Posts Tagged Emergency

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.

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War and Landmines: I Only Saw the Survivors

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

As Concern Worldwide draws its programs in Cambodia to a close after 23 years, Senior Health and HIV Advisor, Breda Gahan, recalls some of her experiences there in more turbulent times

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Twenty-three years on, it’s a different country entirely

Back in 1991, there was a lot of insecurity. While a peace agreement was signed in Paris, the country was still marred by warfare. Working conditions were difficult. We set up office in the Monorom Hotel in Phnom Penh and for the next three years I spent there, change in the country was always evident.

While my job was in Cambodia, I first traveled to Thailand to better understand not only Concern’s work in the refugee camps, but also what people felt about returning to Cambodia. When I reached Aranyaprathet town in eastern Thailand where the Khmer refugee camps were mostly located, I could hardly believe the size of the “camp cities.” I had never seen anything like it. The camps, at that time more than a decade old, had a sense of order. However, as permanent as they felt, you could sense people’s enthusiasm to return home.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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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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