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News : Emergencies
SYRIA UPDATE: LONG-AWAITED PEACE TALKS ON 22 JANUARY – 15 Jan 2014
Aged just 12, Mirah* already knows more about the horrors of war than many of us will in a lifetime.
Growing up in the city of Homs in western Syria, she attended school and played with her two brothers.
However, as the conflict escalated Mirah’s childhood changed beyond recognition. Her brothers were forced to flee the country after being arrested and tortured. Soon after this, her family home was bombed during a night of attacks on the city.
Mirah was separated from her parents and helped across the mountains into Lebanon by some of the other survivors. She was sure she had lost her mother and father forever.
Amazingly, sometime later Mirah was reunited with her parents in a camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Tearfund partner Heart for Lebanon is now providing them with monthly food and hygiene packages, along with supportive follow-up visits.
Mirah’s family is very grateful for this support, which is helping them survive the harsh winter. But it isn’t a long-term solution.
With the conflict in Syria still raging, families like Mirah’s are hoping that the upcoming Geneva II peace talks will signal the start of a positive change.
- Give thanks that the peace talks are still on track for 22 January. Pray that all parties will attend and ask God to help those present to find a workable solution to the conflict.
- Pray for those in Syria affected by the worsening fighting as parties try to gain ground ahead of the talks.
- Pray for refugees and displaced people like Mirah as they face the additional hardships of a cold winter.
More church and individual prayer resources for Syria Peace Talks.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Photo above: Lebanon camp, photographer: Eleanor Bentall / Tearfund
Girly Malitante is a primary school teacher in Marabut. ‘My school is damaged from the typhoon, but we need shelter for the children to have classes. The chairs and books, pencils and pens and blackboards are all damaged.’
Giving children the routine of going to school helps recreate a sense of normality for them. While adults begin the work of rebuilding their homes and their lives, Tearfund partners are working to create safe spaces for children.
There’s a lot to do, as Girly points out. ‘We received some food and clothing from the Department of Education, and the government has said they will repair our school, but not until January. There are computers floating in the floods, and we have to boil water to drink. But we have a lot of firewood!’ she says, pointing to the rubble.
As the shock of Typhoon Haiyan wears off, and evidence of trauma is settling in, our partners are training community volunteers from local churches in Northern Samar on trauma recovery for children.
Layo Mateo, a fisherman in Basey is concerned for the wellbeing of his children. ‘Sometimes my children still get scared. Now, even the level one typhoon warnings scare us.’
It might take time to rebuild schools. Nevertheless our partners are creating places for children where they can play, make things, and express their emotions with on-site care providers. Through our work in Samar, we’re making sure that children suffering acute trauma can be treated by Filipino psychologists to receive the level of care that they need.
Tearfund partners are working for long-term recovery in the Philippines.
It rains every day in Dulag, but there’s little shelter for the 9,000 families who live there. Just 30km south of Tacloban, almost all of the homes in the area were destroyed as they stood directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan.
Shelter is the top priority in Dulag. Families whose homes have been destroyed urgently need protection from the elements.
Almost overlooked by the tremendous need in Tacloban, there was little support for those in nearby Dulag.
But Tearfund partners have quickly identified the need to bring help to the region. The team are already on the ground giving out 5,000 shelter kits to families in the area.
Guido Krauss is a shelter advisor. ‘We’ve talked to a lot of families, local authorities, and engineers, and everybody agrees that the main needs at the moment are food and shelter.’
As well as shelter kits, the team are giving people equipment to help them clear away debris from their ruined homes. In the long-term, our partners will train families to rebuild their homes in a way that makes them more resilient to disasters like cyclones.
Working with local officials is helping the team to target their response, Guido explains: ‘We don’t need a separate relief system. The destruction is so huge that it will be very difficult for the government and the Filipino people to recover from this solely on their own capacity. The best way we can help is to be supportive and to collaborate with communities.’
Tearfund partners are working for long-term recovery in the Philippines.
Human impact stories from the Tearfund project through local church partner inside Syria – 20 Nov 2013
Maha is a young woman who was displaced from Homs with her four children. They are now all living in a small rented apartment in another area of Syria. Her husband went missing more than a year ago, but Maha has not heard any details about him since. In Syria’s failing economy, Maha has found no work to meet her and her children’s basic needs.
Thankfully, Tearfund’s local partner has been active in the region since the start of the year, and has been providing emergency food assistance to Maha. The support has been crucial in this time of uncertainty for Maha and her children.
Ola Rahaal’s story
Four-year old Ola Rahaal was forced out of her village, together with her family and the rest of the community, by a group of Islamist militants several months ago. The family moved to the area of Syria where Tearfund’s local partner has been providing food assistance. Having left all their belongings behind and seeking refuge, they needed support for all their needs, including food and shelter.
However, the family soon received a further shock when Ola was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The entire community joined with Ola and her family in their sadness. A lack of medical support in the area due to the destruction of public hospitals forced the family to travel for medical care. Ola went through several operations, one of which left her blind.
Tearfund’s local partner has been helping Ola’s family throughout the process by providing food, and is seeking to meet medical needs where possible. Though a small contribution in itself, the food assistance has helped the family to cope and meet their basic nutritional needs.
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE LOST TO TYPHOON HAIYAN – 11 Nov 2013
Tearfund partners, including local churches, have helped people to evacuate their homes and villages in time to avoid the worst of the typhoon, which is one of the biggest in recorded history. But despite the best efforts of emergency services and humanitarian agencies, many thousands of lives have been lost and homes have been washed away.
