Unicef is working with partners and the government in order to scale up its response to Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of community workers have been mobilised in order to increase awareness amongst families and their children, teaching them how to protect themselves from the virus. Community workers also play a critical role in delivering information to various communities about how they can obtain an Ebola vaccination.
Getting the message out
Community workers have been sent to health zones such as Mbandaka and Bikoro with the goal of helping to contain the outbreak through spreading of information and mobilising people within those communities. This means disseminating information via radio or using religious organisations, schools, markets and youth groups to get the message out.
Prevention is key
Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano Unicef’s DRC representative says it is extremely important that communities understand how to ensure they stay protected both at home and in public, particularly in health facilities and schools. He adds that experience from previous outbreaks has shown that when communities have been engaged in prevention efforts, the chances of containing the disease rise dramatically.
Trying to keep schools open
Aside from educating the public, the aid agency is also delivering supplies of water and hygiene including water purification tablets to all the Ebola Treatment Centres and communities in both Mbandaka and Bikoro. Disinfection points have also been installed in a number of other health facilities. Hand-washing points have also been installed in 50 schools believed to be vulnerable in affected areas in Mbanadaka and a further 72 schools in Bikoro will also receive hand washing equipment. The schools are also being given thermometers so they can check up on the health status of their students. Dr Rotigliano says everything is being done to ensure that the schools remain safe and that education is not disrupted.
The DRC’s Minister of Health declared the outbreak of Ebola at the beginning of last month and since then Unicef has delivered about 4,585 kilograms of supplies. This includes soap, tarpaulins, buckets and chlorine to support water, sanitation and hygiene activities.
Category: Concern Worldwide
Dominic MacSorely who is chief executive of Concern Worldwide says he welcomes the commitment made by Irish Aid to fund the relief efforts in South Sudan where there is a humanitarian crisis taking place. Simon Coveney and Ciarán Cannon the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development respectively, together announced that the Irish Government will provide €3 million of funding that will be used to finance the UN South Sudan Humanitarian Fund.
Ireland is a generous nation
Mr Macsorely welcomed the decision by Irish Aid and said that the brutal civil war taking place in South Sudan is now entering its fifth year and has inflicted a terrible toll of human suffering which is appalling. The new injection of funding was critical and is a reflection of the fact that Ireland has consistently focused on parts of the world where the needs are the greatest and does not forget those that have found themselves caught up in conflict and violence.
Brutal civil war
South Sudan is the youngest country in the world and its creation has been fraught with violence. The country is currently suffering from a brutal civil war that has caused large-scale displacement, malnutrition and food insecurity in the five years since it began. Over half of South Sudan’s population or seven million people require humanitarian assistance and nearly two-thirds of the population are facing starvation.
Delivering humanitarian assistance
Concern Worldwide has been operating in the East African country since 1998 and last year was able to deliver assistance to approximately 840,000 people. The aid agency has provided emergency food, shelter, clean water sanitation and toilet facilities in the capital Juba as well as in Unity State and Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
Access to clean water and food
The humanitarian aid agency which started from humble beginnings in Ireland is making sure that 53,000 people living in the Bentiu Protection of Civilian camp as well as a couple of close by towns have access to food and clean water. Concern is also delivering nutritional assistance to tens of thousands of severely malnourished South Sudanese refugees in Gambella in neighbouring Ethiopia.
A recent study conducted by Oxfam suggests that many donors have exaggerated the value of climate finance they have provided to the poorest countries in the world by a large margin. The aid agency reckons that that the amount of public funding for climate finance in 2015 and 2016 is approximately $16 billion to $21 billion per year. That is far lower that what donors say they are spending which is $48 billion per year. The deadline to tackle climate change is just two years away (2020) and developed countries have committed to deliver $100 billion in assistance.
Tracy Carty a senior policy advisor on climate change to Oxfam says that despite the fact that people on the African continent are suffering from brutal droughts and people who live in the Caribbean are suffering from turbo-charged cyclones, the money that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to climate change countries is woefully inadequate. One major problem the report highlights is that so many donors exaggerate the climate change value of a development project, where climate change may simply be just one aspect of a much wider program.
