree that the group has not only trained them in soap making and given them an opportunity to make a better living, but they have also gained new hope for a better future, thanks to the solidarity and encouragement they have experienced in the group.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:27PM EST on October 30, 2012
By Yemisi Songo-Williams and Christina Ihle
Marie, 75 years old, does not feel well. For the first time in her long life she is affected by cholera, but she knows the signs of the disease very well. Last week she was taking care of her 8-year-old grandson Zechariah, helping him to survive the infection, fighting with him for his young life. Thanks to ORS (oral rehydration solution) treatment, he is feeling better now and plays quietly in front of the house, as if nothing out of the ordinary has just happened to him. Although happy to see their child fully recovered, the family remains fearful for Maria's life. Her body is not as strong as Zechariah's, and she does not seem to have the strength to resist the water-borne disease.
42 people are already infected in the small village of Koli Soko, which is the home of about 2,000 people. Two people have already died; cholera can kill within hours when someone is not strong enough.
Koli Soko has a small health center which provides medical treatment and is managed by the government. But still, the lack of proper drainage and waste disposal systems coupled with heavy rains in the last few days has caused flooding and put the entire community at risk. Maria's son shows us their one and only water source: a small, still pond near the village; it is dirty and teeming with mosquitoes. “It is small, but deep”, he says. “But we are afraid that this water is not safe anymore with so many ill people in the village,” he confesses. But this is their only option.
Maria's neighbors are John and Yebefula, and their two children; Sida, 5, and Moses, 10 months. Yebefula was infected by cholera and was quarantined for five days with Moses. She is feeling better now, but she is afraid for her husband and the children. “I felt like dying in the last days. I just want to do anything to prevent my children from going through this illness.”
The CARE Sierra Leone team is distributing cholera prevention kits containing soap, ORS and purification tablets to the affected families and those at risk in Koli Soko. The team explains to every recipient family how to use the prevention kit, using pictures and demonstrations to make sure that everybody in the family understands that washing hands, using only boiled water and cooking food thoroughly is a matter of survival in these difficult times.
And families do understand. While the team prepares to leave Koli Soko, Yebefula gives her children a long and soapy evening bath using the soap she has just received. Hopefully they will be safe. But many families in Sierra Leone are still waiting to be better equipped in their fight against cholera. CARE in Sierra Leone is mobilizing all efforts to help with emergency aid and to seek long term solutions for villages in need.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:23PM EST on October 30, 2012
By Yemisi Songo-Williams
Masongbo Village, in the heart of the Makari Gbanty Chiefdom in Makeni, is the home of over 2,000 people.
At the height of the cholera epidemic, a CARE team distributed cholera prevention kits containing soap, ORS (oral rehydration solution) and purification tablets to 100 at-risk families in this village. By using pictures and demonstrations, the team showed each family how to use the prevention kits and explained the importance of washing hands, using only boiled water and cooking food thoroughly.
Two weeks after the distribution, I went with my CARE colleagues to pay an impromptu visit to the village to check whether our prevention messages were understood and applied by the inhabitants.
On the day we visit, a bustling antenatal clinic session is underway at the community health center that serves both the population in Masongbo and those from the surrounding villages. Mothers hover anxiously over the shoulders of the Maternal and Child Health aid as she weighs each baby.
We are welcomed by a smiling Fatmata, who has recognized the CARE branded vehicle from a distance, and is eager to receive us. Fatmata is a community volunteer and was part of our distribution team. She can easily recite the symptoms of cholera, and knows the ways in which it can be prevented. When asked why she became a volunteer she replies quite simply: "I want to help my community. I have only a little education, but I must use that to help my community."
And she has kept to her word: she has been diligent in sharing this information with members of her village.
There was a high level of awareness across the village on the signs of cholera. Every community member we spoke to could correctly tell us how to recognize the disease, how it could be prevented, how the items in the cholera prevention kit items were used and what to do if the disease was suspected. All the households we tested also had the expected levels of chlorine in their drinking water.
"CARE has done a big job here," beams Fatmata. "You have saved our lives by preventing this disease from coming here. Look, we are changing our habits. See how clean the village is!"
And she is right; the evidence of CARE’s cholera prevention intervention is plain to see. Masongo is a tidy, well-kept village, with garbage-free paths and neat front yards. The air is fresh and clean, with no signs or smells of inappropriate waste disposal or a lack of proper drainage.
"There were no reported cholera cases in Masongbo this year," Fatmata tells us proudly. "And for that, we are very grateful to CARE for teaching us how to change our past habits and live healthily."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:58AM EST on October 30, 2012
In the village of Karidi in the Birni-Lafia region of Benin lives a farmer and fisherman who is 25 years old. He is married and a father of three.
Hassan Ibrahim is living in a zone that is often flooded in the rainy season but parched in the dry season. In this environment, huts are constructed from cut branches or clay. The roofs are made of thatch and are almost always built without a metal sheet because of the zone's temperature extremes.
The inhabitants of this region generally make their living through fishing, agriculture and sometimes small businesses run by the women. They also raise certain domestic animals such as poultry, goats or sheep, which they sell to cover basic needs during the lean season. The region is predominantly rural and there is very little adequate social infrastructure. Karidi, for example, has no health center, no electricity, no latrine and no source of potable water. The nearest medical care facility is miles away. The river serves as a latrine and shower, as most of the households do not have a private bathroom – and this same river is also the only source of drinking water.
Since the floods that started two month ago, the lives of many people have become extremely difficult due to the dramatic impacts of the disaster: the unusual rise in water levels caused the destruction of shelters, food reserves, crops, livestock and other property.
Hassan Ibrahim, after having assessed the danger of his home collapsing, decided to build embankments himself in order to hold back the water. On Tuesday, Sept. 4, he set off at a run to collect the ears of corn, sorghum, and millet which he would need to bury along with the sand and mud to form the barrier. He began to dig and as he reached his hand into a hole to judge its depth, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his hand: it was a sharp object that had been previously buried and which cut off his little finger on his right hand.
He had no way to get to the hospital: all of his possessions had been swept away by the water. He settled for applying a traditional treatment using leaves. The finger did not heal, and caused him extreme pain which prevented him from finding a way to feed his children. The water overtook the land, the children were saved by other people, and he himself has had trouble finding a safe house and supporting himself. Since then he is surviving on charity. His wish is to be able to recover his health and to access microfinance services or obtain an agricultural loan to restart his farm when the water subsides.
CARE is responding in the affected areas of Malanville, Karimama, N'Dali and Tchaourou to support people with basic relief items and clean water. During the floods in 2010, CARE Benin provided emergency relief and worked with partners and local actors to support with water, hygiene and sanitation, food distribution and shelter for 150,000 persons.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:48AM EST on October 30, 2012
With the help of her neighbors, Gado Fathi had been able to build herself a shelter. However, the small hut was destroyed by the terrible floods in 2010. It had been very difficult for her to rebuild it.
This year misfortune struck again: one night, the floods came again, while she and the two children were deeply asleep. She was suddenly awakened, but most of the clothes had already been washed away. Her cookware was submerged and the structure of the shelter was already beginning to give way. She did not know what to do or where to go. Most of her belongings were already damaged beyond repair. "The rain fell almost every day, and heavily. The farm animals floated on the water and died", she says. "The granaries were swallowed up by the water in the village. There were no boats for transport. Even though we wanted to take refuge on dry land, we had no way of moving." Since she has lived in the village, the floods have never been that strong.
Gado Fathi began to fight the floods by herself, trying each time to bail out the water using old basins in order to have a little bit of living space in the shelter where she and her grandchildren might survive. Indeed, the house was surrounded by water and she had no help. During this almost endless fight against the water masses, she was struck for one week by an illness that completely immobilised her. Her legs were swollen and she could no longer move.
The children barely ate once a day: the lack of food became clear. Luckily, a passing neighbor offered to move them to a safer area. She asked for help for her two grandchildren, one of which had been showing signs of a strong fever in the previous 48 hours. The health center referred the case to a more qualified clinic in the city of Malanville. But on the way to the city the boy died of the disease. In the meantime, the second boy developed visible signs of malnutrition. People joined together to help the child’s recovery in the traditional way by giving him an infused bath, because they had no more money to treat the child at the health center.
These events happened in early September 2012, when the narrator of this story passed through the village. The old woman has found a host family but she is still not able to walk.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:38PM EST on October 10, 2012
Shumi was just 11 years old when her father tried to force her into child marriage in Bangladesh. Watch how a CARE women's group in Bangladesh took her cause to the local government to ensure that she won't be married until she's an adult.
Posted by: Andisheh Nouraee at 4:12PM EST on September 28, 2012
Acknowledgment of the success of our VSLAs from Melinda Gates would be very meaningful to us under any circumstances, but it was doubly so yesterday. That’s because the same event also included the African launch of CARE’s new Pathways program to improve the food security and long-term resiliency of women smallholder farmers and their families. Supported by the Gates Foundation, Pathways will use the success of VSLAs as a platform to enable women farmers to access the skills and services they need to promote sustainable agriculture in their communities and reduce poverty and hunger.
In a session following Gates’ talk, Pathways Team Leader Dr. Jemimah Njuki explained the program's aims, and discussed how Pathways is setting standards for other CARE programs. For example, the measurement tools developed by CARE for Pathways are already being used in four other CARE programs. Over five years, Pathways will help 150,000 people in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania.
To learn more about CARE’s Pathways program, visit www.CAREPathwaysToEmpowerment.org. To find out more about the African Green Revolution Forum and efforts to boost sustainable agricultural growth in Africa, visit www.AGRForum.com.
And for a short photo blog detailing Melinda Gates' visit this week to a CARE Village Savings and Loan Association near Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, visit the Gates Foundation's Facebook page.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:04AM EST on September 24, 2012
September 5, 2012
CARE is on the ground in The Democratic Republic of Congo. When the most recent fighting broke out in April, CARE projected to provide emergency relief to 60,000 people. With the intensification of the crisis, we had already reached 84,000 by early September and we have scaled up our response to cover a total of 180,000 people in need. Today, we are responding in a variety of ways – helping families access food (as you'll read below), delivering essential medicine and supplies, providing emergency psychological services and care for survivors of sexual violence and we will soon distribute shelter kits.
"We heard shooting and when we realized it was coming closer we took our baby and ran." They had no time to take cloths, cooking pots, or any other belongings with them. "I waited for a few hours until the gunfire was gone and then went back to the house to get food, but the village and my house were burnt down," Jean, the 20-year-old father recounts of his flight.
Over the past couple of months, tens of thousands of people have been fleeing similar attacks by rebels in southern Masisi territory in the province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 330,000 people have been displaced in the province alone. Several rivaling armed groups are continuing to create havoc in southern Masisi, where most of the displacement is concentrated right now and CARE is present.
When the CARE team visited the spontaneous displacement camp in Kibabi on a sunny day early September, Jean, his wife and five-month-old baby, it had been three weeks since the family had left their home village Ngululu. They had walked for four days until they arrived in Kibabi where they decided to seek safety and shelter. They collected hay to construct a little hut where the family is staying. With the arrival of more than 2,310 families, more or less 13,860 individuals, the camp has grown into the size of a village.
"I don't know when we will be able to go back home," Jean says as his head is tilted down. "We are cold at night and when it rains, we are not protected because our hut has no plastic sheeting." Temperatures drop to close to zero degrees at night and the rainy season has started in full swing.
Jean continues, "We usually manage to eat [potatoes] once a day. I work in the fields of the local community, and my wife goes around asking for donations. But it's not every day we eat and we eat very little." Luckily, Kibabi has a natural water source where the displaced collect their drinking water.
"It came as a relief, when we received food from [CARE]. We've got beans, flour, sugar and some cooking oil. We have shared it with the people around us because not everybody received a voucher to go to the market. We can eat from it for a whole week." Jean's wife took their baby with her and walked for two hours to Rubaya, where the distribution is taking place. It is only the second food assistance in the area since the uprooting started late July.
CARE, through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded project UMOJA+, and together with local partners has organized a weeklong food distribution for almost 4,000 households, or 24,000 people, through a voucher system. CARE spearheaded the innovative voucher system through which beneficiaries buy their food on the local market, which not only empowers them to choose items they need most, but also supports and safeguards the local economy.
Marie-Claire, a 32-year-old single mom, who arrived from Kasheke two weeks ago with her six children and one on the way, is grateful for the beans, flour, and oil she was able to purchase using vouchers received from CARE. But she's worried that it won't last for long enough.
"We share the food with everybody and when it is finished, we will die just like that," she says with an exhausted voice and fatigue in her eyes.
Others echo similar sentiments of thankfulness. "Ever since we fled home, I've had difficulties feeding my six children. With the food fair, we finally have something to eat," 47-year-old Charles says with a sign of relief as one of his six kids holds his hand. They left their home village, Buoye, two months ago and took refuge in Katoyi. When Katoyi came under threat of an attack two weeks ago, they decided to pack up again and join the local population as they made their way to Kibabi. They found shelter in a primary school where up to 10 households, about 60 people, are crammed into one, small classroom filled with thick cooking smoke.
"We are going to eat for the first time since we left our home, Katoyi, four days ago," 23-year-old Julienne says as her newborn baby sleeps silently in a cloth tied around her back. Francoise, 30, expresses similarly, "with the food fair, CARE is helping displaced people, children who are suffering of hunger." She rests on the lawn next to her bags filled with rice and beans to regain some strength before she starts her four-hour walk back to Bukumbirire where she is sheltered in a host family.
As clouds suddenly appear on the sky, wind starts blowing down the hills and chilliness overtakes the place, hundreds of women, children and men continue to stand patiently in line to receive their food coupons, which will allow them and their families to eat for up to two weeks.
CARE has also helped families establish community gardens and has distributed seeds and agricultural tools to thousands of households. CARE provides lifesaving assistance through various emergency projects in North Kivu and has already reached 84,000 people in need since the outbreak of the most recent crisis in eastern DRC. As the food distribution nears its end, UMOJA+ is already planning its next intervention in the area to provide shelter material and latrines.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:46PM EST on September 10, 2012
By Ibrahim Niandou, 31 August 2012
"I can assure you that considering the crisis of this year 2012, I can claim that it is the women who saved our village and even families from other villages ..." says Gado Fandou, her eyes now looking up on the cloudy sky, and then laid tenderly on his wife Haoua a Daouda. It seems a kind of power emerges from this old couple who are so combative, so welded in the face of adversity.
It is 4 p.m. on this Friday, August 31. Life at Koygourou village, located 130 kilometers east of Niamey (Niger), is idling. Food crisis has been hitting the 1,500 inhabitants hard since December. In June, while hope seemed to be revived with the first rains of the season, colonies of locusts suddenly ravaged the young millet shoots. Farmers had to replant two to three times. Thus several different stages of evolution of millet can be seen in the same field. The last sowing is unlikely to produce any panicles if there is no rainfall until October. The heavy August rains have flooded the fertile lowlands. Here and there, gutted houses and uprooted trees show the violence of the recent rains. This is a difficult time through which households have to endure. Yet in this apparent desolation, Mata Masu Dubara women (ingenious women) are very active in the village. They represent the collective pride of Koygourou.
The Program Mata Masu Dubara is implemented by CARE in Niger with funding from NORAD. The impacts of the Mata Masu Dubara system in the economic and social promotion of women were already widely known in Niger. CARE collaborates through this program with 1,056 villages in 100 municipalities. CARE helped 217,839 women to create 8,209 groups of savings and credit. The evidence was made that women have now a better access to income because they got access to credit. Food security is improved in communities thanks to the banks of cereal launched by women.
"When we were establishing our cereal bank, we did not know it would be of such importance in the life of the village. Yet it feeds the most vulnerable people in Koygorou, such as my household today ... "claims Haoua Daouda, Gado Fandou's wife.
Koygourou MMD cereal bank was established after the 2005 food crisis, with one ton of corn contributed by the women of the network's three savings and loan associations, to reinforce the resilience of households.
"Already in 2010, the bank was used to alleviate food crisis by providing grains on credit. Then CARE helped us acquire a 15 ton grain subsidy from the WFP (The World Food Program). The stock which was reconstituted during the November, 2011 crops was 95 bags of maize and 200 bags of millet purchased at 18,500 f and 15000f /bag respectively, including transportation. This is the stock we have been selling at retail price to households since June. We sell the measurement of corn at 600f compared to 650f on the market. This indeed enables us to make only a narrow benefit margin, but we sell cheaper than the market and therefore at a more affordable price for the poor” explains Mariama Kimba, president of the MMD network.
Gado and Haoua's household is one of those poorest households in the village. Gado, who is over 70 and sickly, cannot work hard, though the couple cares for seven children: their own two children and five grandchildren aged 4 to 14. The latter are the children of their recently deceased daughter.
The small field cultivated by the household yielded very little in 2011. Now the whole family sleeps in one straw hut following the flood which damaged their mud house. Haoua sells condiments to feed the family. To carry out this business, she takes credit from the MMD association. With the revenue generated by this small business, she can buy daily measures of millet at the cereal bank. "What should we have done without the MMD loan and the MMD bank?" asks Haoua, adding that dozens of other households in the village like them benefit from these opportunities created by women in Koygorou.
To ensure a proper operation of the bank, the MMD network has established a sales committee: Aissa Issa is responsible for sales and Rabi Harouna is the treasurer. The committee has undergone trainings and is available to clients any time of the day and night.
"These women are so well organized they can save everyone here. Even the less vulnerable people are somewhat relieved because they receive fewer requests to assist their poor relatives. Five days ago, a man from Tcharandi, a village which is 15 kilometers away, came up here on foot to buy some measures of millet grain at the cereal bank. This is a real honor paid for our entire village." boasts Amadou Sanda, the village tailor with delight.
"With the uncertainties due to locusts and floods this year, we are going to further reinforce our network," claims Mariama, the MMD President, while all the women sitting by the cereal bank around her approved by nodding their heads. Meanwhile, the first drops of another rain of this month of August had started falling.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:38PM EST on August 28, 2012
By Marie-Eve Bertrand, CARE Canada
In this region of the world right now, there is a food crisis, caused by a combination of events: a poor rainy season last year which causes the water level of the Niger River to stay very low and crops to wither, chronic poverty, environmental degradation, all resulting in poor harvests and a sharp increase in prices. A crisis hitting a region that already experiences chronic malnutrition and food insecurity. According to the Malian Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, the situation of pastoral communities is at high risk, with even the livestock losing weight because of the lack of grass and water.
Follow me as I meet with the inhabitants of the Swala village in the Djenné region, an hour and a half from Mopti, a town in the middle of Mali.
There were eight of us in the vehicle, including the driver, three colleagues from CARE, the A.A.D.I (our local NGO partner). coordinator and, as well as its president, her grandson and me. And of course, since Malians are very generous, I had the honor of having the front seat to myself. When we turned the corner around the village wall, I heard the percussion instruments, a warm and joyful melody. Then songs. And then I saw them. There were hundreds of women, men and children waiting for our arrival for the second food distribution in their village in two months. The women were dancing, the men were playing tambourines. It was a party in our honour. A wave of tenderness rose within me, a wave of solidarity... a wave of humility. They are the ones who should be celebrated for their courage, their strength. They surrounded me with their warmth, their joy for life. Behind my sunglasses, tears flowed. Like when you feel unworthy of such an honour, or too small for all the love.
They danced all the way to the village chief’s hut. It is an ancient village, very old. A village with walls of mud, thatched roofs, holes for windows. And everyone was squeezed into this small space. Us, the dignitaries, on mats. Them, directly on the ground. They were all so beautiful, smiling, proud.
The village chief’s representative spoke, taking the time to greet us, to thank us. His name is Dramane Coulibaly. "We thank you for this gift of food and your visit that is so precious to us. Before you came, we had no hope, and we didn’t know what to do to continue, to be able to feed our families. The first CARE food distribution eased our empty stomachs, but it wasn’t enough. More than half of us weren’t helped. All of our village suffers from hunger," he said. "Because the women are the ones who can best tell you about the challenges we face." Dramane told me.
Then Pointou Coulibaly, the president of the women spoke. "We are so happy that you are visiting us. Our storehouses have been empty for a long time, because the rains weren’t good for us last season. Our harvests were insufficient last year, and we are suffering from it. Our people farm the land to live, and we usually sell our products. But last year, there wasn’t even enough to feed our families, so selling was impossible. Our only concern is to feed ourselves. Because without food, our children are sick. They cannot go to school because they don’t have the strength," she told us while sitting among her loved ones.
"It is true that hunger pangs make us suffer, when we are used to eating three meals per day, we become rather inefficient... now we have a meal with a little meat and potatoes in the evening and some millet or rice if we are lucky at noon," she continues.
"Half of the families couldn’t have food because of criteria and limits set by the World Food Program. But you know, we are people who stick together. Malian solidarity. It is out of the question for us to let our neighbour go hungry and suffer. So we all share what little we have. We prefer to have less, but to have peace of mind, because we helped those around us."
Generosity, solidarity. That puts the focus back where it should be, when you realise that to share, you don’t need a lot, you just need a big heart. It was the whole village that gathered to thank us, because it is the entire community who benefits from CARE’s assistance.
Their economy rests on three main thrusts in the region: agriculture, livestock and tourism. Rain didn’t fall from the skies last year, and the storehouses are still empty. And even though it has been raining recently, no one knows what tomorrow holds, and there are still four months to wait before the next harvest. The price of rice is ever-increasing. People are hungry. Thirsty. But they are proud and hard-working. Plus there is the livestock that have fallen. The animals were too hungry and thirsty too. Some died; the remaining ones are very thin. Too thin. So the sale of livestock has suffered, as well as the demand, because people don’t have much money, since tourism has fallen off. The tourists who also ate the meat are no longer coming, because they are afraid of the political insecurity in the northern region of the country. The region here, like the famous town of Timbuktu, is classified as a world heritage. Here, you find the history of centuries and centuries of hard work, majestic sites, vestiges of the past. Places that are so old, so different. But that no longer have as many tourists as before.
The oldest person in the village, as they call him, spoke, "Ma’am, I would like to make a request for our survival. Give us efficient tools to farm, seeds that will grow and knowledge to improve our harvest. We are farmers and we want to work to fill our storehouses."
And that is when I understood that these proud and courageous people in front of me had, themselves, understood the essence of development. They know that food distribution is temporary and aspire to becoming self-sufficient once again. They are capable of working; we have the resources to help them prepare for the future and build resiliency plans.
As the meeting was ending, the village chief motioned me to come forward so he could give me a packet with nuts. Kola nuts in fact. A gift that is reserved for great occasions, great celebrations. A rare gift.
I left with a heart full of hope, love and pride. I left with my hands full of a gift that touched me. But also with a full stomach. Because from the little they had, the villagers made us a meal. Malian solidarity.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:04AM EST on August 27, 2012
Mapendo Marie (her real name has been changed to protect her identity) doesn't know her exact age, but she looks about 16. Last year, she was raped while returning from the fields where she had been working that day. Mapendo is from the village of Kisheke in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. After it happened, she returned home and didn't tell her family at first –only when she was about six months along in her pregnancy. Her grandmother Georgette Dunia (her real name has been changed to protect her identity) insisted she visit the nearby clinic for a prenatal visit. Soon thereafter, her son Jackson was born. He will likely never know his father since Mapendo herself didn't know who her rapist was and has never seen him again.
Mapendo had to leave her home due to the conflict that has ravaged North Kivu since April of this year. She lives with her son on the outskirts of Goma, not far from her native village, in a makeshift shelter with her grandmother and several other family members. Mapendo often does not know where their next meal will come from. But she is too scared to return to their village any time soon.
One of CARE's programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo helps to support rape survivors by giving them what they often need most: a way to make a living. CARE provides socioeconomic support by establishing village savings and loans associations (VSLA), which allow very poor communities or groups to save money and invest to start small businesses. In addition, CARE supports women through income generating activities – Maputo will receive assistance though these as well.
However, much more needs to be done to stop sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So that one day, no woman, no child or no man needs to fear of such an attack on their body. Until then, CARE is there to help.
CARE, one of the largest aid organizations worldwide, calls for total protection of women and girls in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as the conflict in North Kivu enters its sixth month. The recent escalation of violence affects over 350,000 people, including between 270,000 and 275,000 who are displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some 54,000 who have fled to neighboring Rwanda or Uganda. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence in this context. Working at the community and camp levels, CARE has been able to provide support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence as well as to prevent such atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In collaboration with humanitarian partners, CARE is running four projects that treat survivors and work to stop sexual violence in conflict areas in North Kivu.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:01AM EST on August 27, 2012
CARE gender-based violence and socio-economic reintegration expert Rose Vive visited Kanyaruchinya, where 30,000 displaced people have been living since mid-July, having fled the intensifying conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. CARE sponsors health and gender-based violence interventions, so Rose was passing by conducting routine activities with the health clinic there.
On the day of her visit, she was introduced to two women, aged 26 and 28, who had been raped the day before. They were seeking treatment at the CARE-sponsored clinic. Rose could see the women were distressed, so she sat down with them in the small, spartan examination room. Soon, they began to tell their story.
"We are neighbors back in our village, just north of here. Both of our husbands were taken to fight with the rebels. We didn't feel safe at home so we decided, along with many other people from our village, to head south towards the city of Goma. We have been here in Kanyaruchinya for about two weeks."
Several nights after they arrived, the women were nearly out of food for their children. They each have four young children.
"We were worried as the day went on that we'd have to send the children to bed without food. Finally, someone gave us a few potatoes. We were so grateful and wanted to cook them immediately."
"We walked a little bit further away and saw a group of men who asked if we were alone. We tried to say that we were with a group of other people to deter the men. We were worried. Several of the men left but two stayed."
The two men raped them and left them in the dark. The women were scared and traumatized, unaware of what they should do to follow-up. The next day, a community health worker told them to visit the local health clinic to receive CARE-sponsored medicines in the form of a "PEP kit". PEP kits are given within 72 hours after someone has been raped. The medicine helps prevent the transmission of HIV, and a number of other sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The women also received psychological counseling to assist them in overcoming the mental trauma they'd faced.
The women will also participate in a program that could help them start a small business so they can get back on their feet after such a traumatic experience.
With programs like CARE's, survivors of sexual violence can receive the health and treatment they need to protect them from some of the psychological and physical effects of sexual violence.
