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PHILIPPINE FLOODS, AUGUST 2012

Typhoon Saola, as has been widely reported in the international press, triggered exceptional monsoon rainfall in the Philippines on 6-7th August. Manila and its surrounding suburbs, with their densely populated low-lying districts, were particularly badly hit. Over 50% of the Metropolitan area was flooded – sometimes up to neck-height. Around 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many of which have been badly damaged by the water.

FH Philippines staff and their families were also affected. Debbie Toribio, FHP’s Country Director, sent a personal report with these comments:
“ I took this photo in my parents’ house. The water started to rise at 5 am. When they woke up they just saw their things floating. Our place gets flooded in strong rains but water easily subsides.  But this time, the water remains and continues to rise.”  (email, 7th Aug.)

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Inside the Toribios’ home

From the first days of flooding, Food for the Hungry has been supporting local churches in their relief efforts for those most badly affected.  Our response has focused on poor communities where FH Philippines has long-term relationships with local leaders and churches.

Immediate grants from FH and FH Canada have enabled FHP to support local churches and volunteers who are distributing clean water, hygiene kits and sleeping gear as well as supplying feeding centers with both cooked and ready-to-eat food.  In addition, FHP and their partners have already set up a medical clinic in one critically affected district where high incidence of disease has occurred, particlarly among children.

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Schoolchildren fed with Arrozcaldo

The next challenge will be to help those families whose homes were completely destroyed to start rebuilding their houses – and their lives.

 

When the earthquake and tsunami struck the coast of Japan in March of last year, FH offered support to its partner Japan Int’l Food for the Hungry, which is responding through its network of church contacts. Below is an encouraging testimony of a community member impacted by the compassionate outreach of one church from the center of the disaster zone:

“We’d known that there was a church building, but we had no idea what it was like inside or

what people were doing there. It seemed a bit like a cult compound and none of us

wanted to get involved. We Japanese people have become wary of religion after

experiencing the 1995 subway sarin-gas attack by the so-called Aum Truth Cult. But when

the earthquake and tsunami hit us, it was this church and its people who extended helping

hands to us. They cared about us and provided us what is necessary for survival as food,

water, and other necessities. As I wanted to do something in return I started coming here

regularly to help them prepare for distributions of relief goods. Now, I feel comfortable

coming to this church. My daughter and her family sometimes come with me to help. I

now attend Sunday service, too. We are so grateful that the church was here.”

March 2012

Food for the Hungry has been working with refugees still recovering from years of ethnic and political civil war in Burundi – one of the poorest countries in the world (according to the UN: http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/BDI.html ).  One community of Kirundo district particularly continues to suffer from the effects of that war and recently faced a severe food shortage such that the young and vulnerable were dying – over 79 in the last few months alone, many of whom were children.  In response, FH worked with community leaders to bring much-needed food into Kirundo.  Some of our staff who serve in the region were able to visit with two of the over 630 families who benefitted from FH’s support.

Mutabazi and Esperance Berchmans, a young couple with two children Nijembere (5) and Uwizayimana Janvier (2), are one of the families FH was able to serve.

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Mutabazi, his wife Esperance and their two surviving children

FH asked them how the food distribution was helpful for them. Mutabazi, the husband, said:

“In reality, all my children were going to die before this distribution. Other organizations brought food into our village but my family were not targeted to receive it. Only old people and orphans received food from them. I grieve for my son, 8 years old, who died because of hunger. FH did well by listing all the families in this village. We received 14 kg of maize and 6 kg of beans. We use 1kg of maize and ½ kg of beans per day and we ate this for two weeks. It is a party in my family. For many months, I didn’t see that we could have two meals per day. As you can see, now we have good life. Unfortunately, today we have the last food of your distribution, my children are going to suffer again, and I’m obliged to go to Rwanda to search for food and it is very hard for me and for my wife who will feed the children after I come back.”

His wife Esperance added:

“One day before your organisation came to support us, I thought of leaving my children and going away because I was afraid that another child could die before my eyes. My husband was not aware of my thoughts; it was very hard to see my children asking for something to eat and not being able to get it. God bless your organisation, I don’t know how we can thank you, God only knows. Is it possible that FH will support us with seeds for the next season? For example, now we need sweet potatoes but we can’t get them. For the next season, we would like you to help us find vegetable seeds and land for planting them. Do you see – here we have nowhere to cultivate: it is a problem for us.”

