Imagine if every child under the age of 5 could be cured from painful intestinal parasites, which infect 40% of the world’s children, causing sickness and malnutrition. That’s about to happen in Somalia, a country with one of the highest under-five mortality rates in the world.
UNICEF has agreed to partner with World Concern in Somalia to distribute 3.5 million doses of deworming medicine (Albendazole). This will be part of UNICEF’s vaccination campaign in Somalia, scheduled for April 2011. There will be enough doses to reach every Somali child under 5.
This comes at the same time we’re launching new clean water projects in northern Somalia, which will provide wells, latrines and life-saving health and hygiene information to thousands of drought-affected people. We’ll also be completing wells in the Juba Valley, which we started before insecurity in that area forced us to halt those projects. Clean water and deworming go hand in hand – access to fresh water, sanitation and understanding hygiene help prevent reinfection.
We’re excited to partner with UNICEF in this amazing endeavor to help children in Somalia enjoy healthier lives!
To learn more about the 44-Cent Cure to rid children of intestinal parasites, click here.
Marking World AIDS Day today feels somewhat like a glass of cold water splashed in the face, charging the world to refocus its attention on the AIDS epidemic. Does it seem like HIV and AIDS have taken a backseat to other global issues? Could we even risk saying it’s no longer chic to fight this deadly disease?
The number of people infected with HIV had stabilized in recent years, and the numbers of new cases and deaths have both decreased (due to antiretroviral therapy), but we’re still a long way from reaching the Millennium Development Goal to “Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.”
Nevertheless, we at World Concern are encouraged some numbers of our own, which far exceeded our goals. In supporting children orphaned or left vulnerable for AIDS in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti, 153,663 children were served – 3,000 more than targeted. Many of those children live with caregivers – relatives or foster parents – and we strengthened 39,106 caregivers, 16,000 more than intended. Teenage orphans often end up caring for younger siblings, so we help them with food, education, vocational training and psycho-social support. Nearly 28,000 AIDS orphans received educational support through our projects, which had a goal of serving just 3,600.
Among those encouraging numbers are real people, and it’s important to put faces and names on this disease. One of those helped by World Concern is 15-year-old Japheth, who lives in Kenya.
Japheth was bounced between four homes in his short life. Raised by a single mother until she died, Japheth moved in with his grandmother, but she too passed away three years later. His aunt and uncle initially took him in, but he was kicked out of their home when his uncle learned that Japheth was HIV positive.
He had inherited a small piece of land from his mother, but his uncle snatched that up and sold it.
World Concern learned about Japheth and contacted a local pastor who has been active in our AIDS orphans program and found a foster family for Japheth. With our help, Japheth was also able to redeem the land that was stolen by his uncle. And, we helped him get his school fees covered so he could be back in school.
Japheth is now living in a supportive environment and thriving in school, scoring high enough grades to secure admission into Nijia High School.
World AIDS Day serves its purpose of raising awareness and refocusing people on this issue. But it’s still just a day. We need to remember that people like Japheth don’t need a day to be reminded of the devastation of HIV and AIDS. They live it every day.
Reading the riveting accounts of the Chilean miners’ ordeal this week, I came across a story that described how they survived the first 17 days before contact was established with the world above ground. Not only did they have to ration tiny amounts of food, but they drank water that trickled through the mine from an underground spring. The water, they said, was oily and had a foul taste. But they knew they had to drink it to survive.
People around the world are forced to make this same decision every day: Drink the dirty water that’s available, or die from dehydration. Unfortunately, when they do this, people often become sick from the water, contracting diarrheal disease or parasites, which also result in dehydration and even malnutrition. The cycle worsens when their fragile immune systems make them more vulnerable to other diseases.
When I think of water as it relates to health, I think mostly of thirst and dehydration. But having clean water to drink is only one aspect of how water contributes to health. Being able to wash your body, your clothes, and go to the bathroom someplace other than a field or stream, are vital to good health.
When I used to bathe my children when they were young, I thought of it more as a comfort than a necessity for health. Sure, a mother knows keeping her child clean is important, but bath time was usually more about making sure they smelled and looked decent after a day of being toddlers. I’ve always appreciated being able to wash away the day in the shower or bath, and start the next day fresh and clean.
For many moms around the world, this luxury is not available. Dirty children are often sick children. In poor villages in Africa, touching a contaminated surface or the face of an infected person, then touching your eye can actually lead to blindness as diseases like trachoma are spread this way.
