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A Report from Bentiu, South Sudan

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

By Elke Leidel, Concern Worldwide Country Director, South Sudan

Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State, was taken over by anti-government forces on the 19th of December, just four days after fighting broke out in Juba and swept across the country.

Some 8,000 people are living at the United Nations base in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State. Concern Worldwide South Sudan country director Elke Leidel traveled to Bentiu to assess the needs of those displaced by the fighting, which broke out in Juba on December 15th and quickly spread to more than 20 sites across the country.

Some 8,000 people are living at the United Nations base in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State. Concern Worldwide South Sudan country director Elke Leidel traveled to Bentiu to assess the needs of those displaced by the fighting, which broke out in Juba on December 15th and quickly spread to more than 20 sites across the country.

Our three staff based in Bentiu left on an evacuation flight just in time before the fighting broke out. All NGO vehicles, including our own, were seized by anti-government forces, while fighting spread to other cities and towns in Unity State. Thousands were forced to flee their homes, including many who have been living with little to no assistance since then because the ongoing violence and insecurity has made it difficult for humanitarian organizations to reach them.

On January 5, I traveled with colleagues from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other humanitarian organizations to Bentiu to assess the needs of the civilian population. For the past three weeks, Bentiu was almost completely inaccessible as fighting and instability has made travel to the area by road impossible. We were apprehensive of what we would find.

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Timber and Straw: The Story of a Village Clinic in Malawi

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 10:04 am

By Michael Hanly, Desk Officer for Malawi and Zimbabwe, Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide is supporting village clinics throughout Malawi, making health care more accessible for women and children.

In many of the countries where Concern Worldwide works, health care services can be extremely hard to come by. Malawi is no different. Mothers often have to walk for hours to get to the nearest health center—a major barrier that keeps them, and their children, from getting care when they need it.

Concern is working to make health care more accessible to communities in two areas in central Malawi, Nkhotakota and Dowa. The point of the program is to prevent and treat the major killers of children under five years old—malaria, respiratory infection, diarrhea, and malnutrition—by working with the Ministry of Health to make sure there are trained health workers based in villages, not just in centralized health centers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Where the Snow Piles up Six Stories High

Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 11:21 am

By Tom Dobbin, Emergency Program Coordinator, Takhar Province, Afghanistan

A flood defense system in Rustaq

Takhar Province in the far northeast corner of Afghanistan is a remote and unforgiving place. High in the mountains, it has more major earthquakes, landslides, and flash floods than any other part of the country. The landscape is stark and barren and poverty is crippling.

As winter settles in, children scour the hillsides for animal dung and withered thistles to use as fuel to keep warm. In the dead of winter, temperatures can plummet to a mere five degrees Fahrenheit. Heavy snowfall makes it completely impossible to travel in or out of. Last year, which was the worst winter in decades, snow drifts were as high as 50 feet—the height of a six-story building.

When the snow melted in April, it triggered violent flash floods that washed away homes, bridges, and other critical infrastructure. One village, Rustaq, saw nearly 100 feet of river bank engulfed by water, taking with it 60 homes. In Chall District, the floods washed out a bridge that was the only connection to the nearest village for 770 villagers and 150 students who crossed the bridge every day to go to school. Some villages, like Khailan, were told they had to relocate altogether. As part of Concern Worldwide’s emergency response team, I was deployed to Afghanistan as Emergency Program Manager in Takhar to oversee a program to repair the damage that was done because of last year’s floods and brace communities for the upcoming winter and future disasters.

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A Field Diary from Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

By Julia Lewis, North Kivu Area Manager, Concern Worldwide

People gather to listen to the first address by the M23 rebels spokesperson Vianney Kazarama at a stadium in Goma. Photo: REUTERS/James Akena

Information in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is often like a game of telephone. It’s hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint where a rumor begins, let alone how much it changed from the original source and if it had any credibility to begin with.

As the Area Manager for the international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide in the war-torn province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, distinguishing fact from fiction is a big part of my job. And in a country where security can change in an instant, acting on lies and failing to act on truth can have very real—even fatal—consequences.

Reports of a potential advance towards the provincial capital, Goma, by the M23 rebel movement started to circulate on Wednesday, November 14th.  I got a call from one of our national staff who had heard that they were planning to ‘enter Goma soon,’ but was initially quite skeptical as no other source could confirm this.  When I woke up that next morning, I learned that the M23 were fighting the Congolese national army, FARDC, in Kibumba, just 19 miles north of Goma. By Saturday, M23 had taken control of Kibumba. Suddenly, what seemed unlikely had become a tangible threat.

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HIV/AIDS: The tide is turning, but not fast enough

Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 at 9:49 am

By Breda Gahan, Global HIV & AIDS Program Advisor

 

46 percent of people living with and AIDS in the world’s poorest countries are still without access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment

Recently the U.S. government, through the Health and Human Services Department, announced $68 million in new grants to support comprehensive HIV and AIDS care for women, infants, and youth. The investment came on the heels of the 19th International AIDS Conference which drew thousands of people from across the globe into Washington, DC under the theme, “Turning the Tide Together.”

With 46 percent of people living with HIV and AIDS in the world’s poorest countries without access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, it begs the question: have we really begun to turn the tide?

While the new investment from the U.S. government in HIV and AIDS will undoubtedly make treatment available to more people who need it, we will never reverse the crippling effects of this 100 percent preventable—and increasingly treatable—disease if the international community does not come together and make it a priority.

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