Indonesia tsunami: As threat of disease looms, safe water and hygiene are key to saving the survivors

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia, survivors are now threatened by the spread of disease.
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After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia, survivors are now threatened by the spread of disease.

Indonesia tsunamiA boy stands infornt a stranded ship after hit by the tsunami on October 2, 2018 in Donggala, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Image:Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

As the waters slowly recede and the true extent of the devastation continues to emerge following Indonesia’s deadly earthquake and tsunami, urgent action is needed to ensure that a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene don’t spark outbreaks of deadly diseases in disaster-ravaged communities.

Decimated infrastructure and dirty conditions mean diseases that cause diarrhoea which are transmitted through bad hygiene can cause up to 40% of all deaths in the immediate aftermath of an emergency.

DEC members and their local partners are working around the clock to reach families who have lost everything in the disaster and keep the threat of a health crisis at bay.

Andi Dyah, a water and sanitation specialist with Save the Children’s local partner in Indonesia, described the scale of the problem: “In and around Palu, the network of water pipes has been smashed to pieces. Toilets have been destroyed. Treatment facilities are broken, meaning there’s no way to treat human waste. Water taken from local sources is often brown and filled with sediment, which is incredibly dangerous for human consumption.

Andi Dyah working for Save the Children in Fiji in 2016. Image: Rob McKechnie/Save the Children.

“We’re seeing more and more people reporting cases of diarrhoea. This is incredibly worrying for children, who are more likely to succumb to dehydration or malnutrition because of diarrhoea. With open defecation the only option for many families, we have a health crisis waiting.

“If consistent supplies of clean drinking water can’t be established quickly, we’re going to see a significant increase in cases of diarrhoea in the coming days and weeks, as well as other illnesses like water-borne diseases.

“Being from Sulawesi myself, it’s hard to believe what has happened. It breaks my heart to see so many people suffering. It’s going to take a long time to recover. For me personally it means so much to be here as part of the humanitarian response.”

In the face of this threat, DEC members across the board are rapidly scaling up their water, sanitation and hygiene responses.

Basics like soap, buckets and tarpaulins can be the key to saving lives. But it is also vital to re-establish safe water supplies.

Save the Children, though its local partner,has distributed a shipment of hygiene kits, fresh water kits and shelter kits. Daily distributions planned over the coming weeks.

Access to clean drinking water is a priority for DEC member charities as diseases that cause diarrhoea can be deadly for children. Image: Adi Hutomo/Wahana Visi Indonesia.

In addition, the British Red Cross is mobilizing water trucks; Islamic relief are distributing toiletries and bottled water; Oxfam plan to provide toilets and hygiene kits and Plan International Indonesia has distributed tarpaulins to shield bathing spaces so girls and women will feel safe and secure while washing.

At time of writing the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi stands at more than 1,700 – with 5,000 people thought to be missing. But as aid workers and rescuers continue to reach areas previously inaccessible due to the destruction, the full

scale of the disaster is only just becoming clear. Sadly, numbers of those killed and injured are expected to climb still higher.

You can donate to the DEC's Indonesia Tsunami Appeal here.

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Indonesia Tsunami Appeal

An earthquake followed by a tsunami struck Indonesia leaving behind a trail of destruction. Now, hundreds of thousands of survivors are in urgent need of food, water and shelter.
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On Friday 28 September, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale rocked the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, triggering a terrifying tsunami that reached 18 feet in height and left a trail of destruction in its wake.

The true scale of the disaster is only now becoming clear. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed and entire communities have been decimated. At least 2,100 people have died, thousands more are missing and 200,000 survivors are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, around a quarter of whom are children.

DEC member charities and their Indonesian partners are working closely with national authorities to provide food, clean water, first aid and shelter, while helping survivors to cope with the trauma of the last few days.

As the full scale of devastation unfolds, they are ready to do even more, and with your help, support devastated communities in rebuilding their lives.

Let’s save the survivors. A 400-mile-an-hour tsunami also kills slowly.

Image credit: The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.

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Yemen crisis: How your donations are still helping people affected by the war

As the war in Yemen continues into its fourth year, DEC member charities are working in extremely difficult conditions to provide relief to civilians caught up in the conflict.
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As the war in Yemen continues into its fourth year, DEC member charities are working in extremely difficult conditions to provide relief to civilians caught up in the conflict.

