How a Flowery Plant is Fighting Malaria in Tanzania

Posted by Crystal Wells in Concern Worldwide, Health, New York Staff, Tanzania, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

By Crystal Wells, Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide U.S.

Hapines is Lovenes’ first daughter and at just three months old, she is already fighting malaria.

Lovenes Joas, 22, sits on the edge of a metal-frame hospital bed, cradling her three-month-old daughter, Hapines Joas, in her arms. As she he tries to comfort her squirming daughter, Lovenes crushes up a soft yellow pill and mixes it with water. She tilts her daughter’s head back to force the syrupy liquid down her throat. Hapines wails, tears streaming down her cheeks, and slowly settles back down to a whimper against her mother’s chest.

Hapines is Lovenes’ first daughter and at just three months old, she is already fighting malaria. Lovenes and Hapines share a bed with another mother and child, Stella Peter, 30, and Nizelesos Peter, 10 months, who is also being treated for malaria. “Malaria is a big problem in my family,” says Stella, raising her voice so that we can hear her above the cries of a dozen or so children. “I am a farmer. Right now I could be farming, but I am here losing time because of malaria. It hurts the health of my kids…Even now [while I am here], my three-year-old at home has malaria, but no one is available to take him to the hospital.”

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

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, Emergency, Kenya, refugees, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

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.

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

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Concern Worldwide, DRC, Emergency, refugees, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

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.

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A Path to a Better Life in Haiti

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Cash Transfers, Concern Worldwide, Education, Emergency, HAITI CRISIS, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

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 »

Let’s Talk about HIV and AIDS

Posted by Concern Worldwide in Health, HIV & AIDS, Kenya | 1 Comment »

By Ivy Ndiewo, Communication and Documentation Officer, Concern Worldwide

An estimated 1.6 million people are living with HIV in Kenya. While we know that the majority of them are from Nyanza Province, the region in the country’s southwest around Lake Victoria, there is much that we still do not know about HIV and AIDS in Kenya. For example, there are no clear records of the prevalence rate in urban slums, especially when many people likely do not know they are HIV-positive.

A community conversation groups meets in Migori District, Kenya. Photo: Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide uses what we call “community conversations” in Nyanza Province as well as Mukuru, a slum east of Nairobi, to break down many of the barriers that keep people from getting tested, and if they are diagnosed, taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications. We first piloted the approach in 2010 as a way for people to talk about their challenges and find solutions. There are now 24 community conversation groups across Nyanza Province and in Nairobi’s urban slums—all of which tackle HIV and AIDS head-on.

I spoke with my colleagues Belinda, Jane, and Julia, who are all community conversation facilitators in different areas of Mukuru. They said that community members see HIV and AIDS as one of their biggest challenges, with orphans and single parenting on the rise due to HIV and AIDS. Many are living in denial of their status, refusing to take ARVs. This is exactly where community conversations come in.  Read the rest of this entry »

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

Posted by MConine in Child Survival, Concern Worldwide, Health, Malawi, Nutrition | 2 Comments »

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 »

Where the Snow Piles up Six Stories High

Posted by MConine in Afghanistan, Disaster Risk Reduction, Emergency, Voices from the Field | 2 Comments »

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 by MConine in Concern Worldwide, Disaster Risk Reduction, DRC, Emergency, refugees, Voices from the Field | No Comments »

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

Posted by Paul O’Brien in Concern Worldwide, DRC, Emergency, refugees | 1 Comment »

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.

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

Posted by Peter Doyle in Afghanistan, Concern Worldwide, Disaster Risk Reduction, Emergency, Voices from the Field | 1 Comment »

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.

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