In Egypt, Yemen and Jordan, CARE’s Women’s Empowerment through Stage Animated Awareness and Lobbying (WESAL) project aims to combat violence against women by raising community awareness using theatre. ‘WESAL’, which in the Arabic language comes from the root ‘to join’, is an expression that means ‘channel of communication and understanding’. Here are two of the project’s success stories.
By Mona Soliman, Communications Advisor, CARE International in Egypt
Martin gains confidence and his family’s love
Martin Kamel is a young man in his early twenties who grew up in Minya. Like many youths in Upper Egypt, he was given family responsibilities at an early age. He was forced by his father to drop out of school and start earning his own bread and butter. ‘My father didn’t realise that he deprived me of being my age,’ Martin explains.
Martin grew up feeling oppressed, and found himself impulsively oppressing his sisters and treating them violently. Being females, he started to think of them as less worthy and admits to having been aggressive with them.
Martin was introduced to CARE’s interactive theatre, through the WESAL project, where he participated in training around equity, women’s rights and combating violence against women. Through acting, he realised that he was mistreating his sisters, which made him feel regretful. The play mirrored his own harsh behaviour, and he saw with clarity the negative impact he had on his sisters, instead of giving them comfort and safety.
‘I discovered that I was oppressing my sisters,’ he admits. ‘When I played the role of the father who is violent against his daughter in one of the scenes of the interactive theatre run by CARE, this is when I realised that I must change.’
This change made Martin happy, and he gained more self-confidence as a result. He learnt to express himself freely and confess his mistakes without hesitation.
‘My colleagues, trainers and supervisors in the community theatre have contributed to my change.’ He is proud of this, and confidently talks with other women in the community about his experience.
Martin not only started listening to his sisters, but has also encouraged his mother to join the life experiences theatre led by WESAL. He explains that the theatre allowed him to gain the trust and love of his family.
He dreams of seeing the interactive theatre providing training to a larger audience of young men and women to empower them to talk and share their experiences. Martin has changed forever and so can hundreds of others; they just have to understand how violence and oppression can have negative consequences for themselves and their loved ones – and the whole community.
Rasha breaks her silence
Rasha, 25, lives with her family in Minya. She describes her former life as a neglected family member; nobody asked her opinion on any matter, even if it was relevant to her.
She did all the household chores without objection. She felt forgotten by her own family and had no impact on any family decisions. ‘I never expressed my opinion. I didn’t communicate with anyone. Actually, I didn’t talk with my father or siblings,’ Rasha explains.
After participating in WESAL’s interactive theatre training and shows, everything changed. ‘I was trained to express myself. I also participated in theatre shows in front of the villagers. I now feel that I have a role to play in the community. I can express my opinion freely and I have the ability to criticise unacceptable situations.’
Rasha learnt how to speak up and defend herself. She can now make herself heard. She feels stronger after participating as a volunteer in the women’s support group.
‘The WESAL staff helped me a lot since the beginning. They accepted me in spite of the fact that I didn’t accept myself. This helped me to develop and feel more confident and accepted.’
Nashwa noticed the change and was happy to see her sister become more interactive. ‘Rasha acted like a deaf-mute person. She now knows how to speak and express herself, and has a voice. After such a change took place in the life of my sister, I decided to participate in the new WESAL group.’
Rasha overcame feelings of oppression and inferiority. She is happy to now be an active participant in the community and, above all, have an impact in her family.
Without its farmers, South Sudan remains perilously close to famine.
Today is World Food Day. The theme for this year’s World Food Day is ‘family farming’ but there’s not a lot to celebrate in South Sudan where the specter of famine looms large. CARE’s Senior Advisor on Emergency Food and Nutrition Security, Justus Liku, explains.
Family farms – managed by a family, and reliant on their labour – are an important part of rural development. In countries like South Sudan, they play a critical role in providing food security and livelihoods, managing natural resources, and building civil society through farmer organisations.
But 2014 hasn’t been a good year for family farming here. The conflict that began in South Sudan in December 2013 has disrupted every layer of life of this young nation. According to the UN, 1.4 million South Sudanese have been displaced, and almost half a million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The UN is currently hosting more than 99,000 South Sudanese in Protection of Civilian sites at its bases around the country. Many families have been destroyed, their meager farms left barren.
South Sudan should not be food insecure. The country is blessed with vast tracts of arable land, an enviable water source in the Nile River, a perfect climate for growing a wide range of crops, and the human resources to tend them. Prior to the current crisis, more than 90 per cent of the country’s estimated 10 million people earned their living from agriculture, mainly through smallholder, family owned farms producing staple crops like sorghum, and by herding cattle.
But not now.
The spectre of famine is looming large over South Sudan today. Recent figures from the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), the key tool for monitoring the status of the food crisis in South Sudan, estimate around 1.5 million people are living in food crisis (Phase 3) and food emergency (Phase 4). The outlook for 2015 remains bleak, particularly with the expectation of renewed fighting in the coming dry season.
In some parts of South Sudan, family farming has continued through the crisis. The tropical climate of the green belt in the country’s south, along the border with Uganda, produces fruit, vegetables and cereals, mainly in smallholder farms owned and run by families. But these farmers can no longer access many of their traditional markets inside the conflict affected areas of the country. Fighting has closed the roads that carried goods, destroyed towns that hosted once vibrant local markets, and displaced the people for whom the markets represented a source of both food and livelihoods.
Food prices have skyrocketed in conflict affected states such as Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, where imports from neighbouring countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan are substituting produce traditionally grown by South Sudanese farming families. The result is an increasing dependency on imports that, if sustained, will further diminish family farms in South Sudan.
World Food Day is an important date for farming communities across the globe – but not in South Sudan. Without its farmers, markets and transport infrastructure, this country remains perilously close to famine.
About CARE’s emergency response
Since the outbreak of violence, CARE has provided assistance to more than 300,000 people across South Sudan’s three hardest-hit states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. CARE is providing seeds and tools, as well as assistance in nutrition, emergency water, sanitation, hygiene services, peace building and gender-based violence.
Ahead of the International Day of the Girl on 11 October, CARE warns that an increasing number of Syrian refugee parents are arranging marriages for their daughters due to economic hardship and concerns about the security and protection of their daughters in an unknown environment.
When Muzoon, 16, reached Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan after fleeing Syria, she thought that her life had come to an end. But what she found was the passion and challenge of her life: advocating for education and against early marriage. CARE’s Johanna Mitscherlich spoke to Muzoon about her story.
The last thing I remember about Syria is my last day at school. It was the hardest day of my life. I have always been very ambitious and one of the top students in my class. I had only four weeks left to finish ninth grade when my father told my sister, my two brothers and me that we would have to flee to Jordan. I was yelling at him and screaming. He explained to us that it was not safe anymore, that people were getting killed and arrested. I did not care about our safety and told my parents that I preferred to stay in the middle of the bombings rather than having to leave my country. But in the end I kept quiet. I knew that if I made my family stay and anything would happen, I could never ever forgive myself. The only thing I knew about Jordan I knew from TV. I had seen videos of Zaatari Camp on the news, and I was horrified.
The next day I was sitting in my classroom. I did not listen to what my teacher was saying. My head kept spinning and the teacher’s voice sounded like a foreign language I don’t understand, a distant echo. My ears were deaf and I could not speak. It was like one of those dreams when someone is chasing you, but your legs are numb and you cannot move. I just wanted to process what was happening and prepare myself for my new life. I could not tell my teachers or my friends that I would never come back to sit in my seat in the second row. My parents told me that people might stop us from leaving if they would know about our plans. When I left I was the 20th out of 40 students in my class who did not return to class. Some had fled, some had died.
The next day we drove to the border. We waited until it got dark and then walked two hours until we crossed the border to Jordan and were brought to Zaatari camp by people my father had to pay. On my first day at school in Zaatari camp, I sat next to a girl called Abir. Abir was beautiful, smart and a lot of fun to be around. She became a good friend. But a few weeks later, Abir told me that she is planning to get married. She kept telling me that she would be wearing a beautiful dress on her wedding day and that her husband would buy her all the clothes she would want to have. She dreamt of taking responsibility, to feel equal to the grown-ups around her. She said that with the crisis in Syria her childhood had ended anyway.
I am still angry when I think about Abir, but I also feel very sad. I spent days trying to persuade her to finish her school first. ‘Girls our age should be wearing a school uniform, not a wedding dress,’ I told her. ‘Nothing can ever be better than studying. All these things you dream about might not come true. But when you work hard you can buy yourself the shoes you like and you can still get married when you have completed your studies.’ But Abir did not listen. At got married a few weeks later, at only 15. I never saw my friend again.
As disappointed as I was, I also felt like I found a purpose in my life. Ever since I lost Abir as my friend, I want to fight against child marriage; I want to learn as much as possible and excel in school and become a journalist. I want to write about child brides, and I want to write for them so they know that getting married is not a solution. I want to tell them that getting married at an early age will mean abandoning their dreams and closing a lot of doors for their future. They will not have time to go to school, but will need to clean the house and prepare food for their husband. When they get pregnant, they are endangering their health.
In my past year in Jordan I have talked to many girls, my age or younger, who were planning to get married. I was able to persuade some of them to wait, and I have seen many more not return to class. A lot of times their parents want them to get married because they do not have enough money to feed all of their children. Some think that there is no point in sending their girls to school anymore, as their entire life has fallen apart anyway. I understand their reasoning, but I do not want to accept it. I know myself how horrible it is to flee and to leave your whole life behind. When we left, I could only take a small backpack with me. I had trouble deciding what I would put in there. My father came to my room while I was spreading all of my belongings on the ground and hysterically tried to make a choice. He put his arm around me and told me that it would not matter what I took with me. ‘All what you need is in there,’ he said and pointed at my forehead. ‘Whatever happens in life, the only thing that no one can take away from you is what you have in your head.’
In each of the tens of thousands of tiny white houses in Azraq refugee camp, where I moved to from Zaatari camp a couple of months ago, people sleep and dream about what has happened to them in Syria, and what they wish for the future. Society has told them what is right and what is wrong, and girls are told that marrying early is acceptable and will make their lives better. But it should be for them to decide what is right and wrong for their own lives.
