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Jun 8, 2018

Monsoon Season Arrives for Rohingya Refugees

Rohingya Refugees move through a camp in the rain
Rohingya Refugees move through a camp in the rain

Dear Supporter,

Our Bangladesh team have reported that tens of thousands of Rohingya families sheltering in the deforested hills of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh are in peril from the monsoon rains. One assessment, carried out by the UNHCR and Dhaka University, suggests the risk of landslides and flooding could directly impact over 100,000 people.

Desperate efforts are under way to put flood defenses in place and to provide safer ground in the sprawling refugee camps for some of the most vulnerable families. The monsoon can bring enormous amounts of rain and winds of up to 90mph, threatening the integrity of the shelters. Tropical cyclones, the term used for hurricanes in the Indian and South Pacific oceans, can cause even greater damage. Concern first set up operations in Bangladesh following a deadly cyclone in 1970, which reportedly killed over 500,000 people and left millions homeless.

There are currently 865,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, most having fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar in August and September of last year. A repatriation deal was signed between the two governments in November, but has essentially stalled. Several camps, including what is now the world’s biggest refugee settlement area at Kutapalong and Balukhali, sit on sand-and-clay hills stripped bare of trees. Landslides are a major danger, along with the risk of water-borne diseases, as makeshift latrines are likely to flood and collapse among the bamboo and tarpaulin huts.

Concern has been playing a key role in supporting displaced Rohingya families, operating seven emergency nutrition centers across a number of camps, with an eighth under construction. To date, nearly 40,000 acutely malnourished under-5 children have been treated at these centers. The emergency response team is busy reinforcing structures, sandbagging, and building drainage canals and has stockpiled extensive supplies in advance of the monsoon season.

Lucia Ennis, Concern’s Regional Director for Asia, says “There is a sense of helplessness due to the magnitude and the implications of the incoming cyclone season. However we remain focused in activating its emergency response plan for scale up and adapting the existing response systems, working closely with various other organizations and communities on the ground”.

Thanks in part to your support, Concern will be well placed to activate our emergency response plan. We humbly request that you consider contributing in the face of this impending emergency, and extend our deepest thanks for your continuing support.

A desperate effort to reinforce shelters
A desperate effort to reinforce shelters
Flooding begins in the camp at Cox's Bazar
Flooding begins in the camp at Cox's Bazar
May 22, 2018

Strategies for Resilience in Somalia

Animals drink water that Concern has trucked in
Animals drink water that Concern has trucked in

Dear Supporter 

Thanks in part to your generous contributions, we continue to provide life-saving services in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Early last year, when Somalia was cited as one of four countries on the brink of famine, it brought on a grim sense of déjà vu. Five years before, over 250,000 people — many of them children — had died of hunger and related diseases in the first famine of the 21st century. Luckily, that didn’t happen in 2017. Here are some reasons why:

Information:

Gathering and analyzing information is key. Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) — identifying and responding more quickly to the signs of coming crisis — is a central part of the Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) program, which Concern is implementing together with Norwegian Refugee CouncilInternational Rescue Committee (IRC)Save the Children and CESVI. It systematically monitors conditions in its program areas and includes a mechanism to trigger a rapid localized response when signs of a potential crisis emerge.

Rapid Response:

Most of Somalia depends on two annual rainy seasons for agriculture and livestock production, and when there were signs - as early as June 2016 - that the April to June Gu rains would not perform well, we began responding with cash transfers of $30 per month to 803 of the poorest households in Gedo, in south west Somalia.

In November, as the subsequent Deyr rains appeared to be failing and the probability of disaster had therefore increased, Concern increased the amount to $50 per month and doubled the number of recipient households to 1606, now including the poorest 20% of households.

By January 2017, with the failure of the rains confirmed, Concern was able to increase the cash transfers to $60 per month. Despite the crisis, markets continued to function and food remained available for purchase, minimizing displacement to urban centers.

