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Notes from the Field
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:34PM EST on April 24, 2013
Wafaa Adnan Albaik, 32, a case manager at CARE's refugee center in Amman describes her work.
I have been working at CARE's refugee center for three months. This is the sort of work I have always wanted to do. I've always been interested in humanitarian work, and it's very rewarding to help people in need.
We meet Syrian refugees, assess them, decide on the best way to help them. We might give them emergency cash so they don't get evicted from where they are living or help to pay for medicine and food. We also refer people to other organizations who might be able to help. At the end of the day, I call up cases to book appointments so I can follow up with people and see if we can help provide further assistance.
Working at the center is very satisfying. I listen to people and try my best to help them but, at times, my work is difficult and upsetting. In Mafraq, I met a family who is very poor – the mother had to sew clothes into a blanket to cover up her children at night. They had no food or water. Their home suffers from humidity and on rainy days, the water would flood the house. When leaving their house, the lady cried out, "Please don't forget us, please don't forget us!"
Refugees also tell me about life inside Syria. They talk of being surrounded all the time, no food, no water, hearing the constant bombing, the children living in constant fear; many of them have been attacked at their homes. People had to bury bodies at night, if they did so in daytime, they were at risk of being killed.
The hardest part of my job is managing expectations. How do I tell someone who comes to us that we can't help or that they need to go to another organization? I feel very upset when I can't help someone. By listening and empathizing with refugees, I hope to be able to provide relief and support.
We need more funding so we can assist as many people in need as possible. Yesterday, 120 refugees came to our center – some days we have had as many as 400.
The center will run for as long as we have funding and the situation for refugees here in Jordan remains the same. We anticipate that this will be a prolonged crises with increasing needs but we currently only have enough money to keep the center going until August.
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 1:16PM EST on April 9, 2013
Yana*, 26, tends to her month-old baby as her two-year-old daughter sits on the floor playing with a bib – there are no toys to entertain her.
The young mother is on her own with her children, living and sleeping in the same small room. Her only possessions are in the corner of the room – a small bag of clothes, which is the only thing she could carry when she fled Syria five months ago.
"I came to Jordan with my husband five months ago. He went back 12 days ago to bring his mother over to live with us, but for the last three days I haven’t heard anything from him," she says. "I know the area he was in has had some big incidents in the last few days so I am very worried. My husband might not be able to return."
Yana doesn’t just have to deal with the stress of not knowing if her husband is dead or alive but has to struggle everyday just to find enough food for her children.
"I don’t have enough money. But my neighbors help me with food and water."
She continues, "The daily expenses are my biggest concern. I can’t afford milk or diapers. Some days I haven’t been able to afford milk for the baby. I don’t have any gas left to cook and I am too embarrassed to keep asking people for help. I make do with bread and eat it even when it is totally dry."
Yana’s baby was born a refugee and she says the arrival of her daughter made her "happy and sad at the same time."
"Three days before my baby was born, I was visited by someone from CARE. They gave me some money to help me cover the hospital expenses, "she explains. "It was very helpful. I didn’t even have any clothes for the baby at that time."
With her husband missing and no money Yana says, "I have no guarantees in life anymore. I just need the basics to survive – but I have no money left."
*name has been changed
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 11:31AM EST on March 19, 2013
By Deborah Underdown, CARE UK
"Are you Syrian? Will you marry me?"
These are just some of the questions that 34-year-old Mufeeda has been hearing since her husband, Awad, went missing in Syria.
The young family of six lived in fear in Syria, until they finally made the decision to leave their country. They could no longer handle the pressure and constant bombing.
"We decided to take the chance and leave everything behind us when we heard that Syrians who come to Jordan get assisted and provided with all the help they need," she says.
What Mufeeda did not know is price hikes, lack of income generating opportunities and exploitation were some of the many challenges that awaited her family.
After making sure his wife and children were settled in Jordan, Awad decided to go back to settle their affairs in Syria.
"I have not heard from him in 3 months – I do not know where he is or if he is even alive," Mufeeda says, obviously distressed.
Despite having arrived from Syria with no possessions, and having no source of income, Mufeeda now is responsible for providing food and shelter for the whole family. She has visited all the organizations based in Zarqa to ask for help, but all she received was a promise that they will contact her when they have something available.
She believes, "Local organisation representatives would assist Syrian women who were groomed and beautiful – nobody took notice of me as my eyes were constantly swollen from crying all the time."
Now Mufeeda puts on makeup, wears the one fancy outfit she has and heads off to the organizations to seek food packages and diapers for her children.
"Amazingly enough, it works most of the time" she added sarcastically.
Azhar, her 12-year-old son, dropped out of school and is now working full-time to provide for his family. He prepares coffee at a local coffee shop and works 12 hours for a daily wage of approximately $2.25. This is the family's only source of income and it isn't enough to feed the family, much less the other two women living with them.
They're all staying in a one bedroom house that lacks the basic utilities. They sleep on mattresses on the floor. And they have been threatened with eviction if they delay paying their rent.
"The landlord increased the price of rent to $270.00 when she discovered that more people are living in the house, and gave us a week to pay the extra rent or to leave the house," Mufeeda explains. "She could easily rent it for an even higher price once we leave."
The family's future is uncertain, especially if their financial situation remains as it is now. But what is clear is that their condition will only get worse if they don't get any help.
"I'm afraid we will end up on the streets," Mufeeda says.
That's why she worries her only option ultimately might be to accept one of the indecent proposals she keeps hearing from Jordanian men with the promise of money.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:57AM EST on March 18, 2013
By Deborah Underdown, CARE UK
Ibtisan sits on the floor surrounded by her five children. There is no furniture, just a few cushions scattered about. One girl stands out; she is wearing a bright red woolly hat. Her name is Tasinne and she is 6 years old. Despite having 8-month-old twins to look after, Ibtisan is totally focused on Tasinne. She sits on her mother's lap and cuddles in as close as she can get. Tasinne has cancer.
It wasn't the shelling or bullets that made this mother leave Daraa (one of the areas worst affected by the conflict in Syria) but the fact that she couldn't get any medicine for Tasinne.
"We had been living in constant fear for a year and a half. We were staying in underground shelters and would only leave to get bread; we had to crawl along the streets because it was so dangerous," she explains.
"But when Tasinne got sick we took her to a doctor and they told us she had cancer of the kidney. I knew then that we would have to leave. There are no medical facilities available anymore."
Ibtisan's husband stayed in Syria to try to protect their home. She went Amman, Jordan's capital, where she's living in an apartment that she can't afford. She is already two months behind on rent. Every penny she gets goes towards Tasinne's medical care.
"The chemotherapy costs 200 JD [about $300 USD] a session and I have been told she needs one session a week until July. CARE gave me money to pay for the last two sessions but I don't know how I will pay for the next one," Ibtisan says. "She had a session yesterday and is now suffering from the side effects. I want to take her to the doctor but that will cost more money – what can I do?"
When Tasinne is asked what she would like to be when she grows up she states, "A doctor so I can give out free medicine."
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:52AM EST on March 18, 2013
By Deborah Underdown, CARE UK
Maryam sits in a chair next to a heater, family photos hang from the wall. But the photos aren't of her family – the photos belong to the family with whom she's now living.
Since fleeing her home in Homs, Syria a month ago, Maryam has had to rely on the charity of a Jordanian family.
"There were constant bullets. It was very hard and the house was constantly shaking. I had no electricity, no water. I could never sleep." Despite this, she says, "I would still be there now, in my home, if I hadn't got sick."
"Homs was no longer the Homs I knew. There were no services. I could no longer just go and see a doctor."
"I didn't plan to leave but my neighbor told me his brother was leaving the next day so I went with him. I was only able to bring a change of clothes. I left everything behind. I locked my house and I don't know what will happen to it. Then I came here, to this house."
Maryam is living with three women – a mother and her two daughters. "I knew this family. They are my neighbor's family so I knew them from when they visited Syria. I feel like I am with my family but I don't want to be a burden to them. My husband died 18 years ago so I feel safe here – it is a women's place."
Maryam was in a lot of pain when she arrived, and visited a hospital, where she was told she needed to have her gallbladder removed. The operation would cost 750 JD (more than $1,000.00). While she was at the hospital, she heard about CARE's support center for Syrian refugees.
"I could kiss them – they were so warm and welcoming," she said. "They gave me some money to go towards the operation." She received additional funds from a local organization.
Now that her medical condition has improved, her concerns turn to other problems. "I have nothing, no money. This family is really helping me, but I am totally dependent on them."
The family is facing difficulties and are concerned about the rising cost of living in Jordan. They feel people are starting to take advantage of the influx of Syrians and the need for housing. Despite living in the house for 50 years, paying the same monthly rent, they have recently had an increase.
Noura, one of the daughters, says, "The landlord increased our rent – it is now double what it used to be. Everything has risen in price except wages. The situation in Jordan is now very difficult – very difficult for everyone."
CARE is helping.
Women and children who have fled the violence without a male head of the household are particularly vulnerable and have particular needs for assistance. CARE is working to address those needs by ensuring they have access to basic services, providing emergency cash to pay for food and accommodations, and offering psychological and social support.
During the winter months, we provided clothing, blankets, mattresses and heaters to families – many of whom fled Syria with nothing and found themselves sleeping on floors of overcrowded, cold buildings.
Households receiving refugees in Amman are themselves very poor, and in need of support to cope with increased pressure on limited employment opportunities, basic services and essential commodities. CARE in Jordan also supports poor Jordanian families with basic relief items such as blankets, bed sheets, winter clothing and food.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:48AM EST on March 15, 2013
Claudine Mensah Awute, Country Director with CARE Mali, describes the humanitarian crisis in the West African nation.
About a year ago, the world started to watch with alarm the growing number of people suffering from a severe food crisis engulfing the Sahel region, which, at its peak, affected more than 18 million people.
To make things worse, Mali, once one of the most stable and peaceful countries of the region, saw an escalation of violence as fighting erupted in the north of the country. Thousands of families spilled into neighboring countries, taking refuge in camps hastily patched together on the border of Niger or Mauritania, whilst many others sought relief and shelter with friends and families in the south of the country.
In recent weeks, Mali has been grabbing headlines as government, French, ECOWAS and Chadian troops continue their fight against armed groups in the north of the country. Every day, there has been news of the troops reaching one town after another.
But what has been grabbing fewer or no headlines at all is the number of people who have been forced to flee their homes amidst the fighting–wives torn apart from their husbands, children from their parents, families from their communities. They have been forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.
And the numbers keep growing. During three weeks in January alone there have been nearly 18,000 refugees and 12,000 displaced people in Mali.
These numbers can be overwhelming, but behind them, there are people – in flesh and bone, each with a story of their own. Such as Rokia, a mother of four, who told CARE that she had fled by herself with her four children. Months before, her husband had to flee their village in the north after being attacked by armed groups. She is constantly worried about him and distressed as she doesn’t know how she could fend for her children by herself.
Haussa, a mother of four in Bamako, who fled Timbuktu in early January, told us that she would like to return home, though she was well aware there is nothing waiting for her.
The needs are many. As our recent assessments have shown, displaced families lack even the most basic necessities. They are in desperate need of food, water, adequate shelter and essential items such as kitchen utensils, blankets, mats and soap. For those who are planning to return home, the unknown awaits – how much of their belongings have been stolen? What about the next harvest and will they be able to plant? And there is a need to come to the aid of those living in trying circumstances in various refugee camps across the border, all of them still suffering from the strain of last year’s food crisis.
On January 29th, the Consolidated Appeal Process for Mali was launched in Bamako, two months after an international launch. The appeal sums up the global humanitarian needs across the country for the current crisis and is based on assessments by United Nations Agencies and International NGOs.
During these two months, less than 1 percent of the US$ 373 million needed has been funded. Yet during the recent Donors Conference in Ethiopia, more than $450 million was provided to support military operations in Mali. So obviously, the international community can mobilize resources for Mali, and they can do it fast.
Today, an international support group for Mali is meeting in Brussels to discuss how to support the political process leading to Mali's elections. CARE and other humanitarian agencies on the ground ask for a similar level of commitment, mobilization and attention to meet the urgent humanitarian needs as well. Established actors on the ground know what needs to be done, and if funding is made available, relief can be provided quickly.
CARE has been distributing food in two of the five regions which are the worst affected. CARE supports both internally displaced people and host communities who are still recovering from last year’s food crisis with programs such as cash for work and the provision of much needed inputs such as tools and seeds to ensure a decent harvest. More than 130,000 people in Timbuktu will receive life saving food supplies over the following months.
CARE’s Appeal – $6 million for 1 year – will fund an emergency response that includes life-saving activities, which include providing access to food, water, sanitation and cash programs for 30,000 families, and better access to school for 25,000 school children who have been displaced due to conflict.
CARE is also responding with long-term development solutions that include disaster risk reduction and food security programs. Many of our activities, including cash and food related initiatives, focus on women, as they often suffer the most during times of crisis.
Mali is a clear example of where aid will save lives. It is the very essence of why most donors support our aid program. It is also why so many individuals give donations.
Despite the fact that Mali and its people might be a world away, they are in dire need of our help. And they need it now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:45AM EST on March 15, 2013
In NGO jargon, they are called ‘host communities.’ Most often, they are people who, despite going through a difficult time themselves, welcome and support others who are even less fortunate. In brief, they are good people.
Fifty-six-year-old Fatimata, a widow from Mali, is one of them. Ségou, the region where she has been living, has seen the arrival of more than 2,000 people over a period of three weeks in January alone – people who, fearing for their lives, have fled the north of the country and its recent fighting.
They are part of nearly 12,000 people displaced within the country since Jan. 11 and an addition to approximately 18,000 who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
“We can not abandon them,” says Fatimata over the phone. “They are our brothers and sisters.” Her voice falters every few minutes – not so much because of the connection, but because what she is recounting is obviously distressing for her.
She hasn’t had an easy life, she says. She is a widow, sharing her modest pension and house with some of her children and eight of her grandchildren.
Then followed the arrival of her sister and two children, her brother with his wife and two children, and a cousin with more children. They all fled Gao – the largest city seized by armed groups – amidst scenes of violence and dread.
Now they all share Fatimata’s house and everything she has. Little as that is.
When asked to describe her day, she points out that most of it is focused on scraping things together, on ensuring there is some food, especially for the children. “Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t,” she says. “We live from one day to another. Only God knows how we manage,” she concludes after a pause.
How do they manage? They borrow money. They buy food, cook it and sell it in the street. “We try to manage with the little we have. It is not easy for anyone. For my brother especially. He is not comfortable being here with his whole family and having to rely on his younger sister. He doesn’t like the fact that he can’t work.”
But sadly, until there is full peace in their hometown, or help arrives in their host community, they are forced to continue living as they can. On scraps of food and hope.
Note: CARE has been distributing food in Ségou and Mopti. CARE supports both internally displaced people and host communities who are still recovering from last year’s food crisis. CARE is also responding with long-term development solutions that include disaster risk reduction and food security programs. Many of CARE’s activities, including cash and food, focus on women as they often suffer the most during times of crisis. CARE is particularly concerned about them.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:07AM EST on March 15, 2013
Following recent fighting in Mali, CARE interviewed the people of Diabaly about their experiences. Sadly, many of them had tragedies to share. The following are a few stories as told to CARE by the survivors.
“We were awakened by gunfire. Very alarmed, my husband, my three children and myself went into hiding in our room until the following day.
By the following night, we managed to flee. We reached a rice field. Soon, we were taken in by the first family we met. They were very welcoming. They gave us food and water, and did not ask many questions.
I then took a bus with my kids to Siribala to join my aunt. I did not have any money on me, and my aunt paid for our transport when we arrived. My husband continued to Bamako and since then I have no news from him.
It's really hard for my aunt and all of us.”
From Awa and Assan:
Red eyed from insomnia, still covered in the black burqa imposed by armed groups, Awa has a sad story to share. As she is still very distressed, it is Assan, her sister, who tells CARE Awa’s story.
“After the January shooting in Diabaly, my sister Awa walked nearly 100 miles from Diabaly to Sibirila with two of her children and eight other unaccompanied children.
Traumatized by the events in Diabaly, she doesn’t talk much now, and she is not her usual self. She is currently receiving medical treatment so that she can better deal with her distress.
Things are tough for us now with having to look after all the children as well.”
Following the fighting on Monday, January the 11th, in Diabaly, a man in his 50s describes the longest night of his life.
“It was a nightmarish night,” he says. “We were hiding in the house, with a gut wrenching fear, but the worse was yet to come. Suddenly a bullet pierced the bedroom door of my children; it hit my 10-year-old son in the head as he was sleeping; he would never wake up again. My 12-year-old daughter was also wounded. I confess that since then I have not been functioning well; I have been feeling very down.”
Note: to date, CARE has supported internally displaced people in Siribala with essential food distributions; over the past few weeks, CARE distributed 528 kg of food to 605 people. Overall, in the months of January-February, a total of 46,888 people in the regions of Mopti and Segou have been assisted, with 668 metric tonnes of food being distributed.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:22PM EST on March 14, 2013
Haleemah survived the conflict in Syria. Now she struggles to live in safety in Jordan.
"I came to Jordan last year in August. My village was bombed, and from what I heard, all of the houses are destroyed," she says. As a single woman of 37 years she crossed the border alone one night. An exhausting journey, given that Haleemah is handicapped and can only walk with a crutch.
"When I was 1 year old, one of my legs became paralyzed," she explains and looks to the wall, where the crooked iron crutch waits.
Haleemah, her brother and his family were poor even before they came to Jordan. As refugees they struggle even more to survive. "We have nothing. My brother tried to find employment as a day laborer, but often he works more than 12 hours a day and gets paid very little."
Mohammed had a physical breakdown at the end of last year and is recovering slowly. Adding to the physically strenuous labor and the hidden trauma, the daily pressure of feeding his family was too much for him to bear.
"He saw many neighbors being killed in Dara'a," Haleemah says softly. When Mohammad lost his strength, the family lost its income too. "We were not able to afford the rent last month. Now, the landlord asked us to pay in advance for the coming six months, but we have no money. How shall we pay?" Haleemah asks with desperation in her voice.
Shoeless on the icy floor
The family possesses not a single piece of furniture. No bed, no cupboard, no sofa, nothing but several mattresses lying on the floor, covered by woolen, flower-patterned blankets. They were donated by a local organization. It's cold and damp – realities of the harsh winter in Jordan. The single kerosene heater battles against the fresh breeze creeping through the concrete floor and drafty window frames.
Aryam and Kalid, Haleemah's niece and nephew, squat on the icy floor, shoeless. The children are afraid, shivering every time they hear fireworks cracking outside on the streets. "It reminds them of the daily bombing," says Haleemah.
The Syrian family lacks everything: food, clothes, household items, money. Often they cannot afford to buy water and use what pours out of the tap instead. "The children have become sick and suffer regularly from diarrhea," the 37-year old tells the CARE team visiting Mafraq to assess the situation of the refugees.
Since the conflict broke out almost two years ago, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have come to Jordan to seek safety. While many find shelter in the refugee camps, the majority head into the poor suburbs of cities like Amman, Irbid or Mafraq.
"It is difficult to collect a comprehensive picture of the urban refugees in terms of numbers. But it is obvious that many of them need assistance," says Ruba Saleh, who works with CARE's Syrian refugee response team. "By listening to the refugees, we find out what they need and can plan our emergency response accordingly."
At the end of last year, CARE opened an assistance center in East Amman where refugees receive mattresses, heaters, blankets and cash to help pay for rent and other needs. More than 20,000 Syrians have received assistance from CARE since 2012. The word about CARE's efforts has spread like wildfire; refugees living outside of Amman arrive daily to ask for help. "With more funding, we hope to open similar centers in cities like Mafraq so people do not need to drive long distances", Ruba says.
While Haleemah and her family need support in all ways, they are relieved to be alive. "Although our lives are miserable, although we have no money, we have survived the violence in Syria. We are safe here," her brother Mohammad says with a sad expression on his face. His wife, Wala'a, is seven months pregnant and with no end to the conflict in Syria in sight, the child will be born in Jordan. A refugee child born in safety, yet with an uncertain future.
By Sandra Bulling, CI Communications Officer, February 2013
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:14PM EST on March 14, 2013
Abu Anas fled Syria last year. Today, he supports other Syrians at CARE's refugee center in Amman
Abu Anas greets the newcomers with a warm smile. The Syrian family, mother, father and two sons, just arrived here in Amman, Jordan two weeks ago. When the bombing became unbearable, they left their home in Syria. They fled at night, without much time to pack their scarce belongings. And now they are here in CARE's Syria refugee center, asking for help.
Abu Anas leads the parents to a row of seats, where several Syrian families are already waiting. The two sons look curiously around the room, shyly observing the large number of Syrians refugees: those who wait quietly on the black chairs for their turn; others, who crowd around the small counter where Abu Anas and his colleagues register the new arrivals, listen to their stories and explain how CARE can support them. A telephone constantly rings in the background, manned by a CARE volunteer answering inquiries and giving directions to the center. A room full of refugees, who share the experience of violence, bombing and killings in their Syrian home towns, who had to leave everything behind. Who lost family members, friends or neighbors in the bitter conflict.
Since the conflict in Syria broke out almost two years ago, Jordan is receiving an endless stream of Syrian refugees. In January alone, more than 60,000 people arrived in the small desert kingdom. While a large number of refugees seek shelter at the overcrowded refugee camps, the majority head to the poor suburbs of Amman, Mafraq or Irbid. They spend all their savings on rent and basic household items and now struggle to feed and house their families.
A few suitcases, a small saving
Abu Anas cannot but sympathize with the Syrians who come here – as he is a refugee himself."I left Homs, my hometown, one year ago. A bullet flew through the window of my son's room, the glass shattered on the floor. Luckily, my son was not in the room. This was the moment when I realized we need to leave. It had become too dangerous," Abu Anas says. He fled Homs with his wife, Abir, and his five children by bus, crossing into Jordan with a few suitcases full of clothes and the small savings they had."We came to Amman because we had friends here, who let us stay at their house for a few weeks. Then I found an apartment for us in the outskirts of East Amman."
Abu Anas' family had found safety, but the violence followed them in their dreams."My children had terrible nightmares. My daughter Marwa was so scared she did not want me to leave the apartment. She screamed and locked the door, because she feared I would never return. My youngest son would not come close to the window, he was afraid another bullet would hit again," Abu Anas remembers his first months in Jordan."However, the refugees who are arriving now are even worse off than we are. There are no jobs in Syria anymore, so they have had no income for many months, they have lost all their assets and experienced the worst violence one cannot imagine."