Girls are the foundation of our society. Girls will become mothers and they will tell their sons and daughters about the value of education. There is no better investment in society, in the future of entire nations than investing in a girl’s education. When I had to flee to Jordan I thought this will be the end of my life. But it really was the beginning of something new, the start of my life-long challenge to fight against child marriage and for education for my fellow, beloved Syrian girls.
by Laura Dunens, Online Communications Officer, CARE Australia
Last month, I was fortunate to travel with CARE to visit our projects in the very remote village of Simbari in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
I was greeted by smiling faces wherever I went and, over the course of speaking with a multitude of people, heard incredible stories of suffering and resilience.
Here are some of the amazing people CARE works with, all of whom I feel incredibly lucky to have met.
More than 140,000 Syrian refugees have fled across the border to southern Turkey. CARE is assessing needs and coordinating with the Turkish authorities and other organisations to distribute food, blankets and hygiene items to newly arrived refugees most in need. Here are some of their stories.
Alan Abraka* is a lawyer from a village 50km from Kobane, Syria. He is helping CARE to carry out assessments in Turkey.
‘We are no longer in control of our village and many of my family have had to flee to Raqqa. It is very frightening. They took my cousin for five days and they killed a girl who had an injured finger as they thought she had been fighting against them.
My father is 87 years old. He walked 20km at night as it was his only option to save himself. It is uncivil there.’
Suleyman Aiyab*, aged 26, is a student from Kobane has been helping CARE do assessments of his fellow Kurdish Syrian refugees.
‘I saw people sleeping on the border, and in the morning many of them go back to their homes in Kobane if they can. The situation is very bad. They need medicine, they have no water, food or electricity, even the simplest way of living is lost during this fighting.
People are sleeping in areas along the border that may have landmines. These are old landmines, but yesterday I saw a young boy step on one and get badly injured.
The psychological situation is terrible for those people at the border. Something must be done to help our people. I went back to Kobane yesterday to do what I could to help. The people coming to Turkey are desperate, they are living in parks and drinking dirty water but local people are trying to help by giving them water and blankets.
People need everything – they are arriving just with the clothes on their back. One family had just 200 Syrian Pounds ($1.25USD) with them. People are coming from Kobane without their shoes. They are terrified they will be killed, but they are also afraid about diseases spreading among them as they are now living and sleeping in such cramped conditions. If one person gets sick, they will all get sick.’
Mariam Üstün is 25 years old. She sits on the floor along with eight other adults, including two very elderly men and numerous children. The elderly man, Ismail Yousef Hessi, aged 70, holds up the plastic bag containing just a few more days of his medicine. He implores us to help as his eyes well up and then look away in despair. There are 25 more family members coming to share their cramped space in the coming days.
Mariam is also ill, her skin is acutely jaundiced and she looks exhausted.
‘There is bombing in Kobane, we were scared and had to leave. We had no time so we just left in the clothes we are wearing. My uncle is sick, so we were let through, but we have family sleeping on the border. When there is no bombing people go back to their houses in the day to get food.
We only have medicine for a few days. I am sick with hepatitis but we left without our papers so we cannot get treatment.
Kobane used to be peaceful. Other people affected by the war from all over Syria came to Kobane to be safe but now we have all had to flee.
We have no idea what will happen next; we are just hoping it will get better as we have no income here. We really just hope for peace because the situation is very bad for us here.’
Azad Zada* stands at bus station in Nizip surrounded by a huddle of people looking exhausted and surrounded by a meagre few bags of possessions.
‘I arrived six days ago from Kobane. My people there are suffering a lot and we have to help them. I have rented a flat in Nizip, and now many others have arrived and we have to take them in. We cannot bear the situation there but it is not comfortable here either. We are afraid to go home, the children are terrified. The people have nowhere to go. Some are trying to find shelter in warehouses or building sites.’
Hasan Izada, aged 38, is a driver from Kobane who arrived in Nizip along with eight other families. They are seeking shelter in three bare concrete rooms that seem to have been used for storage.
‘We escaped when the fighting was about four kilometres from us. There were lots of injured people and burnt cars on the street. Our homes are destroyed.
We left everything there and fled with my children. We have just the clothes that we are wearing.
The border was difficult. We had to wait for seven hours; there were so many people waiting to get into Turkey and not everyone could get through. There are landmines in the ground along the border. They are old but we saw people step on them – they were losing their legs and their arms and even cars were going over them and being blown up.
We knew someone in Nizip who told use to come to this place. We don’t know what will happen to us next.’
Four women, a baby, two toddlers, a young girl and a small boy of about three or four who is blind, sit on a threadbare rug in a concrete room in their new home of Nizip, Turkey near the Syrian border. It is three metres by two metres with no electricity, and no door, except for a ragged curtain. The children have a skin infection on their scalps; their heads look raw and flakey in their matted hair. The young baby, Kamal, though small for his 40 days of life, looks content and smiling in his mother Halima’s Ali’s* arms as she tells their story.
‘We all live here in this room. The children have skin diseases, but we cannot get them treatment. We have no food to eat. We buy the food that has gone bad from the market as it is the cheapest we can get. We take the children in the street to beg for money. We arrived from Damascus three months ago. We travelled in a vehicle with animals to get here. Most of our men have stayed in Syria but it is at least safer here.
‘My baby was just three days old when we fled from Damascus to Turkey. We needed to go somewhere safe. We let an elderly lady stay with us. She has nowhere to go so everyday she goes to a different home.’
Suria Masa*, surrounded by her grandchildren in Nizip
‘After the massacre in Homs we just had to get out. Our home was destroyed and we walked and got cars to the border. We suffered a lot to get to the border. There are 13 of us living in three rooms now. When my children manage to get some work, we have food but, if not, then we have nothing and my grandchildren go hungry. As long as there is no peace in Syria we cannot go back.’
CARE is assessing needs and coordinating with the Turkish authorities and other organisations to distribute food, blankets and hygiene items to newly arrived refugees most in need. CARE has been supporting more than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
*Names changed at the request of the interviewees
In an emergency, the elderly are particularly vulnerable. With less mobility, or vision and hearing impairments, the elderly are often unable to flee quickly in times of attack, and are unable to collect food, firewood or water, relying on others to survive. Many often face the trauma of isolation and the loss of the ability to earn an income.
On International Day of Older Persons (1 October), CARE Australia’s Tom Perry meets 70-something Mary Mbek Anger, for whom the past nine months have become a living nightmare.
By Tom Perry, CARE Australia Media Advisor
Mary Mbek Anger doesn’t know exactly how old she is. With no birth certificate, she can only guess. But she assumes she’s around 70, give or take a few years.
In 2007, Mary’s sight began to quickly deteriorate. She sought medical treatment from an eye specialist in Kenya, but was told that nothing could be done. Within a few months, her vision was gone, and she has relied on the support of her family for food and shelter ever since. Despite this, Mary says life was kind to her then.
‘Before this war, we had our own belongings, our own life,’ said Mary. ‘I was happy. My husband and children were able to help me get around. He was tending to the animals, we were cultivating a lot of crops and food.’
Yet on Christmas Eve last year, Mary’s life forever changed. War broke out in the South Sudanese capital Juba on 15 December, and quickly spread across the country. Within a few short days, much of South Sudan’s Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile states were being torn apart. By Christmas Eve (24 December), the violence had arrived in Mary’s home town of Panyang, in South Sudan’s far north.
‘Our hope is simply to survive. Without a home, without food, we can’t do anything.’
Mary and her family took refuge in their home, praying they would be safe. Yet within hours, soldiers arrived. They torched crops and homes and slaughtered animals by the hundreds. As Mary recalls: ‘It was all burned, burned to ash.’
Men were being rounded up and executed. Mary’s husband – despite his own age and frailty – tried to evacuate her and the family, gathering up the children and grandchildren and moving them, as best he could, to the nearby bush. Fatefully, he chose to return to the house to gather up some possessions such the all-important jerry can. On his return he was captured by soldiers, and was promptly shot dead, much to the horror of Mary and her family.
The family hid in the bushes until sunset, then began moving slowly through the bush, travelling only at night to avoid being spotted. Frail and unable to see, Mary relied on the voices of her distraught family to find her way.
‘I could just hear the sound of the little ones crying, and I was relying on them to guide me.’
After a two-day journey north moving slowly through the bush, Mary and her young nieces arrived in the refugee settlement of Yida, near the Sudanese border. After some weeks of sleeping in the open, they were given some space on the floor of a stranger who was kind enough to offer her and the children a place to stay.
Nine months on, and Mary is unable to move without help, and relies on her children and grandchildren, who spend much of their time begging, gathering firewood or hunting for edible plants to eat from the surrounding bush. She says life is near impossible, that without crops, livestock or even a home, they are depending on the kindness of others to survive.
‘I feel completely sad. This house is not mine. I’ve lost so many things, including my husband,’ explained Mary. ‘He was the one I relied on to help me now that I’m blind. He would help to bring me food, give me shelter.’
‘Now I have no source of income at all. Apart from the wild greens from the bush that I can eat. We’re just begging from people around here, from good samaritans, people who are helping us, day-to-day.’
CARE has provided Mary and her family with seeds, and the tools to cultivate them. They have begun to grow vegetables, including onions, tomatoes and eggplant in the hope of having enough to eat over the coming months, and potentially, some left over to sell at the nearby market.
While Mary says that while she and her family hope peace can come back to South Sudan, their thoughts are purely focused on basic needs to get them through each day.
‘Our hope is simply to survive. Without a home, without food, we can’t do anything. I just want to survive, to have shelter, to have food.’
An estimated 1.5 million South Sudanese have fled their homes since war broke out across the country in December, including more than 480,000 who have fled to neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The massive displacement, insecurity and conflict has the potential to lead to a severe hunger which is affecting up to 3.9 million people.
CARE is providing medical and sanitation support, supplementary feeding for malnourished children, seeds and other relief supplies to families across South Sudan’s hardest hit states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei.
