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Food distributed as hunger worsens in Mali

Food distributed as hunger worsens in Mali – 5 Apr 2012

A Tearfund partner is providing emergency food aid to people living around Timbuktu in Mali who are affected by the Sahel hunger crisis as well as in-country conflict. Supplies are being distributed by our partner TNT not only to locals in this remote area south of the Sahara but to people who have fled there following the recent Tuareg rebellion.

Sahel drought and crop failure

Like Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, Mali is badly affected by food shortages following the partial failure of rains and subsequent poor crops last year. With rising food prices too, around 3 million Malians are going hungry and Unicef estimates that between 175,000 and 200,000 people are suffering severe acute malnutrition. Donate today

Mali coup

There has been criticism of the Malian government’s lack of response to the food crisis and there is now more uncertainty following last week’s coup when soldiers ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure from power. The military’s move was prompted by anger over the president’s handling of the Tuareg uprising, which erupted in late January.


Around 195,000 people have been made homeless by the fighting between the Tuareg and Malian government forces, with some 100,000 Malians fleeing across the borders to Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. There are fears the conflict will exacerbate the hunger crisis as displaced people will not be able to return to their homes when the rains start in a few months’ time.

Every year Malians contend with a hunger gap, the period between when existing food stocks run out and the next harvest is ready. This normally runs from May to the first harvests in September, but this year, as in other very bad years, it started in February. Rains are expected in June and people tend to begin preparing the ground in May.


Cath Candish, Tearfund Programme Coordinator for Mali, said, ‘Mali is facing a volatile and uncertain situation. The conflagration of a food crisis with a Tuareg rebellion can only leave the poorest and most vulnerable even more so.’

Meanwhile, further south from Timbuktu, Tearfund partner AEDM has been funding community groups to diversify their crops and to use more sustainable techniques to grow them. Another partner ODES is improving access to water as well as teaching better agricultural practice, while partner JEM is helping communities develop market gardening.

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Reuben Coulter CEO will step down in August – 27 Mar 2012

Statement from the Chair of the Board

I am writing to let you know that Reuben Coulter will be stepping down as Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland in August. We will shortly start to recruit for a new Chief Executive. (Vacancy details here) I write with a feeling of sadness that Reuben is leaving, but also with a sense of anticipation, as we move into a new phase in our journey.

Reuben has been our first Chief Executive and we have travelled a long way under his inspirational leadership. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him publicly for all that he has invested, both personally and professionally.

I would also like to thank you for being part of this journey too. You have prayed and given sacrificially. In the past year, our income has increased to more than €800,000 which is a real miracle in such challenging times. This generous support has enabled us to provide emergency relief to people affected by the famine in East Africa and to support poverty-stricken people through churches in seven countries.

But there is so much more to be done. As Tearfund Ireland seeks to build on its achievements to date, we are looking for a new Chief Executive – a leader of vision and character. We would like to ask for your help. If you know anyone who might be suitable, please can you let them know about this vacancy .

Dr. David Weakliam
Chair of the Board

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Gay Mitchell asked to Unearth the Truth

Gay Mitchell asked to Unearth the Truth – 16 Mar 2012

Exports of oil & minerals from Africa is $393 billion, that’s 9 times the value of international aid ($44b). Yet most countries get little or no tax from international mining companies. On Fri 16th March Reuben Coulter met with Gay Mitchell MEP to discuss new EU legislation on transparency of international mining companies.

Secrecy and corruption often results in natural resource wealth going missing and not benefiting the citizens of resource rich countries, especially the poorest. A handful of Members of the European Parliament have a vital role to play. They sit on the committees covering these issues, and it’s up to them to ensure that EU countries finally agree effective transparency legislation. Read the briefing paper that was submitted by Tearfund here.

Thanks to Irish Christians

Gay Mitchell thanked Reuben and the supporters of Tearfund for bringing the issue to his attention. Last week representatives from Irish mining companies had met with him to persuade him that the legislation was too stringent and would hurt their business. ‘I fail to believe that massive mining companies with revenues of hundreds of millions a year are unable to report transparently at a project level’, Gay said as he reflected on their requests, ‘As Joint Coordinator (leader) of the European Parliament’s Development Committee I want to ensure transparency and fairness in trading relationships with Africa’. Gay agreed to review the briefing paper and consult with his colleagues on Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee to ensure that rigorous legislation was implemented.

Gay Mitchell also said that he was encouraged that Irish Christians are speaking out on issues of justice.

Next steps for you to take

Email: If you haven’t already signed our email petition then you can do so here
Learn: Find out more about our Unearth the Truth campaign and the difference it is making

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Fear of looming famine in Sahel

Fear of looming famine in Sahel – 17 Feb 2012

Food price hikes, erratic weather patterns and insecurity are compounding a serious food crisis unfolding in West Africa.

Millions of people don’t have enough to eat after inadequate rains and insect infestations led to poor harvests and livestock losses in the Sahel region. Niger and Chad are the worst affected but parts of Burkina Faso and Mali are also deteriorating. See BBC photos here

Gaston Slanwa, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Niger, said, ‘Staple food prices have shot up to almost 40 per cent higher than a year ago. One factor is the rise in violence in neighbouring northern Nigeria which has led to the closure of the border, restricting the movement of people and commodities. This is having a big impact on food security in the region.’