Today, one year later, Marwa's nightmares have slowly subsided, yet Abu Anas' concerns for the well-being of his family remain. He pays a rent of 180 Jordanian Dinar (190 Euro) per month, but he does not know how to afford a roof over the head of his family any longer. His savings are gone. He is not allowed to work and earn his living in Jordan. He used to be a French teacher in Syria, with a degree from the University of Homs."Now, I depend on the assistance of others," he says. Assistance that comes from organizations such as CARE, the UN Refugee Agency and others.
Helping other refugees
When friends told Abu Anas of CARE's Syrian refugee center, he immediately visited the large beige building in a poor suburb of Amman, hoping to find help there."Not only did I receive cash assistance, I also applied to help as a volunteer," he says."My son Anas and I both help the CARE staff to register and assist other Syrians. CARE gives each of us a small allowance to help with transport and other costs."
When Abu Anas's family fled Homs, 18-year old Anas was just about to finish high school."His work at CARE keeps him distracted and busy, but I worry about his future," his concerned father says. Like him, young Anas patiently listens to the new arrivals and helps CARE staff to register, distribute cash and relief items such as mattresses, blankets and heaters or refer them to other social services. A young and talented man, he has lost his future in violence-torn Syria.
Since CARE Jordan opened its Syrian refugee center in East Amman at the end of last year, more than 11,000 people have come to seek help. They need cash to pay rent and buy household items and they need health support and psychological assistance to overcome their traumatic experience in Syria. With more funding, CARE hopes to replicate this successful model and open refugee centers in other cities to reach those who are trying to survive on their own.
“On some days, we receive whole busloads of refugee families who venture out here from other Jordanian cities and who have heard of our center from friends and relatives," explains Abu Anas. One day, the center was so overcrowded, he started to organize refugees in two long orderly lines, one for men and one for women. He is a teacher who wants to assist others, provide safety for his family and a future for his children. He is also a man, who is torn between surviving in a foreign country and rebuilding his life, yet hoping to return to Syria, his home."Once the killing has stopped, we will go back. But not before," he says.
By Sandra Bulling, CI Communications Officer, February 2013
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:23PM EST on February 11, 2013
By Adel Sarkozi
It is 8 o’clock in the morning in the city of Ségou. The sky is blue and there is mist in the air. In the street that runs all the way to the Niger River, between the courthouse and the town hall, you find one of CARE’s food distribution sites. The place is full of people – women, men and children. But mainly there are women in a sea of bright headscarves. Some cover their faces with their veils, many more wear a bright smile.
Their feet are dusty, but there is joy in the air as they receive their food rations –flower, oil, peas salt and other essential items.
One of the women is Kadidia from Gao region. She fled to Ségou with 11 members of her family. Despite the sack of food pressing heavily on her head, she smiles and says, "I have no words to express my joy. This is the first time we have received something. May God bless CARE for being by our side when we needed it the most."
There are others who have just arrived, hoping they can join the line. Fatoumata, a woman in her 60s, has fled to Ségou with five of her children. She looks tired. Unable to read or write, she is holding out the card indentifying her as a displaced person; she wants to get someone’s attention. "May you help me, and may God help you in return," she says shyly.
Not far from her, in the shade of a tree, sits Mohamed. In front of him is the stick he used in the past for herding his animals; he kept it, though he has no animals left.
"I have been a herder all my life, but armed groups have taken all of my cattle. Now I have nothing left but my life. I fled with my wife and seven children. It took us many days to arrive in Ségou. We walked and walked before we found a driver who took pity on us. Now we are here – safe but without anything."
His voice is trembling, his eyes are red. "I heard a lot about CARE Mali and I came to ask for help," he concludes.
He will soon join the line of people waiting to receive the precious food. Once they receive it, they carry it off back to their families – some by foot, sacks on their heads, others by borrowed donkey carts or motorbikes.
Note: During the past three weeks, CARE distributed in Ségou more than 300 metric tons of food to 17,470 people.
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 4:06PM EST on January 30, 2013
By Adel Sarkozi, CARE
In an outer suburb of Bamako – Mali's capital - with half finished buildings on dusty dirt roads covered in litter, you enter a two-storey house. Like many other derelict houses in the neighborhood, you're told, it is inhabited by "Northerners."
They are most often women with their children, or just children, torn apart from the rest of the family and forced to flee the Timbuktu region, its violence and chaos, its dread-filled streets, empty shops, schools and health centers shut down since last April.
Their stories sound the same, with small variations, punctured by half sentences, and words, such as – "fear," "had to flee," "on the road for four days," "could not take anything with us," "husband left behind," "life turned upside down." They are probably the best summed up by Komjo, a grandmother in her 60s:
"Everything that was good in my life, I had to leave behind. I live on memories, those before the fighting," she says.
I find her seated on the floor, surrounded by younger women and their children, some her relatives, some neighbors from Timbuktu. There are about 40 of them in the house, having joint relatives or just good-hearted people. At night, they cram in two semi-bare rooms, and on a bare balcony.
As every morning since she fled to Bamako six months ago, Komjo is bending over a large plate full of small shells. ‘She is reading the future," says Haussa, a woman in her 30s, seated on her right.
"So what do the shells say today?," I ask.
I expect her to say something about her future, that of Timbuktu – liberated just the day before – or that of Mali, but she starts telling me about my own future. And from the way she touches upon my past, I cannot help believing that her predictions might be true as well.
When I ask about Timbuktu, she says, "Only God knows…We cannot be sure." She starts tossing the shells in front of her for a few seconds, and then she adds, "But I would go back straight away, this very instance if I could."
For the first time, there is passion in her voice, and a shade of smile on her face neatly lined by the trace of time, tucked under a bright headscarf.
"We will go back as soon as there is complete peace there," Haussa picks up the story.
She arrived in Bamako on January 10, after a four-day journey, most of it by boat. The story of her family's journey over the past seven months is intricate, marked by painful decisions. Last May, Haussa and her husband decided to send their three older children – between 7 and 12 years old – to Bamako, in the safe hands of helpful relatives. The parents were worried about the children's safety after violence erupted in Timbuktu last April, but they also wanted the children to continue going to school.
"In Timbuktu," she says, "there has been nothing since last April – no schools, no clinics, no electricity, no water, no services whatsoever. It was hard for the children."
They kept only their youngest son with them – Abdul, a playful, 2 year old. Then, a few weeks ago, fearing the worst, her husband insisted that Haussa leave with their little one. The two set off leaving the husband and father behind. He stayed because he was worried that their house would be vandalized.
Abdul found the journey difficult, Haussa explains, and often cried out of tiredness, pleading for them to stop.
Haussa pulls Abdul over to her lap while Abdamane, the eldest son, joins them on the floor. When asked what he misses about his life in Timbuktu, Abdamane says shyly, "Everything … my school … my friends … my father, most of all."
His story is sadly too common – of families torn apart, predicting a future just as uncertain and disrupted, they say, as their recent past.
A bright, articulate boy, Salif, is taking refuge in the same house with two of his younger brothers. School is important to him, he says. He wants to become an agricultural engineer, and is now in his last year of high school. Last year, he spent five months out of school, until he too fled from Timbuktu.
I turn back to Komjo who is still staring at her shells.
"More news?" I ask.
She pauses, eyes still cast on the shells.
"Life is hard here. Everything is expensive. We live from one day to another. We have to borrow money, cope with whatever little we have. When we heard Timbuktu was freed, we were filled with joy. It was unbelievable. There is little left there. It will be hard, but we want to go back … as soon as we can," she finally says.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:24PM EST on January 28, 2013
Struggling to Survive
As told to CARE by Ibrahim, 57 years old
I had to leave my village of Temara (near Timbuktu) eight months ago because of the crisis in the north of Mali. Since then, I have been living in Sévaré [near Mopti] with my family and that of my brother – about 20 people – in a house we have been renting.
I don't work and the other family members don't either, so we don't have any revenue. The children are not going to school either. God to be praised, we manage to eat once and often twice a day thanks to donations by NGOs such as CARE, or support from our parents.
We are facing enormous difficulties. The main issue is the lack of food as I can't even ensure the three daily meals for my family. Also, my family and I have problems with the accommodation despite the two tents and the one toilet that we were given by the Red Cross.
We need help from aid organizations, especially clean drinking water as at the moment we are using untreated water from the well. I would like especially to receive the emergency supplies that CARE and the World Food Program are currently distributing in Sévaré.
A Mother on Raising Her Family in a Conflict Zone
As told to CARE by Rokia, 40 years old
I am from Niafounke (near Timbuktu).
I have been living in Mopti for nine months. I came here after my husband was assaulted by armed groups and he had to flee. He left me with the four children and we are living now with the village chief of Massaya Daga in Mopti in a small house.
I am very worried about my husband as I don’t often have news from him. But I thank God that my children and I can eat three times a day thanks to food distributions by CARE and the World Food Program. As for water, we use water from the river, mixing it with bleach. Not having an activity to enable me to earn money means that I am faced with a lot of problems trying to raise the children by myself.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:49AM EST on January 23, 2013
As told to CARE on January 19, 2013:
My house is about a dozen meters from the military camp in Diabaly. This Thursday at 5:00 in the morning, we heard gunfire between armed groups and the Malian army, which had rigorously counter-attacked the armed groups in Alatona, at the entrance to the town.
We heard loud gunshots everywhere and, tragically, one civilian was killed in the gunfire. I quickly ran to take cover at a friend's house. I was relieved that my family had already traveled to Markala for the weekend.
It was total panic everywhere in the town of Diabaly and the population had only one choice: hide in their houses and pray to God.
I hid for three days in horrible conditions, without any food. The second and third days were particularly nightmarish for me, because as a worker for a water company, one of the armed groups was looking for me to kill me. According to their philosophy, you are not allowed to sell water.
Thanks to a source that I would rather not name, I was quickly informed of the situation. I will never stop thanking the population of Diabaly: not only did they refuse to hand me over to the armed group; they disguised me as a woman and helped me flee the town. On my lips were but one sole refrain that came from the bottom of my heart: May God protect us, God is great.
I walked for 35 kilometers by foot before I came to a place with telephone coverage, and I called a friend in Niono, a town about 60 kilometers away, who came to rescue me by motorbike.
I arrived exhausted and traumatized by the events that occurred in Diabaly. Now, by the grace of God, my morale is better, and I am asking everyone to immediately come to the aid of the people of Diabaly – particularly with food – because they are in desperate need.
*The name of the person in this story has been withheld to protect his identity.
Safe humanitarian access is critical at this point and remains a major challenge for all humanitarian actors in Mali. However, with close to 9,000 people uprooted from their homes since the latest round of violence began on January 10, CARE is eager to better understand the situation and needs of the people. We have a rapid assessment team in the region of Ségou and another team will go to the Mopti region when it's deemed safe.
Please make your donation today to support CARE's lifesaving and life-changing work in Mali and other poor and war-torn countries around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:59AM EST on January 14, 2013
A few days before Christmas, CARE teamed up with partner organizations to distribute relief items in displacement camps around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, where a recent surge in violence has displaced an additional 150,000 people, adding to what’s one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the world.
Countless sporadic settlements have sprung up, with most shelters mainly consisting of sheets and flimsy wooden frames that will be no good during the rainy season. To bring some relief, CARE helped distribute more than 17,500 relief kits containing items such as kitchen sets, blankets and plastic sheeting.
Meet some of the beneficiaries:
My name is Mwamini Bagirisha. I am 20 years old. I’ve lived in Mugunga camp since April 28, 2012, fleeing the conflict between the government forces and the M23 group.
Since I have come from the territory of Masisi to Goma, we have received support two times. First, the Red Cross gave us food and plastic sheeting. Then, the government distributed some food, too. But when M23 took over Goma in November, we lost everything again. The fighting happened here, just right outside of our camp.
I am very happy to receive these relief items because now I can cover my hut again. The cooking utensils and clothes will help us, too. But all I really want is to return to my home village and bring in the harvest. We had to leave our land and the fields when we fled in April.
My name is Jeanne Mujawimana and I am 52 years old. I’ve fled my home in Masisi Bihambwe and now I’ve lived in this camp for three weeks. I haven’t found a place to build a hut yet, so I live in a hangar. I have seven children and am very happy to receive this assistance. This will help me construct a shelter for my family.
I would like to thank all the humanitarians who come and bring us relief like this. It will help us overcome the rainy season. I wish we could also get some food assistance, because we do not have enough to eat. Christmas and New Year’s will be difficult.
My name is Natutarumbo Sofina and I am 72 years old. I fled Masisi five months ago and now I live here with my grandchildren. Their parents died during the war.
In August, we received some support, a plastic sheet and some blankets from the Red Cross. But when Goma was attacked in November, we lost all we had. I am happy to receive these items, the plastic sheeting, the cloths, the blankets and pots will help us tremendously. But we also need food.
And security is a big concern. There have been thefts here, because we cannot lock our doors. And it is hard to find firewood to prepare food because we live next to a national park and it is not allowed to cut wood. Our biggest hope is to find peace and return to our villages.
My name is Florence Hategeka and I am 19 years old. I come from Rutushuru, both my mother and father have passed away. I have come to this camp, Mugunfa, about four weeks ago with my two little brothers. We live in a hut covered with leaves from trees. Every time it rains, we suffer.
Now that we have received this plastic sheeting, I am sure that our situation will improve. We are thankful for this support. Our hope is to return to our home village where we had to leave our land and the food we used to grow because of the war.
I am a husband and father of three. My wife is sick, so I have come to this distribution with one of my children. Before, we were literally empty handed, because all the assistance that we received in Kanyarutsinya camp was lost when we had to flee. Now I am very happy to receive this support, especially the plastic sheeting for our shelter. This will help improve our difficult lives here.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on January 14, 2013
by Sarah Zingg, CARE DRC
Hands clap and fingers snap as a group of women and men watch CARE staff Rose Vive Lobo’s lips and respond to her questions.
"What does sexual violence mean? Do you know different forms of such violence? What are women’s and men’s rights and obligations?"
Twenty women and men have been selected to participate. They’re representatives from each of three displacement camps in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
After several months of escalating violence, more than 150,000 people have been newly displaced, uprooted from their communities and mostly left to themselves in spontaneous camps.
To prevent sexual and gender-based violence, and care for survivors of it, CARE trains men and women to become community educators. They will share their knowledge within the communities to help break the taboo – and stigma – associated with these types of violence. Husbands, families and even whole communities often marginalize and discriminate against survivors because of the shame they are believed to bring.
As a result of the fear of isolation and stigma, survivors seldom dare to speak about their experience and hardly ever reach out for help. CARE works with women and men to change attitudes and views about sexual and gender-based violence and break the cycles of violence and discrimination against women and girls.
The topic is not new to the group; they all have experienced some kind of sexual or gender-based violence or know someone who has. This is as much a problem in the camps as it was in their villages before they had to flee.
Now, women and girls face the threat of being raped when they venture out to look for firewood, but domestic rape is common as well, yet less talked about.
The participants also know other forms of gender-based violence – the topic of today’s training session – and the group members share their own experiences, some hesitantly, others more freely.
Many forms and norms of violence
Violence and discrimination comes in forms. Rose explains that privileging sons over daughters when it comes to education and heritage is not fair. The group members first react with consternation, but as the discussion takes off, more and more agree that this treatment hinders the economic success a woman can have in her life.
One of the women stands up and explains with a quiet and sad voice that she could not find any words when her daughters asked her one day why they had not been educated while their brothers had. An elderly woman also speaks up and says, "I took the decision to educate my daughters because it is through them that their own children will benefit as well." However, she adds that she lacked the money to send her daughters beyond the first years of primary school.
The men and women participate enthusiastically in the discussions. Those who can write take notes, and others listen attentively and share their own experiences and opinions. As the group takes a short break, 32-year-old Patrick speaks.
"I have learned a lot during the last two days and I will share it with everyone in the camp." He adds, "In my family, my sisters didn’t inherit anything. I know now that this is also a sort of violence against women."
Nineteen-year-old Aline, mother of two, expresses a similar point. "Before the training, I knew that rape existed, but I didn’t know the different types of sexual violence," she says. "I also learned that it mainly happens to women who wander off into the forest on their own. I want to use what I have learned here today to tell people how to protect themselves from violence."
"If ever I am in a situation of being attacked, I would have two reactions," Aline continues, "Fleeing, and denouncing the perpetrator! I would tell the first person I meet what has happened, and would try to make sure that [the attacker] is being arrested."
With these powerful role models, sexual and gender-based violence hopefully will become less acceptable, and women will gain more respect. Survivors of rape will also have more confidence to talk about their experience and reach out for help, which will allow them to receive the necessary medical and psychological care.
Changing practices and norms takes time, but it starts with community educators as these 20 women and men who are determined to share their knowledge and lead the way.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 4:38PM EST on January 11, 2013
On December 15, a CARE team returned from an evaluation mission to South Masisi territory in the North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — the first one to take place in the region by any humanitarian organization.
Starting in mid-November, the rural areas surrounding Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, had been inaccessible due to increased fighting. A CARE team of three visited several villages in south Masisi in a convoy organized by the World Food Programme as soon as the security situation allowed.
In the villages they visited, CARE found large numbers of new arrivals — internally displaced people who've recently fled fighting near their homes. CARE already had programs in the area; organizing food distributions through a cash and voucher system at the local market, providing plastic sheets to cover huts against rain and supporting local health centers with medicine and advice.
When fighting intensified, CARE and other humanitarian organizations had to temporarily withdraw from the region. The CARE Masisi team continued to work around the clock from Goma to ensure an immediate intervention could be launched once the humanitarian corridor to South Masisi was reopened.
CARE's three field staff came back a week after they had left for South Masisi with many observations and analyses of the current needs of the displaced populations, and recommendations for interventions CARE could undertake given the conditions on the ground.
"Most of the displaced persons have been here for five months," reported Emmanuel, one of the CARE staff who visited South Masisi. "They were working in their fields when they heard the fighting in the villages. They fled immediately without having the chance to go back home to take some belongings such as plates or pots."
"They arrived there without anything," he explains. "They sleep on the ground. You know, it's very cold in Masisi and without any household goods it's difficult to prepare to eat. They also don't have easy access to water."
Emmanuel recorded the stories of some of the people he met
Munyarubuga, 62, father of four
Uwizeye Therese, 35, mother of five
Madame Nyirabazairwa, 30, mother of two
Madame Agishanimana, 28, mother of one
A few days after the assessment, CARE, in partnership with the World Food Programme and the Government of Luxemburg, distributed food and shelter items to more than 8,000 displaced families.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:44AM EST on December 21, 2012
Families fleeing the on-going violence in Syria are arriving in Jordan and many are heading for the capital, Amman. A recent survey carried out by CARE found that 40 percent of refugees surveyed in Amman are extremely vulnerable and in dire need of help.
Parents are fearful about being able to pay their rent, buy food and prepare for winter.
Many families had to sell belongings to get out of Syria and are left with little in the way of savings. The rental costs in Amman mean that the risk of falling into spiralling debt is high. Families are afraid they will be evicted and some are even considering a return to their war torn country.
One father CARE staff met, Hai Nazzal, told us that: "Rent is the most important thing for us, if we don't have a roof over our heads we will have to go back to Syria – I can't keep my children here on the streets."
No household we visited is in any way prepared for winter where temperatures plummet to as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed currently have no access to any heating source.
Parents like Abdul told CARE: "We have no heater, too few blankets and no warm clothes. We're very worried. It's going to get very cold, and it's so damp in these rooms."
CARE's Country Director in Jordan, Kevin Fitzcharles, said: "These families have fled their homes in fear for their lives and now find themselves living in poverty, facing a cold, hard winter. We are providing more than 20,000 refugees with help to pay for food, rent, blankets and heaters so they don't fall further into poverty and hardship."
About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters.
CARE has been working in Jordan since 1948. CARE Jordan has extensive experience working with refugees, providing livelihood training and opportunities, emergency cash assistance, information sharing and psychosocial support to Iraqi refugees since 2003.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on December 21, 2012
NOTE: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
It is 3:30 a.m. and everyone in Goma is asleep.
A group of 50 people from CARE and two of its partner organizations are awake and on their way to their designated meeting point. Seven NGOs and four UN organizations have teamed up to do a census at all of the sites in Goma that have become spontaneous camps for displaced persons. The mission: To count everyone, record their names and determine their needs.
Though we often see reports about the distribution of relief items during emergencies, the public knows little about the many rounds of coordination, data collection and logistical preparations that make the effective distribution of aid possible. So what exactly happens before much-needed help such as food, blankets or hygiene articles are given out to those who have lost everything?
The recent surge of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu, the easternmost province of the country, has brought with it a sharp rise in the number of people forced to flee their homes. Many of these families have settled in spontaneous sites in Goma, the provincial capital. They shelter under flimsy plastic sheets, in makeshift huts, or in overcrowded classrooms and churches. They need food, water and other relief items. But how exactly do you count the number of people living in such spontaneous sites? How do you ensure that everyone receives support while no one is benefitting twice? How do you identify those in need of special assistance, like breastfeeding women and unaccompanied children?
To get to their census locations on time, many CARE staff have been awake since 2:00 a.m. At 4:30 a.m., everyone puts on their CARE shirts to be easily recognizable once they enter the camps. For this census, CARE will cover one part of Mugunga I camp, where an estimated 12,400 households have settled in recent weeks.
Every census team member receives spray paint and 120 yellow coupons. Their job is to go from hut to hut to find which are inhabited and by whom. People come and go quickly, so some temporary shelters have already been abandoned. The head of the household, if present, is given a coupon to go to a registration desk and submit more information about their situation. CARE staff prefers to give the coupons to a female head of household as they are typically more reliable caretakers of everyone else in their family. The census takers also find out other key information such as if there is a pregnant woman or someone with a chronic disease? How many children live in this household? In the language of emergencies, this is called a "vulnerability analysis."
"In an emergency situation, this type of census is the most reliable method of getting accurate numbers," explains CARE's emergency response manager Sébastien Kuster. "There will never be a perfect method, but with this exercise we have tried very hard to take all possible circumstances into account."
Once they've handed over a coupon, CARE staff spray paints a mark by the door to make sure no household is counted twice. While the team goes about the job, security officers make sure that the situation stays calm. This is a tense situation for the camp population and this is why all teams have been thoroughly briefed about what to say and how to engage. CARE's values – dignity, humility and respect – were being put to test on this day and the reaction spoke for itself.
"We have largely been welcomed. The people here are very friendly and it was humbling to see how patient these families were about their dire living conditions and how thankful they are for our support," says Joseph, a CARE staffer.
CARE reached out to close to 3,800 households that morning. To ensure that no one was left out, a few CARE staff members and other partners also worked extra hours at a complaint desk. Here people could state their case and they were then accompanied back to their shelter to see whether or not it had been overlooked.