On 16 September, the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a town predominantly populated with Kurdish people, came under siege. Since then, more than 150,000 refugees have flooded across the border into Turkey, joining around 850,000 registered Syrian refugees who have sought safety in Turkey since the beginning of the Syria crisis. CARE International UK’s Danielle Spencer was part of the CARE emergency assessment team on the ground.
by Danielle Spencer, Senior Humanitarian Advisor: Gender and Protection, CARE International UK
I can see the homes of Kobane from the camp. White houses glinting in the sunlight which look like I could reach out and touch them. The clouds of smoke which billowed from the city days before have stopped and the town looks peaceful now, from a distance. Women and men look over the Turkey/Syria border at their homes; a constant reminder of why they can’t go back. The sound of a nearby explosion echoes around us as the woman I am sitting with tells me about her life and the recent death of her two children.
A man overhears our conversation, comes over to us, and the conversation turns to politics, as it inevitably does here. The geopolitical issues we hear on the news are very real for the people here; they are living and breathing the headlines we see on a daily basis. The man’s eyes well up and before long he is telling me about his cousin who was killed brutally, tied to the back of a car and dragged around town as a warning to others.
Later, as I walk into a school, the searing heat of the Middle-Eastern sun hits me. Next comes the smell. The sour, acrid smell of people who have not been able to wash for days on end and of women who have resorted to washing their clothes in the toilet bowl to try and prevent infection. They wash their clothes in fear, and hesitate to use the toilet to relieve themselves, as they are afraid and embarrassed of using the latrine in front of the men who are using the bathroom to shave.
Men and boys reported feeling anxious that sexual violence could occur here against women and girls. There were no reports of this actually occurring, but given the brutality they have fled from at home, it is easy to understand why they are scared. They tell me, through tearful eyes, about their children being unable to sleep, of their young sons and daughters having nightmares about being kidnapped and torrid dreams that their mothers and sisters will be raped.
They fled their homes because of these fears, because they had a small taste of the violence to come. They told me stories of girls sold in markets in Kurdish parts of Iraq, of intimidation, and their fears that their sons will be kidnapped never to be seen again.
As one man told me: ‘We needed to escape before they slaughtered our girls before our eyes.’
Humanitarian agencies have a responsibility to respond to the complete inhumane misery endured by these besieged people. Women and girls have endured heinous acts of sexual violence, while men and boys have faced unbearable physical cruelty.
I was therefore heartened that the CARE emergency gender and protection assessment team worked alongside a number of other humanitarian agencies – because none of us can respond appropriately to this alone. I hope we can work together to ensure that the former residents of Kobane are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and receive the psychosocial support they desperately need after suffering some of the most stressful and traumatic experiences I have ever come across in my career in aid work.
CARE is currently assessing needs and coordinating with the Turkish authorities and other organisations to provide the newly arrived refugees with food, blankets and hygiene items. CARE has supported more than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
By Robert Glasser, CARE International’s Secretary General
The UN climate summit in New York is billed as the most important high-level event on climate change since heads of state met in Copenhagen in 2009, is generating widespread interest – and so it should. Climate change is the critical issue of our time.
The people we work with at CARE in many of the world’s poorest countries need no reminder about the scale and pace of global climate disruption now underway. From the daily reports of our emergency teams around the world, it has become increasingly clear to me that extreme and unpredictable weather events have now become the new norm.
Here’s a snapshot from the last three weeks. Cambodia: Floods and drought. India: Jammu and Kashmir floods. Philippines: Typhoon Luis. Nepal: Floods and landslides. Vietnam: Alert, typhoon Kalmeigi. Somalia: Drought and food insecurity. Philippines: alert, tropical storm Luis. Ethiopia: Drought and food insecurity. Kenya: Drought alert. Sri Lanka: Drought and food insecurity. Bangladesh: Floods alert. And the list goes on. The scale of destruction – and the individual stories – that lie behind each and every emergency are heart wrenching.
Unless governments act now, things will only get worse. According to last week’s report from the World Meteorological Organisation, greenhouse gas levels are rising at alarming rates, reaching record levels in 2013. Next month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will warn once again that the world is heading towards devastating global warming unless we slam the brakes on global emissions.
The good news is that on 23 September world leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to make the right choices for the poorest people on our planet, who are unjustly bearing the brunt of climate change impacts, and for current and future generations.
Although the summit is not aiming to deliver a joint outcome, such as a negotiated treaty, every world leader, particularly from the most powerful nations, can and must show they are serious about the urgency of the climate threat. With this in mind, here is a three-point plan we believe is essential to meet the challenge.
First, leaders have to agree to dramatically reduce and ultimately phase-out greenhouse gas emissions. That means agreeing to leave fossil fuels in the ground, rather than continuing to extract and burn them; finding new ways to scale up renewable energy well before 2020, working towards a net carbon-free economy based on renewables; and re-affirming global commitments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. To date, the world has only warmed by about 0.9 degrees since the Industrial Revolution. With a business as usual model, we’re at severe risk of shooting past 4 degrees by the end of this century. That would entail extreme warming with extreme consequences for us all, but particularly for poor communities.
Second, we want to see bold action to tackle current and future climate impacts. Governments must deliver more support to help people adapt to growing climate disruption in Nepal, in Bangladesh, in Cambodia, in Ethiopia, and right across countries and communities on the climate change front-line.
We also want to see all such adaptation measures delivered fairly – ensuring that they target the most vulnerable, many of whom are women and girls; that local communities are empowered to lead their own adaptation plans; and that all measures go hand in hand with securing gender equality and improved rights for the poorest.
Developed countries have contributed the bulk of the greenhouse gases that are driving climate change, so they must also help to foot the bill. The pledges made by leaders from developed countries must add up to the USD 15 billion needed by the Green Climate Fund to help pay for adaptation over the coming years as a minimum, first step.
Third, world leaders must send a clear signal that they will commit to a new and ambitious climate change treaty next year in Paris to set the world on a sustainable, rather than a reckless, path.
At CARE, we know that will not eradicate poverty unless we tackle climate change, so we will be listening and watching – as will the hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens who will take to the streets this weekend in Paris, New York, London, New Delhi, and beyond, and the hundreds of millions who are already living in crisis on the climate change front-lines. Let this be a moment of hope and inspiration for us all.
by Laura Hill, Communications Manager, CARE Australia
In a small, rural village in northern Ethiopia, Fikere and her husband Kasa would like to have three children – two boys and a girl. Late at night, after a hard day’s work on the farm, they talk about sending their kids to school and dream that they will finish university and get good jobs.
Yet there was a time not that long ago when discussions like this were a pipe dream for 18-year-old Fikere. Her husband used to be distant and bossy, and never listened to her views. She had resigned herself to doing what he said to avoid being hurt.
‘Life was miserable before. I had to do all the housework like collecting water, preparing food, looking after his [Kasa’s] parents and the coffee ceremony,’ says Fikere. ‘My high workload meant I was never able to visit my family or go to church or village ceremonies.’
Fikere married Kasa – her second husband – when she was 15. She married her first husband when she was 12 years old but he divorced her at age 14 because she didn’t want to have a baby.
‘I was happy to be rid of him,’ says Fikere of her first husband who was 15 years older than her. ‘I never wanted to marry him in the first place but it was arranged by my parents.’
Fikere’s story is echoed across all corners of the globe. Child marriage affects 14 million girls each year and is, without exception, the biggest challenge to girls’ development. The centuries-old practice perpetuates poverty by cutting short a girl’s education and livelihood opportunities, keeping her poor.
The reasons for child marriage are complex and varied; poverty, cultural norms, lack of education and concerns around girl’s security all play a part. This was the case for Fikere, who was viewed as an economic burden, and accepting a marriage proposal seemed like a good way to alleviate her parents’ financial stress and provide for her future.
But no one in her family understood that by forcing Fikere into premature adulthood, her early marriage and the responsibility of caring for a household would thwart her chance at education, endanger her health and cut short her personal growth and development.
All this took place before CARE’s TESFA project, which stands for Towards Improved Economic and Sexual Reproductive Health Outcomes for Adolescent Girls, and means hope in the local language, started in Fikere’s village.
Nowadays, she and her husband are benefiting from the project. Over a year ago, Fikere joined a support group with other married teenagers. The group meets weekly to learn about sexual and reproductive health, and how to save and invest money. They discuss topics from how to care for a newborn to how to communicate in a relationship.
‘Because I married at an early age I stopped going to school. This made me very sad, but through the TESFA project I am learning again, and my husband and I have agreed that I will return to school soon. My life was dark before, but now there is light,’ says Fikere.
This is a major breakthrough, given her previous relationship with Kasa. When asked what has changed, Fikere says, ‘Attending the peer group meetings gave me the confidence and skill to talk to Kasa about what I was learning and share my ideas for how we could earn more money and live a better life.’
‘While I was going to the peer-group classes and learning how to save and budget money, Kasa was attending village meetings about the TESFA project.’
‘After a few months I noticed that he started listening to me and asking questions, instead of telling me what to do. Then he started helping me with the housework. Now he looks after his parents so that I can visit my family, and he has even prepared the coffee ceremony for his friends so that I can practice reading.’
Fikere adds, ‘Before, I used to hide the contraceptive pill in my headscarf so he wouldn’t find out, but now he knows I am taking it and understands why. We want to have children, but not until I finish school.’
Kasa is proud of Fikere and says their married life is much happier since they both started taking part in the TESFA project.
‘I enjoy attending the village meetings and learning about the dangers of child marriage and other harmful practices like female cutting,’ says Kasa. ‘Before I thought contraceptives were a bad thing and dangerous, but now I know they give us choice.
‘I married Fikere because she was young, cute and her family had land, but now I love her because of her ideas and how she supports me to build a good life for our family,’ says Kasa.
by Aimee Ansari, Country Director, CARE International in South Sudan
In the shower in the Malakal UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, as I dodged a swarm of mosquitoes, I realise how deeply angry I am at the situation in South Sudan. I swat at the mosquitoes, taking my anger out on those that bite me in the shower and through my jeans, T-shirt, on top of my head at night. The previous day, I visited Wau Shilluk, a small village an hour’s boat ride from the state capital of Malakal. Since December, the population has doubled with the influx of displaced people seeking some form of safety.
