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Mar 26, 2019

Mercy Corps Responds - Indonesia Tsunami - Final

Background

On the night of December 22, 2018, Mrs. Murnasih got a phone call from the head of the neighborhood telling her that “water is coming.” She told her husband right away; her husband went out to check. He was shocked to see that water was already coming in and was rapidly getting higher and higher. The couple grabbed their young children, 7 and 3 years old, and began running towards higher ground, joined by throngs of people streaming from other nearby villages. Without power or cell service post-tsunami, it was hard to get news on what was actually happening.

Since they had to leave in a rush, like so many others that night, Mrs. Murnasih and her family could not bring anything with them. However, she was relieved that at least her entire family had survived. They spent the night in the open, very scared and wondering what had happened to their home and belongings.

In the early morning hours, two tsunami waves struck the shorelines of Java Island and Sumatra Island that form the boundaries of the Sunda Strait. During the first 48 hours after the event, there was little clarity on what had happened to cause the wave. As satellite data became available, it was concluded that the on-going eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano (since July 2018) in the Sunda Strait had caused either an underwater landslide or a partial collapse of newly forming areas of the volcano.

More than 430 people died, and an additional 14,000 were injured. As a result of the destruction caused by the tsunami, there were more than 33,000 internally displaced people and thousands of damaged homes.

Mercy Corps response

Mercy Corps’ experienced response team in Indonesia responded immediately, sending staff to assess the area and begin emergency relief distributions. Per our typical approach, we worked in consultation with the government and peer agencies, regularly meeting to review the ongoing situation, identify needs and coordinate activities. We coordinated closely with the Indonesia Red Cross and carried out joint distributions in heavily impacted areas – totaling 365 relief kits delivered in January and 144 kits in February.

The Indonesia Red Cross took the lead in registering recipients and documentation, while Mercy Corps provided the kits and implemented the actual distribution. We distributed three types of kits: shelter kits, which contain tarps, rope, blankets, boots and gloves; hygiene kits, which contain a bucket, jerry can, toothbrush, clothing, and bathing items; and cooking kits, which contain a wok, a pan, cooking utensils and cutlery. The kits included items we knew were in high demand and culturally appropriate for affected members of the local community. We worked with the Indonesia Red Cross to select recipients, with the primary criteria being that the recipient’s home had been totally or almost totally destroyed, as well as fisherman who had lost their boats.

How You can Continue to Help

Our readiness to respond to disasters like these and help strengthen communities for the long term is thanks to the generosity of supporters like you. To support our work now and for the future, please consider making a gift to Mercy Corps.

Dec 10, 2018

Hurricane Florence Final Report

Background

Hurricane Florence formed and strengthened to a Category 4 in the Atlantic as it headed toward North and South Carolina. It was a slow moving storm with heavy winds, making flooding from rain and strong storm surge the biggest concerns. While Florence did reduce to a Category 2 before making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina with winds around 90mph. Florence then slowed and spent several days moving very slowly over the area at speeds of only 2-3mph, dumping nearly 36 inches of rain in some places, making it the 8th wettest storm in US recorded history.

As predicted, the storm surge combined with Florence’s slow movement and enormous amount of rain (an estimated 8 trillion gallons of water) caused heavy flooding throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Virginia for several weeks. Two weeks after Florence moved northeast, floodwaters were continuing to rise in some parts of the Carolinas. Additionally, at the height of the storm approximately 1.5 million people were without electricity due to power outages caused by downed trees and estimates that the power could be out for several weeks despite the prepositioning of power teams in advance of landfall. Due to flooding, the power company teams had a lot of difficulty reaching certain areas for repairs.

Mercy Corps’ Response

On September 11, Mercy Corps pre-deployed to Atlanta, moving to Charlotte on September 14, and into the storm area September 18 as Florence moved out and some of the roads began to open. Mercy Corps co- located with Team Rubicon for Hurricane Florence response. Initial assessments were conducted in the New Bern area before determining that Mercy Corps’ programming would have the biggest impact in the Lumberton area (Robeson County). Robeson County is one of the most vulnerable counties in the country with nearly 30% of the population living in poverty. Additionally, Lumberton residents were still recovering from severe flooding during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 when Florence made landfall in September 2018.

