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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 12:02PM EST on April 9, 2013
"If we knew this would happen to us we wouldn’t have brought so many children into the world." These are the words of Rima, a Syrian refugee living in Amman.
"It was as if he just disappeared, I had no idea where he was or what had happened to him. My son was only a month old when this happened so I went to stay with my family. When he was released we couldn’t risk staying and him being arrested again. Our house had been demolished and the shop burnt down. We were afraid he would be arrested again so we had to leave. We couldn’t handle the pressure," said Rima.
The children, who are 18 months to 10 years old, are suffering in their new surroundings.
"They are frustrated. They have a lot of pent up energy," she explains. "We can’t afford to send them to school – it’s far from here and the transport costs are too expensive for us. When we let them out to play people complain about the noise so they just sit inside all day. We have nothing to do."
Ali, previously the bread winner, is finding it hard to adjust to life now that he can’t provide for his family.
"I used to own two houses and I ran my own shop. It’s all been burned down and I can’t provide anything for my children. Everything I owned is gone."
"I can’t work because of the injuries I sustained when I was in prison. I was tortured and it’s very painful for me to walk," he explains. " I feel very bad about our current situation. We don’t have enough for everyone. Things are very expensive here, the rent is very high. CARE helped us to pay some of our rent because we owed the landlord money but we still can’t even afford to get the basics."
This family is living day by day and Rima says, "We want to go home. We don’t mind living in a tent if we are in Syria and it is safe."
For now it isn’t safe. Rima’s family and thousands of others have to deal with the reality of a life as a refugee and the hardships that come with being refugees.
*names have been changed
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 11:03AM EST on February 8, 2013
The story of Khalil, a Syrian refugee and volunteer working for CARE
By Sandra Bulling, CARE International Communications Officer
My name is Khalil and I am 37 years old. I am from the city of Homs, Syria, where I used to work as a lawyer. Now, my office is destroyed, I lost everything and I have no income anymore.
When the bombing started in my neighborhood, I left with my wife and my two children. I did not think twice about our escape, I just wanted to get somewhere safe.
First we fled to Damascus, the Syrian capital city. But when the fighting started there, we went to Amman. We crossed the border in a rented car.
My son, who is 8 years old, was very traumatized by the time we arrived here in Jordan. He did not want to drink nor eat and we had to force him to take in some food. Every night he had nightmares. He could not sleep and always told me: "Daddy, we will be killed soon." His condition is slowly improving and he goes to school.
I heard from other Syrian refugees about this center run by CARE in Jordan. I registered and received cash and emergency supplies.
After I heard that CARE uses volunteers, I immediately filled out an application. Now, I am assisting the relief effort for three months and come here every day to help out with the distributions from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon. I receive 13 Jordanian Dinar per day from CARE for my support. Of course it is good to get some financial support, but it is also important for me to be useful. It is my dream to go back to Syria and start working again.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:30AM EST on February 7, 2013
by Claudine Mensah Awute, CARE Mali country director
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, while many others sought relief and shelter with friends and families in the south of the country.
In recent weeks, Mali has been grabbing headlines 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. 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.
More than 4.3 million people in Mali are now in need of humanitarian aid.
These numbers can be overwhelming, but behind them, there are people – in flesh and bone, each with a story of their own:
Rokia is a mother of four, who told CARE she fled with her four children. Months before, her husband left their village in the north because of attacks. Rokia is constantly worried about him, and distressed as she doesn’t know how she will fend for her children by herself. Haussa also is a mother of four. She’s now in Bamako after leaving Timbuktu in early January. She told us that she would like to return home though she is well aware there is nothing waiting for her there.
The needs are many. As CARE’s 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 many of their belongings have been stolen? What about the next harvest and will they be able to plant?
For the past three weeks, CARE has been distributing food in two of the five regions most affected, having reached 54,000 people with essential food items. CARE is supporting both internally displaced people and host communities, who are still recovering from last year’s food crisis, with cash-for-work programs and the provision of tools and seeds to help ensure a decent harvest.
Our emergency response will include providing access to food, water, sanitation and cash programs for 30,000 families, and helping 25,000 children return to school. We’re also responding with long-term development solutions that include disaster risk reduction and food security programs. Many of our activities will focus on women, as they often suffer the most during times of crisis.
Mali is a clear example 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 2:45PM EST on October 3, 2012
THOMAS SCHWARZ: Syrian refugees have been coming to Jordan for a long time now. When did CARE start to support them?
KEVIN FITZCHARLES: We started in April although we did not have funds from private or institutional donors. We initially received about 70,000 Euros from CARE International's own emergency fund. Otherwise we could not have started to work. We hired someone who was responsible for the "initial aid" projects. And we started very quickly with distributing the money among Syrian refugees.
T.S.: It may sound a little strange for some to distribute money instead of food, clothing and other important things. Why did you decide on this form of assistance?
K.F.: We have been doing the same with the Iraqi refugees here in Jordan for six years now. This form of assistance is especially for those who are not in a refugee camp, but live in towns and villages. At first, they stayed with relatives or friends. But sooner or later they had to leave these apartments. Nonetheless, they have to buy clothes and food and pay their medical bills. And the only way to do this is to have money. That is normal. This kind of support is also about the dignity of refugees. They decide for themselves how they spend their money rather than being told by us. There are clear criteria for the distribution of course. We give money only once and not to everybody.
T.S.: You spoke about the refugees living in towns. Why are people hesitating to go to the refugee camp "Zaatari"?
K.F.: Well, about half of the first wave of refugees consisted of Syrians who were reasonably well off. In any case they did not need any support. They had sufficient means to help themselves or to stay with family and friends. The other half consisted of simple people, farmers and day laborers. Those who did not have a place to stay were housed in temporary camps. This went on for about a year. Many do not have their papers because the Syrian government took their passports. Once 5,000 refugees came in a single night, sometimes it is 2,000 or 1,500 refugees per night. At the moment there are fewer refugees, but it continues regardless. One cannot simply put all these people in a camp. They have to be registered and one has to be able to care for them, and so on.
T.S.: CARE has been working not only here in close cooperation with the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency), but also in many other countries. You do not work in the refugee camp, but outside. Can you imagine that in the future, CARE will work in the camp?
K.F.: As long as many refugees continue to live in the cities and need support, we will continue with our work together with the UNHCR. Of course, it may be that we are going to work in a potentially new refugee camp. If the UN asks us, we could work in the areas water and sanitation, or help with shelter. That is what we are doing in other refugee camps around the world.
T.S.: Let us take a look into the future: I am often asked how long this refugee crisis is going to continue and when the civil war is going to end. Do you have an idea of how long this will take?