My anger is nothing compared to how the women of Wau Shilluk feel. The women of Wau Shilluk asked me to carry a message to the leaders of the government and opposition in South Sudan: ‘Come to Wau Shilluk and explain yourselves,’ they told me. ‘Explain why the promises of independence three years ago have instead become civil war. Explain why the health clinic isn’t providing adequate services for women such as midwives, antenatal care, nutritional feeding.’ And, most awfully: ‘Explain why soldiers are raping and, if they resist, killing women.’
The women of Wau Shilluk just want their voice to be heard in the peace process; they think that if South Sudan’s leaders meeting at the negotiation table hear them and take the time to sit down and work through their differences, the conflict will end.
The women I met a day earlier in Malakal were just as clear about what they want. They’ve been living in the UN’s PoC site now for many months, and desperately want to leave. And who wouldn’t? The mud, the unsanitary conditions, the lack of privacy and the criminality have become a daily part of their lives. They just want to go home. But they can’t, because it’s too unsafe in town. They want the UN to do more to stop the criminality, to improve living conditions.
I ask the obvious: what would help you to feel like you can return home? They answer by telling me that the war has to stop; that until that happens, they won’t feel safe outside of the PoC site. The women tell me that the targeted killing of people, not for cattle or for wealth or material goods, but because they are their ‘enemies’ has undermined their confidence in the army. They no longer trust anyone with a gun or, indeed, anyone who purports to be a leader.
The women in Wau Shilluk and those in the PoC in Malakal are consistent in their call for genuine leadership in bringing peace and re-establishing law and order. Rachel, a strongly spoken woman who lost her husband in the conflict and recently participated in a CARE-run gender-based violence awareness program, said that peace and law and order are the most important things to her.
‘The leaders have to look into their hearts and ask for forgiveness for the things they’ve done and then make peace with each other and the people,’ Rachel says. ‘It is up to the leaders to make it happen.’ But the tone of her voice tells me that she’s clearly very cynical about it actually happening.
Sadly, many South Sudanese don’t think the conflict will end soon. While the women suffer and push to be heard to stop the craziness of violence against them and their children, their leaders sit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at a cost of about $500,000 per month, accomplishing very little. Even if they do agree, the myriad of armed groups in the country have to agree, too. The amount of violence, killing and suffering that the people of South Sudan have been through means that reconciliation, necessary to re-establish trust in the leaders, may take years to achieve.
Before this conflict started in December, there was no inspiring and unifying vision of what South Sudan could be. The hope and optimism that came with independence is gone. Instead, there is now fear, mistrust and disillusionment between the people of South Sudan. An amazing opportunity has been squandered. It may take years to re-build a sense of unity.
My right big toe has three mosquito bites and is swollen to the size of a small banana and my left ankle has at least seven bites, which makes it look like I’ve contracted some strange disease. But the women I’ve spoken to are so fired up that I am also now angry. I will take their messages back to the capital, to the governments in the region, to the governments that support South Sudan financially and advocate for and alongside these women. And hopefully, when this civil war is over, I’ll have time to worry about the mosquito bites.
CARE is providing food, water and health support to women and girls affected by the crisis in South Sudan, targeting some of the worst affected in three of South Sudan’s hardest-hit states, Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. CARE is identifying women and girls in need of healthcare and other services, and ensuring that they can access them in as safe and dignified a manner as possible.
CARE is also conducting anti-gender-based violence campaigns throughout the country, meeting with groups of people – men, women and youths – in churches, schools and water distribution points to facilitate knowledge sharing and open dialogue about gender-based violence, to reduce the silence on this issue.
CARE’s recent report, The Girl Has No Rights: Gender-based Violence in South Sudan, reveals that more women and girls are engaging in sex in exchange for food or water for their families; parents are marrying their daughters early for a bride price and to reduce the number of mouths to feed; and rape and sexual assault have become a weapon of war.
More than 13,000 people are currently living in Azraq camp, including around 4,500 Syrian refugees between 6 and 17 years old. On 7 September, classes at the new school in Azraq camp were officially started and are run over two shifts: girls are going to school from 8-12 o’clock; boys from 12-4 o’clock.
As a lot of the children have not been to school for more than 3 years, many of them are first enrolling in informal schools that help them to prepare to join the formal education system again. The Jordanian teachers in Azraq are assisted by Syrian teachers, who are refugees themselves and live in the camp.
by Tom Perry, CARE International’s Media & Communications Officer in South Sudan
‘What did you think?’ I’m asked by Isaac Ibrahim, a CARE-employed nurse, as our truck pulls away from his workplace, Pariang Hospital.
‘Umm… it’s hard. Very hard. You’re obviously all under a lot of pressure,’ I respond, weakly.
Isaac’s simple question has thrown me. I feel like any response will be woefully inadequate to the pressure, frustrations and challenges that Isaac and the 25 other staff at Pariang Hospital, in the far north of South Sudan, are dealing with every single day.
The hospital, in South Sudan’s Unity State, an area home to thousands of refugees from Sudan, is meant to support around 80,000 people from 100 kilometres in each direction. Syringes, equipment and medicines, including antibiotics and anti-malarial medicines, are in short supply. With roads impassable, hospitals like this rely on infrequent and expensive air deliveries for the necessities. Staff are clearly exhausted.
As our truck rolls along the long, straight dusty road back to Yida, where CARE’s operations in this part of Unity State are based, I begin to feel ashamed by my inadequate response. I distract myself by rifling through some notes from the visit. Isaac looks on with youthful interest. I show him some of the photos I’ve just taken, including one I took of him.
I ask Isaac how old he is. He tells me he is 40, but he certainly doesn’t look it. I tell him this, thinking that a change of mood might help, adding that most people think I’m yet to celebrate my 21st birthday, despite being 32. He smiles.
But then he points out a small figure in the background of one of my photos.
‘What did you think of the little girl? About what was happening with her?’
The brief moment of shared youthfulness between us is over, because even without looking at the photo, I know the girl he’s talking about. No more than four or five years old, she was the first person my eyes were drawn to when we arrived at the hospital, sitting quietly on the waiting chair outside the clinic next to her father, a local policeman who had the same exhausted look of so many people here. The little girl was clearly very, very sick.
‘Does she have malaria?’ I ask Isaac.
‘Yes. But it’s more than that,’ he replies. ‘Even for a little girl like her, whose father has a paying job, there isn’t enough food for families to eat.’
‘We’re seeing many children like her. Some have malaria, many have diarrhoea from the malnutrition. Some are so badly malnourished that we have to send them straight to the emergency feeding centres. It’s very common now.’
I ask Isaac about the ‘now’. Since December last year, this country – just three years into its life – has been racked by violence, fear and hunger. And even before the outbreak of violence, South Sudan was one of the poorest countries in the world.
‘Before the war, things were better,’ Isaac tells me. ‘But once this war happened, people have just run away from their homes out of fear. They’ve lost their properties, they are living in very bad situations in the bush or in camps. There’s no healthy food like they used to eat.’
He tells me many sick and injured people were facing frightening journeys just to get to hospitals like Pariang.
‘Patients are coming in from far, far distances away – they’re just coming on foot, having walked for days. Or they’re arriving with transport like donkeys, or four people will be carrying a patient in on foot.’
He pauses and looks down at his hands. Isaac’s clearly seen a lot worse than people coming in exhausted.
‘There is still fear. Fear is still there, even though there is talk of peace agreements. There is no real signs of peace.’
I hope, for people like Isaac, and the hundreds of people he and the staff at Pariang Hospital support each week, that the peace comes soon.
Conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. Since then, 1.5 million people have fled their homes, leaving everything behind and without being able to plant their crops. The massive displacement, insecurity and conflict could lead to a famine affecting up to 3.9 million people. There are already 675,000 moderately and 235,000 acutely malnourished children in South Sudan who could die without any support.
CARE works tirelessly to provide medical support, supplementary feeding for malnourished children, sanitary services, seeds and other relief supplies.
By CARE’s Tom Perry
When I arrived in the South Sudanese capital Juba a few weeks ago, the yelling, pushing, papers, queues and uncertainty were overwhelming, but they were expected. I knew I was flying in to the heart of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. I knew that it would be difficult. But what’s struck me so far is not the difficulties or challenges, but the all-consuming feeling that time is ticking.
Before I departed, many had talked of ‘Africa time’; that time exists differently (well, slower) in this part of the world. If first impressions are anything to go by, large parts of Juba – certainly my CARE colleagues, and others that are working to support the international relief effort here – are running on the sort of time that those working against the clock exist on, where the outcome you’re working to avoid is so devastating that you do everything you can to escape it.
I’m used to fast-paced workplaces, where everyone wants everything an hour ago, where task lists never get shorter and staff are permanently stressed. But not like this. There’s stress, yes, but there’s a sense that any stress is secondary to the critical nature of the work. That every minute, hour and day that goes by is a minute, hour or day lost fighting an extraordinary battle. A battle where well over 10,000 men, women and children have already died, where around 3.5 million people are now facing urgent food shortages. A battle where hunger, malnutrition, physical and mental pain is the norm.
Despite the stress, there’s a unified energy in the CARE office here. United by the fact that this is critical, life-saving work. We’re working extensively across all three of the conflict-hit states, Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. We’re working inside the UN’s Protection of Civilian camps – home to around 100,000 people across the country. We’re working outside the camps; where one million of those who’ve fled elsewhere – to the bush, to the fields and on the hard dirt floors of distant relatives and complete strangers – still live. And we’re delivering desperately needed food, supplies and medical and psychological support to people who have lived through horrific things and left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
I know many of my CARE colleagues have seen and experienced some awful things. They’re tired, exhausted from the sheer scale of the challenge. Most have been living away from their families for many, many months. Some have even lost loved ones in unspeakably awful attacks. Yet they keep going.
And so any complaints or whinges from me about being overwhelmed; they’re stupid and unreasonable. Because I can eat, and I’m safe. Millions of others around me in South Sudan, who’ve got the same goals in life as I do – a good life, a healthy family – can’t eat, and aren’t safe.
We owe it to them to do something about it. Donate to CARE’s South Sudan appeal now.
Conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. Since then, 1.5 million people have fled their homes, leaving everything behind and without being able to plant their crops. The massive displacement, insecurity and conflict could lead to a famine affecting up to 3.9 million people. There are already 675,000 moderately and 235,000 acutely malnourished children in South Sudan who could die without any support.
CARE works tirelessly to provide medical support, supplementary feeding for malnourished children, sanitary services, seeds and other relief supplies.
by Laura Hill, Communications Manager, CARE Australia
After becoming a child bride at just 12 years of age, Eleni* was forced to leave school and her family. When she joined a group supported by CARE for child-brides, she decided to approach her parents for support to get a divorce and return to school. She’s now studying to become a nurse, and her family are vocal opponents of child marriage.
Twelve-year-old 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 like 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 was scared and angry because no one told me I was going to be married or that I would be leaving my family behind for another village,’ says Eleni.
‘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 in Ethiopia, where two in every five girls are married before their 18th birthday and nearly one in five girls are 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.
In the case of Eleni, her parent’s decision to marry their daughter to a man five years older than her was for financial reasons.
‘I am the youngest in my family, and my parents were getting older and finding it difficult to raise enough money to pay for school,’ says Eleni. ‘They wanted someone to look after me and thought my life would be better if I had a husband. They had arranged my siblings’ marriages and didn’t think to question how early marriage would affect my life.’
Eleni says her husband and his family treated her well, but married-life at age twelve wasn’t for her.
‘I missed my family; I was tired all the time from doing a lot of housework and I wanted to go back to school.
‘I was worried about getting pregnant so I secretly went to the health clinic to get contraceptives. When my husband found out he was very mad and I knew I couldn’t do it [be married] anymore.’
Fortunately, Eleni had recently joined a support group for married girls run by CARE. The twice a month meetings run by a trained peer group leader gave her the chance to learn about sexual and reproductive health, how to save and invest money, lessons on how to care for a newborn, and how to communicate in a relationship. Another benefit is the opportunity for Eleni to meet and talk about 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 ever-married (married, divorced and widowed) girls aged 14 to 19. In addition to the support groups, other program activities include a weekly radio program on child marriage, large community meetings, and recruiting and training members of the community such as parents, religious leaders, health workers and teachers on the dangers of early marriage and how they can help prevent it from happening in their village.
With the improved communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills 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.
Her mother Asmarech recalls the moment Eleni told her parents she wanted to get a divorce.
‘At the beginning it was very difficult for us to understand why she wanted a divorce, but after a long discussion we accepted her wish and permitted her to tell her husband,’ says Asmarech.
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 14-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.
As well as going to school, Eleni still attends the TESFA support group meetings and is saving money through a village savings and loan program to help fund her dream of becoming a nurse.
‘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.
You can save more girls like Eleni from the dangers of early marriage – donate to CARE’s Child Marriage Appeal
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
World Humanitarian Day – 19 August 2014
World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognise people who face danger and adversity in order to help others. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.
For CARE staff, working as a humanitarian professional is more than just a job. It’s a mission. Helping refugees become empowered, transforming lives and evoking smiles on the faces of children through our poverty-fighting work are some of the recurring themes that motivate our staff.
However rewarding, being a humanitarian is extremely challenging. Many staff live in harsh conditions – they work in refugee camps or in areas destroyed by natural disasters – leaving loved-ones behind. They witness people’s suffering, listen to traumatic stories and empathise with the people they assist.
Yet compassion, initiative, empathy, optimism, equality and selflessness are some of the words CARE staff use to describe what humanitarianism means to them.
This World Humanitarian Day, we thank the staff featured below and all the humanitarians who have worked for CARE; for helping lift women and their communities out of poverty.
Haifa Abu Amro, Communications Assistant with CARE in Gaza, tells of the violence she – and so many others – are living through.
We were still in our house when the building next to us was hit by a missile in the first days of the war. Windows were blown out, everything fell down around us, children were screaming, but luckily nobody was injured.
When we got out on the street, it was full of broken glass and pieces of concrete on the ground. The air was full of dust, the sky was dark red. All we could see were people running everywhere. The smell was very bad from the fires. There were no more sounds from people, no one was screaming, just running – most were just in their sleeping wear. All we could hear was the noise of buildings falling down. I thought it was the end.
We ran as fast as we could to a relatives’ house, which we thought would be safer. In the morning we left for my parents’ house, but after three days that area was hit as well. Now we are 16 people living at the CARE office.
We volunteered to distribute hygiene kits and canned food that were provided by an aid organisation in the neighbourhood. Everybody is working together now to provide aid as quickly as possible.
In one house we went into, there were 50 to 60 people in each room. They had no food, nothing to sit or sleep on. I think that in most houses now, there are up to 30 families, each with five to six members, huddled together.
People are breaking into office buildings to find a place to sleep. They are women and children, so they cannot sleep in the street. Most of these people, when they return home, they will find nothing. Their houses have been destroyed.
People get news from the radio and SMS. We charge our mobile phones with car batteries. Word spreads quickly of developments. We know that there is a ceasefire now for three days, but people are not optimistic. This disaster will not be over, even if the war ends.
Working in South Sudan holds many challenges for staff to deliver life-saving assistance. A few of them are explained below.
Delivering aid in South Sudan is a challenging endeavour – the country has very few paved roads and supplies can only be transported by air or boat. During the rainy seasons, many mud paths become impassable, cars are stuck and walking is often the only way to move.
Transport by air
Insecurity hampers the delivery of aid supplies by boat, and air lifting goods is often the only safe transportation method. During the rainy season, air strips become flooded and helicopters are the only machines that can land in the mud. Yet the delivery by air is expensive and is restricted in terms of space.
Throughout the remote areas of South Sudan, electricity is delivered by generator, which requires fuel and maintenance. Often, CARE staff have to work in the dark if the generator is not working properly.
Lack of space in crowded camps
Tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting and sought shelter in the United Nations (UN) Protection of Civilan Areas, which are located at the UN compounds. Most aid organisations are working from these compounds to ensure safety for staff and to be close to the displaced people. However, none of the UN compounds were ever designed to hold so many displaced people or aid organisation’s staff.
The fighting has put staff at risk and many had to be evacuated from insecure places at the beginning of the conflict. CARE offices have been looted, cars stolen and destroyed. In addition, insecure travel conditions, diseases and the harsh weather conditions put staff’s well-being at risk.
Lack of funds and equipment
Aid organisations such as CARE lack enough funds to avert a famine – and they lack money to buy the proper equipment. For example, most of the health centres CARE supports across South Sudan lack proper medical equipment, staff and resources.
In Cambodia, CARE is helping children from remote ethnic groups go to school and learn in their native language for the first time. The project’s incredible success has seen it adopted by the Cambodian Government, and replicated in state schools across the country’s north-east.
Khmer – Cambodia’s national language – is the only language of instruction in public schools, but few of the ethnic groups in the north-east provinces speak or understand it. Without an education or understanding of the national language, these communities have struggled to find employment, sell their produce for fair prices at markets and were vulnerable to exploitation.
How things have changed…
Bilingual education opening poverty-fighting opportunities
Students in CARE’s bilingual schools start learning in their native language, with Khmer phased in so they can eventually attend state secondary schools, which teach exclusively in Khmer.
Before this project began in 2002, there were no schools in many remote ethnic minority communities in Cambodia and most indigenous groups did not speak Khmer. This fact is even more staggering when you consider that minority groups in Ratanakiri province make up the majority of the population – over 50 per cent of the province belongs to one of six distinct indigenous communities, each with their own language.
Local teachers, passionate role models
Today, students are being taught by local teachers who had little education themselves, but were selected by village elders as caring and hard working members of the community to be trained as teachers by CARE. Now, these teachers can read. They can write. They can teach. And they are passionate role models to the children that sit in front of them each day.
Keeping children in school
For around four months of every year, Ratanakiri experiences extreme food shortages. When this happens, it’s hard for a hungry family to prioritise education. Mothers, fathers and children – particularly girls – all work together to collect as much food as they can from the surrounding forest, sometimes walking for hours each day with young children in tow to help.
After seeing the impact a lack of food has on school attendance, CARE incorporated an agricultural component to its education program. Now, home gardens produce vegetables year-round, removing the need for long hours spent walking to the forest.
Learning beyond primary school
As well as building new schools, training local teachers in bilingual education and developing relevant curriculum, CARE has also built boarding houses at several state secondary schools. Scholarships are provided to students from remote villages so they can continue learning beyond primary school.
The project is giving these students access to a world of opportunity by unlocking Khmer, a language that will allow them to access their rights – not just as a minority group – but as citizens of Cambodia.
Model adopted by Cambodian Government
The program has been so successful that the Cambodian Government recently adopted a bilingual education policy based on CARE’s project. With the model part of Cambodia’s formal education system, more than 40 state schools across the north-east of Cambodia now support bilingual education.
In South Sudan, a country crippled by violence and on the brink of famine, millions have been forced to flee their homes. Families sheltering in the UN compound outside Bentiu face horrific conditions as heavy rains cause widespread flooding.
by Barbara Jackson, Humanitarian Director, CARE International
Peter Bothi is a storekeeper with the CARE South Sudan team in Bentiu. He is in charge of maintaining the inventory records of the stocks from the medical clinic and office that were once in Bentiu town. Soldiers currently occupy Bentiu and earlier this year, several CARE vehicles were stolen and the offices looted.
Now, Peter works out of the UN compound outside Bentiu town where anywhere between 35,000 and 45,000 people currently live in desperate conditions. Why? Because it is only here that they feel somewhat safe and protected from the continuing violence between the government, the opposition and different factions wearing uniforms of various sorts and carrying many arms.
Peter tells of the day in March when he loaded a CARE vehicle with the office safe, files, medical supplies, and assorted stocks to flee to the UN compound. As he shares his story with me, his face remains emotionless while his words stream from his mouth as he describes being surrounded by armed men and boys in the CARE compound in Bentiu town. Suddenly, a young boy wearing fatigues and waving an AK-47 orders him to be shot. Peter says he wove his way into the group so that he would be surrounded by them as human shields, and that in the confusion as shots rang in the air the group continued on their way without having killed him.
I ask Peter about his family, his wife and children.