"It was really encouraging to see the whole team getting mobilized for this," says Aude Rigot, CARE's Provincial Director for North Kivu. "From our project officers to the cleaning staff, from finance staff to the emergency team leader, everyone worked hand-in-hand to get the job done."
After all the data is consolidated, CARE and its partners can begin the distribution of necessary relief items. CARE will provide plastic tarps and team up with other agencies to hand out several goods at the same time.
The next morning, everyone is back at their desks in the CARE office and goes about their usual activities to keep CARE's programs running. These early birds might still have tired eyes and swollen feet, but their spirits are high and the job has been done. For today, that is all that counts.
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Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:56AM EST on December 13, 2012
by Sabine Wilke
This picture could have been taken in Switzerland or at any other lake surrounded by mountains, maybe in Bavaria or British Columbia. But I took this photo in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, an Eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A place where, for decades now, armed conflicts and chronic poverty have taken an unimaginably heavy toll on the civilian population.
The news we receive about DRC are always, always terrible. Human rights abuses, deplorable poverty, unsolvable conflicts. Maybe that is why the global public has grown tired of taking a closer look. Maybe that is why DRC simply is this big, black hole to the outside world. But three weeks ago, the world laid its eyes on Eastern DRC once more, when an armed group called M23 seized the town of Goma and forced out the Congolese army. It was the peak of an escalation of violence that has raged in this region for several months and has forced more than 800,000 people to flee.
During the latest wave of violence, 130,000 people alone have fled. Countless women and young girls have been raped and injured on their way, and the spontaneous camps and settlements around Goma are no safe haven for these survivors. Attacks and pillages are a daily ordeal. North Kivu has suffered from armed conflict, battles over commodities, chronic lack of infrastructures and ethnic rivalries for a long time; all the while, the international community mostly turns a blind eye on the region.
Looking back at the photo from the lake shore, I think (and hope!) that this could be a glimpse into a possible future – a future where Goma will be a town of peace and recreation, where tourists can enjoy the magnificent volcanic landscape and come face to face with mighty mountain gorillas. Where the population lives in peace and safety, where children can go to school and women are protected from sexual violence and abuse.
Goma’s current reality, unfortunately, is much better portrayed in the pictures taken by photographer Kate Holt, who recently travelled to Goma for CARE.
In light of the new emergency, CARE has scaled up its programs against sexual violence, supports health centers with medical items such as post-exposure prophylaxis against sexual diseases and trains community educators in the camps. Displaced families receive plastic sheeting for a dry shelter and CARE also implements a voucher program that helps poor families to purchase much-needed goods on the local market.It is difficult to describe the human side of this conflict without it sounding like a platitude. Is it a cliché to say that the people of Goma, despite all, have not lost their friendly smiles? That they are warm and hospitable, enduring and tough, angry yet determined to survive? No, it is a reality that needs to be put in words from time to time. Because eastern DRC is no black hole. Its colors and nuances are manifold – much like the lake when the sun hit its surface the moment I took the photo.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:03AM EST on December 13, 2012
By Sarah Zingg
"My husband won't come back. He heard that I've been raped. He will never come back,"Marie, a mother of seven and pregnant with her eighth, speaks as she sits upright, eyes fixed on the listener. "My husband left for Bunia [up north] where he went to look for work and food for the children. I tried, and still try, to keep what happened to me as a secret, but someone told him."
Rape in the conflict-ridden eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is epidemic, and continues to be a taboo. Husbands, families and communities often marginalize and discriminate against survivors because of the shame they are believed to bring.
Marie and her family are among almost 130,000 people who have been displaced as a result of the renewed violence between government forces and rebels in North Kivu, a province in eastern DRC. It is not the first time Marie had to flee. She left her home village Ngungu in Masisi territory in August when armed groups fought each other and attacked surrounding villages. She found refuge in a camp in Goma, North Kivu's provincial capital. But her feeling of safety did not last long.
"I went to look for wood to construct a hut. Two men came up to me and asked me for my machete. They took my machete, and then they took me by force."Marie was raped by both men, she explains with a clear voice, her hands calm on her lap.
This pattern is frustratingly common in DRC: Women and girls are forced to venture out of their camps or villages to collect wooden sticks or firewood. When walking long distances by themselves, they are easy targets for attacks and rape.
For a long time, Marie was too ashamed to speak of what had happened to her. She still suffers from abdominal pain. Marie only went to see a doctor four months after it had happened. By then, it was too late to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) that helps prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections and diseases. The PEP kit has to be taken within 72 hours to be effective.
When November came and with it another escalation of violence, Marie left the camp and sought refuge with relatives in Minova, a town about 50 kilometers south of Goma. A few days ago, Marie came back to Goma, but only with her youngest son; she didn't have the money to pay for the transport costs for her other six children.
When she returned to the camp, she found her hut had been destroyed. "I am scared to go out again to look for wood to build another hut,"she says. She found temporary shelter in a school. Classrooms are crowded, hosting anywhere from 165 to 300 people.
Despite these desperate conditions, Mary has a plan, "I am waiting for the food distribution. I will sell the food and with the money, I will send for my children."
Marie goes about small activities, such as working in the fields of the local community, to make a little bit of money to buy to eat.
CARE, in collaboration with International Rescue Committee (IRC), is working in three camps around Goma to train community workers to help prevent and treat cases of sexual violence. These community workers will organize activities and spread messages to help break the taboo of sexual violence and encourage survivors to reach out for support. CARE and IRC also are providing psychological and social assistance to survivors to help them overcome the traumatic experience.
In a recent survey undertaken in one of the camps, many women expressed a strong wish to start economic activities. That is why CARE now organizes small groups of survivors and other vulnerable people in the three camps to and helps them start a small business to get back on their feet so they can provide for themselves and their families. Marie will be a part of this program.
"Yes, I will participate, and I will also tell women about the importance of getting medical assistance as soon as possible after an attack,"she affirms as she tights up her son with a colorful cloth around her back and returns to her chores.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:43PM EST on December 12, 2012
by Anders Nordstoga
Syrian refugees lacking legal status are at risk of exploitation.
Having come to Amman as an illegal refugee in May 2012, Ayatollah was offered a job at a supermarket.
"I worked there a month, from 10 in the morning until midnight, sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. Then, they refused to pay me. I only got five dinars (US $7.00). Then, I worked two weeks as a painter receiving only 11 dinars. We feel humiliated," he says.
Ayatollah entered Jordan with his wife and three boys, ages 8, 7 and 2, having fled in a hurry from their home in Homs. They were taken to a provisional transit camp near the border and stayed there for a few days, before finding a Jordanian to pay a token sum and sign as the family's guarantor. They went to Amman, where they have some relatives. They were able to find a house. It was in a very bad shape, but they thought they could just about afford it.
"Now we owe two month's rent, but the landlord is patient with us. He says he will cut electricity next week, but he doesn't threaten to throw us out. We've borrowed a gas cylinder from a neighbor, who will soon need it back, because of the winter."
While we're talking, another neighbor comes by with his two sons. Mohammad is also a refugee from the area around Homs. His father and sister were killed in an explosion. He spent some time in jail and tells of grueling experiences. He needs an operation on his arm and his leg, he explains, but cannot afford to be unavailable for paid work, if something should come up.
Since the family left Homs, Ayatollah has developed anemia. He was directed to a public health center, but hesitated because of the anticipated expenses.
"We have received 150 dinars from CARE in emergency assistance, as well as some money from family and friends and food packages from a local organization. We used it to pay rent, buy food and diapers, but no medications."
All the children go to school. While they are playful and seem happy, they all have bad coughs. The mother tells us they get sick from drinking the water. She sometimes boils it, but gas is expensive.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:27PM EST on December 12, 2012
by Anders Nordstoga
Zhoor was seven months pregnant when the family had to flee their home in Syria. Now with her newborn baby in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the family gets cash assistance from CARE to help pay for food and accommodation.
"Crossing the border was very difficult. We had to walk for a long time. We had to go up hills, down and up again. It wasn't even walking, it was more like running," explains the 18-year-old mother.
Her father Abdul believes the stress and fear of that night is why Zhoor was not able to nurse her baby, a boy who was born in Amman in June.
The family, including Abdul's wife Faten, his other daughter 16-year-old Duhook and his ailing 86-year-old father Mohammad, left Homs in March when the bombing got too bad and soldiers began entering homes. "They killed young men with knives; they raped women and killed them. I have two daughters. We couldn't stay," says Abdul.
Waiting to leave for Damascus in a safer part of Homs, the family received disturbing news.
"They burned down our house. We lost everything," relates Faten. "They stole everything they could take, and burned the house. We had only the clothes we wore. You cannot imagine what it was like. I don't want anyone else to go through what we did." Tears appear as she speaks. "I would go back today, if I could, but we can't."
The family didn't feel safe in Damascus. After a few weeks, they went on to the border town of Daraa. From there, they were escorted across the hills to Jordan. Having crossed the border, they were taken by Jordanian soldiers to the Zaa'tri refugee camp.
"Conditions there were very bad. We were fortunate to have family in Jordan who could help us get to Amman" says Abdul.
Life as refugees
"Here in Amman, the biggest challenge is having enough money to pay rent. As you can see, this is not a good house. It's humid and it smells, but the rent is still very high. It's difficult to have enough money for food. And my father needs medicines every day. I myself suffer from a heart disease and I have two slipped discs in my back. In Homs, I worked in a communications company, but here it's hard to find work," Abdul explains.
"If it weren't for the cash assistance we got from CARE, we wouldn't even be able to live in this apartment," he affirms. "Before we received this assistance from CARE, we were two months behind on the rent. The landlord was threatening to throw us out. The cash from CARE took a lot of problems off our shoulders. At least now we know that we will have a roof over our head the next month."
"Now another problem is preparing for winter," Abdul continues. "We have no heater, too few blankets and no warm clothes. We're very worried. It's going to get very cold, and with the damp in this house …"
Asked about her biggest concerns, Zhoor mentions her husband, who stayed behind in Syria. "Two months ago we were told he died, but we're not sure. For me the hardest thing is not having my husband here and not being sure I will have money to buy medicines if my baby gets sick. It's a heavy responsibility. We're okay today and will be okay tomorrow, but we have no certainty about the future.""We would really, really like to go back home as soon as possible, but as long as we are here, I don't see how we will manage without some help," concludes Faten.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:19PM EST on December 3, 2012
Notes: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
November 28, 2012
"I come from Kibati in Masisi, and came in August of last year. When I fled from Kibati, I took a truck to Sake and then from there came by foot to Goma after spending the night in Sake. It took nearly a whole day – the road is long. My father was the one who brought me here but after he dropped me I haven't seen or heard from him again. I heard from people in my village that he has gone to Rubero but he hasn't tried to contact me.
"This is my first-born daughter and she is just over a year old now. I didn't know her father – he took me by force and that is how I became pregnant. It happened to me when I was 17 and I am now 18 years old.
"In Masisi, we had a good life. My family were farmers and I had three brothers who are younger than me. After my mother died about five years ago, it was up to me to look after them and make sure that they were okay. My mother died during childbirth. Many women in Masisi do. I had an elder brother, too – he was in the FARDC (Congolese Army) but he was killed – we were not told how he died or where – my father was told by somebody that he was no longer alive.
"I want to go back to Masisi to be with my brothers – they are my family. I also want to be able to go back to school to study. I was in form five primary when this happened to me but, when I realized that I was pregnant, my father made me leave and brought me here.
"My father wants to put the men that did this to me in jail but when he told this to people in the village he made enemies and now he can't go back – this is why he has gone to Ruhero. The men were from an armed group – people knew who they were.
"One day I was walking home from school through the fields. I was with some girlfriends. Some men came towards us who we didn't know. Two men came up to me and took my arms by force and took me to the forest and did bad things to me. I was very upset. I went back to my house and told my father what had happened and he was very angry. But it was after four months that I started to feel strange and told my father, and that is when he brought me here. I cannot go back to the village even though I want to. I am scared of those men – scared of what they may do to me.
"My hope for the future is to have peace around us in Congo. There is too much violence here and there are no jobs for anyone. I do not know how to support this child when I leave this center. The men who did this to me should take responsibility for this child and for me because they have destroyed my life."
CARE's Response: As soon as access is secured, CARE plans to scale up our emergency response in the areas affected by the recent fighting, in particular by providing shelter to those displaced and assistance to women affected by sexual violence and help to prevent further cases of sexual violence. Our emergency response in other areas, including South Lubero, continues.
Donate Today: Your donation to CARE can help us respond to emergency situations like in DRC and carry out our lifesaving and poverty-fighting work around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:15PM EST on December 3, 2012
Notes: Some names have been changed to protect those quoted. Masisi is located in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where heavy fighting has displaced more than 800,000 people so far.
November 28, 2012
"My name is Bandora, and I have two daughters, Elizabeth and Merita. One is 9 and one is 10. I had four other children but they all died before we left Masisi. Merita has gone to fetch water this morning. We take it in turns to fetch water from the lake in the mornings. It is far. Sometimes there is water in the pipes in the camp, but more often the taps are empty.
"We fled from Masisi in April, from a village called Rukopu. We got very scared in April – there was a lot of fighting and many people were being killed. One night the fighting came very close to our house – my husband fled and left me with the girls. We then ran into the night. We followed everyone to Sake and when we go there, we were told to go to Kanyaruchina camp which is what we did. But when we go to Kanyaruchina camp, there was nothing for us there. People had told us in Sake that if we went there we would be given things that we would need. But we got nothing and were cold and hungry.
"So in September, I moved my family to Mugunga where we still are. For the first time since we got here in September, yesterday we got some soap and some plastic containers to collect water with. I haven’t yet got any food. We are still very hungry. I have my own pot that I brought from Rukopu but that is all I have. We also have a piece of plastic sheeting that I found in Kanyaruchina but it is old and not that waterproof. Some friends helped me to build my house from straw but when it rains it leaks badly and we get wet.
"At home my eldest daughter went to school but the younger one didn’t – we couldn’t afford to pay for her. There are no schools in the camps for them.
"At night I get very scared. We are alone – three girls and there is no security. There are other people around but we are scared of the war. At night people come to take things from us – civilian bandits. Last week, when there was fighting in Goma at night, some people came and stole my basin. I don’t know who they were.
"I don’t know what will happen to us but I know that if the war comes close to us here, I will run again with my children. I don’t know where we will go but I will run because we have to survive. Every day is hard for us."
CARE's Response: As soon as access is secured, CARE plans to scale up our emergency response in the areas affected by the recent fighting, in particular by providing shelter to those displaced and assistance to women affected by sexual violence and help to prevent further cases of sexual violence. Our emergency response in other areas, including South Lubero, continues.
Donate Today: Your donation to CARE can help us respond to emergency situations like in DRC and carry out our lifesaving and poverty-fighting work around the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 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 11:04AM EST on September 24, 2012
September 5, 2012
CARE is on the ground in The Democratic Republic of Congo. When the most recent fighting broke out in April, CARE projected to provide emergency relief to 60,000 people. With the intensification of the crisis, we had already reached 84,000 by early September and we have scaled up our response to cover a total of 180,000 people in need. Today, we are responding in a variety of ways – helping families access food (as you'll read below), delivering essential medicine and supplies, providing emergency psychological services and care for survivors of sexual violence and we will soon distribute shelter kits.
"We heard shooting and when we realized it was coming closer we took our baby and ran." They had no time to take cloths, cooking pots, or any other belongings with them. "I waited for a few hours until the gunfire was gone and then went back to the house to get food, but the village and my house were burnt down," Jean, the 20-year-old father recounts of his flight.
Over the past couple of months, tens of thousands of people have been fleeing similar attacks by rebels in southern Masisi territory in the province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 330,000 people have been displaced in the province alone. Several rivaling armed groups are continuing to create havoc in southern Masisi, where most of the displacement is concentrated right now and CARE is present.
When the CARE team visited the spontaneous displacement camp in Kibabi on a sunny day early September, Jean, his wife and five-month-old baby, it had been three weeks since the family had left their home village Ngululu. They had walked for four days until they arrived in Kibabi where they decided to seek safety and shelter. They collected hay to construct a little hut where the family is staying. With the arrival of more than 2,310 families, more or less 13,860 individuals, the camp has grown into the size of a village.
"I don't know when we will be able to go back home," Jean says as his head is tilted down. "We are cold at night and when it rains, we are not protected because our hut has no plastic sheeting." Temperatures drop to close to zero degrees at night and the rainy season has started in full swing.
Jean continues, "We usually manage to eat [potatoes] once a day. I work in the fields of the local community, and my wife goes around asking for donations. But it's not every day we eat and we eat very little." Luckily, Kibabi has a natural water source where the displaced collect their drinking water.
"It came as a relief, when we received food from [CARE]. We've got beans, flour, sugar and some cooking oil. We have shared it with the people around us because not everybody received a voucher to go to the market. We can eat from it for a whole week." Jean's wife took their baby with her and walked for two hours to Rubaya, where the distribution is taking place. It is only the second food assistance in the area since the uprooting started late July.
CARE, through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs-funded project UMOJA+, and together with local partners has organized a weeklong food distribution for almost 4,000 households, or 24,000 people, through a voucher system. CARE spearheaded the innovative voucher system through which beneficiaries buy their food on the local market, which not only empowers them to choose items they need most, but also supports and safeguards the local economy.
Marie-Claire, a 32-year-old single mom, who arrived from Kasheke two weeks ago with her six children and one on the way, is grateful for the beans, flour, and oil she was able to purchase using vouchers received from CARE. But she's worried that it won't last for long enough.
"We share the food with everybody and when it is finished, we will die just like that," she says with an exhausted voice and fatigue in her eyes.
Others echo similar sentiments of thankfulness. "Ever since we fled home, I've had difficulties feeding my six children. With the food fair, we finally have something to eat," 47-year-old Charles says with a sign of relief as one of his six kids holds his hand. They left their home village, Buoye, two months ago and took refuge in Katoyi. When Katoyi came under threat of an attack two weeks ago, they decided to pack up again and join the local population as they made their way to Kibabi. They found shelter in a primary school where up to 10 households, about 60 people, are crammed into one, small classroom filled with thick cooking smoke.
"We are going to eat for the first time since we left our home, Katoyi, four days ago," 23-year-old Julienne says as her newborn baby sleeps silently in a cloth tied around her back. Francoise, 30, expresses similarly, "with the food fair, CARE is helping displaced people, children who are suffering of hunger." She rests on the lawn next to her bags filled with rice and beans to regain some strength before she starts her four-hour walk back to Bukumbirire where she is sheltered in a host family.
As clouds suddenly appear on the sky, wind starts blowing down the hills and chilliness overtakes the place, hundreds of women, children and men continue to stand patiently in line to receive their food coupons, which will allow them and their families to eat for up to two weeks.
CARE has also helped families establish community gardens and has distributed seeds and agricultural tools to thousands of households. CARE provides lifesaving assistance through various emergency projects in North Kivu and has already reached 84,000 people in need since the outbreak of the most recent crisis in eastern DRC. As the food distribution nears its end, UMOJA+ is already planning its next intervention in the area to provide shelter material and latrines.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 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: Andisheh Nouraee at 5:03PM EST on May 30, 2012
With well over one-third of its 17 million citizens in need of emergency food assistance, Niger is a less-than-ideal place to flee to safety and relief. Nevertheless, that's exactly what more than 41,000 people from neighboring Mali have done in recent months, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Like every country in the western Sahel, Mali is experiencing a rapidly worsening food crisis. Unlike its neighbors, however, Mali is also experiencing a violent political conflict that has forced more than 320,000 Malians from their homes. Despite the fact they simply don't have the resources to support new arrivals, reports indicate Malians are greeted in Niger with kindness and understanding.
CARE Niger's Ibrahim Niandou recently visited some Malian refugees in Niger and shared some of their stories with his CARE colleagues. The dignity and grace of the people Ibrahim spoke to are inspiring.
Omar: From Aderamboukan to Hamatta camp
By Ibrahim Niandou, CARE Niger
May 16, 2012
“Right now, I don’t have anything to give to my family for dinner – but we will overcome our current problems, at least we are safe here,” mutters Omar, his gaze lost in the crimson lights of sunset.
Omar Intifelan, 33, is a Malian refugee in the camp of Hamatta, about ten kilometers away from Banibangou, Niger. Omar lived in the town of Andaramboukan, in Mali. There he had a plot of land which gave him enough vegetables and resources to fund his marriage with Fatima, now 29 years old, and to cover the essential needs of his family.
The couple has four children. The oldest, Amoullaka, 13, attended fifth grade at the school in Anderamboukan. Back home, the three other children, Adissa, Mohamed and Tamissa, between the ages of 1 and 7, entertained the family endlessly with their noisy but joyful games. The happiest moments were those when the entire family relaxed in the garden, amid cabbages and lettuce.
Happiness ended abruptly for Omar and his family one day in January, when armed men attacked their village.
Like many other families, Omar fled with his wife and his four children towards the only nearby destination that seemed safe: Niger. They initially settled in the village of Chinnegodar, across the border but only 18 kilometers away from their village. Their stay lasted for four months, and proved difficult.
“We had left our home without carrying anything. We depended on other people’s charity to survive but every day we hoped that things would calm down back home and we would be able to return,” recalls Omar. “Unfortunately, fighting has only worsened and more families kept arriving from Mali. Given the close proximity to the border and the possible spillover of armed fighting, the Nigerien government advised us to leave Chinnegodar. It is so that we arrived here, to Hamatta camp,” Omar explains.
In barely two weeks, the refugees have created a real village at the outskirts of Banibangou. Hamatta camp’s hastily erected huts host 2,295 people, including 1,265 women and 354 children under the age of five. The camp residents hail from different areas in northern Mali, such as Aderamboukan, Ansongo, Gao, Kidal and Menaka.
The people of Hamatta camp live day-to-day thanks to the solidarity of the people of Banibangou, who were already badly affected by the prevalent food crisis.
“It is terrible to find ourselves so dependent on others, without the bare minimum to live decently, and without knowing until when this will last. The news coming out of our native Mali is not reassuring. On top of that, my daughter Amoullaka does not go to school anymore, which further compromises our future,” laments Omar.
Almost 13,500 Malian refugees and Nigerien returnees are now living precariously in different sites around Banibangou. In addition, 40,497 are living in similar conditions in the areas of Abala, Ayorou, Ouallam and Tilia.
“People here are hungry; they have nothing,” points out the camp leader, Aminata Welt Issa Fassan. “Without emergency aid, we risk losing some of them.”
“This are tough times; very tough ones,” concludes Omar, “but I hope that human solidarity will allow us to overcome these problems and that in the near future we will be able return to our village of Aderamboukan and to the happiness we used to enjoy.”
