What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Noor, a young mom, gave birth on the run. A month later, her malnourished body cannot produce milk to feed her baby. Every day Abu, her baby, grows weaker. She tries to crush rice and mix it with water, but it’s not enough. Her other five children run around and drink from contaminated ponds. If Noor isn’t eating, her children aren’t either. 

Banu and her two children sleep in the town’s chicken coop, cramped between 30 other refugees. With no money to buy shelter materials, they have no other option. Banu’s one year-old is sick, but she cannot buy the medicine he needs.

rohingya refugee crisis camp
A refugee camp with makeshift shelters for families                                                          Photo courtesy of Medair

Conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps are dismal, with hundreds of thousands in need of help.  Families are without the necessities to live, with thousands more flooding in each day.

We are doing what we can for the Rohingya, but without increasing help from the international community, this is now the largest refugee crisis in the world.

World Concern is responding, but needs support in order to reach the Rohingya refugees in greatest need.

What is the Rohingya Refugee Crisis?

An ethnic group of about 1 million, the Rohingya people have lived in the Rakhine state of Myanmar for centuries.

Over the past few decades, the Rohingya began to suffer increasing persecution and violence. Without the ability to own land and seen as “illegal,” the Rohingya have little to no rights in Myanmar. At the end of August the violence escalated after a police and army base were attacked. Violence ensued, and families fled their homes in search of safety.

This mass exodus creates an enormous problem, as Bangladesh does not have enough support or resources to help this many people.

What’s Happening in the Rohingya Refugee Camps?

Lala is very thin, and very pregnant. Standing under three sticks of bamboo held together with twine, a team member asked, “When was the last time you had something to eat?” She responded, “Someone gave me a biscuit 24 hours ago.”

rohingya refugee mother in a camp
A Rohingya refugee mother with her starving baby                       Photo courtesy of Medair

Forced to flee with barely their lives, families have nothing. No food, clothes, shelter, or the ability to take care of themselves.

Temporary hospitals overflow with refugees suffering diarrhea, skin diseases, and gruesome wounds suffered during their escape.  Latrines are rare, adding to the already high risk of spreading deadly diseases. Families drink, wash, and bathe in ravines flowing with polluted water. Reports of trauma and shock are common, most all refugees having lost a family member or friend to violence.

“Three weeks ago, I had a husband and four children. Today, I have two children . . . my husband was decapitated. My house was burnt to the ground. While fleeing, I lost two of my children. I say I lost them because suddenly they were nowhere to be seen. I do not know if they are dead or alive.” – Selima, age 27.

rohingya refugee family
Selima and one of her surviving children                                     Photo courtesy of Medair

It’s difficult to reach families that live deep within the camps to provide emergency services and healthcare. With the sudden rush of refugees, official camps were not enough to house everyone, so makeshift camps sprung up along the border. The lack of planning, overcrowding, and poor hygiene make for a despairing situation for families in the camps.

Currently, the greatest needs in the camps on the Bangladesh – Myanmar border are:

  • Clean water and food
  • Sanitation
  • Permanent shelters
  • Safety for women

What is World Concern Doing in Bangladesh?

The World Concern team and our partners are providing hygiene kits and shelter materials to newly displaced families. As we’re able, we’ll reach more families and meet additional critical needs.

It is our mission to go to the hardest places, to serve the most marginalized populations, and to reach those who have yet to be reached. Rohingya refugee mothers and children are waiting, their hope and strength fading, for someone to come to their rescue.

If you would like to be part of the solution for Rohingya families, visit the World Concern website to learn more and give to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

One year ago, World Concern staff were evacuated from Wau, South Sudan, when armed conflict broke out in the area where we’re working. Although our team was able to resume work within a few weeks, for tens of thousands of people, life is far from returning to normal. More than 40,000 are still living in squalid camps around Wau.

A young man crouches over a piece of leather he’s fashioning into a shoe. Shoemaking was not ever in his plans, but for William George, one of 12,000 residents of the Cathedral camp near Wau, South Sudan, it’s how he spends his days.

