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Ethiopia: ‘My life was dark before, but now there is light’

2014 September 17

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.

Fikere married her first husband when she was 12 years old but he divorced her when she was 14 because she didn’t want to have a baby. She married her second husband, Kasa, at 15. They are benefiting from a CARE project that provides support and education to married teenagers. Image: Josh Estey/CARE

‘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.

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Kasa is proud of Fikere and says their married life is much happier since they both started taking part in CARE’s TESFA project. Image: Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Donate now to CARE’s Child Marriage Appeal

 

South Sudan: Anger bites for the women of Malakal

2014 September 12

Donate now to CARE’s South Sudan appeal

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.’

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Flooding in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan. There are more than 18,000 displaced people in the PoC, where CARE provides food, water and health support. ©CARE

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.

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Displaced people gather around a water truck at the UN compound in Malakal, South Sudan, where CARE provides food, water and health support, and runs gender-based violence programs . ©CARE

‘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.

Donate now to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

School starts in Azraq Camp: Getting an education as a Syrian refugee.

2014 September 10
by Johanna Mitscherlich, Emergency Communications Coordinator, CARE International

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.

Assan* (5) from CARE’s centre in Azraq camp.

Assan* (5), “I have to wait one more year to go to school. My brothers are still in Syria. I want to go to school to learn something and make new friends. Until I am old enough I am playing in CARE’s centre in Azraq camp.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

Ishda* (16), a student at Jordan's Azraq camp's school.

Ishda* (16), “I cannot wait to go back to school. Both of my parents are teachers and education has always been a top priority in our family. I love to learn. I like all the different subjects. After school I want to study journalism and report about how the Syrian people are suffering, but also about how strong they are.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

 

 

Majd* (15), from Jordan's Azraq camp.

Majd* (15), “We came to Azraq camp a few weeks ago. I went to school in Syria, but it was very dangerous. My parents did not want me to go because of the bombs. But I insisted. I love Arabic and science. School in Azraq camp will be very different. In Syria I have my friends and I really liked my teachers. I hope that I can go back there soon. Some of my friends from Daraa are also here in Azraq.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

Mais* (12), a student at Jordan's Azraq camp's school.

Mais* (12), “I am 12 years old and I love my country. I also love school. I hope I can go back to Syria soon and finish my school there. I will start my sixth grade here in Azraq camp. I hope I will like school here as much as I liked it in Syria and that I will find new friends.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

Zeinah* (15), a student at Jordan's Azraq camp's school.

Zeinah* (15), “I am from Daraa, a small village in Syria. I love all the different subjects in school, but English is my favourite subject. I like football, computer, tennis and music. I like living in Azraq and I like going to school here. I always make sure to do my best in school and always do my homework. I want to succeed to have a better future.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

Ola* (6), a soon-to-be student at Jordan's Azraq camp's school.

Ola* (6), “I am very excited to go to school the first time in my life. I heard the schools in Azraq camp are nice. I hope that I can go to school in Syria for my second grade.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

Adnan* (10), a soon-to-be student at Jordan's Azraq camp's school.

Adnan* (10), “I registered for school yesterday. I have not been to school for three years because of the war. I have only been to school a few days in my life. There were always bombs and the school I was supposed to go to was destroyed. I want to learn how to write and make new friends. When I am older I want to become a doctor to heal the wounded.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

 

 

Mohammad* (14), in Jordan's Azraq camp.

Mohammad* (14), “I do not want to go back to school. I have been working since the war started in Syria. There is a club for young people here in Azraq, where you can learn computer skills. This is where I want to go. I want to make sure that I can support my parents to earn money for the family. When I am older I want to be a computer specialist.” ©Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE

 

Donate now to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal

Celebrating Dads from around the world

2014 September 7
by careaustralia

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers around the world!

This Father’s Day, we celebrate the millions of wonderful fathers CARE is supporting, who are helping their families and communities overcome poverty.

Aragaw lives in a rural village in Ethiopia with his wife and four daughters. Through CARE he has learnt how to build water pumps and is employed by local communities to help bring safe drinking water to hundreds of families a year. ©Josh Estey/CARE

Aragaw lives in a rural village in Ethiopia with his wife and four daughters. Through CARE he has learnt how to build water pumps and is employed by local communities to help bring safe drinking water to hundreds of families a year. ©Josh Estey/CARE

Aung Myint, is the husband of person living with HIV. Aung Myint received CARE support to buy a gas canister to set up his balloon business in Mandalay, Myanmar. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

Aung Myint, is the husband of person living with HIV. Aung Myint received CARE support to buy a gas canister to set up his balloon business in Mandalay, Myanmar. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

 

Guilermino was elected the leader of his farmers’ group and his wife, Marcelina, is also a member.

Guilermino from Timor-Leste was elected the leader of his farmers’ group and his wife, Marcelina, is also a member. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

'I am fending off drought threats through livelihood diversification" - Mohammed Abdule, successful farmer in the West Haraghe Zone of Oromia Region. Photo: ©Audre Montpetit/CARE

‘I am fending off drought threats through livelihood diversification” – Mohammed Abdule is a successful farmer from Ethiopia who has learnt bee farming through CARE. Photo: ©Audre Montpetit/CARE

Nuli Ram from Papua New Guinea's husband supported her to become a traditional village birth attendant. She received training through CARE and now helps other mothers deliver their babies safely. ©Josh Estey/CARE

Nuli Ram’s husband supported her to become a traditional village birth attendant. She received training through CARE and now helps other mothers deliver their babies safely in remote Papua New Guinea communities. ©Josh Estey/CARE

©Tom Greenwood/CARE

South Sudan: Unasked questions, unspoken answers

2014 September 3

Donate now to CARE’s South Sudan appeal.