CARE is assisting refugees, returnees and vulnerable locals in Banibangou with food and essential household equipment. For more information about CARE's work in Niger, visit www.CARE.org.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:43PM EST on May 15, 2012
A Testament to Human Kindness
The humanitarian situation in the DRC is one of the world's most complex and long-standing. This is due to continuing armed conflict and general insecurity. According to UNOCHA 1.7 million people remained displaced, mostly in eastern DRC, in 2011.
In one village, Kanii, according to locals there are around 200 displaced people living amongst the 450 households. Rachele, displaced by conflict on several occasions has, this time, been here for three years. She first came to the village as a teenager when she was pregnant and fleeing mass atrocities. You might wonder why she returns home but when you have nothing and your home was once somewhere you were able to earn a living perhaps it is more understandable. "I want to return home. I have a farm, livestock and a field of bananas and beans but I know, at the moment, I can't go back."
Rachele lives in a shelter, provided by CARE, next to the family that took her in when she first arrived. The two room shelter is home to her and the 11 children she shares it with – six biological children and the five she adopted when her sister died.
Sangatia, a 50 year old widow, currently supports 24 people, including Rachele, and when you ask her why she simply replies ‘love'. There is no financial benefit for Sangatia and it is hard to understand why this woman would help so many others but she never questions the assistance she gives. "When new people arrive we see them as brothers and sisters, our feeling is to welcome them. When they arrive we welcome them and think about how we can live together. When we have food we share it."
The story of a displaced woman and the widow that has taken her and her family in is a testament to how the Congolese people help each other in times of crisis. CARE is supporting host communities and villages like Kanii with the provision of shelter kits, seeds and tools so that people can grow crops and feed their families. Community crisis management committees are set up so that people can work together and avoid conflict.
Rebuilding Lives After War
Miroro and Furaha married in 2002 and have five children. Miroro spent 13 years in the army, leaving in 2006. When he left the army he found himself living amongst a distrustful community. "The community's reaction towards me when I returned was that they couldn't believe I was a civilian and always asked to see my discharge papers. They weren't necessarily afraid but weren't sure how to act around me as they thought I might still be a soldier."
The reaction of the community was just one part of the family's problems as Miroro explains: "When I left the army there was nothing for me to do. I couldn't send my children to school because the fees were too expensive. We lived here on the charity of the community". But since joining a CARE project and receiving business training the family has seen their fortunes change with the opening of a small shop in front of their home that is well used and supported by the local community.
Miroro's wife, Furaha, has seen changes since their involvement in the project. "Everything he gets he shares. We now have food and clothes. Each time he gets money he brings it to me and we talk about how to use it."
Miroro is also happy that he is his own boss. "I don't have to take orders from anyone else. I can support myself for the first time and send my children to school. I have learned how to generate an income, keep track of the money and reinvest it."
The project is working with ex-combatants to find viable ways to earn a living, through hairdressing, mechanics, livestock rearing and small commerce. The participants are also given kits to start their business and we have worked with local authorities to get taxes waived for the first year so that the businesses are provided with the best start possible.
When a Husband and Soldier Returns
During these years Matipaka would survive by finding work where she could and eventually she had to sell the one asset the family owned. "We had 7 goats before he left but I sold them one by one just to survive."
The return of Matipka's husband didn't spell the end of their hardship. Not only did they have to adjust to life back together but they still didn't have a secure income. "When he was unemployed life was very difficult, we just sold a little flour here and there. There were times when he was difficult to manage, difficult to live with."
CARE's ‘Hope Tomorrow' project is working with ex-combatants and provided Munyaneza, Matipaka's husband, with training and equipment to start his own business. Munyaneza explains how the project has helped the whole family "The project gave me four months training which included mechanics. I now have a driving licence and can repair tyres. I have also been able to buy four goats and some chickens and ducks. I can now send my children to school and feed them"
Life is now improving for the family but it is also good to see that Matipka is no longer facing the daily struggles on her own: "now when problems arise we can work together to overcome them."
The project is working with ex-combatants to find viable ways to earn a living, through hairdressing, mechanics and livestock rearing. The participants are given kits to start their businesses and we have also worked with local authorities to get taxes waived for the first year so that the businesses are provided with the best start possible.
Life in an IDP Camp
Cecile, 37, arrived in the camp almost a year ago. "We fled because armed groups were raising villages on the other side of the hills and they were killing people and burning everything. I was so distressed when we fled. We didn't have anything to eat."
Arriving in the camp, Cecile and her five children were taken in by another family until they could build their own shelter. Cecile struggles on a daily basis. "I face many challenges each day – to get food, maintain our shelter, to keep clothed and to even find cooking utensils. On top of that my children can't go to school."
CARE provided Cecile, and families like hers, with vouchers that could be used to buy the things she most needed, these vouchers assist families with the goods they need, while helping local markets. "We received vouchers from CARE. No NGO had given us food until then. I was miserable with hunger and when CARE gave us the vouchers I was overjoyed. I thank CARE for that. I liked getting vouchers instead of simply receiving food directly. It meant I could choose what to get and how much."
This camp is now home to Cecile and she explained why returning home isn't an option. "I can't imagine going back – people from our village have gone back and have been killed or have returned here."
CARE's funding to support families like Cecile ran out in May 2011. It is often difficult to secure longer term funding but CARE hopes to resume activities in the coming months to support new arrivals like Judith, a 47 year old widow, who arrived in the camp at the end of January. "An armed group came two weeks ago and they chased us away and killed some of us. Women were raped and their limbs were cut off with machetes. I saw this with my own eyes. While we were fleeing my sister was killed and cut to pieces."
"I live in misery. I work here and there for the villagers and get paid with plants and salt. I have nine children, four are my own and the others are my sister's children. My hope is that I receive help. Before, I had a stable life and could educate my children – now I can't do that. My children aren't well – we can't eat or keep clean."
*To protect the identity of people in this story names have been changed
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:00AM EST on March 2, 2012
Johannes Schoors, CARE Niger Country Director
This couldn't have come at a worse time – not that there is ever a good time for brutal fighting that burns people's homes to the ground and sends them running in fear to another country. More than 130,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Mali, and many of them have arrived here in Niger, a country that is already in the grips of a worsening food crisis.
Most families in Niger, especially in the areas along the border with Mali, are running out of food. Families have reduced the numbers of meals in a day. Children are going hungry. The refugees are adding to the strain already being suffered here. But the people of Niger are amazing – they have almost nothing, but they are helping the refugees. They are sharing what little food they have. This is the culture in Niger. They help out how they can: a Nigerien will share a cooking pot with a refugee family, and the refugee family will use it, and then pass it on to another family.
Tens of thousands of Malian refugees have fled into Niger. There was heavy fighting last night, so more refugees are crossing the border. This will get worse. And as always, the ones caught in the middle are the civilians.
Their villages were burned to the ground. They have nothing to go back to except sad memories. Already the numbers are growing. CARE plans to help the people who fled to Banibangou, and we were initially told there were 600 families – there were in fact 1,260 families (9,000 people), and more people are crossing the border as the fighting continues.
The refugees are in a bad state. Many of them are sleeping in the open. I saw a photo of a pot with brown sauce in it, and I said to my staff, 'oh, so they are eating millet?' But my staff said no – that's muddy water. The refugees are drinking muddy water, because they have no access to clean water. We need to help them filter the water, or the refugees will start to get sick. Water is a real problem.
CARE is gearing up to provide clean water, food and emergency items to the refugees. But we need to help the Nigeriens in this community, too, because they are sharing what they have with the refugees. By helping the refugees, they're running out of food more quickly.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:55PM EST on January 20, 2012
Reshma Khan, Advocacy and Communications Assistant, CARE Kenya
I still remember the 1st of May 2011. His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya, declared the ongoing drought a national disaster and called upon donors and well wishers to support the country in that difficult time. For the many Kenyans living in marginal areas, the failure of two successive rainy seasons had made access to water for their household, livestock and farming needs increasingly difficult. For pastoralists who already live in the harsh arid and semi-arid areas, this made their already difficult lives even harder. The situation then worsened, with the declaration of famine in parts of southern Somalia. More and more families fled the country, leading to an unprecedented influx of refugees to the Dadaab complex in Northern Kenya.
Dadaab refugee camps were created in 1991 to respond to the influx of Somali refugees fleeing the fall of their Government. Located some 80 kilometers from the border with Somalia, the three camps at Dadaab were originally built to house around 90,000 people. Today, they are home to over five times that number, mostly Somalis. Despite the severe overcrowding, CARE has continued to work in the camps over the past twenty years, providing much needed relief food, water, sanitation and hygiene to the refugees. When the influx peaked at over 1,000 new arrivals per day, CARE stepped up its programs to provide food, water and other relief items. Additionally, we continued with our gender and community development agenda, providing counseling to numerous gender-based violence survivors in the camps as well as operating schools with over 15,000 learners.
We also scaled up our work in North-Eastern Kenya. Cash-for-work projects provided families with a financial safety net that could assist in the purchase of food and other basic necessities. Our emergency livestock projects assisted with the prevention and treatment of diseases of livestock that survived as other livestock in other areas were dying. CARE teams also rehabilitated emergency water and sanitation facilities to assist local communities.
It was really encouraging to receive the full support of CARE International members, who readily sent us emergency staff from their head offices. These colleagues covered all sectors including water and sanitation, gender advisors, media and communications specialists and numerous other field experts. This support is much appreciated in such a crisis and mirrors the core of CARE's vision: joining forces to help those in need.
"Building resilience, not dependency"
The approach we have taken is to 'build resilience, don't build dependency'. CARE recognizes that with climate change, population growth as well as rising food and oil prices, poor communities in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya's North-East and the Somali refugees need assistance that builds on their own capacity, skills and experience. The communities we work with are far from passive, helpless and dependent! We see this every day: In Dadaab, CARE is being supported by more than 2,200 refugee workers in managing food distributions, teaching children and creating community committees. In North Eastern Kenya, we are building local communities' skills in managing water and other natural resources, in increasing financial service provision and financial literacy, and improving livestock market chains. We know that these crises are going to hit again, and we want to build peoples' capacity to cope with the problems without asking for external assistance. This is how we can help defeat poverty and defend the dignity of those we work with.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:54PM EST on September 26, 2011
Rick Perera, Horn of Africa Communications Coordinator
It's a typical day at the CARE-managed Illeys Primary School at Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Fifty parents are lined up outside the gates, desperate to enroll their children. They're drawn not just by the prospect of an education, but by the daily meal CARE provides, in partnership with the World Food Program. The student body is swelling astronomically with the children of new refugees, mostly fleeing drought and hunger in Somalia.
This modest compound of cement-block classrooms, designed for 1,500 students, packs in more than 4,000 children in two daily shifts. Spillover classes are housed in tents, bright voices echoing in song and recitation through the sandy courtyard.
"Every child who wants to come to school here is welcome, though of course it's a strain," says principal Ahmed Hassan in his cluttered office, where a whiteboard overflows with statistics about his ever-growing student population.
Illeys school is close to the influx area for refugees, and most of the new youngsters filling the school have recently arrived from Somalia with their families. In one of the tents, Farah Ali Abdi gives a basic English lesson to a remedial class. The group encompasses children ranging from 4 to 15 years old, all of them struggling to catch up enough to enroll in regular primary grades. "The cup is on the table!" they shout gleefully – more or less in unison.
Most teachers here, like Farah, are refugees themselves, hired and trained by CARE. They work with patience and skill, but with as many as 130 children in one classroom it is next to impossible to give all of them the attention they deserve. The five primary schools managed by CARE in Dagahaley camp are massively overburdened, with over 15,000 students. To cope with the influx, and help those who lag behind catch up to their peers, CARE operates special accelerated learning centers during school vacation. Yet, far too many refugee children receive no education: more than 60 percent of kids in the Dadaab camps do not attend school at all.Girls face special roadblocks in the quest to learn. Only 39 percent of students at the camp schools are girls. By tradition, girls are expected to take on the bulk of chores at home. "If a family has two girls and two boys, they will send the boys and one girl to school and keep the other girl home to work," says Principal Hassan. "Even the girls who attend will have little time to do homework – unlike their brothers." Puberty brings an additional challenge. Girls may miss class for a week every month during their period, out of fear of embarrassment – and many drop out entirely. A girl is traditionally considered marriage-ready at 14, and dropout rates soar at that age.
CARE's work to improve educational opportunity starts at the grassroots. Staffers hold community orientations and go door to door in the camp's residential blocks, advising families about the benefits of learning. Teachers live among the refugees, constantly reinforcing those messages. CARE helps adolescent girls stay in school, distributing sanitary napkins and training communities in how to dispose of them safely.
Over time, teachers say, families see the benefits their neighbors reap when daughters become educated, get jobs and help support their parents. Bit by bit, the old attitudes are changing.
Sahara Hussein Abanoor, age 17, has an exceptionally eager face, but her ambition is not unusual among the students here. She loves learning and wants to become a lawyer and help refugees like her family. "My parents see what I'm achieving and they believe that my future life will be better," she says in confident English, beaming beneath a pumpkin-colored hijab that billows in the stiff breeze. "My mother did not go to school because there was no possibility of that in Somalia. Nowadays the world has changed very much. Even my brothers say it's good that girls go to school."
Indeed, some of the most effective advocates for girls' education in Dadaab are men. One of them is Shukri Ali Khalif, a tall, skinny 29-year-old who joined CARE's Gender and Development team in 2007. Previously, he says, he had no idea of the difficulties girls face or why they are more likely to drop out. Today he is an enthusiastic spokesman for their equal access to school. "I facilitate mentoring groups for girls, and encourage them to speak out in class and ask questions, instead of sitting on the back bench and letting boys take the lead."
And how do the boys feel about all this? Shukri – who was himself a refugee boy not so long ago – grins. "They feel great!"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:57AM EST on September 22, 2011
Niki Clark, Dadaab Emergency Media Officer
Fardosa Muse is a much fiercer woman than her small stature implies. As a CARE sexual and gender-based violence officer in the world's largest refugee camp, she has to be. She spends her day listening to other people's nightmares.
Born in Dadaab, Fardosa, 26, grew up in a polygamous family; her father married multiple wives, and had 40 children. A fluent English speaker, Fardosa studied social science in college. Upon returning to her hometown, she came to work for CARE, where she has spent the past two and a half years in the Dadaab refugee camps.
She is passionate about her work and the people she serves. "Can you imagine being gang-raped in the middle of nowhere?" she says, a steady gaze in her eyes. "This is what women and children are experiencing on their journey from Somalia. Violence against women is a profound health problem for women across the globe."
Today she visits Sultana,* a 53-year-old grandmother, who Fardoza met when she first arrived at the camps. She wants to see how Sultana is settling in.
Sultana gestures to her tent for Fardosa to come in. With Fardosa's help, Sultana was fast-tracked through registration so as to get a more permanent shelter than the initial reception process provides. There is a thin mattress on the floor, also given to her by CARE as part of her intake process. Other than a piece of tattered fabric covering her bed, and a thin cover of red dust, the rest of the tent is bare.
Sultana was living in Dadaab when she heard that the husband of her mentally-challenged daughter had been violently killed in Mogadishu. Knowing the struggle her daughter would have raising the children alone, she traveled to Somalia. Once there, she turned back, determined to take the six children to a safer, more stable environment. Midway through her journey, Sultana was raped by seven armed men. When sharing her story with Fardosa, Sultana's eyes squint in pain as her hands gesture how she was gagged and bound. She says that she continued her journey back to Dadaab once the men were done. She had to keep going.
Rape affects survivors in many ways. Because of the severe social stigma here associated with rape, many cases go unreported. Women who are violated are often shunned by their neighbors and families, divorced by their husbands. For unwed women and girls, rape can mean a solitary life with no chance for marriage. There is the risk of HIV infection, too. In Somali communities, Fardosa says, there is no sense of confidentiality. With thin tent walls separating neighbors, it seems the case is the same in Dadaab. So Sultana tells her story in soft whispers. Having others know what happened to her "would be a whole set of other problems."
"It's a challenge just operating in this environment," Fardosa says. "A lot of the shame survivors feel comes from the community. Here, women are ‘the lesser sex.' Only women that are circumcised are considered marriage worthy. Marital rape is a big concern. The work that CARE is doing in Dadaab focuses on providing psychological and social support and rights education, as well as outreach to men and boys so we can start changing what is considered the social norm."
CARE is supporting newly-arrived survivors through counseling and referrals to emergency medical facilities at the reception centers and by providing psychological counseling services in the camps. Weekly sessions are conducted at settlement sites, including education on services available within the camps. To date, CARE reached approximately 8,200 new arrivals with information on violence prevention and where and how to get help. CARE also provides information through "road shows" put on by Community Participatory Education Theatre groups. Unfortunately, reported cases of gender-based violence in the camps have significantly increased since the onset of the crisis, although most violations still remain unreported.
Fardosa's visit with Sultana comes to an end. "I still have horrific nightmares," Sultana tells Fardosa. "But because of counseling provided by CARE, I am healing."
"Rape is not only a violation of the law," Fardosa says as she walks back towards the car. "It's also a violation of humanity."
She is on to her next client. There are many more waiting.
*Identifying characteristics have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:06AM EST on September 22, 2011
September 21, 2011
Mohamed Maalim Gedi sits cross-legged on a floor of dusty red dirt, aimlessly fiddling with his bare, well-traveled toes. His gaze is towards the ground, but his thoughts are obviously elsewhere. He occasionally reaches out to swipe an insistent fly from the face of one of his young children, five boys. The wooden benches, set in a half circle around him, are filled with other weary travelers. They just arrived in Dadaab, a place of both hope and uncertainty. A large bus, smoke still sputtering from its tail pipe, is parked a few yards away. It is the one that transported him from the border, another group of Somali refugees escaping drought and insecurity. There have been more than 132,000 refugees who have come just since January.
Like so many of his fellow refugees, Mohamed is a pastoralist. His entire livelihood depended on his cattle. When the last one died, he decided it was finally time to escape. "I have lived like this for 20 years," Mohamed says, referring to the frequent drought and worsening security in his home country. "Enough is enough."
So, with his wife and mother, he traveled 500 kilometers via foot and donkey cart from his village of Bu'aale, Somalia to the border town of Dif, Kenya. From there, he arranged for a bus to transport his family for the rest of the journey to Dadaab. Because of limited space, he had to leave behind two of his children, his youngest, 2, and his eldest, 14, with cousins. "I hope the bus that just brought us is going back to get them," Mohamed says. "But I can't be sure."
The reception center is the first safe haven after a long and arduous journey for refugees. In the background, one can hear the shrill, high cry of children. But their cries come not from the hunger but vaccinations against polio, measles, diphtheria and pneumonia. Such vaccinations are unheard of luxuries back in Somalia, and are part of the reason Mohamed made the trip here. He hopes his sick children will get the medical attention they need.
Here at the reception center, Mohamed also has access to clean water and a supply of high-energy biscuits. Because of increased efficiencies in registration, Mohamed and his family will now be registered within a three-day time period, down significantly from previous waiting times when the crisis first hit. After he registers, CARE will provide him with a plastic tarpaulin, kitchen set, soap, blankets, plastic mats and jerry cans and an initial food ration to last until the next regular food distribution cycle. As registered refugees, Mohamed's family will be entitled to a tent from UNHCR an a food ration card so they can join the bi-monthly food distribution cycle run by CARE.
On the fence surrounding the area where CARE distributes initial food rations —servings of wheat flour, Corn Soy Blend (CSB), vegetable oil, corn meal, beans, salt and sugar — hangs a sign in English and Somali. It states: "Services from Agencies are Free; Help Stop Sexual Exploitation and Abuse." CARE and other agencies that work here are continuously working to ensure refugees are aware of services and where to access them. A CARE counselor stands next to the area where new arrivals gather their high energy biscuits. "How was your journey?" she asks a fatigued family of five. She's looking to identify vulnerable populations, such as survivors of gender-based violence, widows, lactating mothers and the ill. She's help "fast-track" them so they can get to immediate help, including medical services and counseling.
As he waits to be called, Mohamed sits with uncertainty weighing on his mind. He has no relatives or friends in the camps, and is unsure of what to expect. "There is a fear of the unknown," he says. "Will I have a place to sleep tonight? Will my children get food and medicine?"
In spite of these reservations, Mohamed says he remains optimistic. "I am hopeful. Hopeful that I will get help for the first time. That, finally, we will have some relief."
He pauses for a few minutes, lost in his thoughts. "A larger question lingers, though," he finally admits. His question is one that countless others have asked, continue to wonder, even after the physical part of their journey is complete. "What's next?"
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:39AM EST on September 22, 2011
Everyone knows that water is necessary to sustain human life. People have survived for weeks, even months, without food, yet even a day without water causes the human body to suffer. Even with its critical importance, water isn't typically something that gets most people excited. That is, unless you're talking to any of the CARE staff working on water and sanitation (WASH) in Kenya at the Dadaab refugee camps. Just hold a 10 minute conversation and you'll understand how easy finding a passion for the subject can be.
As the main implementing partner for water production and distribution in Dadaab's three camps and two outlying areas, CARE pumps and distributes approximately 7.5 million liters of water a day, enough to provide all residents with 15 liters of water a day. With almost 500,000 refugees in and around the camps, providing water for the entire population remains a daunting task and extending services to keep up with demand is a constant challenge.
"Dadaab is the third largest city in Kenya," says Timothy Mwangi who helps with CARE's water management. "The coordination and logistics involved in making sure that many people have enough to drink would be difficult in a normal setting. But within the context of a refugee camp, it is even more of a challenge."
CARE is meeting that challenge through a combination of boreholes and water tanks. Currently, CARE maintains 20 boreholes and over 172 kilometers of pipes throughout the camps. These boreholes tap into the reserve of groundwater that sits below Dadaab's surface. In addition, CARE provides potable water through trucking services and water tanks. Each influx area has between one and three tanks, each serving 2,500 people. CARE also is increasing the number of water points and tap stands in the influx areas and extending water pipes from the existing camp systems.
Resources are tight. Amina Akdi Hassa is the chair of the Dagahaley camp. She serves as a refugee representative and is consulted when decisions regarding Dagahaley services are made. She has lived in Dadaab for nearly 20 years. "Share our problems," she tells visitors.
One of those problems is storage. While CARE distributes jerry cans to all new arrivals, there often are not enough to transport and store all the water needed. The task of collecting water is time consuming, and often keeps those charged with less time to collect firewood and cook, for example. Community mobilizers employed by CARE spend their days talking with residents like Amina to assess the problems and offer solutions.
