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Typhoon Haiyan 6 Months Later (Part 1): Return to Tacloban

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

In the weeks after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines last Nov. 8, Martin Nañawa, a communications staff member in our Philippines office, reported on the children, youth and adults struggling in its aftermath. Six months after the storm, he reports on their recovery. Here is his first dispatch.

Tacloban looked really shiny from my airplane window. It was the glint of freshly installed corrugated metal sheet roofing — many homes and businesses whose walls still stood had recently repaired their roofs.

When ChildFund’s emergency response team first landed in Tacloban, the city was the dire place the world was hearing about in the news. After what I had seen then, progress – any kind of visible progress – was welcome news. I’d see more signs of it as I made my way through town.

philippines child chasing tire

In Tacloban, children are playing again, even though signs of the typhoon’s destruction remain.

Utilities have been restored throughout the city. I’ve heard there are occasional power outages, but supply is largely stable. This is a far cry from the city that was swallowed in darkness each night. Water supply and mobile phone coverage have also been restored.

The public transportation grid is working again. Passenger jeepneys (local, privately owned minibuses) and commuter tricycles are plying the road once more. Some are even back to reckless driving, which is another indicator of normalcy, for better or worse.

Public transportation also indicates fuel supply has also been restored. I spotted many gas stations newly repaired or nearly so. Right after Haiyan, gas stations lay partially or completely in ruins and were subsequently ransacked for their fuel supply.

Tacloban’s streets have been cleared of rubble and rubbish. In the first days after the super typhoon, cars were strewn about the roads like some toddler’s toys. Now, nearly all the wrecked vehicles are gone from the streets, and the remaining automobile husks are parked neatly in front of their owners’ lots.

Commerce in Tacloban is also struggling to recover. Many businesses have repaired and reopened. Markets, restaurants, boutiques, electronics and assorted services often sport large painted canvass streamers announcing their reopenings — no need to live off packed rations or relief goods anymore. I walked into a little corner fast-food eatery for lunch and enjoyed a good, cheap meal while watching a noontime vaudeville on TV, seated next to a few school-aged girls giggling over Facebook on their phones and tablets. It felt like Haiyan had never happened there.

The volume of lechon (roast pig) stalls open throughout the city also surprised me. Lechon isn’t cheap, and it’s usually served only at fiestas or large banquets.

School is out for the Philippines’ summer break, from late March to the first week of June. Teachers say ChildFund’s Child-Centered Space training was critical in the months of January to March, when school had to resume but children were not physically and emotionally prepared. These same teachers feel more confident that they’re in better shape to start school in June.

Still, in contrast to local businesses, school buildings have largely not been repaired, and teachers expect to run up to three shifts of students using each surviving classroom. Quonset hut-like structures built by responding agencies will help ease congestion in classrooms.

Ship on dry land, graffiti, children

The large ships that Haiyan’s storm surge carried and deposited on dry land remain in place.

Though signs of progress and recovery were apparent everywhere, so are Haiyan’s horrible scars. Though large structures-turned-evacuation centers, like the astrodome by the bay, were now empty or under repair, numerous tent cities can still be found in the city. Homes and businesses that suffered greater damage remain neglected. Many residents or shop owners just aren’t prepared to rebuild, or they’ve abandoned Tacloban for Cebu, Manila or elsewhere.

The large ships that Haiyan’s storm surge carried and deposited on dry land, right on top of a seaside community, remain in place – solemn steel monoliths to remind the city of Haiyan’s toll. The ships’ hulls are now covered in graffiti – some are messages of encouragement, but there are many expressions of grief and rage.

Tacloban is rebuilding, but it’s rebuilding over not only terrible physical and emotional scars but also pre-existing conditions. Businesses may be restarting, but lower-income households, whose earnings derive from agriculture such as copra production, have it harder. The threat of malnutrition, already observed in Leyte before Haiyan, has only further been compounded by the scarcity endured until only recently.

