Archive for February, 2012

In the wake of the East Africa crisis, will help arrive in time for the Sahel?

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

Last week, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg announced a contribution of $33 million to support food security, nutrition and short-term cash assistance efforts across the West African region of the Sahel, bringing USAID’s total humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $270 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  The announcement caused barely a ripple in the US media, and many who heard the news may have even asked ‘What crisis?’ or ‘What’s the Sahel?’  As aid organizations, it is our responsibility to issue and amplify calls to action to respond in the Sahel, and to broadcast the important message that coordinated action now will save lives and prevent costly interventions later – and we have the evidence.

Millet is the staple crop that keeps most people alive in Niger, but this year, drought and poor harvests threaten to leave 13 million people in need of emergency food assistance by April. Photo: Tim Peek for Concern Worldwide US, Tahoua town, Niger

Right now, a series of factors—including volatile spikes in food prices, failed harvests and cyclical drought—have triggered widespread food shortages across the Sahel, according to the USAID Famine Early Warning System Network. Levels of malnutrition among children under five have already reached the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent in parts of many affected countries, which include Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. Read the rest of this entry »

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What will 2012 bring for Kenya?

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 9:46 am

By Anne W. Mwangi, Commmunications Officer, Concern Worldwide Kenya

Last year was a tough one for Kenyans. Drought racked the land and food prices rocketed, pushing three decent meals a day out of the reach of most Kenyans. Now that 2012 is here, everyone is wondering what this year will bring. According to economic experts, food prices may ease slightly, but will likely remain high and hunger will continue for the poorest.

But far removed from economic experts and predictions are the residents of Nairobi’s vast slums who are struggling to put food on the table for their families. I visited one of Concern Worldwide’s local partners, Redeemed Gospel Church (RGC), in Korogocho slum in Nairobi. We have been working with RGC since 2009 to provide assistance to almost 1,500 families with emergency cash transfers, small business loans, and training to set up businesses.

A child walks down a street past typical corrugated-iron house-fronts in the Korogocho slum of Nairobi. Photo: Phil Moore, 2011.

Grace, a social worker Concern partners with through RGC, explained how hard life has been for Nairobi’s slum residents. “Most of our beneficiaries are engaged in day-to-day odd jobs like washing people’s clothes,” she said. “They earn between 70shs to 150shs a day (approximately $1.30/day). These people are living on the edge.” Indeed, the volatile spikes in food prices in 2011 drove many of these families over the edge and into desperation. Food shortages in slum markets combined with increases in food costs meant that the most vulnerable slum families required such as emergency interventions such as cash transfers to meet their daily survival needs. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Shared History: Concern’s 40 Years in Bangladesh

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

By Mustafa Kamal, Overseas Account Manager, Concern Worldwide

Bangladesh recently celebrated two significant 40th anniversaries. As a Bangladeshi and a member of Concern Worldwide for the past 20 years, the events have a dual-significance.  In addition to marking the independence of my country, it also was the anniversary of Concern’s first mission to support vulnerable and under-served Bangladeshi refugees in Calcutta, India following the liberation war. The response in Calcutta was Concern’s second mission as an organization and led to what is now four decades of high-impact quality programming inside Bangladesh.

This month, Concern is recognizing its 40th year in Bangladesh with events in Dhaka and our headquarters in Dublin. While much work remains to be done in Bangladesh, what we have accomplished since that first mission to support Bangladeshi refugees in 1971 is remarkable. In many ways, our work in Bangladesh has shaped Concern’s programming and how we bridge emergency response and development, and I am honored and very proud to have been a part of it, both on-the-ground in Dhaka and now in Dublin, Ireland.

My first interaction with Concern was in 1989.  I was a chartered accountant student in Dhaka and had the opportunity to be a part of consultancy project to review Concern’s financial systems. As part of this assignment, I traveled to Saidpur to review the financial systems of Concern’s programs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pakistan Floods: A Trip to Southern Sindh Province

Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 at 1:31 pm

By Emily Bradley, Program Support Officer (PSO)

Bakhtwar sits proudly in front of her small shop which she reopened with the support of Concern after the floods washed it away. Jamshoro District, Sindh. Photo: Emily Bradley

Driving through Southern Sindh province in Pakistan on a bright, sunny day in early December 2011, it is difficult to imagine the catastrophic scale of the destruction caused by the floods of 2010. Beyond the bounds of the irrigated sites, the land is now dry and dusty and the heat is immense. As I meet with Concern’s beneficiaries and partner organizations, it is all too clear however, that, although the flood waters have receded, their devastating legacy lingers.

In August and September 2010, villages across Jamshoro district were entirely submerged in water. We all recall the media images of the floods in Pakistan, but it is often difficult to fully comprehend the extent and reality of the devastating impact until you speak with those who were directly affected. Imagine losing everything you ever possessed; imagine fleeing your home with your children to save your lives; imagine watching as the mud walls and thatch roof of your home and business disintegrate in the floodwaters before your eyes.

Now try and imagine all of this as a severely disabled mother of eight. Read the rest of this entry »

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