In addition to our water production and distribution work, CARE manages all hygiene and sanitation promotion programs in the three main camps — Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley — including each camp's influx areas, markets, schools and water points. Refugee "incentive" workers raise awareness around various hygiene issues, including reducing the spread of waterborne diseases through handwashing. These workers go door to door, demonstrating safe hygiene practices and distributing soap.
To the outside world, it may not seem like the most glamorous of jobs, but the response of the refugees is quite different. When CARE's Public Health Promotion Officer Raphael Muli visits the influx area of Dagahaley, he is immediately surrounded by residents of all ages. Young children crowd, raising their hands, anxious to volunteer for the handwashing demonstration. Raphael flips through a "how-to" picture book walking the children through each step. Then, he hands out bars of soaps, reminding refugees that handwashing is a simple way to reduce the risk of disease. In fact, some studies show that this simple act can decrease diarrheal disease by up to 47 percent in a community. All day long Raphael will repeat this drill, one person in a CARE team of public health officers and community mobilizers. He is greeted enthusiastically everywhere he goes.
Raphael and his colleagues have reached nearly 31,500 refugees living in the influx areas with their public health promotion messaging this year alone. Their goal is to reach 60,000 by the end of the year. With each demonstration and each conversation he holds, his message about the important of water and good hygience becomes clearer to everyone.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:34AM EST on September 19, 2011
by Niki Clark
Adulkadir Adbullahi Muya—known by his colleagues simply as Muya—is in a hurry. He hardly has time for a handshake greeting before he is off, his long stride forcing the occasional sprint in attempts to keep up.
Muya is, as he describes it, is "on the job. Every day, every day, I'm on the job." As a refugee "incentive" worker—one of the nearly 2,200 CARE employs here at the Dadaab refugee camp—Muya has been working as a paracounselor for a little over a month. His job is to visit refugee clients in his community and direct them to services, offer a listening ear. With 1,400 refugees arriving every day, there are plenty of people that need to be heard. He is on his way to the Dagahaley influx drop-in center. It serves as a satellite office where new arrivals who have experienced trauma, loss, or sexual or gender-based violence can visit with CARE counselors.
Muya is a paracounselor with CARE in the Dagahaley camp of Dadaab Refugee camp. He identifies people in his community who have experience trauma, loss or violence and handles initial consultations.
Paracounselors like Muya are specially trained, identifying the violated and vulnerable within the community and handling initial consultations. He walks this route several times a day, going back and forth between the CARE Counseling office and the drop-in center.
Right now he is headed to meet a new client, someone a CARE community mobilizer told him about. A bus was hijacked on the journey from Somalia to Dadaab. Women were raped; people were burned. The details are fuzzy but he knows it's serious. His pace quickens, his fingers furiously texting, always working, even as he walks. He briefly turns, "Dagahaley is growing and growing," outstretched arms for emphasis. Indeed, it is. The population of Dadaab has more than doubled in just three years.
We rush past Unity, a primary school CARE runs in Dagahaley, the sing-song chorus of children echoing from the classrooms. Past a lone donkey, munching his way through a burned refuse pile, searching for anything edible. Through shouts of "How are you?," a charming acknowledgement by refugee children of Muya's obviously English-speaking companion. By mud bricks in a yard, past a naked toddler beating an empty jerry liter, applauding himself for the rat-a-tat noise his impromptu drum makes.
A resident of Dadaab since 1991, Muya went back to Somalia in 1997 and after nearly a decade, returned once again, this time bringing his mother. He works with an unceasing determination, often working through lunch breaks in order to squeeze in just one more visit. The pride he holds in serving his neighbors in this way is evident; it comes through in his stance, the way he speaks of his "clients." The sweat beads that form on his brow in this ungodly heat remind me of a musician, just finished with a high-energy performance. It's an accurate impression. In many ways, Muya is a rock star.
On the way to the drop-in center, Muya walks past the home of one of his current clients. A quick change of plans and Muya walks in the yard, greetings all around. An elderly refugee woman sits on a mat outside her mud hut. I smile softly in her direction but notice her blank eyes, she is blind. A lump grows in her neck glands; multiple hospital visits have answered none of her questions. Muya asks how she's doing, is she in pain, does she need him to make any calls?
"Sometimes I just stop by to say hello," Muya says about his visits. One man he stops to see has a cancerous tumor that is enveloping the back of his head, creating constant pain. His only option is chemotherapy, which he can't afford. But Muya stops by every day, every two days. "I don't want him to lose hope. Maybe one of these days, if I keep referring him to different doctors, reaching out to different people, then maybe someone can intervene and help him. Until then, I'll keep listening, searching for help. I want him to know he hasn't been forgotten."
As he speaks, another woman walks up, complaining of constant headaches and vision problems. Can he help her? She heard he could. "New clients," Muya says with a smile. "Every day, you get a new client." He jots down her information and refers her to the medical center before he is off again. Muya has his fill of new clients today. He is stopped no less than six times on his way to the drop-in center.
One is a woman who has lived with her condition for six years, four of them in Dadaab. She, too, spends her days sitting outside on a woven mat, not walking except to the latrine, which is fortunately just a couple of feet away. Her arms and legs are thin like twigs, breakable, yet her abdomen is swollen like the belly of a mother on the brink of birth. But this woman isn't pregnant, her eldest is eight. And no one can seem to tell her what's wrong. She asks Muya to photograph her; that maybe he can show the picture to another doctor, one she hasn't seen before, and this one could help. Muya promises to follow up and then heads out.
There are more people to see.
Because the sun is fading, and the drop-in center is still far, Muya calls the daughter of the woman he originally set out to see and asks if he can meet her at the block instead. It is in fact, right next to Muya's block in Dagahaley, so he knows exactly where to go.
Muya with the some of the refugees (including a client, bottom left) with whom he interacts with regularly, not only as a paracounselor for CARE, but as their neighbor and fellow refugee.
The woman's family surrounds her as he makes his way to her house. She lifts her dress, revealing a painful and hideous wound, where the men covered her with paraffin and firewood and set her on fire. It was her punishment for resisting rape. After her bus was hijacked, women were brought into a nearby forest and raped. When she fought back, she was burned. The hijackers stole the bus, and so the woman had to be carried by the other refugees to Dadaab. Luckily—if you could call anything in Dadaab that—her daughter was here and had a mud house to offer. She visited the hospital with her husband, who could just watch as she was attacked, but they couldn't afford the recommended procedure so they returned back to her daughter's home with just pain pills and topical cream. That was two weeks ago. Yesterday, CARE had met with the men on the bus, today the women survivors. They needed to talk through the horror they had witness.
"I still feel the pain," she said, "Like my skin is on fire." When Muya asks her about her other pain, the pain that's will remain after her leg heal, she tells him, "I've accepted what has happened to me. What is disturbing me is my wound, my physical pain. If I can get treatment, and I can't see the scar, I will be able to forget about it."
In a world where violence, loss and death are an everyday norm, this may be true. But Muya will not forget. He gets her details; promising CARE counselors will follow up and ensure that the woman receives both the physical and psychological care she desperately needs. She is not alone, she will not be forgotten.
Muya and the woman part ways, nightfall is approaching quickly and he wants to get in one more visit. He shouts his goodbyes from over his shoulder; like always, he is in a hurry.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 3:58PM EST on September 14, 2011
by Niki Clark, CARE Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
One of my "duties" as an emergency media officer here in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, is to share my perspective of CARE's work and beneficiaries through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. And being the dutiful employee I am, I often Twitter-follow recent Dadaab visitors so that I can in turn share their perspectives of the camps.
One such recent visitor was Somalian-born, Canadian-raised singer K'naan. Although K'naan found worldwide fame only recently through his 2010 FIFA World Cup theme-song Wavin' Flag, he has been amassing fans for more than 10 years, when a spoken word performance before the United Nations High Commission on Refugees caught the ear of famed Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour (another recent Dadaab visitor). After K'naan visited Dadaab with a World Food Programme-CARE joint delegation, which included friends of CARE Cindy McCain and retired NBA superstar Dikembe Mutombo, @Knaan became my latest Twitter-follow.
For the past week or so, I have been struggling with the two very different Dadaabs I have experienced. Then, yesterday, I read a tweet that perfectly captured what I have been trying to express:
"Somalia is overflowing with beauty." @knaan reflects on his Somalia, not necessarily the one you see on the nightly news.
In midst of the strife and turmoil, hidden between the heartache and uncertainty, and tucked away behind the dire poverty and desperation of a homeless people, the people of Somalia – the refugees of Dadaabb – are an overflowing vessel of beauty. Because the unexpected truth is: there is beauty everywhere, even in the world's largest refugee camp, where I see:
When I was an art student in college, I did a photography project on raw beauty – the beauty of accomplishment, the beauty of the everyday, of the unintentional. I have seen incredible poverty in Dadaab, things that people should never see, things that should never exist. Back in my Washington, D.C., office, I have CARE's vision tacked to my cubicle walls:
We seek a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security. CARE International will be a global force and a partner of choice within a worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty. We will be known everywhere for our unshakable commitment to the dignity of people.
It's a constant reminder for me of the essence of CARE's purpose: Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty. Because dignity is beautiful. People who are able to control their own destinies and raise themselves above the situations into which they are born: this is true beauty. And it's all over Dadaab.
As a native of Somalia, K'naan is able to see something that most people in the world will never see: the beauty of Somalia and its people. Dadaab may never make Travel & Leisure's "Top 10 Most Beautiful Places' but the people of Somalia – who are the refugees of Dadaab – are some of the most beautiful people in the world.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:40PM EST on September 14, 2011
by Rick Perera, CARE Communications Coordinator, Horn of Africa
Janet Ndoti Ndila is a tough lady with a tender heart. She's the lead counselor at CARE's drop-in support center at the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Here she offers a trained ear, and a map through the maze of camp bureaucracy, to people who have suffered some of the most horrific things imaginable in their flight from hunger and despair.
Janet and her colleagues are the first resort for thousands of weary, dejected Somalis pouring out of their famine-stricken homeland into this complex of camps, the largest of its kind in the world, now sheltering nearly 430,000 people. She doesn't let the experience dampen her upbeat, take-charge personality. But there are days when it can get overwhelming.
"I've worked in worse places – places where there's immediate, ongoing bloodshed. That's not the case here, but the things people have lived through…" Her voice trails off.
Providing Physical and Emotional Rest
Janet leads the way to CARE's distribution center for new arrivals, a large tent where refugees collect initial rations to tide them over until they are registered as camp residents. An efficient operation whisks them through as they collect plastic mats, jerry cans, cornmeal, beans, salt, oil and other essentials. Nearby, a set of taps offers plenty of safe water for washing and drinking.
More than physical hunger and thirst are looked after. Janet and her staff usher in group after group of tired, bewildered families and sit them down on rough-hewn benches in the shade of a canvas tent. Janet – a native of Kangalu in eastern Kenya – speaks to them reassuringly through a Somali interpreter. Here they get their first orientation to Dadaab: how to negotiate the labyrinth of services available, register for food distributions and shelter, and gain access to medical care for the weak, the malnourished, the sick and those injured during the harsh journey.
There are wounds to the spirit, too, and these are Janet's most important responsibility. Most of the refugees have seen and experienced terrible things before arriving here. Not just the suffering of poverty, hunger and warfare back in Somalia, but the trauma of being uprooted from home and family, and the loss of loved ones: the elderly, frail and children who did not survive the trip. Many fell prey to bandits along the way, robbed of everything when they were at their most vulnerable. And in every group of new arrivals there are women bearing terrible secrets, of brutal violence and rape suffered in the lawless wilds they were forced to cross in search of safety.
Refugees Counseling Refugees
CARE's paracounselors are a team of 18, as energetic and outspoken as their boss. They are all refugees themselves, recruited in the camps by CARE and specially trained to handle initial consultations. They are familiar, compassionate faces, fellow Somalis who understand what their compatriots have been through. The paracounselors quickly identify survivors of sexual violence and other particularly vulnerable people, "fast-track" them for special assistance including food and essential household items, and refer them if needed for medical attention. Women who are in immediate danger from domestic violence can take shelter in a community-based "safe haven" until they have somewhere safe to go.
Nearly 4,700 refugees have come to CARE for counseling and support in just over three months – 1,111 during the week of Aug. 28-Sept. 3 alone. The women who seek Janet's help have suffered more in a few weeks than anyone should bear in a lifetime.
Responding to the Different Needs of Men and Women
Today Janet met a client, who arrived two months ago and set up housekeeping on the outskirts of Dahagaley camp, in a crude hut made of cardboard boxes on a frame of bundled sticks. Before leaving Somalia, as her family's meager farm shriveled to nothing, the woman watched two of her three children die of hunger and disease. Crossing the desert on foot, she was robbed of everything – even her precious supply of water – then gang-raped. It is a horrifying story, but the woman speaks with a steady tone. She wants to give voice to the terror, to speak out on behalf of those who must remain silent in fear.
Men, too, suffer their own nightmares. Initially many stayed behind in Somalia to watch over homesteads and herds. But as famine continues to spread, crops have been decimated. When their last cattle starve, men are forced to make the trek to Dadaab in search of help. For those from proud, ancient pastoralist traditions, who measure wealth in terms of how many cattle a person owns, the loss of a sense of identity is devastating.
"Not quite as many men come as women, for cultural reasons, but they do come," said Sharif Ahmed Abdulahi, a CARE paracounselor trained in community development, life skills and counseling. He and his colleagues are careful to respect tradition and work in harmony with community norms. "Sometimes people ask me to tell them what to do. I say: I can counsel you, but I can't advise you. If you want advice, you should go to an elder."
Janet is busy recruiting additional staff to reach more people in need. She wants to hire and train more female counselors – just under half of the current refugee workers are women – but it's hard to find candidates who are literate, and many young girls are married off at age 14 or so.
But Janet is not someone who gives up easily. She thrives on challenge, and finds this work incredibly rewarding. One thing is clear: she's not going anywhere soon. "I plan to stay as long as I still like it. It will be a few years."
CARE staff Janet Ndoti Ndila works as a counselor in CARE's gender and community development project.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:58PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
When I told my family and friends that I was leaving for six weeks to work with CARE on temporary assignment in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, I was immediately bombarded with Facebook messages, e-mails and calls along the lines of "I'm so proud of you. You're going to save the world!" and "You're making such a difference!"
To be honest, besides being a bit exaggerated, it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Now, don't get me wrong, I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate the good wishes and thoughts of my loved ones. Their support has allowed me to take this journey. But nothing — absolutely nothing — compares with the dedication and passion of CARE's employees in the field. And to even be put in the same category as these colleagues seems more than a bit ludicrous.
This past weekend, for example, I took part in my first real Dadaab celebration —complete with grilled goat (a rather tasty treat, if you're curious) — a send off for long-time CARE employee, Julius. Julius is leaving Dadaab for a new CARE post in Nairobi after nearly 19 years in Dadaab. Nineteen years! That's the equivalent of 133 years in a normal career, as I'm convinced Dadaab years should be counted like dog years. He joined CARE when the refugee population in the camps was around 35,000. Today, nearly 400,000 additional people have been added to that number.
For 19 years he has lived here away from his family. He most likely has shared a room and used a communal bathroom and shower. Because space is at a premium, when a staff member goes on leave, people exchange rooms, some moving every few weeks. There are no hanging photographs, no personal mementos. In many ways, the staff is unsettled as the new arrivals. They are nomads without a home. They work for hours on end in the unforgiveable combination of heat and dust.
I am here for six weeks, and even in that relatively brief time, I have succumbed to heartache and homesickness. I assumed that unlike me, the devoted staff in Dadaab must have solitary lives, free of the commitment of relationships. Until I met Maureen, a new coworker who casually mentioned her three-year-old son and husband back in Nairobi. Or another colleague who mentioned how he was planning some quality time with his wife during his next break. CARE staff work eight weeks on, two weeks off. Because of limited resources, sometimes even those brief breaks get shortened. But I have yet to hear a complaint. I have yet to see a frown. There is a Jewish proverb that says, "I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders." CARE staff in Dadaab are star athletes in that regard.
In addition to the tough environment in which they work, the actual work they carry out is difficult. Imagine feeding 427,000 people. Getting clean water to them. Educating them. Training them. These jobs are difficult no matter the circumstances – but in these conditions, accomplishment is an amazing feat. Many that have made the long trek from Somalia have experienced personal violence or loss, each tale of tragedy and horror more unfathomable than the one before. CARE's sexual and gender-based violence officers have the colossal task of helping the survivors heal, start their lives anew. Day after day after day.
I asked a colleague why staff that work so hard, so tirelessly. And why are the people that CARE serves, people who have been through the most of trying of times, always smiling? Why despite everything that surrounds them, do they always greet me with a handshake, with a sense of joy? He answered, "Because we are Africans. We have been through so much and we survive. We have hope now."
No individual is saving the world. But here among CARE's dedicated staff, I have met a lot of people who are doing their part.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:38PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
I’ve been in Dadaab for nearly two weeks now. I have seen mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. They have been old and weak, young and weak, their faces lined with struggle. I have seen the faces of children who have eaten their first meal in weeks and the resulting transformation back to childhood, full of giggles and smiles and impromptu games of tag. When people think of Dadaab – now with its three camps considered the third largest city in Kenya – they think crisis. They think emergency. Humanitarian efforts and funding tend to focus on the immediate, looking ahead no more than a year. As soon as another emergency hits, the spotlight will move on. But, as they have for the past 20 years, the refugees of Dadaab will remain.
This thought particularly struck me during a visit to the reception center, the first place where refugees find help after a long and arduous journey. Here they receive medical assistance, and aid workers identify the most vulnerable for immediate attention. A chorus of wails echoes from the vaccination room: the occasional child slipping from the grips of the nurse, running to the dirt yard in tears. Each family collects a 21-day ration of food and supplies (cooking pots, mats, a tarp, soap, jerry cans) to tide them over until they can register.
Today, I see a young mother waiting for her high energy B-5 biscuits, a box of which is given out to new arrivals. Tucked under her garbasaar – a traditional shawl – a set of tiny toes poked out into the sunlight. I approached her gently, and she pulled back her wrap so I could see his miniature features. He is 10 days old, she tells me with a smile. She gave birth to him halfway through her journey to Dadaab. Most likely, I thought to myself, he will become part of the second generation that has spent their entire lives within this camp.
CARE has worked in Dadaab since 1991. Refugees who were educated as children here are now teaching refugee children themselves. That’s why the long-term investment that CARE is making here is so critical. It’s not just an investment in immediate needs, although we’re doing that, too. On an average day of food distribution, CARE passes out 389 metric tons of food to 45,000 people. And every single day, CARE pumps and distributes approximately 7.5 million liters of water, enough to provide more than 446,000 people with 15 liters of water every day.
But we’re also working toward long-term solutions. We’re investing in people. In Dadaab there is a thriving economy – butchers and bakers and, yes, probably candlestick makers. They own restaurants and bookstores and barber shops. People are being trained by CARE in trades from dressmaking and tailoring to computer technology. CARE directly employs 1,600 refugees, who serve as counselors, food distributors, chefs, teachers and drivers. They grow up in Dadaab, are educated in Dadaab and work in Dadaab.
After the “emergency” has passed, hundreds of thousands of people will remain here in the refugee camps. As my colleague told me today, they need more than food, water and shelter. They need a future. CARE is committed to helping them prepare for tomorrow, whether they continue to build their lives here, or one day, return home to start anew.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 2:14PM EST on September 12, 2011
by Niki Clark, Emergency Media Officer in Kenya
The drive to the Galbet Farm in Garissa, Kenya, looks strikingly similar to the land around Dadaab, site of the world’s largest complex of refugee camps. It is dry and barren. The bush remains brown and leafless after months upon months without rain. It seems like an unlikely environment for a farm – one that will thrive, anyway.
But thrive is exactly what the farmers at Galbet Farm are doing. While the drought is killing the livestock and destroying people’s livelihoods in neighboring regions, this one small patch of land in Garissa is literally an oasis in the desert. It’s not just through happenstance. The people of Garissa knew a drought was coming so, with CARE’s help, they prepared.
For the past two and a half years, CARE’s Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Project Consortium (ARC) has worked to promote drought-resilience in the Garissa, Moyale, Wajir and Mandera districts. The three-year project reaches more than 85,000 people, in a region where the drought is affecting half of the population – some 2.4 million people. In a region where 80 percent of the population is dependent on livestock, the death of animals is devastating.
CARE’s objective in launching the project in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 drought was to help vulnerable rural people gain sustained access to food and become more resilient in the face of future crises.
Maka Kassim is one of those people. As a pastoralist, she and her family followed their livestock wherever pastureland and water could be found. After a severe drought five years ago, her herd died and she was left with nothing. “I decided I needed to plan so I could provide for my family – so we could get our daily bread.” she says.
Today, Maka is flourishing. CARE taught her how to farm and diversify her crops to protect against disaster. As part of the Galbet Farm cooperative, she and the other farmers grow fodder grass, bananas, tomatoes and mangos. In addition to providing enough food for her family, including her six children, the farm has been so successful that she is able to supplement her income by selling extra produce at the market.
CARE also is helping improve water canals. Previously, farmers collected water from the Tana River, a time-consuming and dangerous task considering the river’s high population of crocodiles. The old canal cut through loose soil and experienced frequent breakages and high seepage that resulted in a large loss of water. Now, an abundant supply of water comes to the community to irrigate the land and provide fresh drinking water at tap stands.
Galbet Farm is just one of several ARC projects. CARE’s work through the project includes teaching beekeeping, fodder production, milk marketing and basic veterinary skills. We’ve also helped foster a relationship between First Community Bank and the Kenya Meat Commission. Farmers now purchase weakened cattle from drought-stricken districts, bring them back to the farm to fatten them up and then sell them for a profit.
“We want to serve as role models,” Maka says. “Because of CARE’s assistance, I am able to feed my family. I am able to educate my children. I am able to plan for my future.”
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:49AM EST on September 1, 2011
Niki Clark, CARE Emergency Media Relations Officer
Here I sit, 7,500 miles away from home. I’m a week in. Over the course of just a few days, my life has completely changed. On a Monday I reported to work at CARE’s Washington, D.C. office. By Thursday I was on a plane bound for Nairobi where my final destination would be Dadaab Refugee Camp, the world’s largest. I will spend the next six weeks here as CARE’s emergency media officer. It is a position that both thrills and terrifies me. As an employee of one of the most prominent global humanitarian agencies, there is always an excitement that surrounds “going to the field.” But this is different.
