International Women’s Day, March 8, is a day to reflect upon the progress made by women in the struggle for equality, peace and development; to celebrate the contributions of women and to call for further change.
Despite all the gains made for women’s rights around the world, women and girls living in poverty still face serious inequality.
Right now, there are less girls than boys in schools, fewer women than men earning an income and more than 340,000 women still dying from childbirth and pregnancy-related causes every single year.
As carers for their household, many time-consuming tasks fall to women – like walking to collect water, food and firewood for their families.
The long hours spent walking prevent them from taking steps to improve their lives; girls don’t have time to attend school and women can’t develop skills to earn an income.
However, women and girls also offer the solution to this inequality. From years of experience, CARE has learnt that investing in women and girls is the most effective way to help communities overcome poverty.
You can support women and girls this International Women’s Day - join CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge.
Simply sign up to walk 25, 50 or 100km over one week from 17-23 March and ask your family, friends and colleagues to sponsor you. The money you raise will support women, girls and their communities living in poverty.
Each year, we mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.
It is a day to celebrate the women and girls who have overcome challenges to reach their potential, and call for change to support those who still face inequality and discrimination.
We are pleased to mark International Women’s Day 2014 by shining a light on just a few of the inspiring women and girls CARE has worked with:
Want to take positive action this International Women’s Day? Join CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge to help raise funds for women and girls living in poverty overseas.
CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge invites you to walk 25km, 50km or 100km over one week and raise funds to improve the lives of women and girls living in poverty overseas. Join today!
Central Coast mother Natalie Acton will be walking 50 kilometres in one week so that women and girls in developing countries don’t have to.
Natalie, a resident of Tumbi Umbi, will be walking around 10,000 steps between March 17 and 23 as part of CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge to raise money for CARE’s work to help women and girls in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
The mother of four said that through her work with the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea she had learned a lot about the challenges women face in Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. She said that getting involved in the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge was her way to do something about it.
‘If I know that by walking a few extra kilometres each day, I’m able to help women and girls in places like PNG, it’s a great motivator for every extra step,’ she said.
Ms Acton said that during the week of the Challenge she would be travelling to Melbourne for work for three days, but that would not stop her from completing the 50 kilometres.
‘One of the great parts of Walk In Her Shoes is that you can participate wherever you are. On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll be walking in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and on the Thursday, Friday and the weekend I’ll be walking through the Central Coast.’
CARE Program Coordinator Benson Wakoli recently returned to battle-scarred Unity State in South Sudan to assess people’s needs and the condition of CARE’s health care facilities.
I had left South Sudan over Christmas. By the time I reached my destination of Nairobi (Kenya), shooting had begun in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. It was a bad sign, but who could have guessed that the shooting would set off more than six weeks of political violence? I didn’t think it would take me well over a month to get back to my office in the town of Bentiu, where CARE manages a large number of health clinics for a region called Unity. Nor did I think that the office would be gutted and the town in ruins when I got there.
It was an anxious six weeks, with only the occasional and sketchy report getting out from the local staff who remained in Unity. They were essentially cut off by the violence and were doing what they could to save lives amid the fighting and destruction.
We returned to Unity as soon as it was possible, flying in on an air service run by the United Nations, and headed straight for the UN compound. We camped in tents amid swarming mosquitoes, but our conditions were luxurious compared to those in the Protection of Civilians area next door, where thousands of people had crowded in search of UN protection from violence that was raging just outside.
Unity State has seen more than 180,000 people – about 27 per cent of the state’s population – made homeless by the fighting. CARE set up medical checks in the area, where 17 percent of the children we screened were suffering from malnutrition. The people here are still too afraid to go home, and given the widespread destruction the fighting has caused, some of them have no homes to return to. They are also stuck here because they’ve lost everything. Even if there was any food to buy in town, they have no money to buy it.
The town of Bentiu was a mess. Homes and food stores were burned down, shops were looted or destroyed and animals driven away by armed groups. Markets were reduced to ashes after looting, and the main road between Bentiu and the capital Juba is not safe for traders to bring in supplies.
I set about reassembling CARE’s team, finding some and sending word to others that we were ready to get back to work. Many were unreachable, scattered about the country or even into neighbouring countries in an attempt to keep their families safe.
CARE is providing health and nutrition services for people sheltering at the UN compound and will soon scale up our work to reach the many thousands of people living in Bentiu town. As soon as the security situation allows, this work will spread out into the surrounding villages. We are also planning to set up a mobile clinic in Bentiu, which will operate until we can get the regular clinic we had been supporting stocked and operational. Before long, we hope to have all 24 clinics in Unity State operating again.
Before flying into Bentiu, I visited our office in Yida and a large clinic in Pariang that we’d been in the process of converting into a small hospital when the violence started. Pariang is Unity’s northernmost county, on the border with Sudan. The primary health clinic we support there was not destroyed, but for a time it was deluged with people wounded during the conflict. At the time, one of the true backbones of our program, Dr. Sam, was the only doctor, working with a tiny support crew. In a week he responded to hundreds of medical emergencies, many of them bullet wounds or the delivery of newborns.
Members of the community came to the clinic’s aid, helping to move patients and swabbing the blood that covered the floors. When I walked into the clinic, a local health worker jumped to his feet and took my hand. ‘I didn’t expect CARE to come back after what happened here,’ he said.
CARE supporter Robert Scott kindly submitted this poem about the notion that ‘charity begins at home’.
Mr Scott said: ‘For some time I’ve been concerned by the common misuse of the expression “charity begins at home”. It is frequently used as a reason (or excuse) to avoid or reduce aid or donations to disadvantaged people outside of Australia.’
We’ll see such sorrow should we roam,
ill-served by ‘charity-begins-at-home’,
when ‘home’ is such a privileged place
with rich rewards and peaceful space
and opportunities well-found
and institutions strong and sound,
superior services and care
and lifestyles envied everywhere.
CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge is back! Meet some of the amazing Australians walking to raise funds to improve the lives of women and girls living in poverty overseas.
An inspiring Brisbane mum and her two young daughters have committed to walking 5,000 steps a day to help women and girls in poor countries overcome poverty.
Bronwyn Moss and her daughters Jordan, aged 11, and Hannah, aged eight, will be walking around 5,000 steps each day between March 17 and 23 as part of CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. The Challenge aims to raise awareness and money for CARE’s work to help women and girls in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
Born in the Central African Republic, Bronwyn lived in Sudan, Chad and Nigeria until the age of 13, and said she is very familiar with the issues that affect women and girls in poor countries.
‘I’m conscious that we are very fortunate in Australia and have a tendency to take things for granted. It’s important for kids to know that there are people who are less fortunate and that it’s not just people in Africa who are affected by poverty, but also some of our nearest neighbours including Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. As an adult, it’s my responsibility to instil that in them from a young age,’ Bronwyn added.
‘We plan to go walking every morning and evening with our dog Cooper during the week of the challenge. The girls are really excited and have already started wearing their pedometers. I’m looking forward to the exercise element and getting up every day with a challenge to complete,’ Bronwyn said.
CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes said that in developing countries, women and girls were often the most disadvantaged and impoverished members of communities.
‘In poor countries, women and girls are the ones facing the biggest burden of collecting food, water and firewood. Women have to walk an average of six kilometres every day, many carrying around 15-20 litres of water per trip. This prevents girls from going to school and women from earning an income, keeping them trapped in a devastating cycle of poverty.’
This year, participants can choose to walk 25 kilometres (approximately 5,000 steps per day), 50 kilometres (10,000 steps per day) or 100 kilometres (20,000 steps per day) over the course of one week.
By Amelia Taylor, Communications Coordinator, CARE Australia
Despite the deafening torrent of rain falling on the school house roof, Mr Sen commands the attention of his grade five class in the indigenous village of Lung Khung in Cambodia’s north eastern highlands.