Having personally seen Tacloban on its knees, I’m thankful to see it struggle to its feet now. I’m thankful to be a part of this effort. I’m thankful to colleagues at ChildFund who’ve labored, wept and struggled alongside Taclobanons for six months now. Of course, I’m also thankful to donors who’ve helped us do what we do. ChildFund will continue to play a significant role in Tacloban’s recovery.

ChildFund is invested in an early recovery strategy that tackles livelihood restoration, nutrition and child protection challenges faced by post-Haiyan Tacloban and other affected areas in the central Philippines. Funding for ChildFund’s nutrition and child protection projects was made possible through grants from UNICEF.

Queen and the Pretty Tears

By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Staff Writer

I couldn’t stop looking at her: the regal profile, the swanlike neck, the strong, elegant shoulders. She looked like a dancer. She looked like Nefertiti, out of place amid the trash heaps and makeshift shacks of the Haitian slum where we met.

It was 1983, and I was a teenager on a summer mission trip. That day, we had walked through the fringes of Cap-Haitien to attend an open-air church service. After three weeks in Haiti, I thought I’d seen serious poverty. The uphill hike through the slum showed me different.

She was a congregation member, one of several young mothers not much older than the coltish adolescent girls who chased each other, laughing and barefoot, over the dirt paths strewn with bits of plastic, metal and glinting glass. Her baby cooed in her arms, his tiny hands opening and closing like starfish. She saw me looking and raised her eyebrows, her body language asking, Want to hold him?

I accepted his warm weight, and he and I enjoyed a little conversation of nonsense and smiles until my group stood to leave and it was time for me to hand him back.

She held up her hand and looked away: No. Keep him. Take him with you.

It took me a moment to fully grasp her meaning. Three decades later, I still don’t want to.

Three decades later, I am a mother, too. And I still think about that young woman. I call her Queen.

Mother and child in Senegal

Senegal, 2013.

I also think about another girl in that mission group — let’s call her Maria — who also had my attention that day. In fact, she had everyone’s attention, because her tender soul was so moved by the poverty she saw that she cried prettily all the way down the hill.

This enraged me. I didn’t know why.

All these years later, though, I think I understand. Part of it was my wanting to feel as “deeply” as Maria clearly did. Plus, my anger wasn’t satisfying, which made me angrier.

Even more annoying was that Maria was getting all kinds of strokes for leaking all her feelings all over the place. But what good did they do? What was the point?

Not that my anger did any good, either. But it did plant a seed.

Queen has come to mind now and again over the years, especially after I had my own babies, when her image would pierce the idyllic, milky haze of (suburban, privileged) new motherhood at odd times. Eventually, I became aware that what had felt so wrong on that day was the friction between Maria’s pretty tears and that young mother’s quiet, tired dignity.

Queen deserved better.

The mothers I’ve met in my travels for ChildFund deserve better: the mother who got married at 13, got pregnant at 14, lost that baby and had another soon after. The widowed mother trying to keep her own AIDS in check at least until she can get her daughter through school. The mother who weeps over her husband’s beatings, and then over beating her little boy when she reaches her wits’ end. The young women who keep their pregnancies secret for fear that evil spirits will attack. The mothers who lose children to the evil spirits of malnutrition, infection, conflict.

The mothers who are working to heal — themselves, their children. The mothers who are reaching out for support, who are learning, who are fighting their way past their own fears to take hold of their own power and help their own children beat the odds.

“She’s so full of love!” my group leaders exclaimed about Maria. “So compassionate!”

Love. Compassion.

What I understand now is that true love means knowing, and knowing that you don’t know. And compassion? Compassion wants action. Compassion needs legs.

I’ve got to hand it to Maria, who, after all, did spend that summer sweating on that orphanage construction project, just like I did. And she probably grew up, just like I did.

Just like I hope Queen did. Like I hope her little boy did.

The Hazards of the Ebola Virus

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Ebola, a deadly and extremely painful virus, has broken out in western Africa. We asked Meg, who worked in Uganda during a previous outbreak, to share her impressions of Ebola and how it’s spread.

