By Dan Alder
CARE’s daily routine in Bentiu, South Sudan was interrupted by fighting this week, but project coordinator Rose Ejuru found plenty to do. She immediately changed roles, reverting to her medical training as a nurse to help tend several hundred patients who flowed into the clinic located inside the town’s UN compound.
‘We must have received 200 wounded. They filled the clinic and then we started putting them in the conference room. There are patients everywhere,’ Ms. Ejuru said. ‘So far we have not lost anybody.’
‘During the fighting it was really intense, but we put on protective gear and we kept on working,’ she added. Her patients have included a three-year-old who was wounded and a 10-year-old boy who was shot twice, with one of the bullets shattering a bone in his leg. The fighting started on Sunday and lasted for several days, ending with the Unity State capital once again changing hands. South Sudan erupted in political violence in mid-December 2013 and more than one million people have had to flee their homes. A quarter of a million people have abandoned the world’s newest country altogether, fleeing to neighbouring nations.
CARE has been providing nutritional support and basic health care in Bentiu since before the current crisis began and is currently supporting operations inside the UN Mission Protection of Civilians area and in mobile clinics that have operated in Bentiu town.
Nationwide, CARE has provided tens of thousands of people affected by the conflict with water and sanitation services, medical care and nutrition and protection services. We have especially targeted women and girls, who have borne the brunt of the crisis while scrambling to keep their children out of harm’s way. Now with the rainy season getting started and many markets and livelihoods disrupted, aid agencies are hurrying to pre-position supplies in the face of a looming food crisis.
Four days after the most recent fighting in Bentiu, Ms. Ejuru was able to get a few hours of sleep and said she felt refreshed after being able to take a shower. ‘We have been doing triage, attending to the worst injured patients, those with head and abdominal wounds and those with multiple gunshot wounds,’ she said. There were still many patients to treat and she headed back to work along with three other CARE nurses and four CARE clinical officers.
Area Program Coordinator Benson Wakoli said, ‘Rose immediately took action caring for the most critically wounded, struggling to keep them alive while they await medevac to a hospital in the national capital, Juba, or the arrival of a mobile surgical team. Our clinical officers and nurses have focused on treating life-threatening injuries and significantly augmented the clinic’s capacity.’
‘This teamwork has saved many lives,’ he added. ‘Our Rose has been the Nightingale of the clinic.’
by Mala Silas, climate change field officer with CARE International in Vanuatu
Around the world, the climate is changing.
Here in Vanuatu, the ocean has been getting warmer and more acidic. Scientists are predicting that cyclone patterns will change, we’ll see heavier rainfalls, a wetter wet season and a drier dry season. We’re already seeing the sea rising six millimetres per year in the capital, Port Vila; higher than the global average. For many people, the ocean rising by a few centimeters doesn’t sound like much, but for those of us living in small island nations like Vanuatu, it will mean the waves are coming higher than ever during storms; changes to where and how we get our food; and fishermen, farmers and growers face more uncertainty.
The UN has today published a report on climate change impacts around the world. Put together by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, the report indicates a tough future for us here in Vanuatu. This is the most comprehensive scientific report produced about the impacts of climate change, and it shows that climate change is happening and, so far, countries like Vanuatu aren’t ready for it.
Last week I was on the island of Futuna, a place that, even by Vanuatu standards, is quite remote. There are no roads (just rugged footpaths) and only a couple of boats to get between communities. There’s little or no mobile reception and poor radio coverage. People in Futuna mostly rely on the land and the ocean for their food, and their water comes from natural springs which are a long walk from home. In dry times, water is harder to find, and in floods, the soil runs off the gardens, and with more erratic weather and a rising sea, the job of growing or gathering food is becoming tougher. It’s particularly tough for women in Futuna; they are often isolated by cultural traditions that keep them at home and silent in community meetings.
With CARE, I’ve been involved in a project to help the people of Futuna build home gardens to bring them more food that can handle changing weather patterns and diseases. Before the project, the people of Futuna mostly ate boiled fish and boiled cassava (a root vegetable common in the Pacific). If they wanted to eat any other vegetables, they had to send money (which was, of course, hard to come by) to islands many hours away by boat. As well as helping to introduce these new, durable crops, CARE has run classes on food storage and cooking (using traditional and modern methods). This means families on Futuna will have food all year-round, and they are no longer relying on just one or two types of food. Despite the cyclones that frequently pass across Vanuatu, the communities of Futuna are now much more resilient, because they know how to store and preserve food and protect the fresh water they have.
Many families on Futuna now have gardens next to their houses. They grow vegetables like cucumber, carrot and tomato. Jeannine Roberts, a mother of four from Futuna’s Mission Bay, told me that her children are now eating more and are much healthier, because they’re eating more than just boiled fish and cassava.
When I first arrived on Futuna a few years ago, I wouldn’t have seen a woman stand up or speak during a community meeting; they were too shy and didn’t seem comfortable getting involved. When I was back in Futuna again last week, I was reminded of the progress that’s already been made. Seeing the women standing up to talk – even challenging the men – was something very special. These inspiring women have plenty of knowledge about their local environment, gardens and households, and I feel lucky to be working with them to improve their lives and break down many cultural and social barriers.
Futuna is just one small island among hundreds across Vanuatu and hundreds of thousands across the Pacific. But the progress there – achieved through teamwork and giving women a voice – is a great example of what can be achieved in the face of a changing planet.
Mala Silas is a climate change field officer with CARE International in Vanuatu. She works with the team on Yumi stap redi long climate change (The Vanuatu NGO Climate Change Adaptation Program) which is supported by CARE, Oxfam and the Australian Aid program.
by Lyrian Fleming-Parsley, CARE Australia
Jonathan and Julie Jonas are a typical family from the remote Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Together they have three children and are farmers, cultivating land on the village slopes. Lately, Jonathan and Julie have noticed the climate changing around them, with a potential increase in drought, which they are very concerned about.
’1997 was the last really big crisis here when there was a big shortage of food and people had to go into the bush to find food. We’ve been listening to the news that is going around and we hear there will be another crisis and we are scared,’ says Julie.
Due to El Nino/La Nina climate factors, drought is a constant possibility in PNG. CARE is helping local farmers prepare for the possibility of changing weather conditions by planting drought-resistant crops and adapting current farming methods to cope with times when less water may be available. Part of this project involves supplying farmers with a new variety of hardy yam seeds.
‘The yam seeds were distributed by CARE staff. They give us the seeds and we plant them and when we harvest them we will give them [the seeds] to other families for them to plant.’
‘We got training on how to grow the seeds… The yams can be stored over a long period of time and also grow in dry seasons, that’s why they are distributed to us. They also taught us how to plant the seeds and what to do before putting the seeds into the ground like mulching,’ explains Jonathan.
‘We had training in where to plant our food during a dry season. We should plant it near the river so it is easy to water the plants during dry seasons, or we use bamboo to divert water into the gardens and supply water to the plants,’ he says.
As well as yams, Jonathan and Julie also grow sweet potato, tomato, peanuts and green vegetables, which provides food for the family. Like most local families, the Jonas’ earn a meager income from growing coffee, but this is seasonal and the cost of transporting the coffee to market is very expensive and takes away most of the profit.
When asked if he feels confident the preparations they are making for the dry season will be enough, Jonathan says ‘I still feel I’m not well prepared if there is another dry season [like 1997]. To help myself I will use the methods of diverting water from the bush and planting near the river…but I still don’t feel confident to survive a disaster like that.’
