Sep 10, 2019

Transition to Recovery and Resilience Building

Patrick's crops destroyed by Idai (Gavin Douglas)
Patrick's crops destroyed by Idai (Gavin Douglas)

Dear Supporter,

Thanks to your generosity and that of many others, Concern has transitioned our Cyclone Idai humanitarian response program to one of early recovery and resilience. The donations we received in this campaign made a substantial impact in the early days of the response, helping Concern to provide lifesaving food rations, shelter inputs, water and sanitation, and other items necessary for survival in the wake of the cyclone’s devastation of southern Malawi and Mozambique.

While the situation has stabilized for most of those affected, there is still a critical need to help people rebuild their livelihoods and prepare for future shocks by increasing their resilience. Why are we pivoting our activities to recovery and resilience building? The answer lies in a troubling forecast for future shocks brought on by climate change. Let’s take a step back and look at how climate shifts spell trouble for the people of Malawi in particular, and what Concern is doing to help.

Agriculture in Malawi

Agriculture is the largest economic activity in Malawi, accounting for up to 80% of the country’s export earnings. Many of the farmers there are small holders with less than one hectare (a bit over two acres) and their foods are grown primarily for household consumption, with a surplus sold to local markets. Maize accounts for nearly half of smallholder-cultivated land followed by groundnut, bean, cassava, sweet potato, and other food crops.

Malawi has a sub-tropical climate, which is relatively dry and strongly seasonal. The warm-wet season stretches from November to April, during which 95% of the annual rains fall. Farmers usually plant their crops at the beginning of the rainy season and harvest in March.

Malawi is susceptible to extreme weather. Severe flooding in 2015 and 2018, and prolonged dry spells and droughts in 2016, 2017, and last year have resulted in widespread crop and livestock devastation. Agriculture in Malawi relies mostly on rain for irrigation with 95% of the rain falling between November and April. This allows only for one growing season. Outside of severe weather events, crops and animals remain susceptible to climate variability with heavy rains and prolonged dry spells.

This year’s maize crop was looking very promising. It was just weeks from being harvested when Cyclone Idai struck. The winds, heavy rains and flash floods destroyed the fields of crops, denying families of a favorable harvest.

Building Resilience through Conservation Agriculture

One example of a program that Concern uses to build resilience to future shocks in Malawi is conservation agriculture. Conservation agriculture gives farmers an opportunity to deal with the changing climate and apply new practices. Conservation agriculture is a response to sustainable land management, environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation. It is guided by three principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotations.

The important benefits of conservation agriculture include greater rainfall infiltration, resulting in increased rainfall use efficiency, early planting, reduction in soil erosion, enhanced soil biological activity and reduction in amount of labor hours.

In addition to working with farmers to train them regarding conservation agriculture, Concern is working with farmers in the wake of cyclone to get them back on their feet as quickly as possible. We are distributing tools and seeds to farmers to enable them plant a winter crop.

Thank you for your generosity, and please have a look at our GlobalGiving campaign “East Africa Hunger Crisis: Concern’s Response” for more opportunities to support our work to lift farmers and others affected by climate change out of desperation and malnutrition, and help them build resilient lives with sustainable access to nutritious food and healthcare.

Sep 9, 2019

The Rohingya Crisis, Two Years On

Reshma, a refugee. By: Abir Abdullah (Concern)
Reshma, a refugee. By: Abir Abdullah (Concern)

Dear Supporter,

Since August 2017, 750,000 Rohingya refugees — including more than 400,000 children — have fled to the Cox’s Bazar camp in southeast Bangladesh to escape violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. It is now the largest refugee camp on Earth.

Sadly, one in six of the Rohingya children living in Cox’s Bazar are malnourished. That’s over 65,000 children under the age of 5 going hungry and running the risk of effects like stunting that can affect them for the rest of their lives — or even cut those precious lives short.

As the crisis has now reached a grim milestone of two years on, let's take a look back at how it began and what Concern is doing to respond to the latest threats facing refugees today.

Who Are the Rohingya and What Happened in 2017?

The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim ethnic group that has lived in the mostly Buddhist nation of Myanmar for centuries. At the beginning of September 2017, over 435,000 Rohingya poured into the southeastern Bangladesh city of Cox’s Bazar, fleeing violence in their home villages.

On average, most Rohingya refugee families arriving in Bangladesh came with 4 children and spent up to 10 days fleeing to the safety by foot. Many arrived with nothing but their lives and the lives of their children.

What Challenges do the Rohingya Face in 2019?

