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Mother buddies in Malawi

Mother buddies in Malawi – 3 May 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 Ireland has received three year’s funding from Irish Aid, a government department, to mobilise churches and communities in rural Malawi to stop AIDS but still needs donations to enable this life-saving work to succeed. Give today

Slim disease

‘Slim disease’ is the local name given to AIDS which has ravaged the country since the 1980s. More than 10% of the population are infected with HIV and tragically are passing it on to the next generation. Rev. Harold, a church leader in Chitera was exhausted from attending the funerals of AIDS victims with often as many as ten per month. ‘People were in a constant state of grief.’ he says, ‘It was particularly tragic when a young infant wasted away and died’.

Loneliness kills

Rev. Harold then attended a training run by the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Tearfund’s partner. He realised that AIDS was the equivalent of leprosy in Biblical times. ‘Sufferers were isolated from family and community. Even us, their church persecuted for their condition,’ he explains. One woman, whose family, on learning of her condition, set fire to her home to drive her out. ‘It’s not only the disease that kills,’ Rev Harold continues, ‘but the loneliness.’

Changing church

As a result of his training Chitera community and the local church is changing dramatically. Following the example of Jesus with the lepers the church members have begun to welcome people living with HIV and are providing practical care and support for them. On a recent visit to Malawi I attended a church service and was present as the collection was gathered from the congregation. This was like nothing you would see in Ireland – someone offered a bar of soap, another a pair of socks, someone else a single egg. It was moving to witness people with next to nothing giving whatever they could for those suffering from AIDS.

Inspiring as the image is, however, it touches on something much deeper and confirms the incredible potential of the church to bring healing and hope.

A mother’s hope

The church conducted a voluntary HIV testing and counselling clinic as part of their Sunday service. 176 people came to be tested. One of them was Evelyn who was pregnant with her first child. ‘I was very afraid when I found out’ she says softly ‘I thought there was no hope for me and my child, in Malawi this is a death sentence.’ However a ‘mother buddy’ (a church volunteer) was able to take her to the health clinic on a bicycle ambulance so that she could be provided with anti-retroviral medicines. ‘I don’t think I could have gotten there without her’ says Evelyn as she reflects on the hour’s walk to the nearest clinic.

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Throughout Evelyn‘s pregnancy the mother buddy provided continuous support and prayer. The anti-retroviral medicines can have some horrible side-effects including nausea and vomiting and without encouragement pregnant women often stop taking them. But Evelyn persevered and gave birth to a baby boy Ztembele, which means ‘thanks’.

Recently Ztembele was old enough to be tested for HIV and to the delight of his mother Evelyn he was negative. ‘Without the medicines, my mother buddy and my church I would be telling a different story today’ says Evelyn. She has decided that she wants to be trained as a mother buddy so she can share her experiences and help mothers in her situation.

Today, in Chitera there has been only one burial for an AIDS victim in the last six months. Behind this dramatic turnaround is the loving care and dedication of a network of church volunteers, led by Rev Harold and inspired by Jesus.

A future free from HIV

Such success has not gone unnoticed. Tearfund Ireland has secured three years funding from the Irish Government towards reducing the incidence of HIV transmission from mother to child, a significant initiative in a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Over the next three years we plan to test 6,500 mothers and will be providing ‘mother buddy’ support to the HIV-positive mothers. As a result hundreds of children will be born with a chance at life. Evelyn is looking forward to her opportunity to give something back to her people – her way of giving thanks.

The Malawi HIV project is only partially funded by the Irish government and will require your support to ensure its success.

  • €18 will enables us to provide emergency transport for a pregnant woman
  • €35 enables us to provide HIV testing at a church
  • €150 will enable us to support a HIV positive pregnant mother and prevent her child being born with HIV

Give today

Push your Pastor from a Plane?

Push your Pastor from a Plane? – 26 Apr 2012

Ok, so it’s like this; we were looking for a quirky fundraising idea that would highlight how scary poverty can be and encourage pastors to take the ultimate jump…. from a plane!

‘Little chance’ you may say. Well it’s like this….living on the edge of poverty can be scary and earth shattering as well as nerve-racking and unpredictable, especially in northern Myanmar where decades of ethnic conflict have left many displaced.

