June 19th, 2013
Internews reporter, Fartun Gedi interviewing Zeinab Mohamed Hassan in Dadaab © Daud Yussuf
The astonishing sight of school children huddled around street lights on school nights has become a familiar sight in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab. This is where most school assignments get done. Oblivious to the evening rush, the youngsters train their eyes on their ruled notebooks.
‘When we installed the street lamps, it was for the purpose of improving general security, because the camp becomes pitch dark at night,’ says Firas Budeiri of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Dadaab.
But, these street lights have now found another good use, further supported by the DRC installing ‘study benches’ all around the 37 light posts. Here, learning continues after dusk, at least in the sections that are now fitted with street lighting. Closing hours for small businesses have extended too, supporting increased trade. Read the full entry
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June 4th, 2013
Gallos Sinao proudly stand in front of his new home with his wife and one of their grandchildren, build with material provided by CARE and community participation... Photo Credit: Mathias Eick EU/ECHO June 2013 Barangay of New Dalaguite, Monte Vista, Mindanao, Philippines
04/06/2013 – Gallos Sinao, the leader of a small mountain village inhabited by Manguangan tribal people in the southern Phiippine province of Mindanao, slowly rubs his gnarled hand across his weatherbeaten face: “I tell you: In my more than 70 years, I have never seen a storm like Pablo”, he recalls.”The howling winds, the driving rain just tore everything away and we barely survived.”
It’s been six months now that the Category 5 Typhoon known locally as “Pablo” slammed into the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental and continued its path of destruction northwards. The typhoon killed more than 600 pople and left over a quarter of a million people homeless, while crops were destroyed and infrastructure left in tatters. It was the most destructive Typhoon to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. The affected communities are recovering but the memories of the disaster are still fresh, like deep scars healing slowly.
Isolated communities in the mountains such as Sinao’s small hamlet in the Barangay of New Dalaguit were particularly badly hit and difficult to reach due to landslides and flooding. Just days after the Typhoon hit the area an expert team of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) first met Sinao and his wife after they had lost everything and had just build themselves a flimsy tent from sticks and plastic sheets.
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May 21st, 2013
Children on the day of the registration for the ACTED child and youth friendly space in Domiz camp. Over 40% of the Syrian refugees in Iraq are children. Densely populated Domiz camp offers them little space to play. The registration brings some welcome excitement and promises for more to come. Photo: ECHO/M. Chatziantoniou
21/05/2013 – It’s raining cats and dogs and mud sticks to the soles of our shoes as soon as we start walking through Domiz camp. Domiz is currently one of two camps for refugees from Syria in the Kurdish part of Iraq. It hosts about 40,000 people.
Neither the weather nor the mud seems to bother the 50 or more families gathered in the shell of a building, painted in bright mauve with no doors and windows yet. Children of all ages are running around, volunteers surrounded by groups of parents are crouching on the concrete floor, filling in forms. Today parents can register their children to join activities in the Child-friendly space run by ACTED – one of the projects funded by the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department. Read the full entry
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May 17th, 2013
With financial support from ECHO, the UNCHR distributed winterization kits to some 240 000 internally displaced Afghans this winter, equipping them to better withstand the sub-zero temperatures that engulf most of the country over several months. In Kabul, over 5000 families living in urban slums benefitted from this live-saving initiative.
17/05/2013 – Tucked behind a truck depot, the Dewan Begi Settlement, in the Western part of Kabul, is a maze of tents, tarpaulin sheets and ricketty fences. Children in tatters can be seen playing around in the mud, while women come and go between their makeshift houses and the only two water pumps to which this slum of some 190 families has access to. This is only one of over fifty Kabul Informal Settlements (KIS), as they are called, which have popped up in the Afghan capital over the past decade or so. Overall, some 30 000 people – including a vast majority of children – live in these illegal enclaves, deprived of basic public services, facing constant threats of eviction, and forced to live in freezing temperatures without solid walls around them for almost half the year.
“We came to Kabul about ten years ago, after returning from Pakistan where we had gone as refugees because of the conflict”, explains Khaesta Khan, 50, sitting in his carpeted tent, surrounded by his children. The family belongs to the Kochi community, a minority ethnic group who used to make a living as nomad shepherds. Due to the rising insecurity across the country, this traditional lifestyle has now become untenable, and most have had to settle down in towns. Khaesta’s family therefore lives from doing petty jobs: the men offer car accessories to commuters at traffic junctions, while the women sell bangles imported from neighbouring Pakistan. Barely enough to make ends meet.
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May 8th, 2013
Jean Louis de Brouwer, Director of Operations
08/05/2013 – The goal: putting resilience on top of the agenda. The venue to do so: an extremely at-risk country, Haiti. The Political Champions of Resilience, a group established in 2012 with high-ranking officials from leading international institutions – including the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department ECHO, UNDP, OCHA, CARICOM, the UK, USAID, and the World Bank – held a two day meeting on April 20th and 21st to draw increased attention and resources towards disaster resilience. ECHO’s director of Operations, Jean Louis de Brouwer, was part of the high level delegation.