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.

Isaac Ibrahim, a CARE-employed nurse at Pariang Hospital, South Sudan

Isaac Ibrahim, a CARE-employed nurse at Pariang Hospital, South Sudan. ©Tom Perry/CARE

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?’

A child receives  a health check at one of the two CARE clinics in the Bentiu Protection of Civilian area of the UN.©Josh Estey/CARE

The health centres screen children for malnutrition, provide life-saving vaccines and treatment, and assist pregnant women and mothers.

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.’

Patients at the waiting at the Pariang health center.

Patients at the waiting at the Pariang health center. The CARE health clinic in employs ten dedicated staff and it opened an operating theatre in April 2014. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Donate now to CARE’s South Sudan appeal.

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.

Expectation and reality: Delivering aid in South Sudan

2014 August 29

By CARE’s Tom Perry

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan appeal.

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.

Tom Perry and Joseph Lukutu. ©CARE

CARE’s Tom Perry and Joseph Lukutu, one of CARE’s Sudanese staff members

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.

Women recieve seeds in South Sudan.

Women receive seeds at CARE’s seed distribution. Due to massive displacement, people could not plant their fields and many are cut off from any kind of assistance. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

CARE team in Yuai, Uror county. Photo: Josh Estey/CARE

CARE team in Yuai, Uror county. Photo: Josh Estey/CARE

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.

 

Ethiopia: Wedded to an education

2014 August 25

Donate to CARE’s Child Marriage Appeal

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.’

Eleni

Eleni was married at 12 years of age. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.’

Amhara region

In the Amhara region, where Eleni lives, almost half of all girls are married by the age of 15. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Asmarech and Eleni

Asmarech and Eleni. Now 14, Eleni is back in school and hopes to become a nurse. ©Josh Estey/CARE

‘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.

The faces of CARE’s humanitarian work

2014 August 18

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.

 

Mary, Program Assistant, CARE Kenya

‘I get a lot of satisfaction whenever I work on a project where I have to engage school children. Recently I was so proud when the children from a school where CARE manages primary education in the Dadaab Refugee Community came up with amazing and passionate message of peace for World Refugee Day.’ – Mary, Program Assistant, CARE Kenya

Efren is a Shelter Advisor for CARE Philippines

Efren, Shelter Advisor for CARE Philippines, says, ‘One of the most trying aspects of being a humanitarian workers is the hardship of being away from my family for long periods of time.’

Sandra works in CARE's Women's Rights program in CARE Egypt

Sandra from CARE Egypt says, ‘the most rewarding part of my job is when I meet Syrians in Egypt and they tell me that it’s great to finally have someone truly listening to them and caring for their well-being.’

Hassan with students at a CARE ran school in the Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya

Hassan is head teacher at one of CARE’s schools in the Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. He says, ‘Memorable moments happen every time I see one of my former students graduate from secondary school and then join me as a teacher. This makes me a proud, knowing that my efforts in providing education to the refugee community have borne fruits.’

 

Arnel is a driver for CARE International in the Philippines and has helped communities build back stronger after Typhoon Haiyan.

Arnel lives in Leyte province, Philippines – one of the worst-hit areas by Typhoon Haiyan. He came to know CARE staff after they came to help his village and soon after got a job as a driver. ‘I have seen how CARE helped my village. I was thankful and wanted to be a part of such work,’ says Arnel.

Gaza crisis: ‘When they return home, they will find nothing’

2014 August 15

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.

Haifa Abu Amro

Haifa Abu Amro works with CARE in Gaza. She was forced to flee her home and take shelter in the CARE office. ©CARE

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.

Learn more about CARE’s work in Gaza

Working in South Sudan: a photo story

2014 August 13

Working in South Sudan holds many challenges for staff to deliver life-saving assistance. A few of them are explained below.

Impassable roads

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.

South Sudan from above. There are just a few paved roads throughout the country and other paths, such as the one below get flooded during the rainy season and become impassable. Even though the landscape looks lush and green, many people could not plant in time for the rainy season. 70,000 people displaced by the conflict have found shelter in Uror, many walked for several days of a week to reach Uror. Many came without any possessions, they have very little to eat and they survive with leaves and fruit. Photo Josh Estey/CARE

There are just a few paved roads throughout South Sudan, and paths such as this in Uror county get flooded during the rainy season and become impassable. Around 70,000 people displaced by the conflict have found shelter in Uror. Many walked for several days and came without any possessions. They have very little to eat and they survive on leaves and fruit. Photo: Josh Estey/CARE

 

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.

Staff unloaded seeds from a helicopter, which will be distributed by CARE. CARE distributes seeds, such as cowpeas, tomato, eggplant, sesame, sorghum, watermelon and other to 21,000 households in Jonglei, one of the areas most affected by the conflict. The seeds have been provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Photo Josh Estey/CARE

Staff unload seeds from a helicopter, which will be distributed by CARE. CARE distributes seeds such as cowpeas, tomato, eggplant, sesame, sorghum and watermelon to 21,000 households in Jonglei, one of the areas most affected by the conflict. Photo: Josh Estey/CARE

 

Lacking electricity

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.

WFP and CARE staff work into the night to record the days activities during a rapid response mission to Pagak in South Sudan's Upper Nile State.By Dan Alder

CARE and World Food Programme staff work into the night to record the days activities during a rapid response mission to Pagak in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. Photo: Dan Alder/CARE

 

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.

Wireless acces at Bentiu Protection of Civilian Area (PoC). CARE/Sandra Bulling

Wireless acces at Bentiu Protection of Civilian Area (PoC). Photo: Sandra Bulling/CARE

 

Insecurity

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.