Increased Resilience:

Our approach to early warning meant that by the time the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit — the leading source of food security and nutrition surveillance in Somalia — indicated the possibility of famine in Somalia on 16 January, 2017, Concern staff had already been responding to that possibility in half of our target communities for 7 months.

Ongoing discussions with the target communities and observations by Concern field staff suggest that as a result of this early action, the villages in which the resilience program operates are faring considerably better than might have been expected. While over 900,000 households have been displaced across the country since November 2016, none of our target villages have experienced significant numbers of people leaving due to the drought.

In fact, even though these communities were originally targeted as the most vulnerable in their respective areas, most have since become hosts to displaced people from nearby and previously “better off” villages. That’s amazing progress.

With millions of people still affected by food crisis in Somalia, it remains imperative to learn the lessons of the past two years and continue to respond to emerging needs early and effectively, in order to continue to keep famine at bay.

It is important, of course, to keep these successes in perspective. This program was a pilot through which Concern supported fewer than 30 villages, a number that pales in comparison to the 900,000 people forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in urban centers due to the food crisis. But this does show what can be achieved in mitigating the impacts of major slow onset disasters in Somalia.

Thanks in part to your contributions, we were able to respond to the crisis to the best of our ability, sharing information, responding rapidly, and focusing on increasing for resilience. For that, we deeply thank you.

Apr 25, 2018

Informal Settlement Upgrades in Lebanon

Fatima* in her tent
Fatima* in her tent

Dear Supporter,

Thanks to your generous contributions, Concern Worldwide continues to work with Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. We provide for basic needs, along with education and psycho-social support, depending on the context and the needs. Today, I would like to highlight our work to upgrade Informal Tented Settlements in Lebanon.

With 1.5 million Syrian refugees taking shelter in the country, Lebanon is currently housing the highest per capita number of Syrian refugees based on its population size. By the end of 2017, 36% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon reported having no member in their family currently employed, which resulted in negative coping strategies, such as living on credit and borrowing excessively. This statistic highlights the vulnerability of Syrian refugees, and to further emphasize the point, 91% of Syrians in Lebanon describe themselves at food insecure.  

Fatima* and her mother, who is ill, fled to Lebanon to escape violence in Syria. They currently live in tents in an Informal Tented Settlement (ITS) in North-West Lebanon, about a 90-minute drive from the heavily damaged Syrian city of Homs. They had both hoped that an escape from Syria would lead to a better life, but they now find themselves struggling to survive.

“I was living in heaven before and now it feels like I am in hell,” Fatima says.

“The hardest thing about my life is getting the money to buy bread and medication for my mother, not to mention the rent for the tent. I work five days a week in agriculture and barely make enough. There is nothing harder than this life.”

When Concern Worldwide arrived to assess the settlement, we noted that the welfare of the settlement’s inhabitants was severely negatively impacted by the muddy and impassible paths and roads. The whole settlement was left isolated from relief services due to the conditions of the paths, as sanitation services, water, and mobile clinic vehicles were unable to access the site. Young children were socially ostracized from going to school due to their muddy feet and were forced to wear plastic bags around their shoes.

“I felt like we were isolated from the world.” Fatima said.

In order to address the problems in the settlement, Concern provided the refugees support to gravel the path, allowing life-changing services to access the community for the first time. The access has made it much easier for Fatima’s mother to access the medical care that she needs, and has allowed the children of the settlement to attend school with clean feet. While providing an informal tented settlement with gravel might seem like a simple thing to do, Fatima explained to Concern staff that the pathways have changed their lives.

Despite improved conditions in the settlement, Fatima still longs to return to her homeland once the violence has receded. Thanks in part to your contributions, Fatima and her mother can live in improved comfort today while retaining their hope for a better future.

*Name changed for security purposes

A path in the settlement in terrible condition
A path in the settlement in terrible condition
Improved path after the gravel intervention
Improved path after the gravel intervention
 
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