“I am a graduate of Catholic University, faculty of agriculture and environmental science,” says George. “But because there is no job, it’s not good to beg, so that’s why I decided (to start shoemaking). I don’t want to be idle. That’s why.”

William George is one of 12,000 people living in the Cathedral camp near Wau, South Sudan. The university graduate is making shoes to survive.

One year after the conflict broke out near Wau, very little has changed, except that the population of the camps here has multiplied.

“It seems as though someone is in a jail. You are not free to move. I will just stay here till night and then I go inside and sleep. In the morning, I will just come like this. There is nothing new. You eat, sleep. There is no improvement or anything,” explains George.

At the Cathedral camp, where George is, World Concern is distributing shelter materials in partnership with IOM. While the materials provide a welcome shelter from the rain, camp life has been extremely difficult for families who fled here.

Food prices continue to skyrocket on a daily basis, and many people are surviving on wild leaves. But, recently, even wild leaves are being sold at the market.

Women in South Sudan collect wild leaves for food. Recently, even leaves are being sold in the markets as a means to survive.

Another 39,000 people are living in a camp outside the UN base near Wau. Things are equally difficult there.

“We are stranded here, no food to eat, people are getting sick, no shelter and no school,” said Regina Augustino, a mother of four whose husband was killed in the conflict.

“When the rain falls, this is the worst part of my life here,” she says, holding her youngest. “If I look down, the water is reaching my knees; what can the young children, like the one I am holding now do? If I don’t properly hold him, the water can carry him away.”

But there is no escaping the rain.

“All of my children were crying including the eldest who is about 14 years. When I asked them, ‘Why are you crying?’ they asked me, ‘Mother, don’t we have an alternative place to settle because in this place we are dying. If not at all, we better go back to our old home so that we can at least be rescued from this rain.’ Life was not easy. If we go back we will be killed, I told them.”

Regina and her children huddle inside a makeshift tent at a camp for families who fled violence in South Sudan.

Regina survives by collecting firewood and selling it. “I buy anything that the money can buy, and give it to my children. That is how we cope.”

For George, Regina, and thousands of other families living in South Sudan’s camps, their only hope is peace.

“I hope for a better life, a good future. At the end if there is peace and stability, there will be hope for a good future,” said George, who leans on his faith. “In certain situations, people may think that God is not there, but as a believer, I believe that God is there. If it were not for Him, I would not be surviving up to this moment.”

Regina, too, looks to God for help. “I pray for peace in our country … I have hope that if peace comes someday. We will be able to rebuild our lives.”

World Concern is providing emergency assistance to displaced families in South Sudan. You can help here. We’re also partnering with One Day’s Wages to transform the village of Ranguo as part of a long-term plan for sustainable development of this community. You can join us by donating here.

Remembering Nepal

It’s been a year since the earth shook in Nepal.

A little before noon on Saturday, April 25, a huge chunk of rock sitting miles below the busy Nepalese villages moved, and unleashed a 7.8 magnitude shock wave that tore through the Kathmandu Valley.

The quake was shallow. And so as the giant rock shifted, the rocky ground above splintered violently and threw tons of debris onto the lowland communities. Entire villages were destroyed in just minutes. Homes became rubble. Infrastructure toppled. Cropland ruined. Livelihoods lost. And life in Nepal was forever changed.

Over 8,000 people were killed that day. Another 21,000 severely injured. Everyone affected. Within hours, the nation of Nepal had collectively called for help. And with your help, World Concern answered.

Homes were in ruins, leaving families homeless and exposed.
Homes were in ruins, leaving families homeless and exposed.

In the days that followed this tragic event, you joined with thousands of others to reach out and lend support to World Concern’s emergency response in the region. It was your swift action that kept hope alive for countless desperate, and homeless families.