The CARE compound in Uror county. The car has been looted by armed groups and is unusable. The office has no cars, and all work has to be done by foot. Photo: CARE/South Sudan

The CARE compound in Uror county. The car has been looted by armed groups and is unusable. The office has no cars, and all work has to be done by foot. Photo: CARE/South Sudan

 

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.

The operating theatre of the Pariang health clinic has just been opened in April 2014.Before then, all severe cases had to be referred to the town of Bentiu, more than 120 kilometres away. When conflict broke out in South Sudan in December last year, the roads became too dangerous – and CARE established the operating theatre to treat the wounded and those in need of medical assistance. Photo Josh Estey/CARE

The operating theatre of the Pariang health clinic was opened in April 2014. Before then, all severe cases had to be referred to the town of Bentiu, more than 120 kilometres away. When conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, the roads became too dangerous – and CARE established the operating theatre to treat the wounded and those in need of medical assistance. Photo Josh Estey/CARE

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Emergency Appeal

 

Bilingual education in Cambodia

2014 August 4

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.

Student in Cambodia

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. ©Laura Hill/CARE

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.

Local teacher

Students are being taught by local teachers selected by village elders as caring and hard working members of the community. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Students in CARE's Highland Community Education Program

Students learn in their local indigenous language and the national language, Khmer, so that they can transition to the state-run secondary school system. ©Laura Hill/CARE

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.

Scholarship student

CARE has built boarding houses at several state schools and is providing scholarships so students can continue learning beyond primary school. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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. 

Learn more about CARE’s work in Cambodia

South Sudan: looming famine, floods and disease

2014 July 30

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

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.

Horrific living conditions

Despite horrific living conditions, families feel safer inside the UN compound. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

CARE's nutrition centre in the UN compound outside Bentiu, flooded from heavy rains.

CARE’s nutrition centre in the UN compound outside Bentiu, flooded from heavy rains. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

I wish to return home, to celebrate, and buy gifts for my children

2014 July 28
by careaustralia

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?

Mahmoud Shabeeb -Communications Officer, Jordan

Mahmoud Shabeeb – CARE’s Regional Communications Officer, Jordan.

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

Donate now to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal

Three meals a day in Timor-Leste

2014 July 22

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.

Judith and Melia

Judith and her family used to face extreme hunger. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

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

Now, Judith and her family are able to eat three meals a day. ©CARE

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.’

Help more families like Judith’s fight hunger – donate to CARE’s Hunger Appeal

*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.

Eyewitness account from Gaza

2014 July 19
by careaustralia

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.

Saaed Al Madhoun with his son

CARE’s Saaed Al Madhoun with his son in Gaza. ©CARE

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.

Learn more about CARE’s work in Gaza

Fighting hunger in Malawi

2014 July 18

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.’

Edda and her grandchildren

Edda and her grandchildren sit inside their destroyed home in 2012. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Edda and her grandchildren 2014

Edda and her grandchildren now live in a temporary home while she is saving to build a new one. She has also bought livestock and fertiliser with income she is earning through the project. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Edda and her grandchildren are eating more food more often

Edda and her grandchildren are now eating more food more often, and are not as susceptible to grave risks of hunger. ©Josh Estey/CARE

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.

Donate to CARE’s Hunger Appeal or learn more about work in Malawi

Meet an original CARE package recipient

2014 July 18
by careaustralia

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.

Original CARE Package Recipient Ingrid Hurtubise

Original CARE Package Recipient Ingrid Hurtubise

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.

Read more about the history of CARE

Ingrid (third from left) with her family on Sylt.

Ingrid (third from left) with her family on Sylt.

The escalation of violence in Gaza

2014 July 16
by careaustralia

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.

Naimah Abu Halima sits with her daughter Hannah in a UN school after fleeing from the north of Gaza following a warning from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Over 600 people have evacuated their homes and taken refuge in the school. Hannah is disabled and cannot feed or wash herself and her mother must continue to care for her in the temporary shelter. With no sign of the crisis ending the school is now concerned that they will run out of water and supplies. "I don't know how much longer we will be able to go on in this situation." Commented Abdil Sawan, the UN representative within the school. Image: Alison Baskerville

Naimah Abu Halima sits with her daughter Hannah in a UN school after fleeing from the north of Gaza following a warning from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Over 600 people have evacuated their homes and taken refuge in the school. Hannah is disabled and cannot feed or wash herself and her mother must continue to care for her in the temporary shelter. With no sign of the crisis ending the school is now concerned that they will run out of water and supplies. “I don’t know how much longer we will be able to go on in this situation.” Commented Abdil Sawan, the UN representative within the school. Image: Alison Baskerville

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.

Following a warning from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) over 600 people have evacuated their homes from the north of Gaza and taken refuge in a UN School. Many left with limited supplies. With no sign of the crisis ending the school is now concerned that they will run out of water and supplies. "I don't know how much longer we will be able to go on in this situation." Commented Abdil Sawan, the UN representative within the school. Image: Alison Baskerville

Following a warning from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) over 600 people have evacuated their homes from the north of Gaza and taken refuge in a UN School. Many left with limited supplies. With no sign of the crisis ending the school is now concerned that they will run out of water and supplies. “I don’t know how much longer we will be able to go on in this situation.” Commented Abdil Sawan, the UN representative within the school. Image: Alison Baskerville

‘From Child Soldier to Peace Builder’

2014 July 10

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

South Sudan: Hope for the future

2014 July 9

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

‘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

Aimee Ansari

Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan ©CARE

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.

 

Hundreds of people crowd a space just inside the gate of the UN mission in Bentiu

Hundreds of people crowd a space just inside the gate of the UN mission in Bentiu amid rumours of an imminent attack on the town. ©Dan Alder/CARE

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.

