It’s been a year of extremes for Guatemala. Just a few months ago, the country was in the midst of severe drought that had destroyed crops and caused many vulnerable children to suffer malnutrition. Then Tropical Storm Agatha hit in May, flooding families from their homes, washing out bridges and damaging the country’s infrastructure.
Now additional rains have brought more flooding and life-threatening landslides. Alvaro Colom, the country’s president, has characterized the situation as a “national tragedy.” The president declared a state of emergency and told citizens to stay off the nation’s highways due to the number of landslides.
ChildFund projects are affected in Estrella Del Mar, Futor De Ninos and Pequeno Paraiso. The most critical needs are food and water, clothes and medicine.
Floods have led to the use of schools and churches as temporary shelters, which is affecting school attendance in some communities. Another concern is an increase in waterborne diseases.
What has become Guatemala’s worst rainy season in years is endangering new crops, putting the country’s food supply in danger once again.
In an interview filmed prior to the flood-producing rains, Mario Lima, national director for ChildFund Guatemala reflected on ChildFund’s efforts to provide better nutrition to Guatemala’s children and their families. These efforts must now be redoubled.
To help families in Guatemala, please give to the ChildAlert Emergency Fund.
by Mary Moran, Senior Program Specialist, Early Childhood Development
There is great energy here in New York United Nations and nongovernmental agency circles this week with the launch of new materials from the Interagency Network on Education in Emergencies.
Four new or revised publications are being released: “Minimum Standards Handbook,” “Pocket Guide to Gender,” “Reference Guide on External Education Financing” and “Guidance Notes on Teaching and Learning.” On hand for the launch were agency staff as well as UN representatives from developing countries.
ChildFund participated in the updating of the “Minimum Standards Handbook,” which provides benchmarks for accountability for quality education in emergency preparedness, response and recovery. ChildFund also co-convenes a task team that was instrumental in getting early childhood development (ECD) issues mainstreamed throughout the standards.
In New York, considerable discussion focused on the application of ECD standards in Haiti. Members of the audience raised questions about the extent of community involvement in ECD response following the earthquake six months ago. UNICEF and Plan representatives affirmed that communities were involved in choosing sites for ECD Centers and other safe havens for children. They acknowledged that interagency coordination was imperfect. The new standards position interagency coordination as a foundational cornerstone — absolutely crucial to agency preparedness and good response during emergencies.
At the launch, a number of workshops offered simulations and hands-on exercises employing the new materials including a case study of Iraq, gender-awareness issues among children and adults and emergency funding strategies.
Improving coordination among various agencies and partners, ensuring community participation, focusing on outcomes for children and increasing response quality were hot topics.
Although the new standards do not cover every aspect of emergencies as completely as desired, agency representatives applaud the new areas addressed within the standards, including ECD and gender topics.
Going forward, emergency coordination among all sectors needs more emphasis. Yet, in the field, things need to be short and concise to be useful.
by Virginia Sowers
Our three-part series on recovery efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami concludes today with an update from India.
ChildFund India’s tsunami recovery and rehabilitation programs were aimed at protecting children coping with the loss of homes, parents and family members, reports Ilango Balu, child protection specialist in the India National Office.
Working in 35 villages, ChildFund India set up child-centered spaces, where children were given health care, nutrition and other creative activities to provide psychosocial support.
In the past five years, ChildFund India has established support groups for children, adolescent girls and youth, as well as community Child Well-Being Committees. They’ve also provided child-protection training for parents and
communities, life-skills training for girls, employment skills training for youth and psychosocial support training for teachers. Resources have also been allocated to economic recovery efforts, such as fishing boat repair, fishing net replacement and small-business startups.
Tsunami recovery efforts by ChildFund and its community partners have focused on sustainability. Ilango estimates that about 75 percent of the people affected by the storm regained normalcy as they received shelter and were able to continue their regular occupations. Yet, 25 percent of the affected population continues to struggle with recovery even five years on.
Many lessons have been learned in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. ChildFund has recently responded to the typhoons in the Philippines and the earthquake in Sumatra, and we have also begun implementing child-led Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training in communities where we work.
The goal of DRR training is to further mitigate the vulnerability of children and their families in the face of large-scale or smaller emergencies, by helping children increase their positive coping strategies should a disaster occur.
And, of course, the services ChildFund provides in 31 countries around the world would not be possible without the support of child sponsors, major donors and others who respond to the call with generosity in times of incredible, unforeseen need.
by Virginia Sowers
Our three-part series on recovery efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami continues with an update from Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, ChildFund National Director Guru Naik recalls 70 staff being redeployed and 1,000 community volunteers being mobilized to handle the humanitarian crisis five years ago. In the first three days following the tsunami, assistance was provided to 102,000 children and 12,000 adults who spontaneously gathered in makeshift shelters in the surrounding countryside.
Early childhood development activities, health and nutrition programs and child-centered spaces were top priorities.
In the five intervening years, the effort has shifted to reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, and reassessing the needs of the most vulnerable, still mostly children and women.
To augment recovery, ChildFund Sri Lanka focused on civic work projects, micro-enterprise development to help communities reestablish their livelihoods and vocational training for youth in high-demand skills such as three-wheeler repair, cell phone repair, electrical wiring installation and pottery and Batik painting.
Today, the areas in which ChildFund Sri Lanka works have regained some degree of normalcy, Guru says. “Communities are happy and carry on their activities freely, and children enjoy the facilities now extended to them in a good environment.”
Tomorrow: Working in 35 villages, ChildFund India set up child-centered spaces, where children were given health care, nutrition and other creative activities to provide psychosocial support.
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.