Loans being counted as grants
Another issue is the often donors counts loans and other types of non-grant financing at full face value which means the real amount of money developing countries are receiving as assistance is being obscured by a huge margin. In order to tackle these issues Oxfam wants governments to stop these practices and have donors only tally the “grant equivalent” of the loans they make for climate finance. That means only the net transfer of money to a developing country is counted after repayments, interest is accounted for.
Accounting standards must be improved
Ms Carty adds there is no reason why the accounting rules for calculating aid delivered to tackle climate change should be less stringent than it is for other types of aid. Governments must agree to the new rules for climate finance as par of the Paris Agreement and at this year’s COP climate conference. That event presents an opportunity for governments to meet and agree much fairer and more robust accounting standards. The report from Oxfam also highlighted how much money different governments have delivered as grants with the UK and Sweden providing more than 90 per cent of their commitments in 2015 and 2016 whilst other countries such as France have fallen well behind.
Category: Save the Children
Aid agencies such as Save the Children are waiting in dread of the monsoon season which will arrive at the refugee camp’s in Cox’s Bazar that now houses almost a million Rohingya. Last month the camp received its first set of heavy rains which were part of what is known as the pre-monsoon season which are common at that time of year. The devastating monsoon season in Bangladesh starts properly around this time of year. That is to say either late May or early June.
Rains expected to wreak havoc
Daphnee Cook who is a Save the Children spokesperson working in Cox’s Bazar says as the agency feared the first deluge of rains wreaked havoc in the camps. Multiple low-lying areas in the camp were completely flooded making already hard to reach areas much more difficult to get to. Ms Cook says aid agencies grew quite alarmed as they saw how quickly the rains converted dirt into mud as well the formation of puddles the size of wading pools. She adds that the rains mean that the Rohingya families who fled persecution in Myanmar are in for even harder times as the Monsoon comes into effect.
Conditions already grim
Not only do these refugees have to contend with grim conditions in overcrowded camps and have to depend on food rations to survive, now they have to worry about the prospect of heavy rains, storms and the potential dangers of flooding and landslides. All the excess water means there is a much higher probability of outraces of disease. Aid workers are worried that children may find themselves separated from their families or caregivers. The children may well develop skin disease in response to all the additional humidity in the air as well.
Already preparing for the deluge
Over the last few months, Save the Children has accelerated its preparation for the monsoon and has already begun to distribute shelter upgrade kits to the homes that face the greatest threat. The agency has also made improvements to critical infrastructure such as drains and bridges as well as making sure hillsides that are prone to landslides are reinforced. Ms Cook says that it is vital that the international community provides the necessary funding for the humanitarian response before the monsoon is in full effect.
Cyclone season is another big worry
Ms Cook adds that her agency would like to see land that has better access and is more usable be provided in Cox’s Bazar so that the refugee families that are most at risk by living in flood or landslide prone areas can be relocated. To make matters worse Ms Cox says the timing of the monsoon also coincides with the beginning of the cyclone season in the region. This means if a major storm were to hit the refugee camp, it would be nothing short of an absolute disaster.
One of the world’s biggest DJ’s Paul Oakenfold has composed some music and donated it for use in the credits that will feature in the celebrity announcements of Soccer Aid for Unicef this year. The track has already been used in announcements made last month by a variety of celebrities including Robbie Williams, Usain Bolt, Gordon Ramsay and many more.
A living legend
Mr Oakenfold is a living legend in the genre of electronic music with a career that has spanned three decades. He started out in the 80’s as an A&R man in the music business signing and promoting acts such as Salt-n-Peppa and the Beastie Boys. He then basically pioneered electronic music in the UK and went on to hold residencies at illustrious clubs such as the Ministry of Sound in London, Cream in Liverpool as well as Amnesia and Pascha in Ibiza. Not content with being simply a DJ he has also has a prolific career as a producer working with artists such as U2 and Madonna. He is nothing short of a phenomenon selling out solo dates at the Hollywood Bowl with over 30,000 people in attendance.