In Guinea’s Forest Region, where the world’s latest Ebola outbreak began, a bat is considered a delicacy — unless it’s your totem animal. If your family name is Guemou, Gbilimou, Gamamou, Balamou or Kolamou, you won’t eat bats, dogs or snakes.

You’ll also be at slightly less risk of contracting Ebola. Researchers believe that one in three West African bats carries Ebola antibodies. Even animals with no sign of illness can infect humans through blood or body fluids.

Family in Guinea

Families in Guinea are at risk of contracting the deadly Ebola virus, which can pass through human contact.

Every Ebola outbreak begins with a single animal-to-human transmission, then spreads from human to human through direct contact with blood, saliva, perspiration, urine, feces, organs, even semen. After an incubation period of two to 21 days, those infected pass Ebola on — often to family members and health care workers.

In Guinea, doctors initially mistook Ebola for Lassa, another viral hemorrhagic fever that accounts for about one in seven hospital admissions across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Hospitals there often lack laboratories equipped to distinguish one virus from another.

Rats excrete the Lassa virus in their urine. It disperses during the daily sweeping of dirt floors, and then humans inhale it. Lassa, like malaria, requires vector control. Ebola’s transmission, on the other hand, plays into religion and culture; greetings, hospitality, caring for the sick, personal hygiene and funeral preparations all can cause its transmission.

I lived in Uganda in 2007 when a new strain of Ebola surfaced on its border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Guinea’s virus is also a new strain, very closely related to the type from the DRC. Back in 2007, an infected doctor seeking treatment in Uganda’s capital brought Ebola to Kampala. This March, an infected doctor brought Ebola to Guinea’s capital, Conakry.

In 2007, Uganda threatened to close Entebbe International Airport. Now, Senegal has closed its land border with Guinea, The Gambia cancelled flights into Conakry, and other passengers must undergo health screening at arrival and departure. Saudi Arabia has even suspended visas for the haj, meaning that Guineans and Liberians won’t be among the pilgrims to Mecca this October. Muslims save money for decades to make pilgrimages on behalf of their families. Upon return, they bless all who shake their hands.

Ebola twists, knots and adorns itself in filaments. It is one of the most lethal pathogens on earth, and the U.S. has classified it under bioterrorism. There’s no vaccine, cure or treatment. If your immune system can’t fight it off, the virus bores holes in your blood vessels. Ebola kills most of its human hosts. Since it’s rare for Guineans and Liberians to ever touch a microscope or see germs, many still attribute sudden death caused by Ebola to sorcery.

No child should have to watch her mother die alone, touched only by doctors encased in protective armor. No father should suffer the agony of having infected his child. And those who recover don’t deserve stigma. Please help us counter fear with education and hygiene interventions.

 

Escaping the Burden of Bangle Making in India

By Saroj Pattnaik, ChildFund India

Kshetrapal, 33, and his family live in the town of Firozabad in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, an area known for its home-based bangle industry. With no other source of income, the family saw no alternative but to do this difficult and often dangerous work.

“I and all my family members were spending more than 10 hours every day in joining, sorting and coloring bangles in a very distressful environment,” Kshetrapal recalls. “I never liked that work, but I had no choice at all.”

Kshetrapal packing snacks

Kshetrapal packages his homemade snacks as his children watch.

Along with his wife, his younger brother and elderly parents, Kshetrapal used to crouch over hot, smoky stoves for all those hours welding the ends of glass bangles and decorating them with glitter — until he enrolled in ChildFund India’s Sustainable Livelihood Development Program.

Started in 2012 as a pilot in Firozabad supported by ChildFund Deutschland (Germany), the program aims to empower people, especially youths engaged in bangle making, to adapt to changing circumstances and take up sustainable business ventures of their own choosing.

“The Sustainable Livelihood Development Program is a great program through which we can help the youth and women become independent and self-sufficient,” says Dr. Werner Kuepper, ChildFund Deutschland’s program director. “With the help of this initiative, the local youth can be free from the bangle work and start up something of their own that is new and has sustainability.”