T.S.: The current situation in the refugee camp Zaatari is not perfect. However, much is being done and it is progressing well. One can say that much. How do you assess the situation in the camp? What needs to be done there still?
K.F.: It is certain that we already have to plan for the winter. Here in Jordan, temperatures will be between zero and five degrees [Celsius]. Moreover, there will be cold, icy wind in the area around Zaatari. Tents will not help much then.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:17AM EST on September 17, 2012
By Thomas Schwarz
I speak with many Jordanians and foreigners who are here, who are living or working here. The openness of the Jordanian people against foreigners is terrific. You can be in the smallest café, in a restaurant or even along a street while waiting for the next bus: there will always be a possibility to speak with them. Even without being able to understand Arabic or them understand my English or German, there is an interaction. Be it with the eyes, gestures or facial expression.
Yesterday evening I was in a book store, in the same building you have a café as well as a restaurant. You can sit inside our outside, with a great view to the seven jamals, the mountains of Amman, the capital of Jordan. You can chose if you like to eat something, doing your work with a Wi-Fi-connected computer or just have a freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoy your time. The books@café ist kind of a melting pot for local, regional or international guests. As the New York Times put it a couple of years back: Many of those Jordanians, who studied in the US or in Europe and then came back home again, wanted to find an environment similar to the places where they had studied. In books@café they find it. Here, in Jabal Amman you also find the Rainbow Street, which could be easily found also in Paris or Barcelona, Cologne or San Francisco. It is not comparable with the huge, up to six lane, noisy roads which lead across Amman. Instead, it is a hot spot tourists of any age and modern Jordanians. You will find the British Council here as well as the embassy of Saudi Arabia as well.
No refugees, nowhere - seemingly
The sun sets in Amman and around the city are breath taking, also while sitting on a terrace in the books@café. Compared to here, where the streets don't seem to have any flat plane, one could think, that even Hill Street in San Francisco would be one single plane surface. All that, the vibrant restaurants, cafés and the mixture of cultures, nationalities and languages, the permanent hooting of taxi horn to get new customers, all the diversity of races and religions - all that makes me believe that I am in the middle of a terra incognita, in a somehow unfamiliar country, I don't know much of. Nothing here reminds me on the refugee crisis, the drama of individuals as well as families, who were forced to flee their homes back in Syria. Its is not existent, seemingly.
But as soon as I scratch on the surface, everything comes back what played such an important role in the last days and weeks, and even months. I can hear - or someone translates it to me - how in the cafés and restaurants and other public places people talk about it. Yes, sure, they say, it's important to support the Syrians. How would it be the other way round, they add with a big question mark. They would "help us as well, that's for sure", they say. Murad, a young man from Amman, told me the other day how he collected money together with friends to buy food. Then they somehow delivered it to Syrian refugees. That was in August, when Ramadan had ended. "This is a duty for each and every Muslim," he explained to me. "Everyone must share what he or she has and give it to people who are poorer than your self." That being written in the Holy Qur'an. One is studying, the other working in a bakery and so on. He has no rich friends, he says smilingly. But everyone had done his or her part. "Qur'an", they always pronounce this word in a very special way, significantly. Not, how we would say "Bible", if we were Christians. The Qur'an is holy, and it sounds like that when they name this important book.
And then the events which happened last week, the attacks on US-American and German diplomats and embassies. Because of a video which somebody put on line on the world wide web. A hater has done this. Someone who does not accept the Qur'an nor the prophet. Someone who does not even have the slightest respect for both. Those reactions of violence are not visible here in Jordan. In a very small traditional restaurant a Jordanian was sitting next to the counter where I ordered a falafel. He told me in English, even without being asked: It is not acceptable to insult the Prophet or the Holy Qur'an." then he added: "Nor violence is acceptable, this is not good." He smiles, stands up and shakes my hand strongly. He expresses what probably the majority of Jordanians are thinking. Islam here is the predominant religion in Jordan. More than 90% are Muslims. There are only approximately 50,000 Roman Catholics. They are respected and accepted.
All these very different impressions, the conversations, chats and encounters paint an overall image on its own. It is impossible to elude those impressions. Everything belongs together. A mosaic or a puzzle generates a picture only with all of its pieces. It's the same for me here, a western European in a unfamiliar, unknown country, somehow. It is possible to get to know it. To understand it fully seems to be very difficult. But its worth all efforts to give it a try. Only then one will be able to lead the testified, so called "clash of cultures" into a peaceful togetherness.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:49AM EST on September 14, 2012
By Thomas Schwarz
We are in Za'atari, the camp for Syrian refugees, not far from the border to the war torn country. I started early morning in the capital of Jordan, in Amman, to get to Za'atari. We wanted to get our own picture about what we are reading in the international newspapers, on TV channels around the globe or in the internet. We wanted to get the "right" picture, first-hand information ourselves. Buying cheap goods in a second-hand-shop may be fun. It's a different thing to only have second-hand-information. This camp was started only six weeks ago, in the last days of July - when I first visited Jordan this year. When I came to Za'atari then, there were only between 2500 and maybe 3000 refugees. Now it is almost 40000. One must admit, that in this short period of time, the UN refugee organisation UNHCR did a really good job. Well, it's not everything working perfectly here, but given the fundings - which are still not enough -many things are working quite well.
"We would never call it home"
There is clean water for the refugees. From tent to tent we could see electricity cables along the wooden towers. Although this seems to imply that each tent has electricity, which is not the case of course.
The whole day long it looks as if we are on a huge construction site. Trucks driving around. Water tanker lorries bringing in water. From an unloading area people receive water bottles. Several hundred meters away the refugees are receiving foam mattresses. Things seem to be fully implemented here for such a camp. Even the kids are joking and playing around among the many tents and seem to be relaxed for these rare moments, somehow at least.
Ahmad and his wife are not relaxed. They have a different impression. "You know, here it is more safe, especially for my wife and our children. But this is not a home," he says. He is gesticulating heavily in a typical Arab manner - with two hands. Nevertheless he is not speaking in an aggressive way whatsoever. He pauses between his sentences, not only for the interpreter, but also to weigh his words and thoughts. In other situations this could appear somehow "theatrical", not here. He breathes deeply, when making these pauses. He smokes. Then, after a short smile, he describes. "I have nine children and my wife. One of the children is only three months old." A pause again, breathing. Then he expresses what seems to be most difficult for him: "At home I could take responsibility for all of them. I was working, I earned money to support my family. Now I can not do anything." He adds that the food they receive would not be enough for all.
There is not a single word of criticism against the United Nations. Several times he emphasises how grateful his whole family is for the hospitality of the Jordanian people, that they opened their borders for all of the refugees coming from Syria. He is praising the king of Jordan, again and again. Ahmad tries to stay neutral as well as fair when it comes to the situation he is forced to live in. But is this possible, after having fled your own country where war and terror and violence are reigning?