Unlike my colleagues who have preceded me in this position, and most likely the ones that will follow, I have not been in a humanitarian emergency crisis situation before. I haven’t seen the devastation of a Haiti or a Pakistan. The closest I’ve come was the fall of 2005, when my grandmother came and lived with us after Hurricane Katrina. Her Biloxi home had been destroyed. But even then, I witnessed the situation only through my constant refreshing of CNN.com, and through my grandmother’s stories, not firsthand. And Dadaab is unlike other emergency situations. It is established. There are second generation refugees that have grown up in the camps. I’m not quite sure what to expect. Or how what I experience, the people I meet, will forever impact me.
CARE has worked in Dadaab since 1991, as the main implementing partner for the distribution of food and water and as well as a lead provider of education and psychosocial support and rights education for sexual and gender-based violence survivors. We’ve been here for decades. But with the recent declaration of famine in five regions of southern Somalia, coupled with ongoing conflict and instability, a surge of new arrivals have flocked to the camp, and a global spotlight has been shone on the region, particularly on Dadaab. Dadaab’s population stood at 423,361 as of August 28th. Every single day, it grows by 1,200.
As we landed—my colleague Michael Adams, the Senior Sector Manager for the Refugee Assistance Program in Dadaab, and I flew in on a small UNHCR humanitarian aid plane—the pilot circled around towards the gravel airstrip. A bird’s eye view of Dadaab and its three main camps became visible below me. It was a breathtaking site, a massive settlement that’s now effectively Kenya’s third largest city. It’s hard to fathom until you’ve seen it. And even then, when it’s right in front of you, and you’re face to face with women and children and families that have traveled 80 kilometers or more to get here, there’s still something surreal about it all. Something that makes putting it into words seem a sort of insurmountable task.
But that’s what I’m here to do. To share the lives of the people I meet, people up against incredible odds, some who have thrived and some who are struggling to survive. To share the stories of the unwaveringly committed CARE staff whose dedication to the people they serve is first and foremost. To share the successes of CARE’s programming, and its far reaching impact. I’m not sure if I’m up to the challenge; if I can accurately portray the scale and struggles or the unexpected hopes and triumphs. But I do know one thing. I’m going to do my best. There are too many lives at stake not to.
For updates on my experience and CARE’s work in Dadaab, follow me at @nclarkCARE. I can also be reached at email@example.com
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:48AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
As a humanitarian worker for the past sixteen years I have seen some pretty shocking scenes. Before this trip to East Africa, I was particularly not looking forward to witnessing suffering children. However, when I saw the dedication and commitment of the CARE staff working on our response in very difficult surroundings, it made me feel proud to work for CARE.
Helping pastoralists in Borena
People in Borena are well known for their strong social bonds. They are also well known for feeding their children first, a practice which is key to ensuring survival of the next generation in this toughest of times. This, along with the monitoring from CARE and the local government, ensures the program reaches those who need it most. But our program is only reaching five per cent of people living in the targeted districts – further funding is desperately needed to extend this highly impactful and timely program.
A health centre in Miyo district
First they are checked for diseases like diarrhoea and given treatment. Then they start a careful course of therapeutic food, starting with low-strength milk powder. It normally takes four to five days for their weight to stabilise. Then they progress to a more nutritious formula that helps them regain weight fast. Finally, they can be discharged with two month’s ration of oil and corn soya blend to take home.
Making sustainable change in people’s lives
With CARE Ethiopia already meeting the needs of over 406,000 (as of Aug. 22) people and plans to reach up to a million in the next three months, I am confident CARE is playing its part in reaching the most vulnerable during this drought, the worst in a generation. It’s our job to make things better in a tough situation and that is something I feel positive about. We need help from the Australian public so that we can extend our programs and benefit more people who are suffering from this devastating drought with long-term solutions.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:59AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
The green trees, cool mountain climate and well-stocked shopping malls of Nairobi are in sharp contrast to the camps in dusty Dadaab. The warm smiles and healthy faces of the Kenyans I meet are very different from the haggard faces of the new arrivals from Somalia I saw lining up for food just a couple of days ago.
Many Kenyans are also suffering in the terrible drought sweeping across the north and east of the country. Today I met with CARE Kenya senior staff who explained how CARE is working to improve the situation in Kenya by investing in communal management of water and pasture. They told me that most of the people affected by the drought are pastoralists who live and move with their herds. In the drought, lack of water and pasture has seen herds decimated and no rain is in sight until September.
In the north-east of the country CARE is supporting people to renew communal management of grazing lands and water pans. Where there was some local rain in April, the water pans still have water and there is still some pasture, but even they are badly off. That’s why CARE is supporting off-take of weak livestock at a reasonable price and the vaccination of stronger animals so they can withstand the drought. This should help herds to recover and people to bounce back if the rains come.
Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan, CARE’s Country Director in Kenya, visited Gafo in late July and saw the difference these investments have made. Water pans that were rehabilitated last year with community labour through CARE’s support still have water. What’s even more encouraging is that the community have managed them well, collecting small fees from users, which have allowed them to clear out the silt this year. If they continue maintenance, these should last for twenty years.
We have also supported district-level planning so that communities and the local government know when to take emergency measures such as de-stocking of livestock. Pastoralists move across the border with Ethiopia, so CARE has worked on both sides to bring communities together so they can make agreements that allow access to pasture for the animals when times are hard.
Gary McGurk, Assistant Country Director of CARE Kenya, explained why CARE will only consider water trucking and food aid in the most dire situations. “Water trucking is expensive and encourages people to stay in places that cannot sustain them rather than moving on with their herds.” By investing in community management of water and pasture, we can reduce pastoralists facing a crisis and needing expensive food hand-outs or water trucking.
But support for such interventions is hard to get. Even though studies show that a dollar invested in preparedness will save on average seven spent on crisis response like food aid, we find it hard to gain funding. With the situation so bad, we now also need to help the many who are in crisis. Tomorrow I will travel to Ethiopia to see how we are doing that there.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:48AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, CARE Australia's Emergency Response Manager
Today, I spoke to a young woman who had walked for twenty days with her two children. They left their home due to the drought which has dried up all drinking water sources.
She was sitting in a makeshift tent made from rough branches and covered in bits of cardboard and scraps of cloth. She and the other new arrivals have taken refuge outside the established camps.
Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s Water and Sanitation Adviser, has been working with the local team to ramp up water supply. He says, ‘We have been setting up new water tanks and tapstands so that people can easily access the water that we truck in.’
We are also supplying 19 litres of water per day to people as they arrive in Daghaley camp. We are redrilling seven boreholes so they produce more water, increasing storage capacity, and extending the piped water system out from the main camps to the influx areas next to them. This reduces the need for expensive trucking and ensuring we can meet the needs of the 30,000 new arrivals in this camp.
The ongoing drought and conflict in Somalia – where famine has been declared in several districts in the south – means the influx of refugees will probably continue for several months. CARE estimates that over 500,000 people will be in the camps by Christmas. Clearly this is a big challenge. Jason says, “We are increasing water provision in the influx areas and water in the camps to above UNHCR global standards of 20 litres per person a day, and we will keep going until we are sure we can meet the needs of further new arrivals.”
I ask him what the biggest challenge is and there’s no pause in his reply: “Funding is the biggest challenge.” It’s also a challenge to get skilled water and sanitation professionals to work in Dadaab as conditions are hard, even for the staff working there.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:32AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
It’s 6.30am on a crisp Nairobi morning. The dawn chorus has just finished and I am standing in the CARE Kenya compound. Abdi, our driver, has just arrived with a broad smile and wearing a bright cap typical for Somalis. I am joined by Alain Lapierre, Director of Emergencies for CARE Canada who has been overseeing the expansion of our activities in the region this past month.
He says the situation in Dadaab is of great concern. People are still arriving in a terrible state. Although the numbers arriving have reduced slightly in the past few days, he believes this is only temporary. CARE is scaling up to meet the needs of an increasing number of refugees. This includes recruiting more national staff and for long-term planning with existing staff, such as Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s global WASH Adviser, working at the strategic level to develop plans to cope with the projected influx of people.
As we reach a rendezvous point, three CARE Kenya staff who work in Dadaab join us. They are highly skilled Kenyans working in the construction team. One of them, Oumari, tells me that he has been working for nine months in the searing heat of Dadaab, providing administrative support to the construction team who build and maintain boreholes, latrines and five schools. I ask him how he feels about working in Dadaab. He replies, ”I feel really motivated. We are giving hope to people who had lost hope in life.”
We are now joined by another CARE vehicle packed with field staff and provisions for the camp. There are also vehicles with staff from UNHCR and other NGOs. It’s 6.45am and time to hit the road!
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:11AM EST on August 26, 2011
Adam Poulter, Emergency Response Manager for CARE Australia
As the plane took off from Canberra yesterday I looked down on the dry hills below. My thoughts turned to the dusty plains of Eastern Kenya where CARE is working in the world’s biggest refugee camp, Dadaab. We’ve been working there for twenty years leading the provision of water, food and education. While we and other agencies working in the camps are able to provide assistance to the more than 414,000 [as of Aug. 22] refugees now there, the problem is that the numbers just keep growing. I’ll arrive there on Sunday to work with the team on increasing our capacity to deal with the projected increase to over 500,000 refugees by Christmas.
Newly arrived refugees from Somalia collect water provided by CARE at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Photo: Kate Holt/CARE
Yesterday I spoke with Jason Snuggs, CARE Australia’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) Adviser who has been working with the team in Dadaab to increase water supply and storage for the new people arriving since early July. He told me how they’ve managed to increase water supply for people on the edges of the three main camps. We are now providing people with up to 12 litres of water each per day. The target is to exceed 15 litres, which we have been able to provide to long-term refugees. Jason is confident we can reach this target in the coming weeks by redrilling bore holes, improving distribution lines and storage capacity for water.
Just as important is public hygiene and we are working with animators from the local community to spread simple hygiene messages like the need to use soap and to wash hands before eating. By doing this we can limit outbreaks of diarrhoea and other infectious diseases which can kill the malnourished, especially young children.
We leave at 6am sharp. I will be accompanied by CARE’s Regional Coordinator, and two global education experts. The road takes a bumpy six hours, but this is a trifle compared to the journeys of several weeks the new refugees arriving have made.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 1:31PM EST on August 23, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer, Dadaab
I am standing in front of the borehole well, waiting for the clicking sound of my camera. But there is no sound. The CARE engineer has just explained how ground water is pumped up and then distributed to water stations. We are wandering around Dagahaley, one of the three refugee camps in Dadaab. A photographer working for a newspaper is gathering images of how a refugee camp works. But now as we stand at the borehole I feel yesterday’s long hours creeping up on me: my camera battery has obviously run out, plus I forgot my pencil and notebook on the desk. But there are solutions to these minor problems: The photographer lends me a pen and I use the back of my permission papers for the camp to take notes. In fact, I am starting to like my day without a camera.
But now, sitting down in the sand near a water tap stand, I am quietly watching the hustle and bustle going on around me. I close my eyes as the wind blows fine-grained sand my way. I gaze around in all directions. The photographer stands on top of a water tank to get a better angle. None of the women or children fetching water pay much attention to us -- water is much more important than the strange sight of a visiting foreigner. I curiously watch two young women leaving with their jerry cans full of water. But they don’t carry them on their heads; instead, they roll them across the sand. This really calls for a picture: Two women in long veils and torn sandals kicking their jerry cans full of water through the desert. But with my camera batteries empty, my eye batteries seem to be more charged than ever.
After a while I move to the side of a latrine. It’s just four walls of corrugated iron, but at least it guarantees some privacy. Standing in the shade I watch a man with his donkey cart. Bit by bit women lift their jerry cans onto the cart, tightening them with ropes and rags. Getting places here in Dadaab takes time. The three camps cover some 56 square kilometers. Owning a donkey cart is a pretty good business. It is so hot that everything here seems to happen in slow motion. Finally the cart starts to move. I wonder how much the women have to pay for their transportation and whether they will still have enough money left to buy food for their children. While I sit in the sand, their skinny legs are at eye level. I can count the children wearing shoes on the fingers of one hand.
Humanitarian aid means reaching as many people as possible with at least minimum needs, given limited resources. In Dadaab, CARE and other agencies provide about 500 grams of food and about 12 litres of water per person and day, some basic medical assistance, some counselling. Every one of these 414,000 refugees is a unique person with a particular history, hopes and sorrows – but the scale of this emergency is so vast, we can’t possibly meet all those individual, specific needs. What we can do is slow things down for a while and pay attention. Observe. Understand. And adapt our programs to what we see. For example, CARE might soon pay the owners of the donkey carts so that weak and poor women don’t have to spend the rest of their money for transportation of water and food.
It is quick and easy to take a picture, upload it to your computer and then store it somewhere in your archives. But the pictures I saved in my head today will linger on for some time before I will be able to store them anywhere.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:27AM EST on August 18, 2011
Interview with Michael Adams, Director of Operations for CARE’s Refugee Assistance Program in Dadaab
With an influx of almost 1,000 refugees per day, most of them from Somalia, humanitarian assistance in the refugee camps of Dadaab, Kenya is becoming more difficult each day. Michael Adams has been responsible for CARE’s Refugee Assistance Program for the last two years and talks about the current challenges and the road ahead.
How does the situation compare now to the beginning of the year?
The big difference is simply the high number of new arrivals. They have stretched our capacity to deliver the essential services for humanitarian aid, especially because many families are settling in informal, undesignated areas where there is poor access to services. They are scattered around the camps, but it is hard to reach them quickly enough to prevent further suffering. After 20 years of providing humanitarian aid in the camps, CARE and other agencies are now confronted with a new complication: in order to meet the increasing needs, we have to stretch the resources that we have as much as possible to help all new people arriving in very weak and vulnerable conditions. Another complication is that the refugees are taking up more and more space outside the formal settlements which is having a detrimental effect on the local environment; they need firewood to cook which results in the deforestation of the sparse land which in turn creates conflict with the host communities whose grazing land is being destroyed. In the first five months of 2011, we had weekly registrations of about 2,000 people on average. In July, this number went up to more than 5,000. And this only counts the individuals being registered; we currently have a backlog of about 35,000 people still waiting for registration.
What is the difference between those refugees who have been here for some time and those who are new arrivals?
Most refugees here are quite resourceful, that is natural in any setting. People are not going to sit around for 20 years; they want to get on with their life. There are thriving markets in each of the three camps where you can charge your phone for 25 Kenyan shillings at a shop that has a small generator, you can find tailors and hairdressers and so on. Those who have a little bit of money buy products from the local markets in the area and sell them in the camps. But the newly arrived families, those who have fled drought, poverty and instability in Somalia within the last few weeks, they come here with next to nothing, barely carrying clothes on their backs. So, the provision of basic emergency services such as food, water, health and shelter are very important to sustaining life. As a measure of how serious this crisis is, the refugee community that has been long settled here in Dadaab have come together to compliment the international response. A Muslim charity created from within the camp population is now providing clothes and shoes at the reception areas to help the aid agencies. This is really encouraging for us to see because it demonstrates this crisis affects everyone. And help comes from many directions.
The areas around the camps are also suffering from drought and chronic poverty. How can you balance assistance for refugees and Kenyans?
This is a very important concern. People outside the camps are also in dire need of assistance, and of course they see the services provided in the camps and want to receive similar support. CARE has been working in the region for years, and we are now scaling up our emergency regional response to meet the ever increasing need beyond the Dadaab refugee camps. But we cannot feed and water everyone in and around the camps… we simply don’t have the capacity. The mere existence of the camps, offering relative safety and security and access to basic essential services, that is like a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak and desolate environment for all those Kenyans who also suffer from the impacts of severe drought. Ready markets and access to trade and business offer alternative livelihoods or income generation opportunities for families no longer able to continue their pastoralist lifestyle. The refugee operations bring jobs, businesses and contracts. The area of Dadaab has grown from 30,000 people to more than 200,000 people over a twenty year period. This said, the camps are stretching the existing resources and the environment to a point where it will be very difficult and slow to recover. CARE has always engaged with the host community, they have always been a part of our response in this region. Our support to the cost community has included activities such as borehole maintenance through repairs of the generators and pumps, chlorination of the boreholes to reduce contamination; we created water pans for livestock watering, built classrooms and trained teachers. And we are currently looking into ways to provide even more support. But we also have to think in terms of how this can be sustainable in some way, because there will always be droughts in this area. We need to find ways to build resilience; boreholes can only be a part of the solution. The key is to support the communities to help themselves. Let’s say through cash transfers so that they can hire their own water trucking, by training to maintain boreholes, by conflict-resolution forums. But all of this costs money and unless there is a severe humanitarian crisis and people here about it in the news, aid agencies really struggle to obtain funding for these activities.
What role does the Kenyan government play?
Kenya has had its doors open for 20 years, and continues to keep it open. They are not turning people away. The international community has provided some support, but nowhere near enough, and before pointing a finger at the Kenyan authorities we have to remember the impact this refugee population has on both the communities and the environment. And with Somalia still lacking security and governance, there is no solution for the refugees to go home again. Kenya has a right to continue ringing the warning bell, and the country cannot carry the burden by itself for another 20 years.
What are the biggest challenges right now?
As for food distribution, WFP and CARE have done an exceptional job to provide food when and where necessary. Every refugee receives an average of more than 500g of food per day. But it remains a challenge to disseminate information about how much and where food is available for the new arrivals. When so many people are coming in, we don’t know where they are coming from and where they end up. Before, when the number of new arrivals was still manageable, the information focused on reception centers. But now we need to do outreach into the so-called influx areas around the camps, where people settle while waiting for registration.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is also a backlog of people received but not yet officially registered as refugees. Since there is no screening center at the border, people arrive here and have to go through the registration process, which takes time. People who have been received, but not yet registered, get food for 21 days and some supplies such as water cans, blankets, cooking items, soap etc. But if they have to wait longer than those 21 days to get registered, we have to organize a second round of distributions. Another problem is transport, because many families settle quite far from the reception areas. So many single mothers or people suffering from weakness and malnourishment have to pay someone to carry their food home. This is a big concern for us, so we are working very hard to fill that gap.
And then there is water: CARE has done quite well in providing water to the influx areas to new refugees, where we can we’ve been able to extend piping from the existing water lines out, so that pressured water is provided from boreholes to temporary taps. CARE is also trucking water to temporary tanks and taps. But we still face challenges in that some of the current borehole systems bordering the influx have insufficient pressure to fill up the water tanks more quickly, so in some cases this leads to long queues. We are replacing these low pressure boreholes so we can provide enough water to the refugees. Technically, it is always a challenge to bring in the equipment and set up a structure in the middle of nowhere. But water is such a crucial part of the response that we cannot slow down now.
Protection is also a big issue. The families arriving here, especially single mothers and young children, are often very tired, malnourished and sometimes sick. They are the most vulnerable having traveled many weeks in the sun with little food and or water with barely enough clothing to cover their back. They need to get support as soon as they arrive. The health agencies are trying to keep up but the malnutrition rates are still high. We need to help them settle in a more secure community environment where they are not exposed to sexual violence or banditry and close to essential services. However, we simply don’t have the people-power to reach all of them with the information they need to know to help them. In an effort to address this issue, CARE has set up temporary kiosks at strategic locations in the outskirts of camps where people can come and seek help and information. It also acts as a base from which our community development mobilisers move out on foot into the influx areas to talk with as many new arrivals as possible giving them basic information: where to get food and water and that both are provided for free, where to seek counseling services for those who are survivors of conflict and or violence etc.
What are you most worried about for the months to come?
At current rates of arrival we will still have significant challenges to meet the needs. We have new extension areas where people will relocate to, but if the influx continues, those will be full by the end of the year, so we will not have been able to decongest the current camps as hoped. We also don’t know where all of the refugees are going when they arrive here, some go into the camps so that the density increases, there’s encroachment around schools, youth play areas, community centers and so on. This puts an extra burden on the existing refugee communities. Another thing we are very worried about is the levels of malnutrition seen in the new arrivals. Food needs to have sufficient caloric value to reduce malnutrition rates, but this is also more expensive.
How do you ensure that women are protected in the camps?
Just as in any city of this size around the world, we cannot fully ensure that women are protected in the camps. There are too little police officers per person and camp, protection remains a major challenge. Women generally don’t go out after dusk, but there is some community patrolling during day time. There are police stations in the camps. Imagine a city of 400,000 people without enough police. But previously settled refugees have been able to form community support networks and work well with the religious and community leaders. The most serious challenge we face now are the new arrivals. They are exhausted, uninformed about where to get help and an easy target for abuse and violence. CARE works directly with the communities and religious centers themselves to prevent violence through information sharing, educational sessions on conflict management, and to support existing community structures, neighbors watching out for each other. For example there are referral systems: if a woman feels threatened, she can come to a CARE office and seek refuge and may be brought to a safe house. We also have helpdesks in the police stations. But we want to extend our services, currently there is about 1 counselor for 30,000 refugees.
It is impressive to see our counselors in action. We have this one very confident young woman, Fardoza, and I recently accompanied her to one of the communities. She goes to one of the camp neighborhoods and sort of holds court, meeting with young men and women who have very set ideas about women’s place in society. And she challenges it in a very positive way and generates discussion. People can connect to her because she is their age, and since she is a Somali Kenyan, she speaks their language.
Do you lobby for the refugees to be granted citizenship or work permits in Kenya?
This is an issue for the Government of Kenya. Our focus is on providing services and working to reduce refugee vulnerability and to maintain their dignity as much as possible. The best case scenario, what we are all hoping for, is of course a return to peace in Somalia. But would all refugees go home then? There is now a second generation born in the camps who have been educated with Kenyan curriculum, and who have never been to their home country. But I still think that many of them would like to go home. And then they will have the unique chance to build their nation with the skills they have acquired here in the camp schools. We are now seeing the same in South Sudan: Refugees who were educated in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps as well have now returned home and are a vital part of nation building.
What other issues are important for you to communicate to everyone who is now interested in Dadaab?
I have been saddened by the voices from home who say things like charity begins at home, and that we shouldn’t be helping because there is so much corruption, or that we have already given too much. Every person in the camps of Dadaab is a refugee. But let’s not forget that people don’t want to be here, they want their freedom to move like anyone else, to be free to access higher education, better business opportunities. Even though there is no fence around the camps, they are legally not allowed to work in Kenya and are restricted to the regions of the camps. And what is most heartbreaking is the daily struggle for dignity. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine having to line up for food twice a month, for 20 years now. These are highly proud people, and a man in this culture who cannot provide for his family – well, that is just very hard for everyone. A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a refugee who was previously a full time employee for CARE in Somalia and now cannot work legally here in Kenya. Though we cannot give them legal jobs, every agency employs workers from among the refugee committee to help with distributions, translations, housekeeping of the compounds etc. They receive a salary and can thus support their families. But like I said, it is not a regular job. He would be very well qualified to be a part of our operation, with all his skills and knowledge of CARE. But all we can do is employ him as an incentive worker. That is one of the many limits they are constantly facing in Dadaab.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 11:19AM EST on August 18, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer CARE International
August 12th, 2011
Early morning in Dadaab, a nice breeze announces a day that will most likely not be too hot. Outside of the CARE canteen, people are scattered at tables under trees, taking their breakfast. CARE’s 270 members of staff live and work in so-called compounds, one in each of the three refugee camps of Dadaab, one in the main part of town, attached to the compounds of UN agencies and other aid organizations.
