by Virginia Sowers
Today begins a three-part series on ChildFund’s recovery efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India following the 2004 tsunami.
More than 200,000 people lost their lives on Dec. 26, 2004, when, without warning, a tsunami hit countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. ChildFund was among the first responders, attending to children’s needs, distributing emergency supplies and helping families and communities organize for survival and recovery.
Like most of you, I watched the catastrophe play out on television, shocked by the devastation across Asia, and moved to make a modest contribution to disaster relief. But as is often the case in the U.S., the media cycle moves on to keep pace with Americans’ notoriously short attention spans.
Since joining the staff of ChildFund this past year, I’ve happily come to realize that our organization has a long attention span in the wake of disasters. Our field staff in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka recently updated me on the significant progress since the tsunami—and the continuing need to support children in the region.
Restarting sustainable livelihoods for devastated communities and helping children cope were the top priorities for ChildFund Indonesia in 2004. Immediate focus was placed on helping communities provide safe and healthy spaces for children, with special attention to orphans, children separated from their families and households headed by one parent or grandparents.
ChildFund Indonesia was able to assist communities with income-generating skills and improve educational opportunities for children with no access to schools. As schools were rebuilt, ChildFund established a mobile library to put books in the hands of children on a regular basis. Another program provided families with gardening tools, vegetable seeds and fertilizer. ChildFund also helped with the formation of “Self Help Groups” to start up small businesses and microenterprises within communities.
Today, community-based organizations and youth clubs continue to pave the way for improvements in education, child protection, nutrition and employment skills.
Tomorrow: Much work remains in a country still recovering from a 30-year military conflict and the deadly tsunami of 2004 — Sri Lanka.
Today we are taking part in Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers around the world to post about the same topic – climate change. Blog Action Day started in 2007 as a way to get bloggers to create buzz around one subject. “The blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on [one] issue,” Blog Action Day organizers say on their Web site, www.blogactionday.org.
In recent weeks we have seen Mother Nature at her worst. She has brought severe flooding to two countries we have visited for our “31 in 31” blog series – the Philippines and India. Today for Blog Action Day and our “31 in 31” series, we visit Kenya, another country hit by Mother Nature – or in this case, not hit. Kenya has an extreme drought. In many areas of Africa where ChildFund works, climate change has led to droughts lasting longer, causing famine and driving millions more people into poverty.
Children and families in Kenya struggle daily to get enough food because the lack of rainfall has led to severe crop destruction. The Turkana District in the northwest region of the country is experiencing high rates of malnutrition, especially for children under the age of 5.
The drought is leading to the deaths of hundreds of animals throughout the country, according to news reports. Kenyans rely on these animals as a source of nutritious food and as a means of income.
“This is a very ugly scene, a very disturbing scene that the country is facing,” Livestock Minister Mohamed Kuti told a Reuters blogger.
ChildFund International is conducting feeding programs and food distribution throughout the hardest hit areas where we work. We are distributing a highly nutritious food blend, known as “plumpy nut,” as an immediate and critical intervention for those already severely malnourished. In addition, we will provide oil, maize, beans and sugar. These few simple food items can mean the difference between life and death.
More on Kenya
Population: 39 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 1.1 million children and families
Did You Know?: You can find all of the “Big Five” African animals in Kenya: elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard.
What’s next: A sponsor’s big heart for Mexico’s children.
In recent weeks, government protests in Guinea, a nation in western Africa, have resulted in more than 150 deaths, and more than 1,200 people injured. Media outlets are reporting serious violations of human rights, including rapes.
In this period of renewed violence, children and families are especially in need of help.
“We are deeply concerned with the violence and alarmed by the escalating vulnerability of children in Guinea,” says ChildFund International Africa Regional Vice President Isam Ghanim. “Our ChildFund staff in Guinea are doing their best in one of the toughest operating environments in Africa to enable families and communities to protect children and ensure that they continue to have access to basic services in education and health. We call on our supporters and donors to sustain their support to children during such difficult times.”
ChildFund Guinea staff have succeeded so far in ensuring continuation of services to children, youth and women in its programs. None of ChildFund Guinea staff has been harmed in the violence. ChildFund Guinea is implementing measures to ensure staff safety and continuation of services to children.
ChildFund has been operating in Guinea since 2005. ChildFund Guinea programs focus on increasing access to quality basic education, strengthening community health, improving local livelihoods and providing youth and women with information to improve their reproductive health.