Children whose family was displaced from Taiz to a village in Lahj. They now benefit from a DEC-funded water supply project. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

The war in Yemen has brought terrible suffering to the civilian population of what was already one of the world’s poorest countries. In December 2016, the DEC launched the Yemen Crisis Appeal to raise funds on behalf of its member charities. The response of the UK public was generous as ever and by the time the appeal closed in May 2018, the appeal had raised £30 million, with £20 million coming to the DEC and £10 million being donated to directly to members.

After our initial six-month phase, DEC funding has continued to provide essential aid to families struggling to deal with the impact of the war. While aid isn’t a solution to the crisis, your donations can provide a lifeline to families who have lost everything and despite the difficult conditions brought on by the conflict and blockade of major ports, DEC member charities are working to get aid to people who need it. Here are some of the ways your donations helped between July 2017 and June 2018.
 

By providing health support


Aaliyah, 5, is proscribed medicine after being diagnosed with a fever in Lahj, Yemen. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

Both a rise in contagious diseases like cholera and violence-related injuries have combined with a lack of funding and medicines to cause a crisis in healthcare in Yemen, which was already basic by the standards of the region. DEC charities have used your donations to combat this, providing 364,000 people with health support in the year to June. This included providing access to essential medicines to 237,000 people, 80,000 of whom were treated for contagious diseases or violence-related injuries.
 

By providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene services

Mushtaq and his family benefit from access to clean water through a DEC-funded project. His children used to have to walk long distances to fetch water, but now can go to school. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

The war in Yemen has devastated the country’s infrastructure, including water systems. This has left many people without a supply of clean water and encouraged the spread of deadly diseases like cholera and acute watery diarrhea which often hit children the hardest. In the year to June, DEC funds enabled our members to reach 246,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene projects. That includes 27,000 people who received cholera prevention kits and 30 health facilities that were equipped with improved water and sanitation facilities to stop the spread of disease.

Yasseen, 40, had to flee his home with his family. "Our homes, work and possessions have all been destroyed in Taiz," he said. "The war with constant bombing meant it was no longer safe for us and the children to stay, so with the help of God we fled. Whilst this is not home, we are safe here. People have been kind to us; our kids go to the local school; and Oxfam [funded by the DEC] provided the water supply network without which it would be really difficult."
 

By providing food

Salem, 47, collects a food parcel from a DEC-funded distribution point in Lahj, Yemen. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

The war has had a devastating effect on food security in Yemen with 8.4 million people now severely food insecure according to the UN, and the blockade currently in place on the port of Hodeida - the main trade route to the capital Sana’a - is making the situation worse. DEC funds provided 61,000 people with food parcels or vouchers in the year to June.

Aioosh, 60, received food parcels from a DEC-funded project in Lahj. "I head the household and feel responsible to keep family safe and fed,” she said. “The war has affected us all. This area became a battleground – we had to flee our homes to save our lives. By the time we came back there was no electricity, no water, and homes had been badly damaged. Some lost homes completely. May God protect those that have helped us…. We are much better now thanks to that help – thank you."
 

By providing emergency nutrition

Aarya, 7, right, was found to be malnourished at a mobile clinic. Her family now receives food from a DEC-funded project in Lahj. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

Food shortages hit the very young and old hardest, and specialist nutrition interventions are required, for example by prescribing fortified peanut paste. In the year to June, DEC funds enabled our members to reach 33,000 people with nutrition assistance, including 3,700 children under five who were treated for moderate acute malnutrition, 1,700 children under five who were treated for severe acute malnutrition and 2,200 pregnant and lactating women who were treated for moderate acute malnutrition. 3,800 older people were also screened for malnutrition.
 

By giving people the means to support themselves

Rasha, 35, benefited from a cash-for-work scheme to help build a water supply to her village in Lahj. Ammar Bamatraf/DEC.

Although Yemen’s economy has suffered greatly, markets are still active in some areas. In situations like this, and especially when logistics can be difficult, giving people in need cash so that they can support themselves can be very effective while also helping local business owners. DEC funds provided 10,000 people with cash transfers to help them meet their immediate needs, and a further 6,500 people took part in cash-for-work schemes in which they were paid so that they could support themselves in exchange for working on infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads and water networks.

Our Yemen appeal is now closed, but you can find a list of our member charities with open appeals here.

Help the DEC respond to the next crisis by donating to the DEC Emergency Fund.