Sharing with others is important here
The wind is blowing constantly. This is good against the heat, but bad in a desert-like area with so much sand. Very fine grains of sand are all over the bottom of the tent. Outside they are just collecting the garbage to take it somewhere - with a truck. What they did not collect is being used by the refugees. They take the rest of the paper and use it for a little fire on which they boil water for tea. There is no wood here at all they could use. They will share THE tea with everyone in the neighbourhood, no matter who it is. Sharing, this is an important word here. While we are listening to Ahmad, his wife gives a sign to the children. While she is breastfeeding her baby, she is making some funny movements with one of her hands. Minutes later the kids come with something to drink for us, and some biscuits. We feel ashamed and agree, that we would like to accept their generous invitation in case we would visit them in Syria one day. When they are better off.
The conversation goes on and on and on. On the thin mattresses we feel quite "at home". We talk about football, about Schweinsteiger and Rooney, about Real Madrid and Barcelona, and - of course - about Messi. The boys know them all. We are laughing about this and that with the whole family. Making jokes about women and men alike. Then, out of a sudden, one sentence from Ahmad. Brutally honest from his side. He says: "If somewhere in this world a bird is threatened with extinction, the so called international community mobilises everything, the best experts and the most expensive technical equipment to save it. They do everything." Again, he is breathing deeply. He makes a pause. "But in Syria, in my home land, where i am at home... people are dying like flies. And what happens?"
They invite us to come to Syria, when peace will have come back to them. When war will finally be over. "We will show you our beautiful country," Ahmad says. He is smiling again. "And we will drink tea." His wife adds: "And we will eat something together as well." Allah may bless all of us, and our families, they say while we are putting our shoes on again. And they say "Shoukran", which means thank you. "Shoukran, and may God bless you!"
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 5:10PM EST on August 16, 2012
Note: World Humanitarian Day commemorates the brutal terrorist attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, on August 19, 2003. Twenty-two people were killed that day, including UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. World Humanitarian Day honors of those who have lost their lives working in humanitarian settings and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions. ______________________________________________________ Barry Steyn, CARE International’s Director of Safety and Security Unit, discusses the current threats faced by humanitarian workers and strategies for protection: Q: Do humanitarian workers face more security threats today than a decade ago? A: The risks have changed towards non-governmental organizations (NGO) compared to 20 or 30 years ago, and especially over the past decade. NGOs and humanitarian workers used to be perceived as good people doing good work. Unfortunately, nowadays NGOs can be targeted simply because of who they are and what they are perceived to represent, rather than what they actually do or don’t do. These days we can be targeted because we are perceived as outsiders representing a culture which is foreign and perceived as a threat to some communities. Throughout the last ten years, there has been a significant increase in the number of serious incidents and fatalities; however, after 2009 we witnessed a drop-off in the number of incidents. But this was not because the risks had diminished. Rather there were fewer international staff working in the field in the most dangerous places. We must remember that the statistics are dominated by specific places such as Darfur, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and over this time period NGOs sent fewer humanitarian workers there due to the safety and security risks. Q: How are humanitarian strategies evolving in the face of increased risks? Classically, there are three theories of humanitarian strategy: acceptance, protection and deterrence. The strategy CARE strives for is acceptance. This means that local communities understand that we are there to help. They participate in our work, support us and often protect us from threats. However, this strategy simply doesn’t work in many parts of the world anymore, so we have had to evolve our strategies to counteract that. Protection is about reducing risks for our humanitarian workers by making ourselves a more difficult target. This is done through implementing protective measures and having policies and procedures that make our colleagues less vulnerable to threats. Deterrence involves posing a counter threat, meaning that we need armed guards and escorts to protect our programs, staff and assets. If you look at the humanitarian world, there’s been a massive increase in focus and investment in safety and security over the past decade. Strategies have changed, and a lot of humanitarians have gone the way of protection and deterrence. We must combine our goal of community acceptance with a healthy dose of realism and find a balance between these strategies. Q: What are the current risks humanitarian workers face? Unfortunately, over the last two years we have noticed a steady rise in the number of serious incidents, in particular incidents such as kidnappings and killings. Increasing numbers of NGO workers are being kidnapped these days, whether for political or ideological reasons or because we have become financial commodities in many parts of the world. We often talk about the security of international staff, but more than 90 percent of humanitarian workers are national staff. They are being kidnapped or killed in much greater numbers than international staff. Everybody has a risk profile, and there’s not a one size fits all solution. There’s a difference in the type and level of risk faced by male and female staff, national and international staff and for national staff, what region or ethnicity they are from. We must look at every staff profile and analyze what risks they could face at a particular time in a particular place. Q: What does the humanitarian community need to do to keep humanitarian workers safe? We are trying to understand the situation better, and we have made progress over the last decade. However, we need to further develop a culture in which consideration for safety and security is the norm. We must increase our spending on resources and make sure that these issues have been considered in every project we implement. Most importantly, we mustn’t lose focus on the acceptance strategy while finding balance and cohesion with other strategies. We have to remember that what we do is not about us. It is about serving local communities.
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 4:03PM EST on June 18, 2012
Five years lost: Case studies looking back at life under the blockade
For the past five years, more than 1.6 million people in Gaza have been sealed in to 140 square miles, and big dreams have nowhere to go.
For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: "end the blockade now."
Living under the blockade: Meet the people
Khaleel says that he would like to return to citrus farming, but does not have the money to invest in replanting trees, which take 5 years to mature. He says that unless the situation changes he would be living with the uncertainty of new trees again being cut down. Still, he says he holds out hope that there are better days ahead. "All of us dream of this day where we live with freedom and I think it is still something we can achieve. Everything would be better if the occupation ended. In the past few years our life in Gaza was difficult. In the future I hope my family will be fine."
An international aid project initiated in 2010 planned to connect Siham's neighborhood to a sewage system, but the construction is stalled. The building contractors are still awaiting permission to bring in equipment for the wastewater pumping station through the Israeli-controlled crossings. The Israeli authorities have not explained the reason for the delays. Meanwhile Siham and her family dream of better days. "All I need is a dignified life for me and my family, but the blockade has destroyed my hope," she said.
Mona Abu Amer is 6 years old. She lives in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Born with a congenital heart disease, she is one among 734 patients registered in the Union of Health Care Committees' (UHCC) medical records as a critical patient and hardship case requiring urgent medical support. Mona's mother, Zeinab, has found that the kind of care her daughter needs is just not available in Gaza. UHCC planned to build diagnostic, pediatric and state of the art specialty clinics. Without the necessary construction materials, new medical equipment, or ability to travel for training courses to learn hi tech health services, all they have been able to offer Mona over the years was diapers and milk. "When my daughter was born with this condition six years ago, I was expecting that social services would be available and that the government would help me get her advanced medical care. Six years later, I am hoping we can get the care and support she needs," says Zeinab.