Your gifts were immediately used to provide emergency assistance to the hardest hit areas. These essentials literally meant the difference between life and death. The destroyed villages were difficult to reach, with winding mountain roads blocked by fallen rocks. But driven on by your prayers and the need in each village, rescue teams pushed on and rapidly distributed food, water, and shelter materials to hungry and frightened families.

Excited families rush to World Concern distribution points, grateful for your help when they needed it the most.
Excited families rush to World Concern distribution points, grateful for your help when they needed it the most.

As the months passed, and many organizations had long since left, World Concern remained committed to the Nepalese people, and the rebuilding process. But it was only thanks to you that this was possible. And on the anniversary of this disaster, your gifts have helped a staggering 24,276 people.

“I am so thankful for the people that joined us in supporting the recovery efforts,” says Chris Sheach, World Concern’s Deputy Director of Disaster Response. “Donations were made immediately, and our partnerships across the United States and Canada, and in Nepal, enabled a quick response.”

Today, those same donations are empowering each community to grow and work together with local churches to restore the physical, emotional and spiritual health of the families affected.

“It’s amazing to work with the local church in Nepal, and helping them be the hands and feet of Christ to their neighbors.” Chris says. One woman even started attending church for the first time after the church reached out to her.

Nirmala and her husband were so blessed by your support that they started going to church!

Anita is a young mother that has benefited from this relationship. She watched as her home crumbled, then sheltered with her family under a thin piece of plastic until supported your gifts, the local church, provided her with materials to build a metal shelter. It was temporary, but it kept them safe, and protected from the rain and wind.

Anita was given shelter materials to rebuild after the earthquake.
Anita was given shelter materials to rebuild after the earthquake.

“We thank God, and the church for providing,” Anita exclaimed.

As we remember the day the earth shook in Nepal, we thank you for helping survivors like Anita write a new, and hopeful story. World Concern continues to serve in Nepal and remains committed to working with our Nepalese partners in building the resilience of their people.

 

Beyond the End of the Road in Nepal

It’s 7:30 a.m. when our little team of four load up our Jeep and head to Sri Nathkot.

This mountaintop village is just a three-hour drive from our hotel here in Pokhara, a popular tourist town in Nepal. The earthquake that rattled much of this region seemed to have mercy on this town with most of the buildings surprisingly still intact. But we’ve learned that just a few hours away, the village of Sri Nathkot was not so lucky. This community, home to around 150 people, has suffered major damage.

This Jeep took us to the end of the road...and beyond.
This Jeep took us to the end of the road…and beyond.

As we begin our journey, the clouds lift just enough to offer us a glimpse of Fish Tail, a majestic peak, not much lower than the famous Mt. Everest. Nepali driver barely took much notice. Living in the foothills of the Annapurna Mountain range, these sights have become commonplace to them.

We drive for a few hours and abruptly come to the end of the road. To this point, the earthquake had been quite selective, leaving most of the villages we passed through untouched. But ironically, as we leave the pavement behind and drive onward down dirt roads, the damage shows the magnitude of this earthquake. Homes are destroyed, some flattened, others partially collapsed. But almost all are uninhabitable. It was suddenly very easy to see how in just 90 seconds people’s lives were torn apart.

While some homes still stood, others lay flat. But all were unlivable.
While some homes still stood, others lay flat. But all were unlivable.

We press on towards Sri Nathkot, to visit with one of World Concern’s partners who has been working to help the survivors of this disaster. As we approach the foothills surrounding the village, the road narrows and the terrain changes dramatically. We carefully negotiate switchbacks etched into steep hillsides, mindful of the 100 foot drop-offs just a few feet from our tires.

As we make our way up another switchback, we see ahead that the road is completely impassible – for hundreds of yards, rocks had been placed in pile after pile by a local group of Nepali trying to improve passage up the mountain. We decide to turn around, go back to the fork in the road and try the other way. Our driver has not been this way before, but believes it to circle around and eventually provide access to Sri Nathkot.

The three hour mark has long passed, yet we press on and climb again for what seems to be an endless zigzag of switchbacks, each one taking us higher up the mountain. Then we reach a village. We stop and ask if this is the way to Sri Nathkot. and to our relief it is, but it’s still a couple of hours of driving on this ‘road’.