 

FH talked with another family of six: the husband, wife and 4 children. When we visited them, the husband and two of the children were not at home. We found the wife (Mukantwari Edissa) and two children, Serieuse (4) and Manishimwe Elissa (10) at home and were able to visit with them.

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Edissa with two of her four children

Here are the words of Edissa:

‘’I have 4 children; imagine them all asking for food and you can’t see where to get it! My husband and I decided to go to Rwanda to find families who might take them in. While we were thinking about this, that same day FH came to our village. We abandoned our idea because after 2 days of listing households in the village, they brought food and my children were saved. We received 10 kg of beans and 22 kg of maize. We still have 3 kg of maize and 1 kg of beans left. We have had two weeks of happiness in my family, with two meals a day, since your distribution. Before, we often passed 24 hours without eating.  Can you understand how hard it is for me with a child of 10 months? I cannot produce milk to give him and when this happens, he cries all night and he can’t sleep. Even if all the members of this village are not here to say it, they thank Food for the Hungry for thinking of our people who are dying of hunger. “

Success Story of Khotar Char Disaster Management Committee

The village of Khotar Char is situated in a remote southern part of Bangladesh attached to the estuary of a big river and a coastal belt. It is highly prone to cyclones and has often experienced massive loss of lives and assets. 104 families (416 people) live in this village. Most of them depend on fishing; a few are farmers and small traders. They were so poor and helpless, due to illiteracy, superstition and moneylender exploitation,  that why they were restricted to living in unsafe places outside the flood embankment. In 2007 the village was affected by a category 4 cyclone named SIDR that killed 30 people and seriously damaged their assets, both livelihoods and houses.

FH organized a relief and rehabilitation program in that village. In the subsequent transition to the development phase, 126 women representatives of those families were organized into 7 learning and saving groups for their development. Along with child education, adult literacy and leadership training programs, FH helped to organize a 9-member Disaster Preparedness Committee for the village. Then committee leaders and FH staff jointly facilitated 3 days’ training using Participatory Risk Assessment tools and a workshop with villagers to develop three “Participatory Disaster Preparedness Plans” for each community. They organized 3 groups of volunteers with responsibility for providing emergency warnin

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Participatory disaster preparedness training

g, security and search/rescue services.

Under the preparedness plan, they helped 41 children and 9 adults to learn how to swim, conducted 3

4 sessions on disaster risk awareness in  group meetings, repaired and strengthened 25 houses, raised the plinth levels of 35 houses and planted 304 trees. Through the campaign for orientation, planning process and follow-up meetings to implement their plan, not only leaders and volunteers but all villagers became aware of their roles at different warning stages, in the actual disaster and afterwards.In the recent cyclone AILA, people went to shelter promptly

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Disaster risk awareness meeting

in response to warning  announcements and their houses were kept secure by the volunteers. They had kept dry foods and water in plastic pots under the ground to preserve them for future need. This preparedness saved people’s lives and assets.

The secretary of the Disaster Preparedness Committee stated, “They have now learned how to face cyclones and God keeps them well prepared. We shall continue our development pace by making people aware and ready for any disaster.” 

A fire broke out in Shashego district in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State of Ethiopia on Feb 6th 2012. The houses of 23 families with whom FH has worked over the years were completely burnt down, together with household furniture, utensils, food and money. The government estimated over $113,000 in property was lost for these families – which is devastating in such a small community. After the fire they were living under plastic sheets and canvass, so through partnership with the local leadership of the community FH decided to support the reconstruction of their homes.

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Fig. 1, Supply of Iron Sheet

With a $10,000 grant from the Emergency Response Unit, FH Ethiopia provided supplies such as corrugated iron sheets and nails for construction of houses, while other partners and the local government provided food, clothes and wood for construction. The partnership, distribution and construction was managed and supervised by a joint team of local leaders and FH staff.

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Fig. 2, House under Construction

 

Currently 15 households are finishing their foundations and walls. Overall progress is good and completion is expected within a couple of weeks. Family and community members have expressed their gratitude for the support they have experienced through the kindness and generosity of the partnership initiated by FH.

…from FH Ethiopia Report, April 30th 2012

Overview

The enrollment of new children in our “Child-Focused Community Transformation” (CFCT) program allowed the identification of children that were not registered in the Civil Registry. This Government office is responsible for registering every child that is born and enrolling them as a citizen, giving them a name and therefore responsibilities and rights as citizens. During the period that FH was beginning community work in Somotillo, FH staff realized that more than 45 percent of the kids in the community between the ages of 5 and 12 did not have a name and were not registered as citizens, as if they did not even exist or had never been born. Upon discovering this problem, we began walking with leaders, pastors, and teachers to approach the local government, asking them to be flexible and to give families the opportunity to follow through with this procedure.  The impact this had was that 95 percent of the children now have a document that validates their identity.