 

Over a million people have fled their homes to escape recent political violence in South Sudan.

Over one million people have fled their homes to escape recent political violence in South Sudan. ©Dan Alder/CARE

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.

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

South Sudan: ‘Raping women as punishment’

2014 June 23

You can support CARE’s work

by Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan

Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan

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.

You can support CARE’s work

In Mozambique, Farmer Field Schools help vulnerable communities tackle the impacts of climate change

2014 June 20

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.

Mozambique farmers

Mwancha Amisse and her husband, farmers in the Mukuvula community. ©Ausi Petrelius/CARE

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.’

World Day Against Child Labour: ‘If I would not work my family would not survive’

2014 June 12

12 June marks International Day against Child Labour.

With every passing day the number of Syrian refugee children being pulled out of school and into the workforce rises. Nearly 600,000 refugees in Jordan and 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon are struggling to cope with rising costs of living. A recent survey by CARE revealed that 90 per cent of refugees in Jordan are in debt to relatives, neighbours, shopkeepers or landlords, with rental costs having increased by almost a third in the past year. In Jordan, the government estimates that 60,000 children are working to support their families.

‘In a lot of cases young sons have to earn the income for the family in order to survive,’ says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for CARE Jordan. ‘It is an easy equation: The longer refugee families live in neighbouring countries, the more financially vulnerable and destitute they become. With no more assets and no male head of household who could work, children have to contribute to cover the monthly expenses and have to quit school.’

 

Hani, 14, works every day from 7 am to 10 pm. In between he goes to school. He says: "I would prefer to go to school and learn something. But for now I am proud to support my parents, my brother and my two sisters. Without me, we could not survive."

Hani, 14, works every day from 7 am to 10 pm. In between he goes to school. He says: ‘I would prefer to go to school and learn something. But for now I am proud to support my parents, my brother and my two sisters. Without me, we could not survive.’

Hani,* 14, works every day from 7 am to 10 pm. In between, he goes to school. His father is ill and has trouble finding a job. The family fled from Homs two years ago. Hani has already worked in a coffee shop, in a mall and in a restaurant. He now works in a bakery. He misses his best friend in Syria. He has not heard from him for the past two years. He says: ‘I would prefer to go to school and learn something. But for now I am proud to support my parents, my brother and my two sisters. Without me, we could not survive.’ (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)

 

To support his family Aboud works in a vegetable store 12 hours every day.

To support his family Aboud works in a vegetable store 12 hours every day. When he first arrived, he could hardly lift the vegetable boxes. Aboud wants to go back to school to become an engineer.

Aboud* does not say a lot. Sitting on a green box with holes, he plucks styrofoam from a package. His big brown eyes are staring at the white flakes as they fall onto the ground. His father Hamid explains: ‘During the last three months in Homs we had nothing to eat. We collected leftovers from the street and searched the trash cans for food that was thrown away. The past two years were a nightmare.’ First their house was looted and then someone set it on fire. But then their house was destroyed by a bomb and the family had to flee. They walked for 11 days from Homs to the Jordanian border. They had to hide behind trees and were forced to watch as two of their uncles were kidnapped and their aunt raped and then shot. Aboud starts his work in the vegetable store at 8am and finishes at 8pm. He drags cases from the back of the shop to refill the stalls. He has only one dream. ‘I want to go back. I miss my best friends. I want to go back to school to become an engineer and rebuild Homs.’ (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)

 

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Mohamed is 12 years old. He fled to Mafraq in the North of Syria six weeks ago. To make ends meet he and his 13 year old brother work in a barber shop from 9 in the morning and works until 10:30 at night.

Mohamed* is 12 years old. He fled to Mafraq in the North of Jordan half a year ago. To help his family make ends meet both he and his 13 year old brother have to work. He starts his job in a barber shop at 9am and works until 10.30pm at night. He sweeps the floor and cleans the scissors. He earns around $7 per week. He says that he sometimes gets very dizzy when he has to stand all day, but his family cannot afford more than one or two meals every day. (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)

 

image007

Khaled is 13 years old and works long hours every day to support his family.

Khaled*, 13, fled to Syria with his family. He works in a coffee shop in the town of Chhime in Lebanon. He has been working ever since his family fled from a village outside Damascus. His father is unable to work because of a heart condition. Without Khaled, his parents and four siblings could not survive. His father said: ‘We would prefer if he would go to school. He is too young to work and we do not want to depend on him. But we are in an impossible situation.’ In Syria, his father had a good job in the tourism industry. The family had a big house and a car. But after his father was arrested and detained, his health condition deteriorated and the family had to flee to Lebanon. Khaled says: ‘If I don’t work who is going to provide for my family?’ (Photo: CARE/Harry Chun)

 

Abu was very happy to buy a new pair of jeans, flip-flops, shirt, socks and sneakers.

Yousef works in a bakery every day from 5 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He earns around 33 US Dollar every month. ‘My parents are old and sick. They cannot work. If I did not work, we would not be able to survive.’

Yousef* fled Syria three years ago when the war started. A former school in Lebanon has become his new home, where he lives together with his parents and younger brother. Yousef was just nine years old when he left Syria. He says that he misses his home, but the memory of Syria is fading. He does not have time to remember. He works in a bakery every day from 5am until 4pm. He earns around $35 every month. ‘My parents are old and sick. They cannot work. If I did not work, we would not be able to survive.’ What does Yousef wish for? ‘I wish I could die, because I am tired of this life, there is nothing positive or joyful in living like this. When I was in Syria, my friends and I used to fantasise about how life would be when we grew up to become teenage boys and men. Nowadays I sit by myself laughing about how I could even dare to have even dreamt about those things.’ (Photo: CARE/Racha El Daoi)

 

Six days a week, from 9 in the morning to 6 at night, Fadi (16) cleans bird cages, feeds the animals and sells them on the local market. He earns around four Euros every day, adding up to 96 Euros every month.