Tearfund partner World Concern is helping the Kachin refugees return to their homes, provide them with clean water, seeds and tools to replant their fields. We are aiming to raise €10,000 to help this project through the ‘Push The Pastor’ fundraiser. Or you can donate today by clicking here

So it’s quite simple, would you ask your pastor/minister to do a sky dive and help him/her fundraise in the process? You will need to raise a minimum of €500 because it will also cost to send your pastor flying through the air! Of course it doesn’t have to be a pastor but anyone who is up for it!

We will send you the sponsorship cards and everything necessary to get you up and running so call Cliona today on 01 878 3200 to book your place.

Go on! Help the people of Myanmar away from the edge of poverty.

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The Real Hunger Games – 16 Apr 2012

It seems like every conversation I have lately, I get asked if I’ve read The Hunger Games. At work, at church, at dinner – eventually I realised I should probably find out what’s getting people so animated.

The dystopian fiction of The Hunger Games is set in a country named Panem, in what is left of North America after an unexplained apocalypse generations ago. Districts around its Capitol are starving and dying, children skipping school to find food and become head of families when their parents cannot care for them. Already this is striking a familiar chord; we know all too well that this isn’t a potential future scenario, but a daily reality for communities Tearfund works with from Bangladesh to Bolivia, right now.

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The plot thickens. To punish the districts for their rebellion 74 years ago, the Capitol holds an annual televised event where they choose a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 at random from each district, and force them to fight to the death for prizes of food as the whole country watches. Immediately I’m getting flashbacks to the starving babies we saw fight for survival in East Africa on our TV screens not even a year ago. And we are in danger of seeing it again this year as 13 million are at risk in the Sahel, West Africa. Almost a third of people in Chad are in trouble. Some children are already dying from malnutrition and others are cutting their meals down to one a day and selling their precious livestock. The UN is calling for over $1bn to head off the food crisis in the Sahel.

I wish that was fictional.

The situation in the Sahel is depicted very well in this new illustration, inspired by the arena from the Hunger Games, which reminds us why hunger persists in the developing world in our day and age, despite there being enough food for everyone. Hunger rules this landscape – 1 billion people trying to make a living, whilst battling against climate change, high food and energy prices, conflict, inequality, trade barriers, land grabbing, and historically a minuscule investment in agriculture.

Hunger is no game for Agnes Anyabo, 37, from Omulala village, in Eastern Uganda. She is my heroine in the real world of hunger. Orphaned at 6 and later thrown out by her husband for not bearing a child, her tiny plot of land was washed away by floods. She started over again and planted more vegetables, but then a drought forced her to eat wild leaves. She had two more mouths to feed as guardian of her sister’s daughters Caro and Margaret. But she joined a women’s farming cooperative, set up by the local church, and started growing cassava and received cattle and goats. Now she is more resilient to face droughts and floods.

So how can we end the real hunger games, for good, so we can help more people like Agnes?

The international community and governments need to stop treating food crises as a series of unexpected disasters. They can no longer play with people’s lives or wait to act until we see starving African children on our TV screens, as if it were the televised Hunger Games. We need long term strategies to end chronic hunger, build resilience and prevent predictable food crises, like the one looming in the Sahel, right now.

We need to invest more in smallholder farmers and put female farmers at the very heart of strategies and increase their access to land, markets, extension services, loans and decision making. Shifting the focus to the demands faced by women in ensuring that her family eats enough nutritious food, today and tomorrow and benefits from economic gains, better captures the nature of day-to-day food security.

Governments must develop national food security strategies, including empowering women to ensure equal access to food. Food security needs to climb higher up the food chain in terms of political agenda and investment. We need visionary leadership to ensure that all countries, especially those prone to food crises, have sufficient resources to ensure food security effectively and to end the hunger games once and for all.

Read more on Tearfund’s response to the West Africa crisis
Donate today to support our life-saving work

Matthew Frost is Chief Executive of international aid and development agency Tearfund UK

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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.

Volatile

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.

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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.

Donate today to make a difference

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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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