Privilege to be asked
Paul Oakenfold says it was a privilege to be asked to compose the soundtrack for the bigger and better Soccer Aid for Unicef. He adds that he has been an avid supporter of the match for many years now so he hopes he can make a valuable contribution to the show itself even if he cannot do it on the pitch! The superstar DJ says he hopes to turn up on the day to support Robbie’s England against Usain’s Soccer Aid World XI. No matter what happens he says, it will truly be a game like no other.
UK government will match donations
The match is scheduled for Sunday the 10th of June and will take place at Old Trafford just a few days before the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Tickets are on sale now and if you can’t make it there in person, it will be broadcast live on ITV at 20:00 BST. 100% of every public donation to the event will be matched by the UK Government up to a maximum of £5 million. All the money raised will go towards supporting the critical work Unicef does protecting children all over the world. So far Soccer Aid has raised £24 million over the last 12 years. If you want to know more visit socceraid.org.uk.
Category: Concern Worldwide
Last month Concern Worldwide celebrated its 50th anniversary and was honoured by Irish President Michael D. Higgins at a special event. During the ceremony, President Higgins paid tribute to the extraordinary contribution to humanitarian causes Concern Worldwide has made globally for half a century. President Higgins said the work Concern has done has created a vital bridge connecting the people of Ireland with some of the poorest people in the world.
The Irish have proven to be generous people
The event was attended by 170 volunteers, supporters and staff. Dominic MacSorley lauded the incredible generosity of the people of Ireland which has allowed Concern Worldwide to deliver life saving aid to millions of people over the last five decades. He said that the Irish public’s response to images of war and starvation was simply phenomenal and that those images tapped into the natural empathy and generosity of a country which has enabled Concern to sustain itself for the last 50 years.
Ireland’s largest aid agency
Concern was established back in 1968 to provide a response to a devastating famine taking place in a breakaway state of Nigeria. Since then the agency is now Ireland’s largest aid organisation and delivers assistance to more than 26 million people in the some of the world poorest countries. The organisation was initially led by a group of volunteers headed by a couple from Dublin named, John and Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy and they had a bold and inclusive vision to unite supporters regardless of background from all across the country, both North and South.
Celebratory events to take place throughout the year
The group managed to raise today’s equivalent of €4 million in its first year alone and used the money to send a boat filled with vital supplies to a population that was suffering from starvation in Nigeria. At the time it was the largest relief effort to originate from Ireland. To mark its 50th anniversary Concern is organising a number of events over the course of this year which includes and international conference to discuss the issue of conflict which will be held in Dublin in September.
A coalition of aid agencies including Oxfam UK is warning that millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are at risk of rising levels of hunger, death and disease because funding has not been made available. The aid agencies are seeking US$1.7 billion to provide assistance to more than 10 million people who desperately need help throughout the country. So far, of the amount that has been sought, only 12 per cent has been funded.
Forcing aid to be scaled back or cut
Last year humanitarian organisations appealed for a smaller amount and that was also not funded adequately. That forced most agencies to either scale back their efforts delivering food and clean water to people who had fled their homes as a result of conflict or discontinue their efforts entirely. Jose Barahona who runs Oxfam’s operations in the DRC says the lack of funding forces aid agencies to make choices they shouldn’t have to make.
Aid agencies forced to make bad choices
Mr Barahona says Oxfam has been forced to restrict its work to specific areas and is only able to provide assistance to a fraction of the people who desperately need it. In November last year Oxfam was working in the conflict-ridden Kasai provinces and was only able to provide half food rations to 90,000 people. He adds that last month the situation was even worse and the aid agency was forced to restrict rations even further with more than 25 per cent of the population receiving no food whatsoever.