The smartly dressed 22-year-old has been instrumental in bringing bilingual education to his hometown, where the native language is Tempeun and the majority of locals do not understand Khmer, Cambodia’s national language.
‘Before, we had a school house but no teachers came to teach here. So nobody could read or write. All the children worked on the farm,’ Mr Sen explains.
Placing a Khmer teacher in a Tempeun school house means that teachers and students are literally speaking different languages. It’s no wonder that the pre-existing school house had remained empty until CARE’s Highland Community Program came to the village to train local teachers and provide bilingual primary education for indigenous children.
Through the program, students start learning in the comforting familiarity of their native language, and Khmer is phased in over progressive year levels. By the time students enter Mr Sen’s grade five class, they are learning entirely in Khmer but are comforted by the fact that it is a local Tempeun teacher who is leading them.
Training local teachers like Mr Sen is a fundamental part of making the school friendly and accessible for the local community.
‘Local teachers have the connection with the student’s home and school; as a result there is good communication between the teacher and the students.
‘The teachers are likely to stay longer and it is easier for them to travel to school than someone who has moved from far away.’
He takes his responsibility seriously, and has been a vocal participant in village meetings about the development of the school and education for the children.
‘I have learnt about studying in my mother tongue and in the Khmer language as well as techniques for teaching. The Tempeun children cannot speak the Khmer language. But they can learn in Tempeun and then learn to read and write in the national language. It is very important for the Tempeun minority. When people go to a modern place, they may forget their language and their own village. But if they can read, write and speak in Tempeun it is very good for indigenous people.
‘Now they can write in Khmer and some children go on to secondary school which is a very big difference for them. I hope all children in my village finish the community school and go to high school. After that they can get a very good job.’
By Darcy Knoll, Emergency Communications Coordinator for CARE International in the Philippines
It’s around nine AM in the village of Sulod, Samar region, in the Philippines.
The weather is already warm and the bright sun leaves the promise it will be a lot hotter by midday. We’ve gathered here for a food distribution, organised by CARE and our local partners as part of emergency efforts to assist those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Volunteer crews – themselves survivors of Haiyan, one of the largest typhoons ever recorded – unload boxes and bags of corned beef, sardines, salt, sugar, mongo beans, cooking oil, dried fish and rice.
Waiting patiently are a group of women and men of varying ages, mothers holding babies, grandchildren supporting elderly grandparents.
Delecia Cabuquit, 65, pleasantly chats with neighbours as she waits. She was at home with her 87-year-old mother the day Haiyan struck. The two went to the second floor of her home to wait out the storm and prayed. ‘I’m still praying,’ she tells me.
The typhoon’s winds tore away her roof, with flood waters in the seaside village filling the bottom floor of her home. Eventually, the water left and, while shaken, they began to recover.
The last two months have been hard though, she says, especially supporting her mother.
Thanks to the support of donors who have supported CARE’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal, CARE has been working with its partners to provide emergency food assistance to hard-hit communities shortly following the storm. Since then, CARE has distributed food to more than 88,000 people in the areas of Panay, Leyte and Samar.
The crowd is calm, patient, composed. Everyone waits for their name to be called and then proceeds with bags to receive their cans of corned beef, sardines and other items. It’s enough food to feed a family of five for two weeks or more.
For some, the bags of rice are too heavy to lift, but community members help each other out and carry the 25 kilo bags or load them on tricycles to be taken home.
Part of the strategy behind choosing the location of this distribution is to ensure it’s in the centre of the community, close to people’s homes so they don’t have to carry the items far. This is especially important for women and the elderly.
These storm survivors are extremely thankful for the food they’ve received. They say so repeatedly to anyone associated with the process, a thank you they clearly want passed on to all involved in supporting CARE’s work.
As more markets begin to re-open and the process of recovery from the Typhoon continues, CARE’s focus is changing from providing food to helping restore livelihoods for the most vulnerable people, so they can meet their own food needs.
A new year begins
A new year has begun and, despite many challenges, there is a sense of optimism when meeting and talking with families here in Samar. After all, today is the first day of school since the storm.
Ruby Labiran Ragoro, 41, a teacher at the nearby Basey 1 Central Elementary School, stands confident with the food bag she just received. She says she is happy to be back teaching again. It’s good for the kids to regain this sense of normalcy, she adds, although they still see debris from the storm outside their classroom.
‘We’re recovering; we need to,’ says Ruby. ‘The effect of the typhoon is lessened because of good hearted people helping us recover and helping us stand again.’
By Amelia Taylor, Communications Coordinator, CARE Australia
A community group formed through a CARE water, sanitation and hygiene project in Ethiopia are bringing new opportunities to their remote village.
In the highlands of Ethiopia, a group of 19 people sit in a circle in their communal field. In the middle of the circle are four coloured plates and a tin box with two locks.
This is the village’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee. They formed through CARE’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project in late 2010.
Despite their name, this group does much more than improve access to clean water and sanitation in their community. With these simple tools, this committee and the woman leading them are also bringing new opportunities to their remote village.
It all began when the group built a new water pump with CARE’s assistance. The pump has given women more free hours in their day and reduced the amount of illness in the community, particularly the children.
Beletech, a 34-year-old mother of four, is the chairperson of the group. She explains, ‘Before the construction of the water pump, I would walk for one hour to collect water from the river. I lost time collecting water – walking and queuing because water is scarce. My children drank this unsafe water and had diseases. Now, the water is safe and my children can go to school and be healthy.’
The water pump was developed through a close partnership between CARE and the community – CARE provided skilled labour and the majority of the materials for the pump, and the community provided their own labour and sourced some local resources like sand and rocks.
The committee developed by-laws to protect the pump – if anyone breaks a law, they have to pay a fee. This money is then managed by the group to cover maintenance and other related costs.
That is just one of the funds the committee manages today. The committee also operates as a community savings group, with each member contributing 5 birr (30 cents) every month. As the total sum grows, members are able to take a loan out for income-earning activities, which is then repaid with interest.
The money is kept safely in a tin box under the security of two separate locks. Beletech holds one key, and the committee’s treasurer holds the other.
‘I am saving money, and starting to change my life,’ says Beletech. The group has taken a loan already, to purchase salt and then on-sell it at the local market, making a profit of 55 birr ($3.20).
When the group meets, the money is divided amongst the coloured plates – with each one indicating a different ‘account’ within the savings group. The green plate displays the groups’ savings, yellow is the interest paid back from loans, red is the punishment fees that are paid if someone breaks a by-law; and blue is the social fund that all members contribute to and is available for anyone in the community to borrow from if they find themselves in urgent need of money.
Beletech’s role as leader of the group is another first for this community. Before, women were not usually allowed to speak in public or be involved in decision making. Now, she is leading this group of women and men towards creating a better future for their entire community.
‘I am happy to be the chairperson of the group. I manage the meetings and have the power to speak in front of others and make decisions. I received training from CARE about speaking publicly, before I only ever spoke in church. Now, I speak in meetings and community discussions.’
The gender division of labour and opportunities is seen in Beletech’s home as well as her community. She explains, ‘In my home, my husband would only spend his time on farming and I would work in the house. Now, my husband shares the household chores like cooking and making coffee and there is improvement in my home.’
Now, with the opportunity to learn leadership skills and the ability to save money, the opportunities for women in the village are flowing as freely as the clean water from the village’s water pump.’
By Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
A 45-minute drive from Amman, the capital of Jordan, a bumpy road leads to a sea of tents. Children are playing next to big barrels filled with rainwater, rusty cages with chickens and goats, and burning piles of rubbish. Sahab, aged 24, sits on a thin brown mattress in one of the tents. One hand caresses her one-year-old son Khalil’s* hair; the other rests on her belly. In three months Sahab is due to give birth to her second son. ‘I will raise my children in this tent,’ she says, and sounds as if she had to convince herself of this fact. She quietly adds, ‘This should not be the kind of future I have to offer to my unborn son.’