Six days a week, from 9 in the morning to 6 at night, Fadi (16) cleans bird cages, feeds the animals and sells them on the local market. He earns around four Euros every day, adding up to 96 Euros every month.

About a year ago, Fadi* was an average 15 year old boy. He attended high school, met his friends after class to practice break-dancing, played tricks on people from time to time and wanted to become an English teacher. As is the case for many other Syrian refugee families, it’s Fadi who contributes the greatest deal to the family’s earnings. Six days a week, from 9amto 6pm, he cleans birdcages, feeds animals and sells them at the local market. He earns around $5.70 a day, adding up to $137 each month. But Fadi misses his school and his friends. He misses learning and reading. ‘I am working because we don’t have another option to make ends meet. But in an ideal world, if life in Syria were still the way it should be, I would first finish my schooling and work afterwards. I should not be working full-time now. This is not how it should be.’ Once he can return to Syria he says he will cram for his exams night and day and get closer to achieving his goal of becoming an English teacher. ‘That would be awesome,’ he says in English and smiles proudly. (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)

 

In the downtown area of Bader works in a coffee shop.

Bader (14) works in a coffee shop. 14 hours a day, six days a week. When he starts his job at 6amhe cleans the shop, waits for customers and delivers coffee to nearby shops and gas stations. When he returns home from work at around 8pm he does not want to do anything but take a shower and watch Indian soap operas on TV.

‘I don’t like to think about Syria. It makes me sad.’ Bader* doesn’t have much time to think about Syria anyway. As the ‘man of the house’, he is expected to take care of his mother, Lina, and his seven siblings. He works in a coffee shop 14 hours a day, six days a week. Before leaving Syria, Khaled was shot in the leg and finds it hard to be on his feet all day. When their house was burnt down the family stayed in a bunker. After ten days they thought it was safe to return and rebuild it. Bader’s scarred leg still reminds them they were wrong. He was wounded when they tried to reach their home. His mother decided to flee to Jordan so her children would be safe. Bader said: ‘I am tired after work. My leg hurts, I cannot play soccer anymore. Going up and down the stairs to our apartment is as exhausting as running a marathon is for healthy people.’ (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)

 

Donate to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal

 *CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.

Gender-based violence: a global epidemic requiring committed and effective action

2014 June 6
by careaustralia

By Sofia Sprechmann, Program Director, CARE International

Sofia-CAREViolence against women and girls is one of the worst global epidemics. Studies show that gender-based violence (GBV) accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15-44 years as cancer does. It is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined. One in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The shocking truth is that violence against women and girls takes place in all countries, in homes, workplaces, schools and communities

Addressing gender-based violence is complex.One of thechallenges is that it is often hidden from view. The same deeply entrenched social norms that give rise to GBV make it a private matter, something not to be discussed outside the family (or even within the family).  Often, it is also invisible to those experiencing the violence, because it is so deeply woven into how an individual understands who they are as a man or a woman and their place in society.  Since GBV is often hidden from view, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. Even in countries where violence against women is prohibited under law, such acts can go unreported or unaddressed since society views GBV as acceptable and chooses to stigmatize and blame women survivors. Ending GBV therefore involves social change work at the deepest levels.

CARE has worked on addressing this abuse for 20 years.In 2013, CARE implemented programs in 23 countries to directly tackle GBV to reach nearly 320,000 people. In these countries, CARE also reached 800,000 people through strategies such as advocacy or media campaigns. Given CARE’s extensive work on addressing this abuse, we felt it was critical to take stock of the impact of our work and use the learning from our programs in Asia, Africa, Easter Europe, the Middle East and Latin America to strengthen our response to this global epidemic.  Our new report, Challenging Gender-based Violence Worldwide, analyses the impact of this work and how to build momentum to end the cycle of violence.  The report reviewed 50 program evaluations carried out from July 2011 to June 2013 and includes the results of a survey with our partners, who gave us their opinion about how to strengthen our actions to stop violence against women and girls.

The review of CARE’s programs has helped to identify successes and challenges. One of the most important findings from this review is that it is critical to scale-up innovative approaches to engage men and boys as part of comprehensive strategies to promote gender equality and GBV prevention. This can be achieved in several ways, such as integrating gender and violence into the national education curriculum or building a movement of male activists and role models for promoting non-violent male identities. From our programs we have also learned that it is central to enhance CARE’s support for establishing national GBV action plans involving participation of civil society (particularly women’s organizations and movements) and affected people. It is vital to call for global targets to reduce GBV to measure progress and promote accountability.

It is our commitment to use the learning from the review to work more effectively to end GBV through CARE’s future actions.  The report also intends to increase CARE’s accountability to governments and civil societies based on its program evidence. We believe strongly in the importance of transparency regarding our achievements, as well as our limitations.  We feel that this openness will enhance our relevance and legitimacy, and ultimately improve the future quality and impact of our work, which is so vital given the scale of GBV.

 “What are you saying – that being violent is something we inherit? Isn’t it something that we develop? This Bosnian teenage boy said it clearly. We all have a role to play in ensuring that we can build a world where everyone can live and thrive safely and free of violence. CARE is firmly committed to fighting poverty, injustice and violence.

Read the report: Challenging Gender-based Violence Worldwide: CARE’s Program Evidence: Strategies, Results and Impacts of Evaluation 2011-2013

 

For the people of Nissan Island, today is about survival

2014 June 5

by Ed Boydell, CARE Australia’s Climate Change Advisor

Today is World Environment Day. For the 7,000 people living on Nissan Island, a small coral atoll in the north-east of Papua New Guinea (PNG), it is a day of special significance.