ImagePhoto #1 caption: FH Nicaragua promoters registering children in the CFCT program

Background

Somotillo municipality is the new Region where FH Nicaragua began to work last Summer.  It is located in the State of Chinandega, 6 km from the Honduran border.  This location is associated with a high rate of trafficking of drugs, constant migration of townspeople, juvenile prostitution and illegal trafficking of merchandise for commercial use without payment of customs taxes. It has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS due to the constant migration from one country to another. The most common crops of this area are corn, sorgo, sesame seed, watermelon, and at slightly lower levels, livestock. The principal source of provisions for the families is their own farming in which they produce crops for personal consumption and to sell in small quantities within the community. The soil is dry and eroded and the climate is unstable, with a high risk of flooding or drought.  In the communities where FH works, there is a lack of access to public services such as drinkable water, electricity, health facilities, and education.

ImagePhoto #2 caption: Typical Somotillo Housing

Local strategy of FH

FH began working in Somotillo about four months ago. To date, the biggest achievement is that more than 95 percent of the children in the communities in which FH works have been registered in the local governmental offices. This offers the children the right to education, to be legal citizens of the country, to have an identity, and to have access to services and jobs both inside and outside their community. In these same communities, there are many adults that were not registered upon birth and that to this date are deprived of the right to education, health services, decision making and honorable jobs. FH is also assisting the community adults to get registry and gain citizenship.  This is the reason FH Nicaragua praises our Lord for giving us the opportunity to work in His Kingdom through our work in these communities. Now, more than 200 children will not have the same fate as their parents.

Nature of the Project

With the little time we have had to work in these communities, the relationships with pastors, leaders, and teachers of the schools are essential. Some parents had children 12 years of age that were not registered in the Governmental system. The community leaders and FH staff worked with the parents to guide them through the process of registering their children with two main goals: to give their children an identity and to be able to enroll their children in the CFCT program. It was not an easy job. Often this takes a change in mindsets, time, paperwork, and financial investment for payments of fees and lawyers. The leaders and the teachers asked the authorities for flexibility with these families, stating that they are families of low income, are often illiterate, and lack knowledge of the importance of this process. Since they were people themselves who also had not been registered in their childhood, the local authorities could not deny their request. More than 200 children were registered in less than four days in the month of April, allowing more than 500 children to be enrolled in the CFCT program.

Results (November 2010)

·         Strengthening of the relationships between FH and the leaders of the community, teachers, local governmental officials and pastors.

·         More than 200 children enrolled in the National Registry.

·         More than 500 children enrolled in the CFCT program.

Impact in terms of FH’s Vision, Mission and Values

With the help of FH Nicaragua, the residents of La Flor, Los Limones, Los Balcones and La Pavana were informed of the importance of registering their children immediately upon birth. The leaders have been encouraged to work directly with the families and teachers in all aspects that relate to wholistic childhood development.  They also were made aware of local government support to complete the registration process.

Japan International Food for the Hungry (JIFH) and its national partners, with support from the FH ERU team, made the following response to the disaster in the Sendai region (ERU Report, Aug. 2011):

– Distribution of food and daily necessities through local churches and building of trust in predominantly Buddhist communities (distribution to 20,000 people)

– Cleanup, repair and rebuilding of homes and churches by local volunteer force under supervision of experienced craftsmen (800 volunteers)

– Pastoral seminars on grief counselling

– Establishment of center to promote interchurch cooperation

Beneficiary story (written by Mrs. Hideko Sato):

My home was just next to the ocean, in Arahama district, in the vicinity of where the JIFH storage facility is now located. When the earthquake hit, I was with my grandparents and my twin sister. My children were at school.

The quake was so massive that I urged my neighbors to run with us to Nanago elementary school, which was a designated evacuation center within ten minutes drive. I came to know about that evacuation center in the disaster drill last year. Later, I learned that many of the people who

went to another evacuation center nearer the ocean were engulfed by the tsunami with all the cars parked there.