Her husband Ali takes out his mobile and shows me pictures of a small house surrounded by olive trees and grazing sheep. Then he shows me another picture of the very same house. Grime on the walls that are still standing, rubble and stone, a ruin, filled with the remains of furniture, clothes, and memories of a life that a bomb destroyed in a matter of seconds. Sahab, Ali and their little son left their home in Hamah and fled to Jordan. Sahab points through the entry of the tent to a multistorey dwelling, about 100 metres away. ‘This is where we first lived. But $200 for rent and another $65 for water and electricity were too expensive. Our savings did not last very long.’
Ali decided to build a new place for his family to live, a place where they would not need to pay rent. The 26-year old asked friends for a loan, bought tarps and collected wooden boards, Styrofoam, and cardboard on a garbage dump close by. A month later, their tent was ready. Back then, it was the fifth one on the sandy site. Today, a few months later, there are around 100 tents. Ali’s seven siblings and their mother also live with them in the tent, which is about 15 square metres in size.
Ali and his younger brother work packing boxes and hauling them on to big lorries that take the goods to supermarkets. They earn around $7 a day, which Sahab spends on medication and food. Her son is always sick. ‘The dust makes him cough and the airplanes above make him anxious. I am afraid for his tiny body, but also afraid for his soul. He does not play like children are supposed to play. He does not eat like children should eat. His future is not the kind of future children should have ahead of them.’
Sahab herself feels sick most of the time; her pregnancy weakens her. A few weeks ago, Ali registered himself and his family in one of the refugee centres that CARE runs in Jordan in order to keep warm in the coming winter. ‘We do not have any blankets, heaters or warm clothes to protect us from the cold.’ In Jordan, temperatures can be as low as zero degrees during the winter. Sahab’s hopes are also growing cold – the hopes of a mother who wants her children to grow up safe, sound, and healthy and who wants to raise her children in a place that she calls home.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
“The wishlist” by Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
When I was a child I used to write a wishlist before Christmas. A few days before Christmas Eve I would put it on the table of our terrace and shout “Santa Claus, Santa Claus”, wildly flapping my arms up and down like a bird. I thought that this might draw more attention to me and my wishes.
Christmas with my three siblings and my parents is always an important holiday. We eat together, listen to music, take long walks through the forest, laugh together, care for each other, argue and make up with each other.
This year I will not spend Christmas with my family, but will instead be in Jordan where I have been supporting CARE’s emergency team to help Syrian refugees for the past three months. Jordan is also in a festive spirit although the majority of people are Muslims. Fir trees are decorated with colourful ornaments and lights and you can hear “Jingle Bells” in the shops. A few days ago, it snowed more than it has in decades here. It piled up metre-high and now snowmen are to be seen standing next to palm trees, with carrots for noses and children are making snow angels.
For more than 560,000 Syrian refugees living here in Jordan, the snow is not fun: They are living in poorly insulated apartments, in empty garages or makeshift tents constructed from cardboard and tarps. They are freezing. Mothers are sewing together what little clothes they were able to take with them when they fled Syria to use as blankets to protect their children from the cold. They stay awake at night because they are afraid their children will freeze to death while they sleep.
In the past weeks and months I have talked to many Syrian refugees and asked them what they wish for. Their faces darken with a heavy veil of sadness when I ask them this question. Sometimes they reply quickly, as if the answer has been on the tip of their tongues for days just waiting to be heard, to be spoken aloud in the hope that in doing so it might actually be granted.
They long to go back home. They wish to smell the air and the soil of Syria, to walk through the doors of their homes or to drink a cup of Turkish coffee on their way to work. Children wish for socks and warm clothes to protect them against the cold, they want to go back to school and long to see their friends or fathers again. They want their lives back. After nearly three years of war and more than 120,000 casualties, many of the more than 2.4 million Syrian refugees who were able to cross the borders no longer wish for anything. Wishing makes them sad and weak; it numbs their daily routine of survival.
This Christmas my wish is that we remind ourselves of the bond of humanity that connects us all.
I wish for us, the world, to focus our attention on Syrian refugees, and perhaps even small donations, so they do not feel so alone.
The sad truth must be plainly stated: Support for the more than ten million people who are affected by this conflict is massively and terribly underfunded. Around me a silent catastrophe is happening, and I really wish I had a megaphone to tell the world about it. This year, I might once more write a list, put it on my balcony here in Amman and flap my arms wildly. The list won’t be long, but I will shout louder and longer than when I was a child.
Find out more about CARE’s work with Syrian refugees at www.care.org.au/syria or call 1800 020 046 to make a donation to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Sarah Saunders, CARE Australia
Like many people in the remote villages of North East Cambodia, Seab Rik feared she would not have enough food for her and her family to eat each day. Seab, 55, lives with her husband and two youngest sons. For many years their main source of food, and income, was from rice farming – which was unreliable and insufficient.
CARE partnered with Seab’s village to help improve their livelihoods. She joined her community in building and digging a new fish pond to provide fish to eat and to sell at the market.
Seab says proudly, ‘I put in 400 fish. I cannot count [how many we have] now because the fish have bred.’
CARE supported Seab’s family in constructing the pond, supplying the initial fish and providing guidance on pond maintenance and advice on how to make fish feed. The fish stocks are growing, Seab says. ‘This kind of fish becomes really big, really quickly. It grows so fast.’
The fish provide a secure source of food for the family. They also provide important variety in the family’s diet, plus Seab thinks they are delicious.
With the money saved from not having to buy food, she can afford to keep sending her children to school. Seab and her husband will also be able to use the extra money they make to save, and plan for the future.
In addition, CARE provided Seab and her husband with training on crop production and rice farming techniques. Seab’s husband, Bun Chun Orn, says their crop output has increased immensely. CARE suggested he trial the new technique, ‘When we plant in the new location as per the technique we get 25 kilograms, whereas before we would only get 15 kilograms.’ This 10 kilogram increase makes all the difference for their diet and the bottom line.
Increasing the output of their rice crops has helped everyone in the community, Bun Chun says. ‘It is so meaningful for the people in the village because before most of them didn’t have enough rice to eat and some also have debts, having borrowed rice from each other. And now, after mastering the technique from CARE, they have enough rice to eat.’
Together, husband and wife work in partnership to improve their lives and seek a brighter future for their children. ‘We are happy to work with each other, we never have problems,’ says Bun Chun.
By Suzanne Charest with CARE in the Philippines
On November 8, Ermalinda Quieros should have been celebrating the birth of her first grandson. Instead she was with her daughter-in-law as she gave birth squatting in the hallway of the overcrowded hospital in Ormoc. Staff at the hospital were overwhelmed with the influx of patients.
With Super Typhoon Haiyan bearing down on the region, Ermalinda had left her husband at home in their village of Dona Maria to care for her two other grandchildren. “They evacuated to a neighbour’s house that was much sturdier than ours,” says Ermalinda. “I worried so much about them.”
Luckily her family was safe, but like more than one million families living in the path of the typhoon, her home did not fare so well.
“When I returned home the next day, there was utter devastation everywhere in Dona Maria,” says Ermalinda. The house she had lived in for 13 years was nothing but a heap of twisted rubble. “I just cried and cried. I felt absolutely hopeless with no place to stay.”
Two weeks later Ermalinda’s husband sits on a matt outside, weaving palm fronds into a thatched roof for a new home. Ermalinda has just arrived home with the shelter kit and tarps she received at a distribution. CARE, with its local partner ACCORD, provided a shelter kit and two tarpaulins to 220 households in Dona Maria. Each shelter kit contains a shovel, hoe, saw, wire, hammer, nails, machete, rope and other items for rebuilding homes.
Ermalinda and her husband open the kit, examining the contents one by one. “These tools will be a big help to us as we have no money,” remarks Ermalinda.