Donors need to learn from the past
Understandably Mr Barahona expressed his frustration and says that governments and international donors must learn from the past and unless they provide sufficient aid many people in the DRC will simply die. 13 million people in the country are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance representing an increase of 5.6 million people over the previous year. Last year only 1.7 million people out of the 4.6 million people who needed access to clean water and sanitation received assistance. That left people with filthy drinking water and forced them to defecate in the open.
Disease and violence
Such a situation will inevitably result in the outbreak of waterborne disease. 4.1 million people in the country suffer from acute malnourishment with only 516,000 people receiving treatment. Today the figure is now 7.7 million people facing the prospect of starvation. In the Kasai provinces Oxfam estimates that just 39 per cent of people in need of assistance received aid between October last year and the end of January this year. In the provinces bordering Uganda thousands of people are fleeing their homes in response to violence.
Lack of funds means aid will not be delivered
The DRC is huge. It is as large as Western Europe and the conditions of the roads in the country are extremely poor which means there is a massive delay and huge costs to reach areas that require assistance. The lack of funding means there is no money to pay for either logistics or security and that constrains aid agencies ability to deploy quickly. The situation is likely to get worse as the UN cuts funding which means its fleet of helicopters which are the only means of transportation of aid will be curtailed. The short version of the story is the world needs to wake up to the crisis in the DRC and provide it with the funding that is necessary.
Category: Save the Children
Save the Children has is warning that hundreds of thousands of children who have fled Venezuela for Columbia are vulnerable. The international humanitarian agency says political violence and economic insecurity in Venezuela means that there has been a worrying rise in the level of malnutrition rates. Save the Children estimates that every week at least half a dozen children die as a result of food shortages.
Fleeing to escape starvation
As they seek to escape starvation families as well as unaccompanied minors are fleeing into Columbia. There they are at risk of being kidnapped and exploited by human traffickers, criminal gangs or other armed groups. A Save the Children UK spokesperson Tamara Lowe says the rapidly deteriorating economic and political situation in Venezuela that has produced hyperinflation and caused mass unemployment has also resulted in shortages of both food and medicine. Ms Lowe adds that those that are fleeing to Columbia are not just Venezuelans but also Colombians who sought refuge in Venezuela when their country underwent civil war. Now they are again facing another situation of displacement.
Ms Lowe says that more than half a million people have fled to Columbia over the past year. Of them, 49 per cent are children and most are exhibiting signs of extreme malnutrition. If they are lucky a family will be able to eat at least once a day. Even after arriving in Columbia Mr Lowe says the refugees find it very hard to improve their lives. Most cannot afford to purchase travel documents so they cross the border illegally. As a result, they have no legal rights and cannot access healthcare or education. Many people end up living on the streets and have little or no protection from the rain and tend to live in areas that are prone to flooding which compounds the risk of an outbreak of disease.
Risk of disease and violence
Ms Lowe says that the regions where the refugees travel to are already poverty stricken and are typically areas where guerrilla forces or other armed groups are active. Local reaction to the influx of refugees have been mixed. Some have reciprocated the help they received when Columbia was struck by civil war, others display overt xenophobia in response to increased for competition for jobs and services. Save the Children is particularly concerned with unaccompanied minors crossing the borders who are vulnerable to paramilitary or armed groups who have connections with human traffickers and criminal gangs.
Support for young migrants
Ms Lowe concludes that Save the Children is operating child friendly spaces where unaccompanied minors or young migrants are protected. There they receive psychological support as well as have the opportunity to play with other children. They also receive basic education in the hope that it will help them forget about everything they have been through.
David Beckham in his role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF recently travelled to Indonesia to meet with children that have been victims of classroom violence and bullying. David Beckham’s UNICEF Fund which is called 7 has managed to transform the lives of millions of children from all over the world. The fund has financed the vaccinations of 400,000 children in Djibouti against polio as well as delivered clean drinking water to more than 15,000 children in Burkina Faso amongst many other accomplishments.