World Environment Day is a call to action, a reminder of our shared responsibility for protecting the planet. This year, the day is highlighting the impact that the climate change is having on small islands, where the poorest depend on a fragile environment for food and water. Climate change is adding to the challenges for the people who call small islands home.

Helen Kemito

Nissan Island resident Helen Kemito, a 48-year-old grandmother who is working with her community to address the impacts of climate change. ©Ed Boydell/CARE

The people on Nissan Island, part of the Autonomous Bougainville Region of PNG, are no strangers to these challenges. Nissan is surrounded by ocean as far as the eye can see. A five-hour boat trip away from mainland Bougainville Island, it is a beautiful but challenging place to call home. The low-lying island has limited fertile land, and is exposed to fierce storms and drought.

When I recently travelled to Nissan, I met Helen Kemito, a 48-year-old mother-of-five, and grandmother-of-four. She told me of the impact the increasingly unpredictable weather is having on her family’s lives.

With no access to reliable transport on and off the island, the people of Nissan depend almost solely on the island environment itself for food. They fish and grow garden crops such as taro, yam and cassava, along with fruits such as bananas, pawpaw and coconut. In the past decade, however, they have noticed increasing variation in the weather. Heavy rain falls in short periods, rotting vegetables and stripping the blossoms off fruit trees. Conversely, prolonged periods without rain are equally damaging to crops and bush foods. Sea spray is blowing further inland on strong winds, and heavier king tides bring salt further into their gardens than the people of Nissan have ever seen, severely damaging crops.

Raised Garden Bed

A raised garden bed, an example of new gardening and agriculture methods that the community in Nissan Island are putting in place to be better prepared for natural disasters. ©Andrea Dekrout/CARE

With support from CARE, Helen has led a small group of Nissan Islanders aiming to address some of the impacts they are already seeing from a changing climate. Part of an Australian Government initiative to ensure families continue to have enough food in the face of a changing climate, men and women on Nissan and neighbouring Pinipel islands are learning new agricultural, water and food storage techniques, and are building their skills to better prepare for disasters. Many families on Nissan have already built nurseries to trial new gardening and agriculture methods and are sharing their knowledge and seedlings among their community.

Nissan Islanders Group

Helen has led a group of Nissan Islanders aiming to address some of the impacts they are already seeing from a changing climate. ©Ed Boydell/CARE

In the face of an uncertain future, today’s World Environment Day is an opportunity for many hundreds of communities in Australia’s neighbourhood to share their knowledge and experience in tackling a changing climate. With relatively small populations, the women and men of islands like Nissan have done little to contribute to climate change, but the reality of their circumstance means they’re on the front line of dealing with its impact.

Learn more about CARE’s work to support communities affected by climate change

Addressing health and nutrition in South Sudan

2014 May 28

Since the beginning of the crisis, almost 1.4 million South Sudanese have been displaced, of whom about 360,000 people have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Up to 87,000 people are sheltering in U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compounds in the country. Due to insecurity and displacement, many people are unable to farm, access their normal food sources or migrate with their livestock. More than 20 per cent of the population was undernourished before the current crisis and deadly epidemic outbreaks are frequent and spread easily.

CARE supported health facilities continue to operate in both Jonglei and Unity states, treating hundreds of people wounded in the conflict on top of the usual case load dominated by malaria, gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory infections and sexual and reproductive health services. CARE is providing Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) and nutrition services to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Bentiu’s Protection of Civilian (PoC) and WASH and protection services to displaced people in Malakal’s PoC.

At the end of March, CARE completed a WASH project in the Eastern Equatoria town of Nimule, on the border with Uganda. Through this project, CARE assisted over 9,000 people with Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention activities among displaced communities. CARE food security and livelihoods projects are getting off the ground in Jonglei’s Twic East, Duk and Uror counties.

CARE’s crisis response in Unity State has so far reached a total of 16,064 people directly, including 13,392 with health services, 1,900 with WASH and 2,445 with nutrition in two PoCs.

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal or learn more about our work in South Sudan

South Sudan CARE Soap distribution

People gather at a CARE soap distribution in Nimule, South Sudan, a town on the border with Uganda that is hosting tens of thousands of people displaced by violence in other parts of the country. March 28,2014. Photo by Dan Alder/CARE

South Sudan CARE Soap distribution

CARE Emerency Coordinator Isaac Vuciri talks to people gathered for a soap distribution in Nimule, South Sudan, a town on the border with Uganda that is hosting tens of thousands of people displaced by violence in other parts of the country. March 28,2014. Photo by Dan Alder/CARE

South Sudan CARE health services

People line up to register for food distribution, nutrition and health screening, vaccinations and protection services at the multi-agency rapid response mission to Pagak, Upper Nile in South Sudan led by WFP and UNICEF and supported by CARE and other INGOs. by Dan Alder. April 12, 2014

South Sudan CARE sanitation

CARE staff discuss sanitation issues with a community water management committee during a soap distribution in Nimule, South Sudan, a town on the border with Uganda that is hosting tens of thousands of people displaced by violence in other parts of the country. March 28,2014. Photo by Dan Alder/CARE

South Sudan CARE sanitation

CARE staff share a laugh with a group of women attending a sanitation workshop in Nimule, South Sudan, a town on the border with Uganda that is hosting tens of thousands of people displaced by violence in other parts of the country. Clean water and proper waste disposal can make a big difference in the lives of the displaced in places with no public services. March 28,2014. Photo by Dan Alder/CARE

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal or learn more about our work in South Sudan

Magazine helping tackle illiteracy in Timor-Leste

2014 May 27

In Timor-Leste, CARE is producing educational magazines and radio broadcasts to help communities with literacy, numeracy and life skills.