In crowded conditions (i.e. most homes around the world), skin diseases like scabies spread easily from sharing unwashed clothing and bedding. The incessant itching can lead to open sores and dangerous infection. Kids are not allowed to attend school for being too dirty, or displaying the symptoms of scabies. This creates another huge problem—kids not being educated—all because of lack of water.
When I first learned about World Concern distributing bars of soap to refugees living in crowded camps in Chad, I thought, oh that’s nice. Now they won’t smell bad. But running water and a bar of soap are much more than that; they are the solution to stopping the spread of many communicable diseases. The people there use the bars of soap to wash clothes and bathe with. And their overall health is improved. We also teach them the basics of hygiene, like hand washing and using a latrine. It’s amazing how many of them don’t know why this is important.
Since I started working at World Concern, I have become acutely aware of the blessing of taking a shower. I never take that warm, running water for granted, and I want so much to ensure that moms like me around the world have a way to bathe their children at night, making them smell good, and protecting their lives.
This letter arrived from Kenya the day before Teriano Soit reported to classes at a university in Kenya. What makes Teriano so special is that she is the first girl from her entire village to attend college. World Concern paid half her high school fees for four years to help make this possible. But it is Teriano’s hard work and dedication to her education that brought her this far.
Like Teriano, most of the students supported by our Nehemiah Project come from remote pastoralist villages with limited opportunities for education. Their families cannot afford tuition, uniforms or school supplies. Plus, they are often more valuable, short-term, if they are working on the family’s land.
Teriano, along with 15 other students from her village, not only receive tuition, but are trained in important life skills. Teriano says she hopes to pursue a career that will enable her to give back to her community.
As a testament to the education she received, her letter required no editing!
Dear World Concern,
I am sincerely grateful for the financial support you have been offering me for the four years I have been in secondary school. I promise to give back to society what you’ve given me. Just like you enabled me to have a smooth learning in school, I’ll do the same to fellow students who have financial difficulties in any way I can.
May God bless you all for your golden hearts and for the time you devoted to facilitate the seminars you organized for us. It is my prayer that God will continue giving you the strength and selfless hearts to help improve the education status of the Maasai community, hence their living standards.
Thank you also for the inspirational books you gave us. They had such great lessons that no other source could give. I even think they had been purposed by God. Books are the greatest source of knowledge too. I’d therefore request that you continue giving them to your students and for sure they will benefit.
Last but not least, I wish you all success in your endeavors and prosperous lives.
World Concern Sudan Country Director Peter Macharia recently addressed a group of graduates from a 21-day training workshop for new leaders of a literacy and financial management program. The workshop was held in Juba and involved participants from all over Sudan.
Here are Peter’s inspirational words shared with participants, church leaders and guests at the ceremony.
“This is a great day for all of us. For the trainer, it has been a long tiring month of learning. You have been bombarded with new knowledge, refreshed with new ideas, and challenged with new hope.
You are now being called to go out and make disciples. You are called to be the light to those in literacy darkness. You are called to be the salt to those who are finding life tasteless because of despair and hopelessness. You have been equipped and you now have the tools and the skills to bring transformation in the villages and in the cities.
As you go out, I will say like what God told Joshua, ‘Be strong and courageous.’ (1:6) I am also persuaded to remind you of what Paul told Timothy, ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ.’ (2 Timothy 2:2)
Please go out and train others, empower them and make up. As for us, we will stand by you to support you and encourage you to achieve the program goals. We will also pray for you.
Remember, we are not doing it for ourselves, not for Mothers Union, not for World Concern, but for God and His people!
This program belongs to you. You are the one to make it a success or a failure. I will urge you to make it a success! Be prepared to leave behind a legacy that you will be remembered for. I challenge you to think of how you can achieve beyond your target for you are well able.
Media coverage of Sudan’s upcoming referendum scheduled for a vote in January 2011 has increased recently as the date draws closer and President Obama spoke on the issue at the UN General Assembly last week. World Concern works in southern Sudan, and the relative peace in that region over the past five years has allowed us to make great progress in extremely poor communities.
As a humanitarian agency, we limit our involvement in the political processes of the countries where we serve. We know, though, that violence hinders our work – and we expect violence if the vote is delayed. Therefore, we hope and pray for a peaceful outcome to the process this January.
Dave Eller, World Concern’s president, shares some thoughts below. He visited Sudan in June and saw firsthand the struggles people face there to overcome decades of war and violence – many of whom lost everything in a conflict they didn’t support.
“On a recent trip to southern Sudan I overheard many conversations about the referendum that is to take place in January. The people of southern Sudan are very anxious to have this vote take place as scheduled. They seem to believe that if the vote does not happen as scheduled it will be postponed indefinitely and may not happen. There is fear that if the referendum is not held there would be a return to violence.