The program’s organizers first examined the participants’ lives, including their education, their current livelihoods and what kind of work they wished to do. During the second phase, the participants were trained to come up with business plans, develop commercial models and test the new business models in open-market conditions. They attended classes, worked in groups and collected market information, as well as creating prototypes of their products.

“Many a time, I wanted to start some other business that would allow me to get rid of this distressful bangle making,” Kshetrapal says. “But I had no idea of how to start a new business, nor had I money for it.” But a friend of his brother mentioned the livelihood program, and Kshetrapal enrolled.

a certificate of recognition

Kshetrapal receives a certificate of recognition from Professor Meier Herald of Germany’s Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences.

During the program, the father of four was asked if he had a business in mind. “I shared my thoughts of starting a snack-making business, which I had harbored for several years but didn’t know how to start it,” he says. “During the training sessions, I was informed about the risks and techniques of running a sustainable business. Subsequently, they fine-tuned my business model, and today I am doing the business quite successfully.”

Kshetrapal’s life has been difficult. He lost his first wife to tuberculosis seven years ago, and he had to leave college to work and support his family.

“After my wife’s death, my father also fell ill because of the excessive smoke, which we had to inhale for hours while making bangles every day,” he recalls. “Since then, I was thinking of an alternate livelihood option, and ChildFund has given me that opportunity. I am so very thankful to this organization.”

Today, Kshetrapal has his own business of producing and distributing snacks, which are highly popular in India. Early this year, he and a few other students presented their business models at an event organized in Firozabad, and he received a certificate from the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, a German university.

“Today, I am very happy that we have shifted from bangle making to snack making — from unhealthy and painful work to relatively safer and less laborious work,” Kshetrapal says. “My younger brother is now going to college. We are able to earn more than what we used to earn in bangle making. I am very happy and want to scale up my business soon.”

Are You Celebrating One Day Without Shoes?

One Day Without Shoes

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

It’s time to give your toes some air, while raising awareness for children’s health and education. Tomorrow is One Day Without Shoes, an annual event hosted by TOMS that calls attention to the plight of millions of children whose future is at risk because they walk barefoot or have only thin sandals.

Here are just some of the problems these children face:

  • Over time, in countries like Ethiopia, people can develop podoconiosis, a debilitating disease that causes painful swelling of feet and legs. According to the World Health Organization, 4 million people in 15 countries suffer from podo.
  • And in many countries, children are often required to wear shoes as part of their school uniform. Without proper shoes, they may miss school, be turned away from class or drop out altogether.
  • Cuts caused by walking on rough ground can become infected and lead to serious illnesses.

TOMS Shoes, one of ChildFund’s partners, started One Day Without Shoes in 2007 to encourage people to take off their shoes for a day and experience a bit of what is a daily challenge for millions around the world. We encourage all ChildFund supporters to give this a try — and explain to the people you meet tomorrow why you’re walking through your town, your school or your office without shoes on.

Also, we’d love to see your photos — tag @TOMS and @ChildFund on Facebook or Twitter whenever you share your One Day Without Shoes pictures, and use #withoutshoes. Hope to see your feet on Tuesday!

Let’s Give Malaria the Smackdown

bed nets save lives

Medicated bed nets save lives.

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Today is World Malaria Day, which recognizes one of the deadliest diseases in the world, particularly for children under the age of 5. According to the World Health Organization’s 2013 malaria report, approximately 627,000 people died from the vector-borne disease; 90 percent of those who died were in sub-Saharan Africa, and 77 percent were children younger than 5.

There are several things you can do to help ease the problem of malaria, which affects countries in Asia, as well as in Africa.

The greater availability of medicated bed nets and medication, along with education about preventive measures, has helped many families. Malaria mortality rates fell by 42 percent between 2000 and 2012 in all age groups and by 48 percent in children under 5. Nonetheless, many still need assistance.