“I am deeply persuaded that the resilience agenda is a key one in countries like Haiti, or others in Africa where we are currently very much involved, where the humanitarian challenges come from recurrent structural problems. When we develop an agenda of resilience, we work so that each time there is a crisis we do not go back 5 steps for every 2 steps forward we had made”, said De Brouwer.
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May 6th, 2013
06/05/2013 – Um Abdou was determined that her family would not go hungry. She knew things would be difficult when they left their home in shell-battered Aleppo. But she reckoned a bit of planning would see them through the early weeks as refugees.
So she packed three suitcases full of bulgar wheat, rice, lentils and tomato paste. And when the family boarded the bus to Lebanon last November, the three suitcases went with them, taking precedence over almost all other possessions.
“The only other thing I brought with me were a few clothes and my jewelry,” said the 39-year-old housewife. It wasn’t sentimental value that prompted Um Abdou to bring her necklaces and rings. It was because she knew they could be sold.
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May 2nd, 2013
In Kakres village, Amudat district, a group of women deliberated and chose to rear goats as a buffer against the effects of drought. The group started with 55 goats in June 2011 and today the herd has doubled.
02/05/2013 – In rural villages across north-eastern Uganda, drought is the most feared threat. Despite the Karamoja region receiving rains every season for the past three years, farmers and livestock keepers are apprehensive.
In Tokora Parish in the Nakapiripirit district, Loise Lemukol, a 38-year old mother of seven, says she is ready for it. “I have enough food to last me till the next harvest, and I can still get more from our ‘bank’,” she says.
Loise is one of the 20 people running a community grain store in Tokora. Currently, the store has 16 bags of maize, 10 bags of sorghum and 6 bags of beans in storage; and the community is buying more stock.
“We buy grain from farmers during the harvesting season and sell when markets are less saturated and prices are higher,” explains Jecinta Namer, the group’s chairperson. Profits are ploughed back. Needy members can get ‘emergency loans’ from the kitty.
Tokora community group is in its second cycle of buying, and the cash book looks healthy. “In the last sale, we made a profit of UGX 480 000 (€ 140); as our profits grow, we will continue to increase our stocks and perhaps later diversify to livestock trade,” explains Jecinta.
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April 29th, 2013
Early warning messages are also broadcast through radio. Maria Lomongin says she has learnt that boiling milk will keep diseases away, especially the rampant bacterial disease known as Brucellosis.
29/04/2013 – Uganda’s Karamoja region is known for its harsh climate, cyclical cattle raids, the ever high rates of malnutrition, and alcoholism. It is one of the poorest regions of Uganda, and home to about 1.2 million people, most of them living in abject poverty.
North-east Uganda has been dependent on aid hand-outs for decades. Every time a car passes by the manyattas (traditional huts), kids come running hands outstretched. The four-wheel drive branded car represents some form of freebie, and the jeeps roaming these plains are many.
Livelihood options in Karamoja are not the most diverse. A severe drought three years ago wiped out most livestock leaving close to a third of the population totally helpless. The herds have further shrunk due to infectious diseases, pest attacks, reducing grazing land, and sporadic raids.
Moses Loru Okim is a Chief in Acherer Parish, Nadung’et sub-county in the Moroto district. He constantly implores his community to take good care of the livestock, prepare their fields early, and to save some grain after each harvest. “This will ensure you have food during the dry season,” he tells them.
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April 25th, 2013
21 grandchildren and children of Rahma and Mohamad, including Hadi (4), Maria (4) and Ahmed (12) are living in a rented two-bedroom flat in the Syria border region. (Save the Children / Hedinn Halldorsson)
24/04/2013 - Every time I check UNHCR’s page where all the newest data, reports and statistics are gathered and updated around the clock, the number of refugees has risen. One of those numbers is Hiba whose children are confined to the tiny apartment, apart from when they go to Save the Children and (European Commission’s Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) ECHO’s psychosocial support workshop. Reem’s name is also behind one of those numbers, waiting to be registered with UNHCR. She tells me she’s lost count of those she’s lost, among them her husband and cousins. There is Roqaya who lost her three sisters. And then there is Rahma.
“Last week, I spent half the cash on vegetables, medicine and diapers, Rahma tells me. She lives in a two-bedroom flat in Zarqa, northern Jordan, with her husband Mohamad, her children and grandchildren. There are 23 people living in the flat. “Every day we cry, talk about old times in Syria, watch the news, pray. And then we sleep.” Rahma says. Read the full entry
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April 23rd, 2013
Resilience and psychosocial support in Jordan
23/04/2013 - Nothing could have prepared me for that building in Irbid in Northern Jordan, close to the Syrian border. A 24-apartment block, home to only widows, single mothers and their children; close to 200 people.
I ended up spending three days listening to and documenting their stories. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen to us”, said one mother. “My son has been scared since he was born”, said another. “I miss going to school”, says a six year old.
So many of the children that I’ve met and talked to in past days, express themselves like grownups. Their body language is also not that of children but of adults. They move slowly, not as most children would. Save the Children has found that three in four Syrian children have lost a close friend or a relative as the Syria conflict now enters its third year. Read the full entry
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