The peace accords that were signed attest to the fact that is it is possible to end fighting. Turning back from the decisions made five years ago would seem to be a significant step backwards. While I am not an expert on Sudanese politics, it is easy to see the benefits that peace has brought.
In this time of relative peace since 2005 significant progress has been made in the development of the South. The people have had the opportunity to start rebuilding their lives. In World Concern’s work we have seen schools reestablished, businesses started, food provided equitably, and community health programs get underway. A return to violence would put the progress that has been made at risk.
The referendum needs to be more than just timely. The voting needs to be free and fair. The voices of the people need to be heard in this very important decision-making process. The people of Sudan desire to have a voice in their future. They have shared with me their heart to see a future lived out in peace and not conflict. The answers may or may not be found in this referendum, but clearly if it does not take place, or if it is not free and fair, it would be a step backwards.
It is my prayer that the leaders of north and south Sudan would find resolution to the remaining issues so that the people of Sudan might live in peace. Sudanese parents I spoke with desire to raise their children free from the threat of violence and war. This is what every parent would want. As international communities we should continue to hold all of the leaders to that standard, and recognize that the solutions must be found to keep from plunging the country back into civil war.
This is a critical time in the history of Sudan. It is a critical time in the lives of millions of people. Let us remember our brothers and sisters throughout the country of Sudan in our prayers.”
We’re more than half way through the Global Hunger Challenge and are gaining some powerful insights about how we approach and think about food. First on our minds: snacking. We’re not doing any. And we miss it. There just wasn’t room in the budget to factor in snacks beyond the three meals a day we planned in our $34 budget for the week. It’s amazing how much food is offered by others in our culture too. At least five times this week I was offered a treat or something to drink by generous friends, which made it very hard to refuse.
Over the weekend I made soup in my crock pot, not thinking about how hard it would be to smell it cooking all day and having to wait until dinner time when it was done. The aroma definitely intensified the snack cravings. It made me think about those who live in some of the places where World Concern serves, and how much of their day is consumed with gathering, planning and preparing food. I’ve also never been so thankful for food when meal time does arrive after an hour or so of my stomach grumbling.
In parts of Africa where we work, three meals a day is not the norm. The two “meals” (which are not even close in quantity to our meals) take most of the day to prepare. Pounding whole grain, such as maize, millet or sorghum, with a mortar and pedestal expends an incredible amount of time and energy. Someone gathers sticks for a fire from a few distant trees. The grain is then cooked in water and possibly fried if there is oil available. Aside from seasoning it with some onions or garlic, or being blessed with a seasonal green as a side dish, most families eat the same food every day. A piece of fruit is considered a rich dessert on a special occasion.
Imagine the patience involved in plowing hard, dry soil, planting seeds, hand-carrying water from a stream or well miles away to irrigate your meager crops, then waiting for signs of growth. Just when sprouts of green begin to push through the cracked soil, all your hard work is washed away by a flash flood. It’s hard to fathom the disappointment parents feel, knowing their children will have to wait even longer for food now.
It’s exhausting to think about, isn’t it? This week’s Hunger Challenge has given us a tiny glimpse into what millions of people experience every day of their lives. Hunger. And waiting.
Ache is a strongly built woman. The skin around her eyes is smooth in spite of the graying braids that lie half hidden under her head covering. Her face wears a look built out of determination and survival and years of waiting. She has been in this camp in eastern Chad since 2004. She knows she may never go home.
In Sudan, she tells us, she lived in a large and prosperous village. She had a beautiful life: fields of millet, sorghum and peanuts along the wadi, gardens rich in choice, and an irrigation pump to lighten her work. Her three children were free to go to school, and together the community built a preschool so mothers could have time to rest and socialize.
Her house was made of adobe, with a metal roof: safe from fire, a good place to store her dowry chest and gold jewelry. She would travel to weekly markets in nearby towns, selling grain or vegetables and bringing home clothes, shoes and school supplies. Her husband traveled to the big cities and returned bearing sacks of sugar. In Sudan, Ache was free.
And then, everything changed. Ache’s face goes still and hard as she thinks about the hate campaign that started the troubles.
“The janjaweed came to our village with guns and fire. They stole our cattle, slaughtered our donkeys and burned our fields. As they broke down our granaries and houses we ran for our lives, scattering into the bush, I in one direction and my husband in another,” she said. “So many of our neighbors and our family members didn’t escape. Men and women, elderly and babies; their bodies lay untended, unburied for days. When the janjaweed finally left we buried the dead in pits and mass graves. I had only my clothes and my children. I had only the hope of reaching some other village before we were lost to hunger and thirst.”