In 2006, 38 year-old Hind Amal opened her own business. The divorced mother of four says the split from her unemployed husband inspired her to think big. "I planned to move forward and take care of myself, be a provider and role model for my children," she explained. With a combination of money she saved by doing odd jobs and taking a small loan from a local women's organization, Hind opened a beauty supply store. For the first year the store was a huge success and Hind was able to pay back her loan and see a profit. After the blockade started in 2007, business started to head downhill as Hind couldn't import the same products and people could not afford to pay retail prices. Determined to stick to her plan, Hind found creative ways to keep her shop afloat. She started making homemade creams and accessories and sold them at a lower price. As one of the only beauty supply stores still open in the Gaza Strip, she was making a profit again in 2008 – only to find a new competitor when the tunnel trade started in 2009. As cheap goods flooded the market, Hind's store lost its appeal and she was again struggling to make ends meet. "If I look back at these past five years I am right back where I started. There has been so much pressure on me to succeed but the situation won't allow it. I'm working so hard to give my kids what they need. I have become a stronger person, a strong woman, but it shouldn't have to be this hard."
"I dream of new clothes. You can't buy good clothes here, everything comes from Egypt through the Rafah tunnels and it's not high quality. I told my father to take me to the beach for the day, but he said there isn't enough fuel for the car. When I got hurt I needed stitches, but the hospital didn't have the stitching thread. What can I do? "
-Bahaa' Ibrahim Abu Khdeer, 10, Al Qarara
"I have a sick brother. He needs to go to Germany for treatment but we can't take him there. My dream is for the Gaza airport to open again, to have open borders so we can travel, and to get treatment for my brother whom I love very much."
-Alaa' Mahmoud Al Najjar, 23, Al Maghazi
"Helping children was one of my biggest dreams in Gaza, along with building new green parks, cultural buildings, and community centers. I hope that I can achieve these dreams or at least I'll keep trying."
-Tawfeaq Abdelwahhab Hamad, 62, East Jabalia
"Success at school, building a new house, participating in artistic exhibitions abroad - any dreams that I have I couldn't achieve because of the situation in Gaza. We want to live like normal people."
-Jineen Hani Abu Isaa, 12, Juhor Al Deek
"My dream is to complete my graduate project, which is a design for recycling and producing gas. But such a project can't be constructed locally because of the blockade on Gaza. So, I stopped dreaming about it and I'm living the reality."
-Ranya Fawzi Al Jamal, 30, Rafah
"As a father responsible for five kids, I wanted to make sure they finished their education and that I helped them with marriage and building homes for them to live in. My dream was to give them a good and decent life. But I couldn't do any of that. I only was able to help pay for one of them to finish college and the rest quit school to work and help us financially."
-Jamal Mohammed Al Za'aneen, 60, Beit Hanoun
Donate now to CARE's poverty-fighting work >
Posted by: Carrie Ferguson at 3:05PM EST on January 29, 2012
On March 8, International Women’s Day, women around the world will gather on bridges as part of Women for Women International’s Join me on the Bridge campaign. The campaign began in 2010 when women from Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, in the middle of a violent civil war, joined together on a bridge connecting their countries to call for peace. In acts of solidarity, women and men all across the globe joined them, and continue to do so each year, demanding an end to the violence, and symbolizing that we can build bridges of peace.
I remember reading about the campaign for the first time two years ago. My eyes stung with tears as I read that the women in Congo and Rwanda would meet on a bridge connecting their countries to call for peace amidst the war. It was only as these tiny tears turned into huge dollops rolling down my cheeks that I realized something big was happening. What was it? And how could I respond especially since I felt so powerless- what could I really do?
It was weird because I remember feeling no doubt that I would respond, but also feeling full of doubt as to what I could do. In that moment I felt small and helpless yet alive and emboldened.
All my thoughts going, “you’ve never organized an event like this, you don’t know what it’s like to live with war raging around you, you can’t change anything,” -they got trumped. On that day, I choose to listen to the knowing in my body, and despite the event being only a week out, I began to plan a small gathering on our beach walkover bridge. On March 8, 2010, nearly 50 women showed up and I got a taste for what happens when you choose to experience yourself in a new way. The world changes. It can be experienced in a new way too. Maybe that was what touched me so deeply when I read about the Congolese and Rwandan women. Their act was extraordinary in that despite their outer circumstances, they could choose to see things radically different. They could imagine peace. They could imagine what might happen when we connect with one another.
I like to think it was my future self- the one who stood atop the Acosta Bridge in downtown Jacksonville on March 8, 2011, arm raised in celebration- who pulled me toward her that day I sat in tears at my computer. The one who saw that the world can be the place that I’ve always sensed it could be.
When we show up, when we listen to the whispers of life, we begin to consciously co-create the future, and like the women in Congo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Bosnia and everywhere the women are standing on bridges, I can create a unified, peaceful and compassionate future for humanity.
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 10:31AM 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 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 9:54AM EST on July 25, 2011
By Audrée Montpetit, CARE Senior Humanitarian Program Quality AdvisorJuly 22, 2011
We traveled ten hours by car from Addis Ababa to reach the CARE Ethiopia Borena Field office based in Yabello. This small town is located some 200 kilometers from the Kenyan border. CARE is scaling up its emergency relief operations rapidly to address the worsening drought situation for this primarily pastoralist population. The Borena pastoralists are known for their hardiness and endurance, as well as for their cultural tradition of ensuring that the children are fed and asleep before the men eat, and finally the women. When malnourishment of children amongst this population becomes a source of concern, it is clear that there is a crisis on hand.
In a presentation at the CARE office, the CARE field staff and government officials jointly painted a very grim picture of the current situation and repeatedly referred to a disaster in the making with the loss of over 200,000 livestock dead in Borana (out of 750,000) as a result of lack of pasture and water. Without cattle, there will be neither income to buy food or milk to feed the children. As the cattle weaken and become emaciated, they no longer produce milk and often reach a stage that by the time they are slaughtered, there is hardly any meat left on the bone to consume.
In one of CARE’s innovative programs in close collaboration with government authorities and community leaders, we aim to recover some value from emaciated and unproductive animals that would otherwise die from the effects of drought. Slaughter destocking decreases the grazing pressure at times of high pasture scarcity. We saw carcass after carcass being thrown into a pit after the animal was killed, and those animals that still yielded some meat were butchered and shared amongst families identified by government authorities as vulnerable. CARE Ethiopia’s program of de-stocking provides an opportunity to pastoralists to sell their cows at a fair price and to receive in addition to nearly USD 50 for each cow, grain to feed two remaining cattle. This project is an excellent effort to help families not only gain some savings from their cattle before they die from weakness, but also to try to save those that they still have.