Mercy Corps’ response focused on the most vulnerable households and people in the greatest need of aid. Based on the results of our assessment, Mercy Corps planned to respond with a mix of critically needed relief items and cash. As of October 19, 2018, more than 10,000 people in Robeson County have registered with FEMA.

1,300 solar lamps were distributed between September 20 – October 11, 2018. The lanterns were donated to local agencies or partners that would then distributed them to first responders and vulnerable households. Lamps benefitted on average three people per household, and thus a total of 3,900 people benefitted from this generous donation.

Team Rubicon in New Bern planned on distributing the lanterns there to first responders who were without electricity at home, including firefighters and police. In Wilmington, the Team Rubicon team doing muck and gut of households there were staying in a warehouse that had no electricity at the time and were grateful to get the LuminAid lanterns. The team said they were great and were extremely appreciated by the team.

Perhaps the town that most needed solar lanterns, was the town of Havelock. Mayor William Lewis met the Mercy Corps team himself with a pickup truck. The lanterns were quickly loaded into the pickup to be distributed to households without power. The Mayor and his team were very grateful for the donation and told Mercy Corps that out of the 5,000 homes without power in his county, 4,000 of them were in Havelock.

During a call to discuss survivor’s needs with other agencies, Greene Lamp Community Action group in Kinston, NC reached out to Mercy Corps saying that they were in extreme need of the lanterns for distribution within their community. Kinston flooded severely not once, but twice. The second time was over a week after Florence has passed through the area. The Mercy Corps team drove to Kinston, NC to deliver 300 lanterns the following day to Greene Lamp who targeted the most vulnerable families for assistance.

Mercy Corps’ local partner in Lumberton, the Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee (RCDRC), requested 350 lanterns for distribution to their clients. Team member, Jill Morehead, helped distribute some of the lanterns to RCDRC just before Hurricane Michael passed through the Carolinas and people who were very nervous were extremely grateful to receive the lanterns in preparation for Michael.

Conclusion

In situations where people have been devastated by a natural disaster and have lost access to power, simply having a reliable source of power and a way to stay connected to loved ones and information can be an extremely important comfort and resource to survivors. This was the case in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and people expressed the same desire in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence. Recognizing this importance and the need to have these products quickly, Mercy Corps has prepositioned solar items in a shared humanitarian warehouse in Dubai, and is conducting a public tender to have agreements in place in order to quickly purchase and ship solar lanterns in the early days following a disaster.

How You can Continue to Help

Our readiness to respond to disasters like these and help strengthen communiies for the long term is thanks to the generosity of supporters like you. To support our work now and for the future, please consider making a gift to Mercy Corps.

Apr 10, 2017

Rebuilding lives after Hurricane Matthew

All photos: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

The Haiti context
Haiti remains one of the western hemisphere’s poorest countries. Ranked amongst the most affected by natural disasters, Haiti regularly deals with devastating floods, droughts and hurricanes. In addition, Haiti’s political situation is fragile and uncertain, causing currency devaluation and inflation.

In the face of these daily challenges, Hurricane Matthew struck the country on October 4, 2016 with 145-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rain. The storm destroyed roads, infrastructure, properties and crops, leaving over 15,000 people displaced and over 750,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Haiti’s farmers were particularly hard-hit – many were still recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2010 and had not yet built in safeguards to protect them from the next disaster.

Supporters like you gave through GlobalGiving immediately and stepped up to make a difference. Thanks to their generosity, people in Haiti are rebuilding and recovering from the storm that took lives, homes, and belongings.

A quick pivot to emergency response
Mercy Corps’ global mission is to empower people to survive through crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good. In response to the January 2010 earthquake, Mercy Corps opened operations in Haiti to help meet urgent needs, and today we still have 32 team members living and working on the ground to help vulnerable Haitians increase incomes through vocational training and entrepreneurship, access savings and loans, promote conservation farming techniques to increase profits and build food security, and promote clean energy technologies and land conservation to rehabilitate degraded land, maintain fertile soil and reduce damage from recurring natural disasters.

As soon as the hurricane passed, our staff began assessing damaged areas and the impact on local communities. These assessments showed that the Carrefour-Feuilles and Canaan areas in the greater Port-au-Prince area, where Mercy Corps has established programming, were not significantly impacted and did not require any emergency response. Mercy Corps resumed its regular programming in these areas, with heavy emphasis in the Arcahaie-Montrouis corridor where agriculture production was severely impacted, with an average of three-quarters of farmers losing 80% or more of their harvest. We are continuing work there as part of our ongoing programs.

