We roll VIP style

Kelly Ranck is moving to east Africa to serve with World Concern as a communication liaison. Here’s a report about the impact of latrines and hygiene from her recent trip there.

We roll VIP.

You heard me. World Concern rolls VIP style. I’m talkin’ Ventilated Improved Pit latrines. And this is changing lives.

Clean water and basic hygiene are concepts that we take for granted. In the villages of Kenya and South Sudan, such information is foreign. Though they often live happy (still difficult) lives, many people here have never been exposed to the idea that their lives could be prolonged, and less difficult, if they were to practice good hygiene.

Here is where the VIPs come in. As a part of our One Village Transformed campaign, World Concern educates communities about preventing diarrhea, cholera, and other water-borne/hygiene-related diseases.

VIP latrines in Kenya
New VIP latrines in Kenya. Photo by Kelly Ranck.

World Concern trained the community of Benane, Kenya to build this beautiful VIP. They are now educated as to the basics of:

A. Using the VIP latrines and their importance in preventing diseases

B. How to practice good hygiene to protect and improve their health

Another reason I love VIPs (besides the fact that they spared me from a handful of moments of doing my business in public) is that they enable more children to attend school.  Here’s how they relate: healthy children can effectively travel to and attentively engage in school. Clean water and sanitation are significant factors in increasing opportunities for education.

School kids in Benane, Kenya
Students in Banane, Kenya, wash with water from a dirty stream behind the school. With World Concern’s help, they now have access to VIP latrines and clean water.

Because World Concern has empowered locals to build a Treadle pump, more students are attending class. Instead of spending the large portion of their day walking to water sources in order to gather unsanitary water, children now have access to clean, safe water and more time to attend class. And with latrines at the school, the underground water sources will remain unpolluted and safe to drink.

I look forward to checking back in with the people of Benane and getting some VIP access when I move to Africa!

Follow Kelly’s blog at kelly.worldconcern.org

Resurgence of displaced families creates new crisis near Kenya-Somalia border

Maria Abdi and her children in the Horn of Africa.
Maria Abdi and her children are among those recently arriving in the border town of Dhobley, Somalia.

Maria Abdi arrived in Dhobley, Somalia, with her five children and nothing but the clothes on their backs. She fled her hometown of Afmadow because there was no work there and the children were hungry. A relative paid her way to travel to Dhobley after Maria pleaded with them, having heard there was assistance here. But there was a charge for luggage and she couldn’t afford it, so she came empty-handed.

“I need everything a human being needs—all the basic necessities,” she said.

Maria’s family is among a new influx of arrivals in Dhobley, a transit point near the border for those traveling from Somalia to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

World Concern has been responding to the crisis in Dhobley since August, but staff members are seeing a sudden sharp increase in new arrivals. Ongoing drought and conflict in other parts of Southern Somalia are to blame for the influx. However, some people are returning from the refugee camps in Dadaab, citing insecurity and lack of food and other support in the camps as the reason for leaving.

“We visited the areas where families are settling in Dhobley and conditions are bad,” said World Concern Africa Director Buck Deines. “Most live in very temporary shelters, inadequate to protect them from the harsh weather. In some cases the shelters are nothing more than sticks and mosquito nets. We saw the interiors of several shelters, and in most cases, the families have no supplies of any kind.”

Deines estimates there are approximately 12,000 people that have settled in makeshift camps and are in immediate need of help. World Concern is planning to distribute vouchers that will supply families with a two-week supply of food, as well as emergency supplies like tarps, blankets, cooking pots, water jugs and more. However, additional funding is needed to respond immediately.

World Concern has been supporting people affected by the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa for nine months, and the recent increase in displaced families presents an urgent need.

Khayro Yussuf sits inside her shelter made from faded garments and held together by rope. Two metal cups are the only possessions inside her tent, except for an orange flask, which a relative uses to bring her tea.

A shelter in Dhobley, Somalia
Families arriving in Dhobley are living in temporary shelters like this one, made of sticks and a mosquito net.

She fled her village after three of her brothers and her uncle were killed in front of her. Khayro and her children came to Dhobley, fearing for their lives.