Clearly, waiting for the unknown is hard and Jonathan and Julie are worried about how their family will make it through another severe dry season. But with more tools and preparation than the family has ever had before, they are in a better position than ever to survive the next drought if and when it does come.
Yesterday, thousands of Australians finished their last day of CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. We can’t thank you enough for walking to support women and girls living in poverty!
Here are some of our incredible participants counting their kilometres over the weekend.
On 13 March, three years after the beginning of the crisis in Syria, a CARE team of ten runners participated in the famous ‘Dead2Red’ marathon in Jordan. Their goal: to raise awareness and funds for the plight of millions of Syrian refugees.
The CARE team consisted of CARE emergency staff and five Syrian refugees who volunteer in CARE’s urban refugee centres. They proudly finished the 242 kilometres from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea in 22 hours and 23 minutes. Defying sand storms, exhaustion and the dark, they raised US$25,775 for CARE’s emergency work for Syrian refugees.
Meet the incredible team …
Omran, 24, lawyer and Syrian refugee
‘I looked at the beautiful landscape around me, the mountains, the sea and the desert. Despite all the beauty, horrible memories crossed my mind during the run. I thought about my mother, remembered how she was shot in the head while sitting next to me. My legs became cold for a few seconds and I slowed down for a moment. Sadness overtook me. But I wanted to be stronger and faster than the bullet that took her from me. And I was.’
Omar, 27, college graduate in architecture and Syrian refugee
‘It was a very challenging, but wonderful experience. I feel that I found a new family. I learned how much is possible if we care for each other and work as a team. After finishing this race I know that nothing in life is impossible. I hope the next marathon can take place in Syria. I am definitely ready for it!’
Maram, 21, economics student and Syrian refugee
‘I thought about all the people who lost their lives. But I also thought about the ones who survived and that I want to run as fast as possible so their lives can be saved. The great support we received from everyone kept me going. I felt like the shadows of thousands of people followed me through the race, ran next to me and protected me from the rain, the wind and the cold.’
Eman Kathib, 34, CARE Jordan and part of the support team during the race
‘At one moment, in the middle of the night, I asked myself: What in the world am I doing here? But then I saw the determination in the eyes of the team members, I heard them talk about why they run. I thought about the people who were killed, those who have lost their family members, their homes. It was as if the souls of the dead surrounded us in the desert.’
Amal, 28, teacher from Yarmouk Camp
‘There are some things in life that become a very special part of our memories. Destined to never be forgotten, always present in our heart and soul, as real today as the day they actually happened. What a great experience it was to run the Dead2Red marathon! It was so intense, so silent and noisy at the same time. For some reason it is just as easy to cry as it is to smile.’
Saif, 27, CARE Jordan’s psychosocial expert
‘The race for me was absolutely an epic journey. The most difficult part was to maintain faith in my personal physical abilities and to resist the temptation of choosing the easy way out, to quit and just drive home. But the support the team received from people throughout the world who simply understood why we were doing this despite all the challenges outbalanced everything else.’
Alexandra, 35, Deputy Country Director Program, CARE Lebanon
‘Above all, the race has taught me one thing: we should never underestimate ourselves and our ability to challenge our physical and mental limits. Whenever I think something is impossible in the future, I will look at the pictures of this race and remember that we are all capable of achieving great things together.’
Chris Wynn, 29, Senior Program Officer, CARE Australia
‘When dawn was breaking, our team’s spirit changed. We could readily perceive how far we had come and the progress we were making. We sang improvised songs and cheered for each other. Smiles replaced the looks of expressionless exhaustion. In the end, knowing that we have gone the distance for millions of Syrians in need numbed the pain of our sore muscles.’
Johanna Mitscherlich, 28, Regional Emergency Communications Officer
‘Millions of Syrian refugees have been facing new ground and unexpected challenges for months, even years … When I was running through sand and darkness in the desert, I thought about how devastating it must feel to be on a journey without knowing whether you would ever reach the finish line, without knowing what will happen after you reach it. And to realise that the starting point of your journey might not exist anymore if you ever make it back there.’
We’ve passed the halfway mark for CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge! Well done to all our fantastic walkers. Don’t forget to share your photos and videos! Use #CAREWIHS and tag CARE Australia so we can see you.You can find CARE on Instagram,Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Here are some of our amazing supporters stepping up to CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge, taking place this week! Are you walking? Share your photos and videos! Use #CAREWIHS and tag CARE Australia so we can see you.You can find CARE on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
by Maram Sluieman
Today, a group of Syrian refugees who volunteer with CARE in Jordan and Lebanon join CARE staff in running the famous Dead2Red marathon. The group will run the 242 kilometres between the Dead Sea and Red Sea in a relay to raise awareness and funds for the ten million people affected by the crisis, which enters its third year this weekend.
Among those taking part is Maram Sluieman, aged 21, who fled her home in Damascus late last year. She now volunteers at CARE’s refugee centre in Amman, providing newly-arrived refugees with information on how to access services like education, medical support and food. Here she explains why she’s running the Dead2Red marathon for her former pupils and all Syrian children.
Three years ago, I was studying economics at the University of Damascus. For me, these were the best days of my life. I guess it’s the same everywhere in the world; when we finish high school we choose to study something that really interests us, meet new friends, start to stand on our own two feet and prepare ourselves for the future. I feel that this experience was taken from me.
I felt like I owned the world, like I could do anything. I felt like a bird that was free to fly anywhere it wanted to go to. Then the war started and I fled to Egypt with my family and then on to Jordan, where I live now. More than ten million Syrians are in desperate need of assistance. They do not have enough to eat; they do not have money to pay for accommodation or medication. Of course, meeting these basic needs is most important. We cannot survive without food and medical care. But, what comes next? What about all the students like me who are missing out on further education? What about all my friends in Damascus who risk their lives every day to learn about the world and to prepare themselves for a life after the war?
Today, as we approach the third anniversary of the crisis this weekend, I will run from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea in Jordan. Together with CARE staff from Jordan, Lebanon and Kenya, as well as with other Syrian refugees, we will cover a distance of 242km. This seems like a long way, but my friends’ journey to university in Damascus is a lot longer.
Last year a bomb hit the university. 17 students died. When my friends walk to the university, they hear bombs and bullets. But the promise of education and hope for a better life after this war drowns out the sounds of war. They risk their lives every day because they refuse to let this crisis put an end to their dreams, and they are determined to rebuild our country when peace returns to Syria. My friends’ dream is also my dream. I represent the students of Syria. Syria will need qualified people, and I want to be one of them.
Every day, my best friend Nour sends me Whatsapp or Facebook messages to update me. Some other friends of mine are still studying with her. Others have died, some are in jail, are displaced or are refugees like me. Nour is very proud of me and supports me. But she also puts all of her faith in me. “You are our voice. You are the voice of the students who remain in Syria.” I cannot let her down.
I will run for the students of Syria. I want the world to know that Syrians are not only in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, they are not only victims of war. Syrians are smart; they are highly qualified and are doing their best to continue their education even if that means risking their lives in order to do so.
International Women’s Day, March 8, is a day to reflect upon the progress made by women in the struggle for equality, peace and development; to celebrate the contributions of women and to call for further change.
Despite all the gains made for women’s rights around the world, women and girls living in poverty still face serious inequality.
Right now, there are less girls than boys in schools, fewer women than men earning an income and more than 340,000 women still dying from childbirth and pregnancy-related causes every single year.
As carers for their household, many time-consuming tasks fall to women – like walking to collect water, food and firewood for their families.
The long hours spent walking prevent them from taking steps to improve their lives; girls don’t have time to attend school and women can’t develop skills to earn an income.