‘I called them on the cell phone as we still had cell phone coverage at that time and told them to run through the bush now with the children and reach the UN compound where they will be safe. I didn’t see them for many hours but when I finally arrived at the UN compound where hundreds of people were pouring into the gates, I heard my name being called and saw a neighbour who told me that my wife and children are safe.’
Peter, his wife and four children are now living in a cramped homemade shelter with plastic sheeting. They have two jerry cans to collect fresh water from a common borehole and share a toilet with at least 200 other people.
The rains are heavy at this time of year in South Sudan and water streams through the walkways between the tents and makeshift shelters, spreading refuse including human waste into open drainage canals. Children swim in the fetid water as they have literally nowhere else to play. The living conditions are horrific but Peter says that he at least has food and basic health care for his family, and that they are safe.
He keeps repeating: ‘We are safe for now but we do not know when this will end. Without CARE and other international agencies’ support, we would not be alive today.’
The outbreak of cholera is an imminent threat here as there have been many cases in other UN compounds where CARE and others have been working tirelessly to help prevent any further disease outbreaks. With the threat of a looming famine given the extremely high levels of malnutrition being reported by aid agencies and with the heavy rains continuing through at least October, the situation is not optimistic.
‘We need the rest of the world to support us at this time; we’ve lived through many years of war and we had hoped that we would have peace and that our children would have a better chance for the future.’
I bid goodbye to Peter to board a plane that he cannot take; I leave him and his family and many thousand others to confront months ahead of uncertainty, violence, and the threat of disease and hunger. We all must do more now to prevent the effects of a crisis that is not of these people’s making. Peter’s courage and endurance is reflected in many thousands of people across South Sudan; he and his family should not suffer more.
I am very proud of CARE’s work in Bentiu, but it is not enough. We need to do so much more – it is our obligation, our commitment, and it is the right of the people of South Sudan to receive our and other support at this critical time.
By Mahmoud Shabeeb, Regional Communications Officer for the Syria Crisis
Tomorrow, Muslims around the world will celebrate their most important religious holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, an entire month of fasting from dawn until sunset.
This Ramadan has been one of the hottest and longest that I remember. People are fasting up to 16 hours a day. It is hot in Jordan right now, but our daily routine continues. I wake every morning and go to work, thinking about how difficult it will be to sit at my desk without my daily dose of caffeine, not being able to drink water when I feel thirsty, or eat during my lunch break. However, at the end of the day I can go home to my family, keep myself busy until sunset, and look forward to a home-cooked meal to break my fast.
Many of the three million Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and other countries throughout the region used to have similar routines and thoughts about Ramadan. Now they have to endure long fasting hours with many questions to think about: What will we eat after sunset? Where will our family break their fast? And with Eid in just a few days, what will our children wear? How can we celebrate this feast when there is little to celebrate? How can we greet our relatives and friends if we cannot reach out to them, and what about those who have died?
Nadir, a Syrian musician who used to run a music school in Daraa before fleeing to Jordan, told me: “I used to buy gifts for my children every Eid; I would even buy them musical instruments that we would play together. Now Eid is coming and I can’t even afford to buy them clothes. I can go around and knock on the doors of charities and organisations asking for help, but that is not something I’m used to doing.”
CARE provides emergency cash assistance for Syrian refugees to pay for their most pressing needs, such as food, clothing and rent. But there is only so much that CARE Australia and other aid organisations can do. There are now nearly three million refugees who have fled Syria for neighbouring countries and more than nine million people inside Syria who are in urgent need of help. CARE has secured less than 25 per cent of the anticipated $200 million funding that we minimally need for our response. At the same time the Syria crisis is ongoing and a political solution has not been found yet.
This is the fourth Eid al-Fitr since the crisis started in 2011. Like every Eid for the past four years, the biggest wish of the Syrian people is for the crisis in their homeland to come to an end. If you ask any Syrian refugee about their wishes for Eid, their answer will be similar to what Nadir replied when I asked him: “All that I wish for is to return home, celebrate Eid with my family, and be able to buy gifts for my children. I am looking forward to celebrating Eid, but my wishes are different from any other year. This year my wish is that all Syrian refugees will be able to celebrate the next Eid al-Fitr in peace at home. Until then, I hope that people celebrating Eid around the world do not forget us.”
Mahmoud Shabeeb is CARE’s Regional Communications Officer for the Syria Crisis and is based in Amman, Jordan
Judith used to face extreme hunger and her daughter was showing signs of malnutrition. Since receiving seeds, tools and training from CARE, she is now leader of a farmers’ group and her family is able to eat three meals a day.
In Timor-Leste, Judith and her family used to face extreme hunger. Her three-year-old daughter Melia* was showing signs of malnutrition – yellowing hair, dull eyes and dizziness. Judith was only able to provide two meals a day for her family, despite spending long days working in the field with her husband.
Our team visited Judith recently, and thanks to the support of our donors we have a very different story to report. Now, Judith is the leader of a farmers’ group and has received maize and vegetable seeds, training and storage drums.
‘I use the maize to feed my family,’ says Judith.
‘I feel happy as in the past the crops were not very good but now, because of the project, the crops are bringing good results and yields have increased. I’m happy as in the past I used to have to buy vegetables for my family but now I have my own.
‘We now cook three meals a day; we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.’
Judith and her farmers’ group members sell their excess crops and share the profit.
‘I try to save the money I make from the vegetables so I can pay school fees, buy shoes, books and pens.’
Most importantly, Melia’s health is now improving.
‘I’m happy that my children are now more healthy,’ Judith says with a smile on her face. ‘They are fatter and are not getting sick as much.’
by Saaed Al Madhoun, Program Officer, CARE International West Bank and Gaza
My boy is only three years old. He feels stressed and depressed and last night after hearing the explosions he said to my wife, ‘I feel that I will die.’
He is only three years old. It makes us so sad. It was such a terrible surprise to hear him say this, we feel very bad. He says he is feeling sick because of the noise of the explosions. He is crying at night and cannot sleep, so my wife and I try to massage him to calm him down.
My wife is very afraid for the children. She is able to feed my five-month-old baby but it is stressful. We feel that there is no safe place; any movement outside and you could be targeted. If I go to my brother’s house, are we any safer there?
The water gets cut off when there is no electricity. I’m trying to keep reserves of water, we need to be able to sterilise things for the baby when we can.
I left the home to do some shopping during the ceasefire, to get some basics for my kids. We have just a short period of time before it starts again. It was very crowded in the streets because of the limited time. The prices were normal but there was not very much available.
I also went to check on the CARE office to see that it was OK. I want to go back to work to help support all of the vulnerable people, I am more than happy to do this but it is difficult because we cannot move without being targeted.
If this situation continues like now it will be a real crisis. We don’t know when it will finish. I am really hoping for a long-term ceasefire and that it will calm down.
It’s hard for my family, for my friends and colleagues, for all Gazans to live in this crisis. We just hope it will end soon. In six years there have been three wars. It’s difficult for all of us, but especially the children.
I ask the world, and all of the humanitarian community to try to make a ceasefire that will last for years not hours. We ask that the violence stops. We cannot continue living in this situation, but we also cannot leave Gaza.
We ask the world to make it stop and do their best for the people of Gaza. It is enough now.
by Lyrian Fleming-Parsley, CARE Australia
When my colleagues first met Edda in rural Malawi in 2012, her situation was dire. She and the four grandchildren she cares for had been sleeping in a neighbour’s kitchen for a month because their home collapsed.
‘When the house began falling down around us I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to,’ explained Edda.
Edda is a subsistence farmer, which means she grows most of the food her family eats. She grows maize, cotton and peanuts, but without fertiliser she couldn’t grow enough food to feed her family.
‘Life is hard for me and the grandchildren,’ she told us. ‘I try to do the best for my family, but it’s impossible for me to provide food all year round.’
To raise the $50 needed to repair her home, she spent months working in other people’s fields instead of tending to her own small farm.
She said: ‘I feel angry and upset that this has happened to me. I don’t really want to start over, but I have no choice. I’m ashamed that I don’t have a safe, warm house for my family.’
Sadly, Edda’s situation is common in Malawi, where rural poverty is high, food insecurity is widespread and women lack social and economic support.
‘I fear hunger,’ she told us. ‘Many households in this village find it difficult to grow enough food and every year we manage to get through the lean season [the period between food running out and the next harvest], but I worry what next year will bring. I am tired of living miserably and I dream of a better life – one where we have a good house, enough food and the children go to school.’
It was around this time in 2012 that CARE began working with Edda and her community to support women who struggle to provide food all year round.
‘CARE’s arrival in our village couldn’t have come at a better time. My children are hungry and sick and I had almost given-up on farming because very little grows from the land anymore, but the winds of change have arrived and now I have hope again.’
A lot has grown from that hope in two years…
I travelled to Malawi in January, and the Edda I spoke to was strong and tenacious. She has been saving money regularly through a Village Savings and Loans group CARE established, and with the money saved so far, she has bought rabbits, a pig, pigeons and chickens to breed and sell.
‘My animals are an investment so when they grow up and I need something for the house, I can sell them,’ says Edda proudly.
She has also learnt small business skills through the project, and put them to good use selling local snack food in her village.
‘I have been trained in business, how to set it up, and how to run the business. This has helped my business, has helped me buy some things like maize and meat,’ she explains.
The best news is that the family is eating more now. It is the lean season again, a period when her family used to suffer with just one meal per day. Yet Edda’s farm is doing better than ever, now that she is applying her new farming skills. Now, the family are eating two meals of maize porridge with vegetable leaves a day instead of one. Sometimes, they are able to add kidney beans to their meal too.
The change in Edda’s life is significant. In just two years, her children are eating more food more often, and are not as susceptible to grave risks of hunger. Edda is also able to use the
profits from her small business activities and the money she saves through the Village Savings and Loans Group to provide the things her grandchildren need to go to school, including uniforms, school books and soap.
With more food on the table, more opportunities to earn an income and support her family, and with her newly learned skills in savings, spending and small business, Edda is in a better position than ever before to escape the cycle of extreme poverty and hunger.
Now, Edda looks to the future with excitement instead of worry.