She received some food rations, but when she put it on a donkey cart, the owner of the cart took off with her only food. “When he realized I was not a resident and that I didn’t know where to go, he ran away with it,” she said.

Shortly after arriving, Khayro sent her son to Dadaab. “I was afraid he would be absorbed by militia … I never wanted my son to carry a gun or to join such kinds of groups,” she said.

Her daughter is staying with her in Dhobley. “If she is to die, she will die here with me,” said Khayro.

To learn more about the current situation in the Horn of Africa or to donate, please visit www.worldconcern.org/crisis.

An IDP in Dhobley, Somalia
Khayro Yussuf fled her village after family members were killed in front of her. She arrived in Dhobley with few belongings and no food.

Baby Adey’s Story of Survival

Baby Adey malnourished
A World Concern staff member measures Baby Adey's tiny arm to determine her level of malnourishment.

Baby Adey’s mother must have felt desperate as she lay sick and bedridden in her home in Garissa—an area of Northeastern Kenya badly affected by the Horn of Africa drought. But as a mother, her own illness was surely not as frightening as her child’s.

Our health workers in Garissa—where one in three infants is underweight—discovered Adey and her mother during a visit to their home. They were too sick to travel, so we went to them. Adey’s father told us his wife hadn’t been able to breastfeed because she had no milk. Six-month-old Adey appeared tiny, weak and lethargic.

The average 6-month-old baby girl in the U.S. weighs 16 lbs. Adey weighed just 4 lbs. 6 oz.—less than most newborns. She was malnourished, dehydrated and had an upper respiratory infection.

World Concern staff transported Adey and her mother to the hospital, where the baby received antibiotics, fluids and emergency nutrition. Her mom, who was also malnourished, was treated for her illness and given nutritionally fortified porridge.

Baby Adey after emergency feeding
Little Adey gained almost four pounds in three weeks after receiving medical care and emergency feeding at a local hospital.

Three weeks later, a much happier, healthier baby Adey was discharged from the hospital weighing 8 lbs. 2 oz.—almost doubling her weight.

Receiving Baby Adey’s story in my inbox reminded me that the crisis in the Horn of Africa is not over. When the U.N. declared parts of Somalia were no longer experiencing famine conditions (in which 30% of children are acutely malnourished and 2 adult or 4 child deaths per 10,000 occur each day), the food crisis disappeared from the headlines. But it’s not over.

At the time of the UN declaration, there were still 9 million people in need of aid in the Horn of Africa. Baby Adey and her family were among them.

Hope has been restored to this family. If you’d like to help us reach more families like Adey’s, please visit www.worldconcern.org/beyondfamine.

Being part of the solution

What’s in the news today? Lindsey Lohan is going to jail and Kim Kardashian is getting divorced. I guess these things are considered news…

Refugees line up to be registered at the Ifo extension camp near Dadaab, Kenya.
Refugees line up to be registered at the Ifo extension camp near Dadaab, Kenya.

Unfortunately, there’s less and less coverage of the ongoing famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. Yet the UN estimates 750,000 lives are at risk, and millions are still hungry. Most of the recent articles seem to focus on the hopelessness of Somalia, where the greatest number of people are suffering.

But amidst the news articles about the dangers and challenges faced by aid organizations trying to reach these people, we’ve been blessed with some excellent exposure in the New York Times today and last week. Our innovative use of vouchers was highlighted in a column called “Fixes,” which looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.

Of all the ways to have our work recognized, we’re most appreciative when the focus is on the solution. If you’re a supporter of World Concern, you are part of that solution. Instead of wringing our hands in despair, together, we’re doing something. It feels good, doesn’t it?

In the past few months, we’ve reached more than 30,000 people with food vouchers. Families are able to purchase specific food items (beans, rice, oil, salt and sugar) – enough to last them several weeks. The system supports the local economy and helps ensure aid ends up in the hands of those who need it most.

There are other creative solutions being implemented. In drought-affected communities, we’re using existing resources to bring clean water to people. We’re enlisting the support and input of community members to find solutions, such as fixing broken wells, de-silting aging water pans and adding pumps to increase the capacity of wells. In one Kenyan community along the border that hosts refugees fleeing Somalia, the community paid for half the repairs. They will get their investment back if they take care of the well. You can bet their newly appointed water committee is doing just that!