Donating bed nets, whether it’s one or a dozen, makes a big difference for children in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia and other countries. It can be the difference between life and death.

Also, you can share this infographic on social media. It clearly states the toll malaria takes on the most vulnerable. Even when children survive malaria, they often suffer recurring bouts that interrupt school or disrupt their families’ livelihoods when their parents have to take them to a far-off clinic for treatment.

Please spread the word about malaria today!

Teedankey’s Malaria Scare

Reporting by ChildFund The Gambia

Teedankey, 18, is a sponsored child in The Gambia, living in Tanjeh on the country’s west coast. Here, she talks about her experience with malaria, as we mark World Malaria Day today.

I want to take this opportunity to share my personal experience with this killer disease called malaria. It was on July 10, 2010. My day started off really well, but later on during my lessons, I got a very menacing illness and could no longer continue with my lessons. I reported the matter to my teacher, who sent me home. On my way, I felt like l took the longest route because I felt so exhausted.

Teedankey of The Gambia

Teedankey is healthy today after a serious bout with malaria in 2010.

One of my friends had to help me reach home safely; upon my arrival at home, both my parents could not attend to me because they were working. The only option I was left was to lie down on my bed until my parents’ return from the farm.

After explaining my symptoms to my parents, they gave me traditional herbs for a few days, to no avail. My condition was deteriorating, I became weaker by each passing minute, and I had constant joint pains, loss of appetite and severe weight loss. Thanks to my neighbor’s intervention, I was taken to the village community health post, which was supported by ChildFund The Gambia.

Going to the clinic also proved to be a difficulty, as I was in no condition to walk. But our neighbor provided us with a vehicle to drive to the clinic. I was admitted and had a blood test. I can vividly remember receiving IV drips of water and medication to control my temperature.

An hour later, the nurse came with my results, saying that I was suffering from chronic malaria and that the delay in taking me to the clinic did not help. I was given drugs and more injections during my four-day stay in the clinic to help flush out the malaria parasites in my immune system.

Upon recovery, I took it upon myself to tell my fellow students about the dangers of this preventable disease and how to protect themselves from this killer disease and what a difference sleeping under a treated bed net makes.

A Timor-Leste Community Eradicating Malaria

By Silvia Ximenes and Natasha Cleary, ChildFund Timor-Leste

April 25 is World Malaria Day, a time to recognize the toll this disease takes on many people worldwide, particularly children under the age of 5.

Jose and grandson

Jose and his grandson, who now sleeps under a medicated bed net.

It’s mid-morning off tropical Timor-Leste’s coast, in the mountains of Liquica district. The wet season is coming to an end, so the trees and scrub are still green, and fruit and vegetables are abundant. But the wet season also creates an abundance of mosquitos.

Elderly patriarch Jose Dias lives in one of the only houses in his village that’s made of concrete; most are made of bamboo and palm leaves. Despite its stronger foundations, the house lacks window coverings and fly screens, like all houses here, and it is full of mosquitos. They swarm as Jose speaks about protecting his growing family from malaria.

“My family received two bed nets from ChildFund, and the volunteer also gave us information about how to use them properly and why we need to use them,” he says. “Giving information with nets is important, because some people didn’t know what they were for and used them to catch fish or protect their trees from pests.”

But there are no bed nets in Jose’s garden. While his adult children are working in the fields harvesting vegetables, Jose stays at home with his infant grandson, who sleeps under a net, protected from the mosquitos.

Community health volunteers trained through ChildFund have visited his home and hold group education sessions in his community, raising awareness of disease prevention, like how and why to use nets, and advocating the use of local health clinics.  Last year, ChildFund distributed 950 insecticide-treated nets in Liquica district.

Jakson's home

Jakson at his home, which has gaps that allow in mosquitos.