About three days after the disaster, when I went outside the premises of the evacuation center, I was shocked at the hellish sight before my eyes. We saw numerous bodies along the beach and cars hung on telephone poles. I could not believe my eyes when I saw some people stealing gasoline out of abandoned cars. At the mortuary, where I went to identify my relative’s body, I saw about a hundred more bodies, which I could identify as my acquaintances. When I saw them just placed in coffins without any flowers or their photos, I was filled with sorrow and lost words.

During the first week after the disaster, the life in the evacuation center was very difficult because so many of us were crammed into a very cold school gymnasium. We were then divided into groups of 25 people, and each group was assigned to stay in a classroom. We shared whatever we had in

hand in order to survive. Later, my family and I were sent to another school gymnasium and we spent over 3 months there.

I first heard about the storage facility of JIFH in a school gymnasium, where I was taking shelter. All the things offered at the storage facility of JIFH, such as vegetables, summer clothing, rice, and daily necessities are very helpful to us evacuees. As there are people who have no means of transportation to get to the storage facility, I deliver necessary items to those: the elderly and my acquaintances near and far. I even drive to the neighboring Iwate prefecture to make a delivery to my acquaintances there.

When the earthquake and tsunami hit, we ran for our lives and did not have anything with us, not even a towel or toothbrush. So I used to go to the storage facility of JIFH every single day for daily necessities. I was feeling a bit ashamed, but volunteers and staff members always welcomed us with

warm smiles. I was almost into tears with joy.

I wanted to do something in return, and started working as a volunteer in the storage facility. I also invite my neighbors and acquaintances to join.

JIFH, Aug. 2011

I am currently in eastern DRC visiting our work among refugee returnee communities. I had an opportunity to meet with a milling group that we helped establish in 2008 with funding from BPRM*: FH provided this group with a mill and some basic tools, along with training in mill maintenance, business skills, etc.  During this same year of funding, we supported the start-up of other income generating groups, including sewing, fishing, bread-making and soap-making.

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Members of milling group

I visited with these groups in 2009 when they were just starting up, and to be honest, I was not too optimistic that they would continue after FH’s support ended. The main challenge was that these communities had just returned from living for years in refugee camps in neighboring countries where all their needs were provided, only to have to return to homes that were destroyed in the war – with very few resources.  I recall many of the groups asking why FH was not just providing them with the food they needed to survive, as the benefits of income generation schemes would not be felt for many months. I remember my colleague, Sara, telling them that we had very little money and were hoping that this small investment would multiply and be fruitful, if they were willing to take the initiative to see that happen.

Anyway, I was very pleased to meet with a few members of one of the milling groups we supported in 2008/09 and to see that they are indeed thriving – praise God! Here is a summary of the situation:

There are 20 group members (12 women and 8 men) living in Tabac Village, Kalemie Territory, Katanga Province, Eastern DRC. These families were repatriated to Tabac from refugee camps in neighboring countries in 2007/08. They had no source of income and were surviving on packages received from the UN and other humanitarian assistance. In late 2008, with funds received from BPRM, FH supplied them with a mill for grinding maize and cassava, other supplies such as fuel, and both technical and business training.

The mill serves Tabac and surrounding communities. They receive 800 francs ($US 0.90) per 10kg of flour, and today their monthly income can be as high as 200,000 francs ($US 220), of which 100,000 is set aside for repairs and the salary of the miller who was hired to grind the flour.  About 50,000 is reinvested, and the remaining 50,000 is divided among the group members to use for personal household needs.

They see the greatest benefit that has been reaped is the diversification of their livelihood. With the income from the mill, they have been able to purchase small livestock (goats and chickens), they are jointly cultivating land with cash crops (cassava and palm trees for making oil), and they hope to diversify further as the income continues to grow.

It really was encouraging to see how a small investment on FH’s part can reap such lasting effects, especially when the community are fully engaged and take full ownership of their own development.

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Miller grinding flour

Leena Samuel, Emergency Response Unit, Food for the Hungry.

* PRM: US Government’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration

FH/Ethiopia

Ato Abuta Kotalo, age 35, is struggling to feed his family of eight.  Even in normal times, Ato Abuta struggles daily to provide for his family, and the drought has only worsened their vulnerability.  In order to survive, Ato Abuta sold his only source of livelihood, two sheep, in order to purchase food for his family.  He is left with no assets, and in order to make ends meet, he and his wife spend several hours weeding and hoeing on their neighbors’ farms, as well as travel long distance for day labor jobs, for a small source of income.