Rain and mud hinder humanitarian access in Kenya.
Muddy roads are just one of many hindrances to delivering humanitarian aid in the Horn of Africa right now.

This is not to say our staff isn’t facing the same challenges many aid organizations are facing in the Horn of Africa, including insecurity and conflict, limited access and resources, and even … mud (pictured here). But despite these challenges, we’re forging ahead – because people need help.

Within a week of a recent attack on the town of Dhobley, Somalia, we were back, distributing vouchers so the neediest families could purchase food and emergency supplies. Recent rains in the area have prevented easy travel to the towns where we’re helping. There have been many long hours spent stuck in mud puddles, or coming up against water-covered roadways.

We know it is only because of God’s grace that we’ve been able to help in areas with limited access. We’re praying that more help reaches the people of Somalia soon. Please join us in praying for more solutions to this complex crisis.

Learn more about our famine response at www.worldconcern.org/crisis

Our own goat gift!

Through our Global Gift Guide, and with the help of our donors, we’ve given goats to needy children and families for years – enabling them to have nutritious milk, and earn an income. But until today, we’ve always been on the giving end of things …

Our team that is responding to the drought in Northeastern Kenya and Somalia visited a town called Amuma, about five miles from the Somali border where we are building water projects. The town has no water source, so we are trucking water in to meet the immediate need. But with hopes of rain coming soon, we are repairing and improving a large water pan, which will be filled by the rain and sustain the community for up to four months.

World Concern staff members receive a goat as a gift!
World Concern staff members with their gift from a grateful community we're helping.

The team was there today to select the contractor from the community that will do this work. Rather than bringing workers in from the outside, we’re involving the community to make the decision. We see this as their project, and therefore engage them in the process. The team met with the chief, elders and counselor (local politician), then with a representation of the community. Sealed quotes were opened in their presence (a very transparent process), and all parties signed an agreement that they would be a part of the process and were happy with what was happening.

After visiting the site of the project, the community members were so happy, they presented the World Concern staff with a gift – a goat!

They said, “Not since independence (1963), has any organization ever been so consistent and transparent” with them. They were so happy we are working with them, coming in early to ask questions and learn from them, finding ways to keep the work in the community and allowing them to participate and to make decisions – all in an honest and transparent way.

The team was truly humbled and honored to receive such an expression of gratitude from the community of Amuma.

Providing aid in the face of violence

Ambulance carrying the wounded.
Ambulances carry the wounded after an attack on the Somali border town of Dhobley.

World Concern staff members are safe after an attack on the Somali border town of Dhobley by the militant group al-Shabaab. In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, al-Shabaab attacked the town where World Concern, along with partners Medical Teams International (MTI) and AFREC, have been providing aid to families affected by the famine and insecurity in Somalia.

We’re grateful that no staff members or partners were in Dhobley at the time of the attacks, but our hearts are broken over this deadly attack on a town that is already suffering so much. Initial reports indicate that 44 Somali military members were injured and 30 were killed in the attack. Two civilians were also killed and two others injured, including a young girl. There are reports of seven al-Shabaab members being killed in the fighting.

Dhobley is a place where many families traveling from all over southern Somalia can get food, water and rest on their long journey to the refugee camps in Kenya. Despite daily security issues, World Concern has been able to feed 13,000 people with two-week rations of beans, rice, oil, sugar and salt, and provide emergency supplies such as blankets, water jugs, mosquito nets and more to another 1,300 families.

A wounded soldier from Dhobley
A soldier wounded in the attack on Dhobley, Somalia, on Sept. 30, 2011.

World Concern and MTI staff will continue to assist in the response just across the border in Liboi, Kenya. As soon as it is safe to return to Dhobley, World Concern will resume activities there, as we’re one of the few international organizations able to work in the area.

Insecurity has been a major challenge for humanitarian organizations to reach people affected by the famine. “We could double or triple our food distribution with better access,” said Deputy Director of Disaster Response Chris Sheach. “Every day we’re not able to get into Dhobley represents 2,500 people who don’t receive help,” he said.

