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.

Please Don’t Forget About Haiti

“We are in a desperate situation,” Pierre pleads.

“The population here is really in need. But I cannot send you any pictures due to communication issues. This is all I can send …”

The view of Hurricane Matthew from the International Space Station was like something out of a horror movie. For a brief moment we saw a swirling mass, its eye menacingly clear, devouring the land underneath.

Torrential rains and gale force winds tore through Haiti's weak, and flimsy infrastructure.
Torrential rains and gale force winds tore through Haiti’s weak, and flimsy infrastructure.
Some of the first images of Hurricane Haiti show the devastation on the ground.
Some of the first images of Hurricane Haiti show the devastation on the ground.

The above images were taken less than a day after the aerial shots from the space station and while they are some of the first images to come from Haiti, they clearly show what happened under that gruesome storm cloud.

That’s where Pierre is.

Haiti is once again under attack. Six years after a massive earthquake tore apart the flimsy infrastructure and killed more than a quarter million people, Haiti is back on her knees.

Friends, we must not forget Haiti … our neighbors … our friends … people like Pierre.

The true devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew is still unknown. And that’s a frightening thought. Because when a disaster strikes within our own shores we have the capability, and the resources needed to respond. We spend money. We rally together. We pray. We stay strong.

But when a disaster like Matthew hits a country as impoverished as Haiti, everything is wiped out—communication, electricity, utilities—it’s near impossible to send for help.

“Almost everything has been destroyed by the strong winds,” Pierre says. “All the trees have fallen. The winds tore off all our roofs.”

That’s why we must respond, and respond quickly and generously. Not because we’re asked, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Moms and dads frantically scoop up their children and search for shelter during the storm.
Moms and dads frantically scoop up their children and search for shelter during the storm.

Because as humans, we have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in need. Alexis is one of the few people that we’ve been able to speak with. She was sharing an evening meal with her family when her roof lifted off and disappeared into the stormy sky. Scooping up her daughter Alexis ran to the nearest shelter, a church, and waited for the hurricane to stop.

“I was very afraid to go outside because the wind was so strong. I saw a lot of damage on the road. I saw metal sheets from houses carried by the wind.” Alexis whispers.

There is not a lot a media coverage about Haiti.

The death toll stands at 842 but will almost certainly climb.

The number of homes, buildings, businesses, and farms lost is unknown.

There are only a few photos that show the devastation.

But that’s not because the damage isn’t there—

We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

The reality is that there are people in need. There are families mourning the loss of loved ones. And countless people are scared, and in desperate need.

So as Hurricane Matthew gathers strength and barrels its way towards more developed regions, we have but a short window to focus our attention on Haiti. On people like Pierre. And Alexis.

These people are there. They just can’t ask for help …

So please don’t forget about Haiti.

The Forgotten Faces of the Nepal Earthquake

When Nepal shook more than a year ago, the world quickly responded with an outpouring of aid and support. In the aftermath of the disaster, a dark and sinister threat has been lurking beneath the rubble, just waiting to pounce.

As thousands of livelihoods lay in ruins, and humanitarian organizations scrambled to save lives and rebuild flattened communities, opportunity knocked for evil men. Fueled by a growing demand for child labor in nearby countries and fed by the perverse desires of a growing sex industry, these men had one goal—to exploit the desperation of local Nepali families.

Hoping to build a better life for their children, unsuspecting moms and dads are lured with false promises and quickly fall into the debt of evil men. With no way to repay, women and young girls are being trafficked across poorly patrolled borders. And without anyone to police, or prevent this horrific injustice they are being abused, exploited, and completely forgotten.

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In the most remote Nepali villages, young women and girls are at great risk of being trafficked across open borders.

World Concern has been active in Nepal ever since the earthquake hit, working tirelessly with the local church to rebuild communities and reach the most vulnerable with livelihood support, and income generation opportunities.

Recognizing that trafficking is a threat in the poorest Nepali villages, World Concern is actively leveraging its Child Protection experts to provide in-country training. The aim is to raise awareness of the problem, and begin mobilizing a network of local partners to seek out and stop the threat of trafficking in high risk communities.

“There is a huge opportunity to prevent human trafficking in Nepal,” says Selina Prem Kumar, World Concern’s Sri Lanka Country Director who is in Nepal training church and community leaders to prevent trafficking. “Women and children are being trafficked into forced labor and as sex workers into neighboring countries with no border patrols.”

Having established a comprehensive child protection program after the bloody Sri Lankan civil war, Selina is now taking what’s she’s learned and accomplished across Southeast Asia, and is well aware of the dangers families face in the wake of an emergency.

The communities she’s visiting are within a few miles of the India border, where no visas are required to cross, making it an extremely high risk area.

DSC_0172Braving heavy rains, flooding and mountain road closures due to mudslides, Selina and her team traveled close to the Indian border, and into one of the trafficking ‘hot-zones’ to conduct the workshops. Proof that World Concern truly does go beyond the end of the road to serve those in need.

Expectant for change and eager to become more active in fighting trafficking in their communities, more than 40 volunteers from local churches, schools, and human rights groups attended.

“People walked through the jungles to get here,” Selina says. “Some traveled for over 7 hours—the landslides and floods turning what would have been a 3-hour journey into a day long trek.”

While there is much to do in Nepal, Selina is hopeful, “There is a lot of meaningful and deep possibilities in Nepal. We will continue working to train and mobilize border villages, churches, and organizations to prevent human trafficking.”

Even in the darkness, there is always an opportunity to shine light, and the work happening in Nepal is proof that there’s always hope for a brighter future.

Resilience For Life: Ages 0-100+

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the United States in 2005, three-quarters of the people it killed were over 60.  This is unfortunately not an isolated incident.  Often, older people are the ones most affected by a disaster event.

Today, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the international community is coming together to recognize the critical role older people play in building more resilient communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.

At World Concern, we’re joining in this call to include older people in planning and preparedness activities while recognizing the value they bring to their families and communities.

We’re currently working with older people and their communities in eight countries to help reduce risk and save lives.  What does this look like?

Building more secure homes to protect families.

Shelter beneficiary Rozario
Photo credit: Medair
women with house
Photo credit: Medair

Improving sanitation through the construction of latrines to prevent the spread of water borne disease.

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Teaching communities about soil retention and reforestation to protect the land.

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Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans that include people of all ages.

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women in bangladesh

Strengthening infrastructure like flood water canals to keep water away from homes and people safe.

 

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mother and daughter1

“The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event,” said head of the United Nations Disaster Reduction Office, Margareta Wahlström.

By working together towards the common goal of focusing on inclusiveness of people of all ages in disaster preparedness, we can ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone becomes resilient for life!

 

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