It has been difficult to confirm all the details because of power cuts and difficulties in reaching our colleagues but we know that landslides, flooding and high winds have wiped out homes, businesses and farms.
Our partners are in the evacuation centres, giving care to survivors who need food, water, shelter and help to find their loved ones.
Rescue operations and food distributions have started to reach people but there are still areas of the islands where people have not yet been traced.
Pastors, church workers and volunteers are travelling by motorbike to some of the more remote areas over the next few days to find survivors and offer help. Despite difficult conditions, they will travel long distances for three days at a time to reach villages where they expect to find high death counts and many grieving people.
Tearfund calls for prayer for the survivors, who will need assistance for many months to come.
As well as the urgent and practical things like helping people have a roof over their heads, we know that there will be a lot of grief as people come to terms with bereavement. We must pray for the thousands of people who are grieving and ask God how he wants each of us to respond to their needs.
Please also pray for the churches who are sending teams out, many of whom will travel long distances by motorbike, that their teams would stay safe and well on their travels and that they would be able to bring hope to the people they meet.
Corrie de Boer from Mission Ministries in the Philippines visited our Tearfund office in October. Tearfund Ireland’s International Programme’s Manager, Markus Koker gave her a copy of the Tearfund resource booklet – Disaster and the Local Church. Corrie found it very useful, as the Philippines face about 6 typhoons every year.
If you can, please donate to help us support those in emergency.
The human cost - West Africa Food Crisis – 23 May 2012
Fears are growing of a humanitarian disaster across West Africa as millions of people face starvation. Extreme hunger is now a daily reality for many families surviving on just one or two meals a day, some of whom are so desperate that they are resorting to eating wild leaves. Countries affected are among the poorest in the world and include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, which have all declared states of emergency.
They’ve been left reeling after severe drought had a disastrous impact on harvests and livestock. Please give today to help us respond
The tragic human cost
The growing human cost of Niger’s hunger emergency can be seen in the dwindling frame of nine-month-old Karima. Over the last four months she has lost half her body weight, coinciding with the failed harvest in this southern Dosso region of the country. In recent weeks her condition has worsened and her mother, 25-year-old Dayaba, has brought Karima to Soukoukoutane health centre after a long journey by foot which began the previous day. ‘I feel weak and I have no breast milk for my baby which makes her cry,’ said Dayaba.
Karima is not the only child crying today. Accompanied by husband Jada, Dayaba and Karima take their place alongside more than a dozen other women with malnourished young children waiting to see medical staff.
They gather in the welcome shade provided by a neem tree – known locally as a miracle tree because of its medicinal properties. It’s a beacon of verdant foliage in a barren landscape scorched by drought, indeed it seems a miracle the tree is there at all given the heat which feels like walking past an open oven on full blast.
Dayaba and Jada tell of how the failure of their millet crop has brought them to the clinic: ‘We didn’t collect any food from the harvest,’ says Dayaba. ‘At the time we planted millet, there was not enough rain.’ Normally their millet plants would reach six foot high but they made to just two foot before succumbing to the drought. Jada immediately read the danger signs: ‘Straight after I planted the millet I saw the situation was becoming bad. The rain came at the right time but it stopped just after a few days. We didn’t produce anything. So I left for Burkina Faso. This is the worst situation I’ve ever faced.’
He wasn’t the only one from his village to head abroad seeking work and income to send home. ‘My neighbours are facing the same situation, almost all the men in my village – between 60 to 70 men – left at the same time to go abroad. Only five old men stayed in the village.
‘We had to go because we had nothing. We had to find work so we could send back some money; it wasn’t because we liked leaving. Even if we stayed in the village there was nothing we could do for the women. As a man, we’re supposed to find something to eat for our wives and children but we don’t even have a goat to sell to buy food. It was a hard decision but we had to do it.’ Three months ago, the work ran out in Burkina and Jada returned to Niger and an uncertain future.
‘We don’t know how the next harvest will be. Only God knows. I have fear in my heart because if not for the grace of God I might lose my daughter.’ Jada said, ‘My prayer is that God will give us a good harvest. It may rain but that might not give us a big harvest. Our strength is fading and we are fearful.’
What Tearfund is doing to help
Seven Tearfund partners in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger are responding to the food crisis, helping crop growers and livestock producers with emergency measures. Depending on the location, they are distributing food, running cash-for-work projects, selling food at reduced prices, supporting grain banks and introducing market gardening.
As so many people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, cash-for-work schemes provide an invaluable income boost when times are hard. People get paid for activities that benefit the wider community, for example, planting trees to protect the soil and building barriers to prevent the encroaching desert.
Market gardening is helping communities diversify their food beyond staple cereal crops, such as millet. Partners are providing training, tools and seeds so people can produce a variety of vegetables. Growing tomatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, peppers and aubergines not only boosts people’s diets but provides them with cash crops to supplement their incomes.
Grain banks enable people to buy food at reduced prices in times of shortage. After each harvest, a family will put a sack of grain into the bank, plus extra by way of ‘interest’.
Tearfund partners have been working in vulnerable communities for many years, often alongside local churches, to improve livelihoods and to reduce the risk of disasters.
They have long term plans to strengthen people’s resilience, for example, by diversifying incomes, introducing drought-resistant crops and improving farming techniques and water sources.
Working closely with communities on such solutions ensures such projects are owned locally and therefore have long term viability.