I sit down with a group of four colleagues who are having what seems to be a lively discussion in Swahili. As much as we speak the same “language” as part of the CARE family, I sometimes wish for a button I could push to be able to speak the local languages of the countries I am deployed to. But there’s no button, so I just watch and listen before they change into English. As a newcomer, it’s hard to figure out who does what here, with so much buzz and activity everywhere. So I start asking around what their jobs are.
“I work in maintenance of our vehicles, making sure that they function properly”, tells me one the guys. “I’m part of the WASH team”, says another. WASH is one of our most common acronyms and everyone who uses it tends to forget that the outside world needs interpretation for it. WASH sums up all activities in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene promotion, one of the most crucial programs in any emergency to prevent disease outbreaks and ensure that people have sufficient potable water to survive. “We get called when there are problems with the boreholes, pipelines or water stations”, he adds. So is he going out to one of the camps today? “That depends, I am basically on call for any emergency. Otherwise I stay in the office and catch up on paperwork.” Paperwork in a refugee camp? Yes, sure. Quality management, accountability and proper information management are crucial for any successful operation, even more so in the fast-paced environment of a humanitarian crisis. If we don’t document what we are doing and how things are working out, we cannot communicate our needs and plan for the upcoming months. Moving on to the third person at the table: “I work in construction.” Constructing what? “Anything that is needed, whether that be new rooms or sanitation facilities in our compounds, or services for the refugees in the camps. We just rehabilitated some classrooms in a school.”
This conversation gets me thinking as I wander off to the office: There are two faces to the humanitarian work CARE is doing: One face consists of the men and women who appear in the photos and TV images, those who get interviewed by newspapers and radio stations: doctors treating patients, staff distributing food to refugees, and of course the spokespeople of our organizations. But behind the scenes, there is a whole army of workers managing the operation every day. They work from early morning till late at night, lacking private life and comfort, missing their friends and families. Journalists often ask whether we employ Western volunteers who have given up their life of comfort to help people in need. As honorable as this is, humanitarian assistance demands expertise, local knowledge and a long-term presence. All over the world, CARE’s staff is over 95 percent local, speaking the language, understanding the social dynamics, and committing to these difficult working conditions for longer periods of time.
When I leave Dadaab, my colleagues will still be here. And when the cameras leave and the public eye wanders off to the next crisis, they will continue to do their jobs to provide water, food and social assistance to the more than 400,000 refugees here. And I hope they will have many more laughs in Swahili at the breakfast table to start their day with a smile.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:53AM EST on August 18, 2011
Sabine Wilke - Emergency Media Officer CARE International
August 12th, 2011
The realities of a refugee camp are hard to explain to the outside world. Many people think of Dadaab as a fenced-in area, overcrowded with tents, and people lining up for assistance. Some of this is true, to a certain extent. But Dadaab has grown for over 20 years now, and developed into an almost urban settlement of huge dimensions. There are actually three refugee camps in Dadaab, Dagahaley, Ifo 1 and Haghadera. And we spend about 10 to 20 minutes in the car getting from one camp to another. There are no fences around the camps, so people are generally free to go from one place to the next and into the town of Dadaab. But with long distances to walk in the sand under the blazing sun and no legal rights to actually leave the camps and settle outside, freedom is not the right term to use. Tents can be seen everywhere, but many new arrivals in the outskirts have simply put up wooden sticks and cover the structure with tarps, for now. Those who have been here for decades, who have raised their children here, have grown old in Dadaab and still see no way to return, those families have built more solid houses, constructed of bricks or mud, fenced and well-maintained. When I enter one of those homes, it reminds me of other places I have visited in some countries in Africa. Clothes hang up to dry, children play around in the court, the elders sit together in the shade of a tree.
But whether settled or just arrived, all 400,000 refugees in Dadaab depend on assistance to meet their basic needs. They cannot legally work or leave the camps, and the sandy soil and lack of water make it difficult to plant vegetables or other staples. This is where CARE, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the World Food Program WFP and others come in: Many of us have been here from the start and it is encouraging to see the level of cooperation. I think of critical media coverage about how aid agencies compete for funding and don’t coordinate their work that usually comes up with any emergency. But everyone who has been to Dadaab quickly understands that our humanitarian mandate is a much stronger bond than any talk of money, influence or popularity. Over 400,000 refugees are in need of assistance, there is enough to do for all of us. CARE manages two cycles of food distribution per month and hands out food and relief items to new arrivals; our engineers maintain and extend the water supply systems; counselors and social workers help the most vulnerable, mainly women and children suffering from violence and exhaustion; teachers are trained and schools set up.
It’s also hard to describe to the outside world how aid workers cope with the suffering and misery they are confronted with every day. Over the years, I have had many discussions with colleagues, and although it is a very personal affair, I feel like we have a common understanding: Most of the time, you cannot look beyond the crowd to acknowledge the individuals, your work needs to be about quantity: Handing out food to as many people as possible as quickly as we can. Disseminating information about counseling services and support for women victims of gender based violence to a whole area as fast as possible. Hurrying to a bursting pipe to get the water supply going again.
But this line of work would not be called humanitarianism if you would not care deeply for every single person. And every now and then, you cannot blend out one of the faces in the crowd. At the reception center of Dagahaley, I catch the eye of a young father; he sits at the reception area with his three kids, his wife next to him. It is impossible to explain how and why this connection happens, but his smile is so inviting and their relief of arriving here safely, their family intact, is almost palpable. We exchange smiles, I ask for a photo. Then I just sit next to the reception table and watch them for some time. Then something else comes up, I leave. When I turn around again, the family has gone. Back to be a part of the crowd. But I know that they now have food to last them for 21 days, water, and have met people who can assist them with their needs. And that must be enough, for now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:31AM 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 10:41AM EST on July 26, 2011
CARE Ethiopia staff
Dama Godona lives in a place of great contrast: even though the grass in Dire, Borena in southern Ethiopia looks green it is the harbinger of a severe drought. Consecutive failed rains did not provide enough water to yield sufficient pasture growth, which is important to sustain the cattle of the region’s pastoralists. Dama lost seven out of her 17 cattle and used all of her savings to purchase animal feed and water for her livestock. She plans to sell six of her remaining cattle in order to buy more cereals, animal feed, and water.
Over the past weeks Dire woreda (the Ethiopian equivalent of a district) has received some rain. But it is missing the heavy rain needed of bringing new plant or crop growth to the area. The people of Borena are pastoralists and dependent on their cattle, goats, sheep and camels. Due to the drought, many cattle have died leaving people without assets - and prone to food insecurity.What people need most
In order to assess of the impact of the current drought on men, women, boys and girls in this area, CARE Ethiopia conducted focus group discussions with several community members with the purpose of learning how to best address people’s needs. In a sea of colorful dresses, diaphanous patterned head wraps, and brightly colored beads, the 43-year old Dama stood out from the rest of the group.
One can tell by the way she carries herself, that she exudes confidence but that she has also experienced hardship in her life. Her husband died in a car accident and since then she has to take care for her four children alone. During the discussion, Dama took the lead in the group, speaking out on behalf of her community and clearly outlining what they need most now in order to adapt to the drought conditions. When asked what the three most important needs are for people within her community Dama stated that she needs food for her family, animal feed and increased access to water, but also support for Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).
Through CARE’s Regional Reliance Enhancement Against Drought (RREAD) project she was able to contract two loans of 2,000 Birr (about 118 USD) each through a VSLA over the last four years. Upon receiving the loans, she bought emaciated cattle at a low price, fattened them and sold them with profit. With this profit she was able to open a small road side shop. Since opening the shop, she has paid off the loan with interest and is now the head of the very association which helped her increase her income, protect her assets and care for her family. Dama’s position as a pastoralist and a merchant makes her quite unique in this region.Diversifying is key
Dama clearly sees the advantage to diversify their livelihoods and urges other community members to follow her example. “It is important to diversify ones livelihood in order be less affected by droughts,” the 43-year old says. In her eyes, diversification leads to decreased risks and increase in opportunities. While Dama is affected by the current drought, she is in a rare position to use her second source of income as a merchant to maintain her cattle over time and to take care of her family. Dama proudly states, “I am not dependent on cattle because I am a merchant.”
Dama shows that prevention is key to help individuals in times of drought. She demonstrates how increasing an individual’s ability to diversify their livelihoods can spur entrepreneurship, create employment, generate income and ultimately empower an individual. Additionally, it also shows that when Village Savings and Loan Associations are used correctly they can help people provide for their families and can also reduce vulnerabilities associated with drought. Hopefully, Dama’s example will not be so unique in the near future.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 10:10AM EST on July 26, 2011
By Linda Ogwell
Dama Godana knows all too well how difficult the life of a pastoralist woman is. In addition to the usual daily household chores of cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children, she has to walk long distances to fetch water and pasture for the small and weak animals during the dry season.
“Sometimes we have to move to inaccessible areas to look for pasture facing the risk of snakes, injuries and exposure to the harsh rays of the sun,” explains 40-year-old Godana.
When Godana heard what women in other non pastoralists communities around Ethiopia were doing to help themselves, she visited them and with the knowledge she gained she founded the Darara Women’s Savings and Credit Group in 2007. “Most pastoralist women depend on handouts from their husbands. They are not empowered,” says Godana. “I formed this credit group, so that we can work together make some income and improve our lives.”
The group started with a membership of 15 women each paying 60 Birr (about US$ 6) as a registration fee and a monthly contribution of 10 birr (US$ 1) per month. “With this money we invested in two young bulls and during the dry season we bought concentrated animal feed and sold it to the community members,” explains Godana. The group made a profit of 2000 birr (US$ 200).
During the dry season, the group sold scarce cereals like maize, beans and sugar to the community members and to date their membership has increased to 23 with a total budget of 8459 Birr (US$ 845) plus 4 bulls. Haymaking
CARE International in Ethiopia, under the Resilience Enhancement against Drought (RREAD) project, realized the difficulty these women faced in seeking pasture for their animals and trained them on haymaking. “Training the women’s group in haymaking was not only meant to lessen their burden but also to make pasture available for the small and weak animals during the dry and drought season, thus increasing their chances of survival,” says Temesgen Tesfaye, CARE project officer in Ethiopia. For the Darara women’s group haymaking has become second nature. Immediately after the rains stop they cut hay and collect it as it begins to yellow. This sequence retains the hay’s nutritional value. The hay is then laid out to dry on especially made beds to prevent its decay. Afterwards, it is piled in stacks and stored for use in the dry season.
“We are thankful to CARE for this initiative because during the drought seasons we don’t have to suffer anymore,” says Ashure Jaldessa, a member of the Darara women’s group.
The RREAD project also provides the group with a one-off payment of 25,000 Birr (US$ 2500) to strengthen their trading business and livestock marketing. “This money will increase our household income and improve our resiliency to drought,” beamed a happy Godana. RREAD also trained the women to handle different roles and responsibilities within the group. These include basic auditing, financial management and record keeping skills.
For Godana, the journey has been long. Married as a child at a tender age of 8 years, Godana lost her husband three years later. With no education but full of determination and ambition, she started selling local brew until she got enough capital to sell roofing materials, a business she still runs to date.
“I have no education and that’s something I regret but life experiences have taught me a lot and one lesson I learnt is that one must always strive to make life better and this is what I tell my fellow women,” says Godana. “This does not mean that education is not important. It definitely is and we must ensure that our girls to go to school and stay there.”
Godana’s efforts to improve the lives of women in her community caught the attention of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who in 2001 awarded her with a medal that reads, “Although illiterate, this woman’s struggle to uplift the women in her community has made her a symbol of development and we are proud of her.”
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 12:38PM EST on July 25, 2011
Audrée Montpetit, Senior Humanitarian Program Quality Advisor CARE Ethiopia
May 20, 2011
I arrived in Borena Zone, Oromia Region, in the southern part of Ethiopia two days ago. I am here with my CARE colleagues to conduct a deeper assessment on the impact of the current drought on women, men, boys and girls. We have talked to different groups, and even though we just had four basic questions, there was so much to listen to and to learn from. Basically, I could have asked 10,000 questions! Today we visited Moyale woreda (a woreda is the equivalent of a district), that is bordering Kenya. It has not rained there in the past six months, only the last ten days saw some rain. However, these rains were very sparse and did not bring enough water. So some areas look greener now, while others are still very dry.
But a green pasture does not mean there is no drought. The people of Borena are pastoralists and dependent on their cattle, goats, sheep and camels. But so many cattle have died already. Even though pastoralists move them to one place in order to avoid diseases, I could see carcasses lying around, there are just too many of them. Some people told me that this is not the first drought, of course, Ethiopians are used to the cycles of aridity and rain. However, what is really unique now is that it is not only cattle dying, but also sheep and goats. This is really concerning because goats usually resist quite well to drought since they can eat almost anything if needed (shrubs, bushes, branches, etc.).
A whole day to fetch water
There is not enough pasture, there is not enough water. This has a huge impact on women. Women are usually responsible for fetching water and they have to walk much longer distances now than before. One group of women told me that before the drought, it took them 30 minutes to the water point for one way. Now they have to walk three hours – one way. The second group mentioned that they not only need two hours now instead of 15 minutes to fetch water but they also need to queue at the water point for four to six hours. Because there is very little food, they don’t take anything to eat with them. They come back home hungry and exhausted. And they have to go through this ordeal every day.
In addition of spending almost the entire day to get water, women also need to collect pasture for their cattle. They therefore have very little time for their daily household chores. They can’t properly take care of their children and provide them with food. In some cases, I saw elderly people watching small children. But very often parents see no choice but taking their children out of school. School drop outs are already being visible here in Ethiopia, and it is mostly girls who need to stop their education because they have to assist their mothers with household chores and take care of their siblings. One young man of 17 years told me about the drop outs in his school. His 4th grade consisted of 82 students before the drought. Now, just 25 students are attending school – and most of them are boys.
One meal per day
I saw many cattle that are really, really weak. People told me many of them were too weak to stand up without help and how they constantly needed to support them to do it. A minimum of three strong people are needed to do this. I have not had the opportunity to see that myself but one of my colleagues sent the picture he took during one of its field visits. Impressive.
Since there is no pasture, men need to climb trees to cut leaves and use them as fodder for their livestock. People also reduce their food intake. While most families usually had three meals every day, they now can only eat once per day. Children eat first, then the father and the mother is the last one to receive what is left. So it is no surprise that most women told me: “We need food.” Even though there is food to buy at the market, the prices have steeply increased for the last months. In April 2011, the food index increased by 35.5 percent in Oromia Region compared to April 2010. People just cannot afford to buy products any longer.
An important element of a pastoralist diet is milk. Since their cattle are dying and starved, there is a shortage of milk, so people have replaced nutritious milk with tea. Without any nutrients and proteins, people are at high risk of becoming weak and malnourished. In some areas, I heard of conflict that arose due to the scanty resources. When pasture and water is limited and when people see their animals dying, tensions can get high.
These are all very concerning accounts. However, most people expect that the biggest impacts have not even begun. The worse is yet to come. The rains of the past days belong to a short rainy season and after it another dry cycle that will last until September starts. People have huge fears about their future and their ability to cope with the drought. The Ethiopian government is already responding to the drought with different interventions of which food distributions. I saw one of those today, but it is clearly not enough to reach every one who is in need right now.
Posted by: Daniel Fava at 9:54AM EST on July 25, 2011
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 1:13PM EST on July 8, 2011
By Alexandra Lopoukhine, Emergency Media Officer
On the far outskirts of the Ifo camp (one of three that make up the Dadaab Refugee Camps), round houses – sticks intertwined and covered with tattered cloth and pieces of torn plastic, are home to the newly arrived refugees. Today, I walked around and met a few people who had just arrived – last week in fact.
There was excitement to have me around, the children were pretty interested in me and there was a lot of laughter and smiles. It is a wonderful thing about being human: the smile transcends languages.
But through an interpreter, I was able to understand the language of pain. The stories I heard today did bring me to tears, I will admit. So too did seeing malnourished children. Mothers patiently waiting at the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic which was well placed in the middle of the newly arrived area of homes – their children receiving the immediate care they needed. CARE delivers water to this clinic; it was great to see a partnership of this sort, with the same goal of supporting the refugees, in action.
Some families have walked two weeks. Two weeks. Sleeping where they could, pushing-on to get to this camp. The children are much smaller than they should be. One story I heard was devastating: a mother walking, arrives at the clinic, takes her baby off her back and finds it has died without her knowing. I can't even imagine the pain this causes her. One man spoke to us in perfect English – he told us he has been a refugee since 1991, and now, here among the newly arrived, is his grandfather.
I feel privilege to have this time here, to talk and to hear the stories of people. I was asked today to tell the world, to share the stories and the reality of the situation. Thank you for reading.
Women and children collect water from a temporary
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 11:23AM EST on November 12, 2010
Story and photo by Marie-Eve Bertrand, CARE Haiti
The sun is shining, dogs are barking and the wind is blowing. This could be a normal day in Gonaïves. But it's not. Streets are empty, kids are not in school and mothers are concerned.
As I was with a community volunteers team, we were training women on how to purify the water they sell with bleach that CARE is providing them. A woman showed up. Wearing a mask, she was scared to approach me, scared to touch anyone.
Our team then visited an area called Descoteaux. This part of Gonaïves was flooded by Hurricane Tomas a few days ago. Now mud and garbage are covering streets. We stopped at Rosette Noël's house situated in a zone where CARE's volunteers and staff have distributed aid. A little girl is looking at us. Suddenly, another one joins her, then a grandma, a dad, two teenagers and a mom. Rosette is the mother of many kids she tells me. Her family includes her sister, her brother, and many siblings. I tried to get an exact figure. I don't think she knew.
Rosette tells me that when Tomas struck, they did not have enough time to gather their belongings. I could tell this was true by looking at the clothes and miscelleous household items drying on the brick wall between the houses.
"There was mud everywhere," she says. "We sought refuge with our neighbors. In this neighbourhood, we take care of one another. But what concerns me now is that my niece was sick yesterday. And now it is my sister. They are resting in bed, and we give them rehydration salts and clean them. We do what we hear on the radio messages." CARE's public information campaign via radio instructing Haitians on how best avoid and prevent cholera has reached at least 200,000 people to date. I am glad Rosette has hear them.
When I asked her why she was not taking them to the hospital, she turns her head. She is concerned about the fact that the hospitals are already over capacity and that the staff does have the ability to take care of her loved ones.
"We know that some people were left on the streets because they were sick. I don't want that to happen to my family. We can take care of them. I am afraid that they will get more sick in the hospital," Rosette explains. "Family is everything."
Her youngest looks at me. She is gorgeous and smiling. Her eyes are full of life and joy. I just wish I could do something to help them. But they know what to do.
"CARE helped us a lot. They came here to tell us how to protect ourselves before Tomas, and then after [explaines how to help]avoid being sick. We received soap bars and aquatabs," Rosette says.
As I leave the house, they wave goodbye to me. The grandma tells me to take good care and to stay healthy. These people are generous, and I am so proud I got to meet them.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 11:05AM EST on November 12, 2010
by Dr. Franck Geneus, CARE health manager in Haiti
The situation here in Artibonite is all but reassuring. You can feel the angriness rising slowly but surely. In Raboto, it was reported that the dead were being abandoned in the streets. Hospitals are already at capacity with patients infected with diarrhea. Others who are infected are being discharged or discouraged not to go to the hospital in the first place. The police have assigned a car that transports infected people both dead and alive. This car is not being disinfected.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 1:18PM EST on November 8, 2010
by Marie-Eve Bertrand, CARE Haiti Emergency Team
09:00, Nov. 6, 2010
Saturday was a busy day for CARE's team. I spent the day with CARE teams on their field visit to Léogâne. When we arrived in the downtown area, I was shocked by the level and the strength of water in the streets. The Rouyonne River had overflowed. Once again. And it has washed away a substantial part of downtown.
(Indy cleaning her house in Léogâne after Hurricane Tomas flooded the town. Photo: Marie-Eve Bertrand/CARE)
(Read more about CARE's work helping survivors have a sturdy roof over their heads and a strong foundation to rebuild their lives. Photo: Marie-Eve Bertrand/CARE)
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 12:43PM EST on September 9, 2010
by Deborah Underdown, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
As I left Islamabad for Swat I can't deny that I wasn't a little apprehensive. Most people have only heard about this region because of conflict and Swat's association with militant groups.
Swat has been hit hard by the floods with some people – a month after the rains – having still received nothing. Many roads and bridges have been destroyed making areas, and the people that live there, unreachable.
CARE, through our partner organization IDEA, is targeting the families who have yet to receive help. Families were identified last week and given a token and informed of the time and place they could collect essential goods such as soap, towels, pots and pans and a tent.
Today, I saw these people receive their goods. Arz, 60, said, "I walked for three hours to get here. I am happy to receive these goods. This is the first time we have had anything since the floods."
I am struck by the organization of the distribution – no one is fighting or pushing. People are calmly waiting in line to receive these precious goods and then sit, with what looks like relief, before picking up the goods and starting the long journey home.
CARE is also providing people with 2000 rupees to help them transport their goods home; the methods of transport include donkeys and mules. Arz told me that he is going to use the money for something else, "I am going to use the money that was given for the transport on new clothes for my children." He'll walk the return journey that will take 4-5 hours as he will be carrying a heavy load.
As we literally reach the end of the road, a huge chunk of it was washed away. But I am struck but the sheer determination of the people here. A zip wire has been strung across the vast Indus River and people and their goods are able to get from one side to the other. I look at people going across and at how high up they are, sitting in a small metal cage, and think how brave they are – it then hits me that they have no other choice.
Arz, 60, said, "I walked for three hours to get here. I am happy to receive these goods. This is the first time we have had anything since the floods."
A zip wire strung across the vast Indus River carries people from one side to the other.
Photos: 2010 Deborah Underdown/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 1:31PM EST on August 30, 2010
by Jonathan Mitchell, CARE International's emergency response director
This blog entry is part of an e-mail that Jonathan sent to co-workers at CARE:
I have just returned from Pakistan, where I saw the flood situation and CARE's response first-hand, and worked with the country office and CARE USA's Asia regional director, Nick Osborne, to support scaling-up CARE's response.