Eventually, trucks came from the NGOs. They rounded up batches of refugees and drove them several days to the camp. Bewildered and traumatized, Ache’s family waited under plastic tarps. “But there were no guns. There was peace, and a place to rest,” she recalls.
When they first arrived in the camp they were lent a small plot to farm, but without access to water it failed. Now her husband spends most days looking for day labor in town. Sometimes he is lucky. Sometimes they resort to selling part of their daily ration. Her 16-year-old son has left the camp to look for work somewhere unknown—probably back in Sudan, although at last news he was still in eastern Chad. One day she will find him, if she can get the money to travel after him.
She focuses on the blessings in the camp: her daughter spreading sorghum from the distribution rations to dry in the sun; the gate into her neighbor’s yard and the gourd plant that reaches over it. She wonders whether she will ever again have the chance to plant and reap her own fields.
“What I wish for,” she says with a trembling voice, “Is a chance to work. Last year, when World Concern was here, I worked on the rock lines. I had money to buy a pot and meat to share with my neighbor. We are not the same tribe, but we live together. We shared out my work days and the money.”
“Thank you,” she says, “for coming so far, for leaving your families and coming to help mine. Surely God will bless your generosity.”
Story by J. Gunningham, World Concern Program Support Officer, Djabal, Chad
This past week I moved my oldest daughter into her college dorm two states away. The milestone, as it is for most parents, was bittersweet. I kept reminding myself that although I will miss her at home, this is the purposeful outcome of 18 years of parenting. We raise our kids with the intent of molding them into healthy, stable, independent adults. The fact that she can now take care of herself means I’ve done my job well.
A recent comment from our Kenya staff reminded me that our work in developing communities has a similar intention. The staff member said, “The community based institutions are showing signs of walking on their own without the help of World Concern.” Way to go World Concern, if I do say so myself! This is an indicator that we’re doing our job well.
One of the young men who received help from our programs in Kenya is a living example of this principle. Otuma Taek had little hope of overcoming the cycle of poverty in his remote pastoralist village. He had a dream of becoming a teacher, but drought had taken its toll on his father’s diminishing cattle stock and his family could not afford the 22,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately $270 USD) annual tuition for him to attend high school. It seemed his eight years of hard work and good grades in primary school would be wasted.
But everything changed for Otuma when the village development committee chose him to receive a World Concern scholarship. Otuma enrolled at Narok High School where he had to undergo a qualifying year, which meant he spent five years in high school instead of four—another indication of his willingness to go the distance to gain an education. In addition to paying half his tuition, the program offered life skills seminars, which he says helped him avoid joining the wrong crowd in high school. He completed his final exam with a respectable C average.
Today, Otuma is a teacher at Lekanka Hills Primary School, where he teaches math to fourth and fifth graders and passes along the valuable education he received to the next generation. His hope is that this next generation of students will follow his legacy and someday make a difference in their village as well.
In this same way, we hope eventually World Concern’s support won’t be needed in this community anymore. The village will sustain itself, and we can say, “Well done.”
With the exception of that whole Florida recount controversy in 2000, one the many things we take for granted in the United States is that our votes will be counted accurately. Generally speaking, the U.S. population accepts the outcome of elections, whether or not things turn out the way we as individuals had hoped.
Trust in the democratic process is brought to mind this week as half a world away, Kenyans prepare to vote on a proposed new constitution, which would, among other things, attempt to guarantee more valid elections and limit the powers of the president.
Kenya’s most recent presidential election in December 2007 led to an outburst of violence over ethnic tensions and accusations of fraud and electoral manipulations. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands fled their homes amid the post-election hostility. Some of the worst violence occurred in churches, including an Assembly of God church where dozens of children and adults seeking shelter were killed when the church was burned.
This week, World Concern will close our Kenya office for four days, beginning tomorrow, Aug. 3. The closure is a security precaution as the voting there takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 4. There has already been some violence leading up to referendum. Six people were killed and more than 100 were injured on June 13 in an explosion in a park where a rally was being held.
While our organization has no opinion on the referendum, we are praying for a peaceful process and that Kenyan citizens will have the opportunity to express their opinions and have their votes counted accurately. It is also a time to be reminded that our employees in the field do face security issues regularly. We serve in places where the need is greatest, and some of these areas are politically unstable. We don’t let this stop us from helping the poor in developing countries. We take every security measure reasonable – and remember to pray. It’s the undergirding of everything we do.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:14-18