Walking the road ahead to see if our Jeep would even make it through.
The view from the Jeep window, shows just one of the dozens of switchbacks we’d encounter.

We arrive at a second village, and we’re told the same thing; a few more hours. With each turn, I’m convinced the road is becoming more and more impassible yet amazingly, we manage to climb higher. At this point, the driver tells us that he has never driven a road like this before (would have been nice to know before departing), but he’d brought us this far, so we push on.

By now, the sun is setting below the mountain tops and we are led only by the dim headlights on our Jeep (and a lot of faith!). We joke that it may be better we don’t see where we’re headed as the view in daylight, while breathtaking, was at times quite terrifying.

The sun quickly set and the moonlight was obscured by clouds, making it so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But around (what felt like) one more switchback, we saw the glow of light coming from a small village….Sri Nathkot. We had arrived!

And as I reflect on this marathon journey that ended over 12 hours after it began, the reality of World Concern’s commitment to serving the most remote communities hit me. They truly go where no one else goes. There is simply no valley too deep or mountain too tall.

While we rested in Sri Nathkot that evening, my thoughts moved towards the people already here and the tragedy they’d just survived. I looked forward to meeting them, hearing their stories, and seeing how World Concern is bringing hope back to this isolated community.

In Sri Nathkot and beyond, World Concern is quite literally working at the end of the road to transform lives.

68. Why This Number Breaks My Heart

37. That’s the first number I heard when I woke up before dawn this morning to the news that another earthquake had struck Nepal and killed 37 people while I slept. A sense of dread rolled through me.

“Lord, after all they’ve been through, now another one?”

A young girl walks near her tent amidst the rubble in Khalte, Nepal.
A young girl walks near her tent amidst the rubble in Khalte, Nepal.

As the morning turned to afternoon here on the West Coast of the U.S., that number increased slowly to 39, then 42, and now I’m seeing 68 people have died.

68. Why does this number break my heart as much as, if not more so, than the 8,000+ lives taken by the April 25 earthquake? I guess it seems more personal. It’s easier for me to imagine a face and a name with each number when it’s smaller. Each one represents a daughter, a son, a mother, a father, a friend.

Whether it’s 8,000 or 68, each one represents a precious human life.

It also makes me sad to think of people in Nepal being so scared. I can’t imagine the terror little children and parents must have felt when the earth shook, yet again, today. That same terrifying sway of the building, as bricks fall and buildings threaten to collapse. Running into the streets, vowing this time for good not to go back inside.

“People are standing outside and they are scared,” described one of my coworkers by phone this morning from outside his hotel in Kathmandu. “I saw one woman who had been here for the first earthquake run out of the building crying. She fell to the ground and was nauseous.”

The trauma of this experience will no doubt haunt people for years.

So I pray. I pray for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to comfort the hearts and minds of the people in Nepal. And I pray for their hearts and minds to heal from this tragedy.

Him Kumari (left) was injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. The cow behind her was dying when this photo was taken last week.
Him Kumari (left) was injured when her house collapsed on her during the earthquake. The cow behind her was dying when this photo was taken last week.

I’m encouraged by the stories of survival we’re hearing. Our staff on the ground are sharing photos and stories from people they’ve talked with in hard-hit communities.

Him Kumari was eating lunch with her 12-year-old son, the oldest of four, on April 25 when her house began to shake. She made her son run out of the house, but was not able to escape herself before it collapsed on her. Trapped beneath the rubble and boards, she went in and out of consciousness.

“When I came to, I was in the hospital,” she said. “I thought I would die as I was buried for four hours.”

Twenty-two of her neighbors did not survive. Nearly every home in her village was damaged or destroyed.

Him’s family is now living under a tarp they’ve made into a tent. She is grateful to be alive, but doesn’t know what the future holds.

This is all that's left of Lok's home.
This is all that’s left of Lok’s home.