But their remaining cattle are very few. Of original herd sizes of 15, 30 or 40 in nearly every case, women and men would tell us that they had only two or three cows left. They have lost the majority of their cattle in the past few months with mounds of partially decomposed skeletons scattered throughout the landscape attesting to this fact.
The respected elderly clansmen of Borena have predicted that the next rains will fail as well. Scientists credit the current drought to the La Nina phenomenon which changes weather patterns and causes drier conditions in Eastern Africa. The rains are not even due for another two months yet they are expecting the worse as their situation now is very grim. A dignified elder told us that there was no hope for them: ”We shall pass, but we must help the children.” He told us that they are not able to care for their cattle and that this is not their first priority anymore. The major issue is now the health of their children who are already starting to suffer. His words highlighted the scenes and conversations of the day visiting a local health center where too-thin babies were being treated for malnutrition, to the destocking site, and water provision activities, and later to the amazing clan gathering of around 15,000 Borena who meet every eight years to elect new leaders.
At this gathering, we were told that there were very few cattle and camels. One of the elders gestured to the encampment area and said: ”Look, it is empty. In the past years there were too many cattle and we had no space. This year we have hardly any cattle.” They told us that their fate is not in their own hands, and that they have to pray to God for rain. However, their cultural wisdom of ages past leads them to believe that the rains in September will fail again.
There is a window of opportunity for the Borena: If assistance is able to reach them at this time. They have lost their assets, their source of family insurance has gone, and they now face three months, at the very least, of continued drought. They are sure that without help, they and their families are at extreme risk of losing their lives. The CARE Ethiopia team has worked diligently over the past years to develop an excellent strategy and complementary set of interventions to help mitigate this situation in Borena. But, the complex set of factors created by a catastrophic region wide drought caused by the La Nina phenomenon, the loss of a cattle market in the Middle East, chronic poverty and the dramatic increase in food prices has resulted in a situation where the Borena are on the edge of disaster.
CARE is acting now to scale up and expand our efforts in our current programming areas of CARE Ethiopia -- to save lives that will be at extreme risk in the coming months. But we need more help. We need to prevent people from leaving their homelands in search of refuge, to prevent a further long term catastrophe including complete loss of livelihoods as well as loss of lives.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:17PM EST on July 21, 2011
July 20, 2011
Story of Shangara Hassan, a Somali woman who traveled to Dadaab refugee camp with her four children.
“I think I am twenty years old. I have four children – two of them are very sick and two of them are OK. The oldest is six years and the youngest is six months.
"I have come to Dadaab from a village in southern Somalia. I came with my children, alone, to save our lives. There was a very bad drought there – it hasn’t rained for four years, and everything was very dry. Nearly all of our animals had died because there was no food for them to eat. We used to keep small animals – goats and sheep. What few we have left my husband has stayed to look after. Once they are dead he will come here too. We used to have nearly sixty but now there are less than ten.
"On our plot in our village we used to grow sorghum and that is what we used to eat. But because there has been no rain, the sorghum hasn’t grown. The ground has become very dry and the seeds don’t even come up anymore.
"Nobody has seen a drought like this for many years. Everyone in our community in Salag is leaving. All of my neighbors left at about the same time as me and they are living around me here in Dadaab. The only people who are remaining are the ones who still have a few animals alive to look after but I think they will all come here soon.
"There was hardly any water left to drink either. We used to get our water from a nearby stream but this had dried up. There was no water point in our village. So when the stream dried up we started to walk to a river that was a long way from our village to collect water to drink, wash and cook. It would take me about two hours to walk there and three to walk back when my container was full. It was very hard work because it was so hot. I can’t remember when it has been that hot in Somalia before.
"My husband decided that we had to leave when we hadn’t eaten for over a week. He said if we didn’t leave we would die.
"We arrived here about two weeks ago now. We walked from our village to the border and then we got a bus along with other people from our village. When we arrived in Dadaab we went to a reception point and were given some maize, sleeping mats and some other things. We had nothing with us. I couldn’t carry anything when we left because I had the four children.
"But now all of that food is gone. We are meant to go and be registered now so that we can get food regularly. But I have been there twice now and each time I have been told that I have to come back another day because there are too many people waiting to be registered.
"My second born child, Habiba, is very sick and my third born is starting to get sick. Because I haven’t registered I don’t think I can go and find them medical help. I don’t know where to go to find them a doctor as this camp is very big.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:07PM EST on July 21, 2011
July 20, 2011
Story of Osman Sheikh Hussein, who fled drought and conflict in Somalia to arrive at the Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeastern Kenya.
“My family and I have come from Somalia – from Baidera in the Upper Juba Valley. I took the decision to leave with my family because of drought and violence. The situation had become very bad. There had been no rain and everybody was starving.
"We walked by foot all of the way. It took us 32 days and every night we stayed under the sky. When we reached the border with Kenya some of the women and children were very tired and sick. So I managed to get some money and paid for them to come here in the back of a truck. It was a difficult journey.
"We have been here 29 nights now but still haven’t been able to register to get food aid. When we first arrived, we went to a place with other new arrivals and we got some food and other basic things. Because we had to leave out town quickly we left nearly everything behind. Along with way we lost some things too – the children were so tired that we had to carry them.
"I have been wanting to leave Somalia for a long time – the situation never gets better. There was nothing left in Somalia – it wasn’t like it used to be. There were no schools or health facilities – and I want my children to have an education.
"Here we only have this shelter that we have made from plastic sheeting and wood. But at least we can get food and water. There is a health center too and for the first time in many years I feel safe and don’t go to sleep worrying my children may die."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:56PM EST on July 21, 2011
Blog by Barbara Jackson, humanitarian director, CARE Emergency Group
July 20, 2011
We’ve just returned from a visit to Dadaab Refugee camp in northern Kenya, where I was accompanied by the CARE Canada President and CEO Kevin McCort, CARE Australia Head of Fundraising Andrew Buchannan and CARE USA Head of Foundations Liz McLaughlin.
In my more than 20 years of field experience with CARE, I have not seen such widespread levels of the effects of lack of food on so many people.
Every single man, woman and child that we saw and met with of the more than 1,500 people arriving daily do not have a spare ounce of flesh on their bodies. The adults are literally down to the bone; the children are incredibly listless, showing obvious signs of malnutrition and distress.
Single mothers carry one or two children on their backs with others holding tightly onto their ragged wrap. We met groups of over 40 people who had traveled together, leaving behind the elderly whom they knew would not be able to make the walk of 20 or more days to reach Dadaab. They do not know if they will ever see each other again.