"We just want to go home in security," one of the women said.
CARE, one of the largest aid organizations worldwide, calls for total protection of women and girls in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as the conflict in North Kivu enters its sixth month. The recent escalation of violence affects over 350,000 people, including between 270,000 and 275,000 who are displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some 54,000 who have fled to neighboring Rwanda or Uganda. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence in this context. Working at the community and camp levels, CARE has been able to provide support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence as well as to prevent such atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In collaboration with humanitarian partners, CARE is running four projects that treat survivors and work to stop sexual violence in conflict areas in North Kivu.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:58AM EST on August 27, 2012
Feza Mbairwe is a mother of ten children and grandmother of two who loves to cook, spend time with her large family and sing in church. Feza herself is a survivor of gender-based violence and today one of CARE’s sexual and gender-based violence community organizers back in her home village of Kibumba. There she helps pass on messages to people in her village on how to prevent and treat violence against women or men.
Feza, along with many of her family members and neighbors, has recently had to flee her home due to the escalation of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern province of North Kivu. About 3,000 people from around Kibumba left their houses in mid-July and have been staying with host communities outside of the city of Goma for several weeks. Despite the difficulties she faced in being displaced, Feza remained true to her training as a sexual and gender-based violence community organizer. Here’s her story:
"One night I left where I was staying to get one last ingredient for supper. I walked down the road and soon heard what sounded like a struggle. I had a flashlight on my phone so I turned it on and saw a young woman on the ground. She was being held down by a man. She tried to get free.
I ran up to them. I pulled the man off the girl. I asked her if she knew the man who was aggressing her – she nodded that she did not know him. Once she said that, the man ran away.
I was disgusted. The girl looked to be the same age as my daughter, about 18. This girl could have been my daughter or my niece. I couldn’t just let that man harm her. He got away. Luckily the girl wasn’t hurt. I walked her home to safety.
I tell this story to people in my community, both the people from Kibumba and those in the host community where we’re staying right now, because I want people to know that they can stop this violence from happening. I learned in my training that it’s important not to ignore sexual and gender-based violence. We have to face it in order to stop it."
I also tell this story to my children. I tell them not to stay out late and to avoid situations where they could get hurt in this way. Many people have already survived attacks of sexual violence, but they can stop it from happening too."
CARE, one of the largest aid organizations worldwide, calls for total protection of women and girls in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as the conflict in North Kivu enters its sixth month. The recent escalation of violence affects over 350,000 people, including between 270,000 and 275,000 who are displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some 54,000 who have fled to neighboring Rwanda or Uganda. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence in this context. Working at the community and camp levels, CARE has been able to provide support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence as well as to prevent such atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In collaboration with humanitarian partners, CARE is running four projects that treat survivors and work to stop sexual violence in conflict areas in North Kivu.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:22PM EST on August 17, 2012
Today, 18.7 million people are affected by the crisis, more than 1.1 million people are suffering from severe malnutrition and an additional 3 million have moderate malnutrition.
CARE is on the ground in Chad, Mali and Niger, where millions of people are and in dire need of assistance, relief and long-term planning. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, especially those under the age of 2. CARE's emergency response and recovery program is providing access to food via cash transfer and direct distribution, and improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene. At the same time CARE's long-term development programs such as women-led savings groups and cereal banks help people build and protect assets. In CARE's experience, empowering women strengthens community resilience during crises.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 5:02PM EST on August 16, 2012
By Jean-Louis Mbusa, Governance Advisor, CARE in the Democratic Republic of the Congo I’ve been working for CARE since May, 2007, when I first started as field coordinator and capacity building officer. Now I’m a governance advisor for a project called "Tufaidike wote" which means "win-win" in our local language. Overall, I’ve been working in humanitarian affairs for 12 years. I am 41 years old, I have four children and I was born in Lubero but raised in Rutshuru, in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I decided to become a humanitarian aid worker because it allows me to directly work with people who need help. Although it’s a stressful job at times, I’m passionate about it. I find it enriching. It’s not only that we help those who need assistance, we learn every day so much about people’s lives, the situation and how we can improve our aid. I like it that humanitarian work is multi-cultural and multi-sectoral. I find it very satisfying. Also, I find this work helps me realizing what my personal weaknesses are and to develop myself so that I can overcome them. For example, I remember that not long ago we became aware of a group of people who had fled their homes due to fighting in North Kivu. They had to leave their homes quickly with only the clothes on their backs. CARE had planned to assist them and we were one of the only actors. I was glad we could provide food, but many of these people were still sleeping outside. I looked high and low to find an organization to give us tents. I had to solve this problem to find a solution. Finally, I found one organization that delivered tents for the people who needed them most while CARE distributed food. It was empowering to fill that gap and to coordinate along with other humanitarian actors. We alone can never satisfy all the needs of people in difficulty. We must always work with other actors to respond to all needs. One of the things I really like about CARE is the shift in approach to aid. We have introduced a voucher and coupon system. This way, we empower the households and allow them to choose what they need. They can buy it at local markets, supporting local vendors. We have found out that people continue to use the things they “purchased” with our coupons with greater frequency compared to when we just hand out relief-items. I also believe it’s a more dignified way of providing assistance to people. I also like that we provide assistance to families who are hosting Congolese displaced by conflict. That sort of activity, the act of hosting a displaced person, is the embodiment of African solidarity. People here don’t want to see people living in tents in camps. We call them "Solidarity Families." But the thing about host families is that they often run out of supplies and it becomes difficult for them to continue supporting others. Here in North Kivu, we are affected by a lot of internal and external problems and risk to remain in this chronic crisis where people continue to live in poverty and fear forever. So many armed groups, so many people fighting over resources. CARE has created crisis management committees that include local authorities, civil society, community leaders and religious leaders. We trained them on passive conflict management, their roles as members of their community and their responsibilities. We want to support them to act independently and give them the tools to support themselves, not just to be dependent on aid. We have given people a framework for managing crises, for managing displacement and for communities to adapt better to such situations. I often observe that the communities help themselves before humanitarians like us even reach the places. At the same time, we need to ensure that we as humanitarians do no harm to people and communities. We need to ensure to include those who are the most affected, and often that is women and children. When we help displaced people we also need to include host families, they need our assistance too. This way we can help to avoid conflict and to support the sense of natural solidarity. Aid should not weaken this solidarity – it should strengthen it! For me, it’s natural to be a humanitarian. I see myself as owning this sense of African solidarity too. I learn every day about people’s lives and I aim to assist improving the aid we give. It makes me proud to help other people.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:34AM EST on August 6, 2012
By Marie-Eve Bertrand
They plundered her village. They killed people, beginning with men in uniform. Soldiers, federal officials, prison guards. To sow terror, they freed prisoners. "My husband heard the gunshots. He understood. So, he told me to flee with our children, and then he joined us a few days later. I was so afraid. We fled from our village, which was located in the red zone, where armed groups have wreaked havoc. We fled to my mother's house, here in Djenne, Mali. She still has children at home and sells pancakes to earn a little money. There are ten of us now, in her home. My husband had to leave as well - he couldn't stay there. Without CARE's help, we would have never made it. We lost everything - everything - when we left home. I know I will never get back my belongings. But I still have my family here, alive. It's very hard. My name is Sarata."
Next to her was a very thin man with a blank stare. He left everything behind as well. Even his wife and children, who are in a city miles away. When he fled the violence, he may have taken his family and left physically, but his spirit stayed behind. He has been confused since that day. When I asked him why his family was not with him, he didn't even know. "I want to go back home - back to the way my life used to be." That's all he could tell me. His name? He isn't sure anymore.
Nearby, another woman. "My name is Mariama." When the armed groups invaded their neighborhood, she and her sister fled with the children. Her husband stayed, because he was afraid of losing his business and all their belongings. She's twenty years old, has a nursing 7-month-old and a 5-year-old, all staying with their grandmother. She took them in. The grandmother - who still has her own children at home - made room for them. She received a kit of essential items (cups, casserole, blanket, mat, soap) distributed by CARE and its local partner A.A.D.I., but no food, because there were no rations left. Her little girl is crying. She's hungry, but her mother's milk is lacking. "There isn't much," the beautiful Mariama tells me. "We don't have enough food." But she smiles, and tells me about her dreams for her daughters. One day, they will be educated. They'll go into medicine, or maybe they'll be teachers. "One day, we'll go back home."
They are just here temporarily, until things calm down and the violence dissipates. They are internally displaced persons, the forgotten victims of human conflicts, the forgotten ones of humanitarian disasters.
* The names in this story have been changed in order to protect the identity of the interview subjects.
Posted by: Uri Chamberlain at 4:29PM EST on August 4, 2012
I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a wife. I have read Half the Sky and many other similar books and editorials and articles. I understand and support the concept of the Girl Effect. I am a supporter of CARE as well as other organizations and the tremendous work they do in building communities, providing education, promoting and protecting women's health and reproductive rights, providing for the feeding of countless hungry children and adults, etc. And so it is with some concern that I read the cover tag of the July 2012 World Report newletter: "The women and children of Niger are suffering from one of the worst hunger crises in years..." So are the men of Niger. It is not only mother's who are watching their children go hungery and die. Father's are too. Just as helpless to prevent it, just as bereft by the loss, just as devastated by their inability to provide for their children or themselves. I assume that CARE feeds the hungry irrespective of gender and age. These are people in desperate conditions through no fault of their own. I urge you to avoid turning your emphasis on the (very important) empowerment of women into an advertising tag aimed at soliciting sympathy. Please tell the whole story. Cultural customs and history have trapped and suppressed women--this is true. They have also trapped men in different but corresponding ways. But it doesn't mean that the men are not also suffering, hungry, heartbroken, and despairing--looking and in need of help for themselves and their children. Half of the children we are trying to feed and educate and protect are boys. Do they suddenly not matter any more once they are adults? Do they not have needs or feelings? Part of changing and empowering women and girls is that it changes and empowers the next generation of boys and men as well. The importance of this cannot be overstated and should not be overlooked. Women. Men. Girls. Boys. They all matter to me. I hope they do to CARE as well. Sincerely, Uri B. Chamberlain
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:20AM EST on August 2, 2012
'Let's Not Make the Same Mistakes Again'
I am sorry to hear of the more than 18 million people in your region who are facing critical food insecurity. Having gone through this myself only just last year, I understand, and I thought that maybe it was time I contacted you so that together we can work out how to change things.
In many ways, I am still trying to recover; in fact, over 9 million of my people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are still in need of humanitarian assistance. In some regions of Ethiopia and southern Somalia children under five are already showing signs of acute malnutrition. So you may think, who am I to give you advice when my situation is clearly not much better than yours? Well, I may not have all the answers to everything but I do know one thing: droughts, even extreme ones do not come as a surprise to us. We have been here several times before. We must stop reacting to these situations the same way and learn new ways to protect our people.
My experience in 2011 taught me that our best efforts at using early warning systems and monitoring the food security situation of local communities will always be undermined if warnings are not heeded and acted upon. We've both been through droughts so many times before; we know very well when poor rains are likely to turn into something more serious. We must learn to trust this judgement and for others to trust us too.
When the situation goes from bad to worse (and I hope you don't get to this point) the right support for emergency responses is vital. For example, last year, we learned that cash interventions could help as much, if not more than food distributions and that some emergency responses could be harmful to our longer term interventions. Our people don't want to be dependent. They have the skills and resilience to respond to drought and they know best how to cope. But even the best traditional coping mechanisms cannot withstand increasingly changing climate patterns, uncontrollable rises in food prices, and chronic conflict on top of years of under investment in these vulnerable areas.
I hope that the funds and assistance you are beginning to receive are enough. Increased financial support is vital, not only to save the millions of lives that are in immediate risk, but also to help you to invest in longer-term interventions that protect people's assets and supports them to cope and develop resilience to future shocks. In my experience, built into this approach must also be the ability to respond quickly and comprehensively when times will, inevitably, get tough again and a commitment to continue working to prevent crises when times are good.
Over the years we've changed the labels that we use to describe the tools we use, to explain the problems, and the solutions available to us, but fundamentally the reasons behind our food security crises have stayed the same.
A real challenge I faced last year was the fact that increasingly the most vulnerable communities in my region are located in the hardest to reach areas. Conflict and insecurity means it was really difficult to reach families who needed our help the most. We have to ensure everyone respects the rights of communities in need to receive assistance. Sometimes this means we have to think outside the box and come up with new ways to reach people. But this doesn't mean we should compromise our principles. Humanitarian agencies should still deliver quality projects in a more coordinated way and be accountable for what they do.
Our Governments and their partners need to invest resources effectively in the infrastructure necessary to promote resilience in drylands areas, otherwise communities will never be strong enough to cope when times are hard. We cannot continue to neglect these areas. We must find ways to maximize their economic potential and support their traditional agricultural and pastoral methods.
We must also focus on the most vulnerable in our communities. During last year's food crisis in my region, just as in any major crisis, women and children bore the brunt of the shortages. Out of the 12 million people affected, an estimated 360,000 of them were pregnant women. Mothers are the first to sacrifice feeding themselves to feed their children, and with so many cows and goats dying without water, poor milk supplies left over 2 million children malnourished and struggling to survive.
There is a lot more I could say and a lot more we can do and will need to do, but for now my only hope is that you will keep from making the same mistakes as me. I also hope that I will be able to apply the lessons I learned last year and when (not if) the next drought comes, my people won't suffer as much as they did in 2011.
Wishing you all the best,
Horn of Africa
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:51AM EST on August 1, 2012
By Marie-Eve Bertrand
Here I am, thinking about my life and aspirations – wondering what I will do in two or three weeks, even a month. As for her, she can only think about tomorrow. She needs to have enough milk for her youngest baby, still depending on her breast milk. She must have enough rice for her other children, so they don't cry because of being hungry, and their father. Only if they are all fed, then she will sit and eat, even though she's pregnant and she should go first. But a mother will never let her children go to bed on an empty stomach to fill hers.
That was three months ago, before CARE started giving emergency assistance here in central Mali.
There are about 60 families here, in Koundougou, 44 of which have children under the age of 6. Almost 30 women are pregnant. As a group, they patiently wait for the food distribution to start, as soon as the local committee is ready. Standing next to me is a young lady and her friend. For the past three months they've been working as community mobilizers for the food distribution, carried out by CARE and a local partner organization. To my surprise, there are only two women in a group of ten people. "It's the first time that women have a chance to work with men – the first time that we have a voice. We are happy to be respected and our husbands are proud of us." A surprised man standing nearby says: "Two women is a lot already! We had to work hard to find a place for them." Fifi, the female director of the local organization CARE works with looks at me, smiling, and explains there's still a lot of work to do but, in the long run, things will change.
"Do you go to school?" She smiles and shies away. The closest school and the closest health center are 7 kilometers away. It would be too hard. Sometimes, there's a lucky one who is sent away to live with family members and go to school, but in all other cases, girls' parents can't afford to pay school fees... So these girls spend their life, from childhood to adulthood, looking at the sun rising, shining, burning then hiding for the night. They are able to read the weather and the seasons in the signs of nature, to recognize the wild fruits and herbs they can eat. They help each other. But, here and now, as they are offering me their friendship and a basket filled with food, they are reminding me that oftentimes, generosity is inversely proportional to the breadth of the pocket.
While we talk, the food distribution continues smoothly. CARE is also giving mothers Plumpy Nut, a nutrition supplement for kids between the age of 6 months and 6 years. Families receive different amounts depending on the family size and the children's ages.
Our staff and partners need to find ways to identify each family and track the amount of food delivered. Most of these people are illiterate, which complicates the tracking of the distribution. In some cases, people sign with a fingerprint. For this project, CARE Mali works with a local partner who liaises with the community to ensure no one is forgotten or served twice.
CARE has worked with the most vulnerable in Mali over several decades to give them the tools they need to reach self-reliance. Mali is one of the nine countries in the Sahel region affected by a severe food crisis, where almost 19 million people are without enough to eat. The current emergency assistance is important, yet temporary. It serves as a bridge between two bad seasons. But in this case we should not forget the complexity of the food crisis. The irregular rains, the higher price of food, the political tension, the low level of water of the Niger river… The entire Sahel region is affected. That is why CARE wants to be there before, during and after a crisis: to defend dignity and fight poverty.
Malians are proud and are hoping for one thing: for the rain to fall, for the grass to grow and for the lands to become green, so their family and livestock can eat again.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:34AM EST on July 13, 2012
June 18, 2012
Today, CARE is distributing food for 2,520 people in Warshika, eastern Chad. The rhythm is frenetic. Members of staff carry sacks and boxes out of a temporary warehouse; women collect staples such as cereals, lentils, cooking oil, sugar, and salt. CARE is also distributing a high-nutrient supplement to feed 336 malnourished children in this remote community.
One of the women receiving food for her family is Khadija Mohamad, 24. She is one of the 3.6 million people affected by the Sahel food crisis in Chad.
Khadija has a small field where she grows millet, but production this season was very low. "Last year was better; we managed to have some food. This year, we have worked the fields but we have got nothing," she laments.
"There was little rain and birds ate some of the seeds," Khadija explains. "Locusts attacked the leaves as well."
In a good year, she gets up to 800 kilograms of millet out of her plot of land. However, this year she only harvested 110 kilograms, about one sack. This small amount of food didn’t last very long for Khadija and her three children, aged 3, 6, and 10.
When there is not enough food, Khadija cuts down rations and gives her sons two meals a day.
"Here, we suffer. We need a good well so we can drink, and some way to keep the water, so we can water the fields."
With the food distributed by CARE, Khadija can endure the lean season more easily. "It helps me to live more comfortably for a few weeks. After it’s finished, we rest in the hands of god."
"Normally when we run out of food we sell our animals, but this year prices aren’t high," she laments.
"The price of food, however, is too expensive." Khadija explains that this year food is so costly because growers had a bad season and little is available. The price of certain items has increased four-fold.
A measure of millet, which cost 350 francs CFA last year, now costs 750. A measure of okra, which cost 600 francs CFA last year, now costs 2,500. Tomatoes have gone up from 450 to 1,000 francs CFA. Cooking oil has gone up from 1,000 to 1,500 francs CFA.
Migration to Libya, about 1,000 kilometers away, is common in this area. Young men stay there for about three years, working as shopkeepers, watchman, or other small jobs. "My husband and my brother are in Libya for work. After the war, they came back, but now they have gone back, to Sirte."
"We women start the day in the morning. We work hard, go get water… and we do the work of men as well. But we don’t know how to cultivate the fields."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:42AM EST on July 13, 2012
‘One Year On’
Food insecurity and conflict still a threat for the Horn of Africa
CARE International: Cash relief for drought affected families in Somalia
Despite its negative impact on the environment, the only way they have been able to earn money for food has been to cut trees and produce charcoal. Together, the brother and sister look out for suitable trees that can be cut for burning. 16 year old brother Muuse, cuts the wood into pieces, digs a hole and sets fire to the wood to produce charcoal. He also then transports the charcoal into town for selling at the local market. This was their way of life, until CARE started working in their village.
CARE worked with the local elders to identify families in need and Rahma and her brothers and sisters were enrolled as cash relief beneficiaries, enabling them to earn around USD$120 a month from two projects managed by the organization.
Because of these earnings they were able to stop cutting the trees for charcoal, they also bought two extra cows, and can now produce extra milk to sell in the market. They also decided to join a village savings and loans group. They took a loan and bought fodder for their cows, this has helped increase their milk production. From the proceeds of milk sales, they managed to repay their loan.
Rahma said " Since the death of my parents we both gave up our dream towards development, our thoughts were focused on how to find food and water, but our God sent this wonderful agency to support us, make us change our attitude, let us protect our forest. It was cutting trees as a coping mechanism during the drought that made us lose our animals. Now we have good dreams; I want to learn and become teacher, and my brother wants to be doctor. Many thanks to CARE, and its staff".
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:41AM EST on July 13, 2012
Rain rules the lives and well-being of rural Ethiopians. Rain determines whether families will have enough to eat, be able to provide basic necessities, and be able to earn a living.
This cannot be truer than for people living in Mesela district, located in Eastern Ethiopia. Most of them practice small-scale, rain-fed agriculture. They produce their own food, but also use their farm production to generate income to purchase food. So when three consecutive rainy seasons (one in 2010 and two in 2011) were poor, the Mesela community was greatly affected. Harvests were poor, pasture and water became scarce. Livestock started to die. People coped with the situation by reducing their number of daily meals (two instead of three), selling their remaining livetsock (often their most important assets) and by engaging in petty trading. For example, a woman typically traveled to a large market located 3-4 hours walking distance from her home, purchased vegetables and small ruminants (goats or sheep), walked back another five hours to reach a smaller market to sell her purchases. Typical profit: 30 to 50 Ethiopian Birr ($1.70 - $2.80) per day, twice a week.
In order to support small-scale farmers to cope and recover from the drought, in December 2011 CARE initiated a livelihoods recovery project with funding from the Austrian Development Agency. The project includes the distribution of cereal and vegetable seeds, poultry, and small ruminants, along with agriculture training. The project reaches 5,600 small-scale farmers, and specifically women, who are the ones receiving the poultry and the small ruminants.
In order to decide who would receive the goats and sheep distributed by CARE, the Mesela community did a wealth ranking exercise where families were divided into three groups: the "poorest of the poor", the "poor" and the "better off". The community decided that the "poorest of the poor" should receive the goats distributed by CARE and that these families in turn would give the first four offspring of their goats to the families of the second group, the "poor". This practice, widely accepted and appreciated, shows the sense of solidarity existing in the Mesela community.
In addition to the provision of seeds, poultry, small ruminants and agricultural training, CARE also invited women to participate in Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), a micro-credit approach developed by the organization in 1991. Their response was instantaneous.
VSLAs are self-managed and self-funded savings groups. In Ethiopia, a VSLA is typically composed of 20 members who meet regularly and contribute a certain amount of money to a pooled fund. Members can borrow money from the pool, and repay their loans with interest which is then shared among the group members. Participating in a VSLA is often the first time a woman will access credit in her life.
Wednesh, a 28 year old farmer living in Mesela, was introduced to the VSLA concept during a visit organized by CARE in February 2012 to a neighboring village. In that village, she discussed with women who have been participating in "women asset groups" for more than two years with the support of CARE. The members these groups each received three goats and were trained on the VSLA methodology. Inspired by what she saw, she came back to her village and convinced 80 women to create four VSLAs. With the support of CARE, the four groups meet every week and each member contributes 5 Birr ($0.28) to the pooled fund. One member can borrow 100 Birr ($5.64) for one month, with 10% interest. Most women contract loans to engage in petty trading to generate income. So far, Wednesh's VSLA, of which she is the chairwoman, has saved 1,400 Birr ($79).
Wednesh is a strong advocate of VSLAs. She constantly provides support for other VSLAs and walks long distances to discuss with other women to introduce them to VSLAs. She is one of the main reasons why VSLAs are so popular and efficient in her community.
Wednesh is also waiting to receive four goats from one of her neighbors. She has been classified in the second group in her community, the "poor", and has been linked with a woman who has received five goats directly from CARE. Once she receives her goats, she also wants to give their first four offspring to another member of her community.
Belaynesh, a 50 year old farmer, started to participate in a VSLA, and is now the chairwoman of her saving group. She has been identified as one of the "poorest of the poor" and will receive her five goats during the first weeks of July. While participating in her VSLA, she and her peers discussed a new trading tactic whereby they start with trading chickens (who bring a profit of 10 Birr each – $0.56) and work towards trading goats and sheep (who bring a profit of 30-50 Birr each - $1.70 - $2.80) and finally cows (who bring a profit of 200 Birr each – $11.28). Her ambition and confidence have inspired many other women to work towards achieving the same objective.
Fantanesh, a 25 year old farmer of the Mesela community, witnessed VSLA members of the CARE project meeting and saving every week. Even though she was not participating in the project, she convinced 19 women to create a VSLA and proactively reached out to CARE to ask for training on the VSLA methodology. Today, her VSLA, of which she is the secretary, has saved 1,200 Birr ($67.70). "Before the VSLA", she explains, "I always faced a shortage of money. Now, I have access to credit for my petty trading and I can do what I want. The market is now my farmland."
And what about the men in the Mesela community? How do they see VSLAs? Do they support their wives in participating in the saving groups? "Oh yes!" responds Fantanesh. "They support us at home when we meet every week. They keep the animals, they fetch water and they collect wood so we can participate in VSLAs. They are very happy because additional money is brought to the family." Thus, VSLAs elevate the status of women in their communities by demonstrating how the economic empowerment of women helps not just women, but everyone around them, including men and boys.
Wednesh, Belaynesh and Fantanesh all demonstrate leadership and solidarity in a very difficult situation. They are slowly becoming more confident and feel they can better resist shocks such as a drought. "VSLA will continue even if there is a drought" states Wednesh. "Petty trading will always be there". To this, Belaynesh adds "we have a good idea how to overcome poverty in the future". And the best part is that they are doing it together.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:40AM EST on July 13, 2012
'One Year On'
Mr. Mohammed Abdule, successful farmer
Mohammed Abdule, age 47 and father of 6 children, is one of the farmers in that area who lives with the constant threat of droughts and climate shocks. Until recently, he has had to face this threat with very little preparation and assets. In order to cope with the 2006 to 2008 dry rainy seasons, he was forced to sell his oxen, cows and goats at a reduced price. He also had to take loans to buy more food for his family.
Though he and his family survived, Mohammed was faced again with another drought in 2009. Once again, he had to sell his only assets – his oxen, donkeys and goats – in order to provide for his family.
In January 2005, Mohammed and other drought-affected farmers had the opportunity to participate in a government and CARE run safety net program that focused on environmental protection and asset creation initiatives. These farmers in return received food aid from CARE.
Because of Mohammed’s good performance in the safety net program, he was given the opportunity to join the PSNP Plus project with CARE in July 2011. This USAID-funded project aimed to link poor rural households in Ethiopia to microfinance and markets as a way of building resilience. Mohammed participated in a month-long comprehensive training on bee keeping and transitional beehive making.
Afterwards, he received materials for bee keeping including 6 transitional beehives, 50 small beehives for multiplying bees and 14 bee colonies from CARE. During this time, he also learned about savings management, animal fattening, and cultivating improved seeds.