More than 200,000 children in Niger are acutely malnourished and dwindling food supplies are leading to ‘crisis levels’ in some areas of the country.

Following the recent harvest, the price of food, such as millet, should be falling but the reverse has happened. According to the World Food Programme, a 100 kg bag of millet that cost US$29 last October is now selling for more than US$41. Watch this short World Food Programme film clip

In Chad, access to food is also becoming critical as prices rocket with only one out of 56 areas having normal levels of rainfall.

Passiri Levourne, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Chad, said, ‘Everywhere around the country, insufficient food is available in local markets and prices continue to rise. Malnutrition rates are increasing and are now above ten per cent.’

Window of opportunity

In Mali, there are pockets of severe food shortages, with peanut and bean crops failing in many areas. In Burkina Faso, overall cereal production is expected to be significantly down on previous years. Here too food prices are also much higher than a year ago.

Tearfund continues to support national partners to improve access to food supplies, as well as working on longer term measures, such as agricultural training, providing drought-resistant seeds and repairing water sources, to strengthen communities to deal with food insecurity. Partners are stepping up their support for vulnerable communities to make sure they are best prepared for the difficult year ahead.

Robert Schofield, Tearfund’s Disaster Management Director, said, ‘There is a small window of opportunity over the next three months for communities to work on preventative measures to avert the type of full blown food crisis we saw in East Africa last summer.

‘Please stand with Tearfund and our partners and pray for concerted action across the Sahel region by governments, aid agencies and donors to support the most vulnerable through a tough time.’

Malawi HIV Fund

Malawi HIV Fund – 30 Jan 2012

In Malawi, one in five children born to a HIV-positive mother is infected – a death sentence at birth. However, child and maternal mortality can be reduced dramatically with a number of low-cost interventions.

Tearfund and its local partners are mobilising church and communities in rural Malawi to stop AIDS together.Irish Aid, a department within the Irish government, has awarded Tearfund Ireland a grant in recognition of our expertise and accountability in this area. This covers 72 per cent of the cost of the HIV project in Malawi but the remaining 28 per cent (€30,000) is still needed to enable this vital work to go ahead.

One child is born with HIV every minute. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Could you help save a child’s life? Click here to give today

Haiti 2 years on

Haiti 2 years on – 9 Jan 2012

Catherine Carey, a nurse in Dublin, went to Haiti for 12 days with Tearfund’s first-ever medical team in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Here, she writes of the steps being taken by Tearfund to help people recover from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake.

In the hustle and bustle of morning rush hour in Port-au-Prince, children stream out of slums – immaculate in their school uniforms. Women in smart skirts and blouses walk by, carrying baskets of produce on their heads. Surfaceless roads, still featuring piles of earthquake-damage rubble at the side of them, are jammed with four-wheel drives, cars and motorbikes.

Amid the chaos, it’s difficult to get to our destination – a church building where we’ll hold our baby clinic. Tomorrow, we’ll take to the roads again, and by the end of the week, we’ll have completed an exhausting circuit of open spaces, church buildings and temporary camps, where people still live in tents, almost two years since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean country.

At each temporary camp, we’ll begin with the community volunteer making a megaphone announcement to alert people to the fact that the clinic is about to begin. We’ll then offer free antenatal and postnatal advice to mothers, and weigh babies and provide vaccinations to the infants. In the open areas, we’ll hang the weighing scales from the branches of trees!

The daily grind

Life in Haiti is far from easy. It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere, before the earthquake struck. In one of the tented camps, where hundreds of people live under tarpaulin, the Haitians proudly show off their primary school that they’re running in abandoned buses that act as classrooms. There are few books; the teachers are volunteers. But, despite all this, children are learning to read and write.

For those fortunate enough to have a job, work usually starts at 7am and runs to 7pm, six days a week. And the typical wage packet for these long hours is just $5 per day – $30 for the whole week.


Building micro-businesses

As a member of the 11-strong medical team from Tearfund, I spent the time attached to Kings Hospital, supported by Tearfund partner World Relief. World Relief have used post-earthquake funding from Tearfund to support a number of people with start-up business loans. Among those to benefit are community volunteers Kathleen and Antoinette, who I had the privilege of meeting one day. Kathleen has used her $200 grant to produce peanut butter from peanuts and this helps her support her children and younger siblings. Meanwhile, Antoinette sells charcoal for fuel. Kathleen and Antoinette lost so much in the earthquake, yet they getting on with their lives and volunteering to work in their community by helping at the clinics and providing health education classes.

Isolated but not alone

On one of the last days before I came home, I left my usual nursing routine in Port-au-Prince and made the three-hour, 25km journey along a windy highway to the highland village of Leogane, where the epicentre of the earthquake was. From there, I made a 45-minutes journey in a jeep, followed by a hike through a riverbed and up a dirt track, to reach a stream that is being diverted by Tearfund to provide clean water for the village.

I met some local people who were provided with new homes, and I saw a transitional school that has been built by Tearfund. Because of the village’s isolated position, Tearfund has been the only organisation to work there. All the building supplies have been carried by hand, up the mountain, by the local people.


Priscilla is a mother whose home was destroyed in the earthquake. With immense pride, she showed me round the two-room shelter that had been built for her family by Tearfund. One of the most moving moments of my trip was when I held hands with Priscilla and we prayed together – two mothers from different countries sharing in God’s love.

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