However, women and girls also offer the solution to this inequality. From years of experience, CARE has learnt that investing in women and girls is the most effective way to help communities overcome poverty.
You can support women and girls this International Women’s Day - join CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge.
Simply sign up to walk 25, 50 or 100km over one week from 17-23 March and ask your family, friends and colleagues to sponsor you. The money you raise will support women, girls and their communities living in poverty.
Each year, we mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.
It is a day to celebrate the women and girls who have overcome challenges to reach their potential, and call for change to support those who still face inequality and discrimination.
We are pleased to mark International Women’s Day 2014 by shining a light on just a few of the inspiring women and girls CARE has worked with:
Want to take positive action this International Women’s Day? Join CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge to help raise funds for women and girls living in poverty overseas.
CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge invites you to walk 25km, 50km or 100km over one week and raise funds to improve the lives of women and girls living in poverty overseas. Join today!
Central Coast mother Natalie Acton will be walking 50 kilometres in one week so that women and girls in developing countries don’t have to.
Natalie, a resident of Tumbi Umbi, will be walking around 10,000 steps between March 17 and 23 as part of CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge to raise money for CARE’s work to help women and girls in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
The mother of four said that through her work with the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea she had learned a lot about the challenges women face in Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. She said that getting involved in the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge was her way to do something about it.
‘If I know that by walking a few extra kilometres each day, I’m able to help women and girls in places like PNG, it’s a great motivator for every extra step,’ she said.
Ms Acton said that during the week of the Challenge she would be travelling to Melbourne for work for three days, but that would not stop her from completing the 50 kilometres.
‘One of the great parts of Walk In Her Shoes is that you can participate wherever you are. On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll be walking in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and on the Thursday, Friday and the weekend I’ll be walking through the Central Coast.’
CARE Program Coordinator Benson Wakoli recently returned to battle-scarred Unity State in South Sudan to assess people’s needs and the condition of CARE’s health care facilities.
I had left South Sudan over Christmas. By the time I reached my destination of Nairobi (Kenya), shooting had begun in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. It was a bad sign, but who could have guessed that the shooting would set off more than six weeks of political violence? I didn’t think it would take me well over a month to get back to my office in the town of Bentiu, where CARE manages a large number of health clinics for a region called Unity. Nor did I think that the office would be gutted and the town in ruins when I got there.
It was an anxious six weeks, with only the occasional and sketchy report getting out from the local staff who remained in Unity. They were essentially cut off by the violence and were doing what they could to save lives amid the fighting and destruction.
We returned to Unity as soon as it was possible, flying in on an air service run by the United Nations, and headed straight for the UN compound. We camped in tents amid swarming mosquitoes, but our conditions were luxurious compared to those in the Protection of Civilians area next door, where thousands of people had crowded in search of UN protection from violence that was raging just outside.
Unity State has seen more than 180,000 people – about 27 per cent of the state’s population – made homeless by the fighting. CARE set up medical checks in the area, where 17 percent of the children we screened were suffering from malnutrition. The people here are still too afraid to go home, and given the widespread destruction the fighting has caused, some of them have no homes to return to. They are also stuck here because they’ve lost everything. Even if there was any food to buy in town, they have no money to buy it.
The town of Bentiu was a mess. Homes and food stores were burned down, shops were looted or destroyed and animals driven away by armed groups. Markets were reduced to ashes after looting, and the main road between Bentiu and the capital Juba is not safe for traders to bring in supplies.
I set about reassembling CARE’s team, finding some and sending word to others that we were ready to get back to work. Many were unreachable, scattered about the country or even into neighbouring countries in an attempt to keep their families safe.
CARE is providing health and nutrition services for people sheltering at the UN compound and will soon scale up our work to reach the many thousands of people living in Bentiu town. As soon as the security situation allows, this work will spread out into the surrounding villages. We are also planning to set up a mobile clinic in Bentiu, which will operate until we can get the regular clinic we had been supporting stocked and operational. Before long, we hope to have all 24 clinics in Unity State operating again.
Before flying into Bentiu, I visited our office in Yida and a large clinic in Pariang that we’d been in the process of converting into a small hospital when the violence started. Pariang is Unity’s northernmost county, on the border with Sudan. The primary health clinic we support there was not destroyed, but for a time it was deluged with people wounded during the conflict. At the time, one of the true backbones of our program, Dr. Sam, was the only doctor, working with a tiny support crew. In a week he responded to hundreds of medical emergencies, many of them bullet wounds or the delivery of newborns.
Members of the community came to the clinic’s aid, helping to move patients and swabbing the blood that covered the floors. When I walked into the clinic, a local health worker jumped to his feet and took my hand. ‘I didn’t expect CARE to come back after what happened here,’ he said.
CARE supporter Robert Scott kindly submitted this poem about the notion that ‘charity begins at home’.
Mr Scott said: ‘For some time I’ve been concerned by the common misuse of the expression “charity begins at home”. It is frequently used as a reason (or excuse) to avoid or reduce aid or donations to disadvantaged people outside of Australia.’
We’ll see such sorrow should we roam,
ill-served by ‘charity-begins-at-home’,
when ‘home’ is such a privileged place
with rich rewards and peaceful space
and opportunities well-found
and institutions strong and sound,
superior services and care
and lifestyles envied everywhere.
CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge is back! Meet some of the amazing Australians walking to raise funds to improve the lives of women and girls living in poverty overseas.
An inspiring Brisbane mum and her two young daughters have committed to walking 5,000 steps a day to help women and girls in poor countries overcome poverty.
Bronwyn Moss and her daughters Jordan, aged 11, and Hannah, aged eight, will be walking around 5,000 steps each day between March 17 and 23 as part of CARE’s Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. The Challenge aims to raise awareness and money for CARE’s work to help women and girls in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
Born in the Central African Republic, Bronwyn lived in Sudan, Chad and Nigeria until the age of 13, and said she is very familiar with the issues that affect women and girls in poor countries.
‘I’m conscious that we are very fortunate in Australia and have a tendency to take things for granted. It’s important for kids to know that there are people who are less fortunate and that it’s not just people in Africa who are affected by poverty, but also some of our nearest neighbours including Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. As an adult, it’s my responsibility to instil that in them from a young age,’ Bronwyn added.
‘We plan to go walking every morning and evening with our dog Cooper during the week of the challenge. The girls are really excited and have already started wearing their pedometers. I’m looking forward to the exercise element and getting up every day with a challenge to complete,’ Bronwyn said.
CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes said that in developing countries, women and girls were often the most disadvantaged and impoverished members of communities.
‘In poor countries, women and girls are the ones facing the biggest burden of collecting food, water and firewood. Women have to walk an average of six kilometres every day, many carrying around 15-20 litres of water per trip. This prevents girls from going to school and women from earning an income, keeping them trapped in a devastating cycle of poverty.’
This year, participants can choose to walk 25 kilometres (approximately 5,000 steps per day), 50 kilometres (10,000 steps per day) or 100 kilometres (20,000 steps per day) over the course of one week.
By Amelia Taylor, Communications Coordinator, CARE Australia
Despite the deafening torrent of rain falling on the school house roof, Mr Sen commands the attention of his grade five class in the indigenous village of Lung Khung in Cambodia’s north eastern highlands.
The smartly dressed 22-year-old has been instrumental in bringing bilingual education to his hometown, where the native language is Tempeun and the majority of locals do not understand Khmer, Cambodia’s national language.
‘Before, we had a school house but no teachers came to teach here. So nobody could read or write. All the children worked on the farm,’ Mr Sen explains.