As they think of the future and the many challenges ahead, Ermalinda’s daughter-in law looks on, cradling the tiny baby born during the typhoon. He doesn’t have a name yet, everyone has been too busy to think of one. At least for now, as the rainy season continues, he will have a roof over his head and his family by his side.
By Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
Today marks 1000 days of conflict in Syria. Just 13 years old, Abu* works 16 hours a day, seven days a week to support his family, who fled from Syria to Jordan to escape the conflict.
Abu is standing behind the counter of a small shop in Mafraq. Socks, shoes, blankets and scarves are hanging on rusty hat stands. Hair ties, nail polish and pens are piled in little baskets. Abu is talking to a customer who has not yet decided which wallet she wants to buy. ‘This one has really nice leather inside,’ he tells her, opening it. ‘Just imagine how your money will look inside.’ The customer decides to buy it and he hands her the wallet in a blue plastic bag. He has to stand on his tiptoes to reach her. The counter is too high for him.
Abu is 13-years-old. A year ago, his family fled from Homs in Syria to Jordan. In the beginning, his father worked so the family could survive, but without permission to work legally in Jordan, he was reprimanded by the police.
Abu said, ‘My parents were desperate and did not know what to do. I suggested that I could start working, but my father told me I should be in school. He said he would rather return to Syria and die than have his son earn money for the family.’
Finally, he persuaded his parents to allow him to work, telling them that it would only be for a short period until they were ready to return to Syria. That was six months ago. Ever since, he has been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week. He earns less than $3 a day, but with his salary, the family can afford to pay the rent for the small flat in which he lives with his five sisters, parents and grandparents.
At first, it was difficult for Abu to adjust to working life, to talk to customers and to stand all day long. He also had to prove to his boss that he was worth employing. He had dismissed three other boys before him because they didn’t work fast enough. But Abu is not only fast, he is also very smart. He only needs to hear the prices of the thousands of different goods once to remember them. ‘I never forget anything. For work, this is good. When it comes to remembering the war, it isn’t,’ he added.
‘For me the worst thing is to see the pain in my parents’ eyes when I come home from work. I can see and hear their hearts breaking when they look at me.’ To cheer them up he tells them funny stories about work and his customers. Sometimes he tells them sad stories of people who are worse off just so they will feel better.
What are Abu’s wishes for the future? ‘I want to feel safe again. One day I want to become a pilot and only enter shops, like this one, when I want to buy something,’ he said.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Johanna Mitscherlich, CARE Communications Officer
Hadi stands in front of 20 refugees in CARE’s centre in Zarqa, about a 30 minute drive from the Jordanian capital Amman. He is leading an information session, telling refugees about their rights and informing them about the type of support they can receive from CARE and other organisations. Every day he listens to stories of people who have been forced to flee Syria – of children who saw their fathers die, of mothers, whose children were hit by bullets and can no longer walk, and stories of fathers who despair because they cannot take care of their families.
Some days, Hadi says, his head does not stop spinning. ‘I know their pain. I know, where it sits in their bodies. I know how it feels.’
Hadi was forced to flee Syria a couple of months ago and now works as one of more than 20 volunteers in CARE’s refugee centres.
‘I am just like them,’ he says. His pain is evident. In Syria, he had his whole life ahead of him. He had just finished his law studies and wanted to start his first job. ‘My life as it was is taking a break,’ he says. ‘It drives me crazy that I cannot use my head the way I used to.’ In Jordan, he cannot work legally, he cannot be a lawyer here.
Hadi left Syria after being shot in the leg while carrying a wounded person to hospital. He shows me a picture of a beautiful young woman on his phone. She has long hair and hazelnut eyes. Hala was Hadi’s big love. But the bullet that hit her did not care that he loved her, that he wanted to marry her, have a family with her and lead a happy life. When Hadi speaks, he is shaking his head as if he wants to free himself from the past. ‘I miss talking to her, laughing with her and being close to her. I am just half a person without her.’
‘I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to do whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.’
I ask Hadi how he manages to deal with the pain and how he gains strength from it to help his fellow Syrians.
‘I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to do whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.’
However, the 23-year-old says he does not have a lot of hope. Being a refugee does not only imply that one does not have enough money for medication or rent. Being a refugee also means that students cannot study, lawyers are not practising, vendors are not selling and teachers are not teaching.
Hadi used to be able to take care of himself, but now he is dependent on others. But what the bombs and bullets could not take away from him – his knowledge, his character and his warmth – he gives to his fellow refugees in CARE’s centres every day.
‘I love people and I want them to know that someone cares about them, that someone wants to know how they feel and what they think. Sometimes even a smile can make a difference,’ he says.
Hadi asks me whether I think the world has forgotten about Syria. I don’t think it has.
‘The world cannot forget about Syria. They are just not allowed to,’ he repeats like a mantra.
The world cannot forget Syria, because more than 9.3 million people are desperately in need of support, more than 2.2 million people have fled to neighbouring countries and more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced in Syria.
But the world can also not forget about Syria because of young men like Hadi, who despite their own losses and painful memories, get up every morning so that other refugees can feel better.
by Johanna Mitscherlich, CARE Communications Officer
I am moving my belongings from one corner of my flat to another, stacking shirts, trousers and jackets, piling books and my travel documents. I am debating what I should leave behind or what I should take with me for the coming months while working for CARE in Jordan and Lebanon. I wonder if the trousers and shirts will be warm enough for the winter blizzards? While I contemplate whether to bring my brown jacket or my black wool coat, I think of the more than half a million Syrian refugees who have fled the war to neighbouring Jordan, where I am headed.
There are a hundred small choices I have to make while packing. I try to imagine what it feels like for the two million Syrian refugees, many of whom had only hours, sometimes minutes, to pack and flee their homes, not knowing if they would ever return home. I wonder if I returned, as they also hope, whether the things I left behind – my flat, furniture, clothes and photo albums – would still be there. Or I wonder if my friends and family would still be alive or among the more than 100,000 casualties that the conflict has claimed.
People in Syria do not have time to store away boxes or write to-do lists. Their priorities are different. They want to live, survive, find shelter, take their vital possessions such as clothes, medication and maybe one cherished item as a souvenir. For seven-year-old Ghoroob, it was her little pink backpack; for 25-year-old Hala it was her son’s medication.
Behind all the headlines are people for whom this war is a bitter, daily reality – mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, sons, couples and siblings. Young people my age who studied in Syria or had just started their first job. They are students, teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, shop-owners and lawyers. They had good jobs and owned their own homes. In Jordan and Lebanon, they find themselves sharing rundown flats or empty garages with more than 20 people, some of them strangers.
Urban refugees are being quickly forgotten. There are few structures and contact points for them. The stories of mothers who had to flee alone with their children give us a glimpse of the misery that abounds here: they have had to sell their wedding rings to pay the rent, they send their children out to work on the streets instead of registering them in school and use the few clothes they took with them when fleeing as blankets to keep their children warm as winter sets in.
CARE and other organisations are facing an enormous challenge. The Syrian refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. CARE has secured less than 25 per cent of the anticipated $100 million in funding that is required for our response. Who is most in need? Who do we have to send away without help? I don’t think staff in our refugee centres could face a more difficult dilemma.
I am travelling to Jordan to support CARE’s emergency team. I will talk to refugees and share their experiences, their fears and hopes. I will try to give them a voice and a face. I hope that I will be able to contribute just a little bit, so that despite everything they have lost, they can also gain something: attention for their suffering, which the world seems to have forgotten. What could be a better reason for me to pack my suitcase?
By Laura Hill, Communications Manager, CARE Australia
Asmarech is lucky that no one in her family has died from drinking dirty water.
Sadly the same can’t be said for her neighbours. The mother of six knows many families whose young children have died from water-related illnesses like diarrhoea.