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Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones: what’s the difference?

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can all have devastating effects when they make landfall, but what’s the difference, and when are they most common?
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Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can all have devastating effects when they make landfall, but what’s the difference, and when are they most common?​

Typhoon MangkhutTyphoon Mangkhut heads towards the Philippines on 12 September 2018. Nasa Earth Observatory.

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can all have devastating effects when they make landfall, and the Disasters Emergency Committee has launched many appeals in their aftermath – most recently Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in 2013.

But what’s the difference between these different types of tropical storm? The answer might be simpler than you think: location. Otherwise, they are essentially the same. (Although, just like water going down a plug hole, they turn counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern.)

Hurricanes form in the North Atlantic, northeastern Pacific, the Caribbean Sea and occasionally the Gulf of Mexico, usually making landfall in the US, Caribbean, Mexico or Central America.

The DEC hasn’t launched an appeal for a hurricane since the 1998 Central America Hurricane Appeal. This is largely because most countries affected by hurricanes now have the capacity and preparedness to deal with their effects without the need for large scale international assistance or are able to access regional response capacity. (You can find out more about when we launch an appeal here.)

Typhoons form in the northwestern Pacific and make landfall in East Asian countries such as the Philippines, China, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The DEC launched the Philippines Typhoon appeal in 2013 after Typhoon Haiyan tore a path of destruction over 100 miles wide through the centre of the country, bringing torrential rain, gusts of more than 300 km per hour and a storm surge of more than five metres that devastated coastal areas. In 2009, the DEC launched the Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam Appeal following Typhoon Ketsana, a major earthquake and Typhoon Padang all striking the region within just 10 days.

Cyclones are formed in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean and generally make landfall in Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and also Madagascar and Australia.

The DEC has launched many appeals following cyclones, including the Myanmar Cyclone Appeal in 2007 after Cyclone Nargis wrought destruction along the eastern coast, including Yangon, the country’s largest city. The 1999 India Cyclone Appeal was launched after a violent cyclone was followed by a storm surge tidal wave.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs June-November, peaking between late August and October. Typhoons and cyclones happen all year round, but the peak season for the Philippines is May to November, while Bangladesh has one from April to May and another from October to November.

To help the DEC be ready next time disaster strikes, you can donate to the DEC Emergency Fund.

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Providing safe sanitation one year into the crisis in Cox’s Bazar

Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross and a DEC trustee, meets the people in limbo in the world's largest refugee camp.
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Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross and a DEC trustee, meets the people in limbo in the world's largest refugee camp.

Mike Adamson stands in the rain in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp during his recent visit. Farzana Hossen/British Red Cross.

Faecal sludge management (FSM to the cognoscenti), is not the most glamorous part of the work of the British Red Cross, but it is one of the most important in Cox’s Bazar, southeast Bangladesh, where around one million people are stranded in what is now considered the largest refugee camp in the world.

One year on from the escalation of violence that led hundreds of thousands to flee, it is clear that conditions are not yet conducive for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return. During my recent visit, I met a young man called Youssef (left). When I asked him whether he wanted to stay or go home he said: “how can we stay here, this is not our home.”  Yet, having fled violence in Rakhine State, people are now stuck in limbo, unable to return to Myanmar and not able to truly establish a new life here - to work, go to school, live safely - all the things we take for granted.

In the meantime, the conditions families now find themselves living in are horrendous. Despite the much needed funding from organisations like the DEC and the hard work of humanitarian actors, basic needs for shelter, water, sanitation, protection, healthcare and psychosocial support are barely met. People are living on steep slopes prone to landslides. All this is compounded by monsoon rains, which add another layer of difficulty and danger to the lives of people here.

But we do not give up. The Red Cross and Red Crescent, including the British Red Cross, are working alongside the camp community, even as the rains fall, to reinforce shelters and makeshift paths and to prevent the spread of disease.

Hygiene promotion is a key part of the work of the British Red Cross. Farzana Hossen/British Red Cross.

This is where FSM comes in – if you put hundreds of thousands of people in one place, without a way to dispose of human faeces the risk of waterborne diseases and worse is enormous. In one part of the camp, the British Red Cross is working with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and with volunteers from the camp community on a programme of building pit latrines, hygiene promotion and FSM. 

Drying beds at the British Red Cross FSM site which treats 3,000 litres of human waste a day. AJ Ghani/British Red Cross.