For more information on Guinea, click here.
More on Guinea
Population: 10 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 102,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Guinea is richly endowed with metals. It is known for its resources of diamonds, gold and several other types of metal.
Our “31 in 31” series takes another detour today as we visit India, a country hit hard in recent days by some of the worst flooding in decades. (We promise that we’ll get to Vietnam soon!)
By Ellie Whinnery
Public Relations Manager
Heavy rains over North Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in southern India have caused serious flooding. According to Reuters, more than 250 people have been killed and more than 5 million people are in emergency shelters. ChildFund International is working with the local governments and partner organizations in southern India to address what some are calling the worst flooding in 40 years.
Many families were forced to leave their homes for higher ground because their villages are surrounded by water. The floods washed away livestock and destroyed crops. Many roads collapsed, making it difficult for ChildFund teams to reach local communities.
Major power outages have made communications difficult. In Karnataka, ChildFund assessment teams reported that 14 villages in the Vimochana Child Development Project were affected. Seven villages in Gangavati in the Koppal district also were impacted. Five villages in Kurnool district where ChildFund works have been severely impacted, with collapsed houses and crops destroyed.
In Andreh Pradesh, more than 250,000 people in 200 villages have been moved to higher ground. ChildFund efforts are focused on securing safe drinking water and minimizing waterborne diseases.
More on India
Population: 1.1 billion
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 630,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The game of chess got its start in India in the sixth century.
Following severe flooding in the Philippines, many families find themselves without a home and are struggling to return to a normal life. Today for our blog series “31 in 31,” we take a detour in our scheduled plans to visit a family in the Philippines who is just thankful to be alive.
By ChildFund Philippines Staff
Catherine and her two siblings are elementary school students. Their father is a pedicab driver and their mother works as a maid. They live in a small house, constructed of light materials alongside a river.
When Typhoon Ondoy hit, heavy rains kept the family at home that day. Around 10 a.m., the family noticed the river rising and overflowing its banks. Alarmed, Catherine and her parents and siblings started packing and trying to save their most important possessions.
But as the heavy rain continued, water quickly penetrated their house, which caused the family members to panic. The couple’s attention turned from saving their belongings to making sure their children were safe. The only way out of their house was to go onto their roof. Almost 16 hours passed before the water finally subsided. They were wet, hungry and uncomfortable.
Catherine tells ChildFund Philippines staff that she was extremely nervous and was afraid as she saw the water rising. She cried as she talked about losing her school supplies. Her father says that the experience of losing their belongings is tragic, but that life is more important than personal items. Things can be replaced, but life cannot, he says.
More on the Philippines
Population: 97.9 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 450,000 children and families
Did You Know?: More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but only about 2,000 of them are inhabited.
Natural disasters create chaotic situations that put already vulnerable children in grave danger. In the past week, ChildFund International responded to two emergencies in Asia that have killed hundreds of people, destroyed homes and disrupted livelihoods.
In Indonesia, a deadly earthquake in Padang leveled schools, hospitals, businesses and homes. ChildFund Indonesia National Director Sharon Thangadurai says response has been quite slow because there are blackouts in the earthquake area, phone lines are cut and roads connecting neighboring cities are damaged.
“Our assessment team was able to reach Padang area … but they have no access to phones with the electricity being out,” Thangadurai says. “They will conduct the needs assessment and then travel to a nearby city to report back the status of the situation and what are the most critical needs for children.”
ChildFund Indonesia is currently working with the local government to establish Child Centered Spaces for displaced children.
“Our priority will be to provide the needed emotional support to children who always bear the brunt of major disasters like this,” Thangadurai says.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Super Typhoon Parma made landfall over the weekend, but the area where ChildFund works has been spared from the worst.
“Because the typhoon went more along the coastal area, there has not been significant damage in our ChildFund program area,” ChildFund Philippines National Director Dennis O’Brien says. “The damage will be manageable; however, our vulnerability is that typhoon season is still with us.”
This typhoon comes on the heels of Typhoon Ondoy, which caused severe flooding in the country. ChildFund continues to work with the local government to meet the basic needs of more than 18,000 children and families.
“We have five evacuation centers, housing 500 families, where we have set up Child Centered Spaces for children,” O’Brien says.
We will continue to update you on theses situations as information comes from the field. For the latest information and to donate to the relief updates, click here.