‘It is very hard to watch people from your village bury their children,’ said Asmarech. ‘I felt helpless and I feared it was only a matter of time until it would happen to me.’
She had every right to worry. Her village had no clean water and her children were sick at least two times a month.
Asmarech says she didn’t know why her children were sick and sometimes she would take them to the health clinic for medicine. This was a costly expense that the family could barely afford, so often she would simply watch over the children while they slept and pray that they would get better.
On top of the financial stress her household’s sickness caused, other aspects of the family’s life suffered as well.
‘When my children were sick they missed school and I spent a lot of time caring for them, instead of working on the farm,’ says Asmarech.
Stories like this are common in Ethiopia, where coverage levels for water and sanitation are among the lowest in the world. According to official figures, only 31 per cent of households have access to safe water, and 18 per cent of households have access to sanitation facilities.
In the Amhara region, where Asmarech lives, the picture is bleaker – 75 per cent of people use unsafe water for drinking.
But she is no longer one of them. Since CARE started working in her district several years ago, more than 460 new water points such as wells, protected spot springs and rope pumps have been built and many water points rehabilitated, all with the help of the local community.
Asmarech explains that, ‘people from my village helped decide where the wells should go, then helped to build them and now there are rules in place to make sure they are looked after.’
The sustainability of water and sanitation activities hinges on the participation of the community, especially women like Asmarech. CARE places emphasis on women in its water work because poor women are often excluded from decisions regarding water’s allocation and management, even though they bear the burden of transporting water from access points to the home. CARE provides women with equal decision-making power by including them in discussions on water and sanitation on the local, municipal and state levels.
For the first time in her life, Asmarech is taking a leading role in her community. She is a member of her local water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committee and is responsible for collecting money from households to maintain the water points. During construction of the water points in her village she also collected local materials like sand and helped lay the concrete slabs for several shallow wells. Since receiving sanitation and hygiene training, Asmarech now knows that her children were often sick from drinking contaminated water and has made a number of changes to her household to improve the family’s health, including relocating the cows and goats to a separate animal pen.
‘We never had a toilet before, so my family would defecate around the house or in the nearby fields,’ says Asmarech. ‘Today we have a toilet and next to it is a tap with running water and soap to wash our hands. We also dispose of liquid and solid waste like dishwashing water and food scraps in purpose built pits. And before the project I used a clay jug to collect water, but this was not clean. After the training I switched to using a plastic container, which I think is better because it is clean and easier to carry.’
These actions combined with reliable access to safe, clean drinking water has transformed Asmarech’s family from unhealthy to healthy.
‘After CARE’s help we now have clean water, my children are no longer sick and the frequency of illness in my village has fallen,’ she says.
Asmarech’s leadership on the village WASH committee has inspired her daughter Fikere* to join her school’s sanitation club. Along with around 80 other students, Fikere teaches students and her community how to prevent illness through improved sanitation and hygiene practices like draining stagnant pools of water near the home to prevent malaria.
‘I really like being a member of the school sanitation club because it has given me the knowledge to help protect my younger brothers and sisters from sickness,’ says Fikere.
CARE’s water and sanitation project has also helped Fikere, who wants to be a pilot when she’s older, and other students from her village spend more time in school instead of spending hours collecting water.
Before the project, Fikere and her sisters would walk for more than an hour to collect unsafe water from a river. She would have to get up at 5am to try and be one of the first in line for water. If she was late and a long line had already formed, she would have to wait patiently and sometimes miss the first three classes of school.
‘Now I only have to walk 20 minutes to the shallow well and because there is enough water for everyone the line isn’t as long and I am back to home in time for school.’
Water is essential to life and CARE’s work to improve access to water and sanitation by developing water points and delivering training is saving lives and time and building healthier communities.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Laura Sheahen, Emergency Communications Officer, CARE USA
“It was the most terrifying moment in our lives,” says Fay Camallere, a woman from the typhoon-stricken city of Ormoc in the Philippines. “I felt death was coming.”
Fay had felt death coming before. In 1991 at age 13, she was walking home from school when powerful flash floods ripped through Ormoc. As the waters rose, Fay swam to a three-story building and waited with others until the flood subsided. But on the way home, she saw bodies on the road. “I thought my family was dead.”
Thankfully, Fay and her family survived the floods more than 20 years ago. But earlier this month, another catastrophe engulfed their city. Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – ripped through the streets, twisting metal sheets into spirals and uprooting trees.
Fay was in a sturdier house. The wind was hitting the front of the building and she was hiding in a back room with a window that wouldn’t open. When she saw her neighbours’ homes being blown apart by wind, “we broke our back window with a wooden pole, on purpose, and shouted to them, ‘Come! Come!’”
Four families took shelter in Fay’s house. “There were 22 people all in one room, including many children and a two-week-old baby,” says Fay. “We prayed. We thought we were going to die.”
But when the storm ended, they were alive. Fay had survived two of the most harrowing natural disasters in her island’s history.
Fay wanted to do something to help other survivors. “When I hear the news about typhoons and see the people suffering, my heart breaks,” she says. She volunteered with ACCORD, a CARE partner in the Philippines. With many other volunteers, she spent hours packing food parcels for people in villages devastated by the typhoon. CARE is distributing thousands of the food packages to families whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed.
Fay may never meet the people she’s helping. Many live in the hills outside her city, farming coconuts and vegetables. But they are grateful that they haven’t been forgotten in their time of need.
People in the typhoon zone have many fears about the future—how they’ll repair their houses, how they’ll earn a living when their crops are gone, how they’ll send their children to school. But thanks to volunteers like Fay who are themselves survivors, they won’t have to fear hunger.
By Laura Sheahen, Senior Communications Officer, CARE USA
In the space of a week, Jocelyn faced two life-altering storms. A mother of three living on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, she found herself hanging on for dear life while Typhoon Yolanda’s winds shook her small shanty. But as powerful as the typhoon grew, it wasn’t the only thing tearing apart her home.
Like many parents in poor Philippine villages who hear typhoon warnings, Jocelyn sent her children to a solidly-built house for safety while she herself stayed in the family’s two-room shack. “I was afraid because my house is made of light material like bamboo stick walls,” she says. But she had to hold on to the house and what it contained—worn clothes, buckets, a pot for a charcoal stove.
The typhoon winds swiftly blew away the roof and sent a wall flying over her. She huddled under it, praying and asking for forgiveness. Hours later, when the storm passed, Jocelyn was alive. But the home she had tried to hold on to was gone.
Jocelyn’s husband, a driver, wasn’t with her when the typhoon pummeled the village. For many months, Jocelyn had suspected something was wrong. But it wasn’t until a few days before the storm that she learned there was another woman, and two children, in a far-off part of the island.
Her husband didn’t choose Jocelyn. Six days before Typhoon Yolanda hit, “he got his clothes and left.”
“There was a typhoon of strong wind and a typhoon in my heart,” she says.
Now Jocelyn is trying to piece together her home with scraps of the old house and ragged tarps that neighbors have given her. But with no job, Jocelyn isn’t sure how to feed her children, let alone rebuild a real home. “I’m worried the price of rice will go up,” she says. “How will I survive with three children and no money?”
CARE and its local partner ACCORD are working to help families like Jocelyn’s. Beginning with rice distributions, CARE plans to provide additional food, as well as shelter materials, to typhoon survivors who have lost everything. Meanwhile, Jocelyn and her children—including two small boys—struggle to recover from a double blow.
Planes and helicopters often fly above their village as the government and aid groups work to meet needs on a massive scale. Most little boys in the village get excited when they hear sounds overhead.
So do Jocelyn’s three- and four-year-old sons. “When helicopters fly over, they say, ‘Bring back our father and bring back our house’.’’
By Uwe Korus, Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Coordinator, CARE International
November 19 is World Toilet Day, a day to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge.
