Archive for the Emergency Category

Somber and Hopeful: Commemorating 20 Years since the Genocide

Posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

 

Walk to Remember is an event organized by the youth as a way for Rwandans to recall lives lost during the 1994 genocide as well as to make a commitment: “Step-by-step, never again in Rwanda.”

Walk to Remember is an event organized by the youth as a way for Rwandans to recall lives lost during the 1994 genocide as well as to make a commitment: “Step-by-step, never again in Rwanda.”

By Karen Power, Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide

On April 7, 2014 at noon, following a minute of silence, the official commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide began in Amahoro Stadium with a survivor telling his story to 30,000 listeners, including dignitaries from around the world.

Screams and wails rang out in Rwanda’s largest stadium during the ceremony which included a powerful performance featuring khaki-clad soldiers saving slain Rwandans, as well as remarks from President Kagame and Ban Ki-Moon.

The genocide began after an airplane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana of the majority Hutus was shot down on April 6, 1994. The killing of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus by soldiers and Hutu extremists followed over the next 100 days, during which some 800,000 people were killed. The country was devastated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

With Kenya’s Elections Less than a Week Away, Concern Prepares for Potential Crisis

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 8:43 am

By Ivy Ndiewo, Communication and Documentation Officer

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Kajiado, Kenya during the 2007 general elections. Photo by Manaya Kinoti.

With less than 10 days before the first election under Kenya’s new constitution, fear and speculation are at an all-time high that what happened in 2008 could be repeated, even escalated. The results of the last general election in late 2007 were immediately disputed, and soon the nation exploded into weeks of political and ethnic violence, leaving with over 500,000 people displaced and more than 1,500 killed. I remember those grim days like they were yesterday.

The violence that erupted in 2008 caught the whole world off-guard, including the humanitarian community that then had to launch into an emergency response from scratch. Today, humanitarian organizations, including Concern Worldwide, are working with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Center to set up contingency plans if civil unrest sweeps across the country as it did in 2008.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

Why Didn’t All the Aid Reach the Poorest? Here’s Why…

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

By Julia Lewis, Area Manager, Democratic Republic of Congo, Concern Worldwide

Concern staff prepare kits for distribution

When academics or the media criticize aid organizations for inefficiencies or promises unfulfilled, I can’t help but think about the vast and endlessly tangled complexities of this work.  Crisis follows crisis, harsh realities are compounded by harsh realities, and every day there are situations where we are forced to take decisions when no option offers the perfect solution.

That’s often the case here in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the epicenter of what was called ‘Africa’s World War’ (1998-2003), the deadliest conflict since World War II, and especially in the eastern reaches of the country where violence and terror have continued since the supposed end of that war.  Conflict and preventable disease continue to take the lives of tens of thousands each month—five years ago a fellow international organization here put the toll at over five million.  The situation has little changed since then.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

A Path to a Better Life in Haiti

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

By Niall Murphy, Concern Worldwide

Juna Dely, one of the first participants in Concern's Path to a Better Life program, with her one-year-old son.

Juna Dely lives on the island of La Gonave, Haiti, with her partner Jean Wodline, his mother, and five of her six children. Between 2007 and 2009, Juna participated in Concern Worldwide‘s Chemen Lavi Miyo program, which translates to “Path to a Better Life.” The program sought to do exactly that—give Haiti’s poorest people a path to a better life through income-generating activities as well as access to health, education, and credit services based on their needs.

I met Juna because I am currently researching to see how effective the program was in breaking the cycle of poverty over the long-term. She is one of 500 female-headed households that have participated in Path to a Better Life across four of Haiti’s districts. As to be expected, I am finding that the program had many successes, but it was not without challenges. Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

The Democratic Republic of Congo: It is Time for Civilians to Come First

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

By Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

An M23 rebel fighter walks past a resident as they withdraw from the town of Sake. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Almost two weeks have passed since I returned from Masisi in the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There I witnessed civilian suffering on a shocking scale. We looked on helplessly as innocent families were deliberately targeted and burned out of their homes. They carried their belongings wrapped up in blankets as they scattered across the countryside just to escape the ravages of a conflict not of their making. The same scenes played out in village after village across many valleys in North Kivu.

Fighting has escalated rapidly. The country is on the brink of a devastating crisis, yet it still fails to make the headlines. This is hugely difficult to reconcile with the horror and absolute dismay we felt as we watched homes and livelihoods go up in smoke. Some 10,000 people were forced to seek refuge in Masisi center following these events. And this was just a sideshow to the main event. Opportunistic armed groups taking advantage of weakened security in the area while government (FARDC) troops were re-deployed elsewhere to deal with the growing threat posed by the M23 rebel group.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

In Afghanistan’s Unforgiving Terrain, Bracing Communities for Natural Disasters

Posted on Friday, October 12th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

By Peter Doyle, Asia Desk Officer, Concern Worldwide

Peter Doyle with Muhammad Niaz

Travelling through Afghanistan’s spectacularly scenic mountainous northern region, it was immediately evident to me how vulnerable this area is to natural disasters.  The steep mountains have been badly deforested and the soil constantly eroded, stripping what should be fertile agriculture land of its nutrients and leaving the communities that call this unforgiving terrain home at constant risk of flooding and landslides.

Last year was particularly tough—a severe drought was followed one of the harshest winters in recent times. This led to avalanches and later in spring, as the snow melted and rains came, severe flooding.  Yet despite all this, people live here, clinging to the edge and at mercy to Mother Nature.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share

Scavenging Anthills to Survive: A Dispatch from the Sahel Hunger Crisis

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 10:57 am

By Carol Morgan, Regional Director, Central Africa Region, Concern Worldwide

Hafiza Moussa is three years old and suffering from malaria. He is receiving treatment from a Concern-supported ward (CRENI) at the regional hospital.

I recently returned from the Sahel region of Africa, where a major humanitarian crisis is now unfolding, affecting an estimated 18.7 million people. In the Tahoua region of Niger, where Concern is responding, I saw children who, completely listless from the effects of malnutrition, could not hold down therapeutic milk in overcrowded feeding centers.

The United Nations now estimates that upwards of one million children are at extreme risk of severe acute malnutrition across this semi-arid belt of land along the Sahara desert. Even in ‘non-crisis’ years, 645,000 children die in the Sahel—35 percent of which are linked to malnutrition. This grim reality will never change unless we address the root causes of cyclical hunger.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bookmark and Share