Beckham’s 7 Fund supports programmes all over the world
The 7 Fund has just started to support UNICEF programmes in Uganda, Indonesia, El Salvador and Nepal. The challenge is to deal with bullying and violence, put an end to child marriage and prevent children from missing out on education, especially for girls so they can achieve their full potential. The 7 Fund is therefore lending its support to programmes in Indonesia which seek to empower both girls and boys to become advocates of change and speak out against any violence they experience or witness.
Violence and bullying is an important social issue in Indonesia
Violence and bullying is one of the most important issues young people in Indonesia face. More than 20 per cent of children aged between 13 and 15 have been bullied or a whopping total of 18 million children. One in three children have been physically attacked whilst at school and as the violence increases there is a corresponding rise in the risk of poor mental health of the children being bullied which results in a rising school drop-out rate.
David Beckham was able to see first hand how Indonesian schools are adopting a more student focused approach by including both children who have been on the receiving end of bullying and children that have bullied others. The scheme nominates a peer group which trains members about the issue of bullying and teaches them to construct positive environments. Teachers are also trained in positive discipline techniques to ensure that classrooms remain free from violence. On his trip Mr Beckham learned that the current programme designed to prevent bullying in Indonesia has already had a positive impact on 7,000 children and that initial results suggest that bullying has fallen by nearly 30 per cent in early pilot programmes.
“The thing that strikes me most when I visit children around the world is the potential that exists in every child,” Beckham said. “Potential in every classroom, in every playground and in every home. I feel very proud to see how my 7 Fund is helping UNICEF tackle bullying and violence in schools in Indonesia, and is ultimately keeping children, especially girls, safe in their schools so they can continue their education and hope for a better future.”
Category: Concern Worldwide
Since last August the Rohingya community in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been the targets of violence and this has resulted in nearly 700,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh. Half of all the refugees seeking safety are women and children and as the number of refugees continues to climb, what is happening in Myanmar and Bangladesh is now officially the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis says Save the Children.
Crossing the border
Every day a steady stream of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar arrive in Bangladesh. Regardless of their gender or age, they are all traumatised and many have found they have become separated from their families. Everyone who makes the journey across the border is seeking safety and refuge. Many have travelled for days with little or no belongings just to set up camp wherever it is possible to do so. Most of these Rohingya refugees feel relieved upon safely arriving in Bangladesh however life in the country’s camps is not without its own set of challenges.
Where do the Rohingya refugees live?
So the main camps where Rohingya refugees live are concentrated within the Cox’s Bazar district on Bangladesh’s South-East coast. The area used to be known for its picture-perfect beaches and even before the crisis, it was the poorest district in the country. Bangladesh is itself a poor country so you have to give the country full credit for hosting the refugees. The communities in Cox’s bazar deserve even more credit for being so generous and gracious in their welcoming of the refugees. But the strain the local community is under as the influx increases is obvious. The cost of basic living items such as firewood has more than doubled as a result of the rise in population.
What is happening inside the refugee camps?
Cox’s Bazar now hosts almost a million Rohingya refugees making it one of the largest refugee camps in the world. Concern Worldwide began its relief operations in the camp in September last year and was one of the first aid agencies to respond to the crisis. Initially Concern focused on emergency projects such as feeding the refugees and providing them with water. As more funds were donated, Concern began expanding into distributing non-food essentials. Concern has partnered with UNICEF and is delivering nutrition services to women and children. 325,000 children aged under five have been screened for malnutrition.
The upcoming monsoon is a major threat
As you would expect, the camps at Cox’s bazar have reached capacity and as refugees continue to arrive there is a real issue of overcrowding. This has put a huge amount of pressure on basic services in the camps and the risk of an epidemic is high. Cox’s Bazar is located on the coast which means it is severely affected by the annual monsoon. Now that there are close to a million refugees living in the region, it is estimated that 100,000 people are in grave danger from flooding and landslides caused by the monsoon. The government of Bangladesh is working with aid agencies to map the risks of flooding to ensure the refugees are protected. Concern is working 24 hours a day to ensure that nutrition services continue to be provided to women and children when the flooding begins.