I’m on my way to meet Rashid El Mansi in Sabra, Beirut, Lebanon. Thousands of Syrian families have sought shelter in Beirut, many of them in the urban camps and settlements of Palestinian refugees established in the 50s and 60s. Rashid El Mansi is working for Popular Aid for Relief & Development (PARD), a CARE partner organisation in Lebanon.
We are assisting in a distribution of hygiene and baby kits to Syrian women. In this neighbourhood of only a few streets, PARD registered 525 Syrian families that desperately need support. With financial assistance from the Canadian Humanitarian Coalition, CARE and PARD have been able to support 180 households to improve their water supply, lead three cleaning campaigns, and conduct 36 health and hygiene educations sessions.
For Syrian refugees, it is quite difficult to understand how things work here in this city that is so close to their homes but at the same time so very different.
“Back home we had two water systems in our houses: one for drinking water and one for other uses,” says Yousra*, a young Syrian woman who is receiving one of the kits we are distributing.
“Now we only have one water tap on the entire floor of the building – sometimes there is no water at all. How can we manage to get water to drink and cook but also to take care of our dignity?”
Here in Beirut amongst the Syrian refugees who have seen the horrors of war and displacement, having a clean toilet means so much more than just personal comfort.
“Women sometimes consider it as a personal failure if their families are forced to live in an unclean environment,” empathises Dalia Sbeih, CARE’s Liaison Officer in Lebanon.
“I will always remember the Syrian woman for whom the worst part of being a refugee was the smell: ‘It always smells bad,’ she said. Cleanliness is a crucial component of human dignity in the region and you can go to a very poor household that has nothing but still everything will be perfectly clean.”
Syrian women deal with the challenge of keeping the toilets, kitchen, floors, beds and babies clean every day. In the overpriced apartments in these Palestinian neighbourhoods of Beirut with an infrastructure crumbling under the ever-growing population, this is a huge and often impossible mission.
In many cases, the toilet is close to the kitchen. It is narrow, there is neither running water nor ventilation and everyone – children, women and men – have to use the same toilet. Sometimes more than 20 people are using the same toilet.
We are standing in a supermarket where Syrian families come to collect the hygiene and baby kits. They are piled up in a large corner just besides the usual long shelves with food and basic household items. The shop owner has organised everything in a way that Syrian women will not feel ashamed when collecting them.
“We want them to feel like they are shopping like they used to shop in Syria. They receive vouchers for the kits; some of them also have vouchers for food,” Rashid explains. “It is important for them to not feel stigmatised.”
The hygiene and baby kits contain four rolls of toilet paper, two toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, dish detergent, a bath towel, garbage bags, and three packs with 20 sanitary pads for women. The kits for the babies contain diapers in different sizes (90 per baby), baby lotion and disinfectant soap.
“Thank you,” a Syrian woman says after receiving a kit. “Today I will get some dignity back for my family.”
There it is again, this mysterious and often overused word: dignity! A clean toilet, with a door that closes, with water to be able to perform basic cultural and religious gestures, that girls and women can use without being harassed or ashamed, where children can learn the basics of personal hygiene… all that seems so normal for us. Here, among the Syrian refugees in Beirut, it is a symbol of a big step back to normality and dignity.
*Name has been changed
By David Gazashvili, CARE Emergency Team Leader managing the response to Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. David is in Ormoc, western Leyte, one of the hardest hit areas, and talks about the logistical challenges of such a massive relief operation.
13 November 2013
I managed CARE’s emergency response to the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, but the response to the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is so much more challenging than Haiti. This means that the response is taking longer, which is frustrating when we know so many people need supplies now.
The disaster in Haiti was localised in a small area, so once the rubble was cleared from the roads, it was easy to drive and deliver aid. We could get everywhere affected in just two or three hours. The airport was functioning quickly, so things could be brought by air, or by road from the Dominican Republic.
Here, the disaster is spread across three or more islands. To get somewhere it takes days – not just for sending relief items, but for staff. You have to take a boat and then a car, and the roads haven’t been cleared. Debris is everywhere. Fuel is not available. The boats are full. The lines are so big for the boats and people are waiting hours just to find out that the tickets are sold out.
In Haiti, we had an office that hadn’t been affected by the quake. We had somewhere to sleep. Here, every building is flattened. Nobody has anywhere to sleep – not the people affected, not the officials, not the aid workers. The weather is horrible. It’s been raining a lot. The place where we worked from today has no roof, and it’s now flooded inside. That was our sleeping space, but we can’t sleep there anymore because it’s full of water.
Communications is also a huge challenge. Coordinating a massive emergency response over such a large area requires good communications to ensure we have all the information about who needs what where, to order supplies, and to work with other agencies to make sure we’re reaching everyone and not duplicating our work. In Haiti, the communications was restored very quickly. But here, the electricity is down, the phone lines aren’t working, there is no internet. Thank goodness for the satellite phones.
We’re looking at solutions, such as using shipping companies and private boats. We need to bring cars and trucks in by ferry. The government and international community are working to get the airport open in Tacloban and clear the roads. But it’s all taking time. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing knowing what we need to do to help, having good staff that can do it, but not being able to get the supplies in quickly enough.
Of the 670,000 people left homeless by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, over 200,000 have not found shelter in emergency accommodation facilities. This means families and children are still living exposed to the tropical rain, heat and growing threat of disease.
Sandra Bulling is one of our staff on the ground in the Philippines, she tells us what conditions are like on the streets, “Everything is destroyed here. I’m just standing in rubble, pieces of houses are just lying in the street. Everything is gone. Electric poles have been broken like toothpicks.”
CARE is acting now to provide shelter, food and safety for families left devastated by the storm. Our initial response will provide emergency relief for 30,000 homeless families, that’s around 150,000 people. It’s a massive challenge – particularly when many of the hardest hit rural regions still cannot be reached due to the trail of destruction left by the typhoon.
Bulling explains how difficult it is travelling, even in urban areas, “There is debris everywhere. We had to change our tyre three times yesterday. You have to drive very slowly, and the cleared part of the road is very narrow.”
While some aid is starting to reach the larger cities, severe food shortages are taking a severe toll on families living in these hard-to-reach communities. Bulling tells us how difficult it is to find food in the wake of the storm, “I saw people waiting in lines, their feet in water that still stands ankle deep in some streets. They are waiting for hours in the water – easy prey for disease!”
Food is desperately needed; CARE is working urgently to deliver emergency food supplies to hungry families in these areas. Improving access to food also gives families extra time and strength to start rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the storm.
The people of the Philippines are struggling to overcome the fury of this once-in-a-lifetime storm. As Bulling explains, “My colleagues say this is the worst disaster in the Philippines they have seen. And some of them have years of experience responding to typhoons.” CARE is there offering support wherever we can. But we desperately need help so we can reach everyone in need. And the need is truly staggering.
Sandra Bulling, CARE International Emergency Communications Officer, is with CARE’s Emergency Team in the areas affected by the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Nov. 11, 2013, 19:00 local time
We arrived by boat at the port in Ormoc City. As soon as we stepped onto the port, we were in the middle of a disaster zone. Everything was destroyed. Tin roofing sheets were hanging off trees like wet blankets.
All the houses along the coast are completely flattened. Everything is destroyed. Further inland, about 80 percent of the houses are roofless. About five percent of the houses are completely collapsed – these are mainly wooden houses. It seems like everyone we’ve seen has a hammer or tools in their hands, trying to repair their houses and their roofs. People are picking up poles and pieces of wood from the street. There are long queues at hardware stores, pharmacies. We waited in line for two hours to get fuel. So far the roads are okay, but it’s taking a long time to get anywhere.
I talked to a shop owner whose shop was destroyed; he lost everything. He’s wondering how he’s going to feed his five children. I also met a little girl, who was trying to dry out her books. Her house was totally destroyed, but there she was, worried about her school books because she wants to go to school. And it’s the only thing she has left.