Lok Shrestra is another mom whose future is uncertain. She was outside feeding her animals when the earthquake struck. Her daughter was inside their house on the second floor. Somehow, her daughter knew to stand in the doorway of her room, and as the roof collapsed and walls fell around her, she stood safely beneath the door frame.

While Lok and others will likely stay and try to rebuild in this village, many others wonder if they should start over in another place. “This looks like a different place now,” said a leader in the village. “This is not our community.”

With the help of World Concern donors, Mark Estes, Asia Director, helps distribute emergency food and supplies to victims of the earthquake.
With the help of World Concern donors, Mark Estes, Asia Director, helps distribute emergency food and supplies to victims of the earthquake.

Amidst the destruction, there is encouragement. Mark Estes, World Concern Asia Director, helped distribute supplies and aid to these moms and others in this area last week. “Walking around that community was heart wrenching – to see the loss, to see every home was just a heap of stones and sticks,” he said. “Nestled up in the foothills of the Himalayas, I can imagine what a beautiful place this would have been. I think that beauty now is surrounded by the opportunity that God gives us to serve these people.”

If you’d like to help reach families affected by the earthquakes in Nepal, providing practical help and hope to those who have lost everything, you can donate here.

Nepali church volunteers joyfully put together earthquake survival kits for families affected by the earthquake.
Nepali church volunteers joyfully put together earthquake survival kits for families affected by the earthquake.

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Emergency supplies being unloaded into Lok's village in the middle of the night.
Emergency supplies being unloaded into Lok’s village in the middle of the night.

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Beautiful Lok and her daughter.
Beautiful Lok and her daughter.

One Year Later, South Sudan Remains in Turmoil

In December 2013, the world’s newest nation, only two years into a season without war, plunged back into crisis-mode. Though the explanation for this eruption of conflict is far from definitive, one thing is clear – South Sudan is still hurting.

As we approach the one year anniversary of this newest conflict in South Sudan – a land that has suffered almost continuous war for over two decades – we (the world) need to remember that this war persists and tensions are only growing. And, as we so strongly believe at World Concern, we remind ourselves that war is about so much more than politics and land and resources. It is about the thousands, if not millions, of people whose lives are torn apart.

According to the UNHCR, South Sudan now has more than 1.4 million internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes. Additionally, tens of thousands of people (at this point an exact number is difficult to track) have lost their lives.

Though there has always been community tension and a scarcity of resources, we have never ceased to see the country for its potential to transform. When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, we celebrated with them. Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived. South Sudan has faced immense challenges over the past three years. The recent conflict is bringing the nation to the brink of famine and starvation continues to be a very real risk.

Since the country’s independence, World Concern has focused on empowering South Sudanese communities to move beyond a state of relief and toward long-term development. Eager to farm their own land, feed their own children, and be educated, people have been more than willing to take part in their community’s development. In fact, many of the communities we partner with now have their own gardens, banks, savings groups, job opportunities, and thriving markets.

But many others were displaced from their homes and land when violence came dangerously close to their communities. As a result, hundreds of thousands were unable to plant crops before South Sudan’s annual rainy season. Because of this, many will go hungry this year. And too many are still homeless, living in squalid camps, waiting for peace.

Mary (right) and her newborn son sit inside a vacated school they now call home.

Last February I traveled to South Sudan to visit Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, sit with people, and listen to their stories. Among the many painful narratives shared, I will never forget Mary YarTur’s. Nine months pregnant when violence broke out in her village, Mary had no choice but to run.

“Both of my neighbors were killed when we were running,” she solemnly explained. “My uncle was also killed.”

After days on the run, Mary and others settled outside of a closed school building. Two days later, she went into labor.

Women sit outside of the school where Mary gave birth.
Women sit outside of the school where Mary gave birth.

“At the time I delivered I was feeling bad. My body was in pain and it was not well,” she shared. “During the time I came from my home in Unity State, I was running with little food. Then I delivered right away when I arrived here.”