Lafaek is the only educational publication in Timor-Leste in the local language, Tetun, and covers topics like geography, language, health, culture and science, and issues such as peace, international affairs and women’s rights.

CARE has been producing and distributing Lafaek magazines in Timor-Leste since 2000, starting the publication as a Child Rights magazine after the 1999 Referendum for Independence.

School children in Timor-Leste read their copies of CARE's educational magazine 'Lafaek', which is the only publication in the country that uses the national language Tetun

School children in Timor-Leste read their copies of CARE’s educational magazine ‘Lafaek’, which is the only publication in the country that uses the national language Tetun. ©Jane Dempster/CARE

Five times a year between 2004 and 2009, CARE distributed 327,000 copies, reaching over 280,000 students nationwide.

Throughout Timor-Leste, every class and teacher in grades one to nine received issues of Lafaek from 2005 to 2009 thanks to an exceptional distribution network including field officers on motorbike and horseback reaching the remotest of regions.

Response to Lafaek has been tremendous:

  • 96% of teachers attested to the importance and popularity of the Lafaek magazines and reported using them to teach, emphasising that they were the only locally created, locally relevant, consistent curriculum support – and the only educational materials ‘that work’
  • 99% of teachers stated that Lafaek supported children’s learning in basic literacy, languages, natural and social sciences, health, geography, history and civic education
  • 86% of teachers used Lafaek for lesson plans, curriculum content, ideas for activities and their own professional development
  • 91% of children in grades five to nine said they were learning from Lafaek
  • 79% of children said they also used the magazines at home
  • Parents were equally enthusiastic, saying that the magazine helped them to increase their knowledge and to have a better grasp of what their children were learning
Children from Liquica reading the Lafaek Community Magazine during one of CARE’s Health Program Mother’s Group meetings

Children from Liquica reading the Lafaek Community Magazine during one of CARE’s Health Program Mother’s Group meetings. ©Sarah Rippin/CARE

The magazine has taken different forms over the years and the Lafaek team are currently distributing Lafaek ba Komunidade (Lafaek Community Magazine) which teaches and informs communities, adults with low literacy skills and children through colourful, innovative and informative articles.

Lafaek’s printed materials and community radio broadcasts target literacy and numeracy, civic education, agriculture, small business management, health and hygiene.

Learn more about CARE’s work in Timor-Leste

Self-help and community acceptance in Myanmar

2014 May 27

When Daw Than Lwin and her husband were diagnosed with HIV in 2000, the discrimination she faced from her family and friends was as heart-breaking as her diagnosis.

Her family distanced themselves from her due to the stigma of the illness, and she nursed her husband on her own until he died in 2003.

‘In rural areas [of Myanmar], people with HIV just give up on life. There is a lack of awareness and services. Even if they know their status they just go back to their village and die,’ she explains.

But that was 14 years ago, and Daw Than Lwin says that today, there is no longer such a strong fear of infection.

'In rural areas [of Myanmar], people with HIV just give up on life,' says Daw Than Lwin

‘In rural areas [of Myanmar], people with HIV just give up on life,’ says Daw Than Lwin. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

‘Before, there was a lot of discrimination but since then a lot has changed. Now people in the community look after people with HIV.’

She has helped to create this change, as a leader of a CARE-supported self-help group for people who are HIV positive.

‘Since taking Anti-Retro Virus medication, my health has improved,’ she says. ‘I like volunteer work because I’m helping people in the same situation as me.’

Daw Than Lwin’s group consists of 13 women and one man. They sew bags, school uniforms and other clothes to sell and the profits are used to support their children’s school fees and healthcare costs. They also support each other and refer patients from outside the group to services.

‘I’m very happy to help people in a similar situation to myself. I can provide for the needs of the members and their children. It’s very satisfying.’

CARE supports the groups with counselling, nutrition and medical support, and training in new skills and support networks to earn an income.

Daw Than Lwin is now leader of a CARE-supported self-help group for people who are HIV positive.

Daw Than Lwin is now leader of a CARE-supported self-help group for people who are HIV positive. ©Tom Greenwood/CARE

‘If I hadn’t received CARE support I would be poor and depressed. There would be no self-help group,’ she says.

Daw Than Lwin’s family’s attitude has also changed since she has become a group leader.

‘I get more respect from the community. People depend on me. I am encouraged to do more volunteer work.’

Daw Than Lwin’s group does a lot for their community, including supporting and contributing to treatment costs for people with HIV, running a nutrition program for children, providing school supplies and organising sewing training.

‘We want to support other group members who are not able to work, and who are lying in bed, as much as possible. Our aim is for people living with HIV to be healthy and happy.’

Learn more about CARE’s work in Myanmar

Australia’s commitment to women’s economic empowerment a positive step

2014 May 23

CARE Australia has welcomed the Government’s commitment to women and girls’ empowerment in the Australian aid program, following the announcement of a new initiative to strengthen women’s trade opportunities in Asia-Pacific.

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, today announced the initiative – which will strengthen trade promotion of women exporters across the region – during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Beijing.

‘Access to economic opportunities increases a woman’s sense of pride, purpose and decision-making power. Initiatives such as this are to be commended, as they recognise the critical role women’s empowerment plays in the region’s economic development,’ said Jenny Clement, CARE Australia’s Country Programs Manager.

The Australian Government has announced a new initiative to strengthen women's trade opportunities in Asia-Pacific

The Australian Government has announced a new initiative to strengthen women’s trade opportunities in Asia-Pacific. ©Josh Estey/CARE

‘By investing in programs that provide economic opportunities for women, not only will the region’s women be better able to meet their own needs but the entire region will benefit with increased productivity and fewer families living in poverty.’

