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Increasing desperation in East Africa

Increasing desperation in East Africa – 6 Oct 2011

‘This is the worst crisis we’ve ever experienced. We’ve gone from a reasonably successful life to utter devastation.’

The words of Salina Mamoru convey something of the detrimental impact of the drought affecting more than 13 million people in East Africa but her appearance and living conditions also speak volumes. The 37-year-old is staying in the Katilu displacement camp in Turkana, northern Kenya, a dry, sandy and dusty place that has no home comforts.

Yet people like Salina come here in hope they will find food and water, two things in incredibly short supply in northern Kenya, as well as Somalia and southern Ethiopia after months without rain.

For Salina and her neighbours, accommodation at the camp consists of huts made of mud and sticks, with a few residents having sheets of plastic to bolster their flimsy rooves.

Salina has six children to look after and all her money has gone on buying food and medicines to keep them alive. Her husband can’t find work in this parched landscape and there’s no help forthcoming from the government or anyone else.

Salina, who is thin and tired, prays for three things, that her sick children will get better, her husband will find work and there’ll be rain soon.

28-day walk

It’s a prayer echoed by mother-of-four Maka who walked 28 days through the bush between Somalia and Kenya. It was a sapping and heartbreaking journey, with Maka seeing people die along the way due to lack of food and water.

‘People would say “I can’t walk anymore” then sit down under a tree and die,’ she recalls. ‘We don’t have enough food and water. I don’t know what to do with my sick child.’

Tearfund partner, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), is responding in northern Kenya, providing water and repairing broken boreholes to get supplies back on line. Fellow partner, Christian Community Services of Mount Kenya East (CCSMKE), is also helping by getting water to needy families through organising a shuttle of tankers to the area.

Across East Africa, seven Tearfund partners are tackling hunger caused mainly by drought and high food prices in the hardest-hit regions of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Life-saving services are being provided to 100,000 refugees and displaced people through distributing food and water and providing cash-for-work, shelter materials and essential non-food items.

Tearfund is also involved in long term work to increase the resilience of communities by improving farming methods and the way people manage water.

However the forecasts are for the crisis to worsen over the coming months, with humanitarian help being needed well into 2012.

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Aid teams help Himalayan quake survivors

Aid teams help Himalayan quake survivors – 28 Sep 2011

Survivors of an earthquake which has rocked the Himalayan region are being helped by Tearfund partners.

The 6.9 magnitude quake struck on 18 September, affecting parts of India, Nepal and Tibet, killing at least 130 people. The epicentre was in the Indian state of Sikkim, where despite rescue efforts being hampered by heavy rainfall and landslides blocking roads, Tearfund partner teams were on the scene within 48 hours.

Thousands of people have been left injured and at least 15,000 people are homeless due to the collapse of buildings. Getting food, warm clothes, blankets and shelter to survivors is now the priority, particularly as many villages in Sikkim are rural, remote and difficult to get to.

Long treks

Tearfund has released emergency funds and four partners in India, Discipleship Centre, EFICOR, Emmanuel Hospital Association and NEICORD, are launching a coordinated aid effort to help the worst affected families.

A Tearfund spokesman in India said, ‘As roads are opening and media reports are coming through, we are seeing that damage to property and the number of casualties is quite high. The immediate need is to provide temporary shelter. Also there is an acute need for food supplies.’

In the district of Mangan, partner relief teams have trekked more than 20 miles across hilly terrain to reach communities that are inaccessible by road.

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Pumpynut - a miracle food

Pumpynut - a miracle food – 7 Sep 2011

Throughout the emergencies of the 1980s and 1990s, Tearfund’s emergency teams would set up therapeutic feeding centres in places like Ethiopia and Sudan – essentially intensive care units – in rural areas and mothers came from far and wide, bringing their children for treatment.

Children were fed with special foods that had to be prepared carefully to ensure that they got the correct benefit from it, and nursed back to health over a number of weeks. It was expensive, difficult and hugely disruptive to poor families who had to walk miles to the feeding centres. Added to that, it became clear that therapeutic feeding centres were only reaching a tiny percentage of people and doing virtually nothing to combat the causes of food shortages and malnutrition.

Pumpynut – a miracle solution

It was felt that there had to be a better and more effective way of tackling emergencies and combating malnutrition. The breakthrough came when a Frenchman called Andre Briend came up with a ready-prepared food called Plumpynut. Essentially, a nutritious high-energy paste made from nuts, Plumpynut requires no preparation and keeps for several months.

Tearfund knew that it was on to something that could revolutionise the approach to malnutrition. “Instead of bringing people in for treatment, we could bring this ready-to-eat food to them,” says Reuben Coulter, Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland, who witnessed this approach in use in Darfur. With supplies of Plumpynut in local health facilities, more people could be reached and malnutrition could be caught earlier.

Even in emergency situations it was found that most severely malnourished children don’t need major medical attention. With Plumpynut and the minimum medical attention, they get better. If the child doesn’t have any medical complications they can be sent home with their mother and a few weeks supply of this food. The child recovers in front of the community because of the food the mother is feeding it rather than because of some magic cure by some foreign doctor – the empowerment and value to that mother is enormous.

Going global

Realising the potential of this approach, the Irish aid agency Concern teamed up with another organisation called Valid International, and conducted extensive trials and research. Tearfund also became involved and together they compiled whole body of evidence confirming the success of community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM)* as it became known. Today this approach is used in all Tearfund’s nutrition programmes in emergency situations.

The evidence was brought to the World Health Organisation (WHO). CMAM and Plumpynut was able to help 75 percent of malnourished children at lower cost, better survival rates and less disruption to the families. In 2007, the WHO changed its policy to recommend this approach to dealing with malnutrition, and more children’s lives have been saved as a result.