DEC funds have helped us train volunteers to literally empty latrines by hand (right) and carry the faecal sludge in barrels for safe processing with lime in the treatment site we have created. The site treats around 3,000 litres of human waste every single day, making it safe for disposal and even to use as fertiliser for planting trees.

Across the camps the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is operating one if its largest responses in the world, running the only 24 hour seven-day-a-week surgical hospital; distributing emergency supplies; helping people reinforce their shelters; setting up protection programmes for the most vulnerable in the camps and much more.

But one year into the crisis we are asking ourselves: what next? All signs suggest that the refugee crisis in Bangladesh is going to last for years and funding to the crisis is likely to decrease as time wears on. The current situation is not sustainable, neither for refugees living in the camps nor humanitarian agencies.

Refugees in the camps remain dignified and resilient, but there is no denying that people still require the absolute basics. That means large scale investment in better shelter, sanitation and education on a semi-permanent basis. In particular, attention is needed to protection, with sexual and gender based violence and trafficking some of the key risks refugees in Bangladesh are facing.

Attention is needed on medium to long term steps that might help create a safer and more dignified reality for those who have fled, including steps to support their resilience and self-reliance. DEC and other funding has allowed organisations like the British Red Cross to respond to this emergency, but now we need sustainable funding for the future.

No one is just sitting around waiting for help but they need our support. AJ Ghani/British Red Cross.

As we approach the first anniversary of their arrival, we must continue to give a voice to those who fled, ensuring that this does not become one more forgotten crisis, and that support continues to be given to meet needs that are unlikely to diminish for some years to come.

Find out more about how the British Red Cross has used DEC funds on their website.

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Media briefing: One year on from the Rohingya exodus

One year on from the start of the most recent exodus of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, please find below an update on the DEC’s appeal, including funds raised to date and how those funds have been spent. 

  • The DEC appeal launched on 4 October 2017 and is due to close end of August 2018 
  • £28 million has been raised to date (including £5 million UK Aid Match) 

More than 700,000 people have now arrived in the Cox’s Bazar district since 25 August 2017 and in total there are 1.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the area. The Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site, informally known as the megacamp, is now considered the world’s biggest refugee camp. 

In the first six months of the DEC-funded response to the crisis (October 2017-March 2018), DEC funding provided: 

  • 351,500 people with food assistance - more than the population of Cardiff 
  • 34,000 families with household essentials such as blankets and pots and pans 
  • 124,400 people with clean drinking water and sanitation, including the construction of 90 deep tube wells 
  • 19,500 families with materials to build a shelter  
  • 42,300 people with free medical care and health support 
  • 28,200 vulnerable people with some form of protection, including the provision of 43 ‘safe spaces’ for vulnerable people such as women, children and older people 
  • 10,700 families with vouchers to buy fresh food 

The second phase of the DEC-funded response runs from April 2018 to September 2019. Plans for assistance during this period include: support to nine health facilities and two mobile clinics helping 200,000 people; 55 deep tube wells to provide clean drinking water; public and individual solar lamps to keep 11,000 people safe at night; agricultural tools and seeds as well as business grants to help 15,000 people restore their livelihoods. 
 
Monsoon rains are falling, but it is expected that the worst is yet to come. DEC charities are assisting by reinforcing shelters; strengthening the site of the refugee settlements using sandbags and bamboo to prevent landslides; decommissioning and desludging latrines and digging deep tube wells to prevent water contamination and the spread of disease; meeting ongoing food needs. 
 
The full DEC 6-month report is available here.

Ends 
 
Notes to editors 
 
Spokespeople from DEC members are available for interview as follows: 
Age International: Rabeya Sultana (HelpAge International), Bangladesh Country Director, in Bangladesh. Jahingir Alam (HelpAge International), Emergency Programme Manager, in Bangladesh. [Note: Rabeya is on leave until 25 August]. 
British Red Cross: Jack Frith-Powell, British Red Cross Programme Manager, in Cox’s Bazar. 
CAFOD: Janet Symes, Head of Asia, travelled to Cox’s Bazar earlier this year. 
Concern Worldwide: Darren Vaughan, Senior Communications Officer, in UK and visited refugee camps early August. 
Islamic Relief: Oliver Kyaw, Myanmar Country Director, in Myanmar. 
Oxfam: Dorothy Sang, Oxfam Advocacy Manager, in Cox’s Bazar. Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring (just back from visit to the refugee camps), in the UK. 
Plan International UK: Dominika Kronsteiner, Emergencies Programme Manager, spent a lot of time in Cox’s Bazar. Orla Murphy, Country Director Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar.  
World Vision: Jimmy Tuhaise, Emergency Response Director for the Rohingya Crisis, in Cox’s Bazar. Fred Witteveen, National Director for World Vision Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. Nicola Hannigan, Emergency Response Manager, in UK. Sarah Pickwick, Senior Conflict Adviser, in UK. 
 