Ato Abuta says, “My little children cry out at night because they go hungry to bed…the little ones are quite ill due to their hunger.  Currently, I am only able to feed my little children by borrowing money from neighbors to purchase food.  I will have to pay them back with 10% interest after my harvest.”

Food for the Hungry is reaching out to the families of both Ato Chakeso and Ato Abuta, as well as the other families identified in Shashego as needing urgent food assistance.  In the coming weeks, FH will be providing these families with a food package (including maize, haricot beans, supplementary food (for children under five and pregnant and lactating women), and cooking oil) to help get them through this challenging period.  Food for the Hungry is providing food packages for 91,810 individuals in drought affected communities throughout Ethiopia through the generous support of USAID and Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB).  An additional $122,000 is needed to sustain this food distribution program, which is expected to last through the end of the year.

Written By Alex Mwuara

It was imminent. The periods between droughts in east Africa had been growing shorter and shorter. The rains have failed, again, barely two years since the skies dried up.Just as the region, and indeed the world, was celebrating the birth of a new nation, South Sudan, the deadly monster that is drought and famine was making its way around the Horn of Africa. And this time around, it is the worst in 60 years. Kenya’s Meteorological Department says that the last decade, since 1998, has witnessed more rainfall deficiencies over most of the arid and semi-arid regions, than enhanced rainfall occurrences.

The UN has declared a famine in two areas of Somalia as the prolonged drought continues to cause severe food shortages in the Horn. Its food agency, the WFP, estimates that more than a third of Somalia’s population is suffering hunger. Many Somalis, already hardened by decades of civil war and lack of food, are fleeing into neighboring Kenya hoping for a little food to save their children.

Communities in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya are also feeling the pinch of empty food stores.

According to a USAID fact sheet, it’s estimated that approximately 11.5 million people will require urgent humanitarian assistance; 3.5 million in Kenya, and 4.5million in Ethiopia. 3.2 million will urgently need assistance in Somalia. More than 2.2million are displaced in the lawless state.

FH has ongoing projects in parts of Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. FH has been working in Marsabit [Northern Kenya] for over 26 years currently implementing programs in multiple sectors. Marsabit recorded the second highest Global Acute Malnutrion [GAM] rates at 27.7% by the end of June. With little or no rainfall expected the situation remains dire. Women and children will be most affected. With time, the men will also feel the heat as their livestock, their main economic activity, succumb due to lack of water and pasture. Entire households and communities are at risk; conflict is looming due to the scramble for scarce resources.  The situation in Ethiopia is equally devastating. FH operates in three of  the affected Woredas [an administrative division run by a local government] and is currently developing a plan to address those Woredas i.e Zeway, Sheshigo and Sirba Abay. According to John Connelly, FH Ethiopia Country Director, a complex scenario of price spikes have emerged, putting the vulnerable at even greater risk.

This crisis presents another opportunity for FH to share the love of Christ through practical initiatives like General Food Distributions, Supplementary Feeding Programmes, Oral Therapeutic Programmes, among others. We can go heavy on facts and stats at a time like this but the reality is long term solutions need to be found and implemented since we have an idea of the possible causes of the recurrent problem. All hope is not lost, we have the solutions.

FH Kenya through the Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Consortium [ARC] is working with USAID and other donors  to scale up operations in Northern Kenya. The ARC programme strategy is two fold: immediate action to mitigate the effects of the food crisis and longer term, sustainable activities that both strengthen and diversify livelihoods, strengthening markets, access to credit and economic communities. One newspaper report said that pastoralists in some areas have sold goats for as little as $1.10 – one -fortieth the usual price. A five-month [Jan-May] price analysis by FH Kenya shows there was $1.3 million in economic activity in markets that FH Kenya supports. FH has helped the communities it works in, generate income rather than wait for food donations. What if this approach was translated across the Northern region? What if the government followed through with its plan to improve infrastructure, strengthen markets and promote economic development in the Northern region? Same goes for Ethiopia.

“This food crisis in Eastern Africa is another startling example of why international partners need to put food first. Agriculture is one-third of GDP and three-quarters of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. When a crisis like this hits, millions of people suffer. Agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector. We need a major international effort to address this challenge now. Climate-smart agriculture, including scaled-up research on drought resistant seeds, and cross-border strategies for drought risk reduction are essential over the medium and long term.”  Robert Zoellick, President, World Bank.

We continue to pray that God will provide for the needs of millions of people affected directly and indirectly by the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.