In the three days I spent visiting camps, Mary was one of five women I met with newborn babies – a small representation of the thousands of children that have already been born without medical assistance beneath trees, outside of buildings, and underneath haphazard shelters.

A silhouetted pregnant woman rests at an IDP site.
A silhouetted pregnant woman rests at an IDP site.

“My child was delivered outside, now they have problems,” Mary told me. “I’m not feeling better now. The food we have to eat takes a very long time to cook – and when I eat it it gives me stomach pains. So, I don’t eat much – I feel weak and faint. I live in fear because I don’t know where my husband is and I sleep in the open, many days without food and no income.”

Sick, taking care of a newborn, husband-less, without food, homeless – it’s no wonder so many people feel hopeless.

A Bleak Future Without Development

Because of the recent crisis, funding for development projects has reduced. Life-saving disaster response efforts are vital, but without the ability to fund long-term projects, the country’s development comes to a halt.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced families have fled northern South Sudan to Warrap State, where we work. With no choice but to build makeshift shelters on land that was once someone else’s farms, their presence is a cause for tension and puts a strain on local resources.

The majority of the people we serve know at least one person who has been killed. Thus, a large portion of a family’s resources and time have been spent on hosting and traveling to burial services.

Additionally, the South Sudanese pound continues to lose value against the American dollar, skyrocketing import costs and consequently making many resources unbearably expensive.

“Foreign exchange is low. Prices of commodities are rising every day. Many markets are in short supply of essential commodities,” said a World Concern staff member in Warrap State. “The chamber of commerce has attributed this to lack of dollar in the market. Given that he country heavily relies on import of food, fuel, and almost all essential commodities, shortage of dollar in the market spells doom for ordinary citizens of the country.”

Much of South Sudan’s younger generation was born into war, thus all they know is war. When asked, many say they would love to live in a world without war, yet most of them have no idea what that would look like. Because of this, instilling the notion of hope and the possibility of change can be a very complex process.

We believe that we have been called to South Sudan for a reason. And we believe that reconciliation, peace, and healing are possible. We know that the One who created us all, can surely bring hope and peace to the seemingly hopeless circumstances in South Sudan. And despite the horrible things we, as humans, do, He is still holding out for us, waiting patiently and moving us toward a world renewed.

So today, this morning, this evening, whenever you read this, though you may feel bombarded by a world of painful things, we ask that you remember South Sudan and pray for peace.

And please continue to pray for South Sudan’s leaders – that they would lead with integrity. South Sudan was recently ranked the 5th most corrupt nation in the world. Also, pray for safety, healthy, and strength for our field staff – they are the hands and feet of world Concern.

Please consider giving a gift to bring hope and life to the people of South Sudan.

In the midst of pain, in the depths of suffering, under the tarps of IDP camps and tin roofs of refugee shelters, we know that there exists a surpassing peace and hope for a world transformed.

 

Six Months After Haiyan, Lives are Being Rebuilt

Rosario waves from inside the frame of her new home. Her former home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Medair.
Rosario waves from inside the frame of her new home. Her former home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Medair.

“We are now safe…” Rosario was overcome with emotion as she uttered those four simple words. The 62-year-old grandmother is raising a young grandson. Their home was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8, 2013.

It was six months ago today that Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines—leaving more than 3 million people homeless and taking the lives of 7,300. In the months since this tragedy, World Concern and our Integral Alliance partners have been helping people like Rosario rebuild their lives. There is much work left to do, but seeing the hope on faces like Rosario’s and her grandson’s is encouraging.

With help from donors who gave selflessly after the typhoon, Rosario and her 8-year-old grandson have a home of their very own once again. “I can continue on now… and be safe in a strong shelter,” she says.

World Concern and our partners Medair and Food for the Hungry have been able to make a great impact in the Philippines. Immediately after the tragedy, our donors helped provide food, water, emergency supplies, and psychosocial support for traumatized children.