We just arrived in Jaro, a small town on the way to Tacloban. It’s dark now, so we can’t go any further. We’re staying in the police station tonight – not sure where we’ll sleep, maybe in the car, or outside. There’s an electricity pole that’s leaning dangerously over the police station, so everyone is trying to steer clear of that. Our plan is to go to Dulag, just south of Tacloban. Our driver just came from there, and says it’s very bad, and they need help.
People are becoming quite desperate. Some officials just came and told us that there has been looting in the area, people trying to get rice for their families. People haven’t had food for three days, and they’re trying to feed their families. That’s why it’s so important to get food and emergency supplies in to these areas as soon as possible. In Ormoc, there was food, we could buy chicken and rice. But there were big queues at the food stalls and shops. We’re in an urban area now, and I don’t even want to think what it’s like the rural areas. We’ll start moving again at first light. I don’t think anyone is going to get any sleep tonight.
Sandra Bulling, CARE International Emergency Communications Officer, is en route to the areas affected by the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Nov. 10, 2013, 15:00 local time
“I’m just boarding the plane to Cebu now, one of the areas hit by the typhoon. From there, we’ll take a boat to Leyte, and then try to get to Southern Leyte by car. We don’t know how the roads are. We don’t even know if the car will be able to get through. Nothing is clear at this point.
“Here at the airport, there are many aid agencies all desperately trying to get to the area to help. The areas affected are all islands, so they’re all difficult to reach even in normal times. In Tacloban, the city that was horribly hit by the typhoon, the airport is reported closed for at least another week, so there are no direct flights.
“Today in the emergency coordination meeting in Manila we heard there might be another storm coming. We don’t know yet where and when it will hit, but there is another tropical depression building. So at the same time as launching a massive emergency response, the government and aid agencies have to prepare to help people survive another storm. If another big storm comes, I fear it will knock the legs out from under these communities.
“There is a lot of speculation about the death toll, and everyone trying to figure out how many people have died. But we can’t just measure the disaster by the number of dead people – entire communities have been wiped out. Houses, everything, gone. The government did a good job evacuating more than 800,000 people, which is why we don’t have an even bigger death toll. That’s important.”
CARE will continue to provide updates from our staff on the ground as more information comes through.
You can help – Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal today, where $128 can provide 8 water purification tablets, and $243 can provide food baskets for 10 families
By Celso Dulce, CARE’s Philippines representative and disaster risk reduction advisor
Typhoon Haiyan, here in the Philippines also known as Yolanda, made landfall this morning at 4:40. I was watching the news and it showed extremely strong winds, heavy rains and damages in the affected areas. Since then, the super storm has crossed through half of our country and the eye of the typhoon is now hovering over the western areas of central Philippines. Haiyan is incredible big, it is 600 kilometres wide. That is larger than some cities! And it has the potential to affect 17 million people in highly populated areas.
Here in Manila everything is eerily calm. While heavy rains have been forecasted, they haven’t started yet. I am in the office, which I share with our partner organisation collecting all information on the impact of the typhoon. Normally, at this early stage, it is difficult to get a clear picture. The most affected areas have no power and I cannot reach our colleagues on the ground. So it will take several more hours until they can send me their first reports on the impact. While the pictures in the media remind me of typhoon Bopha, which devastated large parts of the Philippines in 2012, it seems to me that the damage might not be as high as it was back then. But of course, the media has also not able to reach the worst affected areas, so we might get a completely different – and worse – picture once power has been restored.
So far, official reports state that three people have died. These numbers will probably increase. At the same time, the government has done quite a remarkable job in evacuating 718,000 people and informing households of precaution and preparedness methods. Our partners, for example in Saint Bernard municipality in Southern Leyte and Calabanga in Camarines Sur, have evacuated households to take shelter in concrete and safe buildings. So this will hopefully impact the casualty numbers. However, a cyclone of this size and strength is likely to destroy fields, houses, boats – basically all people have to make a living. CARE, together with our partners, is already preparing to support families to get back on their feet. We also plan to help people receive food and get a roof over their heads. Once we have a better overview of the destruction we will plan our emergency response accordingly.
In order to assist as many people as possible, I am hoping to receive support from donors around the world. Haiyan is now headed towards Vietnam, where our colleagues from CARE Vietnam are bracing themselves for the impact. I hope the storm weakens so it won’t affect them severely.
The World Economic Forum has reported that 86 out of 133 countries have shown improvements in closing the gender gap in accessing health services, education, politics and employment.
The Global Gender Gap Report for 2013 provides a comparison in outcomes for men and women around the world. The rankings are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.
While it’s good news that the gender gap narrowed slightly across the globe in 2013, progress is slow.
Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, explained the report is a tool for governments, NGOs and others to address gender inequality.
‘To engage in change initiatives, countries, companies and other stakeholders must be able to understand the context, assess the starting point and track progress through tools such as this Report.
‘It is our hope that this latest edition will continue to inspire further research, policy changes and new projects by businesses, governments, civil society and universities, and will serve as a call to action to transform the pace of change on a fundamental issue of our time.’
Australia was ranked at 24 overall, with an equal first for education, 13 for employment, 43 for political empowerment and 69 for health.
Countries with the smallest gender gap:
Millions of people are affected by natural disasters every year, from bushfires in New South Wales to floods in Pakistan. CARE’s Tracy McDiarmid tells of her recent trip to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to help communities prepare for disaster, and subsequent training for CARE Australia staff with a special focus on including people with disability.
By Tracy McDiarmid, Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Advisor, CARE Australia
Recently, I visited Pinipel and Nissan Islands, the two atolls making up the Green Islands in PNG. The islands are located four hours by twin-engine motorboat from Buka, the temporary capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Here, frequent natural disasters like drought, storms and sea spray create serious water and food shortages.
While on Nissan Island, I experienced first-hand the strength of the storms which affect these remote communities; huge trees were toppled, houses lost their thatched roofs, and it took over a week for an evacuation boat to reach me.
Many people are aware that the Asia Pacific region experiences numerous natural disasters. But did you know that from 2000 to 2009 around 85 per cent of the people affected by disasters belonged to the Asia-Pacific Region¹?
Sadly, the majority of people affected by disasters are the poorest and most vulnerable. More than 95 per cent of people killed by natural disasters are in developing countries².
While visiting the island communities, I conducted training to help local Disaster Risk Reduction groups prepare a community Action Plan. I took each group through hazard scenarios affecting their community and we talked about the negative impacts on their health, food, income and community. We then practiced an exercise that they will do with their own villages to think about possible actions to help communities’ better plan for and cope with these hazards.
To raise awareness about disasters and celebrate how people and communities are reducing their risk to disasters, the International Day for Disaster Reduction is celebrated on 13 October. This year’s theme was ‘Living with Disability and Disasters’.
It’s important to shine a spotlight on this issue because people with disabilities are often doubly vulnerable to disasters; firstly because of their disability and secondly because they are more likely to be poor due to exclusion from social, economic and political affairs.
CARE Australia staff celebrated International Day for Disaster Reduction with an interactive case study exercise based on my experiences from PNG. A key message from the training was inclusion; since everyone in a community is affected by disasters, planning and decision-making must involve everyone – including children, older people, people with a disability, women, and poor people.
Only by ensuring the inclusion of people with a disability – by policy-makers, CARE Australia staff, and community groups such as our Disaster Risk Reduction groups on Nissan and Pinipel Islands – will we successfully reduce the devastating impacts of disasters.
¹International Federation of the Red Crescent, World Disaster Report, 2010
By Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International in Jordan
This week, 1.4 billion Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. During the celebration, people traditionally sacrifice an animal and the meat is shared with friends, family, and also with the poor and the hungry.