Every single person with whom we talked -- from those who had just arrived after a grueling journey to those who have been waiting in small hastily and sparsely constructed shelters, to those working as volunteers with CARE to provide food and some basic essentials -- asked us to help them to tell the world of their plight.
“Please share our message from Dadaab that we need help, that we cannot wait, that we have come this far and we still do not have the food and shelter that we need.”
There are more than 15,000 refugees who have arrived who are still not on the U.N. registration system and are not entitled to receive basic health services or a monthly ration of food. We met many of these people on the outskirts of one camp where CARE is now providing additional water and sanitation services. When I asked to see their vouchers that were provided to them upon arrival to confirm when a date had been set by which they would be officially registered, I was surrounded by many people who dug into their carefully wrapped worn bags and pockets to show me vouchers with dates for as far away as mid September.
One young woman asked, “I am hungry now and I have no shelter, how will I be able to wait this long for food for myself and my children? We thought we would be able to get help here but there is no help.”
Our CARE staff is working many long hours each and every day to help speed up food distribution, to get water and sanitation services out to those who are escaping from the drought plaguing the region, and to increase educational services for the influx of many more young children.
I am extremely heartened by the great willingness and generosity of the CARE members to offer expertise and personnel as well as hopefully, in the short term future, significant additional funding. Many of the people who we met thanked us -- for the support they are receiving now and for what they truly hope will come.On Monday, Kevin McCort and I will meet with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) High Commissioner in Geneva. We hope that we can help ensure that the refugee registration system in Dadaab will be rapidly accelerated for, without that, there will be a continued huge gap and many women, children and men left without any hope.
I am now in Ethiopia with Andrew and Liz, visiting communities where CARE Ethiopia works to see how we can help expand our programming here to ensure that people do not have to leave their homes in search of help, that they will be able to survive the coming very lean months.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:52AM EST on July 19, 2011
By CARE staff
July 12, 2011
We meet Asli at the registration centre in IFO sitting under a leafless tree with her four children, one of whom kept crying. When we ask her what the problem is, Asli says that the child is two years old and mentally challenged, and he has had a fever for the past few days. When asked whether she had taken him to hospital, she told us that the registration process was more important at the moment.
“When we get registered, we will be settled enough and we can then seek medical care,” she said.
With nearly 1,500 people arriving in the Dadaab refugee camps in North-eastern Kenya every day, registration is taking nearly three weeks to register new families, and arrange for them to settle into the camps. It used to take just days.
To help people cope with the delay, CARE, in partnership with the World Food Programme, has increased our emergency food distribution to new arrivals. CARE staff provide new arrivals with three weeks of food, instead of a two-week supply. Once families are registered in the camps, they are entitled to receive regular food rations, and critical support such as access to safe drinking water and medical care.
The life Asli led with her family in Somalia took a turn after all the cattle and goats they owned died because of drought and her crops failed due to lack of rain.
“The situation got worse every day. We spent all the little resources we had, until we had nothing more to spend,” said Asli, whose children are aged between four years and three months old.
“The sight of seeing our children crying, and me having no breast milk for my baby, made my husband Abdi Osman Abdi decide to take the little money of our savings and come to Dadaab Refugee Camp which we had been hearing about while we were back at home. Even some of our neighbours had fled to Kenya because they said in Dadaab there are different agencies that give food, medical care and education for free and that’s all we need.”
Their journey from Somalia was long; it took the family five days to reach the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab. They went to the reception centre after their arrival and they were given wrist bands to prepare for registration and access to safety and support from the many aid groups working in Dadaab.
But in the confusion of arrival, Asli and her family didn’t know to go to the food tent to receive their food rations. According to CARE staff, so many people are arriving, exhausted, traumatized and hungry, they sometimes misunderstand how to access help and get the supplies they are entitled to when they first arrive. That’s how CARE staff found Asli and her family when we were giving information to new arrivals about how to get assistance, and how to report and seek counseling if they had been attacked or sexually assaulted as they fled Somalia. Asli and her family were sheltering at their makeshift structure outside the camp, along with all the other new arrivals – but it had been 13 days since Asli’s family arrived, without food.
“My children are sick and hungry,” she said. “We have been here from six o’clock in the morning. It is now one o’clock, and the sun is hot. We do not have any money with us. We have been seeing women selling tea and mandazi (local donut-like pastry), but we cannot afford it. We will wait to get registered then we can go look for food from any good Samaritan.”
As soon as CARE staff found Asli and her family, we quickly arranged a representative from UNHCR to ensure they received their three-week ration of food, and soon they will be registered and settle into their camp in Dadaab.
But Asli’s relief at arriving in Dadaab – a hot, barren camp in the middle of nowhere – shows how difficult her life was at home in drought-stricken Somalia. It shows how important it is to find long-term solutions to food shortages and drought, to help people stay at home, instead of seeking shelter in overcrowded refugee camps.
Photo: © CARE 2011
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:29PM EST on July 18, 2011
By Alexandra Lopoukhine, Emergency Media Officer
July 12, 2011
I woke up early in the morning and accompanied American and German journalists to a reception center before it had opened for the day. We found people sitting outside in neat rows. Women with their small children made up three lines of about 20 adults each, then two lines were made up of families, fathers and mothers together with their children, and lastly, another three lines of single men, young and old alike. This is the prioritization for access to the reception center – women and children first.
What struck me today were the children and the mothers. I have had the privilege of traveling to many places in this big world of ours. I have found that in places where I spend time with people with whom I don’t share a common language, smiling and nodding hello is a great way to initiate communication. Often, the children I have met along the way find ways to laugh, to play, to joke with me…or the youngest of the children stare and sometimes cry if I get too close.
Here, at the reception center, the children were not laughing, not playing…. The mothers did not really give me a smile back, barely any nodded back at me – rather they just stared at me. The children were sitting, very quietly and others curled on their mothers laps. Not exactly what you think of when you think of a two year-old in line somewhere. Many of these people have just arrived from their long journeys here. And at 7:30 am, they were really only focused on the last few hours before they were to receive their first ration of WFP food.
Later in the afternoon, we arrived at the area where refugees who have been here for about three months had set up their homes. We arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon. Areas with water taps were bustling with activity. Women and men were talking along the side of the dirt road, as women with wood on their heads and a man on bicycle passed by. Goats grazed on mostly barren bushes. And there were children – wow, were there children…they were hard to miss: running, smiling, laughing, playing, and wrestling. I was struck by the contrast of this morning’s scene. Water. Food. Shelter. Latrines. Education - all the services these refugees were now accessing; it gave me hope.