More recently, we’re focusing on providing shelter and housing—like Rosario’s home, which  was being built in March when these photos were taken. Rosario says her grandson is “very proud and happy” to have such a strong shelter to live in. “He feels special and noticed,” she tells us.

A family in the Philippines outside their newly constructed home. Photo by Miguel Samper, courtesy of Medair.
A family in the Philippines outside their newly constructed home. Photo by Miguel Samper, courtesy of Medair.

Rosario and others in her community also received disaster risk reduction training, so that when the next storm hits, they’ll be prepared and know how to stay safe. It may take years to rebuild in the Philippines, but organizations, churches, and communities are committed to building back better.

“It is hard to express in words, but I am very thankful,” Rosario says. “We now have new hope and the courage to move on.”

 

Investing in Disaster Risk Reduction Saves Lives

My dad used to always say, “It’s better to build a guardrail on a curve than a hospital at the bottom of the hill.” As an adult, I’ve come to understand that wisdom of his words. We all want to rescue someone after they’re hurt. But isn’t it better to protect them from harm in the first place?

Today, as the president of World Concern, I have an opportunity to put my dad’s wisdom into practice. Our focus is on disaster risk reduction: equipping vulnerable communities for a disaster before it happens, and taking practical steps to minimize its destructive impact.

We work to provide infrastructure within and around a community to protect its residents from disaster. This is far better than repeatedly helping them rebuild… and grieving with families who have lost loved ones in a devastating earthquake or hurricane.

Mercila no longer fears disaster in her village along Haiti's northern coast. She is helping her community prepare for future disasters.
Mercila no longer fears disaster in her village along Haiti’s northern coast. She is helping her community prepare for future disasters.

Mercila’s story is a great example of how communities can protect themselves.

“When there is flooding, the houses fill with water and people lose many things. When there is a hurricane… houses are destroyed,” said Mercila, a young mom who lives in Haiti. Hurricane season comes every year, and her village’s precarious location along Haiti’s northern coast leaves the entire community vulnerable to frequent natural disasters.

Her one-year-old son’s safety weighs heavily on her mind. “My dream for my son is to let him grow up in Anse-á-Foleur where disaster will not impact our town again.”

Mercila's village of Anse-a-Foleur has a new storm shelter where families can go to stay safe when the next hurricane comes.
Mercila’s village has a new storm shelter where families can stay safe during a hurricane.

World Concern is taking action to keep everyone in Anse-á-Foleur safe. We’ve trained Mercila as an emergency responder for her village. Now, she is teaching her entire community, passing along all the disaster preparedness training she’s received.

The community was equipped to establish an early warning system to alert villagers of coming danger, and built rock walls along the river to prevent flooding. They also constructed a storm shelter, so families will have a safe place to go when a hurricane is near.

“Because of the activities of World Concern, Anse-á-Foleur has become a new town,” Mercila proclaimed. “We are not afraid about anything.”

Mercila no longer fears disaster,

but many others in vulnerable communities are living in the path of destruction. Families in Bangladesh, for example, know that the month of May brings another cyclone season… and certain destruction. Together, we can help them prepare and survive.

Kanomrani's family lives in a coastal village in Bangladesh that is in the direct path of cyclones. You can help protect a family like hers from the storms ahead.
Kanomrani’s family lives in a coastal village in Bangladesh that is in the direct path of cyclones. You can help protect a family like hers from the storms ahead.

World Concern will always be there for those who are suffering after disaster. But it’s a wise and critical investment to protect vulnerable moms, dads, and little ones from future disasters.

You can help protect them. Give online at www.worldconcern.org/savelives  

 

World Concern disaster response expert doubles as Red Cross volunteer for Oso landslide

On March 22, 30 seconds altered the lives of residents of Oso forever. That night, I received an urgent email from the American Red Cross chapter of Snohomish County. They needed volunteers to staff the evacuation shelter which they were providing for families affected by the slide. While I couldn’t help during the day, I was able to volunteer for the night shift, providing support in the shelter from 8 pm to 8 am.