Prior to the bee keeping training, Mohammed had only two bee colonies, which did not produce enough to be his sole source of income. However, according to Mohammed, "After the training, I was able to multiply the 14 bee colonies into 42 and sell the 14 to farmers in the village at 500 birr (28 USD) each." He sold the colonies at a reduced price to attract more customers and with the knowledge that farmers in that area could not pay more. He then deposited the 7,000 birr (395 USD) he earned from the sale of bee colonies in the local bank as part of his savings plan.
Today, Mohammed keeps 14 active beehives in his compound. He notes, "I have harvested 24 kilograms of honey last November, sold it and got a total of 2,400 birr (135 USD)." He spent 1,400 birr (79 USD) purchasing sugar for the bees so that they have sustenance during the dry season when flowers are scarce and saved the rest.
Because of Mohammed’s efforts, his village has increased its bee colonies from five to 73. He also gives technical support to 73 honey producers in his locality and beyond. In this way, the knowledge he gained from the training has benefited the whole community as well as his direct family.
Mohammed claims that his life is improving because he is less dependent on rain-fed farming. He is diversifying his livelihood by engaging in bee farming, savings management, animal fattening, cultivating improved seeds and even carpentry. As a result, during the latest drought that hit the region in the past year, he has not sold any of his assets and has not taken out any loans. His family finally has the security it needs to be resilient in the face of drought.
His plans for the future are inspiring as well. "As there is demand in the market, I plan to buy 40 bee colonies this year, multiply them to 200 colonies and sell the 180 colonies in the market," explained Mohammed.
By Yonas Tafesse, Communications Advisor, CARE Ethiopia
'One Year On'
CARE continues to provide life-saving assistance in Dadaab refugee camp
One of the most immediate needs for new refugees has been water; the very elixir of life. After walking for days on end, parched and much in need of hydration, CARE has been at the forefront of ensuring refugees have access to adequate water supplies. But this service has not always been easy. Before the emergency, CARE was able to provide an average of 18 litres of water per person per day for drinking, cooking and bathing.
Water is provided through the construction of tap stands, boreholes and water tanks. In normal circumstances we can ensure never to have more than 250 refugees using one tap stand. But with the crisis came challenges. Refugees settled on the outskirts of the camps, where CARE traditionally did not have any water provision facilities and as more and more people arrived we had to move fast to ensure families could access water and to prevent outbreaks of disease.
CARE WASH staff worked hard by first using water tankers to bring water to refugees in areas without water points, constructing water lines and tap stands in the Influx areas and refurbishing boreholes that were over 20 years old. CARE’s interventions ensured that no refugee had to walk more than 500 metres to find water. This is especially beneficial for women and girls, who are often tasked to search for water, food and firewood for their families. CARE was also able to ensure that each refugee was continuously able to access the global minimum standard of 15 litres of water per person per day.
'We were in desperate need of water. If CARE did not help us, and give us water, life’s most basic need, many lives would have been lost. Even though a year has passed since the crisis, we still talk about CARE every day, and we are all very grateful, 'says Zeynab Mahmud Hassan, a refugee from the Dagahaley camp.
Following the 2011 influx of refugees the Kenyan Government opened two new camps – Kambioos and Ifo 2, to relieve congestion in Dadaab. CARE has worked tirelessly from the opening of these camps to provide water at the highest standards to every single individual.
As we continue to defend dignity and fight poverty, we are pleased to say that we have been able to return to our standard of providing 18 litres of water per person per day, and this just proves to us, that together, we can be powerful!
'One Year On'
Noor Jelle is a 30 year old man from the Somali community living in Fafi District, Garissa County. Garissa is located in the north eastern part of Kenya where communities have traditionally survived as pastoralists. Noor is married with children and lives with his extended family including his ageing father.
For centuries, Noor’s community has used indigenous methods to predict seasonal weather patterns. This information is based on changes observed in the behaviour of birds and insects, the condition of plants, temperature changes and wind patterns among other things. However, with the changing climate patterns, it is becoming more and more difficult for the community to accurately predict and plan for the coming seasons. Prolonged droughts and unpredictable rainfall patterns experienced over recent decades have resulted in Noor’s family losing their once large herds of camels and cattle. The family has since been forced into an agro-pastoralist way of life, keeping a few goats and practicing rain fed crop farming, growing mainly maize.
In 2011, the Horn of Africa experienced a food crisis that was described as one of the worst in the last 60 years. Noor’s family was hard hit by the crisis, which followed two consecutive poor rainy seasons and rising food prices. Aid agencies working in the area including CARE, responded by providing short term humanitarian assistance to help the community survive the drought. Although the community expressed much appreciation for this support, what they really need are longer term initiatives that will strengthen their ability to cope with the increasingly frequent and prolonged droughts as well as the changing climate pattern in the area.
For many years in Kenya, CARE has been championing the empowerment of vulnerable communities, supporting them to take their destiny into their own hands and maintain their dignity. In 2011, the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) in CARE discovered that climate information was not being used effectively in planning for agro-pastoral activities and that this was contributing to higher drought and climate related losses. Community members expressed a real need for simple and relevant climate information for their use.
'When we receive temperature and rain information in degrees and millimetres, for most of us it makes no sense as we don’t really know what it means. It would be better if the information was more focused on letting the community know what we could grow, when...’ says Noor.
ALP in Kenya is using Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP) workshops as an innovative and inclusive way of communicating climate information to communities and government departments. One and a half day workshops are carried out twice a year just after the national seasonal forecast has been released by the national meteorological agency. Workshop participants include the meteorological agency, community members, local government departments and local NGOs who share their knowledge about past and future climate forecasts. The workshops integrate traditional community methods and scientific forecasts to produce simple and locally relevant climate information that is then shared throughout the community through local communication channels such as mosques and chief’s meetings.
'We have been struggling with the concept of climate change but when ALP interacted with us and talked to us about it, we gained some interest in better understanding and using climate information from the Kenya Meteorological Department’ reports Noor. ' From the workshops we received information on rainfall and temperature, additional advice on what to plant, when, where to get inputs and technical support and information on storage and even marketing in case the harvest was really good. The information is communicated in Somali, our local language, for the two main livelihoods groups- pastoralist and agro-pastoralist.’
According to Noor, at the end of the Oct-Dec 2011 rainy season, the community received a bumper harvest and minimal losses because they had received relevant information on storage and preservation of their harvest. They also received information that has enabled them to plant more drought resistant and early maturing seed varieties of maize, sorghum and cow peas as well as fodder which they can later sell to the pastoralist groups.
Ebla Ali, Noor’s wife agrees, 'it is amazing how much difference the seemingly little information we received at the community bazaar [meeting] is making in our lives- we are no longer living from hand to mouth, our diet is now varied, we are not struggling as much to educate our children and we are even discovering new markets for what we grow- such as the fodder for the pastoralists. We are no longer dependent on relief food and we have been sharing whatever reaches us, with the more needy families.’
'One Year On'
Imagine not having access to a toilet. Imagine how undignified you would feel having to find a space with only a bush to give you cover. This was a common problem for Somali refugees forced to flee the violence and famine that affected their country in 2011.
Over 100,000 refugees poured into the already overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps in north eastern Kenya, in the summer of 2011. CARE has been actively supporting refugees in Dadaab since 1991. One of our strengths over the years has been our water, sanitation and hygiene services, providing refugees with the most basic needs in a very complex situation.
Not having access to a proper toilet increases the risk of cholera and other diseases when human waste is not properly disposed of and makes its way into water sources. The situation is especially dismal for women and girls, who have to sacrifice their privacy, as well as face the risk of being raped or violated on the way to the bushes at night.
CARE recognized this great need, and has worked hard to allow the women and girls to have privacy, and to enhance and sustain a healthy Dadaab. We have been working with our partners to reach our target of constructing at least 4000 new latrines in Dagalahey, one of the Dadaab refugee camps, making sure that a maximum of 20 people can use each latrine. This is by no means enough, but it’s a start.
Says Zeynab Mahmood Hassan, a refugee from Dagahaley camp, 'Having a place to go to relieve ourselves has been a great need, especially for us women. Today, we are so grateful to CARE, who is working with partners to ensure that we have safe latrines.’
Just as with our other programs, CARE Kenya ensures that the refugees are part of the process - as equal partners. Together we dig a hole 5 metres deep, after which our teams install the latrine slabs and a tin shell for privacy. Using this method, at the height of the refugee influx we were able to construct 60 latrines a day.
The emergency influx of refugees highlighted the need to work smarter and more efficiently in the Refugee Camps. CARE has been working alongside the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to the populations. Keeping with the age of technology, we also map the latrines through a GPS system, so we can monitor and maintain them!
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:40PM EST on July 10, 2012
By Rodrigo Ordóñez
'If we have nothing to eat, after a while we will die." The words of Hasta Abdelkarim, 46, are remarkably strong. A visitor asks her if she is afraid of dying. 'Yes. After that, it's over – there is nothing," she sentences.
The food crisis in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa is affecting more than 18 million people. Hasta is one of the 3.6 million people in Chad who are finding it increasingly difficult to eat this year due to chronic poverty, erratic rains, high food prices, and regional conflict.
For someone who has never experienced chronic hunger, it would be hard to understand what it actually means for a person, and for a family, beyond the physical distress. Hunger is about much more than just food.
Three women from the village of Djiogi, in eastern Chad, shed some light on what it feels like to be hungry, and how they cope with it.
'We don't have anything to eat. We are in the process of dying," indicates Makabahar Abdoulai, 30.
'Children ask often, ‘Why is this happening'?" accounts Zenaba Abderrahaman-Bahan, 33. 'They are hungry but I have nothing to give them. I play with them for a while until they forget."
'Before, I could at least give my children some breast milk, but not anymore – now I just try to find a way to get by," remarks Makabahar. 'When my children are hungry, I just make some diluted millet porridge."
Under these circumstances, the bland taste of the staple foods is not important. Nutrients might not be a priority either. 'We are hungry, so a good meal is something that fills the stomach – the taste doesn't matter," explains Zenaba.
Only today counts
For a mother, it is hard to occupy the mind with something other than her children's wellbeing, especially when hunger is part of daily life. 'Children have nothing to eat – that's our main problem," complains Makabahar. 'I think about it a lot," she admits, 'and I worry."
They don't know what they will do if this year's harvest is also bad. 'We don't know. We can't do anything. We'll wait for god to decide," remarks Hasta. Makabahar and Zenaba nod in agreement.
For these women it is even difficult to express their fears for what the future might bring. Resignation might be an instinctive way to avoid frustration and to make their daily routine more bearable.
Back at home, each mother must take care of five or more children, walk several hours to fetch water, and find a way to feed their families.
'My children are not strong," says Zenaba, showing the thin arm of a boy on her lap. 'Specially the two smallest ones, 1 and 2 years old."
The effects of hunger go beyond discomfort. Not eating bears a negative toll on a child's physical and mental fitness. 'If the child is not full and tries to run and do activities, he feels tired and just wants to sleep," describes Makabahar. 'Children don't grow up," she says. 'If children don't eat enough, even their intelligence doesn't develop."
'If it's a big meal, I serve it on a big tray and everyone picks from there," explains Zenaba. 'However, if I don't have much food, I split it and give little amounts to each child, placed separately at the edge of the tray."
Reducing portions and skipping meals are also commonplace. 'Before, we would do three meals; in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Now, only two," declares Hasta. 'We skip meals, but the amount is normal," says Makabahar.
Another indicator that people are going through difficult times is that they are eating unusual foodstuff they would normally refuse in times of relative plenty. In this region, people are now eating a bitter tree fruit known as ‘desert date.' Hasta explains the process. 'Donkeys eat the fruits, including the seeds, which they can't digest. We pick the excrements and separate the seeds. We cook them with boiling water, four times. They soften up and release the flavor."
In these communities, livestock is a valued commodity, but people are now selling their cattle as a last resort. 'I still have some cows, but there aren't many left," laments Makabahar. 'I'll sell them to have enough money to buy some food."
Hasta, the oldest woman in the group, hadn't experienced these hardships in a long time. 'When I was little, it wasn't like this. My father only had to leave to find work and pasture once, in 1984, but we hadn't seen anything like that since then."
'We used to have camels and animals at home. They grazed around here," she recalls. 'If the weather was better, we could have a vegetable garden, and grow tomatoes, lettuce… but nowadays we can't even find vegetables in the market."
A point of support until the next harvest
This food gives families help at a crucial time so they don't have to sell all their livestock, their most valued possession, ahead of the next harvest.
'We have children and we are hungry. We're very happy of getting this food and your support," expresses Zenaba. 'My children are waiting. I'll go home and cook porridge for them. They will eat well and they will be happy."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:37PM EST on July 10, 2012
By Rodrigo Ordóñez
The words 'semiarid' and 'dusty' don't do justice to describe the landscape of eastern Chad and much of the Sahel fringe. If Brutalist architects had been commissioned to use natural materials to design open spaces, this is what they would look like: vast expanses of barren-looking soil and sand extending as far as the eye can see. Acacias, thorn trees and weeping bushes only add to the image of desolation. The horizontal monotony of the scenery is occasionally broken by sparse stretches of hills made up of big round boulders. A few broken-down armored tanks lay abandoned on the side of the road, on what used to be the battlegrounds of Chad's civil war in the late 1980s.
This is now the frontline of extreme heat and climate change. During the day, temperatures can easily reach 42 degrees Celsius. It feels like the scorching sun is capable not only of evaporating water, but also of neutralizing all colors. Any trace of green has long been drained and covered by a pale coat of ochre.
In a place where water is as scarce as this, life doesn't thrive. Against all odds, people have managed to survive in this harsh environment for generations.
Water, or rather the lack thereof, defines this place. It also marks the rhythm of life – and death.
"Water is life. Water is health," reminds the chief of the district of Noursi Adya, Souleiman Nibis, 55.
Yet on a typical day, much of a woman's time goes to fetching water. "In my community, women have to walk 12 kilometers each way to get water," he points out.
"I need to stay at the well for seven hours," explains mother of five Zenaba Abderrahaman, 33. "There is a line and it takes two to three hours to fill all my jerry cans, lifting buckets out of the borehole." She repeats this process daily.
The problem is similar for Khadija Ibrahim, 30, a mother of five children. Fetching water takes her ten hours. "I have to walk four hours to get to the well, plus three hours to collect the water, plus four hours to go back."
The quest for water
Near the town of Iriba, a lady is collecting water from one of these water sources at six in the morning. She needs to spend several hours lifting up buckets to fill the eight jerry cans she uses daily for her family's chores: cooking, drinking and washing.
As she works patiently, a goat falls inside another borehole, just a few meters away. If the goat dies and is not removed on time, it could contaminate the entire water table and all the boreholes upon which entire villages depend.
Above and below ground, water also determines social and economic status. In this region there are two types of farmers. First, those who can cultivate for nine months; people who have land by the seasonal watercourses and can do three months of traditional agriculture and six months of vegetable gardening using the water of the stream. They do well. Second, the rest of the farmers, who can only cultivate the land for three months; they are highly dependent on the rains and generally don't do well.
In recent years, rains have become more erratic and planting is almost a matter of faith. Fatima Adam, 46, is planting the first seeds of the season near her village of Torgo, even though the rainy season has not started yet. "It has to rain in the following fifteen days for the seeds to grow," she explains. "The season is ready; I know it's coming, so I am getting ready as well."
On the drip
Malnourished children arrive to the therapeutic feeding center at Iriba Hospital with a combination of water- and mosquito-borne diseases.
Inda, 1, was admitted with diarrhea, gastroenteritis and malaria. She weighed 5.7 kilograms, while the standard for her height and age should be 7 kilograms. "Once she gets better, I'll take care that everything is OK," says her mother, Mariam Adam, 35. "I'll get clean water, food… I'll keep her in a good condition so it doesn't happen again."
To improve access to water, CARE is repairing water pumps in this region. A member of staff disassembles the pump in the village of Madarfok, cleans the filter and replaces a spare part. Despite being a very easy fix, this pump has been broken for years, forcing villagers to walk several kilometers to get water. CARE will also be fixing the water pump in the village of Darnang, which has been broken for five years. "Now, we use little boreholes by the river," comments villager Yakoub Ousman, 35. "If the pump is fixed we will have drinking water here and we won't need to go far to find it."
"This helps us a lot," says Tamboshe Dere, 60. It is very early in the morning and she is using one of the two water pumps in the village of Torgo. One of them was fixed by a private water technician, who is now working with CARE and also fixed the second one. "I am happy the pumps are fixed. Before, we had to walk seven kilometers to get water."
She thinks the current situation is not normal. "Before, it was better; but this year there isn't enough water," she laments. "The land is dry. There is no grass for animals to graze. A lot of people have taken their cattle and gone south."
Her words represent the uncertainty and the hope of people in this region, who rely entirely on the availability of water. "I watch for rain every day; I hope this year it will be good…"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:21PM EST on July 10, 2012
By Rodrigo Ordóñez
A paper-thin baby goat makes its way into the open area of a home in eastern Chad and tries to eat the millet inside a bucket. Two-year-old Ibrahim is sitting on the floor, drinking a big gulp of water, holding a cup the size of his head with both hands. When he finishes, he laughs, satisfied. Ibrahim's vitality and constant smile are surprising considering the little muscle he has; his arms and legs are skinny, and a thin layer of hair crowns his elder-looking face. He stands up and waves his hands in the air comically as he runs around to chase away the goats. Then he walks to the courtyard and defecates the water he just drank.
It is hard to tell whether Ibrahim's diarrhea and dehydration led to his malnutrition or vice versa. "He's got diarrhea for two or three months," explains his mother, Fatima Abbakar-Gedala, 30. "The doctor examined him recently and gave me some medicines, but they're finished now." She intends to take little Ibrahim to the hospital again, but it involves a 30-kilometer walk.
Families living in this semi-arid region at the edge of the Sahara desert, like Fatima's, have little resources. Their most basic needs, food and water, are constantly in peril.
The landscape in this region of Chad is brutal. Flat expanses of land are only altered by the traces of seasonal watercourses, barely perceptible to the untrained eye in this moon-like terrain. The hostile weather leaves similar imprints on people's skins. Many locals bear horizontal wrinkles on the nose from frowning under the hot bright sun. Saying this place is challenging would be an understatement.
The traditional way of life in this isolated corner of Central Africa used to be suitable to survive but, in today's context, it is extremely precarious and inadequate. Weather patterns have changed and rains have become increasingly erratic. People remain very vulnerable to changes in food prices, the effects of regional conflict, epidemics and plagues.
Livelihoods, in most families a mix of agriculture and cattle farming, used to provide enough cereals and income to get by. People managed to collect enough water to drink. In some cases, men would travel to Libya to find temporary work and send some additional money home.
However, the threshold of poverty is so low that, once one of these lines of support fails, everything else collapses. It's like running a very old factory – as soon as one of its components fails, the engine will stop and there will be no way to find spare parts to get it back up and running.
If underground water conditions people's ability to drink, water falling from above determines whether they'll be able to eat. "The drought causes all the other problems; that's why things are so expensive now," states Hasta Abdelkarim-Haran, 46. Last year's wet season was subpar, and rains were scarce and irregular. The little millet families harvested only lasted for a few days or weeks – some people harvested nothing at all. "We have nothing to eat, we are in the process of dying," laments Makabahar Abdoulai, 30.
Little rainfall also meant there was no place for cattle to graze and people had to take some of their camels, cows, goats and sheep to other areas in the south, out of the semi-arid lands. "Before, we used to have camels and other animals at home, and take them out to graze around here" explains Hasta. "Now our animals are dying. Some of them can't eat, and they don't even have the energy to go find water." Little by little, people have been selling their cattle, their most valuable asset, to make some money and buy some food.
Hasta and Makabahar have just got home carrying the food they received from CARE when some neighbors show up at their door and ask if they could spare some cereals. It is another sign people are struggling to make it through the lean season.
Fatima, Ibrahim's mother, found out late about CARE's food distribution but was able to register and get the same ration. With the cereals she received, she will be able to feed her family for more than six weeks, the equivalent to selling two of her goats. Not receiving this aid would have meant the obligation to sell all of her six remaining goats and being totally exposed.
Under these circumstances, people are placing high hopes on the next harvest – it must be good. However, this is not guaranteed. The soil will need continuous rain; otherwise the millet stems won't push out.
"People in my village are talking about the rain now. I'm not sure if it will be better this year," ponders Fatima Adam, 46, as she plants millet in her plot of land. She is using a very rudimentary farming technique. First, she digs very superficial holes in the ground, using just two or three strokes on the ground with a hoe. One of her sons walks behind her, drops a few seeds inside each hole and covers them with soil using his foot.
Wire-walking to the next harvest
In the hospital of Iriba, in eastern Chad, doctors started noticing an augmentation of cases of malnutrition in February, something that generally doesn't start until April.
At the hospital's therapeutic feeding center is Khadija Ibrahim, 30, holding her weak seven-month-old son Moutassim. Back home, he had diarrhea and vomits. "I couldn't breastfeed him, because I wasn't eating well and couldn't produce enough milk," explains Khadija. Following a traditional practice, someone cut the child's tonsils hoping it would stop the diarrhea. Moutassim's mouth got infected and he couldn't eat. "The mobile clinic brought us here," says Khadija. "The doctor told me it was wrong – next time I'll bring my child directly to the hospital."
People's stories of lack of food and water are eerily similar. It is easy to think their problems could evolve in a similar way to Khadija and Moutassim's.
As people tiptoe through the lean season, it would be easy for them to lose the balance. The first stage of malnutrition takes very little time to set in; less than 48 hours.
As the Sahara desert drifts southwards and dirt turns into sand, so it seems lives in the Sahel could quickly go from precarious to dramatic. Without help, people's existence could soon become just dust and hot air – a mirage of past times.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:07AM EST on July 10, 2012
by Barbara Jackson, Humanitarian Director, CARE International
"Chad is an oasis of peace and stability" was a refrain that we heard many times over from the Minister of Plan, the Minister of Agriculture, UN partner representatives and community leaders upon the recent CARE International National Director visit to Chad to observe for ourselves the current impact and implications of the Sahel drought. It would seem quite a paradox to describe Chad as an island of stability given its recent war-torn history and continued episodes of uncertainty. But it is, indeed, now an island in a sea of volatility emanating from its neighboring countries of Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Northern Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is however an oasis that has been forgotten in many ways. In this current crisis, it has been the country with the least amount of funding provided by international donors in response to the Chadian government's early declaration of an emergency in December 2011.
From the sprawling, dusty city of N'djamena to the small prefecture headquarters of Biltine in northeastern Chad, where the drought has perhaps been most severe, we saw the impact of many years of neglect where potable water coverage reaches less than 3 percent of the population, contraceptive prevalence rate is about 2 percent and maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world. CARE Chad's efforts to respond to this current crisis providing blanket feeding programs to those most at risk, repairing wells, and distributing seeds for agriculture given that the seeds from last year's harvest have already been eaten as food are much needed and greatly appreciated. However, the message was clearly put to us by government authorities as well as importantly by community men and women: this is a short term approach that does not fully address the critical underlying causes and needs, which contribute to this chronic and deepening cycle of drought and emergencies in this vulnerable area of the Sahel.
We sat with village elders in a small community about 30 minutes drive from Biltine and spoke with the traditional male leaders who described that the desert is growing and the rains becoming less reliable each year. Behind us, a group of women and children sat waiting patiently until we were able to turn and talk directly with them. A young woman, with her face covered with a traditional hijab (veil), spoke eloquently of her gratefulness of actually being asked her opinion of the support provided by CARE and the impact it had upon the community. "The food has helped as we had nothing, but we have many people to share it with including our elderly who are not able to walk to collect the food and who have not been counted." Clearly, we have much work to do to ensure that this community and many others scattered across the arid regions of this large nation and region do not find themselves in the same place next year and the year after that.
Chad, while being a "forgotten" country, is also a country ripe for opportunity and one in which we and other partners should support to develop communities' and governments' clear recognition of concerns of building resiliency and adaptation to the climatic and economic challenges of the present and the future. We need to continue to invest now and to over a longer term to build individuals' and communities' abilities as we listen and learn from their local experience and voices to shape a strong, resilient and courageous future.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:33PM EST on July 9, 2012
Blog by Deborah Underdown
As I arrived in Bentiu in South Sudan and got out of the vehicle I was greeted by my CARE colleagues and a pair of Wellington boots. My trainers were going to be of no use here.
The rainy season has just started but already the roads are a huge challenge. The thick sticky mud makes getting anywhere a long process.
My driver for the day, Hassan (who also happens to manage CARE's water and sanitation programme so is multi-tasking) explains that in the coming weeks, as the rains get worse, it will be almost impossible to travel around. At the same time last year the best mode of transport was a quad motorbike- CARE used one to transport essential medical supplies.
We travel to Bentiu Port that is home to over 300 'returnees'. Since South Sudan's independence in July last year, over 400,000 people have returned to their home country from Sudan. They arrive with little and the journey can take months.
The living conditions of the returnees by the port are the worst I have ever seen.
I met a mother of five, Mayen, who told me that, on her journey to her home country, her seven month old baby girl died of malaria. She is now living with ten people, including her own children, in a shelter with one single bed. The floor is a bed of mud that the children sit and play in. I can't imagine what it will be like when it is also flooded. The fact that they won't even be able to escape the mud and water when they are inside is utterly overwhelming.
Seeing the children sitting on the floor with mud covered hands, the same hands that find their way into children's mouths is worrying. I want to reach out and tell them to keep their hands out of their mouths, as I would with my own niece when she has been crawling around on the floor back at home in the UK, but what would be the point? It's impossible to get away from the mud and the diseases that it carries, they can't even begin to keep their hands clean. It's so frustrating to know that the likelihood of them getting sick is very high.
CARE has set up a medical facility (it actually backs on to Mayen's shelter). Paul, a clinician working in the facility, told me that waterborne diseases were already increasing with many cases of watery diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. CARE is proving treatment as well as immunizing children against polio, tuberculosis and measles.
The poor roads and already dire living conditions are only set to get worse. CARE is pre-positioning relief items as well as helping returnees in Unity State. We are also helping refugees fleeing conflict and displaced people who are searching for food.