The worst drought in 60 years is spreading across East Africa, creating the most severe food crisis in the world and threatening the lives of 10 million people. Life-saving support is urgently needed. Make a donation |Learn more
La pire sécheresse des 60 dernières années se répand à travers l'Afrique orientale, provoquant la crise alimentaire la plus grave au monde qui menace la vie de 10 millions de personnes. Des secours sont urgemment requis. Faire un don | En savoir plus
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:10PM EST on July 18, 2011
By Alexandra Lopoukhine, Emergency Media Officer
July 12, 2011
Emergency Media Officer Alexandra Lopoukhine describes the situation in Dadaab refugee camp, northern Kenya, where nearly 1,500 people are arriving each day.
When a family arrives:
Once they are called up to enter the reception centre (a fenced in compound with various tents, benches, tanks and taps of water CARE provides) , they go to one of the three reception centres being run by UNHCR staff. They first go through an electronic finger printing screening which registers them and their family. They get coloured bracelets based on which camp they are being received in (Blue bracelet in Ifo, Yellow in Dagahaley and Red in Hagadera). They then move to receive non-food items – being distributed by CARE staff (plastic mats to sleep or sit on, blankets, jerry cans). At that point they move to food tent, and receive two weeks’ worth of food. CARE staff gives the food out. There is a medical tent for malnutrition screening and the CARE tent for counselling. The final step is they are given a registration date and time to get to the one UNHCR Registration centre which they then get their WFP ration card, and tents and allocation of land.
Living in the camp:
One woman’s story:
“The violence (in Somalia) is not good. This place is good as long as there is no fighting and there are schools to go to.” 14-year-old boy
Newly arrived refugees from Somalia wait to be registered at Dagehaley camp, one of three camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Dadaab, Noertheastern Kenya on the 9th July, 2011.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:50AM EST on July 18, 2011
By Alexandra Lopoukhine, Emergency Media Officer
July 10, 2011
This morning, CARE staff were discussing, at length, ideas and plans on how to increase water supply in the areas where the newly arrived refuges have settled. A CARE International Water Expert has been with the team here in Dadaab for a few days now, assessing current needs and formulating a plan forward: more 10,000 gallon tanks; more drilling; more boreholes.
This afternoon, I headed out to the outskirts of Dagahaley and talked with some people who have been here for less than three months. A crowd quickly formed. One woman told me about the lack of water. Above us all, stood a very tall man (I am quite short, but he really was tall) and he explained to me that way too many people have to share one latrine. He told me they need more water – what they have now really isn’t enough. The crowd all agreed.
It was then that I explained that a water expert has come to help CARE determine what we can do about the water supply situation. I told him we know it is not enough. I told him the world is paying attention; money is coming-in to help get them more food, more water and more support. I apologized that things are this way right now, but that with all the new people coming recently, it has genuinely been hard to keep up. I asked them for patience.
What happened then will stay with me for a very long time. As my translator finished explaining that we were working hard to figure this out, he smiled. He smiled and stared me in the eyes and said thank you. The crowd nodded their heads and smiled as well. I say this now, this “thank you”, was the most sincere exchange I have ever been part of.
Newly arrived refugees from Somalia collect water at a water point that is having water delivered to it by a CARE water truck at Dagehaley camp, one of three camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Dadaab, Noertheastern Kenya.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 10:35AM EST on July 8, 2011
By Alexandra Lopoukhine, Emergency Media Officer
The heat is strong and the wind is blowing. The shade provides relief. People are lined-up, orderly and patient. There is an overwhelming sense of calm. This is not exactly what I would have expected in the Dagahaley Registration Center, as today, 1,055 people wait for food and to be brought into the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) system.
Then, we spoke to a few of the women and they explained their long and challenging journey that brought them here, to Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp. They told us of their days of walking, of the challenges they faced in the last few days, and last few hours before they reach here. The hunger they faced at home. The insecurity. One women explained she had heard on the radio in Somalia that here, in Dadaab, they were giving away free food. This was the information she needed to get her kids in order and start the move. People were calm, I realized, because they had arrived.
They arrived to be greeted by staff from UNHCR, World Food Programme, CARE, and so many other organizations here, ready and able to support them. Relief was offered in the tangible supplies water, food and order.Orderly lines, orderly registration points, orderly information given to people reeling from their recently history of chaos. This is today's relief.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:12PM EST on June 16, 2011
by Laura Bellinger
Bobbing in and out of his chair, a spritely six-year-old boy answers "Mignon" when asked his name. Mignon means "cute" in French. The name suits him, but unfortunately his life has become anything but cute.
Mignon and his father, Tiehi Didier, are staying a camp in Duékoué, Côte d'Ivoire sheltering 10,000 of the more than 500,000 Ivorians forced from their homes after several months of bitter, post-election fighting. And the heartbreaking story of how son and father arrived here speaks to why CARE has created a "listening center" to provide professional psychosocial support for survivors of Côte d'Ivoire's brutal violence.
Two months ago, Mignon and his mother traveled to Dabou, a coastal town where his mother regularly bought cassava to sell near their home in Abidjan. Like most Ivorians, Mignon's mother did not own a car, so, as is quite common there, they shared a ride home with a stranger. As the car neared Abidjan, they were stopped at a roadblock. Unbeknownst to Mignon's mother, the driver of their car had a gun. When the people manning the roadblock found the driver's gun, they ordered everyone out of the car.
"They cut off the driver's head," Mignon says quietly, "Then they told my mother to close her eyes. She closed her eyes and they shot her with the gun and cut her arms with a machete." Mignon gestures to his own arms to show where the men cut his mother, then gets up from his chair and runs behind his father.
"Mignon ran home to find help," Tiehi says. "And his aunt called me."
Tiehi hopes the listening center's social workers will be able to help Mignon. A school administrator, Tiehi says he understands the importance of counseling gravely traumatized children. Tiehi was traumatized during the post-election violence, too. Separated from Mignon's mother, Tiehi was living in Bloléquin during the attacks. Not only was his house burned down, but he was imprisoned as well.
"I was chained by the ankles for four days. They thought I was with a rebel group and I finally convinced them to let me go," he says. Tiehi and Mignon, along with Tiehi's wife and their four other children found shelter at the camp for internally displace people in Duékoué.
"I don't know what to do with Mignon," Tiehi says quietly. "He can't sleep. He has no distractions. He keeps asking to go back to school, but now I have no money for school. We have no home."
Working with the local partner ASAPSU, the CARE listening center offers private one-on-one sessions where these victims of violence can work through feelings of grief, fear, sadness, and revenge. The listening center also provides referrals to professional psychologists for the worst cases of severe trauma. It's a crucial first step, not only for personal healing, but for preventing further violence and working towards reconciliation.