Our April 2018 appeal update can be found here.

The DEC’s East Africa Crisis Appeal is now closed. It launched on 15 March 2017 and raised £66.4 million (including £10m UK Aid Match). Read the six-month report here.

The DEC’s Yemen Crisis Appeal is now closed. It launched on 13 December 2016 and raised £30.3 million (including £5m UK Aid Match). Read the 6-month report here.

In instances where more than one DEC member charity is working in the same location, delivering the same kind of assistance, DEC aims to eliminate potential double-counting of people by including only the highest numbers reached at that location. 

The figures above refer to results achieved with funds donated directly to the DEC, and do not include results with donations given directly to member charities, which are part of the joint campaign’s fundraising total. 

The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
 
The UK Government has supported all three of the DEC’s most recent appeals through UK Aid Match, by matching £ for £ money donated by the British public: £5 million for Yemen, £10 million for East Africa and £5 million for Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar. 

 

 

5 ways your donations are helping Rohingya refugees

Here are some of the ways the £30 million raised by the DEC is helping Rohingya families who lost everything fleeing Myanmar.
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Here are some of the ways the £30 million raised by the DEC's appeal is helping Rohingya families who lost everything fleeing Myanmar.


Sokina and her daughter sit in the doorway to their shelter in Moinerghona camp, Bangladesh. Paddy Dowling/DEC.

Since August 2017, more than 700,000 people, mostly Rohingya women and children, have fled violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, across the border to Bangladesh. They mostly live in what is now the world’s largest refugee camp, home to more than a million people in total. The DEC raised £20 million, including £5 million in Aid Match from the UK Government, and DEC members raised £10 million directly, taking the appeal total to £30 million. Here are some of the ways the money raised by the DEC is helping families who lost everything.
 

1. By providing food


Sayed and his daughter collect fresh food from a DEC-funded voucher scheme, Moinerghona camp, Bangladesh. Paddy Dowling/DEC.

Mostly unable to work and living in cramped conditions, the refugees are currently almost entirely reliant on international aid for basic food items. DEC funds have provided more than 350,000 people - more than the population of Cardiff - with food assistance. This includes a scheme where 10,000 people were given vouchers to buy fresh food from local vendors because dry food rations were not providing them with all the nutrition they needed, and the provision of fortified cereal to all children between six months and five years to combat malnutrition.
 

2. By providing clean drinking water

Children collect drinking water at a pump in the camps for people who have fled Myanmar. Josh Estey/CARE.

With so many people arriving into a relatively small area with no infrastructure, access to clean water has been a huge issue. Drinking contaminated water can spread disease, particularly amongst small children. DEC funds have provided 120,000 people with clean drinking water and sanitation services. This includes the construction of 90 deep tube wells which provide safe drinking water over a long period of time. Another 55 deep tube wells are planned in the next phase of DEC-funded work. The DEC has also supported important but unglamorous work to desludge latrines safely so that they don’t overflow during the monsoon season and contaminate water supplies.
 

3. By providing shelter and household items

A shelter kit distribution point in the camps for people who have fled Myanmar. Paddy Dowling/DEC.

Many of the families arriving from Myanmar came with absolutely nothing and had nowhere to sleep. Imagine how you would cope without basic items such as containers for water, or cooking utensils. The DEC provided almost 20,000 families with materials to build a shelter, and 34,000 families with basic household items such as blankets and pots and pans to enable them to cook for themselves. The DEC has also helped families strengthen their shelters in preparation for the monsoon season, and strengthened some areas of the camp where there was a risk of landslides.
 

4. By providing healthcare

Mohammed, aged eight months, recovers in a Red Cross field hospital after suffering a broken leg when his sister fell and dropped him. Paddy Dowling/DEC.