Placing a Khmer teacher in a Tempeun school house means that teachers and students are literally speaking different languages. It’s no wonder that the pre-existing school house had remained empty until CARE’s Highland Community Program came to the village to train local teachers and provide bilingual primary education for indigenous children.
Through the program, students start learning in the comforting familiarity of their native language, and Khmer is phased in over progressive year levels. By the time students enter Mr Sen’s grade five class, they are learning entirely in Khmer but are comforted by the fact that it is a local Tempeun teacher who is leading them.
Training local teachers like Mr Sen is a fundamental part of making the school friendly and accessible for the local community.
‘Local teachers have the connection with the student’s home and school; as a result there is good communication between the teacher and the students.
‘The teachers are likely to stay longer and it is easier for them to travel to school than someone who has moved from far away.’
He takes his responsibility seriously, and has been a vocal participant in village meetings about the development of the school and education for the children.
‘I have learnt about studying in my mother tongue and in the Khmer language as well as techniques for teaching. The Tempeun children cannot speak the Khmer language. But they can learn in Tempeun and then learn to read and write in the national language. It is very important for the Tempeun minority. When people go to a modern place, they may forget their language and their own village. But if they can read, write and speak in Tempeun it is very good for indigenous people.
‘Now they can write in Khmer and some children go on to secondary school which is a very big difference for them. I hope all children in my village finish the community school and go to high school. After that they can get a very good job.’
By Darcy Knoll, Emergency Communications Coordinator for CARE International in the Philippines
It’s around nine AM in the village of Sulod, Samar region, in the Philippines.
The weather is already warm and the bright sun leaves the promise it will be a lot hotter by midday. We’ve gathered here for a food distribution, organised by CARE and our local partners as part of emergency efforts to assist those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Volunteer crews – themselves survivors of Haiyan, one of the largest typhoons ever recorded – unload boxes and bags of corned beef, sardines, salt, sugar, mongo beans, cooking oil, dried fish and rice.
Waiting patiently are a group of women and men of varying ages, mothers holding babies, grandchildren supporting elderly grandparents.
Delecia Cabuquit, 65, pleasantly chats with neighbours as she waits. She was at home with her 87-year-old mother the day Haiyan struck. The two went to the second floor of her home to wait out the storm and prayed. ‘I’m still praying,’ she tells me.
The typhoon’s winds tore away her roof, with flood waters in the seaside village filling the bottom floor of her home. Eventually, the water left and, while shaken, they began to recover.
The last two months have been hard though, she says, especially supporting her mother.
Thanks to the support of donors who have supported CARE’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal, CARE has been working with its partners to provide emergency food assistance to hard-hit communities shortly following the storm. Since then, CARE has distributed food to more than 88,000 people in the areas of Panay, Leyte and Samar.
The crowd is calm, patient, composed. Everyone waits for their name to be called and then proceeds with bags to receive their cans of corned beef, sardines and other items. It’s enough food to feed a family of five for two weeks or more.
For some, the bags of rice are too heavy to lift, but community members help each other out and carry the 25 kilo bags or load them on tricycles to be taken home.
Part of the strategy behind choosing the location of this distribution is to ensure it’s in the centre of the community, close to people’s homes so they don’t have to carry the items far. This is especially important for women and the elderly.
These storm survivors are extremely thankful for the food they’ve received. They say so repeatedly to anyone associated with the process, a thank you they clearly want passed on to all involved in supporting CARE’s work.
As more markets begin to re-open and the process of recovery from the Typhoon continues, CARE’s focus is changing from providing food to helping restore livelihoods for the most vulnerable people, so they can meet their own food needs.
A new year begins
A new year has begun and, despite many challenges, there is a sense of optimism when meeting and talking with families here in Samar. After all, today is the first day of school since the storm.
Ruby Labiran Ragoro, 41, a teacher at the nearby Basey 1 Central Elementary School, stands confident with the food bag she just received. She says she is happy to be back teaching again. It’s good for the kids to regain this sense of normalcy, she adds, although they still see debris from the storm outside their classroom.
‘We’re recovering; we need to,’ says Ruby. ‘The effect of the typhoon is lessened because of good hearted people helping us recover and helping us stand again.’
By Amelia Taylor, Communications Coordinator, CARE Australia
A community group formed through a CARE water, sanitation and hygiene project in Ethiopia are bringing new opportunities to their remote village.
In the highlands of Ethiopia, a group of 19 people sit in a circle in their communal field. In the middle of the circle are four coloured plates and a tin box with two locks.
This is the village’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee. They formed through CARE’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project in late 2010.
Despite their name, this group does much more than improve access to clean water and sanitation in their community. With these simple tools, this committee and the woman leading them are also bringing new opportunities to their remote village.
It all began when the group built a new water pump with CARE’s assistance. The pump has given women more free hours in their day and reduced the amount of illness in the community, particularly the children.
Beletech, a 34-year-old mother of four, is the chairperson of the group. She explains, ‘Before the construction of the water pump, I would walk for one hour to collect water from the river. I lost time collecting water – walking and queuing because water is scarce. My children drank this unsafe water and had diseases. Now, the water is safe and my children can go to school and be healthy.’
The water pump was developed through a close partnership between CARE and the community – CARE provided skilled labour and the majority of the materials for the pump, and the community provided their own labour and sourced some local resources like sand and rocks.
The committee developed by-laws to protect the pump – if anyone breaks a law, they have to pay a fee. This money is then managed by the group to cover maintenance and other related costs.
That is just one of the funds the committee manages today. The committee also operates as a community savings group, with each member contributing 5 birr (30 cents) every month. As the total sum grows, members are able to take a loan out for income-earning activities, which is then repaid with interest.
The money is kept safely in a tin box under the security of two separate locks. Beletech holds one key, and the committee’s treasurer holds the other.
‘I am saving money, and starting to change my life,’ says Beletech. The group has taken a loan already, to purchase salt and then on-sell it at the local market, making a profit of 55 birr ($3.20).
When the group meets, the money is divided amongst the coloured plates – with each one indicating a different ‘account’ within the savings group. The green plate displays the groups’ savings, yellow is the interest paid back from loans, red is the punishment fees that are paid if someone breaks a by-law; and blue is the social fund that all members contribute to and is available for anyone in the community to borrow from if they find themselves in urgent need of money.
Beletech’s role as leader of the group is another first for this community. Before, women were not usually allowed to speak in public or be involved in decision making. Now, she is leading this group of women and men towards creating a better future for their entire community.
‘I am happy to be the chairperson of the group. I manage the meetings and have the power to speak in front of others and make decisions. I received training from CARE about speaking publicly, before I only ever spoke in church. Now, I speak in meetings and community discussions.’
The gender division of labour and opportunities is seen in Beletech’s home as well as her community. She explains, ‘In my home, my husband would only spend his time on farming and I would work in the house. Now, my husband shares the household chores like cooking and making coffee and there is improvement in my home.’
Now, with the opportunity to learn leadership skills and the ability to save money, the opportunities for women in the village are flowing as freely as the clean water from the village’s water pump.’
By Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
A 45-minute drive from Amman, the capital of Jordan, a bumpy road leads to a sea of tents. Children are playing next to big barrels filled with rainwater, rusty cages with chickens and goats, and burning piles of rubbish. Sahab, aged 24, sits on a thin brown mattress in one of the tents. One hand caresses her one-year-old son Khalil’s* hair; the other rests on her belly. In three months Sahab is due to give birth to her second son. ‘I will raise my children in this tent,’ she says, and sounds as if she had to convince herself of this fact. She quietly adds, ‘This should not be the kind of future I have to offer to my unborn son.’