It must be noted that a year of independence isn't a long time in terms of building up capacities and infrastructure. The country's 'to do' list is long, but the Government and aid agencies like CARE are working hard to help the 800,000 people. People just like Mayen and her children, who are in desperate need.
Posted by: Roger Burks at 5:02PM EST on June 7, 2012
It takes a lot of strength to carry 55 pounds of water for more than four hours across eastern Ethiopia’s arid highlands. It also takes particular strength to change the circumstances that force women to shoulder that burden.
Fatuma Muhammed is strong in both these ways, and more.
The 50-year-old mother of four lives in Muru Geda, a small village in Ethiopia’s chronically-dry East Haraghe zone. Water is so scarce here at women must walk huge distances to reach a small pond or stream. For much of her life, Fatuma spent at least 16 hours a week searching for water; after discussion with her neighbors, she would walk as much as four hours in the direction that held the best promise of a reliable water source, fill her large plastic container and then trudge four hours back home.
In those days, Fatuma’s best-case scenario was that she’d return with 25 liters of water that would last her family of six for three days – that’s less than a liter and a half of water per person per day. The worst-case scenario is difficult for her to discuss.
“If I ever came home without water – or with a container that wasn’t full – it was a big problem. My husband sometimes beat me,” Fatuma recalled. “It isn’t tradition for men to carry water; it falls on women. If men want it, we have to get it. That’s one of our greatest challenges here.”
Another grave challenge is health; even when women like Fatuma find water in this part of Ethiopia, it’s often dirty – open to the elements and shared with animals. When families aren’t aware of simple sanitation practices such as boiling or filtering, they run the risk of debilitating waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea and dysentery. These illnesses are dangerous and even deadly for those with weakened immune systems; three years ago, Fatuma spent 15 days at a local hospital after drinking contaminated water.
Excruciating distances, unreliable sources, the specter of illness and the threat of physical violence – an Ethiopian woman’s responsibility to bring home water both diminishes her dignity and wreaks havoc on her quality of life. That’s why CARE, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), created an extensive water system for the area around Fatuma’s home in Muru Geda.
Over the course of five months, we harnessed the flow of a local spring and laid more than 30 kilometers of pipe. This pipe leads to distribution points in five separate villages where women can get clean water from a tap with just a turn of the spigot. Hundreds of local families participated in the construction of this water system, contributing sand, rocks and hours of hard work.
Today, CARE still provides technical advice for the water system, but we’ve turned daily operations over to the communities the system serves – everything from maintenance to financial management. Households pay a fee of ten cents for 20 liters of fresh water; this money is placed in a bank account for future repairs and system improvements. This account is managed by a water committee consisting of four local men and three women – including Fatuma.
“People in my village nominated me to serve on this committee because I am strong, providing for my family even after my husband died,” she said. “I am resourceful, I have my own business and I can create success for myself and others.”
The committee meets every two weeks to discuss matters such as when water points will be open for use, rationing if the water supply is low, potential conflicts and community feedback. Fatuma is an active and vocal participant in these meetings, especially regarding the challenge she’s been familiar with all her life.
“I have initiated public discussions on how women suffer because of lack of water,” she explained. “We’ve organized as a group, and have gone to local government offices so that people can hear our voices as women.”
For many years, Fatuma Muhammed was strong enough to carry an unbearably heavy load of water for many hours across eastern Ethiopia’s blazing and parched terrain. Today, she’s using that strength to ease the burden for her region’s mothers, sisters and daughters.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:33AM EST on June 1, 2012
By Rodrigo Ordóñez
In the last few weeks, I have talked to families in several regions of Niger, while traveling on my own or when taking journalists to the field. Despite the variety of personal circumstances, certain elements appear often in people's stories.
Life has never been easy for these people. They've increasingly got used to enduring what others would consider unbearable. Their ability to eat has been highly dependent on weather and rains since they can remember. Most families have lost children because they couldn't feed them and they fell ill easily.
This cycle of poverty has become the ‘new normal' for them.
This is also the case for the people I talked to in Saran Maradi, a village in the region of Maradi, southern Niger.
This year has been harsher than usual, and crops were insufficient to feed their families. They couldn't afford to buy food in the markets either, because of the high prices. Only a few people in the village have grain left, but it's only for planting. Many sold their goats or sheep to buy food, but the prices are low, up to half of the standard price.
CARE is providing income to 61 families in Saran Maradi so they can buy food during what is commonly known as the ‘lean season,' the gap between the time people run out of food stocks and the next harvest. "It's a support that came at the right moment," says Achirou Inoussa, a 42-year-old man from Saran Maradi. People receive cash in exchange for part-time work in projects identified by their community, or as a handout in the cases where nobody in the family is able to perform manual labor.
The cost of this type of emergency project is relatively low, but it has a very tangible impact.
"Normally, around this time of the year, all the young people are gone," says Moussa Garba, an elderly man who claims to be over 80, although he doesn't know exactly. Sitting under a tree, he and other men explain to a visitor that during the nine months of the dry season most men in the village go to Nigeria to work in low-qualification jobs; as porters, water sellers, or emptying septic tanks. This year, however, some came back when they found out about CARE's project and the opportunity to earn a living in their doorstep.
Apart from preventing seasonal migration, cash-for-work projects bring extra benefits to the communities. In Saran Maradi, people are turning an unused piece of land into pasture. After removing weeds, they sow grains which will germinate during the rainy season and create a new area for cattle to graze.
I was interested in knowing more about the impact of this project in the homes, so I talked to women; they are generally the ones who face directly the difficulties to feed their families in times of hardship. I wanted to know what they were eating before and after this project started.
Delou, Halima, Maka, Mariama, Sahara and Sakina benefitted from this project. They are mothers and grandmothers between the ages of 25 and 80.
All combined, they have 41 children, although their families could have been larger. Through the years, these six women have suffered the loss of 24 sons and daughters in total. Sahara Mahama, 40, lost four children; one of them was only 14 days old. "I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn't have enough to eat," she laments.
All of them emphasize that this year there wasn't enough rain, and little to eat. "Two years ago at least there were people who harvested spikes of millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners," says Delou Ibrahim, 70.
CARE's support has allowed them to feed their families at a critical time.
"Before this support, I couldn't; I was eating leaves," explains Maka Ali, an 80-year-old widow. "Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments," explains Mariama Oumarou, 55.
"With this support, we get to eat abundantly," explains Halima Abdou, 25. She and the other women I talked to are now able to give their children two daily meals; porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.
Delou Ibrahim has four children and suffered the loss of nine. She has about 40 grandchildren, 16 of which live with her.
"I've seen several crises. The famine in 1984 was the hardest. Rains were very weak. The stems of millet came out but the spikes gave no grain - nothing," she recalls. "Two years ago at least there were people who harvested millet, but this year the crops have been worse because of the drought and the leaf miners."
Delou's last crop was 30kg, which only provided food for about two days. Delou and her family receive cash from CARE. "I get to buy cereal to feed my family, particularly my grandchildren." They have two daily meals, porridge in the morning and sorghum paste in the evening.
Halima Abdou has five children. Sakina Moudi has six children and suffered the loss of one.
Last year they harvested 40kg of cereal. "It only lasted for five days," says Sakina. This year they didn't get any crops.
In the periods without food, their husband collects and sells wood to buy yam flour. Now their husband participates in CARE's cash-for-work project and continues to sell firewood to get additional income. "With this support, we get to eat abundantly," explains Halima. "We buy millet, sorghum, and corn." They serve their children two meals per day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Maka Ali has been a widow for twenty years. She has eight children and about twenty grandchildren. She has experienced the loss of six children, four of them at an early age. "I was alone taking care of them, so I cannot say their deaths weren't related to lack of food," Maka recalls.
Nobody in her family can work, so she receives a cash transfer from CARE. "When I receive the payment, I buy sorghum and maize," Maka explains. "Before this support, I couldn't; I was eating leaves."
Sahara Mahama has seven sons and a daughter. She lost four other children; one of them was only 14 days old. "I lost the youngest one during the rains, in the lean season. I didn't have enough to eat."
Eating has become increasingly harder through the years, recalls Sahara. "When I was a kid, we used to have three meals: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.” However, one meal a day has now become the norm. "It's never guaranteed, but we try."
Sahara participates in CARE's cash-for-work project. With the money she receives, she buys cereal and gives her children two meals per day.
Mariama Oumarou has ten children and three grandchildren. Through the years she has lost four children and two grandchildren. She participates in CARE's cash-for-work project. "Not only can we buy millet and sorghum now, but also corn and condiments."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:43PM EST on May 15, 2012
A Testament to Human Kindness
The humanitarian situation in the DRC is one of the world's most complex and long-standing. This is due to continuing armed conflict and general insecurity. According to UNOCHA 1.7 million people remained displaced, mostly in eastern DRC, in 2011.
In one village, Kanii, according to locals there are around 200 displaced people living amongst the 450 households. Rachele, displaced by conflict on several occasions has, this time, been here for three years. She first came to the village as a teenager when she was pregnant and fleeing mass atrocities. You might wonder why she returns home but when you have nothing and your home was once somewhere you were able to earn a living perhaps it is more understandable. "I want to return home. I have a farm, livestock and a field of bananas and beans but I know, at the moment, I can't go back."
Rachele lives in a shelter, provided by CARE, next to the family that took her in when she first arrived. The two room shelter is home to her and the 11 children she shares it with – six biological children and the five she adopted when her sister died.
Sangatia, a 50 year old widow, currently supports 24 people, including Rachele, and when you ask her why she simply replies ‘love'. There is no financial benefit for Sangatia and it is hard to understand why this woman would help so many others but she never questions the assistance she gives. "When new people arrive we see them as brothers and sisters, our feeling is to welcome them. When they arrive we welcome them and think about how we can live together. When we have food we share it."
The story of a displaced woman and the widow that has taken her and her family in is a testament to how the Congolese people help each other in times of crisis. CARE is supporting host communities and villages like Kanii with the provision of shelter kits, seeds and tools so that people can grow crops and feed their families. Community crisis management committees are set up so that people can work together and avoid conflict.
Rebuilding Lives After War
Miroro and Furaha married in 2002 and have five children. Miroro spent 13 years in the army, leaving in 2006. When he left the army he found himself living amongst a distrustful community. "The community's reaction towards me when I returned was that they couldn't believe I was a civilian and always asked to see my discharge papers. They weren't necessarily afraid but weren't sure how to act around me as they thought I might still be a soldier."
The reaction of the community was just one part of the family's problems as Miroro explains: "When I left the army there was nothing for me to do. I couldn't send my children to school because the fees were too expensive. We lived here on the charity of the community". But since joining a CARE project and receiving business training the family has seen their fortunes change with the opening of a small shop in front of their home that is well used and supported by the local community.
Miroro's wife, Furaha, has seen changes since their involvement in the project. "Everything he gets he shares. We now have food and clothes. Each time he gets money he brings it to me and we talk about how to use it."
Miroro is also happy that he is his own boss. "I don't have to take orders from anyone else. I can support myself for the first time and send my children to school. I have learned how to generate an income, keep track of the money and reinvest it."
The project is working with ex-combatants to find viable ways to earn a living, through hairdressing, mechanics, livestock rearing and small commerce. The participants are also given kits to start their business and we have worked with local authorities to get taxes waived for the first year so that the businesses are provided with the best start possible.
When a Husband and Soldier Returns
During these years Matipaka would survive by finding work where she could and eventually she had to sell the one asset the family owned. "We had 7 goats before he left but I sold them one by one just to survive."
The return of Matipka's husband didn't spell the end of their hardship. Not only did they have to adjust to life back together but they still didn't have a secure income. "When he was unemployed life was very difficult, we just sold a little flour here and there. There were times when he was difficult to manage, difficult to live with."
CARE's ‘Hope Tomorrow' project is working with ex-combatants and provided Munyaneza, Matipaka's husband, with training and equipment to start his own business. Munyaneza explains how the project has helped the whole family "The project gave me four months training which included mechanics. I now have a driving licence and can repair tyres. I have also been able to buy four goats and some chickens and ducks. I can now send my children to school and feed them"
Life is now improving for the family but it is also good to see that Matipka is no longer facing the daily struggles on her own: "now when problems arise we can work together to overcome them."
The project is working with ex-combatants to find viable ways to earn a living, through hairdressing, mechanics and livestock rearing. The participants are given kits to start their businesses and we have also worked with local authorities to get taxes waived for the first year so that the businesses are provided with the best start possible.
Life in an IDP Camp
Cecile, 37, arrived in the camp almost a year ago. "We fled because armed groups were raising villages on the other side of the hills and they were killing people and burning everything. I was so distressed when we fled. We didn't have anything to eat."
Arriving in the camp, Cecile and her five children were taken in by another family until they could build their own shelter. Cecile struggles on a daily basis. "I face many challenges each day – to get food, maintain our shelter, to keep clothed and to even find cooking utensils. On top of that my children can't go to school."
CARE provided Cecile, and families like hers, with vouchers that could be used to buy the things she most needed, these vouchers assist families with the goods they need, while helping local markets. "We received vouchers from CARE. No NGO had given us food until then. I was miserable with hunger and when CARE gave us the vouchers I was overjoyed. I thank CARE for that. I liked getting vouchers instead of simply receiving food directly. It meant I could choose what to get and how much."
This camp is now home to Cecile and she explained why returning home isn't an option. "I can't imagine going back – people from our village have gone back and have been killed or have returned here."
CARE's funding to support families like Cecile ran out in May 2011. It is often difficult to secure longer term funding but CARE hopes to resume activities in the coming months to support new arrivals like Judith, a 47 year old widow, who arrived in the camp at the end of January. "An armed group came two weeks ago and they chased us away and killed some of us. Women were raped and their limbs were cut off with machetes. I saw this with my own eyes. While we were fleeing my sister was killed and cut to pieces."
"I live in misery. I work here and there for the villagers and get paid with plants and salt. I have nine children, four are my own and the others are my sister's children. My hope is that I receive help. Before, I had a stable life and could educate my children – now I can't do that. My children aren't well – we can't eat or keep clean."
*To protect the identity of people in this story names have been changed
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:40PM EST on May 9, 2012
The farmers of Dan Maza Idi village in Niger have a saying: "Everybody depends on the Earth to survive." But climate change is making survival more difficult in Dan Maza Idi and villages like it across Niger. Years of erratic rains and longer-than-usual dry periods have made it increasingly difficult to grow millet, a staple of the local diet.
Dan Bouga, a 55-year-old farmer in the village, works hard to feed his six children. But no amount of hard work can produce rain. Traditional millet seeds used in the region take three months to grow. With some recent rainy seasons lasting less than two months, Dan's harvests have plummeted.
In 2009, CARE began working with Dan and other farmers in the village to help them devise sustainable ways to improve millet production. Dan was one of several people who, with CARE's help, switched to new millet seeds that produce crops in just two months and can be replanted the following year. Along with new seeds, CARE trains farmers on how to successfully cultivate their new crop.
As had been the case for years, the first time Dan planted the new millet seeds, the rainy season arrived late and lasted just two months. But because he was growing a newer, quicker variety of millet, his fields filled with strong, healthy-looking cobs. Dan grew enough millet to feed his family – and had enough leftover to store and sell, despite the shortened rainy season.
"This surplus will allow me to have money to look after my family," he said in 2009. "I can pay for health care and buy clothes for my children."
The severity of this year's drought has pushed the entire Sahel region into an enormous food emergency. More than 15 million people are in need of emergency food assistance, including 1 million children at risk of severe malnutrition.
The people in Dan Mazi Idi and thousands of villages in the Sahel need outside help to endure the lean months before the next harvest. It is a humanitarian imperative to help them now and avoid an even more severe crisis in the future.
In Chad, Mali, and Niger, CARE provides access to food, work, trains nurses to identify and treat malnutrition, improves water and sanitation and promotes hygiene. And CARE provides essential household items and supplies to people displaced by conflict in Mali, as well as to refugees who fled across the border into Niger.
With more support, CARE can maintain and expand programs like the one that has helped Dan Bouga and his family support themselves. But time is running out. Families in and around Dan Mazi Idi village are so hungry they have already begun eating their seed stock to survive. Dan and his family have managed to hold on to their seeds so far. Even if they plant the seeds, there's no guarantee there will be enough rain for them to grow anything at all. But unlike some of their neighbors, Dan and his family have a chance at a healthier, more prosperous future.
Posted by: Kiera Stein at 12:53PM EST on May 8, 2012
In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth is about 1 in 2,100. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk is close to an astonishing 1 in 30. This Mother's Day, nearly 1,000 mothers and 8,000 infants will die from almost entirely preventable causes, and most of these deaths will occur in the developing world. Sign to help us reach 9,000 signatures for 9,000 needless deaths.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:58AM EST on May 8, 2012
Congratulations to all the students who took part in the Tableau Student Data Challenge! We were thrilled by all the high-quality dashboards that were submitted. This challenge asked students to take real data from the humanitarian organization, CARE and help provide insight and meaning. A panel of three judges: Dan Hom, Tableau Data Analyst; Robert Kosara, PhD, Visual Analytics Researcher; and CARE’s Access Africa MIS Manager, Abdoul-Karim Coulibaly carefully vetted the submissions based on 1. data analysis (50%), 2. telling a compelling story (25%), and 3. design elements/overall appeal (25%).
And now the drum rolls please…
Our first place ($1,250) goes to Team UW Pro-Track. The dashboard submission can be found in the blog article, Family Economics in Lesotho: A Tableau Data Challenge. The judges were particularly impressed by the team’s ability to present data in a meaningful, but simple and clear way. The visualization made good use of multiple types of views and interactive functionality to present a big picture of Lesotho and its residents. The team comprises three Journalism graduate students at the University of Wisconsin, Kate Prengaman, Amy Karon, and Emily Eggleston.
The second place ($750) winner goes to Alden Denny’s one-person team, Orogeny and Phylogeny. Alden’s dashboard can be found as part of the blog, Lesotho: A Landlocked Country. Our judges especially enjoyed the thoughtful introduction, study description, and interpretation of the findings. Alden is a graduate student at the University of Washington studying Marine Geology.
Last, but not least, our crowd-favorite ($500) goes to Ariel Anaya’s one-person team, Correlize, with 260 ‘likes’. Not only did Ariel score the most ‘likes’, but his view provides a well balanced and easy to understand dashboard on loan usage of the data set. Ariel is an undergraduate student studying Finance at the University of Central Florida.
In addition, we have several honorable mentions. First, we will be sending a special Tableau care package to Michael Peck of the Parachuting Khertakers. Michael was in close competition behind Correlize, with 256 ‘likes’. His dashboard uses a wide array of different visualizations, giving the reader a dynamic understanding of the local economy. Michael studies Information Systems at the Indiana University Kelly School of Business.
Other honorable mentions go to teams:
Filtrix: Connor Gray and Garrett Lambert, Information Systems and Finance studies at the University of Washington
Helen Yezeretz: Helen Yezeretz, Computer Information Technology studies at Indiana University – PUI
Inquisitive Hedgehog: April Hoy, Public Administration studies at Boise State University
Purple Team: Arturo Catellanos, Management and Information Systems studies at Florida International University
TeamKiwiFruit: Chim Lau, Economics at the University of California, San Diego
Tequlia Mockingbird: Daniel Yerelian and Sunil Shah, MBA students at Loyola Marymount University
Once again, congratulations to everyone!
Text is courtesy of Tableau Software: http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/blog/2012/04/announcing-winners-1511
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:47AM EST on May 1, 2012
By Suzanne Berman, CARE Field Coordinator
I work with members of the US Congress and their constituents to improve our foreign assistance program. While much of CARE's advocacy work involves the US government, our country office colleagues also engage in advocacy with foreign governments. I got a taste of CARE's global advocacy work last week when I was asked to join meetings between CARE, Emory University (a research partner), and the Kenyan Ministries of Education and Public Health and Sanitation in Kisumu, Kenya. The goal of the meeting was to increase the government's investment in successful hygiene and sanitation programs in rural schools.
For the last six years, CARE and Emory University have worked on a program called SWASH +, which builds latrines and hand washing stations in schools. At the moment, the program is only in the Nyganza province, in southwestern Kenya, but CARE hopes that the government will provide the resources to replicate it across the country.
Studies have found that having clean latrines has positive impacts on health and reduces absenteeism, particularly for girls. CARE hopes that future research will prove that adequate sanitation also improves school performance.
In US advocacy, we generally work toward one of three goals: passing legislation, securing funding, or working with the administration to support policies. Once the law is on the books or the budget is completed, we take implementation for granted. We assume that the legislation will be carried out; the funding will arrive.
In Kenya, the end goal of advocacy work is another matter entirely. Here, the formal policies are comprehensive and support many development programs. Education is legally free; all citizens have the right to water and sanitation. But in reality, schools are not always functional; sanitation facilities are inadequate or absent.
The Kenyan ministry officials who joined us in Kisumu were supportive of SWASH +, but Kenya is changing rapidly, and the future of social programs is uncertain. The country has a new constitution. National elections will take place in the next year. After the post-election violence in 2007-2008, Kenyans are unclear as to what will come next.
Yet after debriefing on our advocacy strategy, my CARE Kenya colleagues realized that the tools we need to advocate for effective programs are similar across cultural contexts. Before starting a program like SWASH +, we need to determine key stakeholders in the community and the government. We need to conduct research that determines the effectiveness of programs, and we need to package that research in a way that is clear, succinct, and useful to policy makers. Finally, we need to engage stakeholders throughout the process and to consider them as critical partners.
To find out more about SWASH +, go to www.swashplus.org.
To support programs like SWASH +, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to speak to your member of Congress, and tell him/her to support the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (H.R. 3658).
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:22AM EST on April 30, 2012
By Suzanne Berman, CARE Field Coordinator
Siaya is a town twenty miles from Lake Victoria, in Western Kenya. I am in town to visit community groups that my CARE Kenya colleagues (Alex, Lucy, and Margaret) have been working with in the last six months. The first group we visit named themselves Twelve Sisters, but they are quick to tell me they have fifteen members, as they have been growing. Six months ago, these women started working together as a community savings and loans group. The women meet twice a month, and at every meeting they contribute money to the group. They are required to contribute 20 Kenyan shillings (about 30 cents) to the group's social fund, and then they can choose the amount of money they want to contribute to the group's pooled funds. The pooled funds are lumped into shares, which cost 100 Kenyan shillings (about $1.50).
At any meeting, group members can take out loans from the group's pooled funds. In April, Dada started an embroidery business. Frances improved her poultry farm. Alice paid the secondary school fees for her children. The women repay their loans a month after they take them out, along with 10% interest.
The social fund, however, is a different matter altogether. The social fund grows every month, and if one of the women has a problem, the group votes on whether or not to use their social fund to help her. Two months ago, Frances' house caught on fire, and she lost many of her possessions. Twelve Sisters voted to nearly deplete their social fund, giving Frances a way to start over. Unlike the loan system, the social fund does not need to be repaid.
Beatrice, the group's president, tells me, "this box is a painkiller…before when we had problems we had nowhere to turn, but now we have a resource." While we only spent a day together, it was clear to see that Beatrice was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to leading Twelve Sisters, Beatrice is a community educator on clean water. Trained by CARE, Beatrice goes into rural villages armed with PUR water packets. Donated by Proctor and Gamble, these packets purify 10 liters of water. The packets cost 15 Kenyan shillings (20 cents), but thanks to Proctor and Gamble, Beatrice and other health workers can distribute samples for free when they conduct community trainings.
Beatrice shows me how she demonstrates the packets. She empties the packet into a bucket of brown water that she collected from the nearby river. As she sings a song about the process, Beatrice stirs the bucket for five minutes. Then we wait. Twenty minutes later, the water is miraculously clear. Beatrice ties a white cloth around a second bucket and uses it as a filter for the sediment that floats on top of the translucent bucket. "Now it is safe," she says. I must admit, I'm impressed.
Alex and Margaret, who run CARE's water and sanitation programs in Siaya, tell me that the funding from Proctor and Gamble will last two more years, and their clients are always asking for more PUR packets. The mortality rate from water-borne diseases has dropped significantly in Siaya since CARE started the Safe Water System Project, and families are eager to use the PUR packets because the water looks and tastes better, and they see immediate improvements in their health.
Beatrice asked me what I was going to do when I got back to the United States. I explained that my job is to tell stories to members of Congress, so they will support programs like Twelve Sisters and the Clean Water Project. I hope to make good on my promise.
There are two bills in Congress right now that could help women like Beatrice and groups like the Twelve Sisters. The Microenterprise Empowerment and Job Creation Act (H.R. 2524), and the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (H.R. 3658). Please call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for the office of your member of Congress, orclick here to send him/her an e-mail in support of these life-saving pieces of legislation.
Posted by: Abdoul Karim Coulibaly at 4:45PM EST on April 5, 2012
CARE’s Access Africa Program and Tableau Software are partnering to launch the Tableau Student Data Challenge. The purpose of the contest is to turn data into a beautiful story-telling tool using Tableau’s data visualization tool. The contest will uses data from the Lesotho Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA). Analyzing the data, students will tell a story about the livelihood condition of people in Lesotho. The registration opened on March 30 and will close on April 11th. The four-day contest takes place from April 12-16. This is an exciting opportunity for Access Africa to make our work known throughout the world. For more details about the context please visit: http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/datachallenge.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:51PM EST on April 5, 2012
As I sit around a table with four members of the Tuungane Village Savings and Loans Association , I am struck by the colossal change that has taken place amongst the women in Kishishe village in just over a year. Last year when I visited CARE's Mama Amka project, designed to empower women and communities to respond to and fight sexual and gender based violence, I found a traumatized population; women led me to dark corners of their homes and whispered about the sexual violence plaguing their communities. Survivors spoke about their fear of being identified as a survivor, abandoned by their husbands and shunned by their community. While the woman in Mama Amka I found solace and strength in each other, their eyes clearly showed the isolation and trepidation they felt as they attempted to move beyond their nightmarish experiences.