In Irbid in northern Jordan, people like Kawkab Ababneh have opened their doors to some of the Syrian refugees who now call Irbid home. Last year, when a Syrian refugee family moved in next door to Kawkab, she immediately knocked on their door and offered help.
‘I still remember them saying that they were not staying for long. They said they were planning to go home the next day or maybe the day after – that they planned to go back to Dar’aa. For the first year they were living out of their suitcase and didn’t enrol the children in school; they were always on call, prepared to go home at a moment’s notice.’
[insert photo] “Kawkab with her daughter in front of their home in Irbid, a city hosting more than 120,000 refugees from Syria. ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE”
Kawkab encouraged them to enrol the children and when the local principal refused to accept the children because they had no school certificates – they were buried under rubble – Kawkab went straight to his office and managed to change his mind. She accompanies the family to public authorities and supports them with cans of water and kitchen equipment. But most importantly, she has welcomed them and showed them that they have a friend and a family far from home.
This week, Kawkab celebrates her second Eid feast with the family. A few months ago, they got some furniture. The suitcase is still packed, always ready for their return and every time Kawkab visits them, the conversation always turns to Syria, to damaged homes, burnt shops, broken dreams and lost futures.
‘Their lives consist only of memories; it’s the hope of going back, of seeing their friends and family and their home again that keeps them going,’ she said.
This holiday has been no different. The family talked about Syria, about their traditions, how they baked bread on the morning of Eid, decorated their house and met relatives and neighbours. Today, they can only communicate via telephone with those who are still in Syria and alive, but the news is rarely good. ‘Eid Kibir’, as this feast is also called however, is supposed to be filled with ‘joy and happiness’. The mother therefore bought small hats and bouncing balls for the children so they would at least experience some normalcy.
‘Kawkab’s friendship and support means a lot to us. She helps us through these difficult times,’ said Samiha, one of 21 Syrian refugees who live next door.
It is people like Kawkab who prevent this refugee crisis in Jordan from becoming an even bigger humanitarian disaster.
Despite being affected by higher rent and prices, and overcrowded classrooms and hospitals with the influx of Syrian refugees, most Jordanians are still doing all they can to support the more than half a million Syrian refugees living in their country – already home to six million people and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.
‘Where else would they go, all these children, mothers and fathers?’ asks Kawkab. ‘I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have to leave everything behind and flee my country. If I can ease this pain slightly then that makes me a happier woman.’
Perhaps Kawkab’s hospitality also has something to do with her name which means ‘star’ in Arabic. This star certainly outshines the generosity of many.
CARE runs an urban refugee centre in Irbid (in addition to centres in Amman and other urban areas), helping families with emergency cash assistance, case management and referral to access further health care and social support.
You can help Syrian refugees in desperate need of assistance. Donate to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal today.
by Laura Hill, CARE Communications Manager
Fourteen-year-old Eleni* was married when she was twelve to a man much older than her. He treated her quite well, but she wasn’t ready to have children and wanted to continue her education.
Through a CARE support group for young married girls, Eleni gained confidence and convinced her husband and her parents that she wanted a divorce. Now she’s back in grade 10 and studying her favourite subject, biology.
Two years ago, Eleni was so excited to be receiving new clothes from her parents that she didn’t ask why until it was too late.
Dressed in a new t-shirt and skirt, she was greeted liked a princess by family and neighbours. As the sun rose higher in the sky, guests started to arrive at her house, goats were slaughtered to feed the gathering crowd, and she was brought before her soon-to-be husband for the first time.
Shock and fear filled Eleni as she realised she was about to be married.
‘I didn’t have time to think about how being married would impact my life and dreams. I didn’t even have the chance to talk about it with my parents. The ceremony was over before I knew what had happened.’
Child marriage is common place in Ethiopia, where two in every five girls are married before their 18th birthday and nearly one in five girls is married before the age of 15. In the Amhara region, where Eleni lives, the picture is even bleaker – almost half of all girls are married by the age of 15.
Early marriage is a deep-rooted tradition in many Ethiopian communities, perpetuated by poverty, a limited chance for education and economic opportunities, and social customs that limit the rights of women and girls.
Fortunately, Eleni had recently joined a support group for married girls run by CARE that gave her the chance to learn about topics such as sexual and reproductive health and how to save and invest money. It also gave Eleni the opportunity to meet and discuss issues with other girls and to make friends.
The support group was part of the TESFA program, which means ‘hope’ in Amharic. The program seeks to bring measurable, positive change in the economic, sexual and reproductive health of adolescent married, divorced and widowed girls aged 14 to 19. Other program activities include a weekly radio program on child marriage, large community meetings, and training other community members such as parents, religious leaders and teachers on the dangers of early marriage and how to prevent it.
With improved communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills that Eleni gained from the support group she had the confidence to discuss her miserable situation with her parents.
‘I spoke with my parents about the dangers of child marriage, such as getting pregnant before my body was ready to have a baby, and that there was a higher risk of getting HIV from my husband. Then I told them how education was the best way for me to help my parents live a better life,’ says Eleni.
Eleni and her parents then spoke with her husband who agreed to the divorce. ‘He was very sad, but understood my dream to return to school,’ says Eleni.
That was one year ago, and today the fourteen-year-old teenager is in grade 10 and putting her energy towards studying her favourite subject – biology – instead of preparing food, collecting water and looking after in-laws.
‘I want to get a good job so that my family can have a better life, and when I’m older I’ll chose a husband that will help me achieve this goal,’ she says.
Eleni’s experience and positivity has had a ripple effect on members of her village. Her mother and father are now vocal opponents of child marriage and speak to other parents about the consequences of the dangerous practice. And Eleni’s story has given married girls in the village the confidence to speak up, get support and reclaim control over their lives.
‘I am so happy the TESFA project came to my village. Without it my life would never have been my own, but now I have a better chance at being happy,’ says Eleni smiling from ear to ear.
By Ed Boydell, CARE Australia Climate Change Advisor
On the 18th January this year I was in Sydney when it recorded its hottest day on record. The mercury hit 45.8 degrees celcius and as the day got hotter and hotter, my mum watched with disbelief as everything in her veggie garden wilted and browned in front of her eyes. Some of the hardier veggies bounced back, but others never recovered.
While my family don’t depend on the garden for all our food needs, this is not the case for women and men in communities that CARE works with in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste. When their crops are damaged by strong winds, hot days, too much rain or not enough, people are left with very limited options for meeting their own food needs and maintaining their income.
I’ve just come back from Nissan Island in the Autonomous Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea. Usually this is a dry time of year, but instead this year has brought consecutive days of heavy rain. This has stopped fruit trees and mangroves from flowering, and in communities where mangrove seed is an important staple, people were going hungry.
These stories don’t always make the headlines, but in our work at CARE we are seeing more and more examples of how the poorest people are bearing the brunt of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather. Although we can’t attribute individual events to climate change, we do know that that climate change is having an influence, and making it harder and harder for people to lift themselves out of poverty.
This is why we cannot afford to ignore the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the first part of which was released in Stockholm on Friday night. It is the most authoritative, comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change, prepared by over 250 of the world’s leading experts from all corners of the globe.
The report reconfirms that global average temperatures have increased by 0.9 degrees since 1901, sea levels are rising, oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, rainfall patterns are changing and both glaciers and Arctic sea ice are in decline. In short, climate change is happening right here, right now, and the IPCC is more certain than ever that humans are responsible.
If we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, the future of our planet looks bleak. We are already seeing climate change impacts, but the situation will become far worse if action is not taken. CARE is already working hard with poor communities in our region to ensure that valuable gains in the fight against poverty made over many years are not reversed by climate change.
However, we know that for Australia and our nearest neighbours to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we have to do everything that we can to keep global warming to less than 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels – something that all governments, including Australia’s, have committed to, and requires rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and investment in clean energy sources.
There is no time to hit the snooze button – this report needs to be the wake-up call we don’t ignore.