In addition to continuing operations in our regular program areas, Mercy Corps proposed providing emergency assistance to the department of Nippes, where there was a significant gap in assistance. In coordination with other organizations, the government, and local actors, Mercy Corps conducted rapid assessments in six communes (equivalent to municipalities) assigned by the local office of the Department of Civil Protection.

The needs assessments indicated that the most urgent needs were clean water, shelter, and food. Once these most basic human needs were met, the focus moved to restoring crops and livelihoods, particularly as the lean season approached and families were left without a harvest or means to purchase seeds. In coordination with the local government, Mercy Corps made the decision to focus on access to water, shelter and income.

Access to Water
Since October, Mercy Corps has reached more than 30,000 people with clean drinking water, hygiene kits and cholera prevention measures. Highlights include:

  • Providing immediate clean drinking water to 2,778 people via water trucking to distribution points, a temporary measure while assessing and undertaking repairs to the water system. For more remote communities, Mercy Corps provided jerry cans. 
  • Repairing two water systems serving five communities, restoring permanent access to clean drinking water for 4,155 people. Mercy Corps is also training communities to maintain these systems for long-term sustainability. Our focus is on restoring permanent access to clean water, for now and years to come. 
  • Distributing hygiene kits for 4,600 people. Mercy Corps prioritized vulnerable households, in particular those headed by single mothers and youth. 
  • Conducting cholera awareness-raising activities, reaching 22,995 individuals. Facing the threat of outbreak, Mercy Corps prioritized raising awareness about cholera prevention.

Shelter
Immediately after the storm, Mercy Corps distributed emergency shelter kits and today we are providing materials and training to help families rebuild their homes and generate income. Highlights include:

  • Providing basic reconstruction materials such as lumber, cement and roofing materials to enable 200 families in the remote, mountainous region of Arnaud to repair their homes. By pooling funds alongside our shelter partner, Habitat for Humanity, we were able to continue to provide shelter for families who had initially received emergency shelter kits.
  • Training 125 young people and local mason workers on proper construction techniques to ensure stronger construction using locally available materials and reduce vulnerability to future storms. A select number of those trained who are unable to carry out their own repairs will also qualify for a small stipend to help cover rebuilding costs. This will allow us to achieve both the repair of homes as well as generate some income in the community so families can buy food and other basic items.

Restoring Livelihoods and Food Security
Mercy Corps has been working in the mountains above Arcahaie, about one-hour north of Port-au-Prince, since 2011. Approximately 60% of the farmers there lost between 60-80% of their crops, and there was near complete loss of livestock (mostly goats and chickens). Mercy Corps and our local partners spent a great deal of time and thought on how to respond to these extraordinary circumstances without undermining six years of development work and self-reliance with the nearly 3,000 farmer members. Our thoughtful and collaborative approach included:

  • Mercy Corps provided 16 megatons of black beans and 7.5 megatons of Congo beans to our three farmer association partners for distribution to 3,300 affected farmers. The associations and their members determined that these items not be distributed as charity but in a way that also reinforced resilience against future threats. 
  • Farmers will also use these beans to start a seed bank that can serve as a form of insurance if there is another hurricane or drought in the area. Mercy Corps is particularly proud of its local partners for having designed an approach to the humanitarian response that also takes into consideration ways to reduce risks in future disasters. 
  • Mercy Corps is providing approximately 1,200 households with unconditional cash transfers. The disbursements to the selected households in the communes of Anse a Veau and L’Asile will be completed by the second week of April. 

Thank you
Your support is helping Mercy Corps reach families and communities in Haiti with emergency food, shelter, and clean water, and helping people rebuild with cash transfers, working markets, and stable and resilient communities. Thank you for your incredible support in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s destructive path – through GlobalGiving, Haitians are rebuilding homes, recovering land, and finding a way forward.

How you can help

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide cash, water, shelter and support to Haitian families and others in crisis around the world.
  • Tell your friends. Share this story and spread the word about the millions of people who need us.
  • Get your gift matched. Many companies match their employees' - and sometimes retirees' - gifts, doubling your impact and reaching even more people in need.

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