This year, when I arrived in Kishishe, Kharehe, the 25 year old community counselor who I remember being so timid that she found it practically impossible to speak to me last year, grabs my hand and chats about her VSLA group while leading me to a group of women who want to share their experience in Mama Amka II. In a small but well lit one room hut I find 24 year old mother of one Kahambu; 37 year old mother of six, Chantal Kahundo; and 54 year old mother of twelve Flora. All of the women tell me they are widows and do not provide any additional information about their husbands. Flora laughs when I ask if they find being a single mother hard, saying "What man would want to take on a woman who already had children? Anyway, I am so happy now. I am independent. I make money and then decide how to spend it. My children go to school, we eat every day, and when we are sick, I can pay medical fees". The women around her giggle with glee at this new found economic independence which has opened the door to a future for themselves and their families. As one woman put it "before I was short-sighted, but now I see into the distance".
CARE's Village Savings and Loans Association approach, introduced in the second year of the Norwegian MoFA funded Mama Amka project is at the heart of this change. Survivors of sexual violence and other vulnerable members in communities in ten health areas have formed forty of these groups. Almost 70% of the 1,149 members have taken a credit to launch income generating activities. Flora, for example, took a loan of 20,000 Congolese francs (about $35 USD) and started her own local brewery; her first loan provided her with a profit of 50,000 francs (about $87 USD)in sales of banana wine. Chantal has accessed two credits of 30,000 francs (about $52 USD each), which she used to start her own restaurant. Specializing in beans, she serves between 25-30 plates a day. Kahambu and Kharehe became friends and now live together in a rented home they pay with from profits from their respective VSLA loan activities. Although it is rare for young single woman to live on their own in a village, Kahambu and Kharehe are focused on the possibilities of their future. Kharehe made over three times her loan selling corn while Kahambu used the profits from selling salted fish to buy goats, which have already produced two offspring.
The women are energetic and radiant as they speak of their success. They ooze confidence and happiness- I can't remember the last time I heard so much deep, true laughing coming from women in a village in eastern Congo. While their excitement about their new work is palpable, when asked about the sexual and gender based violence this area of the Congo has become notorious for, the women remain realistic. "There has definitely been a reduction in the frequency of rape here", Kharehe explains. "But", Chantal interjects, ‘we still have a lot to do". Woman after woman I speak with repeats that a group approach to sensitizing the community on gender quality is the most effective means to make a difference. Flora explains, "Before women who were raped were alone and didn't know where to go. Now they know to seek treatment at the health centers and to talk to the community counselor. Now we work together to get the community to change. No more should young girls not be allowed to go to school". The economic empowerment has also had an impact on the household level. As Jean-Baptiste, the projects psychologist explains "Economic empowerment valorizes the woman in the home. Once she starts profiting from her VSLA activities, she begins to independently make household decision. The husband respects and appreciates this. This has a positive impact on their relationship and on the household dynamics".
As I leave, Chantal shows me her small restaurant. As she poses for pictures, she gives her parting message "Please continue to help us fight SGBV. There is so much violence here. There is violence in the home, there is violence in their fields. Petit a petit we have made a change. But we must continue to work as a group to address the problems and find the solutions".
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:25AM EST on April 5, 2012
By Barbara Jackson, Humanitarian Director, CARE International
March, 29, 2012.
The thick calloused soles of the feet of the women with whom I sat in the tiny village of Maijanjaré in Niger, seven hours by road away from the capital Niamey, tell their own story. It is a story of many hardships, of back-breaking labour to dig a bit of land in extremely rocky, hard and dry soil in order to plant and hopefully harvest a bit of millet. It is a story of having to walk two hours each day to collect water. It is a story of women who have lost their husbands many years ago either to migration, working in another country where they have found new families, or to early death. It is a story of women who are widows and who tell us that without CARE’s cash-for-work project, they would be beggars now and are vastly relieved that for at least these few months, they do not need to beg.
These women are referred to as the elderly, and while they cannot tell us their age given that they don’t know it, they are probably in their late 40ies. The life expectancy for women in Niger is 45 years of age, an indicator of how tough life is in this part of the world. The women eagerly tell us the cash-for-work project, where they are paid a small sum of money to dig half-crescent shaped basins that will form natural reservoirs for the millet to be planted, has helped them to buy a small amount of grain that the government of Niger stores and sells at a subsidized price to community members during this very lean season.
Without food assistance and other support, over five million women, children and men in Niger are at risk of not having enough food in the coming months.
Already we are being told that people are reducing their food intake to one meal a day, and that the seeds that they have saved for the next planting season are being eaten to supplement their diets. The severe droughts of 2005 and 2010 are in very recent memory, with many people having gone into debt to survive those crises - yet people did not have enough time, productivity and stability to regain their livelihoods. The ‘elderly women’ of Maijanjaré will be amongst the first to suffer from this impending crisis if they do not receive help. But they do not want to beg for help. They are eager to work. They want to feel that they are helping themselves during this extremely difficult time.
The situation in the Sahel is a complex one and the small village that we visited is only a small microcosm of what many millions are living today in Niger. In times of hardship such as those, people used to migrate and find work as daily labourers in other countries. However, the conflict situation in Mali, the tenuous situation in Nigeria and the uncertainty and volatility of Libya does exhaust this strategy. Those in Niger are concerned, and wonder what the future holds for them.
Halima, one of the village widows shares with me: “We continue to be strong with CARE’s help and we hope that the rains will come on time.” Hope is a wonderful emotion and can carry one far, but it is not enough for the women of Niger. They must have the continuous support of CARE and others to help them through this very critical time.
It is important for us all to remember that during the food crisis in Niger in 2005, it would have cost us 1 U.S. dollar a day to prevent malnutrition among children if the world had responded immediately. By July 2005, it was costing 80 U.S. dollars to save a malnourished child’s life. Now is the time to help Niger --- not when it is too late to prevent what we know can be prevented.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:22PM EST on March 29, 2012
John Uniack Davis, Country Director, CARE Madagascar
"Six weeks have passed since Cyclone Giovanna hit the east coast of Madagascar, and the humanitarian situation is becoming more and more clear. Needs assessments carried out by the United Nations, NGOs and the Malagasy Government came in and they offer precision regarding the affected population and its needs. But even without quantitative data, the passage of time has allowed us to see who is able to get back on their feet on their own and who needs outside help to return their lives to normal.
This week, I returned to the Giovanna-affected zones for the first time since February 22-23. My objectives were to thank and encourage our team, which has been working non-stop since the days immediately following the cyclone, and to get a sense of the evolution of the humanitarian situation. I traveled to Vatomandry and Brickaville Districts, those that were the most affected by the wrath of the cyclone. Accompanying me were emergency operations manager Mamy Andriamasinoro, communications officer Katia Rakotobe, and emergency officer Emmanuel Lan Chun Yang of CARE France. We made an effort to visit some of the villages that I visited five weeks ago, in order to have a clear basis of comparison and evaluate the evolution of conditions on the ground and our activities. My visit brought many issues surrounding the response into sharp relief.
In Andranofolo, a hard-hit village just south of Vatomandry, we revisited a young woman named Voahanginirina. When we had seen her previously, she was living in the precarious fallen wreckage of her house with her three daughters aged eight, four, and three. When we visited this time, the ruins of her home looked even worse. Consequently, Voahanginirina, who is barely over 20 years old, made the wise decision to move her family into a little structure that once served as their kitchen. It doesn't give the family much space, but it is safer than where they were before. The family of four makes do with Voahanginirina's meager earnings from making and selling baskets.
In the same village, we came upon Rose-Marie, a 73-year-old widow using the roof, which is all that remains of her home after Giovanna, as a simple lean-to-like shelter with the two grandchildren she cares for. Demonstrating that she is doing her best to make a good life for her grandchildren under difficult circumstances, she proudly showed us the neat mosquito net hanging inside her tiny makeshift dwelling. Rose-Marie makes the best living she can collecting and drying reeds from the nearby marsh, which she sells to people like Voahanginirina for basket weaving.
The next day we returned to Andovoranto, in Brickaville District, where Giovanna made landfall on February 14. Things are slowly returning to normal for many in that small seaside town. But those without extra resources or family to help them remain in quite dire straits. For example, we went back to see a widow named Marie-Jeanne, who once had a sturdy little wooden house, but a direct hit from cyclone-force winds left it a twisted, misshapen remnant of what it once was. Marie-Jeanne lives with two of her three children in this house that is slowly crumbling around them, closer each day to collapsing completely. Marie-Jeanne ekes out a fragile existence selling charcoal to neighbors who are only slightly better-off than she is.
As CARE moves forward with our response to Cyclone Giovanna, we cannot help everyone, nor should we. Many families suffered a lot in the wake of the cyclone, but have nonetheless been able to rebuild their homes and reestablish their livelihoods, thanks to their own resources or the support of family and friends. But some people, such as Voahanginirina, Rose-Marie, and Marie-Jeanne, need a little bit of outside help to regain safe and decent housing and get their lives and their livelihoods back on firm ground. These are the types of people that CARE will continue to work with in coming weeks and months as we continue helping people rebuild their lives.
Our cyclone response activities evolve over time but the principal themes remain the same, focusing on food security, restoring safe shelter, and reestablishing transport infrastructure for economic activities as well as access to vital services such as health care. We are grateful to USAID and private sector donors for giving us the wherewithal to hit the ground running and begin bringing our activities to scale. We are currently finalizing plans with other generous partners, including the Government of France, who will help us to meet the most pressing needs of those worst affected by Cyclone Giovanna."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:12PM EST on March 20, 2012
By John Uniack Davies, Country Director, CARE Madagascar
"This continues to be a difficult cyclone season for Madagascar. Two weeks after Cyclone Giovanna, Tropical Storm Irina crossed the northern part of the "Grande Ile" and then parked itself off the west coast, in the Mozambique Channel, dumping lots of rain and affecting weather throughout the island. The severe weather caused extensive flooding and mudslides in the southeast part of the island, which had also been badly effected by flooding after Tropical Storm Hubert and Cyclone Bingiza in 2010 and 2011, respectively. In one mudslide in the roadside town of Ifanadiana alone, 47 people died, and the current death toll for Giovanna, Irina, and associated weather is now at least 100. But the number of lives affected by the storms far surpasses this number.
The town of Vangaindrano in the southeast has become, for all practical purposes, an island, and populations there are cut off from assistance and at great risk of crop loss as a result of flooding. Devastation to crops would make the local populations very vulnerable in the medium term, bereft of livelihoods. Our team in Vangaindrano is assessing the impact and we expect to mount an appropriate response. We are also discussing a possible overflight with other key actors in order to ensure that necessary, coordinated assistance reaches populations in need in the southeast.
CARE Madagascar continues to be a key actor in the response to Cyclone Giovanna, which struck on February 14. We have overseen the distribution of 397 rolls of USAID plastic sheeting distribution, which have permitted 20,000 people to escape from the elements and begin to rebuild their lives. We are grateful to our colleagues at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), who played an important role in helping us to get plastic sheeting out to the needy populations of Brickaville quickly. We are currently stepping up efforts to provide food to those in need. We are in the process of coordinating food for work teams to rebuild roads and restore access to villages cut off by Cyclone Giovanna, primarily by fallen trees and mudslides. Through our current food for work activities, 6500 households, at least 32,500 people, will benefit from 342 metric tons of rice and other food, and we are in the process of obtaining additional commodities from USAID and the World Food Program to permit additional rebuilding of infrastructure and providing short-term food aid to families in need.
Visitors to Brickaville and Vatomandry are moved by the difficult conditions in which families are living. CARE Emergency Operations Manager Mamy Andriamasinoro says that he is most struck by seeing children sleeping in precarious, damaged homes without roofs. ‘I realize how fortunate my own kids are, and as a parent I am really affected to see the conditions in which kids have no choice but to make do,' he says.
We at CARE Madagascar are doing our best to relieve the suffering of families affected by Cyclone Giovanna and other storms this year. We want to do our best to ensure that they have adequate shelter and enough food to eat in the short term. And in the medium term, we are looking to help the poorest farmers and fishermen restore their livelihoods and regain their self-sufficiency. For this, we will need additional support from the international community."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:05PM EST on March 20, 2012
As the Sahel region of West Africa faces a hunger crisis, Evelyne Guindon, Vice President of International Programs at CARE Canada recently visited CARE's operations in Chad to assess the situation firsthand.
You may not see many news stories about the looming food crisis in the Sahel, but my recent visit to West Africa showed me that immediate action is needed to prevent a large-scale emergency, much like that which we saw recently in East Africa, including deadly famine in parts of Somalia.
Erratic rains in West Africa's Sahel region have left over 10 million people displaced and malnourished. The drought has limited agricultural production and sent food prices soaring.
Chad is one of the countries hit hardest by the unfolding crisis.
I visited CARE's operations in Iriba, a small town in northeastern Chad providing a safe haven for thousands of refugees. Though the host community in Chad has generously welcomed the refugees from neighbouring Darfur, I was alarmed to see that the Chadians were, in some cases, more malnourished. I saw many parents making the difficult decision to pull their children out of school and sell their livestock just to afford the rising cost of food.
CARE had mobilized a team to cope with the increasing demand for aid and was already engaged in preparations to scale up to an emergency. I had a chance to see this activity firsthand -- CARE staff working hand-in-hand with community leaders, women and men, traditional leaders, government staff, and parents.
CARE's work in Chad is a reminder that when it comes to emergencies, we are often among the first to arrive and the last to leave. With limited funding and infrastructure, CARE has been working on long-term projects in Chad for over 40 years to improve conditions and provide support to residents.
Though my visit to Iriba was sobering, I kept thinking of a women's group I had met on a past trip to Dadaab, Kenya. Like the Chadians, the Dadaab women were once impoverished and lacked education, but learned to make honey and grow food and animal fodder through a CARE project. They developed skills that created businesses, which provided their families with a reliable source of income even in the face of a drought and food crisis.
The people in the Iriban camps were suffering, but my memories of the women's group in Dadaab reminded me that sustainable change is possible when people are given the tools they need to succeed.
CARE's focus on long-term solutions like enterprise and economic development, food security and female empowerment gives me hope that we can help the people of Chad become resilient and strong in the face of frequent drought and rising food prices.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:00AM EST on March 2, 2012
Johannes Schoors, CARE Niger Country Director
This couldn't have come at a worse time – not that there is ever a good time for brutal fighting that burns people's homes to the ground and sends them running in fear to another country. More than 130,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Mali, and many of them have arrived here in Niger, a country that is already in the grips of a worsening food crisis.
Most families in Niger, especially in the areas along the border with Mali, are running out of food. Families have reduced the numbers of meals in a day. Children are going hungry. The refugees are adding to the strain already being suffered here. But the people of Niger are amazing – they have almost nothing, but they are helping the refugees. They are sharing what little food they have. This is the culture in Niger. They help out how they can: a Nigerien will share a cooking pot with a refugee family, and the refugee family will use it, and then pass it on to another family.
Tens of thousands of Malian refugees have fled into Niger. There was heavy fighting last night, so more refugees are crossing the border. This will get worse. And as always, the ones caught in the middle are the civilians.
Their villages were burned to the ground. They have nothing to go back to except sad memories. Already the numbers are growing. CARE plans to help the people who fled to Banibangou, and we were initially told there were 600 families – there were in fact 1,260 families (9,000 people), and more people are crossing the border as the fighting continues.
The refugees are in a bad state. Many of them are sleeping in the open. I saw a photo of a pot with brown sauce in it, and I said to my staff, 'oh, so they are eating millet?' But my staff said no – that's muddy water. The refugees are drinking muddy water, because they have no access to clean water. We need to help them filter the water, or the refugees will start to get sick. Water is a real problem.
CARE is gearing up to provide clean water, food and emergency items to the refugees. But we need to help the Nigeriens in this community, too, because they are sharing what they have with the refugees. By helping the refugees, they're running out of food more quickly.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:09PM EST on February 29, 2012
On this International Women's Day, what inspires me and gives me hope is our work to empower girls like Christa, a fourth-grader in Bugarama, Tanzania. In a class of 220 students, Christa was a shy girl who never asked a question even if there was something she didn't understand. She made average marks on exams.
However, when Christa was 10, she was among the first group of girls trained in leadership skills and peer mentoring through CARE's girls' leadership development projects. The projects aimed to assist girls to develop the specific leadership competencies of self-confidence, voicing ideas and opinions, making decisions, organization, and motivating others.
After the training, Christa was assigned to lead a group of 40 fellow students in developing leadership skills through sports and games. The group included boys, some of them older than her.
Christa really doubted whether she could do it. She said that before the training she was just like other girls with no confidence, and not able to make decisions for herself. However, as days passed by Christa gained more confidence and made great strides in leading her group.
Christa's new-found confidence has shown in the classroom as well. Now she is able to ask teachers about anything which is not clear to her. With a smile on her face Christa recounted "by doing so I made myself the number one pupil in the class of 220 pupils including boys and girls!"
Christa was encouraged by her peers to run for the position of chairperson to lead a discussion between the girl students and leaders from the local government council (WDC).
"We were 8 contestants but because of the leadership skills I acquired from the training and from participation in sports I won the position and led the meeting between girls and leaders from WDC," Christa beamed.
She lead the meeting with confidence, and at the end of the meeting Christa remembers that one village chairperson confessed that he has never managed meetings as successfully as Christa had.
Christa is now a confident sixth grader who has her eyes set on secondary school and has goals for her future, which include helping other girls to develop the confidence and voice that she has found.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:54AM EST on February 24, 2012
By John Uniack Davis, Country Director, CARE Madagascar
'Today we left Vatomandry at 6 a.m. to head back up the road 90 kilometers to Brickaville, the district hardest hit by Cyclone Giovanna. As we approached Brickaville, we saw major destruction in every settlement, houses flattened and large trees uprooted.
The large town of Brickaville was bustling, with havoc wrought by the cyclone everywhere but people going about their business. We turned down a busy side street to come upon a group of young Malagasy in Red Cross garb and then pulled up at the busy makeshift field office that CARE shares with the Malagasy Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations. After paying a courtesy call on the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) team leader and meeting up with two colleagues from OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) who were going to the field with us, we hit the road again.
Shortly after leaving Brickaville in a well-worn Toyota Land Cruiser for the driving portion of our excursion to Andovoranto, the town where Giovanna made landfall, we spotted a lone man rebuilding his house. We were a ways out in the country on a verdant hillside with no other homes in sight. We found out that the young man's name was Jackie and that his wife and young daughter and he had been in their home when it was torn asunder by the cyclone. At that point, they were forced to huddle together in the open for hours until the storm passed. His wife and daughter are now living with relatives in the town of Brickaville for the three weeks it will take him to rebuild their home. When we asked Jackie how his new house would compare to the old one, he shook his head sadly and said it would be worse.
Once CARE's response moves from immediate post-disaster relief to longer-term recovery activities, "building back better" will be a primary objective -- we want the most vulnerable victims of Cyclone Giovanna to emerge less at-risk and less vulnerable than they were before this cyclone. And to do this we need to help them to ensure that they are housed in less-precarious structures.
After 45 minutes of driving and 45 minutes in a CARE motor boat, we arrived in Andovoranto. The town sits on a narrow spit of land between the Pangalane Canal and the Indian Ocean. We were struck by the contrast between the beauty of the natural setting and the stark destruction that we saw everywhere we looked. A two-story private nursery school and primary school had one wing leveled, the second floor pancaking on top of the first, leaving a chaotic image of torn-up walls, a broken roof, and splintered furniture, garnished with a heartbreaking jumble of children's notebooks, workbooks, homework, and school supplies.
Around the corner from the school we met a woman named Denise Charline. She and her children slept in their granary during the storm to escape their flimsy house. They are now back in their house, living in it despite a badly-damaged roof, thanks to USAID’s plastic sheeting distributed by CARE.
The images of the past two days spent in towns and villages affected by Cyclone Giovanna will stay with me for a long time. I am daunted by scenes of raw destruction but lifted up by the courage of those most affected by it. My team and I are fully committed to an emergency response that honors the dignity of the Malagasy people and helps them to "build back better" their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:04AM EST on February 23, 2012
By John Uniack Davis, Country Director CARE Madagascar
"I am in the field with communications officer Katia Rakotobe visiting CARE's activities to bring relief to those most affected by Cyclone Giovanna. Today, we left Antananarivo ("Tana"), the capital of Madagascar, at 7 a.m. and headed east toward the coast to the two districts most hard hit by Giovanna, Brickaville and Vatomandry. About two and one-half hours' drive east of Tana, over halfway to the coast, we started seeing fairly significant storm damage -- roofs off houses, trees down, and mudslides partially blocking the road, eight days after the cyclone hit. East of Andasibe National Park, we saw whole stands of young trees bent in half or blown down, a vivid testimonial to the power of nature, the raw force of the cyclone.
We ate lunch at a roadside stand at Antsampanana, the crossroads between Brickaville to the east and Vatomandry to the south. As we ate, we saw nimble young men on nearby roofs repairing the cyclone damage. Farther south, we saw numerous houses completely leveled by the cyclone, and yet the simple rough-hewn frames of new houses are already in evidence. We were struck by the resilience of the people, knocked down by the storm but springing back up to rebuild their lives.
CARE's post-cyclone relief activities are aimed at those who are more vulnerable and less resilient. These are often, for example, women heads of households with young children or elderly people with no means of support.
We are in the process of distributing plastic sheeting to those exposed to the elements. With plastic sheeting supplied by USAID and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the help of partners like Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we will keep 20,000 to 30,000 people safe and dry. In the medium term, we expect to help those most in need to rebuild their homes in a sturdy fashion. While many families have their own resources or a social safety net that will permit them to rebuild without outside help, we want to assist those who don't quite have the means to help themselves quickly enough.
CARE will also be providing food aid to destitute households in the short term and start food-for-work programs in the short and medium term. Food-for-work means that people will help removing rubble and reopening blocked roads and will receive sufficient food for themselves and their families in return.
As I write these lines on my Blackberry while bouncing along on a remote sand track near the Indian Ocean, it is clear that a lot of work lies ahead of us in order to provide relief and help those in need rebuild their lives and regain their self-sufficiency. My colleagues at CARE Madagascar and I welcome the challenge inherent in this important work.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:16AM EST on February 16, 2012
John Uniack Davis, Country Director CARE Madagascar
February 15, 2012
"On Wednesday morning, CARE sent a helicopter to the areas affected by cyclone Giovanna to assess the damage. The storm made landfall on Tuesday, February 14, on the east coast of the country and it brought heavy winds and rains. Our staff have been preparing for this as we could monitor the storm coming close. Luckily, when Giovanna made landfall, it lost some speed and was therefore not quite as strong as the Category 4 storm that had been predicted. But still, it left a path of destruction through several districts. Two districts in particular, with a total population of over 400,000 were particularly hard hit. What was really unusual was that after hitting the coast and traveling inland, the cyclone passed directly over the capital city, so I and the rest of our staff had to stay home until late Tuesday morning. There were extremely strong winds. Giant billboards were blown down and debris was flying around. I am glad that all of my colleagues are safe and accounted for. Here in "Tana", as we call the capital, there has been quite some destruction and people were not really prepared for the storm.
Tomorrow we will have a better picture of the devastation when we evaluate the data from our aerial assessment. CARE staff from our sub-office in Vatomandry report that at least 60 percent of dwellings in the town have been partially damaged or completely destroyed. Houses in these poor areas are often built of bamboo and palm leaves, so it is easy for a strong wind to rip them apart. Many families have experienced these storms before, so they usually repair their houses quickly. But especially elder people or households headed by women need our help now to provide them with construction materials. There are sixteen reported deaths so far, but I expect the numbers to rise. Many areas are still cut off and have not been reached yet.
CARE had plastic sheeting prepositioned in our warehouse that we can distribute to 6,000 households or 30,000 people as a first emergency response. Once we have clearly assessed the needs and locations, we will begin with the distribution. People will probably also need food assistance, as their stocks might be lost in the damage. And as roads are destroyed, we need to rebuild them quickly to get access to affected villages. CARE is one of the most established emergency actors in Madagascar, we have provided emergency relief to cyclones in the past years, such as Bingiza and Hubert. I hope that this time again we will get the necessary support and funding to act quickly and reach those who need our help now."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:12AM EST on February 16, 2012
John Uniack Davis, Country Director CARE Madagascar
"Our CARE team is in the second and final day of a helicopter assessment mission to target assistance to populations in need after Cyclone Giovanna hit the country on Tuesday morning. The team is reporting that, as expected, there is substantial damage in the Districts of Brickaville and Vatomandry, which are located on the east coast of Madagascar. In the commune of Andevoranto, the point of Giovanna’s landfall, 80 percent of dwellings were damaged or destroyed. For the town of Brickaville that figure is about 70 percent, whereas 40-50 percent of houses in Vatomandry were damaged. There is a stretch of coastline of 100 kilometers or more that suffered quite serious destruction. People lack shelter as well as access to food in the short term – we need to help them soon.
The assessment team is doing everything that it can to provide assistance as quickly as possible. For example, some remote communities have experienced serious wind damage and are largely bereft of shelter. So our team is bringing in the first batch of plastic sheeting by helicopter to help them build temporary shelter and get out of the elements. But a more sustained effort of relief and recovery will be necessary in order to help populations buffeted by Cyclone Giovanna get back on their feet. Our deputy emergency coordinator will stay in Brickaville today to open a makeshift emergency operations office and begin mobilizing experienced emergency staff to move forward with providing shelter and food and reopening disrupted transport routes. Thanks to funds provided by the CARE Emergency Group in Geneva, we have been able to hit the ground running in order to provide vital help to those most in need. However, more resources will be needed in the coming weeks to scale up relief and recovery operations."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:40PM EST on January 31, 2012
When Dije Ousmana looks down at her two-month-old baby boy, Abdulahadi, she tries not to think of her three other children, all babies like Abdulahadi, who died in earlier food crises. She has seen the signs before, and she is afraid: diarrhoea, difficulty swallowing, crying for more milk when there is none to be had.
In her arms, baby Abdulahadi stirs, opens his eyes, and begins to cry. Dije quietly puts him to her breast, but it isn't long before the cry turns into a wail.
"There is no milk," she said. "I haven't eaten yet today."
Outside, her daughter continues to pound millet for the family's only meal of the day. Dije's six-year-old son runs in and asks when the food will be ready.
Today, Dije and her extended family of 14 will eat just one bowl of millet, mixed with a bit of goat's milk and plenty of water to make it stretch farther. It's been three months that it's been like this, she said.
"The younger children ask all the time why we aren't eating," she said, telling her son to wait. "They don't understand. They think I am just not cooking."