As you will know, the devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan is unprecedented with an estimated 17 million people affected - stretching from the Himalayas in the North to the Arabian Sea in the South of the country. An estimated 1.2 million people have lost their homes and 3.4 million are displaced.
Together with CARE's country director Waleed Rauf, regional director Nick Osborne, other colleagues from CARE Pakistan and one of our local partners, we visited affected areas in Swat and Nowshera districts in Northwest Pakistan – one of the first areas hit by the floods four weeks ago.
In the Swat valley, the swollen river had cut huge swathes out of the river banks, destroying many homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as agricultural land. Displaced people are mainly staying in school buildings or with host families. One of the main problems for aid delivery in areas like this is lack of access due to roads being cut. To get up the Swat valley, we had to leave vehicles behind at several points where there were no roads and hike by foot across steep hillsides to the next intact section of road.
In Swat, CARE has supported our local partner to quickly set up mobile health units providing badly-needed primary health services to the communities. Each unit moves around to different sites and includes both a female and a male doctor. The urgent priority now is to find alternative ways to overcome the access difficulties so that CARE and our partners can deliver other relief supplies such as tents, household kits, and materials for water and sanitation.
The situation in Nowshera district, which we also visited, is quite different. It is located south of Swat where the land opens into the plains. Here, the river flooded entire villages, washing away houses and livestock, and inundating agricultural land. Many displaced people are living in makeshift camps on higher ground close to their flooded or destroyed houses. CARE and our partners have set-up mobile health units here as well. In addition, CARE Pakistan quickly provided, through our partners, all of the tents and household kits that CARE Pakistan had stockpiled to people in Nowshera and another neighboring district. But this only met the immediate shelter needs of a small proportion of those needing help in these districts; CARE is working hard to procure the much larger quantities of supplies still needed. Three hundred additional tents were received from vendors last week, but with so much demand, all humanitarian agencies are experiencing serious delays getting enough supplies from vendors in Pakistan. Where appropriate, we are, therefore, looking at sourcing relief supplies from outside the country.
There are many other critical needs in the displaced people's camps as well. A camp that we visited had no water supply, toilets or other sanitation facilities. The situation for women, who have no access to private sanitation facilities, is particularly bad. CARE and our partners are focusing with urgency on the need to address the awful sanitation and water situation. Construction of toilets is starting, a shipment of water purification supplies has arrived, and two water purification plants are being set-up in Nowshera and the neighboring district.
The sanitation issues also illustrate why focusing on gender must be an important aspect of our response, and one that we need to address with sensitivity in the conservative social environment of many of the communities we are working in. The country office is hiring a full-time gender advisor to support our work in this area.
In addition to these districts in the northwest of Pakistan, CARE is also responding in South Punjab and Sindh Provinces further south.
During the visit, we worked with the country office to revise its emergency response strategy. The revised strategy plans for a scaled-up emergency response to reach 300,000 people in the three operational areas over an 18 month period. The response will be in two phases: the first relief phase will last up to nine months and will include interventions in health, shelter, non-food items and water/sanitation; the second recovery phase will overlap with the relief phase and will continue until around December 2011 and will include interventions in livelihood recovery, transitional shelter, etc.
I would like to sincerely appreciate the hard work of colleagues in CARE and our partners in Pakistan, under the strong leadership of country director, Waleed Rauf, who are doing so much to respond to this humanitarian crisis. The great support of many CARE International members is also most valued, and we look forward to continuing to work together with all involved to ensure that CARE's response to this crisis provides significant assistance to the people of Pakistan affected by these devastating floods.
2010 Waleed Rauf/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:09PM EST on August 26, 2010
by Deborah Underdown, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
The word flood has taken on a new meaning for me. Last month, a flood was a burst water pipe in my flat in London, a few ruined carpets and the inconvenience of sleeping in my lounge. Today, a flood means your entire home being submerged with water. A flood is all your possessions being washed away. A flood is something that forces you to live in a tent wondering where fresh water and food will come from.
Nowshera is about an hour and a half drive from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. When I arrived I was shocked to see the floods waters hadn't receded. On my left were the submerged houses and on the right, overlooking what used to be their homes, were families living in tents.
I met Khayal Marjan. She smiled at me from inside her tent, provide by CARE, and spoke to me about the floods.
"Our sewing machine was damaged in the flood – it was our only source of income," she said. "I also had 40 chickens and some goats and cows; they all drowned. We only had time to save ourselves."
Approximately 400 families are living in tents provided by CARE – a shelter from the monsoon rains that continue to fall. The needs of the families in these camps are numerous, ranging from shelter to medical care and food to clean water. CARE continues to help. There is a mobile health clinic treating skin diseases and the growing number of diarrhea cases.
The scale of this disaster is overwhelming and unimaginable. Nowshera is just one area of Pakistan affected by these floods. There are many other cities, towns and villages in the same situation - all needing more support.
Flood waters are still present on Nowshera, where some people told us that their homes are still submerged in 4 feet of water.
Children in Nowshera wade through flood water to salvage what they can from their homes.
A camp set up by CARE and local partner IDEA in the village of Nowshera.
Photos: 2010 Deborah Underdown/CARE
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:55PM EST on August 26, 2010
By Faiz Paracha
It was my first day working with CARE, and I visited one of the worst affected areas of Khyber-Pakhtoon-Khaw, Nowshera and Charsada. Both districts have been devastated severely by the flood. Traveling along the Motorway M-1, you cannot realize the wreckage that the torrential flood water has caused.
When we left the M-1 through the Nowshera interchange, I was shocked to see the destruction caused by the flood. The river Kabul flows side-by-side to the road to Nowshera, and there are a lot of villages constructed sporadically alongside the banks of the river. This has affected people living in those villages tremendously.
We stopped at a village called Zareenabad.
The local people told us that the flood water came in a two-meter-high wave. All of it was so sudden that they had no time to gather their valuables – but could only run for their lives. Many of them got swept away by the water and others are still missing, heir families believing them to be dead.
The water has taken away their belongings and their houses. Many houses collapsed when the flood wave came and the rest broke down due to standing water. Their entire household lost in water. People remained under the open sky with nothing – until CARE reached them. CARE was the first organization to provide them with shelter.
CARE has established a camp with our local partner IDEA for the affected people of this village. This camp is accommodating some 400 families. The camp has been provided with tents, non-food items, kitchen utensils and hygiene kits. Drinking water tanks are provided twice a day.
People here need more help. The damage that we see now is only the beginning. The basic source of livelihood in this region was agriculture, daily wage labor or cattle farming. All have been engulfed by water. New homes will be needed to be built for them. Funds will be needed to help rebuild their livelihoods so that they can make it on their own. People, especially children, will require psychosocial support.
It is vital that the pledges by international donors materialize. Concrete and fulfilling promises regarding aid are needed so that the people of Pakistan are saved from their worst humanitarian crisis.
CARE and partner organization IDEA has provided tents to around 400 families in Nowshera.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 12:29PM EST on August 19, 2010
CARE Media Specialist in Pakistan Thomas Schwarz interviews CARE Pakistan's Country Director Waleed Rauf
August 17, 2010
Q. After more than two weeks, how would you describe the situation in Pakistan as of today?
A. It still raining and we are in the midst of the second phase of the monsoon – and there are always three phases. The overall situation is worsening, and the United Nations meanwhile spoke about up to 3.5 million children in danger of waterborne disease.
Q. That sounds as if the aid agencies are not able to help?
A. CARE and other aid agencies are working up to their limits. Even now during the fasting Ramadan period, they are working around the clock. Together, with our partners in the northwest of the country as well as in the south, we are contributing to the people.
Q. What is it exactly, what CARE is doing? What kind of support are you providing?
A. There are different regions of Pakistan we work in. CARE is supporting mobile health units through our partners in Khyber Pakshtoon Kwa (KPK) and Sindh Provinces. We are providing access to basic medicines and first aid care. We emptied all of our warehouses immediately after the floods started. They were the stocks CARE maintains for emergencies such as this one. These included stocks of basic items such as tents, clothing, kitchen sets and hygiene kits, which as of today, have all been distributed in the worst-affected areas of Nowshera and Charsadda. More will be distributed in Punjab and Sindh as soon as possible.
Q. Many people have fears that the aid do not reach the victims but instead go to hidden channels. What is your opinion on that?
A. Well, the challenges here are enormous but aid is getting through to those who need it. I can assure each and every donor who is ready to support CARE. Our long experience in the field and the passion of our partners on the ground guarantee this, and we have rigorous systems in place to ensure that aid goes directly to the people in need. Undoubtedly, there is much more to do and international organizations, including CARE, are committed to doing so. Even through the fasting month of Ramadan, our colleagues continue to work around the clock to ensure aid reaches those in need.
Q. So, what is needed most? What is the priority number one?
A. There are three priorities – all at the same time because they are interdependent. As we see the rising numbers of hungry flood survivors, food is an urgent need. Hygiene is a priority, too. Stagnant water in 100-plus degree heat and humidity provides the perfect breeding ground for waterborne diseases so health is a major issue. Children and women especially are threatened here. The United Nations announced this week that as many as 3.5 million children are at risk of disease. The third priority is shelter. Many of the tents sent to Haiti after the earthquake came from Pakistan suppliers, and stocks here in Pakistan are not yet back up to the needed levels.
Q. What is your overall expectation about the next two to three weeks?
A. If we – and I am not only talking about CARE – receive sufficient funding and donations, Pakistan could respond much more quickly. We could do much more, broaden our response, reach more people more quickly. If not, I would not want to guess what could happen to the millions of survivors who haven't yet received any assistance and are struggling alone.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:42PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
The Taliban helps flood victims and then publicly praises its own work. This is what I read in the news. In interviews, journalists ask if it is true, and I say yes. Of course they publicize their good works. Everybody who does good deeds for others publicizes it. But, is this the question we should be asking right now? Not for me.
This debate about the Taliban has nothing to with the reality we face here everyday across the country. The debate is a Western obsession, not one of the flood-affected people in need.
Frankly, I barely understand the connection between the topic and the biggest natural disaster of our time. We should be focusing our attention on how we can provide immediate relief efficiently and effectively to those in need.
I witnessed in Moltan just how CARE is supporting mobile health clinics so that primary health care is accessible to those who need it.
The temperature here is a humid 104 degrees, and flies are everywhere. A man shoos them away. Flood survivors queue patiently for their turn to registrater and receive medical assistance. The process is quick and efficient, and the people here are directly benefiting from this intervention because of generous donations to CARE.
Moltan lies to the south of Punjab Province, where new floods are predicted as monsoon rains continue.
CARE's warehouses here are all now empty and, as more donations come in, we are procuring more supplies to distribute to those in need. Since the floods began we have distributed tents, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. It is not true that humanitarian assistance is not reaching those in need. It is – but simply not enough!
Along the main, four-lane road out of Moltan, we see tents, one after another like a string of pearls. Tents? That's an exaggeration. They are really just plastic sheets held up by wooden poles. The fronts and backs remain open, offering no privacy for those who seek shelter. But they at least provide some protection from the fierce sun.
A 70-year-old man sits alone, staring into space. Around him children sit likewise.
When we arrive, we are surrounded by people immediately. Everybody wants to say something. They all say the same thing, "We have no tents. Look!" They point to a village, less than 200 meters away. It is completely flooded – all we see are roofs. We know that these people will not be able to return to their village as long as the rains continue and the stagnant water refuses to recede.
We are relieved to hear that the villagers are receiving food. When we ask from whom, and they reply, "People from Moltan are coming every day to deliver food.” The people from Molten are strangers, but the villagers know they can rely on them.
Today, as the holy fasting month of Ramadan has now started, the strangers arrive in the evening after sunset. Tomorrow, Pakistan celebrates its independence from the British empire. People help people in Pakistan. This is the true Pakistan I know and appreciate.
By the way, Zahid, the sick little boy I met in Charsadda, is back home and playing again! My colleague, Mujahid, just sent me an e-mail to let me know.
Another question often asked by journalists comes to mind: “Does the help reach people?” Yes, it does.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 4:10PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE Media Specialist in Pakistan
When we started out early this morning from Islamabad, I didn't exactly know what would be awaiting me in the region of Mardan. I had seen many reports on TV, read the papers, listened to the radio and spoken with my CARE colleagues. The whole weekend, I spent meeting with United Nations representatives as well as other international humanitarian organizations.
We drove the motorway No. 1, direction northwest. This highway is cut into three pieces, almost through half of the whole country, from Lahore in the South to Karachi in the northwest. On both sides there are fields and women and men alike are working them. Everything seems to be okay at first – at least it looks like it's okay. No flooding, no water, not even rain.
Then, after about 50 kilometers, we saw the Indus River. Aggressive, powerful, and threatening. It has doubled in size. We cross it, over a long bridge, and all of a sudden it disappeared, as if it were trying to hide from us, in the fog. But there it is, the monster that has claimed lives and stolen everything from millions of flood victims. And, as always, it was taken from the poorest and most vulnerable.
The water has stolen everything
After the bridge and the fog, maybe 60 to 70 kilometers later, we see tents, again and again. They stood in fields, along the highway. People put them anywhere they found a space without water. There they live now, those who have lost their homes and almost lost their lives. After another 30 kilometers, we arrive in a town where 26,000 people live in normal times.
There, we meet Nambarj. She's 65 years old and a widow. "See here, this house. It disappeared," she says. "It is simply not there anymore."
When the flood came, the water jumped more than two meters above the wall of the courtyard. What is left? "Look there," she says. She shows the old kitchen, where she used to have all her kitchen utensils. "There, this is everything I have now. Two small machines. Everything else, the water has stolen from me."
CARE has provided her with a tent. We promise to bring the woman kitchen utensils within a few days. When one has lost everything, even small things can make a really big difference.
Terrible pictures, unbelievable poverty
In this area, CARE is cooperating with local partners. Imran Inan of the Community Research and Development Organisation, or CRDO, is a person who deserves my deepest respect. The way he accompanies me and translates impresses me. He has a word for each and every remark of the survivors. His patience and humble work is really something I admire. CRDO is just one of several partner organizations of CARE in Pakistan.
I have an idea about poverty. I have seen it in many different countries; it is a reality. What I have seen now, though, leaves me stunned. Not only the situation of the widow, but also the one of the old man, who tells us simply: "I don't even have shoes anymore." He lives with his children and grandchildren in a tent next to his son's house, which is still standing. Imran is listening carefully. "He will get them tomorrow," he says. "We just received shoes. He will get them tomorrow. Promised."
The people in the northwestern part of Pakistan are poor, even poorer than many in other parts of Pakistan.
Is there a boy like Zahid in rich countries, too?
But it is the small boy laying on the wet, muddy floor of his family's small, simple house that shocks me. Zahid is only four years old. His coughing and a high fever has exhausted him so much that he is sleeping, his chest is slowly going up and down. It is 3:30 in the afternoon. The mother cries, when she sees not only me, but also the others coming to her house. It is empty aside from Zahid laying on the floor.
The mother does not have enough money for the transportation to the hospital or for the medication he urgently needs. Someone gives her some money for the transport. "Do you know, Thomas," my CARE colleague, Mujahid, says, "there are many cases like this one in this region. We will find a solution."
I find it profoundly shaming, how we – the rich countries – are coping with one of the biggest natural disasters in decades. At the same time I try not to become unjust. Also in our countries are poor people, of course. There is poverty, yes. But I wonder, if there is a boy like Zahid in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France or Germany. I am not sure.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:49PM EST on August 17, 2010
Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
This week is a very special one in the flooded nation that is Pakistan. August 14 is the national Day of Independence. On August 14, 1947, the British colonial rulers granted independence to their former colony. At the same time as India, by the way. On top of the national Day of Independence, Pakistan's majority Muslim population will also begin the holy month of Ramadan this week, which includes praying and fasting.
Mmedia reports are full of pictures showing people who are fasting, yet have nothing to eat. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land are completely flooded. If nothing is done, this will mean widespread hunger. Even Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani spoke on Sunday about a "second monsoon" that is likely to hit the south, the breadbasket of the country, soon. This country knows the meaning of hunger – and a large number of people are frightened of it.
Too many of the 180 million inhabitants of Pakistan have virtually lost everything. The country is already one of the poorest in the world. And what is more, Pakistan mainly gets attention when there is talk of terrorism. Positive news from this region is rare, although we do encounter good news here every day.
We meet neighbors helping neighbors, and people whose houses are not destroyed helping those who lost their homes. We see college students walking through the city of Islamabad raising funds for the victims.
"We know that it will not be more than a small sum," says one of them, pointing at the cardboard box with the money he collected. "But we do this on our own initiative instead of waiting for help to come from outside."
Every day shows clearly that this help is urgently needed. But relief work is difficult.
CARE's partner organizations have delivered medication and medical supplies to pregnant women, who could not make it to the hospital for childbirth. The women were reached with the aid of donkeys and mules because so bridges and streets remain impassable.
Plates, forks, cutlery – nothing left
There are some distributions of kitchen supplies, bandages and other relief items. Nothing is left of the house that has been swept away by the floods. But at least the people have some relief now. And tents, the affected families also need tents. It does not stop raining.
CARE focuses its work on women and children. About a dozen CARE trucks are transporting doctors and other aid workers to the affected areas. They treat those that are most in need, and they try to get an overview of the needs in order to plan their work.
Today, Zahid from CARE Pakistan and I will drive up to Mardan in the northwestern part of the country. During the next couple of days, he will plan and coordinate CARE's relief operation for the area. I will get a firsthand look in order to report back to my colleagues and the world. I need to see things with my own eyes. Images on TV and the reports we hear reports cannot accurately reflect the immense suffering.
I know I am repeating myself, but I have to say it repeatedly: what is missing still, and foremost, is money. It is that simple. If humanitarian organizations like CARE do not get enough funding, there will be too little help. I cannot bear the thought that the fate of 12 million people is being ignored by the world simply because they are living in Pakistan.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 3:02PM EST on August 17, 2010
by Thomas Schwarz, CARE media specialist in Pakistan
August 7, 2010
On a cable TV network I can watch the recorded World Cup match between Germany and Uruguay. Football. It's a draw right now. I switch to DAWN-TV, a Pakistani TV channel: Two anchormen talking about food support activities in their mother tongue, Urdu.
I have just arrived in Islamabad, much later than expected. The airplane was not able to land in the capital of Pakistan due to bad weather conditions on the ground. We had to fly to Karachi, wait there for a couple of hours, then head back to Islamabad. Karachi is the biggest city in Pakistan and close to the estuary of the Indus River. Now the river is twice as broad as usual. With a population of almost 13 million people, Karachi is one of the biggest cities worldwide. It ranks third place in the list of the world’s biggest cities. I have only seen the airport building, of course. No clue where to find the famous stock exchange, which is also based in this big city. Finally, after five hours we can fly to Islamabad, where the CARE country office has its headquarters.Can anyone grasp the numbers?
The DAWN also has an English print version. The newspaper and its website deliver around-the-clock news about the situation in the flooded areas of the country. Reading the paper, I am reminded of last year in May when a huge number of people fled from violence in the Swat valley. At that time, just like today, the numbers of internally displaced people were rising by the hour. More than 12 million people are affected by this horrible flood. Can anyone really grasp this number?On my way from the international airport of Islamabad to the guest house, I receive numerous phone calls. I talk, or more precisely listen, to my CARE colleagues updating me with the latest information. Rising numbers. And a terrible lack of funding.
A colleague tells me that the website of the National Disaster Management Authority would be a good source. She was right. The authority is directly linked to the prime minister's office. On the website the government informs about the actions undertaken to help the flood victims. As a first step, bridges are provisionally repaired. It's a nightmare for all aid workers: the infrastructure is so heavily damaged that there are still people out there who have not been reached yet.
Far too little has been done so far, but ...
Meanwhile, CARE has supported thousands of people with tents, clothes, mosquito nets and other important emergency items. Eleven trucks were sent out to the affected areas. They are also transporting tablets to clean dirty water. Today, a radio reporter asked me, “Is that enough or is it just a drop in the ocean?“ No, of course it is not enough. Far too little has been done for the victims so far. But even this little bit means survival for many of them.
However, there is an immense lack of funding; many, many millions of dollars are needed to increase the speed and scale of the response. The rich states are still hesitant. That is a common assumption here in Pakistan, not just a gut feeling. Whoever sees and hears how desperate people in this area are simply cannot understand how slowly money is coming in.
Posted by: Jon Thompson at 10:19AM EST on August 10, 2010
By Umaz Jalal, security manager for CARE in Pakistan.
August 5, 2010
On the eve of August 4, I was tasked to deliver a convoy carrying relief goods to flood-affected areas of Pakistan. We started our journey for the distribution point at a little past 7:00 p.m.
As usual, we communicated the departure to the security unit and the field staff. The convoy traveled through the Grand Trunk Road as the motorway was badly damaged in the recent floods. When we reached Nowshera (in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan), we were told by the police that the Grand Trunk Road was also blocked by the floods and we had to take a detour to get to our final destination -- the city of Mardan.
Our convoy was going slowly when I could saw the reflection of water on both sides of the road. I asked if we were still crossing the Kabal River. To my shock, the driver told me, "It’s not the river; it’s the flood water that we are passing."
I remembered that there were lots of small towns on both sides of Grand Trunk Road, which use to be full of life even at night time.
While crossing a small village, which was badly affected by the rain and floods close to 3:00 a.m., no life was present as far as eye could see. Then, I saw a woman who was undergoing labor pains and in need of urgent medical help, being carried by a girl and old man towards the nearest hospital.
I asked the driver to stop the vehicle so I could ask the old man if he needed any help. He told me that they have been walking for two hours trying to take his daughter to the hospital in Mardan as the all medical facilities in Nowshera were damaged by the floods. We told them that we were headed to Marden, which was 17 Kilometers away, and would drop them at the hospital.
The condition of the woman looked serious, but she safely reached hospital and was provided medical care.
After that, our convoy reached Mardan and all of the relief goods we were carrying were distributed.
Posted by: Staci Dixon at 1:20PM EST on March 1, 2010
by Rick Perera, CARE Media Officer in Haiti
Monday, March 1, 2010
We're watching from Haiti with shock and sadness as the news comes from Chile: another merciless earthquake, more powerful than ever. So soon after the devastation here in and around Port-au-Prince. (Was that only a few weeks ago? It feels like an eternity.)... (more)
Posted by: Jon Thompson at 10:47AM EST on January 15, 2010
by Hauke Hoops, regional emergency coordinator in HaitiFriday, January 15, 2010
This is one of the biggest disasters I’ve ever seen, and it is a huge logistical challenge. Everything has to come in by plane or boat, but the port is destroyed. The airport is overstretched, overcrowded with flights.... (more)
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 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