So many people arriving so quickly, many of them sick or even wounded, completely overwhelmed local hospitals which were too far for most refugees to reach. The DEC has provided more than 42,000 people with medical care and health support. This includes supporting a large field hospital where operations can be carried out. Further health activities are planned to reach 200,000 people until September 2019.
 

5. By protecting vulnerable people

Girls play in a girl-friendly space in the camps for people who have fled Myanmar. Aungmakhai Chak/DEC.

The refugees' flight from Myanmar was chaotic and often traumatic. Families were separated, and many women and girls reported being raped. DEC charities identified and helped more than 28,000 vulnerable people with some form of protection in the first six months of the response, including by setting up 43 safe spaces for women, children and older people. Many of these spaces offer counselling and can refer users to other services if needed. In the next phase of projects, DEC funds are planned to provide 11,000 people with solar lighting to help them feel safer at night.

 

You can read the DEC’s full Emergency Appeal for People Fleeing Myanmar Six-Month Report here.

The DEC’s Emergency Appeal for People Fleeing Myanmar is now closed, but funds will continue to be spent up until September 2019. If you would like to help, you can find a list of our member charities with open appeals here.

This article was updated to reflect the new appeal total of £30 million on 12/09/2018.
 

 

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Rains return but life remains precarious in northern Kenya after years of drought

DEC Chair Clive Jones reflects on a recent trip to northern Kenya and the ongoing challenge for East Africa, where the pattern of the seasons is no longer a foregone conclusion.
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DEC Chairman Clive Jones reflects on a recent trip to northern Kenya and the ongoing challenge for East Africa, where the pattern of the seasons is no longer a foregone conclusion.

A village in Marsabit County, northern Kenya, in January 2018. David Mutua/CAFOD.

By Clive Jones, DEC Chairman

At last, the rains have returned to East Africa after two and half years of drought, failed crops and dying livestock. An international aid effort, including the DEC’s East Africa Crisis Appeal, kicked in early on to provide people across the region with live-saving assistance and prevent the kind of tragedy seen in 2011, when the UN estimates as many as 258,000 people died.

But even though now many areas are draped in green, the crisis isn’t over. Such a prolonged period of drought has destroyed food reserves and left the lives of many on a knife edge. And in a tragic irony, hundreds of thousands are now affected by flash floods across Kenya and Somalia that requires renewed humanitarian attention.

The current deluge is a far cry from what I saw in January this year when I visited Marsabit County, northern Kenya, one of the most severely affected by last year’s crisis, and saw for myself the devastating effect the historic drought had had on people and communities.

The Kenyan government declared a national drought emergency at the beginning of 2017, and soon crops failed and cattle, goats and even camels herded by pastoralists succumbed. In Marsabit, Kenya’s biggest county, three times the size of Wales, 60 percent of livestock perished and food prices shot up.


The DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal that aired on the BBC. This appeal is now closed.

This was the case all over the region, which faced one of the biggest humanitarian crises in its history driven by successive droughts, failed harvests, conflict and insecurity. In the East Africa region 16 million people were on the brink of starvation and in urgent need of food, water and medical treatment.

The DEC appeal launched in March 2017 has raised more than £65 million with the support of the British public and UK Aid. It was heartening to see the result of those generous donations in northern Kenya. I met many people who had benefited from cash schemes that had allowed them to buy food for their families.

Dida Baru didn’t know how his family would survive, let alone pay the fees to keep sending his 17-year-old daughter, Lokho, to school. But a Food for Fees scheme funded by a DEC charity meant Lokho got through to graduation and the family are doing well. The work is ongoing, with food, treatment for malnutrition and medical outreach centres still operating in the most arid areas of Marsabit.


Lokho, 17, wants to go on to study computing after graduating school thanks to a Food for Fees scheme. David Mutua/CAFOD.

I visited an outreach centre monitoring the weight and height of young children to stave off malnutrition and providing health checks and vaccinations. Eighteen-year-old mother Gillo Bagajo’s husband was 500 kilometres away, tending to the remaining 20 sheep and goats of their previously 100-strong herd, and she had struggled to get enough food for her 10-month-old son, Ali. Since Ali was put on the supplementary feeding scheme run by the centre, she has seen his weight steadily improve.

I also saw longer term projects that have increased the resilience of the area. Water pans had been deepened, dug by local villagers who were paid for the work so they could support themselves through the crisis. Dima Qonchoro, a 47-year-old mother of six, lost two thirds of her family’s goats, and her husband and son had been away for six months searching for pasture. Getting paid £3 a day to dig out the water pan had been a lifeline, and helped pay for a small building she one day hopes to open as a shop.