Niger is spiralling down into a severe food crisis. A catastrophic combination of a failed harvest, returning migrant workers from troubled neighbouring countries, and soaring food prices has left more than 5.4 million people in Niger at risk of hunger; at least 1.3 million people, like Dije and her family, are in critical need of help now.
Across Niger, there are communities that have no harvest at all, and have already exhausted their food supplies and are starting to sell their animals and household belongings just to buy food to keep their families alive. In each affected community, the prognosis is the same: this crisis is already worse than the crises of 2005 and 2010.
"It's been years since we've seen a situation this bad," said Dije. "I already sold five of my goats, and we have just one goat left. We've sold everything to buy food."
Here in Yan Sara village, a poor community of 170 people in the barren semi-desert of rural Niger, children are already showing signs of malnutrition: protruding bellies and orange hair revealing the tell-tale signs of nutrient deficiency. Children with chronic malnutrition risk permanent stunting: they will never grow as tall as other children their age, and they may have developmental challenges as well. Severe malnutrition, if not treated, can lead to death.
Nearly 300,000 children will become malnourished across Niger this year, and that figure is expected to rise as the country's food crisis worsens.
But if help is provided now, we can prevent children from becoming severely malnourished, said Amadou Sayo, CARE's Regional Emergency Coordinator for West Africa. CARE has already started a cash-for-work program in partnership with the World Food Programme, which will help families buy food. But more is needed. CARE is raising funds to start an emergency food program for families like Dije's, who are already in dire need. High-energy, nutritious food for children, such as Plumpy'nut, a peanut-butter-like emergency food used to treat mild malnutrition, can help prevent children from becoming severely malnourished.
"Prevention is more effective, and less costly, than allowing children to become malnourished in the first place," said Sayo. "In a food crisis, helping the children is critical, as well as pregnant women and breastfeeding women. The adults can survive a hungry season, but young children are very vulnerable. If they don't have proper food, they start to get sick, they lose weight, and they are at risk of death."
For Dije, the situation is frighteningly clear.
"We need help," she said simply. "I don't want to lose another child."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:06AM EST on January 30, 2012
Mandefro Mekete, Emergency Operations Coordinator, CARE Ethiopia
I clearly remember July 2011 when the world started to focus its attention on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa. At that time, more than 4.5 million people in Ethiopia were in need of food assistance and water shortages were putting millions at risk of waterborne diseases.
I remember July 2011 because by then it had been almost a year since I released a drought alert for the Horn of Africa to our key partners. In August 2010, la Niña, a meteorological phenomenon that usually provokes dry weather conditions, was forecasted. As an Ethiopian who grew up in the north-eastern part of Ethiopia and who has been affected by drought, I knew the potential consequences of such a forecast.
In response to this, we at CARE immediately started to prepare ourselves to respond to the potential crisis. We launched our first relief interventions in February 2011 with activities to provide water to drought-affected communities in Borena, located in the southern part of Ethiopia. We also provided food assistance in East and West Hararghe in Oromia region and in Afar region in eastern Ethiopia. We later complemented our drought response with nutrition and livelihoods interventions in order to have an effective, comprehensive and integrated approach.
Chronic food insecurity is, however, commonplace in rural Ethiopia in any year, irrespective of unusual climatic or economic shocks. Many factors contribute to this, including land degradation, limited access to basic social services, population pressure, and near complete dependence on rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.
The vast majority of the Ethiopian population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods. As most agriculture is rain-fed, reliable and sufficient rainfall is critical for the country's economy, livelihoods and food security. Each year, depending on the location, Ethiopia has two rainy seasons and one or two dry seasons. The most difficult period of the year is called the "lean season", when food stocks are low and the new crops have not been harvested yet. This usually happens at the height of the rainy seasons. Food prices tend to rise during that period while livestock prices significantly decline.
People use different mechanisms to cope with the lean season, such as reducing the number of meals per day, buying less preferred food and selling key assets (e.g., livestock). Once key assets are sold, it takes a very long time for people to rebuild their capital. They therefore become increasingly vulnerable over time and are trapped in a cycle of poverty.
So, when the drought hit Ethiopia in 2011, people were not only affected by this event but by the cumulative impacts of previous events (droughts, floods, economic shocks or lean seasons).
Nothing illustrates this better than listening to the people affected by the drought. When asked about the impacts of the 2011 drought, many start recalling the interrelated chain of events over past years that have pushed them over the edge this year. The story of one man in West Hararghe last November is particulalry striking. Ashenafi, a 35 year-old farmer and father of eight children, explained to CARE how he progessively sold his productive assets over the years to cope with the drought or lean seasons. As result, he was backsliding each time a little bit more into the cycle of poverty.
In 2005, Ashenafi was in a position to provide a decent life for his family and send all his children to school. He owned a house with a corrugated roof and had three oxen, one cow, three sheep, three goats and thirty chickens. Then, during the 2006 drought he was forced to sell one of his oxen and three sheep. A year later, he had to sell another ox and his three goats to cope with the lean season. The last ox was sold in 2008, along with all his chickens. And then in 2009, he had to sell his cow that provided milk for his children. Moreover, every time Ashenafi sold his livestock, he did so at the peak of the lean season, which meant that he had to sell at a reduced price.
When the drought hit in 2011, with no other assets on hand, Ashenafi was forced to sell his house. He now lives in a hut with his family and has started to receive food assistance, initially from the Government and later from CARE.
My own family story is very similar to Ashenafi's. We were also farmers, and during the severe drought in 1984, my family lost all their assets. We had to sell our cows, plow oxen, horses and goats in order to survive. During that year and the one that followed, we received support from NGOs. My family participated in cash-for-work projects, where they worked on soil and water conservation activities in exchange for a salary. We also received funds to buy plow oxen that helped us to restart our agricultural activities.
Two years later, my father was able to secure a position as a guard in a government seedling nursery. As a result, we were less vulnerable. We still continued to farm, but a low harvest no longer had the devastating impact it did before.
Progressively, my family was able to rebuild its capital and buy plow oxen, sheep, goats, cows, donkeys and horses. Recovery was a long process, but eventually all my siblings were able to graduate from college and find good jobs. Today, we are in a position to resist shocks, such as drought, and we can also support other family members and friends.
Ashenafi's family can follow a similar path if they also receive timely and appropriate support. Receiving seeds and small ruminants will help his family to restart their agricultural activities in the short term. Water system rehabilitation/development will ensure that his family has reliable and easy access to water, which will positively impact the health of all the members of his household. Since women typically bear the main responsibility for fetching water, this will also free up time for his wife and daughters – time that can be better used for school and productive employment.
Other initiatives, like village savings and loans associations, will help his family to accumulate savings, improve their cash management skills, and enhance their access to credit. Such projects, which focus on gender equality, will also help Ashenafi's wife to be more active in her community and engage in income-generating activities, therefore increasing her family's income.
We know how to support people to improve their resilience against recurrent shocks, thereby avoiding future crises. Ideas abound, but recovery support will be critical. Ashenafi and his family will get back on their feet only if we immediately support them in recovering from the drought and continue to do so in the medium/long term. This way, in a few years Ashenafi's family can also succeed like my family did and become independent and resilient. Let's work together to make this happen.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:56AM EST on January 23, 2012
Voices of beneficiaries: Sapa Rabiou, 55 years old. Sarkin Rima village, Maradi
Sapa Rabiou, 55 years old. 11 children, 30 grandchildren. She cares for her elderly husband and three grandchildren in Serkin Rima village, Maradi, Niger. Sapa participates in CARE's cash-for-work program. The program, implemented in partnership with WFP, provides participants with 1,000CFA per day (approx. USD2) in exchange for work clearing pasture land of an inedible weed that has taken over the pasture area, and reseeding it with local grasses that will serve as food for local cattle.
"We started to worry last year just before the harvest, when we saw the attack of crickets in our fields. Normally, I would harvest 100 bales of millet from my field. This year, I only got one and a half bales. Some families got nothing.
"I asked one of my sons, who normally harvests120 bales; he only harvested six. We realized we were all in the same situation. And we knew it would be hard. But we had no choice.
"I started selling thatch and firewood to feed my family. I have to walk to Maradi to sell it – it takes four hours each way, and I only earn enough to buy one measure of millet – enough for my family for half a day.
"Our stocks are gone. We have no food. Two weeks ago I started the food-for-work program with CARE. I was paid for the first time yesterday, and I bought food – enough for my family for 10 days.
"If it weren't for the CARE program, I would have had to borrow money. I would have lived day by day, doing what I could to survive, to at least put something in my stomach. I already sold my cow and two goats; I only have one chicken left. There is nothing in my house – just mats on the floor. I've already sold everything.
"My husband is 75, he's too old to work. It's all up to me. How can I be afraid? There's no use to be afraid. This is the situation, whether I'm afraid or not. I have to continue. But everyone in my area is afraid. We were affected by the 2005 crisis and barely recovered. I'm trying to survive this one. I can't say what the future will bring."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:44AM EST on January 23, 2012
By Melanie Brooks
When Aminou Chaibou left his wife and three small children last year to find work in Nigeria, it was with the hopes of earning enough money to help them survive the worsening food crisis gripping Niger. Like millions of others across the country, his crops had failed; if he didn''t find work, they would starve.
Instead, he ended up losing money – and much of his family''s hope for the future.
For many people along the border with Nigeria, travelling to Nigeria to work for several months a year has been a crucial survival mechanism in difficult times. But with the recent unrest in Nigeria – increasing bomb attacks by a militant group, and more recently national protests against the government''s removal of the oil subsidy – many Nigeriens have decided that the work is too risky. Here in Maradi, Niger''s economic heartland, thousands of Nigerien migrant workers have returned home, many with empty pockets.
For Aminou, 29, the situation is even worse; in order to pay for his transport to Nigeria, he had to sell his wife''s only remaining goat. Piece by piece, they are selling the items in their home in order to survive.
"All we have to eat is millet paste mixed with a bit of milk," he said, stirring a spoon through a mostly-empty bowl of thin, soup-like porridge. "We add a lot of water, so it helps us feel full. We eat this twice a day. In a good year, we eat three times a day: millet, spaghetti, oil – many things. This is not a good year. And it is getting worse."
"Our children ask for more food, but we don''t have anything else to give them," she said, as seven-month-old Zainab starts to cry in her arms. Assamaou pulls her to her breast, and the baby suckles quietly.
A complex combination of a failed harvest, returning migrant workers from troubled neighbouring countries, and soaring food prices has left more than 5.4 million people in Niger are at risk of hunger; at least 1.3 million like Aminou and his family are in critical need of help now.
CARE, in partnership with the World Food Programme, has started a cash-for-work program to provide families with cash to buy food on the local market. Here in Serkin Yamma village, Maradi, Aminou and other participants receive 1,000CFA per day (approx. USD2) in exchange for work clearing pasture land of an inedible weed that has taken over the pasture area, and reseeding it with local grasses that will serve as food for local cattle once the rains come in late May.
Aminou said the project arrived at a time when he had almost given up hope. He has been trying to find additional work in Maradi, and is considering going back to Nigeria. He had worked 43 days of a two-month contract; if he goes back and finishes his contract, he''ll receive his pay.
"But with everything we hear on the radio, I think it''s safer to stay here with my family. There was another attack yesterday in Nigeria, just across the border, near where I was working. We need to eat, we need the money, but I don''t want to be killed. Who would look after my family then?"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:20PM EST on November 28, 2011
In the highlands of Ethiopia, a group of 19 people sit in a circle in their communal field. In the middle of the circle are four coloured plates and a tin box with two locks.
This is the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee of Sahvina Kebel*. They formed through CARE's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project in late 2010.
Despite their name, this group does much more than improve access to clean water and sanitation in their community. With these simple tools, this committee and the woman leading them are also bringing new opportunities to their remote village.
It all began last year when the group built a new water pump with CARE's assistance. Less than one year later, this pump has given women more free hours in their day and reduced the amount of illness in the community, particularly the children.
Beletech, a 34-year-old mother of four, is the chairperson of the group. She explains 'Before the construction of the water pump, I would walk for one hour to collect water from the river. I lost time collecting water – walking and queuing because water is scarce. My children drank this unsafe water and had diseases. Now, the water is safe and my children can go to school and be healthy.'
The water pump was developed through a close partnership between CARE and the community – CARE provided skilled labour and the majority of the materials for the pump, and the community provided their own labour and sourced some local resources like sand and rocks.
The committee developed by-laws to protect the pump – if anyone breaks a law, they have to pay a fee. This money is then managed by the group to cover maintenance and other related costs.
That is just one of the funds the committee manages today. The committee also operates as a community savings group, with each member contributing 5 birr (30 cents) every month. As the total sum grows, members are able to take a loan out for income-earning activities, which is then repaid with interest.
The money is kept safely in a tin box under the security of two separate locks. Beletech holds one key, and the committee's treasurer holds the other.
'I am saving money, and starting to change my life,' says Beletech. The group has taken a loan already, to purchase salt and then on-sell it at the local market, making a profit of 55 birr ($3.20).
When the group meets, the money is divided amongst the coloured plates – with each one indicating a different "account" within the savings group. The green plate displays the groups' savings, yellow is the interest paid back from loans, red is the punishment fees that are paid if someone breaks a by-law; and blue is the social fund that all members contribute to and is available for anyone in the community to borrow from if they find themselves in urgent need of money.
Beletech's role as leader of the group is another first for this community. Before, women were not usually allowed to speak in public or be involved in decision making. Now, she is leading this group of women and men towards creating a better future for their entire community.
'I am happy to be the chairperson of the group. I manage the meetings and have the power to speak in front of others and make decisions. I received training from CARE about speaking publicly, before I only ever spoke in church. Now, I speak in meetings and community discussions.'
The gender division of labour and opportunities is breaking down in Beletech's home as well as her community. She explains, 'In my home, my husband would only spend his time on farming and I would work in the house. Now, my husband shares the household chores like cooking and making coffee and there is improvement in my home.'
Now, with the opportunity to learn leadership skills and the ability to save money, the opportunities for women in Sahvina Kebel are flowing as freely as the clean water from the village's water pump.
*A kebel is an Ethiopian village
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:09PM EST on November 28, 2011
In the red dusty landscape of southern Zimbabwe, a slight figure walks under the blazing afternoon sun with a tin bucket swinging by her side.
It looks like a difficult and tiring task, but 10-year old Agnes* is happy to collect clean safe water that is just 400 metres from her home.
Every afternoon, Agnes walks to a borehole that has been recently repaired by CARE to provide her and 300 other families with safe, clean water near their homes and school.
Collecting water is a task that is almost exclusively carried out by women and girls in developing countries like Zimbabwe. Without a safe borehole to collect water from, many females in Agnes' community used to walk for hours, several times a day, to collect enough water for their families to drink, bathe and cook with. Even after walking long distances to find water, what they would source may not necessarily be safe to drink.
The lack of access to clean water, and lack of toilets and information about sanitation have caused illness in Agnes' community – in 2009 the cholera outbreak that devastated parts of Zimbabwe claimed 4,000 lives and infected more than 100,000 people.
Since CARE's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project has been operating in the area, this has changed for many families.
Now, 300 toilets have been built by local communities, with assistance from CARE. Over 40 boreholes have been rehabilitated – providing access to safe water for thousands of people like Agnes.
'The borehole is closer to our house, so it's a good thing that we can get water there now. It is about 400 metres from our home and 200 metres from my school.'
Agnes has developed a new interest at school that helps her make the most of the new water and sanitation resources. She is a member of her school's health club, a group that is open to any student who would like to learn about preventing illness through sanitation and hygiene practices.
CARE encourages teachers in the community to start a health and hygiene education club at their school, and provides the teachers with support and advice on how to teach hygiene principles that will improve the health of students, and their families.
'I really like being in the health club because I get the explanation about how diseases are spread. We learn about mosquitoes, diarrhoea and houseflies. We learn through drawings and from books,' Agnes says.
'I teach my younger brother and sister what I learn as well. Now, we wash our hands after going to the toilet, we know how to store water in the house and not to play in stagnant water. '
Now, her daily routine includes sanitation principles at every opportunity – and she and her family are healthier because of the initiatives she has shared with them.
'In the morning, I make my bed, eat breakfast, sweep the house and bathe while my mother collects the first lot of water from the borehole.
In the afternoon, I bathe again, sweep, wash the dishes, collect more water with my mother and help make the fire for cooking dinner.'
With less time spent collecting water, and more activities in her home to keep her family healthy, Agnes is able to concentrate more on her studies. And what does a young girl with a passion for health and hygiene want to do when she leaves school? Help others to be healthy too, of course!
Agnes explains, 'When I finish school, I would like to be a nurse because I don't want people to get sick. I want to take care of them.'
*Names changed to protect children
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:47PM EST on November 8, 2011
GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Florance Kwinja picked up her basket filled with corn meal and beans and headed to the market outside of Goma. It's a bus commute the widow and mother of eight never used to think twice about. It was just another chore she did to earn money for her family. But it was anything but routine as the memories of the last time she made the trip two years ago come flooding back.
"We were ambushed by a group of combatants," Florance says. "They held me down and began to rape me, one by one. I was convinced I would die that day. I stopped living."
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape is routinely used as a weapon of war. Help and justice are hard to find in a country with one of the world's worst poverty rates and mass corruption. To cope with the terror, families regularly flee their home villages. Separated from their families and livelihoods, women and children turn to rummaging for scraps of food and a simple roof to sleep under. Extreme poverty and a loss of dignity have damaging effects in their lives.
Florance, 48, became a widow in 2003 when her house was ransacked and husband, a successful merchant, was killed. Having no savings, she and her children fled their remote village to the town of Goma. Florance worked tirelessly for the next few years to make money to feed and clothe her children. Then the rape happened and she fell into deep depression, an event all too common for women in the Congo. People who Florance considered her friends no longer greeted her. Shamed and scared to return to work, the once proud woman says she could no longer look people in the eyes. When things couldn't seem to get worse, two of her eight children went missing. After three years, Florance didn't think she would ever find them alive.
To understand what is happening here, you have turn back the clock to 1994, when the genocide that claimed nearly one million lives in neighboring Rwanda spilled over into Congo. Since then, the Congolese army, rebels and home-grown militias have been fighting over power and land, which is rich in gold, diamonds and coltan, a sought-after mineral vital to the manufacture of mobile phones and other popular consumer electronics. The result has been the deadliest conflict since World War II. Nowadays the most frequent casualties of war are women. Because women farm the fields and care for children, it's not uncommon to hear that when a woman is raped, her entire family and community are destroyed. Over 82 percent of displaced people turn to host communities and organizations like CARE for support. Only a fraction of families make it to under-funded cramped camps, where they depend on basic aid from the United Nations and other humanitarian groups.
"Women here are in deep pain," says Yawo Douvon, country director for CARE in the Congo. "But it's not just the type of physical pain that can be repaired in a hospital. It's psychological pain that you can't see that takes more time to heal."
Despite there being a constitutional law condemning rape and sexual violence, and newly formed mobile courts that help convict perpetrators, more work is needed to foster representative government and rule of law to bring more perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and ensure the protection of all women. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 44 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence in the Congo are now civilians.
As women seek support for their plight to overcome gender biases, there are organizations trying to help vulnerable people get back on their feet, including rape survivors and demobilized male combatants. CARE's Espoir de Demain (Hope for Tomorrow) project organizes support groups and teaches people how to make shoes, how to cut hair – skills they can use to earn money and a chance for a whole new life.
Florance jumped at that chance. She signed up to learn to be a hairdresser, a trade almost exclusively reserved for men. Whatever difficulties she would face to break gender barriers, she knew things would change for the better. "It was as if someone had thrown me a rope to help me climb out of a deep, dark hole," she says, explaining that her children would be able to have a "normal life" once she launched her own business. "It's a good business to be in because people always need haircuts."
More importantly, Florance says she chose this trade to stay in one place and not be as vulnerable to potential attackers.
The boy sitting in her chair today was extra special. He is one of Florance's two eldest sons. Both boys had been reunited with her by the Red Cross after years of separation. They have also received skills training through CARE to become a carpenter and plumber.
Hope is not something you'd expect Congo's rape survivors like Florance to still cling to. But they do.
Looking at Florance today you could not recognize her past suffering through the proud smile on her face. She says, "I've had a lot of deception in my life. Clients, visitors and CARE are my new family," People in her neighborhood have begun greeting her again. And Florance, looking them in the eyes, greets them back.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:12AM EST on October 31, 2011
After a severe food crisis in 2010, women founded an association of grain banks to prepare for times of hardship
Niandou Ibrahim, CARE Niger, October 21, 2011
Last year, 20 percent of households in Niger were affected by a devastating food crisis. The village of Moujia, located between the cities of Konni and Tahoua in the center-west of the country, gave a picture of the situation at that times. (see story from 2010)
Drought and parasites had completely destroyed the crops, and in order to survive, people were forced either to migrate or to do menial tasks for little pay. Like in Alhou Abdou's household, made up of six children and his wife, the villagers fought day after day to feed themselves. Even though they decreased the number of meals and portion sizes, they often went hungry.
CARE provided 100 kilograms of grain to Alhou's family through a large-scale programme of free grain distribution, in cooperation with the Niger government and the World Food Programme (WFP). The other households in the village that were suffering from the food crisis all received the same support. This external aid was combined with the stock from a grain bank that the women of the village had implemented to meet the food needs of the families.
The women's small grain bank had a huge impact on the entire community. Inspired by this victory, and knowing that food crises appear every three years, the women were motivated to expand their idea of an "association of cereal banks" in the region.
The system Matu Masu Dubara ('clever women' in the local Hausa language) is made up of savings and loans groups that are managed by the villagers. These groups enable the creation of multiple village projects in several areas, such as health (providing training and equipment for nurses), education (literacy and awareness about girls' education), environmental protection (growing trees and orchards), food security (creation of village grain banks), and even recently, entering political arenas to elect women to influence local and national decision making processes.
Alhou's wife Hadja belongs to the network of "Tammaha" (hope) groups in Moujia, which started a cereal bank in 2002. The bank served its purpose every year because even in years with good crop yields, more than 60 percent of households cannot meet their food needs with their harvests alone. However, in a year of crisis, like in 2010, the Moujia bank couldn't withstand the high demand for grain.
Hundreds of Mata Masu Dubara women from Niger also started cereal banks in their communities. Under the leadership of these women, 19 other community grain banks in the surrounding areas came together to form an association of banks: a storehouse with enough stock to come to the aid of smaller banks in case of stock shortage caused by a high demand in times of food crisis. "To do this, each of the 20 groups contributed a total of 1,000,000 cfa francs, or 2,100 USD, that was used to buy the start-up stock. CARE, with financing from the Norwegian Agency of Development Cooperation, then helped with the construction of a store and management training for the designated women, who would oversee the operation of maintaining the stock. WFP contributed 27,000 kilograms of cereals. It was a real pooling of resources," explainsMérido Moussa, director of the Matu Masu Dubara women association in Moujia.
Today, the association of Moujia banks provides a permanent stock of supplies in the area. While the market price of a 100 kilogram sack of millet is 19,000 fcfa (40 USD), the village banks can sell it for 18,000 fcfa because the union provides it at a lower cost of 16,000 fcfa.
"The women are so clever," whispers Alhou Abdou, while looking lovingly at his wife. "Normally the grain stock set aside by the women would have been enough to fill the gap left by the poor yields that we're seeing this year. But we're still facing hard times because our brothers had to come home from Libya," he adds solemnly. They had lost their jobs due to the political unrest in North Africa.
As of August 31, 2011, evaluations have shown that the crops will not come full circle in 2,496 farming villages throughout Niger, affecting an estimated population of 2,885,673 men and women. The rate of severe malnutrition among six month to five year old girls and boys is at risk of increasing in 2012.
In addition, the socio-political movements that unfolded in Cote d'Ivoire and Libya affected 200,000 migrants working abroad. The thousands of migrants who returned to Niger between February and September came home to extreme destitution, adding another challenge for vulnerable communities like Moujia. "150 village youth had to flee Cote d'Ivoire and 50 others came home from Libya empty-handed, whereas previously they were the principal source of income for Moujia," confirms Mahamadou Abdou, the Imam of the local mosque.
CARE Niger is committed to respond to the urgent challenges of this situation, while continuing to contribute to the resilience of the households in Moujia and in hundreds of other communities.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:50PM EST on September 27, 2011
CARE mourns the loss of Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Nobel Laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement, which CARE actively supported beginning in 1994.
Maathai died early Monday morning after a long battle with cancer. She was 71.
Wangari Maathai contributed to the Women Empowered book that CARE produced in partnership with photographer Phil Borges. The book highlights the plight and promise of poor women around the world.
Protecting the Environment
Women have always played the role of primary caregivers: of their children, their elderly parents, the family garden, and of whatever corner of the planet they live in. From the rice paddies in Thailand, to the manioc fields of the highlands of Papua New Guinea, to the rainforest gardens of the Amazonian Kayapo, it is women who tend their growth. Quietly and with determination, they plant the seeds, remove the weeds, and patiently wait for the fruit of their labor to ripen.
When the forests are cut and the lakes and rivers poisoned, when the land dries up and the rains don’t come, it is also women who bear the greater burden of providing nourishment for their families. And they must watch as their brothers, husbands, and sons fight over the dwindling resources.
In this critical moment in the history of our planet, I call on all women, young and old, of all social spheres, of all races, to take their place as soldiers and leaders in a battle far more important than any other humanity has ever fought. It is important to understand what is happening to our environment and to take action. Otherwise, the next generation of our children may grow up in a planet devoid of beauty and diversity, in a minefield of human greed. By empowering women and girls, the primary caregivers, we can fulfill our role as leaders in a global environmental crusade. Let us all step up to protect the earth, for in its survival depends our own.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:54PM EST on September 26, 2011
Rick Perera, Horn of Africa Communications Coordinator
It's a typical day at the CARE-managed Illeys Primary School at Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Fifty parents are lined up outside the gates, desperate to enroll their children. They're drawn not just by the prospect of an education, but by the daily meal CARE provides, in partnership with the World Food Program. The student body is swelling astronomically with the children of new refugees, mostly fleeing drought and hunger in Somalia.
This modest compound of cement-block classrooms, designed for 1,500 students, packs in more than 4,000 children in two daily shifts. Spillover classes are housed in tents, bright voices echoing in song and recitation through the sandy courtyard.