CARE has extensive experience implementing programs that strengthen the bonds between different groups in Cote d'Ivoire: Muslims and Christians; planters and cattle farmers; Boso fishermen and local fisherman. CARE continues to believe that the forces bringing them together are stronger than those pulling them apart.
Only by listening and learning can these groups build a future in which Mignon and the thousands of other children like him can sleep soundly once again.
Posted by: Web Editor at 1:30PM EST on August 18, 2010
By Anu John, Program Development Coordinator, Disaster Risk Reduction and Conflict
I have just completed 10 years with CARE. On World Humanitarian Day 2010, I wanted to share the joy and the significance of this journey in my life.
Yes, it's been 10 years with CARE for me – I still remember the day the human resources director of CARE India told me after the interview that I was selected for the job. That day changed my life. Coming from a working class family with a rural background in India, the biggest gift my parents could give me was a good education. But it was up to me to make something of it. All I knew is that I wanted to be in the "helping" profession. CARE opened up the doors for me. I got one opportunity after another at CARE to do what I liked to do best, with all my passion.
I always believed in nonviolent means of achieving results. I feared physical pain of any form; it was too close to home for comfort, I guess. Then, how could I be okay with conflict, especially violent conflict? I could never see sense in having armies and troops and missiles and guns. I wanted peace, and wanted to work with people who had lived their lives in a conflict context. CARE gave me the opportunity to work with conflict-affected people and to work on conflict-sensitive programming. Today, I am in a war-torn country working with the people of Afghanistan. And it's been achieved with CARE as my employer.
I am sure there are other organizations that do the same, but for me, it was CARE that did it. I have to add that, as a girl from rural India, some of the material comforts were a first for me. I traveled in an air conditioned railway compartment for the first time in March 2000, on the ticket that CARE gave me to attend the interview in New Delhi. I flew for the first time in August 2000. A few years later, I traveled abroad for the first time with the opportunity that CARE gave me to go on a visit to Bangladesh.
They may sound materialistic, but for an average young Indian girl, a decade back, these were unimaginable rewards. No doubt, they came with a lot of hard work (as it is for anyone else), and even heartache …difficult bosses, eccentric colleagues, unplanned work, short deadlines and what not. But now it doesn't seem to matter.
For me, CARE was not just an employer; CARE became my hope. I only say this because I truly believe CARE not only strives to make a difference in the lives of people it works for, but also makes a difference of the people who work in the organization. For me, Gender Equity and Diversity (a CARE program to ensure equity among men and women, and provide opportunities for overseas staff) is not jargon, but a reality, as it is for many others working with CARE, especially in this part of the world.
And I thank CARE – and all my colleagues – for making our lives beautiful. I am sure that very many staff out there in the country offices, on the front line, working with the communities will have the same to say. I wanted to take this opportunity to remind ourselves of this change; we are making in the lives of our staff members.
Salaam to a great decade with CARE. Shukriya (thank you), CARE!
Posted by: Ronnie Cho at 1:01PM EST on June 29, 2010
Are we doing enough to stop rape in Congo? Read this story at The Daily Beast to learn more about this tragic and important issue.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 2:12PM EST on January 22, 2010
by Steve Hollingworth, CARE USA COO and EVP, Global Operations
Wednesday, January 21, 2010
I received an e-mail today that I deeply appreciated. It also made me proud to be a part of CARE!!... (more)
Posted by: Helene Gayle at 3:24PM EST on November 24, 2009
This Thursday, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of harvest. Thanksgiving has come to be a wonderful time to gather with family and friends, and to reflect on the things for which we are most grateful. It also has an interesting history. In 1621, the English colonists at Plymouth Plantation (near Boston, Massachusetts) in the "New World" joined with the indigenous Wampanoag people to share an autumn harvest feast.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 5:09PM EST on July 9, 2009
by Rick Perera, Media & Communications Officer
Farewell, Pakistan. My month among these kind, hospitable people is coming to an end. As I leave this country that is struggling with a massive wave of civilians fleeing conflict, my mind is full of thoughts, and my heart full of emotions. I've seen the sacrifice of ordinary Pakistanis doing their best to help their suffering compatriots. Their generosity is an inspiration, but also a challenge, to the rest of the world.
Posted by: CARE at 12:34PM EST on June 29, 2009
by Rick Perera, Media & Communications Officer
Just 12 years old, he carries the weight of the world on his narrow shoulders. The eldest of five children of a widowed mother, Sajjad Ahmad feels responsible for his family. It’s not easy being the man of the house at such a young age.
Posted by: CARE at 12:06PM EST on June 11, 2009
Blog by Rick Perera, Media Officer, CARE International in Pakistan:
ISLAMABAD – It’s become depressingly familiar: a tragic attack on civilians. Tuesday’s hotel bombing in Peshawar is just the latest in a string of events marring this beautiful country.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 11:36AM EST on June 11, 2009
Blog by Rick Perera, Media Officer, CARE International in Pakistan:
Posted by: CARE at 10:48AM EST on June 5, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg, May 28, 2009:
It is about noon up here in the northwestern province, or maybe a little later. In one of the camps for displaced people we meet a teacher, who is now volunteering to help his fellow countrymen. He tells us his story: "When all of the refugees arrived, I did not hesitate. I contacted the government to register as a volunteer. 'What can I do,' I asked them. 'How can I help?'"... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:26PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
While travelling to places like Pakistan, I naturally meet many different people. All of them have their own story and background, their traditions, cultures and personal experiences. Talking to the displaced people in Pakistan, I realized right away how different their path of life is compared to my own. Living in Buner, Kohistan, Dir and the village of Swat bears no resemblance at all to lifestyles in so many western countries. The gap could not be much bigger.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:26PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
Today I visited a place close to Mardan, where tens of thousands took refuge from the ongoing fighting in Dir, Buner and the village of Swat. Their overall situation is horrible.... (more)
Posted by: CARE at 1:24PM EST on June 4, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg
Posted by: CARE at 7:19AM EST on May 29, 2009
Blog by Thomas Schwarz of CARE Germany-Luxemburg, May 22, 2009
It’s been two and a half years since I last visited Pakistan. At that time, I was in the valley of Allai, in the north western part of the country. In October 2005, a massive earthquake struck the province. I visited the region twice: right after the disaster and a year later. CARE was able to help, in great part due to donations. Together, with the affected population, we built new schools – ones that many girls attend for the first time. This continues to be a big step, because girls’ education is not a given in this part of the world. In cooperation with Pakistani engineers, CARE offered trainings for housing construction so that buildings would be more stable and, hopefully, not collapse when another earthquake hits the region. With CARE’s support, Pakistani experts also built ditches in order to support agricultural activities. ... (more)