Flooding

The rainy seasons in Bangladesh have made day-to-day living in the crowded camps even worse.  As of August 2019, floods in Bangladesh have affected 7 million people (primarily in the northeast). The rainy season impacts roughly 60% of the country.

Clean Water

Despite monsoons and heavy rains, many Rohingya only have access to water from rivers and ponds — the same waters they defecate and wash in. Those who have made it to Bangladesh are in desperate need of basic essentials, including food, shelter, and clean water.

Food, Nutrition, and Healthcare

When they arrive into Bangladesh, many Rohingya are already hungry or showing signs of malnutrition. Severe acute malnutrition affects children the most and leaves them more vulnerable to life-threatening diseases like cholera and diarrhea.

Safe Spaces and Resources for Women

Rohingya women traveling alone or with only their children, are vulnerable to gender-based violence and in need of safe spaces, hygiene supplies, and basic items to maintain their dignity.

Housing and Shelter

Many Rohingya are living in overcrowded or makeshift camps in Bangladesh. Others have no option but to be homeless on the streets, while thousands of others are stuck between the borders. What shelters families do have are threatened by rains and monsoons.

A Long Commitment to Bangladesh

Concern has been working in Bangladesh since 1972. In over 45 years, we’ve reached millions of people with lifesaving emergency response as well as longer-term development programs. Concern has worked in the past with the Rohingya, and our current response to this emergency ties directly into our mission of focusing on the poorest, most vulnerable members of our global community.

In 2018 alone, Concern screened approximately 49,500 children across nine refugee camps for signs of severe malnutrition every month, admitting over 6,140 to our outpatient clinics, where we achieved a cure rate of 97%.

Our work in Bangladesh is thanks to your support. We simply couldn't do it without you.

Aug 27, 2019

Consequences of the Climate Crisis in Kenya

Ng'ikario. By: Gavin Douglas (Concern 2019).
Ng'ikario. By: Gavin Douglas (Concern 2019).

Dear Supporter,

As of August 2019, the Horn of Africa is in the grip of drought. Large parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia have experienced insufficient rainfall for two consecutive rainy seasons, with devastating consequences for people living in those areas due to lost crops and livestock deaths. Food prices have increased and the number of people across the region who do not have enough food to eat has reached 12 million.

If this news induces a perverse sense of déjà vu, that is because it is the third major drought in the past three years. While droughts can occur in almost all types of climate and are not a new experience for people living in this part of the world, what is new is the frequency with which they are happening. It used to be that they would occur maybe every 15 or 20 years. However, from the late 90s onwards, this cycle was reduced to every five years and over the last decade, it has reduced to every second year. Very simply put, this does not give anywhere near enough time for families to recover and is placing them in increasingly desperate situations.

“The recovery period has become shorter or almost non-existent. If people lost their livestock or their assets and had years to re-build, then recovery might be possible. But when it is every second year, you lose more each cycle. Your ability to bounce back becomes less and less. So it has made people more vulnerable and deepened levels of poverty,” explains Amina Abdulla, Concern Kenya Country Director.

Ng’ikario is a 37-year-old pastoralist in a semi-arid county of Kenya called Turkana. She became the head of her household when her husband became disabled due to injury. Of her six young children, three are severely malnourished. As the land has dried up, so too have her options for keeping food on the table.

She used to have a herd of 100 goats. However, in 2017, extreme drought wiped out half of her herd. With little time to recover in between, this current crisis has left her with only five goats remaining. With no pastures for them to graze on, all five have stopped producing milk. The family had relied on that milk as their primary source of nutrition. Now, she, her six children and her five goats all rely on the same source of food — a wild fruit that grows in the bush. When there is no fruit to pick, Ng’ikario has no option but to turn to the animal hides that line the floor of her home, a small round hut made from wood. “I turn to the old hides and skins. I roast them and that is what we consume,” she explains.

Ng’ikario is not alone. Malnutrition rates in Turkana have reached 30% in some areas with this current crisis. To put that into perspective, rates of 15% or higher are considered a ‘critical emergency’ situation. The strain it is placing on local health services is immense.

So what are we doing about it? With the generous support of supporters like you, Concern Worldwide started programming in Turkana last year and is working to support malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. We are working with the Ministry of Health and with partners such as Save the Children to reach more mothers and children with vital nutrition support and to strengthen the local health systems that are in place to enable them to better cope with the demand for increased services that comes with recurrent drought.

As the climate crisis escalates on a global level, vulnerable communities around the world are confronting the consequences. We are reaching as many people as we possibly can, but we need your help to reach more. Ng’ikario recognizes the need for outside support for her family. “If I didn’t receive this support, I know my children would have been dead by now.”

 
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