One way World Concern is working around these challenges is by using vouchers, which are redeemed for food and emergency supplies at local merchants. We then reimburse merchants through direct cash transfers. This system supports the local economy, builds relationships with community leaders, and ensures food ends up in the hands of those who need it most.

Please pray for the families affected by the attack this morning and that further violence will not hinder our ability to reach people in desperate need.

Learn more and donate at www.worldconcern.org/crisis.

Tap your network for an even greater impact

When Jason Kim heard about the 13 million people affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, he felt compelled to do something to help. Knowing he could do more with the support of others, he joined forces with some friends and organized a fundraiser. The event, called iFed, was held this past Sunday, Sept. 25 at Phil Smart Mercedes-Benz in Seattle’s SODO district.

Volunteers at iFed carwash.
Volunteers helped raise $4,600 for famine relief at the iFed event in Seattle.

Jason and a group of volunteers raised $4,600 to help with World Concern’s famine response – enough to feed nearly 500 people for an entire month.

“People – no matter where they are – they’re human beings. They’re looking for a cup of clean water,” said Jason. “There’s a calling on us as fellow human beings to do something. My parents are missionaries, I work for an employer who does a lot, I have generous friends … I am surrounded by people like this, and I am able and capable to do something.”

Jason works at the Mercedes dealership, and when he approached his employer about hosting the event, he immediately agreed. Potential supporters were invited via Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth to come down, have their car pampered in an exclusive Mercedes car wash, enjoy a barbeque lunch, and watch the Seahawks game on giant screen TVs throughout the venue – all for a donation. They also sold T-shirts that said “iFed Africa” at the event.

Shannon Olsen is a friend of Jason’s and helped plan the fundraiser. She admits it was a ton of hard work, but well worth the effort to know lives will be saved because of it.

“It’s so fun to see your friends support something like this,” said Shannon. “Really, it comes down to the fact that most people do care, but they don’t know what to do. When you know someone who is doing something, it’s easy to jump in. In the end, it was great to see the group come together and how a small amount of money can bring fresh water and food to help people.”

iFed tshirts
Shannon Olsen (center) and friends model the iFed T-shirts sold at the event and available online.

Shannon was inspired to help raise funds after seeing World Concern’s photographs of people suffering in Somalia and Kenya. “I saw all the dead animals in the road and people walking over them. I imagined the smell, and how those people must be feeling so hopeless. It’s important to call attention to the fact that this is not just something else going on in Africa. This crisis is unique,” she said.

For both Jason and Shannon, the iFed fundraiser was just the beginning. They plan to continue raising awareness and funds to help.

“I can’t just dust my hands off and feel I’ve done my thing. It’s ongoing. We still need to keep going,” said Shannon. “I hope people think, ‘Shannon’s really busy and she did it. Priorities can be moved around and I could do something too.’ Hopefully people will catch on.”

If you’re inspired to tap your network and make an even greater impact on the lives of those suffering in Somalia and Kenya, why not start your own fundraiser? We’ve got a simple set up. Check out http://www.firstgiving.com/worldconcern/famine and start your personal fundraiser today!

Compelled to help: How one church made a difference

A church yard sale helps famine victims
More than 100 people shopped this church yard sale to help families affected by the famine.

Maria Evans said she and her friends felt compelled to do something to help people suffering in the Horn of Africa after hearing about the famine at church last month.

“It touched my heart when I saw those slides,” recalled Maria, who attends Community Bible Fellowship in Lynnwood, Wash. “Here we are enjoying this luxury, and we complain so much. At least we have water. It’s been a wake-up call for everybody.”

The church members decided to hold a yard sale to raise funds for World Concern’s famine response. Knowing that every dollar would help bring food, water and emergency supplies to families affected by the drought, they got right to work gathering donations of household items for the sale.

After promoting their event on Craigslist and Facebook, more than 100 shoppers showed up for the event, which was held Aug. 26-28 on the church lawn.

“Friends and people from other churches came and bought stuff. Some gave an extra $20 cash donation,” said Maria.

The church raised more than $1,400 from the sale. “We feel good, knowing it will help a lot,” she said.