Dima was paid to help deepen a water pan and now plans to open a shop. David Mutua/CAFOD.

New strategically placed boreholes had been dug to support disparate communities that had been dependent on water trucks for months. Some had been equipped with solar power making them cheaper to operate, and a community I visited in Dukana – one of the areas worst hit by the drought – had used these savings to fund a garden growing juicy watermelons and spinach, and is planning on planting more.

All these are signs of progress and a testament to both the good aid can achieve and the positive attitude of the people who live here. Your donations provided a lifeline for people across East Africa, and helped build resilience in a region where the pattern of the seasons is no longer a foregone conclusion.

One of the moments that will stay with me from my trip was my first antenatal class since my youngest daughter was born more than 20 years ago. Crucial advice on nutrition, HIV screening and malaria prevention was being shared, but the session started and ended with a prayer, a song and a dance – an act of defiance in an area badly affected by drought but determined to fight on and ensure its children have the chance to grow up healthy and well.

The DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal closes this week. If you can, please give generously to help people across the region rebuild their lives.

This appeal is now closed, but to help the DEC be ready for the next humanitarian crisis you can donate to the DEC Emergency Fund.

 

 

 

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How southern Ethiopia is recovering from drought with the help of your donations

East Africa is experiencing its first successful rainy season in more than two years, and DEC funds are helping people rebuild their lives.
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East Africa is experiencing its first successful rainy season in more than two years, and DEC donations are helping people rebuild their lives.

By Monica Blagescu, DEC Director of Programmes and Accountability

Right now, southern Ethiopia doesn't look like it suffers from drought. The hills and valleys of South Omo are covered in green. It's the rainy season, and this year for the first time in three years, it's been a good one.

In fact, it’s almost been too good, and appearances can be deceptive. There has been so much rain that many of the nutrients have drained away from the soil, causing crops to yellow. Things have been worse over the border in Somalia where flash floods have displaced 175,000 and affected 427,000 people overall.

In late May, I travelled to southern Ethiopia to see how donations to the DEC are helping communities that suffered through more than two years of drought and failed harvests that culminated in last year’s crisis that saw many areas sliding towards famine, and led the DEC to launch the East Africa Crisis Appeal.

I saw some of the amazing results that DEC funds have brought to the area. DEC charities have helped people who last year became so desperate that they were forced to eat their seeds that were intended to rebuild their livelihoods and regrow their crops. One of those people was Doida, who I met standing proudly in the middle of his field of maize, grown from seeds and sown with tools funded by your donations.


Doida stands in his field of maize, grown with seeds and sown with tools funded by a DEC charity. Barney Guiton/DEC.

It was also fantastic to see how our member charities work with local communities to decide how to allocate funding to help those most in need and the robust systems in place to handle concerns and address feedback.

One community I visited was receiving cash to spend on food and other essentials, and people in the village had chosen poor female-headed households to receive it. Sale and his brother are severely disabled, and spend most of their time at home. Initially they were left out of the programme, but Sale voiced his concern and was subsequently included. “This programme is good because it has consideration for me,” he told me. “There was no awareness of disability in the community before, but now there is some.”

Sale received unconditional cash transfers to help him through the drought. Barney Guiton/DEC.

He explained that it was difficult for him and his brother because no one understood their needs, but by receiving cash, they could choose for themselves how best to spend it.

In another remote community, a DEC charity was providing special fortified food for older people. I saw local staff assessing people’s progress. Elema was one of those who had improved. “I was measured and it was found that I was malnourished so I received the food,” she said. “Now I am gaining weight.” But this programme, like many, was coming to an end as funding ran out, and there is still a two-month wait before the harvest comes in.


Elema was malnourished but is now doing well thanks to a DEC-funded nutrition programme. Barney Guiton/DEC.

Your donations have had a huge impact in the communities I visited, and hundreds of others across the region. In total, DEC funds allowed our member charities to help almost 2.5 million people in the first six months of our response, with many more planned to be reached this year.

But the needs are still great and there is much more to do. Our East Africa Crisis Appeal is now closed, but many of our member charities are still working in the region.

Thank you for your support.

This appeal is now closed, but to help the DEC be ready for the next humanitarian crisis you can donate to the DEC Emergency Fund.

 

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