"Every child who wants to come to school here is welcome, though of course it's a strain," says principal Ahmed Hassan in his cluttered office, where a whiteboard overflows with statistics about his ever-growing student population.
Illeys school is close to the influx area for refugees, and most of the new youngsters filling the school have recently arrived from Somalia with their families. In one of the tents, Farah Ali Abdi gives a basic English lesson to a remedial class. The group encompasses children ranging from 4 to 15 years old, all of them struggling to catch up enough to enroll in regular primary grades. "The cup is on the table!" they shout gleefully – more or less in unison.
Most teachers here, like Farah, are refugees themselves, hired and trained by CARE. They work with patience and skill, but with as many as 130 children in one classroom it is next to impossible to give all of them the attention they deserve. The five primary schools managed by CARE in Dagahaley camp are massively overburdened, with over 15,000 students. To cope with the influx, and help those who lag behind catch up to their peers, CARE operates special accelerated learning centers during school vacation. Yet, far too many refugee children receive no education: more than 60 percent of kids in the Dadaab camps do not attend school at all.Girls face special roadblocks in the quest to learn. Only 39 percent of students at the camp schools are girls. By tradition, girls are expected to take on the bulk of chores at home. "If a family has two girls and two boys, they will send the boys and one girl to school and keep the other girl home to work," says Principal Hassan. "Even the girls who attend will have little time to do homework – unlike their brothers." Puberty brings an additional challenge. Girls may miss class for a week every month during their period, out of fear of embarrassment – and many drop out entirely. A girl is traditionally considered marriage-ready at 14, and dropout rates soar at that age.
CARE's work to improve educational opportunity starts at the grassroots. Staffers hold community orientations and go door to door in the camp's residential blocks, advising families about the benefits of learning. Teachers live among the refugees, constantly reinforcing those messages. CARE helps adolescent girls stay in school, distributing sanitary napkins and training communities in how to dispose of them safely.
Over time, teachers say, families see the benefits their neighbors reap when daughters become educated, get jobs and help support their parents. Bit by bit, the old attitudes are changing.
Sahara Hussein Abanoor, age 17, has an exceptionally eager face, but her ambition is not unusual among the students here. She loves learning and wants to become a lawyer and help refugees like her family. "My parents see what I'm achieving and they believe that my future life will be better," she says in confident English, beaming beneath a pumpkin-colored hijab that billows in the stiff breeze. "My mother did not go to school because there was no possibility of that in Somalia. Nowadays the world has changed very much. Even my brothers say it's good that girls go to school."
Indeed, some of the most effective advocates for girls' education in Dadaab are men. One of them is Shukri Ali Khalif, a tall, skinny 29-year-old who joined CARE's Gender and Development team in 2007. Previously, he says, he had no idea of the difficulties girls face or why they are more likely to drop out. Today he is an enthusiastic spokesman for their equal access to school. "I facilitate mentoring groups for girls, and encourage them to speak out in class and ask questions, instead of sitting on the back bench and letting boys take the lead."
And how do the boys feel about all this? Shukri – who was himself a refugee boy not so long ago – grins. "They feel great!"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:57AM EST on September 22, 2011
Niki Clark, Dadaab Emergency Media Officer
Fardosa Muse is a much fiercer woman than her small stature implies. As a CARE sexual and gender-based violence officer in the world's largest refugee camp, she has to be. She spends her day listening to other people's nightmares.
Born in Dadaab, Fardosa, 26, grew up in a polygamous family; her father married multiple wives, and had 40 children. A fluent English speaker, Fardosa studied social science in college. Upon returning to her hometown, she came to work for CARE, where she has spent the past two and a half years in the Dadaab refugee camps.
She is passionate about her work and the people she serves. "Can you imagine being gang-raped in the middle of nowhere?" she says, a steady gaze in her eyes. "This is what women and children are experiencing on their journey from Somalia. Violence against women is a profound health problem for women across the globe."
Today she visits Sultana,* a 53-year-old grandmother, who Fardoza met when she first arrived at the camps. She wants to see how Sultana is settling in.
Sultana gestures to her tent for Fardosa to come in. With Fardosa's help, Sultana was fast-tracked through registration so as to get a more permanent shelter than the initial reception process provides. There is a thin mattress on the floor, also given to her by CARE as part of her intake process. Other than a piece of tattered fabric covering her bed, and a thin cover of red dust, the rest of the tent is bare.
Sultana was living in Dadaab when she heard that the husband of her mentally-challenged daughter had been violently killed in Mogadishu. Knowing the struggle her daughter would have raising the children alone, she traveled to Somalia. Once there, she turned back, determined to take the six children to a safer, more stable environment. Midway through her journey, Sultana was raped by seven armed men. When sharing her story with Fardosa, Sultana's eyes squint in pain as her hands gesture how she was gagged and bound. She says that she continued her journey back to Dadaab once the men were done. She had to keep going.
Rape affects survivors in many ways. Because of the severe social stigma here associated with rape, many cases go unreported. Women who are violated are often shunned by their neighbors and families, divorced by their husbands. For unwed women and girls, rape can mean a solitary life with no chance for marriage. There is the risk of HIV infection, too. In Somali communities, Fardosa says, there is no sense of confidentiality. With thin tent walls separating neighbors, it seems the case is the same in Dadaab. So Sultana tells her story in soft whispers. Having others know what happened to her "would be a whole set of other problems."
"It's a challenge just operating in this environment," Fardosa says. "A lot of the shame survivors feel comes from the community. Here, women are ‘the lesser sex.' Only women that are circumcised are considered marriage worthy. Marital rape is a big concern. The work that CARE is doing in Dadaab focuses on providing psychological and social support and rights education, as well as outreach to men and boys so we can start changing what is considered the social norm."
CARE is supporting newly-arrived survivors through counseling and referrals to emergency medical facilities at the reception centers and by providing psychological counseling services in the camps. Weekly sessions are conducted at settlement sites, including education on services available within the camps. To date, CARE reached approximately 8,200 new arrivals with information on violence prevention and where and how to get help. CARE also provides information through "road shows" put on by Community Participatory Education Theatre groups. Unfortunately, reported cases of gender-based violence in the camps have significantly increased since the onset of the crisis, although most violations still remain unreported.
Fardosa's visit with Sultana comes to an end. "I still have horrific nightmares," Sultana tells Fardosa. "But because of counseling provided by CARE, I am healing."
"Rape is not only a violation of the law," Fardosa says as she walks back towards the car. "It's also a violation of humanity."
She is on to her next client. There are many more waiting.
*Identifying characteristics have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:06AM EST on September 22, 2011
September 21, 2011
Mohamed Maalim Gedi sits cross-legged on a floor of dusty red dirt, aimlessly fiddling with his bare, well-traveled toes. His gaze is towards the ground, but his thoughts are obviously elsewhere. He occasionally reaches out to swipe an insistent fly from the face of one of his young children, five boys. The wooden benches, set in a half circle around him, are filled with other weary travelers. They just arrived in Dadaab, a place of both hope and uncertainty. A large bus, smoke still sputtering from its tail pipe, is parked a few yards away. It is the one that transported him from the border, another group of Somali refugees escaping drought and insecurity. There have been more than 132,000 refugees who have come just since January.
Like so many of his fellow refugees, Mohamed is a pastoralist. His entire livelihood depended on his cattle. When the last one died, he decided it was finally time to escape. "I have lived like this for 20 years," Mohamed says, referring to the frequent drought and worsening security in his home country. "Enough is enough."
So, with his wife and mother, he traveled 500 kilometers via foot and donkey cart from his village of Bu'aale, Somalia to the border town of Dif, Kenya. From there, he arranged for a bus to transport his family for the rest of the journey to Dadaab. Because of limited space, he had to leave behind two of his children, his youngest, 2, and his eldest, 14, with cousins. "I hope the bus that just brought us is going back to get them," Mohamed says. "But I can't be sure."
The reception center is the first safe haven after a long and arduous journey for refugees. In the background, one can hear the shrill, high cry of children. But their cries come not from the hunger but vaccinations against polio, measles, diphtheria and pneumonia. Such vaccinations are unheard of luxuries back in Somalia, and are part of the reason Mohamed made the trip here. He hopes his sick children will get the medical attention they need.
Here at the reception center, Mohamed also has access to clean water and a supply of high-energy biscuits. Because of increased efficiencies in registration, Mohamed and his family will now be registered within a three-day time period, down significantly from previous waiting times when the crisis first hit. After he registers, CARE will provide him with a plastic tarpaulin, kitchen set, soap, blankets, plastic mats and jerry cans and an initial food ration to last until the next regular food distribution cycle. As registered refugees, Mohamed's family will be entitled to a tent from UNHCR an a food ration card so they can join the bi-monthly food distribution cycle run by CARE.
On the fence surrounding the area where CARE distributes initial food rations —servings of wheat flour, Corn Soy Blend (CSB), vegetable oil, corn meal, beans, salt and sugar — hangs a sign in English and Somali. It states: "Services from Agencies are Free; Help Stop Sexual Exploitation and Abuse." CARE and other agencies that work here are continuously working to ensure refugees are aware of services and where to access them. A CARE counselor stands next to the area where new arrivals gather their high energy biscuits. "How was your journey?" she asks a fatigued family of five. She's looking to identify vulnerable populations, such as survivors of gender-based violence, widows, lactating mothers and the ill. She's help "fast-track" them so they can get to immediate help, including medical services and counseling.
As he waits to be called, Mohamed sits with uncertainty weighing on his mind. He has no relatives or friends in the camps, and is unsure of what to expect. "There is a fear of the unknown," he says. "Will I have a place to sleep tonight? Will my children get food and medicine?"
In spite of these reservations, Mohamed says he remains optimistic. "I am hopeful. Hopeful that I will get help for the first time. That, finally, we will have some relief."
He pauses for a few minutes, lost in his thoughts. "A larger question lingers, though," he finally admits. His question is one that countless others have asked, continue to wonder, even after the physical part of their journey is complete. "What's next?"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on September 22, 2011
Everyone knows that water is necessary to sustain human life. People have survived for weeks, even months, without food, yet even a day without water causes the human body to suffer. Even with its critical importance, water isn't typically something that gets most people excited. That is, unless you're talking to any of the CARE staff working on water and sanitation (WASH) in Kenya at the Dadaab refugee camps. Just hold a 10 minute conversation and you'll understand how easy finding a passion for the subject can be.
As the main implementing partner for water production and distribution in Dadaab's three camps and two outlying areas, CARE pumps and distributes approximately 7.5 million liters of water a day, enough to provide all residents with 15 liters of water a day. With almost 500,000 refugees in and around the camps, providing water for the entire population remains a daunting task and extending services to keep up with demand is a constant challenge.
"Dadaab is the third largest city in Kenya," says Timothy Mwangi who helps with CARE's water management. "The coordination and logistics involved in making sure that many people have enough to drink would be difficult in a normal setting. But within the context of a refugee camp, it is even more of a challenge."
CARE is meeting that challenge through a combination of boreholes and water tanks. Currently, CARE maintains 20 boreholes and over 172 kilometers of pipes throughout the camps. These boreholes tap into the reserve of groundwater that sits below Dadaab's surface. In addition, CARE provides potable water through trucking services and water tanks. Each influx area has between one and three tanks, each serving 2,500 people. CARE also is increasing the number of water points and tap stands in the influx areas and extending water pipes from the existing camp systems.
Resources are tight. Amina Akdi Hassa is the chair of the Dagahaley camp. She serves as a refugee representative and is consulted when decisions regarding Dagahaley services are made. She has lived in Dadaab for nearly 20 years. "Share our problems," she tells visitors.
One of those problems is storage. While CARE distributes jerry cans to all new arrivals, there often are not enough to transport and store all the water needed. The task of collecting water is time consuming, and often keeps those charged with less time to collect firewood and cook, for example. Community mobilizers employed by CARE spend their days talking with residents like Amina to assess the problems and offer solutions.
In addition to our water production and distribution work, CARE manages all hygiene and sanitation promotion programs in the three main camps — Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley — including each camp's influx areas, markets, schools and water points. Refugee "incentive" workers raise awareness around various hygiene issues, including reducing the spread of waterborne diseases through handwashing. These workers go door to door, demonstrating safe hygiene practices and distributing soap.
To the outside world, it may not seem like the most glamorous of jobs, but the response of the refugees is quite different. When CARE's Public Health Promotion Officer Raphael Muli visits the influx area of Dagahaley, he is immediately surrounded by residents of all ages. Young children crowd, raising their hands, anxious to volunteer for the handwashing demonstration. Raphael flips through a "how-to" picture book walking the children through each step. Then, he hands out bars of soaps, reminding refugees that handwashing is a simple way to reduce the risk of disease. In fact, some studies show that this simple act can decrease diarrheal disease by up to 47 percent in a community. All day long Raphael will repeat this drill, one person in a CARE team of public health officers and community mobilizers. He is greeted enthusiastically everywhere he goes.
Raphael and his colleagues have reached nearly 31,500 refugees living in the influx areas with their public health promotion messaging this year alone. Their goal is to reach 60,000 by the end of the year. With each demonstration and each conversation he holds, his message about the important of water and good hygience becomes clearer to everyone.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:58PM EST on September 19, 2011
By Yohannes Jarso, Emergency Program Manager, CARE Ethiopia, Borana Field Office
The Borana region of Ethiopia is known for its deep traditional wells that are the main water source for livestock and household consumption in the dry season and in times of drought. These wells are known as the "singing wells" -- because when people fetch water they form a long line up a ladder and sing as the water container is passed from one person to another, until it reaches the last person waiting above ground. The traditional wells have kept the people and livestock safe for generations – until this current drought, when they stopped giving water. "There was never a drought like this one that made the traditional singing wells of Borana run dry. Never in history," said an elderly man from the community, with an expression of disbelief.
Due to the greater number of deaths of livestock recently, and migration of the remaining animals, it was normal to expect that there would at least be less pressure on the wells now, as they would serve only for human consumption. But their natural capacity to produce water has dropped precipitously, making the situation increasingly dire.
Previously both animals and humans took water from the same source – but in the recent past CARE, through our Resilience Enhancement Against Drought in Ethiopia (READ) project, rehabilitated these 12- to 15-meter-deep traditional wells for better and more hygienic accessibility and quality of water during dry seasons and droughts. But even these improvements cannot make the wells give water when nature does not cooperate.
Currently, rationing is in place in five woredas (districts) at water points served by different NGOs. CARE has continued rehabilitating water points and providing water purification solution.
After the great number of deaths of livestock, the lifeblood of Borana pastoralists, it has become normal to hear people saying, "We have stopped thinking about our animals now. We are worried only about lives." Cereals are in short supply in markets, and prices are out of reach for many. Malnutrition for nursing mothers and children under 5 is another serious issue that is getting worse day by day.
More and more cattle can be seen for sale at the market, but their selling price is lower than ever and few buyers can afford them. The rate of deaths has been slowing lately, but as rains fail and drought conditions persist, the situation is again deteriorating – precious herds are dying.
CARE is actively involved in preventing the loss of livestock, by providing feed and helping herders manage their herd size, culling animals while they still have some value for meat, rather than letting them starve. We are also providing supplementary feeding for malnourished children in three woredas and scaling up to reach two more, as the number of new cases soars.
The songs may not come back to the wells anytime soon, but CARE is determined to bring a note of optimism to the herders of Borana in these difficult times.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:34AM EST on September 19, 2011
by Niki Clark
Adulkadir Adbullahi Muya—known by his colleagues simply as Muya—is in a hurry. He hardly has time for a handshake greeting before he is off, his long stride forcing the occasional sprint in attempts to keep up.
Muya is, as he describes it, is "on the job. Every day, every day, I'm on the job." As a refugee "incentive" worker—one of the nearly 2,200 CARE employs here at the Dadaab refugee camp—Muya has been working as a paracounselor for a little over a month. His job is to visit refugee clients in his community and direct them to services, offer a listening ear. With 1,400 refugees arriving every day, there are plenty of people that need to be heard. He is on his way to the Dagahaley influx drop-in center. It serves as a satellite office where new arrivals who have experienced trauma, loss, or sexual or gender-based violence can visit with CARE counselors.
Muya is a paracounselor with CARE in the Dagahaley camp of Dadaab Refugee camp. He identifies people in his community who have experience trauma, loss or violence and handles initial consultations.
Paracounselors like Muya are specially trained, identifying the violated and vulnerable within the community and handling initial consultations. He walks this route several times a day, going back and forth between the CARE Counseling office and the drop-in center.
Right now he is headed to meet a new client, someone a CARE community mobilizer told him about. A bus was hijacked on the journey from Somalia to Dadaab. Women were raped; people were burned. The details are fuzzy but he knows it's serious. His pace quickens, his fingers furiously texting, always working, even as he walks. He briefly turns, "Dagahaley is growing and growing," outstretched arms for emphasis. Indeed, it is. The population of Dadaab has more than doubled in just three years.
We rush past Unity, a primary school CARE runs in Dagahaley, the sing-song chorus of children echoing from the classrooms. Past a lone donkey, munching his way through a burned refuse pile, searching for anything edible. Through shouts of "How are you?," a charming acknowledgement by refugee children of Muya's obviously English-speaking companion. By mud bricks in a yard, past a naked toddler beating an empty jerry liter, applauding himself for the rat-a-tat noise his impromptu drum makes.
A resident of Dadaab since 1991, Muya went back to Somalia in 1997 and after nearly a decade, returned once again, this time bringing his mother. He works with an unceasing determination, often working through lunch breaks in order to squeeze in just one more visit. The pride he holds in serving his neighbors in this way is evident; it comes through in his stance, the way he speaks of his "clients." The sweat beads that form on his brow in this ungodly heat remind me of a musician, just finished with a high-energy performance. It's an accurate impression. In many ways, Muya is a rock star.
On the way to the drop-in center, Muya walks past the home of one of his current clients. A quick change of plans and Muya walks in the yard, greetings all around. An elderly refugee woman sits on a mat outside her mud hut. I smile softly in her direction but notice her blank eyes, she is blind. A lump grows in her neck glands; multiple hospital visits have answered none of her questions. Muya asks how she's doing, is she in pain, does she need him to make any calls?
"Sometimes I just stop by to say hello," Muya says about his visits. One man he stops to see has a cancerous tumor that is enveloping the back of his head, creating constant pain. His only option is chemotherapy, which he can't afford. But Muya stops by every day, every two days. "I don't want him to lose hope. Maybe one of these days, if I keep referring him to different doctors, reaching out to different people, then maybe someone can intervene and help him. Until then, I'll keep listening, searching for help. I want him to know he hasn't been forgotten."
As he speaks, another woman walks up, complaining of constant headaches and vision problems. Can he help her? She heard he could. "New clients," Muya says with a smile. "Every day, you get a new client." He jots down her information and refers her to the medical center before he is off again. Muya has his fill of new clients today. He is stopped no less than six times on his way to the drop-in center.
One is a woman who has lived with her condition for six years, four of them in Dadaab. She, too, spends her days sitting outside on a woven mat, not walking except to the latrine, which is fortunately just a couple of feet away. Her arms and legs are thin like twigs, breakable, yet her abdomen is swollen like the belly of a mother on the brink of birth. But this woman isn't pregnant, her eldest is eight. And no one can seem to tell her what's wrong. She asks Muya to photograph her; that maybe he can show the picture to another doctor, one she hasn't seen before, and this one could help. Muya promises to follow up and then heads out.
There are more people to see.
Because the sun is fading, and the drop-in center is still far, Muya calls the daughter of the woman he originally set out to see and asks if he can meet her at the block instead. It is in fact, right next to Muya's block in Dagahaley, so he knows exactly where to go.
Muya with the some of the refugees (including a client, bottom left) with whom he interacts with regularly, not only as a paracounselor for CARE, but as their neighbor and fellow refugee.
The woman's family surrounds her as he makes his way to her house. She lifts her dress, revealing a painful and hideous wound, where the men covered her with paraffin and firewood and set her on fire. It was her punishment for resisting rape. After her bus was hijacked, women were brought into a nearby forest and raped. When she fought back, she was burned. The hijackers stole the bus, and so the woman had to be carried by the other refugees to Dadaab. Luckily—if you could call anything in Dadaab that—her daughter was here and had a mud house to offer. She visited the hospital with her husband, who could just watch as she was attacked, but they couldn't afford the recommended procedure so they returned back to her daughter's home with just pain pills and topical cream. That was two weeks ago. Yesterday, CARE had met with the men on the bus, today the women survivors. They needed to talk through the horror they had witness.
"I still feel the pain," she said, "Like my skin is on fire." When Muya asks her about her other pain, the pain that's will remain after her leg heal, she tells him, "I've accepted what has happened to me. What is disturbing me is my wound, my physical pain. If I can get treatment, and I can't see the scar, I will be able to forget about it."
In a world where violence, loss and death are an everyday norm, this may be true. But Muya will not forget. He gets her details; promising CARE counselors will follow up and ensure that the woman receives both the physical and psychological care she desperately needs. She is not alone, she will not be forgotten.
Muya and the woman part ways, nightfall is approaching quickly and he wants to get in one more visit. He shouts his goodbyes from over his shoulder; like always, he is in a hurry.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:58PM EST on September 14, 2011
by Niki Clark, CARE Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
One of my "duties" as an emergency media officer here in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, is to share my perspective of CARE's work and beneficiaries through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. And being the dutiful employee I am, I often Twitter-follow recent Dadaab visitors so that I can in turn share their perspectives of the camps.
One such recent visitor was Somalian-born, Canadian-raised singer K'naan. Although K'naan found worldwide fame only recently through his 2010 FIFA World Cup theme-song Wavin' Flag, he has been amassing fans for more than 10 years, when a spoken word performance before the United Nations High Commission on Refugees caught the ear of famed Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour (another recent Dadaab visitor). After K'naan visited Dadaab with a World Food Programme-CARE joint delegation, which included friends of CARE Cindy McCain and retired NBA superstar Dikembe Mutombo, @Knaan became my latest Twitter-follow.
For the past week or so, I have been struggling with the two very different Dadaabs I have experienced. Then, yesterday, I read a tweet that perfectly captured what I have been trying to express:
"Somalia is overflowing with beauty." @knaan reflects on his Somalia, not necessarily the one you see on the nightly news.
In midst of the strife and turmoil, hidden between the heartache and uncertainty, and tucked away behind the dire poverty and desperation of a homeless people, the people of Somalia – the refugees of Dadaabb – are an overflowing vessel of beauty. Because the unexpected truth is: there is beauty everywhere, even in the world's largest refugee camp, where I see:
When I was an art student in college, I did a photography project on raw beauty – the beauty of accomplishment, the beauty of the everyday, of the unintentional. I have seen incredible poverty in Dadaab, things that people should never see, things that should never exist. Back in my Washington, D.C., office, I have CARE's vision tacked to my cubicle walls:
We seek a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security. CARE International will be a global force and a partner of choice within a worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty. We will be known everywhere for our unshakable commitment to the dignity of people.
It's a constant reminder for me of the essence of CARE's purpose: Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty. Because dignity is beautiful. People who are able to control their own destinies and raise themselves above the situations into which they are born: this is true beauty. And it's all over Dadaab.
As a native of Somalia, K'naan is able to see something that most people in the world will never see: the beauty of Somalia and its people. Dadaab may never make Travel & Leisure's "Top 10 Most Beautiful Places' but the people of Somalia – who are the refugees of Dadaab – are some of the most beautiful people in the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:40PM EST on September 14, 2011
by Rick Perera, CARE Communications Coordinator, Horn of Africa
Janet Ndoti Ndila is a tough lady with a tender heart. She's the lead counselor at CARE's drop-in support center at the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Here she offers a trained ear, and a map through the maze of camp bureaucracy, to people who have suffered some of the most horrific things imaginable in their flight from hunger and despair.
Janet and her colleagues are the first resort for thousands of weary, dejected Somalis pouring out of their famine-stricken homeland into this complex of camps, the largest of its kind in the world, now sheltering nearly 430,000 people. She doesn't let the experience dampen her upbeat, take-charge personality. But there are days when it can get overwhelming.
"I've worked in worse places – places where there's immediate, ongoing bloodshed. That's not the case here, but the things people have lived through…" Her voice trails off.
Providing Physical and Emotional Rest
Janet leads the way to CARE's distribution center for new arrivals, a large tent where refugees collect initial rations to tide them over until they are registered as camp residents. An efficient operation whisks them through as they collect plastic mats, jerry cans, cornmeal, beans, salt, oil and other essentials. Nearby, a set of taps offers plenty of safe water for washing and drinking.
More than physical hunger and thirst are looked after. Janet and her staff usher in group after group of tired, bewildered families and sit them down on rough-hewn benches in the shade of a canvas tent. Janet – a native of Kangalu in eastern Kenya – speaks to them reassuringly through a Somali interpreter. Here they get their first orientation to Dadaab: how to negotiate the labyrinth of services available, register for food distributions and shelter, and gain access to medical care for the weak, the malnourished, the sick and those injured during the harsh journey.
There are wounds to the spirit, too, and these are Janet's most important responsibility. Most of the refugees have seen and experienced terrible things before arriving here. Not just the suffering of poverty, hunger and warfare back in Somalia, but the trauma of being uprooted from home and family, and the loss of loved ones: the elderly, frail and children who did not survive the trip. Many fell prey to bandits along the way, robbed of everything when they were at their most vulnerable. And in every group of new arrivals there are women bearing terrible secrets, of brutal violence and rape suffered in the lawless wilds they were forced to cross in search of safety.
Refugees Counseling Refugees
CARE's paracounselors are a team of 18, as energetic and outspoken as their boss. They are all refugees themselves, recruited in the camps by CARE and specially trained to handle initial consultations. They are familiar, compassionate faces, fellow Somalis who understand what their compatriots have been through. The paracounselors quickly identify survivors of sexual violence and other particularly vulnerable people, "fast-track" them for special assistance including food and essential household items, and refer them if needed for medical attention. Women who are in immediate danger from domestic violence can take shelter in a community-based "safe haven" until they have somewhere safe to go.
Nearly 4,700 refugees have come to CARE for counseling and support in just over three months – 1,111 during the week of Aug. 28-Sept. 3 alone. The women who seek Janet's help have suffered more in a few weeks than anyone should bear in a lifetime.