Her husband Ali takes out his mobile and shows me pictures of a small house surrounded by olive trees and grazing sheep. Then he shows me another picture of the very same house. Grime on the walls that are still standing, rubble and stone, a ruin, filled with the remains of furniture, clothes, and memories of a life that a bomb destroyed in a matter of seconds. Sahab, Ali and their little son left their home in Hamah and fled to Jordan. Sahab points through the entry of the tent to a multistorey dwelling, about 100 metres away. ‘This is where we first lived. But $200 for rent and another $65 for water and electricity were too expensive. Our savings did not last very long.’
Ali decided to build a new place for his family to live, a place where they would not need to pay rent. The 26-year old asked friends for a loan, bought tarps and collected wooden boards, Styrofoam, and cardboard on a garbage dump close by. A month later, their tent was ready. Back then, it was the fifth one on the sandy site. Today, a few months later, there are around 100 tents. Ali’s seven siblings and their mother also live with them in the tent, which is about 15 square metres in size.
Ali and his younger brother work packing boxes and hauling them on to big lorries that take the goods to supermarkets. They earn around $7 a day, which Sahab spends on medication and food. Her son is always sick. ‘The dust makes him cough and the airplanes above make him anxious. I am afraid for his tiny body, but also afraid for his soul. He does not play like children are supposed to play. He does not eat like children should eat. His future is not the kind of future children should have ahead of them.’
Sahab herself feels sick most of the time; her pregnancy weakens her. A few weeks ago, Ali registered himself and his family in one of the refugee centres that CARE runs in Jordan in order to keep warm in the coming winter. ‘We do not have any blankets, heaters or warm clothes to protect us from the cold.’ In Jordan, temperatures can be as low as zero degrees during the winter. Sahab’s hopes are also growing cold – the hopes of a mother who wants her children to grow up safe, sound, and healthy and who wants to raise her children in a place that she calls home.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
“The wishlist” by Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
When I was a child I used to write a wishlist before Christmas. A few days before Christmas Eve I would put it on the table of our terrace and shout “Santa Claus, Santa Claus”, wildly flapping my arms up and down like a bird. I thought that this might draw more attention to me and my wishes.
Christmas with my three siblings and my parents is always an important holiday. We eat together, listen to music, take long walks through the forest, laugh together, care for each other, argue and make up with each other.
This year I will not spend Christmas with my family, but will instead be in Jordan where I have been supporting CARE’s emergency team to help Syrian refugees for the past three months. Jordan is also in a festive spirit although the majority of people are Muslims. Fir trees are decorated with colourful ornaments and lights and you can hear “Jingle Bells” in the shops. A few days ago, it snowed more than it has in decades here. It piled up metre-high and now snowmen are to be seen standing next to palm trees, with carrots for noses and children are making snow angels.
For more than 560,000 Syrian refugees living here in Jordan, the snow is not fun: They are living in poorly insulated apartments, in empty garages or makeshift tents constructed from cardboard and tarps. They are freezing. Mothers are sewing together what little clothes they were able to take with them when they fled Syria to use as blankets to protect their children from the cold. They stay awake at night because they are afraid their children will freeze to death while they sleep.
In the past weeks and months I have talked to many Syrian refugees and asked them what they wish for. Their faces darken with a heavy veil of sadness when I ask them this question. Sometimes they reply quickly, as if the answer has been on the tip of their tongues for days just waiting to be heard, to be spoken aloud in the hope that in doing so it might actually be granted.
They long to go back home. They wish to smell the air and the soil of Syria, to walk through the doors of their homes or to drink a cup of Turkish coffee on their way to work. Children wish for socks and warm clothes to protect them against the cold, they want to go back to school and long to see their friends or fathers again. They want their lives back. After nearly three years of war and more than 120,000 casualties, many of the more than 2.4 million Syrian refugees who were able to cross the borders no longer wish for anything. Wishing makes them sad and weak; it numbs their daily routine of survival.
This Christmas my wish is that we remind ourselves of the bond of humanity that connects us all.
I wish for us, the world, to focus our attention on Syrian refugees, and perhaps even small donations, so they do not feel so alone.
The sad truth must be plainly stated: Support for the more than ten million people who are affected by this conflict is massively and terribly underfunded. Around me a silent catastrophe is happening, and I really wish I had a megaphone to tell the world about it. This year, I might once more write a list, put it on my balcony here in Amman and flap my arms wildly. The list won’t be long, but I will shout louder and longer than when I was a child.
Find out more about CARE’s work with Syrian refugees at www.care.org.au/syria or call 1800 020 046 to make a donation to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Sarah Saunders, CARE Australia
Like many people in the remote villages of North East Cambodia, Seab Rik feared she would not have enough food for her and her family to eat each day. Seab, 55, lives with her husband and two youngest sons. For many years their main source of food, and income, was from rice farming – which was unreliable and insufficient.
CARE partnered with Seab’s village to help improve their livelihoods. She joined her community in building and digging a new fish pond to provide fish to eat and to sell at the market.
Seab says proudly, ‘I put in 400 fish. I cannot count [how many we have] now because the fish have bred.’
CARE supported Seab’s family in constructing the pond, supplying the initial fish and providing guidance on pond maintenance and advice on how to make fish feed. The fish stocks are growing, Seab says. ‘This kind of fish becomes really big, really quickly. It grows so fast.’
The fish provide a secure source of food for the family. They also provide important variety in the family’s diet, plus Seab thinks they are delicious.
With the money saved from not having to buy food, she can afford to keep sending her children to school. Seab and her husband will also be able to use the extra money they make to save, and plan for the future.
In addition, CARE provided Seab and her husband with training on crop production and rice farming techniques. Seab’s husband, Bun Chun Orn, says their crop output has increased immensely. CARE suggested he trial the new technique, ‘When we plant in the new location as per the technique we get 25 kilograms, whereas before we would only get 15 kilograms.’ This 10 kilogram increase makes all the difference for their diet and the bottom line.
Increasing the output of their rice crops has helped everyone in the community, Bun Chun says. ‘It is so meaningful for the people in the village because before most of them didn’t have enough rice to eat and some also have debts, having borrowed rice from each other. And now, after mastering the technique from CARE, they have enough rice to eat.’
Together, husband and wife work in partnership to improve their lives and seek a brighter future for their children. ‘We are happy to work with each other, we never have problems,’ says Bun Chun.
By Suzanne Charest with CARE in the Philippines
On November 8, Ermalinda Quieros should have been celebrating the birth of her first grandson. Instead she was with her daughter-in-law as she gave birth squatting in the hallway of the overcrowded hospital in Ormoc. Staff at the hospital were overwhelmed with the influx of patients.
With Super Typhoon Haiyan bearing down on the region, Ermalinda had left her husband at home in their village of Dona Maria to care for her two other grandchildren. “They evacuated to a neighbour’s house that was much sturdier than ours,” says Ermalinda. “I worried so much about them.”
Luckily her family was safe, but like more than one million families living in the path of the typhoon, her home did not fare so well.
“When I returned home the next day, there was utter devastation everywhere in Dona Maria,” says Ermalinda. The house she had lived in for 13 years was nothing but a heap of twisted rubble. “I just cried and cried. I felt absolutely hopeless with no place to stay.”
Two weeks later Ermalinda’s husband sits on a matt outside, weaving palm fronds into a thatched roof for a new home. Ermalinda has just arrived home with the shelter kit and tarps she received at a distribution. CARE, with its local partner ACCORD, provided a shelter kit and two tarpaulins to 220 households in Dona Maria. Each shelter kit contains a shovel, hoe, saw, wire, hammer, nails, machete, rope and other items for rebuilding homes.