‘I expect to get bumper yields [of maize] this year compared to last year… This year I plan to save 10-15,000 kwacha ($30-40) and will spend the money on fertiliser and food,’ Edda says of her plans.
Thanks to CARE’s supporters, around 15,000 people like Edda, across two districts in Malawi are being supported through this project. They are receiving training in reading and writing, financial literacy, saving and budgeting, modern farming techniques, crop management and nutrition in order to overcome hunger, improve their family’s health and deliver previously unimaginable opportunities.
Thank you for making this change possible, for Edda, and millions of people like her around the world.
Ingrid Hurtubise and her family received a CARE package after WWII. ‘I was young, maybe 5 years old, but I remember there was butter in this magical package’
I was 4 years old when the Second World War ended. My family lived on Sylt, a German island in the North Sea where my father’s cousin had a farm. Life after the war was hard. There was little work, hardly any food to buy, no coal and little wood to heat the two-room former ammunition depot that had become our home in Sylt. We ate herring and had black bread. Once my father brought home a barrel of oranges he found floating in the sea. They were salty from the sea water, but we ate them anyway.
It was around this time that a parcel arrived at our home. It was a CARE Package, one of 100 million similar packages of food and other vital supplies donated by Americans to people in need around the world, starting with Europeans devastated by the war. I was young, maybe 5 years old, but I remember there was butter in this magical package from an organization called CARE and a green translucent toothbrush for my sister, which she cherished for years. We loved it. There was also cornbread, which my sister and I had never had before and didn’t like the taste. Even hungry kids can be unreasonably picky when they encounter unfamiliar foods.
I was only a small child. I didn’t understand the war or its causes, but my mother explained to us just how special it was that strangers from a country against which our country had just fought a war were making such a kind gesture. And I didn’t need my mother to explain to me how nice it felt to receive something when you have almost nothing.
My life is very different today. I live comfortably in Atlanta (which, as fate would have it, is now the headquarters for CARE). I’m a business owner, a mother and a grandmother. And thanks to a recipe I got from a Georgia-born friend, I even love cornbread. But part of me is still that little girl whose heart was touched by the generosity and kindness of a far-away stranger; someone who saw beyond nationality and global politics to extend a hand to a family in need.
I know that today there are girls much like me around the world who, because of circumstances beyond their control, live in squalor. Some have fled fighting in places such as Syria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, finding temporary homes wherever they can. Perhaps those girls, decades from now, also will be able to look back fondly at people in a far-away place called America who reached as deeply into their pockets as they could to help them in their time of need.
Father of five Mostafa Kahlout is a CARE Economic Empowerment Program coordinator in Gaza. His role involves helping more than 8,000 vulnerable households in Gaza to access food and earn an income, mostly through small scale farming. Mostafa and his family live in Gaza, and have barely left the house since the Israeli military operation began last week.
We are surrounded by bombs and explosions. Our nights have become days and our days have become nights, as we can hardly sleep more than an hour or so without the explosions. We just stay in the house and keep watching what is happening outside, watching the black smoke in the sky when the houses nearby are hit.
It is really a sad and terrible situation for all of the people of Gaza, including my own family. My kids are suffering a lot. I have two boys and three girls aged from 7 to 21-years-old.
In front of my kids and family, I act like I am not scared, so they don’t feel so stressed and depressed, but of course I am very worried and afraid. I am scared for the life of my kids and wife, relatives, and our home.
My daughters are already traumatised from the previous military operations on Gaza. Even before the bombs fall they would shiver and come close to their mother or me whenever they hear a plane.
My youngest daughter is nearly eight, she’s only small and she just keeps looking at the ceiling and asking ‘why are they trying to kill us?’
I say to her: ‘No one is going to kill us; it will all be over soon,’ trying to calm her down. But I don’t know when it will be over.
My boys put their hands to their ears to block out the noise and sit close with us. You wouldn’t believe the sound, the noise is very terrible.
I have only left the house a few times to get food from the market. The kids might go to the close neighbours’ houses but they rush back every time they hear the planes.
All the wars have been terrible, but the bombing, the shooting, the missiles, the shelling into houses this time, is just too much. It’s everywhere. Everyone feels targeted. I am part of a big family in Gaza, and we have heard that a relative has been killed. I have lost friends and my daughter’s friend is in hospital, injured.
My children have lived through three wars in six years. I want them to live and sleep in peace without worry or trauma. They want a childhood. They deserve a childhood.
It feels quite hopeless in Gaza even without war – unemployment is so high, Israeli siege and closures, there is no stability, just violence. It’s a very difficult life indeed.
This is the worst Holy month (Ramadan) we have ever known. We are fasting, and worried and scared and we don’t know if we will find food to break the fast. And even when we do go to break the fast there might be bombing and shelling so we hide. If there is electricity we watch TV for updates, instead of celebrating the time together as a family like we usually would. When we get up early in the morning to prepare for the fast, again we hear the shelling and it is very hard.
Right now it is difficult for CARE, we cannot reach people to support them because we cannot move. Any moving car in the street could be targeted. My main concern is a shortage of food and medicine. There are so many casualties, injuries, destruction of lands and houses, and even before the war started, supplies were low due to the blockade. Now I worry that they will run out completely.
When this finishes we will have so many people to help. Our priority will be those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Even small funds will help make a difference to them.
The people in Gaza feel isolated, there does not seem to be strong support from other countries to push for a ceasefire but as long as there is war it is civilians who will pay the price.
Right now it feels like our destiny is unknown, particularly with the Israeli closures and movement restriction imposed on Gaza since 2007. We don’t understand what will happen next, it is out of our hands. But hope never dies. We will always have hope. We want to live in peace.
Blog by Simon Chol Mialith, CARE South Sudan, Peace Building and Conflict Mitigation Coordinator
‘I come from Panriang County of Unity State in South Sudan, an area that is rich of oil and where, in fact, about 50 percent of our oil reserves get explored. In 1987, when I was in my early teenage years, I joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLM/A). At that time, a lot of innocent Sudanese civilians particularly from Southern Sudan suffered from years of attacks on their villages, bombings and fighting. I grew up in a country that had already experienced two decades of war – conflict was all I knew. I wanted to join the liberation struggle for South Sudan; I could not stand the violence anymore and hoped that one day I could live in a free and peaceful country. I became a child soldier.
Me, and a lot of other children of the same age walked from the south of Sudan to Ethiopia, where the SPLM/A base was. We walked for three months. I then spent five years in Ethiopia and after the fall of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former President of Ethiopia in 1991, we flew back to South Sudan. At this point, I also realized that fighting would not help my country and left the SPLA and seek education opportunities. Making things worse, our return coincided with the split of the SPLA into two groups. These were the most destructive moments in the history of the South Sudanese struggle for freedom, when both parts of the liberation movement turned against each other. This split divided two of the main tribes in South Sudan, the Dinka and the Nuer. Both started fighting against each other and that divide lasts until today. It is one of the reasons why it continues to be so difficult to bring a stable peace to our country.
However, that time also proved a turning point in my life. I got an opportunity to go to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in North Western Kenya, where I could attend school for the first time in my life. It was very tough: the area was dusty and very hot, I had little food to eat and I had neither parents nor relatives to provide moral and material support to me. I came to Kenya with many other child soldiers. We became known as the “Lost Boys”.
However, suffering was nothing new to me. I have seen and experienced it before, so I stayed strong. Finishing my education was my only wish. Why? Because I wanted to contribute to building my nation one day; I was waiting for the day when peace would finally come to South Sudan. That was my motivation. At that time, I saw many of my school comrades leaving for the United States of America where they get resettled. I still have contact with some of them, via email, Facebook or Skype.
After finishing my education, I felt that I needed to join the humanitarian world to save the lives of poor people and help the victims of violence and conflict. I especially wanted to contribute to peace building and conflict resolution. Given my personal experience, I believe that there can’t be development without peace. Conflict destroys lives, livelihoods, it devastates a whole country. So I finally turned my life around from being a child soldier to becoming a peace builder.
For nine years, I have worked with national and International organizations in South Sudan and outside South Sudan at senior positions. Today I work with CARE South Sudan as Peace Building and Conflict Mitigation Coordinator. I train CARE staff on “DO NO HARM” principles and give technical support to our peace building officers. In practice, this means that we need to assess carefully the potential conflicts we could create when implementing a project. CARE works in areas that are still very insecure, where fighting between tribes occur daily. So for example, we need to ensure that we are not seen as assisting one tribe in favor of another. We need to be aware of all these sensitive aspects of conflict, so we don’t accidentally create violence. We also help communities settling conflicts, training them in reconciliation methods and setting up peace committees in villages. We as CARE have been working with some of these communities for a long time, they know us and accept our assistance.
I believe that almost five decades of war and conflict had deep impacts on the South Sudanese population. People are traumatized, scared and angry. When people only know conflict, it is difficult for them to transfer to a peaceful society. It takes time to heal the scars. So we have a lot of work ahead of us to build a peaceful and stable South Sudan.’
Read more about CARE’s work in South Sudan
‘There’s so much suffering, so many sad stories. And then there are people who are looking to the future. They are thinking about what they can do to get themselves on their feet and push forward. These are the people who will be on the front line of getting back to their homes and rebuilding this country.’
Aimee Ansari reflects on the third anniversary of the world’s newest country, South Sudan.
by Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan
Our ‘office’ in Bentiu consists of nothing more than five desks. CARE occupies half a trailer and shares the tiny space with two other organisations, but others ‘camp’ in here whenever there is an empty chair. Right now, we are 14 people with 13 chairs, supporting the operations of five organisations. The desks are standard small desks. The chairs are a mish-mash of broken office chairs, plastic chairs and a funky red faux leather and chrome chair that I love, but is very unstable. The red one is currently occupied by our nutrition program manager. I’m on the chair with the seat that falls off if you don’t balance on it correctly.
