Posts Tagged disaster risk reduction

In Afghanistan, an Endless Battle against the Elements

Posted on Monday, July 8th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

By Kieran McConville, Multimedia Producer, Concern Worldwide

Dawlat Mohammad has lived under harsh conditions all his life, but the natural environment of his Afghanistan homeland has become more hostile than ever.

Dawlat Mohammad has lived under harsh conditions all his life, but the natural environment of his Afghanistan homeland has become more hostile than ever.

He strides purposefully across the harsh, rocky landscape, a heavy chapan draped over his shoulders despite the 85-degree heat. Every day of Dawlat Mohammad’s 65 years under the Afghan sun is etched into his face, his bright blue eyes twinkling merrily as he greets us in the traditional way: “Assalomu allaikum.”

We are standing in what could easily be described as a moonscape—gravel and boulders strewn in all directions, huge rocky hills in the distance. This has the appearance of a vast, dried-up river bed and, in a way, that is what it is. All across this part of northeastern Afghanistan, huge flood beds dissect the landscape, a product of the mountain rains and melting snows of springtime.

The extreme seasons have always been a challenge to those who live here, but over the past decade that challenge has increased dramatically. “Over there,” says Dawlat, gesturing to the base of a low hill about 200 yards away. “That is where the river used to run—a small stream most of the time. Now the floods are wiping us out.”

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Rana Plaza: The Real Cost of Cheaper Clothing

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 at 8:55 am

Bijoy Krishna Nath, Head of Risk Reduction & Response, Concern Worldwide

Farida holds up a photograph with the hope of finding her missing son, who worked at Rana Plaza.

Farida holds up a photograph with the hope of finding her missing son, who worked at Rana Plaza.

Farida did not know if her son was alive or dead. Tears streaming down her face, Farida showed person after person his photograph, but no one had any information. Doctors, firefighters, policemen—no one had any evidence that he made it out alive.

Her son, a garment worker in the now-famous Rana Plaza, could be one of the more than 600 people killed when the nine-story building collapsed, enveloping more than 3,000 people in concrete and steel. I met her amidst the search-and-rescue mission the day after the factory collapsed as part of a small assessment team with the humanitarian organization, Concern Worldwide.

The scene was sheer chaos.

More than one thousand rescue workers, from members of the armed forces and firefighters to everyday people, tirelessly tore through the building’s remains in search of survivors. Emergency medical clinics were overflowing with people in need of immediate care, while relatives of garment workers, like Farida, frantically searched for their loved ones, their fear growing palpably greater by the minute that they would not be among the lucky ones pulled from the rubble.

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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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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.

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Pace of Progress Dangerously Slow on Climate Change

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 at 8:23 am

By Tom Arnold, Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide

The three-day United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which started in Rio de Janeiro today (Wednesday, June 20) presents world leaders with an excellent opportunity to adopt a new approach to climate change that reflects the priorities of the developing world. Called Rio+20, it marks the 20th anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development attended by 179 countries which put sustainable development on the global agenda.

The Sahel region of Africa is currently facing a food security crisis that threatens more than 18 million people

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In the poorest countries where Concern works, the strains caused by climate change are increasingly evident. Erratic seasons, rising droughts and floods, uncertain planting dates, and shorter growing periods for essential staples are all having an impact. For the world’s poor, who overwhelmingly depend on rain-fed agriculture for their survival, the changing patterns of climate, land availability, and food production have caused chaos.

In the Sahel region of Africa, where a current food security crisis threatens more than 18 million people, rainfall has decreased by 25 percent in the last 30 years wreaking havoc on farming communities. Other factors like deforestation, overgrazing, continuous cropping, desertification, and poor water management have also contributed to a deteriorating environment.

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On the Edge of Precipice: My Journey by Horseback to Afghanistan’s Most Remote Villages

Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 8:34 am

By Peter Wilson, Program Support Officer, Afghanistan

As the warmth of springtime settles across North America and Europe, northern Afghanistan is just now thawing from what many consider to be the worst winter in living memory – the destruction it leaves behind will be felt for some time to come. In February this year, stories emerged that children were dying in Kabul’s displacement camps because of the extreme cold, while in Badakhshan, a province in the far northeast corner of the country, heavy snowfall triggered catastrophic avalanches, burying entire villages in feet of snow.

Concern Worldwide’s emergency response team delivers fodder to 2,000 households by donkeys and horses to remote villages in Badakhshan Province.

However, little has been told about what the people of Badakhshan endured this winter and how they continue to be at-risk as the snow begins to melt. This is largely because it is so incredibly difficult to access. An extremely remote and mountainous region, communities in Badakhshan can be entirely cut off from the outside world for up to seven months a year. Most villages can only be reached by horseback or foot across treacherous paths dotted with ravines, rockslides, and landslides. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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