Ermalinda and her husband open the kit, examining the contents one by one. “These tools will be a big help to us as we have no money,” remarks Ermalinda.
As they think of the future and the many challenges ahead, Ermalinda’s daughter-in law looks on, cradling the tiny baby born during the typhoon. He doesn’t have a name yet, everyone has been too busy to think of one. At least for now, as the rainy season continues, he will have a roof over his head and his family by his side.
By Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Officer, CARE International
Today marks 1000 days of conflict in Syria. Just 13 years old, Abu* works 16 hours a day, seven days a week to support his family, who fled from Syria to Jordan to escape the conflict.
Abu is standing behind the counter of a small shop in Mafraq. Socks, shoes, blankets and scarves are hanging on rusty hat stands. Hair ties, nail polish and pens are piled in little baskets. Abu is talking to a customer who has not yet decided which wallet she wants to buy. ‘This one has really nice leather inside,’ he tells her, opening it. ‘Just imagine how your money will look inside.’ The customer decides to buy it and he hands her the wallet in a blue plastic bag. He has to stand on his tiptoes to reach her. The counter is too high for him.
Abu is 13-years-old. A year ago, his family fled from Homs in Syria to Jordan. In the beginning, his father worked so the family could survive, but without permission to work legally in Jordan, he was reprimanded by the police.
Abu said, ‘My parents were desperate and did not know what to do. I suggested that I could start working, but my father told me I should be in school. He said he would rather return to Syria and die than have his son earn money for the family.’
Finally, he persuaded his parents to allow him to work, telling them that it would only be for a short period until they were ready to return to Syria. That was six months ago. Ever since, he has been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week. He earns less than $3 a day, but with his salary, the family can afford to pay the rent for the small flat in which he lives with his five sisters, parents and grandparents.
At first, it was difficult for Abu to adjust to working life, to talk to customers and to stand all day long. He also had to prove to his boss that he was worth employing. He had dismissed three other boys before him because they didn’t work fast enough. But Abu is not only fast, he is also very smart. He only needs to hear the prices of the thousands of different goods once to remember them. ‘I never forget anything. For work, this is good. When it comes to remembering the war, it isn’t,’ he added.
‘For me the worst thing is to see the pain in my parents’ eyes when I come home from work. I can see and hear their hearts breaking when they look at me.’ To cheer them up he tells them funny stories about work and his customers. Sometimes he tells them sad stories of people who are worse off just so they will feel better.
What are Abu’s wishes for the future? ‘I want to feel safe again. One day I want to become a pilot and only enter shops, like this one, when I want to buy something,’ he said.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Johanna Mitscherlich, CARE Communications Officer
Hadi stands in front of 20 refugees in CARE’s centre in Zarqa, about a 30 minute drive from the Jordanian capital Amman. He is leading an information session, telling refugees about their rights and informing them about the type of support they can receive from CARE and other organisations. Every day he listens to stories of people who have been forced to flee Syria – of children who saw their fathers die, of mothers, whose children were hit by bullets and can no longer walk, and stories of fathers who despair because they cannot take care of their families.
Some days, Hadi says, his head does not stop spinning. ‘I know their pain. I know, where it sits in their bodies. I know how it feels.’
Hadi was forced to flee Syria a couple of months ago and now works as one of more than 20 volunteers in CARE’s refugee centres.
‘I am just like them,’ he says. His pain is evident. In Syria, he had his whole life ahead of him. He had just finished his law studies and wanted to start his first job. ‘My life as it was is taking a break,’ he says. ‘It drives me crazy that I cannot use my head the way I used to.’ In Jordan, he cannot work legally, he cannot be a lawyer here.
Hadi left Syria after being shot in the leg while carrying a wounded person to hospital. He shows me a picture of a beautiful young woman on his phone. She has long hair and hazelnut eyes. Hala was Hadi’s big love. But the bullet that hit her did not care that he loved her, that he wanted to marry her, have a family with her and lead a happy life. When Hadi speaks, he is shaking his head as if he wants to free himself from the past. ‘I miss talking to her, laughing with her and being close to her. I am just half a person without her.’
‘I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to do whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.’
I ask Hadi how he manages to deal with the pain and how he gains strength from it to help his fellow Syrians.
‘I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to do whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.’
However, the 23-year-old says he does not have a lot of hope. Being a refugee does not only imply that one does not have enough money for medication or rent. Being a refugee also means that students cannot study, lawyers are not practising, vendors are not selling and teachers are not teaching.
Hadi used to be able to take care of himself, but now he is dependent on others. But what the bombs and bullets could not take away from him – his knowledge, his character and his warmth – he gives to his fellow refugees in CARE’s centres every day.
‘I love people and I want them to know that someone cares about them, that someone wants to know how they feel and what they think. Sometimes even a smile can make a difference,’ he says.
Hadi asks me whether I think the world has forgotten about Syria. I don’t think it has.
‘The world cannot forget about Syria. They are just not allowed to,’ he repeats like a mantra.
The world cannot forget Syria, because more than 9.3 million people are desperately in need of support, more than 2.2 million people have fled to neighbouring countries and more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced in Syria.
But the world can also not forget about Syria because of young men like Hadi, who despite their own losses and painful memories, get up every morning so that other refugees can feel better.
by Johanna Mitscherlich, CARE Communications Officer
I am moving my belongings from one corner of my flat to another, stacking shirts, trousers and jackets, piling books and my travel documents. I am debating what I should leave behind or what I should take with me for the coming months while working for CARE in Jordan and Lebanon. I wonder if the trousers and shirts will be warm enough for the winter blizzards? While I contemplate whether to bring my brown jacket or my black wool coat, I think of the more than half a million Syrian refugees who have fled the war to neighbouring Jordan, where I am headed.
There are a hundred small choices I have to make while packing. I try to imagine what it feels like for the two million Syrian refugees, many of whom had only hours, sometimes minutes, to pack and flee their homes, not knowing if they would ever return home. I wonder if I returned, as they also hope, whether the things I left behind – my flat, furniture, clothes and photo albums – would still be there. Or I wonder if my friends and family would still be alive or among the more than 100,000 casualties that the conflict has claimed.
People in Syria do not have time to store away boxes or write to-do lists. Their priorities are different. They want to live, survive, find shelter, take their vital possessions such as clothes, medication and maybe one cherished item as a souvenir. For seven-year-old Ghoroob, it was her little pink backpack; for 25-year-old Hala it was her son’s medication.
Behind all the headlines are people for whom this war is a bitter, daily reality – mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, sons, couples and siblings. Young people my age who studied in Syria or had just started their first job. They are students, teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, shop-owners and lawyers. They had good jobs and owned their own homes. In Jordan and Lebanon, they find themselves sharing rundown flats or empty garages with more than 20 people, some of them strangers.
Urban refugees are being quickly forgotten. There are few structures and contact points for them. The stories of mothers who had to flee alone with their children give us a glimpse of the misery that abounds here: they have had to sell their wedding rings to pay the rent, they send their children out to work on the streets instead of registering them in school and use the few clothes they took with them when fleeing as blankets to keep their children warm as winter sets in.
CARE and other organisations are facing an enormous challenge. The Syrian refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. CARE has secured less than 25 per cent of the anticipated $100 million in funding that is required for our response. Who is most in need? Who do we have to send away without help? I don’t think staff in our refugee centres could face a more difficult dilemma.