We are all currently based in the UN Protection of Civilians site. It’s a place of protection for those who are fleeing from the terrible violence that has displaced over a million people in South Sudan and affected over five million people’s ability to get food. The UN sites around the country currently house over 100,000 people. We know that this is just one-tenth of the people affected. But we haven’t been able to regularly reach the others. Most people have moved to places where they feel safe, out of the way of warring parties to remote places where soldiers can’t harm them. Aid workers find it difficult to help them – they live in marshy swampy areas along the rivers or deep in the thick of 2-meter-high elephant grass. Now that the fighting has calmed in some areas around Bentiu, people are finally able to come to seek assistance. And some are coming in terrible states, hardly able to walk.
Angelina, a single mother with two small children, had walked from morning to night to get to the UN site in Bentiu. She and her children had been eating grass because that was all the food they had. Still, life in the PoC – where she has been for seven days with only minimal water and shelter, and a small mat to sit on – is better. At least there is food for her children.
Most days, the daily life in Bentiu is horrific and beyond imagination. A few days ago, CARE helped parents transport the bodies of three children who had died from malnutrition to a burial site. The CARE team in Bentiu is working seven days a week in some of the most difficult conditions I’ve experienced – the office is luxurious compared to the living conditions for our team, most of whom are displaced themselves in the PoC site. They work in knee deep mud, our local staff have floods in their homes when it rains, and there is very limited water available for drinking, cleaning, cooking. One staff member told me she was lucky if her family gets ten litres of water per day.
We are providing health, nutrition and sanitation to people who have fled into the UN sites. Although they are tired, although they are affected by the violence and the terrible conditions themselves, the team is extremely motivated. They work hard, long hours. They are amazing.
I’ve been here in Bentiu for three days and the team is telling me that we’re not doing enough. They want to do more and help more people. It is sometimes unsafe outside of the UN areas, but that’s where the people in real need are – that’s where the people who can’t walk to the UN sites are. How can we help them? How can CARE overcome the security concerns and get to the villages to encourage people to return to them? The team is challenging me to help them find innovate solutions to overwhelming problems.
In a small hut, I met five families living together. They had travelled far. The children were making cows from mud – true artists. Two of their siblings, a boy and a girl were lying on mats, suffering from malnutrition. They are in a CARE program to help them to recover. When I asked the mothers if they would return to their villages, they said they would never return. They didn’t trust the soldiers. Their husbands were gone, probably either fighting or dead.
One of our team, an energetic, ambitious, articulate woman, asked me if there would be anything to help people return to their homes and start their lives again. She works for CARE to help people, to learn, and, most of all, to earn money so she can go back to school. Her house was burned down in the fighting. Could we give her a tent once it got safe?, she asked. Just until she could re-build her house?
Meeting people like her gives me hope for the future of this country. There’s so much suffering, so many sad stories. And then there are people who are looking to the future. They are thinking about what they can do to get themselves on their feet and push forward. These are the people who will be on the front line of getting back to their homes and rebuilding this country. It is for her that I sleep in tents, walk through the mud to get to work, and work in the office until 10pm. Because if I can do something that helps her get an education, then I can contribute to helping all of South Sudan. And maybe someday she will work in a safer environment – with a proper chair.
by Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan
Sometimes when I give an interview, I have to turn off the part of my brain that analyses what I’m saying. The implications of what I’m telling are too devastating: 64 reported cases of gender based violence in a protection area just within a week. I’ve experienced different kinds of harassment and violence personally – I’ve been mugged in Paris, stalked in Egypt, and put in very uncomfortable situations that female aid workers sometimes find themselves in. But I can’t fathom 64 cases in an area that women have fled to be ‘protected’.
Many years ago, I worked in Kyrgyzstan. One large donor threatened to stop aid to the country until the government took positive and proactive steps to stop violence against women. I was thrilled. A donor finally taking the problem seriously was music to my ears. And, to some extent, it worked.
Sadly, I doubt that stopping assistance to South Sudan would have the same positive impact it had in Kyrgyzstan. Here, violence against women is not only socially acceptable; women are also being told that raping them is their punishment for supporting one side of the conflict or the other. It’s a psychological tool of the conflict. Stopping assistance won’t help.
It’s hard to know what will work to stop these terrible acts against women’s bodies and souls. Certainly, we NGOs and UN agencies could and should be doing more by speaking openly about the problem, by providing services to women, ensuring that those services are of high quality, widely available and accessible to the most vulnerable. Our recently published report ‘THE GIRL HAS NO RIGHTS’: Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan shows CARE and other NGOs are already doing some of this. We have medical post-rape trauma kits in many of the health facilities we support. And we work with community health workers to provide PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) kits, which includes preventive medicine helping women to avoid an HIV infection.
The UN peacekeeping mission, given its new focus on protection, could also be doing more. I know they are planning to increase their protection activities, but the UN Mission has thus far demonstrated limited capacity to support the peacekeepers to appropriately address violence against women and girls. Simple things like placing adequate lighting around latrines, so that women aren’t raped at night would go a long way. Or doing foot patrols with civilians who are women and who speak the local language would help the peacekeepers to better understand issues and communicate to people how they can help protect them.
But addressing violence in the designated protection areas is, in a way, the easy part.
Last week, I visited a CARE program in a fairly remote, but very (militarily) strategic location. The market has been taken over by soldiers. When they get paid, they get drunk and most shops just close. Our staff told me that a woman had been raped and then killed just behind our compound for reasons that they didn’t understand. The head of the County Administration told me that he knew that rape cases had increased as a result of military build-up, but he didn’t know what he could do about it. He said he didn’t have a lot of control over the military. He said he was happy to get any support we could provide.
In one clinic, I spoke to a woman with a one-month old baby. The baby already had signs of malaria and malnutrition. The child probably won’t survive. The woman was getting very little nutrition herself – the men had left with the cattle in search of pasture. She was getting very little milk and almost no food. The clinical officer did what he could; and maybe the woman would return for further treatment. But, given the military concentrations in the area, we all doubted she would risk her life again to return. Coming back, she may face the threat of physical violence and harassment from men in uniform. It is sadly unlikely that her small girl will survive the combination of malaria and malnutrition.
The good news is we’re getting better at documenting and analysing the scope of the threats women face in this conflict. But this is only the very tip of the iceberg. At least, rape and assault cases are now being reported to us by the women. Recent CARE research found that only 57 percent of women tell others about a violation; as a result, no one really knows the true scale of the issues. So, if there were 64 reported cases in that one area, we could expect that 130 women faced some form of violence last week. Understanding the magnitude of these abuses remains a great challenge, but at least we now have some of the necessary documentation – that’s the first step in being able to address the issues and really start helping women to be protected.
In Mozambique, Farmer Field Schools help vulnerable communities tackle the impacts of climate change
By Karl Deering, CARE International’s Climate Change Coordinator for Africa. This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, D.C., which was held on May 22.
In March 2013, rain fell in Namizope and Mukuvula communities in Angoche District, Nampula in Northern Mozambique until the water was almost up to people’s knees, inundating fields and crops. With entire harvests of cassava washed away, the impact for some was catastrophic. However, after the rains, Mwancha Amisse and her husband, smallholder farmers in Mukuvula community, saw how a number of their plots responded differently to the flooding in terms of water flow, erosion, and moisture absorption.
They noticed that plots where farmers had implemented conservation agriculture techniques performed far better in the flood than other fields. Those techniques, learned through a CARE-supported Farmer Field School, have increased the capacity of poor smallholder farmers in coastal Mozambique to manage increasingly erratic weather – just one of the impacts of a changing climate.
The coastal area of Mozambique is a challenging environment for smallholder farming. Soils are mostly sandy with low fertility, and rainfall is unpredictable, causing drought and floods. Cyclones are another hazard. However, farming is still the main source of food and livelihood for most rural families and there is good potential for smallholder farmers to improve yields, their family’s nutrition, and their resilience.
This is why CARE Mozambique has been working with local partners AENA (National Association of Rural Extension), Mahlahle (a local NGO), and the Ministry of Agriculture to improve farming practices and productivity in Nampula and Inhambane provinces.
New techniques and more productive and disease tolerant crop varieties are being introduced through a participatory approach to research and extension services called Farmer Field Schools. Farmer Field Schools guide farmers to undertake practical experiments and side-by-side comparisons between common farming techniques and conservation agriculture practices.
Farmers test different varieties and arrangements of crops for yield, flavor, and disease resistance. They then select those that are most appropriate for their own situations, giving them more control of their land and produce in difficult and changing situations. As they gain experience in running and analyzing their own experiments, farmers build confidence and deepen their capacity to adapt to economic and environmental changes.
So what is conservation agriculture? Put simply, it helps farmers to mimic – rather than control – nature through minimal soil tillage, year-round soil cover of organic matter, and increased diversity of planted crops. Conservation agriculture builds organic matter, improves the soil’s structure, reduces erosion, helps water soak into the soil more quickly, and reduces water loss through evaporation, all while improving fertility and productivity. This is vital, especially given climate change impacts, with higher temperatures, more erratic rainfall, and bursts of torrential rainfall alternating with prolonged dry spells that bake the soil hard. This combination of conservation agriculture, and more suitable plant varieties, is leading to greater productivity, contributing to an increase in dietary diversity and enhanced food and nutrition security.
Before the rains in March 2013, and based on her experiences at a local Farmer Field School, Mwancha Amisse added layers of dry grass to increase the soil’s capacity to absorb water, and to reduce run-off and erosion. Following the heavy rains, she found that the layers of dry grass had significantly reduced topsoil erosion compared to areas where it hadn’t been applied. Erosion also decreased – while water absorption increased – in plots where farmers had used minimum tilling. While conservation agriculture is often seen as a way of mitigating the impacts of drought, these outcomes showed that it can also mitigate the impact of floods.
Which is why, in addition to using soil cover to improve moisture retention and sowing more plant varieties to spread their risk, the women of Wiwanana Wa Tiane Agriculture Association in Namizope have also decided to incorporate drainage systems in their fields. ‘We are going to be sure to include a way for water to flow out of our fields, but in ways where our crops will not be washed away with it,’ said the Association’s president, Alima Chereira.
Farmer Field Schools’ emphasis on farmers as decision-makers helps rural communities, and especially women, to build their confidence and capacity to experiment, while also helping people to improve their farming potential.
In the words of Mwancha Amisse: ‘We learned in the Farmer Field School that we don’t have to do agriculture as it has always been done. We learned that we can do it differently.’