Chris Sheach uses his disaster experience with World Concern in places like Haiti, and closer to home as a Red Cross volunteer. He recently served at a Red Cross shelter for victims of the tragic Oso landslide.
Chris Sheach uses his disaster experience with World Concern in places like Haiti, and closer to home as a Red Cross volunteer. He recently served at a Red Cross shelter for victims of the tragic Oso landslide.

Driving up to Arlington, passing very familiar landmarks, it was a bit discomforting to see the elementary school with Red Cross signs posted on it, and to see people who last week may have stood behind me in the grocery store checkout were now sleeping on a cot with only the clothes on their back, waiting anxiously to hear word of their missing loved ones. It’s a very different thing to respond so close to home, but wearing a Red Cross vest, I was instantly recognized as someone trustworthy, and there to help. During a time when many families were beset by national and international media, they were very grateful for the safe place we offered, the hot food, showers and listening ear.

I’ve been a volunteer for a year and am now a certified Red Cross disaster instructor. In some ways it’s a natural fit, since my role at World Concern means I respond to disasters like the Haiti earthquake, and am familiar with these kinds of crises. I do this work because I have a heart for those whose lives have been devastated by disaster. Now, as a registered Disaster Team Specialist, as well as a member of my Community Emergency Response Team, I know that I will be able to fulfill my calling at home, and not just overseas.

Clean water that will last – even through storms

Girls filling buckets of water.
Young girls collect water from a public source in Grand Gosier, Haiti. Those who don’t live nearby will have to carry these buckets of water home.

World Concern makes providing clean water to communities that lack this life-saving resource a top priority. Recently, we visited the Southeast Department of Haiti and saw the direct link between disasters and the need for clean water.

We joined Bunet, World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator, on this trip to Grand Gosier to see how we are providing clean water and preparing communities for future disasters.

Grand Gosier is a rather isolated commune (cluster of communities), near the sea and the Dominican Republic border. One reason it is so isolated is because of the poor condition of the road that leads to it. From Jacmel, the big city in Southeast Haiti, you must travel approximately 84 kilometers east to reach Grand Gosier.

Those 84 kilometers took us over four hours.

While crawling at a snail’s pace can be exhausting, the views are stunning. This is one contrast I noticed on the trip–poor infrastructure yet stunning natural beauty.

Once we arrived in Grand Gosier, we caught up with Pierre, the coordinator for the project in this commune.  He explained that the water system for the area had been damaged by a storm in 2007.  Since then, those not fortunate to live close to the water source have been forced to spend a lot of time and energy walking to reach water.  Even while we were visiting with Pierre, children and women walked past us carrying water.  All kinds of jugs, bottles, and containers are used to transport water.

Replacing old PVC pipe.
Women and girls carry water on their heads while workers replace the old PVC pipe to the community’s water source.

Occasionally we saw someone guiding a donkey, loaded down with water, but the majority of people were walking.  It was early afternoon, and limited cloud cover meant it was a hot and dusty journey for them.

Soon, those long journeys will not be necessary.  Once finished, the project will provide nine water collection points throughout the commune which will shorten the walk to water for many.

As we were listening to Pierre speak about the project, I wondered what precautions were being taken to ensure that this time the water system will be more resilient to withstand the next storm.  Hurricanes and heavy storms are all too common in Southeast Haiti.  Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012 are the most recent reminders of the devastation such storms can cause.  Combined, these two storms killed 87 and affected 205,623 people.  We cannot stop the rains and winds from coming, however we can be sure that communities are prepared as best as possible.

New metal pipe.
The new metal pipe, which you can see here, will ensure clean, safe water reaches families in this community, even when storms come.

Pierre explained that the prior water system had used PVC for the piping, but his team is working to replace all the PVC with metal pipes.  Though a seemingly small step, using metal will be a huge step towards increasing the system’s – and the community’s – resiliency.

When the repairs and construction are completed, this water system will provide clean water to people, whatever storms come their way.

You can help protect families and their resources from future disasters. Donate today.