I am travelling to Jordan to support CARE’s emergency team. I will talk to refugees and share their experiences, their fears and hopes. I will try to give them a voice and a face. I hope that I will be able to contribute just a little bit, so that despite everything they have lost, they can also gain something: attention for their suffering, which the world seems to have forgotten. What could be a better reason for me to pack my suitcase?
By Laura Hill, Communications Manager, CARE Australia
Asmarech is lucky that no one in her family has died from drinking dirty water.
Sadly the same can’t be said for her neighbours. The mother of six knows many families whose young children have died from water-related illnesses like diarrhoea.
‘It is very hard to watch people from your village bury their children,’ said Asmarech. ‘I felt helpless and I feared it was only a matter of time until it would happen to me.’
She had every right to worry. Her village had no clean water and her children were sick at least two times a month.
Asmarech says she didn’t know why her children were sick and sometimes she would take them to the health clinic for medicine. This was a costly expense that the family could barely afford, so often she would simply watch over the children while they slept and pray that they would get better.
On top of the financial stress her household’s sickness caused, other aspects of the family’s life suffered as well.
‘When my children were sick they missed school and I spent a lot of time caring for them, instead of working on the farm,’ says Asmarech.
Stories like this are common in Ethiopia, where coverage levels for water and sanitation are among the lowest in the world. According to official figures, only 31 per cent of households have access to safe water, and 18 per cent of households have access to sanitation facilities.
In the Amhara region, where Asmarech lives, the picture is bleaker – 75 per cent of people use unsafe water for drinking.
But she is no longer one of them. Since CARE started working in her district several years ago, more than 460 new water points such as wells, protected spot springs and rope pumps have been built and many water points rehabilitated, all with the help of the local community.
Asmarech explains that, ‘people from my village helped decide where the wells should go, then helped to build them and now there are rules in place to make sure they are looked after.’
The sustainability of water and sanitation activities hinges on the participation of the community, especially women like Asmarech. CARE places emphasis on women in its water work because poor women are often excluded from decisions regarding water’s allocation and management, even though they bear the burden of transporting water from access points to the home. CARE provides women with equal decision-making power by including them in discussions on water and sanitation on the local, municipal and state levels.
For the first time in her life, Asmarech is taking a leading role in her community. She is a member of her local water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committee and is responsible for collecting money from households to maintain the water points. During construction of the water points in her village she also collected local materials like sand and helped lay the concrete slabs for several shallow wells. Since receiving sanitation and hygiene training, Asmarech now knows that her children were often sick from drinking contaminated water and has made a number of changes to her household to improve the family’s health, including relocating the cows and goats to a separate animal pen.
‘We never had a toilet before, so my family would defecate around the house or in the nearby fields,’ says Asmarech. ‘Today we have a toilet and next to it is a tap with running water and soap to wash our hands. We also dispose of liquid and solid waste like dishwashing water and food scraps in purpose built pits. And before the project I used a clay jug to collect water, but this was not clean. After the training I switched to using a plastic container, which I think is better because it is clean and easier to carry.’
These actions combined with reliable access to safe, clean drinking water has transformed Asmarech’s family from unhealthy to healthy.
‘After CARE’s help we now have clean water, my children are no longer sick and the frequency of illness in my village has fallen,’ she says.
Asmarech’s leadership on the village WASH committee has inspired her daughter Fikere* to join her school’s sanitation club. Along with around 80 other students, Fikere teaches students and her community how to prevent illness through improved sanitation and hygiene practices like draining stagnant pools of water near the home to prevent malaria.
‘I really like being a member of the school sanitation club because it has given me the knowledge to help protect my younger brothers and sisters from sickness,’ says Fikere.
CARE’s water and sanitation project has also helped Fikere, who wants to be a pilot when she’s older, and other students from her village spend more time in school instead of spending hours collecting water.
Before the project, Fikere and her sisters would walk for more than an hour to collect unsafe water from a river. She would have to get up at 5am to try and be one of the first in line for water. If she was late and a long line had already formed, she would have to wait patiently and sometimes miss the first three classes of school.
‘Now I only have to walk 20 minutes to the shallow well and because there is enough water for everyone the line isn’t as long and I am back to home in time for school.’
Water is essential to life and CARE’s work to improve access to water and sanitation by developing water points and delivering training is saving lives and time and building healthier communities.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.
By Laura Sheahen, Emergency Communications Officer, CARE USA
“It was the most terrifying moment in our lives,” says Fay Camallere, a woman from the typhoon-stricken city of Ormoc in the Philippines. “I felt death was coming.”
Fay had felt death coming before. In 1991 at age 13, she was walking home from school when powerful flash floods ripped through Ormoc. As the waters rose, Fay swam to a three-story building and waited with others until the flood subsided. But on the way home, she saw bodies on the road. “I thought my family was dead.”
Thankfully, Fay and her family survived the floods more than 20 years ago. But earlier this month, another catastrophe engulfed their city. Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – ripped through the streets, twisting metal sheets into spirals and uprooting trees.
Fay was in a sturdier house. The wind was hitting the front of the building and she was hiding in a back room with a window that wouldn’t open. When she saw her neighbours’ homes being blown apart by wind, “we broke our back window with a wooden pole, on purpose, and shouted to them, ‘Come! Come!’”
Four families took shelter in Fay’s house. “There were 22 people all in one room, including many children and a two-week-old baby,” says Fay. “We prayed. We thought we were going to die.”
But when the storm ended, they were alive. Fay had survived two of the most harrowing natural disasters in her island’s history.
Fay wanted to do something to help other survivors. “When I hear the news about typhoons and see the people suffering, my heart breaks,” she says. She volunteered with ACCORD, a CARE partner in the Philippines. With many other volunteers, she spent hours packing food parcels for people in villages devastated by the typhoon. CARE is distributing thousands of the food packages to families whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed.
Fay may never meet the people she’s helping. Many live in the hills outside her city, farming coconuts and vegetables. But they are grateful that they haven’t been forgotten in their time of need.
People in the typhoon zone have many fears about the future—how they’ll repair their houses, how they’ll earn a living when their crops are gone, how they’ll send their children to school. But thanks to volunteers like Fay who are themselves survivors, they won’t have to fear hunger.
By Laura Sheahen, Senior Communications Officer, CARE USA
In the space of a week, Jocelyn faced two life-altering storms. A mother of three living on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, she found herself hanging on for dear life while Typhoon Yolanda’s winds shook her small shanty. But as powerful as the typhoon grew, it wasn’t the only thing tearing apart her home.
Like many parents in poor Philippine villages who hear typhoon warnings, Jocelyn sent her children to a solidly-built house for safety while she herself stayed in the family’s two-room shack. “I was afraid because my house is made of light material like bamboo stick walls,” she says. But she had to hold on to the house and what it contained—worn clothes, buckets, a pot for a charcoal stove.
The typhoon winds swiftly blew away the roof and sent a wall flying over her. She huddled under it, praying and asking for forgiveness. Hours later, when the storm passed, Jocelyn was alive. But the home she had tried to hold on to was gone.
Jocelyn’s husband, a driver, wasn’t with her when the typhoon pummeled the village. For many months, Jocelyn had suspected something was wrong. But it wasn’t until a few days before the storm that she learned there was another woman, and two children, in a far-off part of the island.
Her husband didn’t choose Jocelyn. Six days before Typhoon Yolanda hit, “he got his clothes and left.”
“There was a typhoon of strong wind and a typhoon in my heart,” she says.
Now Jocelyn is trying to piece together her home with scraps of the old house and ragged tarps that neighbors have given her. But with no job, Jocelyn isn’t sure how to feed her children, let alone rebuild a real home. “I’m worried the price of rice will go up,” she says. “How will I survive with three children and no money?”