Responding to the Different Needs of Men and Women
Today Janet met a client, who arrived two months ago and set up housekeeping on the outskirts of Dahagaley camp, in a crude hut made of cardboard boxes on a frame of bundled sticks. Before leaving Somalia, as her family's meager farm shriveled to nothing, the woman watched two of her three children die of hunger and disease. Crossing the desert on foot, she was robbed of everything – even her precious supply of water – then gang-raped. It is a horrifying story, but the woman speaks with a steady tone. She wants to give voice to the terror, to speak out on behalf of those who must remain silent in fear.
Men, too, suffer their own nightmares. Initially many stayed behind in Somalia to watch over homesteads and herds. But as famine continues to spread, crops have been decimated. When their last cattle starve, men are forced to make the trek to Dadaab in search of help. For those from proud, ancient pastoralist traditions, who measure wealth in terms of how many cattle a person owns, the loss of a sense of identity is devastating.
"Not quite as many men come as women, for cultural reasons, but they do come," said Sharif Ahmed Abdulahi, a CARE paracounselor trained in community development, life skills and counseling. He and his colleagues are careful to respect tradition and work in harmony with community norms. "Sometimes people ask me to tell them what to do. I say: I can counsel you, but I can't advise you. If you want advice, you should go to an elder."
Janet is busy recruiting additional staff to reach more people in need. She wants to hire and train more female counselors – just under half of the current refugee workers are women – but it's hard to find candidates who are literate, and many young girls are married off at age 14 or so.
But Janet is not someone who gives up easily. She thrives on challenge, and finds this work incredibly rewarding. One thing is clear: she's not going anywhere soon. "I plan to stay as long as I still like it. It will be a few years."
CARE staff Janet Ndoti Ndila works as a counselor in CARE's gender and community development project.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:58PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
When I told my family and friends that I was leaving for six weeks to work with CARE on temporary assignment in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, I was immediately bombarded with Facebook messages, e-mails and calls along the lines of "I'm so proud of you. You're going to save the world!" and "You're making such a difference!"
To be honest, besides being a bit exaggerated, it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Now, don't get me wrong, I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate the good wishes and thoughts of my loved ones. Their support has allowed me to take this journey. But nothing — absolutely nothing — compares with the dedication and passion of CARE's employees in the field. And to even be put in the same category as these colleagues seems more than a bit ludicrous.
This past weekend, for example, I took part in my first real Dadaab celebration —complete with grilled goat (a rather tasty treat, if you're curious) — a send off for long-time CARE employee, Julius. Julius is leaving Dadaab for a new CARE post in Nairobi after nearly 19 years in Dadaab. Nineteen years! That's the equivalent of 133 years in a normal career, as I'm convinced Dadaab years should be counted like dog years. He joined CARE when the refugee population in the camps was around 35,000. Today, nearly 400,000 additional people have been added to that number.
For 19 years he has lived here away from his family. He most likely has shared a room and used a communal bathroom and shower. Because space is at a premium, when a staff member goes on leave, people exchange rooms, some moving every few weeks. There are no hanging photographs, no personal mementos. In many ways, the staff is unsettled as the new arrivals. They are nomads without a home. They work for hours on end in the unforgiveable combination of heat and dust.
I am here for six weeks, and even in that relatively brief time, I have succumbed to heartache and homesickness. I assumed that unlike me, the devoted staff in Dadaab must have solitary lives, free of the commitment of relationships. Until I met Maureen, a new coworker who casually mentioned her three-year-old son and husband back in Nairobi. Or another colleague who mentioned how he was planning some quality time with his wife during his next break. CARE staff work eight weeks on, two weeks off. Because of limited resources, sometimes even those brief breaks get shortened. But I have yet to hear a complaint. I have yet to see a frown. There is a Jewish proverb that says, "I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders." CARE staff in Dadaab are star athletes in that regard.
In addition to the tough environment in which they work, the actual work they carry out is difficult. Imagine feeding 427,000 people. Getting clean water to them. Educating them. Training them. These jobs are difficult no matter the circumstances – but in these conditions, accomplishment is an amazing feat. Many that have made the long trek from Somalia have experienced personal violence or loss, each tale of tragedy and horror more unfathomable than the one before. CARE's sexual and gender-based violence officers have the colossal task of helping the survivors heal, start their lives anew. Day after day after day.
I asked a colleague why staff that work so hard, so tirelessly. And why are the people that CARE serves, people who have been through the most of trying of times, always smiling? Why despite everything that surrounds them, do they always greet me with a handshake, with a sense of joy? He answered, "Because we are Africans. We have been through so much and we survive. We have hope now."
No individual is saving the world. But here among CARE's dedicated staff, I have met a lot of people who are doing their part.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:38PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
I’ve been in Dadaab for nearly two weeks now. I have seen mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. They have been old and weak, young and weak, their faces lined with struggle. I have seen the faces of children who have eaten their first meal in weeks and the resulting transformation back to childhood, full of giggles and smiles and impromptu games of tag. When people think of Dadaab – now with its three camps considered the third largest city in Kenya – they think crisis. They think emergency. Humanitarian efforts and funding tend to focus on the immediate, looking ahead no more than a year. As soon as another emergency hits, the spotlight will move on. But, as they have for the past 20 years, the refugees of Dadaab will remain.
This thought particularly struck me during a visit to the reception center, the first place where refugees find help after a long and arduous journey. Here they receive medical assistance, and aid workers identify the most vulnerable for immediate attention. A chorus of wails echoes from the vaccination room: the occasional child slipping from the grips of the nurse, running to the dirt yard in tears. Each family collects a 21-day ration of food and supplies (cooking pots, mats, a tarp, soap, jerry cans) to tide them over until they can register.
Today, I see a young mother waiting for her high energy B-5 biscuits, a box of which is given out to new arrivals. Tucked under her garbasaar – a traditional shawl – a set of tiny toes poked out into the sunlight. I approached her gently, and she pulled back her wrap so I could see his miniature features. He is 10 days old, she tells me with a smile. She gave birth to him halfway through her journey to Dadaab. Most likely, I thought to myself, he will become part of the second generation that has spent their entire lives within this camp.
CARE has worked in Dadaab since 1991. Refugees who were educated as children here are now teaching refugee children themselves. That’s why the long-term investment that CARE is making here is so critical. It’s not just an investment in immediate needs, although we’re doing that, too. On an average day of food distribution, CARE passes out 389 metric tons of food to 45,000 people. And every single day, CARE pumps and distributes approximately 7.5 million liters of water, enough to provide more than 446,000 people with 15 liters of water every day.
But we’re also working toward long-term solutions. We’re investing in people. In Dadaab there is a thriving economy – butchers and bakers and, yes, probably candlestick makers. They own restaurants and bookstores and barber shops. People are being trained by CARE in trades from dressmaking and tailoring to computer technology. CARE directly employs 1,600 refugees, who serve as counselors, food distributors, chefs, teachers and drivers. They grow up in Dadaab, are educated in Dadaab and work in Dadaab.
After the “emergency” has passed, hundreds of thousands of people will remain here in the refugee camps. As my colleague told me today, they need more than food, water and shelter. They need a future. CARE is committed to helping them prepare for tomorrow, whether they continue to build their lives here, or one day, return home to start anew.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:14PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
The drive to the Galbet Farm in Garissa, Kenya, looks strikingly similar to the land around Dadaab, site of the world’s largest complex of refugee camps. It is dry and barren. The bush remains brown and leafless after months upon months without rain. It seems like an unlikely environment for a farm – one that will thrive, anyway.
But thrive is exactly what the farmers at Galbet Farm are doing. While the drought is killing the livestock and destroying people’s livelihoods in neighboring regions, this one small patch of land in Garissa is literally an oasis in the desert. It’s not just through happenstance. The people of Garissa knew a drought was coming so, with CARE’s help, they prepared.
For the past two and a half years, CARE’s Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Project Consortium (ARC) has worked to promote drought-resilience in the Garissa, Moyale, Wajir and Mandera districts. The three-year project reaches more than 85,000 people, in a region where the drought is affecting half of the population – some 2.4 million people. In a region where 80 percent of the population is dependent on livestock, the death of animals is devastating.
CARE’s objective in launching the project in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 drought was to help vulnerable rural people gain sustained access to food and become more resilient in the face of future crises.
Maka Kassim is one of those people. As a pastoralist, she and her family followed their livestock wherever pastureland and water could be found. After a severe drought five years ago, her herd died and she was left with nothing. “I decided I needed to plan so I could provide for my family – so we could get our daily bread.” she says.
Today, Maka is flourishing. CARE taught her how to farm and diversify her crops to protect against disaster. As part of the Galbet Farm cooperative, she and the other farmers grow fodder grass, bananas, tomatoes and mangos. In addition to providing enough food for her family, including her six children, the farm has been so successful that she is able to supplement her income by selling extra produce at the market.
CARE also is helping improve water canals. Previously, farmers collected water from the Tana River, a time-consuming and dangerous task considering the river’s high population of crocodiles. The old canal cut through loose soil and experienced frequent breakages and high seepage that resulted in a large loss of water. Now, an abundant supply of water comes to the community to irrigate the land and provide fresh drinking water at tap stands.
Galbet Farm is just one of several ARC projects. CARE’s work through the project includes teaching beekeeping, fodder production, milk marketing and basic veterinary skills. We’ve also helped foster a relationship between First Community Bank and the Kenya Meat Commission. Farmers now purchase weakened cattle from drought-stricken districts, bring them back to the farm to fatten them up and then sell them for a profit.
“We want to serve as role models,” Maka says. “Because of CARE’s assistance, I am able to feed my family. I am able to educate my children. I am able to plan for my future.”
Posted by: clarence Tengbeh at 12:43PM EST on September 1, 2011
I am a social entrepreneur in the Republic of Liberia involved in the training of rural people with advanced beekeeping knowledge for the production of honey for sale on the local or foreign markets to create generation for target group thru Beekeepers Liberia, a Local NGO.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:49AM EST on September 1, 2011
Niki Clark, CARE Emergency Media Relations Officer
Here I sit, 7,500 miles away from home. I’m a week in. Over the course of just a few days, my life has completely changed. On a Monday I reported to work at CARE’s Washington, D.C. office. By Thursday I was on a plane bound for Nairobi where my final destination would be Dadaab Refugee Camp, the world’s largest. I will spend the next six weeks here as CARE’s emergency media officer. It is a position that both thrills and terrifies me. As an employee of one of the most prominent global humanitarian agencies, there is always an excitement that surrounds “going to the field.” But this is different.
Unlike my colleagues who have preceded me in this position, and most likely the ones that will follow, I have not been in a humanitarian emergency crisis situation before. I haven’t seen the devastation of a Haiti or a Pakistan. The closest I’ve come was the fall of 2005, when my grandmother came and lived with us after Hurricane Katrina. Her Biloxi home had been destroyed. But even then, I witnessed the situation only through my constant refreshing of CNN.com, and through my grandmother’s stories, not firsthand. And Dadaab is unlike other emergency situations. It is established. There are second generation refugees that have grown up in the camps. I’m not quite sure what to expect. Or how what I experience, the people I meet, will forever impact me.
CARE has worked in Dadaab since 1991, as the main implementing partner for the distribution of food and water and as well as a lead provider of education and psychosocial support and rights education for sexual and gender-based violence survivors. We’ve been here for decades. But with the recent declaration of famine in five regions of southern Somalia, coupled with ongoing conflict and instability, a surge of new arrivals have flocked to the camp, and a global spotlight has been shone on the region, particularly on Dadaab. Dadaab’s population stood at 423,361 as of August 28th. Every single day, it grows by 1,200.
As we landed—my colleague Michael Adams, the Senior Sector Manager for the Refugee Assistance Program in Dadaab, and I flew in on a small UNHCR humanitarian aid plane—the pilot circled around towards the gravel airstrip. A bird’s eye view of Dadaab and its three main camps became visible below me. It was a breathtaking site, a massive settlement that’s now effectively Kenya’s third largest city. It’s hard to fathom until you’ve seen it. And even then, when it’s right in front of you, and you’re face to face with women and children and families that have traveled 80 kilometers or more to get here, there’s still something surreal about it all. Something that makes putting it into words seem a sort of insurmountable task.
But that’s what I’m here to do. To share the lives of the people I meet, people up against incredible odds, some who have thrived and some who are struggling to survive. To share the stories of the unwaveringly committed CARE staff whose dedication to the people they serve is first and foremost. To share the successes of CARE’s programming, and its far reaching impact. I’m not sure if I’m up to the challenge; if I can accurately portray the scale and struggles or the unexpected hopes and triumphs. But I do know one thing. I’m going to do my best. There are too many lives at stake not to.
For updates on my experience and CARE’s work in Dadaab, follow me at @nclarkCARE. I can also be reached at email@example.com
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: 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: Daniel Fava at 10:57AM EST on July 26, 2011
Sandra Bulling, CI Communications Officer
In Borena in southern Ethiopia the last two rainy seasons have brought no water. The drought took one third of all livestock, leaving families without income.
Little Salad is sleeping soundly. Gamu Kamad, his mother, is very relieved. Just a few days ago, the 11-months old could do nothing but vomit. He could not crawl, he did not play; he was just too weak. In the past weeks, Gamud feed him only water – she had no money to buy milk. Most of her cattle died. In the Borena zone, in southern Ethiopia, the last two rainy seasons did not bring any water and a worrying drought has gripped the region. In the Moyale district, the land is brown and dusty. Bushes and trees have lost their last leaves, their trunks and branches reach naked into the air. A little green is left on thorny shrubberies and acacia trees, both either too dangerous or too high for cattle to reach.
Gamud and Salad have found help in a health center in the town of Moyale, run by the local government. Salad was weighed and screened. His diagnose: severe acute malnutrition. He was brought to the stabilization center, where he now receives therapeutic supplementary food, provided by CARE Ethiopia, until his condition improves and he reaches a normal weight for a boy of his age. His mother stays with him and receives food as well. “I was very worried about Salad,” she explains. “We came here four days ago, but now Salad’s condition is already much better.” She looks at the tiny bundle lying next to her, still sleeping calmly. “Before I brought him here, he could not open his eyes any more. He threw up the water I gave him. But now he gets stronger every day.”
The health centers in the Moyale district have experienced a rise in malnutrition cases for children under five years. Almost 500 severely malnourished children were admitted from January to June. In 2010, this was the rate for the entire year. In the Borena culture, children are given the most food. They eat first, followed by the father and then the mother. Parents give their children the little food they have, but now they have no groceries left and no money to buy some.
Livestock is life
Gamud has lost 36 of her 51 cattle to the drought. The residual cattle are too emaciated to give milk or to sell on the market. Her husband is trying to save the lives of the remaining ones by taking them to areas where pasture is still available. Some people migrate as far as 400 kilometers in search of water and pasture, putting pressure on the remaining grazing grounds. CARE, in close collaboration with the local government, opened 21 slaughter destocking sites to recover some value from emaciated and unproductive animals that would otherwise die and to prevent conflict that might arise from competition around scarce pasture grounds.
The smell of slaughtered meat hangs in the air. The bones of cattle are thrown into a square, deep pit. Bloods seeps away into the brown ground, leaving dark red streams on the earth. Hasalo Duba has come with two cows to the slaughter destocking site in Dima village. “Before the drought I had ten cattle. Six died already and I brought two here today. I have only two left now; only one of them gives milk,” the 25-years old mother of six children says. She will receive 800 Birr (47 USD) per cattle which allows her to buy staple foods on the market. She will also get some hay and supplementary animal feed to save the life of her remaining two cattle. “Eight vulnerable families will receive the meat of the slaughtered cattle,” Mandefro Mekete explains. “The slaughtering takes place with technical assistance from official meat inspectors, who ensure that the meat is safe for consumption.” However, there is not much meat left on the bones of the barren cattle waiting in front of the slaughtering pit.
No rains expected to come soon
The next rainy season is supposed to arrive in September or October. Until then, many pastoralists predict most if not all of their remaining cattle will starve. Some elderly already fear that the Hagaya rains, as the autumn rainy season is called, will fail as well. Kofobicha is 55 years old and has lived through several times of hardship. But the drought has never been as bad. “We don’t expect the next rainy season to come. Even if the Hagaya rains come, no cattle will be left by September,” he forebodes. “But we don’t care about our livestock any more. All that counts now is to save human live. We have accepted that we need to fast, but who saves our children?”
Salad from Moyale town was lucky, he has been saved. Life has returned to him, thanks to CARE’s and the government’s interventions. But many more children and their parents will need assistance in the coming months. They need urgent humanitarian support, but they need also a long-term strategy to become more resilient to the impacts of drought. So Salad’s mother is able to buy him food when the next drought hits.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:41AM EST on July 26, 2011
CARE Ethiopia staff
Dama Godona lives in a place of great contrast: even though the grass in Dire, Borena in southern Ethiopia looks green it is the harbinger of a severe drought. Consecutive failed rains did not provide enough water to yield sufficient pasture growth, which is important to sustain the cattle of the region’s pastoralists. Dama lost seven out of her 17 cattle and used all of her savings to purchase animal feed and water for her livestock. She plans to sell six of her remaining cattle in order to buy more cereals, animal feed, and water.
Over the past weeks Dire woreda (the Ethiopian equivalent of a district) has received some rain. But it is missing the heavy rain needed of bringing new plant or crop growth to the area. The people of Borena are pastoralists and dependent on their cattle, goats, sheep and camels. Due to the drought, many cattle have died leaving people without assets - and prone to food insecurity.What people need most
In order to assess of the impact of the current drought on men, women, boys and girls in this area, CARE Ethiopia conducted focus group discussions with several community members with the purpose of learning how to best address people’s needs. In a sea of colorful dresses, diaphanous patterned head wraps, and brightly colored beads, the 43-year old Dama stood out from the rest of the group.
One can tell by the way she carries herself, that she exudes confidence but that she has also experienced hardship in her life. Her husband died in a car accident and since then she has to take care for her four children alone. During the discussion, Dama took the lead in the group, speaking out on behalf of her community and clearly outlining what they need most now in order to adapt to the drought conditions. When asked what the three most important needs are for people within her community Dama stated that she needs food for her family, animal feed and increased access to water, but also support for Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).
Through CARE’s Regional Reliance Enhancement Against Drought (RREAD) project she was able to contract two loans of 2,000 Birr (about 118 USD) each through a VSLA over the last four years. Upon receiving the loans, she bought emaciated cattle at a low price, fattened them and sold them with profit. With this profit she was able to open a small road side shop. Since opening the shop, she has paid off the loan with interest and is now the head of the very association which helped her increase her income, protect her assets and care for her family. Dama’s position as a pastoralist and a merchant makes her quite unique in this region.Diversifying is key
Dama clearly sees the advantage to diversify their livelihoods and urges other community members to follow her example. “It is important to diversify ones livelihood in order be less affected by droughts,” the 43-year old says. In her eyes, diversification leads to decreased risks and increase in opportunities. While Dama is affected by the current drought, she is in a rare position to use her second source of income as a merchant to maintain her cattle over time and to take care of her family. Dama proudly states, “I am not dependent on cattle because I am a merchant.”
Dama shows that prevention is key to help individuals in times of drought. She demonstrates how increasing an individual’s ability to diversify their livelihoods can spur entrepreneurship, create employment, generate income and ultimately empower an individual. Additionally, it also shows that when Village Savings and Loan Associations are used correctly they can help people provide for their families and can also reduce vulnerabilities associated with drought. Hopefully, Dama’s example will not be so unique in the near future.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:10AM EST on July 26, 2011
By Linda Ogwell
Dama Godana knows all too well how difficult the life of a pastoralist woman is. In addition to the usual daily household chores of cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children, she has to walk long distances to fetch water and pasture for the small and weak animals during the dry season.
“Sometimes we have to move to inaccessible areas to look for pasture facing the risk of snakes, injuries and exposure to the harsh rays of the sun,” explains 40-year-old Godana.
When Godana heard what women in other non pastoralists communities around Ethiopia were doing to help themselves, she visited them and with the knowledge she gained she founded the Darara Women’s Savings and Credit Group in 2007. “Most pastoralist women depend on handouts from their husbands. They are not empowered,” says Godana. “I formed this credit group, so that we can work together make some income and improve our lives.”
The group started with a membership of 15 women each paying 60 Birr (about US$ 6) as a registration fee and a monthly contribution of 10 birr (US$ 1) per month. “With this money we invested in two young bulls and during the dry season we bought concentrated animal feed and sold it to the community members,” explains Godana. The group made a profit of 2000 birr (US$ 200).
During the dry season, the group sold scarce cereals like maize, beans and sugar to the community members and to date their membership has increased to 23 with a total budget of 8459 Birr (US$ 845) plus 4 bulls. Haymaking
CARE International in Ethiopia, under the Resilience Enhancement against Drought (RREAD) project, realized the difficulty these women faced in seeking pasture for their animals and trained them on haymaking. “Training the women’s group in haymaking was not only meant to lessen their burden but also to make pasture available for the small and weak animals during the dry and drought season, thus increasing their chances of survival,” says Temesgen Tesfaye, CARE project officer in Ethiopia. For the Darara women’s group haymaking has become second nature. Immediately after the rains stop they cut hay and collect it as it begins to yellow. This sequence retains the hay’s nutritional value. The hay is then laid out to dry on especially made beds to prevent its decay. Afterwards, it is piled in stacks and stored for use in the dry season.
“We are thankful to CARE for this initiative because during the drought seasons we don’t have to suffer anymore,” says Ashure Jaldessa, a member of the Darara women’s group.
The RREAD project also provides the group with a one-off payment of 25,000 Birr (US$ 2500) to strengthen their trading business and livestock marketing. “This money will increase our household income and improve our resiliency to drought,” beamed a happy Godana. RREAD also trained the women to handle different roles and responsibilities within the group. These include basic auditing, financial management and record keeping skills.
For Godana, the journey has been long. Married as a child at a tender age of 8 years, Godana lost her husband three years later. With no education but full of determination and ambition, she started selling local brew until she got enough capital to sell roofing materials, a business she still runs to date.
“I have no education and that’s something I regret but life experiences have taught me a lot and one lesson I learnt is that one must always strive to make life better and this is what I tell my fellow women,” says Godana. “This does not mean that education is not important. It definitely is and we must ensure that our girls to go to school and stay there.”
Godana’s efforts to improve the lives of women in her community caught the attention of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who in 2001 awarded her with a medal that reads, “Although illiterate, this woman’s struggle to uplift the women in her community has made her a symbol of development and we are proud of her.”
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:38PM EST on July 25, 2011
Audrée Montpetit, Senior Humanitarian Program Quality Advisor CARE Ethiopia
May 20, 2011
I arrived in Borena Zone, Oromia Region, in the southern part of Ethiopia two days ago. I am here with my CARE colleagues to conduct a deeper assessment on the impact of the current drought on women, men, boys and girls. We have talked to different groups, and even though we just had four basic questions, there was so much to listen to and to learn from. Basically, I could have asked 10,000 questions! Today we visited Moyale woreda (a woreda is the equivalent of a district), that is bordering Kenya. It has not rained there in the past six months, only the last ten days saw some rain. However, these rains were very sparse and did not bring enough water. So some areas look greener now, while others are still very dry.
But a green pasture does not mean there is no drought. The people of Borena are pastoralists and dependent on their cattle, goats, sheep and camels. But so many cattle have died already. Even though pastoralists move them to one place in order to avoid diseases, I could see carcasses lying around, there are just too many of them. Some people told me that this is not the first drought, of course, Ethiopians are used to the cycles of aridity and rain. However, what is really unique now is that it is not only cattle dying, but also sheep and goats. This is really concerning because goats usually resist quite well to drought since they can eat almost anything if needed (shrubs, bushes, branches, etc.).
A whole day to fetch water
There is not enough pasture, there is not enough water. This has a huge impact on women. Women are usually responsible for fetching water and they have to walk much longer distances now than before. One group of women told me that before the drought, it took them 30 minutes to the water point for one way. Now they have to walk three hours – one way. The second group mentioned that they not only need two hours now instead of 15 minutes to fetch water but they also need to queue at the water point for four to six hours. Because there is very little food, they don’t take anything to eat with them. They come back home hungry and exhausted. And they have to go through this ordeal every day.
In addition of spending almost the entire day to get water, women also need to collect pasture for their cattle. They therefore have very little time for their daily household chores. They can’t properly take care of their children and provide them with food. In some cases, I saw elderly people watching small children. But very often parents see no choice but taking their children out of school. School drop outs are already being visible here in Ethiopia, and it is mostly girls who need to stop their education because they have to assist their mothers with household chores and take care of their siblings. One young man of 17 years told me about the drop outs in his school. His 4th grade consisted of 82 students before the drought. Now, just 25 students are attending school – and most of them are boys.
One meal per day
I saw many cattle that are really, really weak. People told me many of them were too weak to stand up without help and how they constantly needed to support them to do it. A minimum of three strong people are needed to do this. I have not had the opportunity to see that myself but one of my colleagues sent the picture he took during one of its field visits. Impressive.
Since there is no pasture, men need to climb trees to cut leaves and use them as fodder for their livestock. People also reduce their food intake. While most families usually had three meals every day, they now can only eat once per day. Children eat first, then the father and the mother is the last one to receive what is left. So it is no surprise that most women told me: “We need food.” Even though there is food to buy at the market, the prices have steeply increased for the last months. In April 2011, the food index increased by 35.5 percent in Oromia Region compared to April 2010. People just cannot afford to buy products any longer.
An important element of a pastoralist diet is milk. Since their cattle are dying and starved, there is a shortage of milk, so people have replaced nutritious milk with tea. Without any nutrients and proteins, people are at high risk of becoming weak and malnourished. In some areas, I heard of conflict that arose due to the scanty resources. When pasture and water is limited and when people see their animals dying, tensions can get high.
These are all very concerning accounts. However, most people expect that the biggest impacts have not even begun. The worse is yet to come. The rains of the past days belong to a short rainy season and after it another dry cycle that will last until September starts. People have huge fears about their future and their ability to cope with the drought. The Ethiopian government is already responding to the drought with different interventions of which food distributions. I saw one of those today, but it is clearly not enough to reach every one who is in need right now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:54AM EST on July 25, 2011