In APEC countries including Papua New Guinea, CARE works with coffee companies and growers to increase productivity and strengthen family business management practices so that men and women from coffee farming families can work together to grow their income.

Ms Clement said the benefits of creating economic opportunities such as these for some of the world’s poorest women were immense.

‘When a woman does not have the same level of participation as her partner, not only does she miss out; so does her country. The Asia-Pacific region – our region – loses between $42 and $47 billion each year because of restrictions on women’s employment.

‘If women had the same access to farming supplies as men, for example, the agricultural output in 34 of the world’s poorest countries would increase significantly, leading to an estimated 150 million fewer people going hungry each day.’

Ms Clement added that while the statement from Ambassador Stott Despoja was recognition of the value of investing in women’s economic development, it was being made on the back of a $7.6 billion cut – almost 10 per cent – to Australia’s aid program over the coming five years.

‘While we welcome this demonstration of the Government’s commitment to women and girls, the reality of cuts to foreign aid means that fewer families living in extreme poverty will be able to see the benefit of initiatives such as this.’

Learn more about CARE’s work with women and girls

‘Humanitarian catastrophe’ in South Sudan

2014 May 22

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal

by Robert Glasser, CARE International Secretary General

Three years ago, the world witnessed the birth of a new nation, as the people of South Sudan united in eager, hopeful anticipation. People sang independence songs, and a huge clock in the centre of Juba, the capital, counted down the days. Today, the picture is quite different. The head of our South Sudan office describes a nightmarish, “soul-destroying” situation: never in her 20-year career has she had to sit by and watch people near starvation – with not enough funding to do anything about it.

Since conflict broke out in December between the government and opposition, we have seen a wave of violent attacks, rapes and fighting that have plunged the fledgling country into chaos and led its people to the brink of a catastrophic food crisis.

Again, the world is watching – but we aren’t doing enough to stop what is already a humanitarian catastrophe, which will become much worse unless immediate action is taken. There are two clear steps that need to be taken immediately: an end to the violence and a lasting political solution to the crisis; and up-front funding commitments from the international community to meet the immense humanitarian needs in South Sudan. AUD $1.35 billion is needed now to prevent the worst, but barely more than a third of that has been raised. If the total funding isn’t provided now, the ultimate cost of the emergency response will only grow. We know from experience that prevention costs much less than a full-blown emergency response.

Hundreds of people crowd a space just inside the gate of the UN mission in Bentiu amid rumours of an imminent attack on the town. The displaced persons are waiting to be registered so that they can proceed to the relative protection of an ad hoc settlement further inside the base.

Hundreds of people crowd a space just inside the gate of the UN mission in Bentiu amid rumours of an imminent attack on the town. The displaced persons are waiting to be registered so that they can proceed to the relative protection of an ad hoc settlement further inside the base. ©Dan Alder/CARE

The human cost of inaction is stark. More than 1 million people have fled their homes within South Sudan, finding shelter in the bush or in the perceived safety of United Nations compounds across the country. More than 300,000 others have become refugees in neighbouring countries. Thousands have been killed, and the UN has recently said there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed.

Heavy fighting and the onset of the rainy season have cut off the few existing roads, leaving tens of thousands without any assistance at all. Planes full of aid and humanitarian workers cannot land because airstrips are under water or blocked by fighting. Worse, the armed conflict raging across half the country prevented farmers from planting seeds in time for the planting season, and now not enough crops will grow to feed the country in the coming year, leading to warnings from the UN of a potential famine in several states.

If the world does not act, if the conflict does not end, more people will die – from violence, or from hunger. And an insidious, lesser-known evil will grow: sexual violence and exploitation. Research being released by CARE to coincide with the Oslo conference shows that the escalation in the conflict has been accompanied by a rise in sexual violence, largely against women and girls, and our experience tells us this situation will worsen if the conflict continues.

In between spates of violent conflict CARE ventures into Bentiu town to run a mobile clinic. In its first two days after the most recent round of fighting, the clinic served more than 100 people, including Nyakuik Tap and her twelve month old daughter.

In between spates of violent conflict CARE ventures into Bentiu town to run a mobile clinic. In its first two days after the most recent round of fighting, the clinic served more than 100 people, including Nyakuik Tap and her twelve month old daughter. ©Dan Alder/CARE

CARE staff in South Sudan are receiving reports of women and girls being raped and killed in the bush or in hospitals and churches where they have sought shelter. Women are selling themselves for sex in exchange for access to drinking water for themselves and their families. Parents are offering their young daughters as child brides in return for a dowry or to ease the burden of feeding an extra person. I was sickened to hear that one woman interviewed referred to another woman who had been raped as ‘lucky’, because it could have been worse – other women were raped and then killed.

In the face of the overwhelming need in South Sudan, the issue of sexual violence might seem peripheral – but sexual violence is a symptom of a broader societal breakdown. If the violence does not stop, the repercussions of unpunished rapes and assaults will haunt the South Sudanese for years. We have seen this in other conflicts around the world.

CARE is supporting more than 40 health clinics across the country, including in the areas worst affected by the fighting, providing first aid, food and water alongside maternal health services. But it is a fraction of what is needed.  We are watching as families eat leaves from the trees in a desperate effort to survive. This is simply unacceptable.

As the world’s attention is stretched by other crises and world events, the Oslo conference is a tangible opportunity to help South Sudan. If we act now, we can prevent the worst, and help the people of South Sudan return to a more hopeful path.

Donate to CARE’s South Sudan Appeal or learn more about our work in South Sudan

- Dr Robert Glasser was Chief Executive of CARE Australia from 2003 to 2007. He is currently Secretary General of CARE International.

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