CARE and its local partner ACCORD are working to help families like Jocelyn’s. Beginning with rice distributions, CARE plans to provide additional food, as well as shelter materials, to typhoon survivors who have lost everything. Meanwhile, Jocelyn and her children—including two small boys—struggle to recover from a double blow.
Planes and helicopters often fly above their village as the government and aid groups work to meet needs on a massive scale. Most little boys in the village get excited when they hear sounds overhead.
So do Jocelyn’s three- and four-year-old sons. “When helicopters fly over, they say, ‘Bring back our father and bring back our house’.’’
By Uwe Korus, Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Coordinator, CARE International
November 19 is World Toilet Day, a day to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge.
I’m on my way to meet Rashid El Mansi in Sabra, Beirut, Lebanon. Thousands of Syrian families have sought shelter in Beirut, many of them in the urban camps and settlements of Palestinian refugees established in the 50s and 60s. Rashid El Mansi is working for Popular Aid for Relief & Development (PARD), a CARE partner organisation in Lebanon.
We are assisting in a distribution of hygiene and baby kits to Syrian women. In this neighbourhood of only a few streets, PARD registered 525 Syrian families that desperately need support. With financial assistance from the Canadian Humanitarian Coalition, CARE and PARD have been able to support 180 households to improve their water supply, lead three cleaning campaigns, and conduct 36 health and hygiene educations sessions.
For Syrian refugees, it is quite difficult to understand how things work here in this city that is so close to their homes but at the same time so very different.
“Back home we had two water systems in our houses: one for drinking water and one for other uses,” says Yousra*, a young Syrian woman who is receiving one of the kits we are distributing.
“Now we only have one water tap on the entire floor of the building – sometimes there is no water at all. How can we manage to get water to drink and cook but also to take care of our dignity?”
Here in Beirut amongst the Syrian refugees who have seen the horrors of war and displacement, having a clean toilet means so much more than just personal comfort.
“Women sometimes consider it as a personal failure if their families are forced to live in an unclean environment,” empathises Dalia Sbeih, CARE’s Liaison Officer in Lebanon.
“I will always remember the Syrian woman for whom the worst part of being a refugee was the smell: ‘It always smells bad,’ she said. Cleanliness is a crucial component of human dignity in the region and you can go to a very poor household that has nothing but still everything will be perfectly clean.”
Syrian women deal with the challenge of keeping the toilets, kitchen, floors, beds and babies clean every day. In the overpriced apartments in these Palestinian neighbourhoods of Beirut with an infrastructure crumbling under the ever-growing population, this is a huge and often impossible mission.
In many cases, the toilet is close to the kitchen. It is narrow, there is neither running water nor ventilation and everyone – children, women and men – have to use the same toilet. Sometimes more than 20 people are using the same toilet.
We are standing in a supermarket where Syrian families come to collect the hygiene and baby kits. They are piled up in a large corner just besides the usual long shelves with food and basic household items. The shop owner has organised everything in a way that Syrian women will not feel ashamed when collecting them.
“We want them to feel like they are shopping like they used to shop in Syria. They receive vouchers for the kits; some of them also have vouchers for food,” Rashid explains. “It is important for them to not feel stigmatised.”
The hygiene and baby kits contain four rolls of toilet paper, two toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, dish detergent, a bath towel, garbage bags, and three packs with 20 sanitary pads for women. The kits for the babies contain diapers in different sizes (90 per baby), baby lotion and disinfectant soap.
“Thank you,” a Syrian woman says after receiving a kit. “Today I will get some dignity back for my family.”
There it is again, this mysterious and often overused word: dignity! A clean toilet, with a door that closes, with water to be able to perform basic cultural and religious gestures, that girls and women can use without being harassed or ashamed, where children can learn the basics of personal hygiene… all that seems so normal for us. Here, among the Syrian refugees in Beirut, it is a symbol of a big step back to normality and dignity.
*Name has been changed
By David Gazashvili, CARE Emergency Team Leader managing the response to Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. David is in Ormoc, western Leyte, one of the hardest hit areas, and talks about the logistical challenges of such a massive relief operation.
13 November 2013
I managed CARE’s emergency response to the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, but the response to the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is so much more challenging than Haiti. This means that the response is taking longer, which is frustrating when we know so many people need supplies now.
The disaster in Haiti was localised in a small area, so once the rubble was cleared from the roads, it was easy to drive and deliver aid. We could get everywhere affected in just two or three hours. The airport was functioning quickly, so things could be brought by air, or by road from the Dominican Republic.
Here, the disaster is spread across three or more islands. To get somewhere it takes days – not just for sending relief items, but for staff. You have to take a boat and then a car, and the roads haven’t been cleared. Debris is everywhere. Fuel is not available. The boats are full. The lines are so big for the boats and people are waiting hours just to find out that the tickets are sold out.
In Haiti, we had an office that hadn’t been affected by the quake. We had somewhere to sleep. Here, every building is flattened. Nobody has anywhere to sleep – not the people affected, not the officials, not the aid workers. The weather is horrible. It’s been raining a lot. The place where we worked from today has no roof, and it’s now flooded inside. That was our sleeping space, but we can’t sleep there anymore because it’s full of water.
Communications is also a huge challenge. Coordinating a massive emergency response over such a large area requires good communications to ensure we have all the information about who needs what where, to order supplies, and to work with other agencies to make sure we’re reaching everyone and not duplicating our work. In Haiti, the communications was restored very quickly. But here, the electricity is down, the phone lines aren’t working, there is no internet. Thank goodness for the satellite phones.
We’re looking at solutions, such as using shipping companies and private boats. We need to bring cars and trucks in by ferry. The government and international community are working to get the airport open in Tacloban and clear the roads. But it’s all taking time. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing knowing what we need to do to help, having good staff that can do it, but not being able to get the supplies in quickly enough.
Of the 670,000 people left homeless by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, over 200,000 have not found shelter in emergency accommodation facilities. This means families and children are still living exposed to the tropical rain, heat and growing threat of disease.
Sandra Bulling is one of our staff on the ground in the Philippines, she tells us what conditions are like on the streets, “Everything is destroyed here. I’m just standing in rubble, pieces of houses are just lying in the street. Everything is gone. Electric poles have been broken like toothpicks.”
CARE is acting now to provide shelter, food and safety for families left devastated by the storm. Our initial response will provide emergency relief for 30,000 homeless families, that’s around 150,000 people. It’s a massive challenge – particularly when many of the hardest hit rural regions still cannot be reached due to the trail of destruction left by the typhoon.
Bulling explains how difficult it is travelling, even in urban areas, “There is debris everywhere. We had to change our tyre three times yesterday. You have to drive very slowly, and the cleared part of the road is very narrow.”
While some aid is starting to reach the larger cities, severe food shortages are taking a severe toll on families living in these hard-to-reach communities. Bulling tells us how difficult it is to find food in the wake of the storm, “I saw people waiting in lines, their feet in water that still stands ankle deep in some streets. They are waiting for hours in the water – easy prey for disease!”
Food is desperately needed; CARE is working urgently to deliver emergency food supplies to hungry families in these areas. Improving access to food also gives families extra time and strength to start rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the storm.
The people of the Philippines are struggling to overcome the fury of this once-in-a-lifetime storm. As Bulling explains, “My colleagues say this is the worst disaster in the Philippines they have seen. And some of them have years of experience responding to typhoons.” CARE is there offering support wherever we can. But we desperately need help so we can reach everyone in need. And the need is truly staggering.