Church yard sale volunteers
Community Bible Fellowship raised $1,400 to help feed hungry families in the Horn of Africa.

Maria said the church members had so much fun organizing donations, tagging items the night before, and hosting the event, because they knew it would ultimately help desperate families in the drought. “We didn’t even get tired!” she said. “We enjoyed every minute of it.”

Want to help too?

Start a personal fundraiser

Get your church involved

Donate to the crisis

Volunteers organized the yard sale
Church members felt compelled to help families affected by the famine after hearing about it at church.

Water is flowing in drought-affected Damajale, Kenya

Engineers work on well pump.
Engineers work to repair the pump for the only deep well in Damajale, Kenya, a host community for thousands of Somali refugees.

There is water in Damajale, Kenya today, bringing relief and smiles to the faces of thirsty children and families.

About a week ago, the only deep well in this village along the Kenya-Somalia border failed. The pump, 150 meters underground, was working round the clock and finally quit. Watch the CNN iReport here.

Damajale is one of many host communities that has seen a massive influx of refugees. In the past month, an additional 2,000 to 3,000 people have arrived here, having walked for days – even weeks – in search of food and water.

Fatuma, a mother of eight, was brought to tears when she realized there was no water. She had walked 30 kilometers through the night to Damajale to find only empty jerrycans stacked around the well.

Families in Damajale, Kenya now have water.
This woman, named Asli, is smiling because she and her family now have water. In the background, animals drink from a trough filled with water.

“I struggle to stand here now, because I am so thirsty,” Fatuma said. “I don’t know when I will come back to my home. I may die on the way.”

World Concern is working in outlying host villages like this to get water and food to people there. Repairing and increasing the capacity of existing wells is one way we’re doing that.

In Damajale, we were able to get a new pump flown in, and engineers worked through the night to fix the well.

Today, water is flowing from the well.

To those who have donated to the famine response, the chairman of the elders of Damajale says, “You have come and rescued us. May God bless you.”

 

Learn more and donate.

The new pump is handed over.
The new pump is handed over to community leaders.
Kids play in a dry water trough.
Kids play in a dry trough, prior to the well being repaired.

Can one person make a difference?

Last week we said goodbye to our Emergency Coordinator Tracy Stover as she boarded a plane for Dadaab, Kenya, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are in need of food and water. Watching her heavily loaded backpack disappear into the crowd at Sea-Tac airport, I found myself wondering, can one person really make a difference?

Kids in Kenya.
An estimated 500,000 children in the Horn of Africa are at risk of death from famine.

Tracy will be serving in the midst of the worst crisis facing the world today. The U.N. estimates 12.4 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Half a million children are at risk of death from famine.

Figures like this cause us to wonder if even thousands of aid workers and millions of dollars can make a difference.

But Tracy is not going alone. She and the rest of the World Concern team working in the Horn of Africa have the support of donors. Like an invisible, potent force, those who are giving to this cause are making it possible for aid workers to save lives.

Can one person make a difference?

Anyone whose heart was touched by the tragic passing of 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith knows the answer is yes. Rachel’s legacy will live on for decades as entire villages will have clean water for generations to come because of her selfless act.

You can make a difference too. And you don’t have to do it alone. Most people will help if they are simply asked. Here are a few ways you could do that:

Host a dinner for friends. Ask each person to bring a potluck dish to share. Present some information about the famine in the Horn of Africa. Include stories of people who are hungry and in need. Ask everyone to consider donating whatever they would have spent on a nice dinner out to help families survive this disaster.

restaurant food
Ask your friends to give up dinner out and donate. (Photo: Simon Howden)

Sixty dollars can provide food and water for a family for a month. Think about that: the cost of one meal in a restaurant can keep five people alive for an entire month.

Hold a garage sale or rummage sale. Round up some friends at your church and ask members to donate unused clothing and household items for a charity sale. Donate the proceeds to help in the famine relief.

You can also dedicate a birthday, anniversary or even a day’s work to the cause. World Concern partner One Day’s Wages is raising funds to support the famine response. Check out their personal fundraising tools and think about what you could do to create your own fundraiser.

Can one person make a difference? You bet.

Get started today, and be sure to share your idea with us!