Up the hill from Jose’s house is 7-year-old Jakson’s bamboo and palm leaf house. Jakson contracted malaria a few years ago, before his family started using nets. “When I had malaria, I just stayed at home sleeping. I couldn’t go to school or play with my friends,” he says. “Jakson had a fever and headache,” explains his mother, Agostinha. “I knew that I had to quickly take him to the health post to get medication and treatment. Juleta [a volunteer] had already informed my family and the community.

“If I lost a child due to sickness, life could never be the same again,” Agostinha continues.

She has four children who are 7 and younger, and they now all sleep under bed nets provided by ChildFund. Children younger than 5 are at increased risk of rapid progression of malaria, as well as more severe mutations and a higher likelihood of death, according to the World Health Organization.

But there is hope. Through interventions like distribution of bed nets and increasing community awareness, malaria has almost been eradicated in Liquica. Last year, ChildFund distributed 950 insecticide-treated bed nets in Liquica district.

“In 2006, 220 of every 1,000 people who took a blood test had malaria,” says Pedro Paulo Gomes, director of the Liquica District Health Service. “Nowadays it is less than two. The dramatic decrease has been achieved through successful interventions like training [of health staff], bed net distribution and behavior-change information provided to the community.”

Gomes adds that the Ministry of Health has a good working relationship with ChildFund. “We work in partnership to train health staff and volunteers on community health education.”

Pedro Paulo Gomes

Pedro Paulo Gomes, director of the Liquica District Health Service.

Juleta, a community health volunteer

Juleta, a community health volunteer, with a group of local children.

A Sponsor’s Second Visit to Guatemala

Reporting by ChildFund Guatemala

Michael Kurtzman and his sister, Nancy Hernandez, came to Guatemala to visit Lilian, his sponsored child. This was his second visit; the first was in 2009. Lilian is 15 now, and she’d like to become a teacher. “I feel very happy sharing with my sponsor,” she says. “Thank you for his visit, and thank you so much for all the supplies he bought for me today. I am very glad to meet him again. God bless him.”

Lilian and her sponsor

Lilian and her sponsor, Michael Kurtzman.

Michael visited the central highlands project Let Me Tell You (to increase children’s literacy, self-expression and research skills) and spent time with 80 children. During his visit, the children were making masks of their favorite animals.

“I know children need help; children can make a better world,” Michael says. “I see Lilian is a little shy, but she looks happier now. She and her family are in a better situation than before, when I came the first time.

“My commitment is to continue my sponsorship; also, I want Lilian to keep studying, and I will help her. I really want her to finish her education, because it is very important for her future.”

Let Me Tell You project in Guatemala

Michael visits the Let Me Tell You project.

Seven Billion Liters of Clean Water

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Seven billion liters of water: That’s a big number, one that’s hard to imagine. But it has made the difference to at least 39,000 people who might have lost their lives to waterborne diseases over the past 10 years.

7 billion liters

Claudia’s family received CSDW’s 7 billionth liter of clean water. Photo courtesy of P&G.

In 2004, one of ChildFund’s partners, Procter & Gamble, started the nonprofit Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, which provides packets of water-purifying powder to families in the Americas, Asia and Africa who don’t have reliable access to clean water. Recently, CSDW passed the milestone of delivering its 7 billionth liter of clean water, to a family in one of ChildFund’s programs in Brazil. ChildFund has helped distribute the packets. Seven billion liters equal one liter of clean water for every single person in the world, and CSDW estimates that the program has prevented 300 million days of diarrheal disease and saved 39,000 lives.

The program is part of P&G’s Clinton Global Initiative pledge to help save one life an hour by 2020.To celebrate the milestone, P&G has launched a social media drive now through April 22 (Earth Day). Every time you use the hashtag #7billionliters on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram during this week, P&G will donate an additional liter of clean drinking water. They hope to provide 1 million more liters this week!

“This new program is one example of why ChildFund values its partnership with P&G,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO. “Clean water means a disruption of poverty. Thanks to our partnership with P&G, not only are we changing lives in Brazil, but in many countries around the world, from drought-affected areas of Kenya to areas impacted by natural disasters in Indonesia and Mozambique.”

 

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