East Africa drought tightens its grip

East Africa drought tightens its grip – 1 Sep 2011

In some parts of the drought-affected country, more than 50 per cent of the population are suffering acute malnutrition. Overall, 3.7 million people need food urgently.

Five areas of central and southern Somalia were declared famine zones in July but the Famine Early Warning Systems is warning more areas could join that list over the next four to six weeks.

Drought during the April to June rainy season resulted in the lowest crop production for 17 years, with matters worsened by crop pests and diseases. This combined with ‘exorbitant’ cereal prices has put food beyond the means of most Somalis.

Access to Somalia is difficult because of its long-standing armed conflict but Tearfund partner World Concern is helping refugees coming across the Somali border into northern Kenya, providing water, sanitation and essential household items. World Concern is also supplying emergency aid to 12,000 people in neighbouring Somaliland.

Somali refugees have also been crossing into Ethiopia, with more than 76,000 arriving in the Dollo Ado area since January.

Ethiopia has at least 4.6 million people in need of food aid, with high levels of acute malnutrition in southern regions.

Tearfund partners are working to strengthen the ability of communities’ to withstand the worsening crisis, for example by running cash-for-work schemes to boost incomes.

Life-saving help

However there are growing fears that Ethiopia will require relief aid up until the end of 2012.

In Kenya, 3.2 million people in the country’s north are suffering severe food shortages and here Tearfund partners are providing water, hygiene kits, cooking utensils and shelter materials.

Across the entire region, Tearfund partners are helping more than 93,000 people affected by the food crisis.

Robert Schofield, Tearfund’s Disaster Management Director, said, ‘The situation in East Africa continues to deteriorate and there are now more than 12 million people across the region in need.

‘We very much appreciate all the financial support for our East Africa appeal which means we can bring life-saving assistance to thousands of people affected by the drought and famine. I urge supporters to continue to pray for the relief and recovery effort across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.’

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Villagers feel the heat after months without rain

Villagers feel the heat after months without rain – 16 Aug 2011

The last time 66-year-old Guyo Galgallo remembers it raining in his northern Kenyan village was four months ago.

But it wasn’t a case of refreshing April showers: ‘We had drizzle,’ recalls Guyo, who lives in a community called Halkano Gora, which like many others in the region is facing one of the worst droughts in living memory.

Poor rains have led to failed harvests and significant livestock losses which in turn have left 3.2 million Kenyans on the brink of starvation.

Guyo and his seven strong family survive on one meal of maize a day but things are bleak.

Guyo said, ‘The drought now is much worse than other times. We lack pasture and water. Our water sources are drying up, we have no animals to sell and food prices have shot up.’

His family are clinging on by making and selling charcoal but the rocketing price of staple foods, a factor hitting poor communities across the world, is worsening their plight, not just in terms of diet.

‘Soaring food prices mean we cannot buy as much,’ says Guyo. ‘Students are unable to attend school because they can’t pay school fees.’

Appeal support

Generous support for Tearfund’s East Africa appeal means our partners in Kenya, as well as Somalia and Ethiopia, are able to expand the help they offer people like Guyo.

Tearfund partner Christian Community Services of Mount Kenya East (CCSMKE) is helping his community by sending tankers filled with water to the area so people and their livestock can be sustained while the wait for rain continues.

While appreciating the help Tearfund is providing, Guyo is determined to return to standing on his own two feet.

‘I’m praying the rains will return so I’ll be able to farm again and produce sufficient food once more,’ he says. ‘Then I will be able to continue educating my children.’

Education is something that has clearly benefited 18-year-old Lokho Gollo from the village of Qilta. Literate and bright, she has ambitions of becoming a lawyer but needs to keep studying at secondary school.

The impact of the drought has disrupted that because her parents are struggling to get by. The family has just one meal a day.

‘This time is much worse than other times,’ says Lokho. ‘We have lost livestock and our farms are not producing anything. We have very little food and water. I try to get whatever small work I can get so I can help my parents.

‘I’m praying that I might finish secondary school well and that there might be jobs for people in my community.’

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Pakistan floods - one year update

Pakistan floods - one year update – 28 Jul 2011

In August last year, Pakistan was hit by its worst natural disaster in living memory. More than 1,750 people are thought to have died and an estimated 18 million people were affected by the floods. This figure represents more people than those affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2005 Kamir earthquake combined.

In Ireland, Tearfund raised over €100,000 for its Pakistan appeal. Here is an example of how your unswerving support rescued and restored…

The 19th October 2010 is a date seared into the memory of father-of-ten Rozi Khan from Pakistan.

The worst flooding in the country’s recent history swept into his village of Mangal Khan in Sindh and took away his possessions and livelihood. Within hours of the flooding, 16 hectares of his rice crop were obliterated: ‘When I remember those moments, I still find tears in my eyes,’ says Rozi, 38.

Losing this food was bad enough but its disappearance also left him with a sense of hopelessness. Previous natural disasters had made him impoverished, forcing him to resort to moneylenders to pay for crop seeds.

He confesses to being heartbroken as the flooding wiped out his ability to repay his loans on the back of crop sales. Tearfund was the only organisation to come to Rozi’s village offering help and hope to get out of the black hole of poverty.

Seeing the need to get him growing as soon as the floods subsided, Tearfund organised for a tractor to cultivate part of his land. He was also given high quality sunflower seeds and help via a seed drill to plant them. After a few months, the oil-rich crop was ready for harvesting.

‘I thank God for sending this team to help me,’ says Rozi, who plans to use crop surpluses to pay off his loans over the next three years.

Rozi is one of thousands of Pakistanis helped by Tearfund to restart their livelihoods after the floods. Long-term help continues. We’re now rebuilding homes and providing water and sanitation to the most vulnerable facing material and spiritual poverty.

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