Every day there seems to be a different country in the news with a new tragic headline.
Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises around the world, and thanks to supporters like you, we've been on the ground helping people survive and continue working toward a better future despite unimaginable circumstances.
As the humanitarian crisis continues across the Sahel in Nigeria and Sudan we are looking ahead at the following challenges we must address in 2015 — and what new ways we can make a lifesaving and lasting difference for millions of people facing displacement, hunger, violence and disease.
by Photo: Lindsay Hamsik/Mercy Corps
The Situation: The world’ youngest nation has been battered by civil war since political violence erupted in the capital of Juba in December 2013. The conflict soon spread across the country, destabilizing markets and forcing more than one million people to flee their homes. Many ran into the bush with nothing on their backs but their children.
This is only the latest conflict, after decades of another civil war that ultimately led to South Sudan's independence in 2011. For a couple years it looked as though this most underdeveloped country in the world would have a chance at peaceful growth, but “The roots of the conflict are well in place and haven’t been dealt with,” says Redmond.
Now, the entire country is in the grips of a massive hunger crisis — the U.N. warned recently that more than 2.5 million people are at risk of famine. In a country where most people have been dependent on subsistence farming, families are unable to grow food after being forced to leave their own land behind, and markets are barren because traders do not want to risk being attacked en route.
How We're Helping: “We’re trying to focus on food security and look at markets. That’s what needs to happen because food security is an ongoing problem,” says Redmond. But the challenges are steep. “How do we do it within a conflict? How do we do it on a big enough scale to matter?”
Mercy Corps is working in remote villages in South Sudan to help displaced people grow more food to feed their families. We’re also providing cash assistance to the most vulnerable people so that they can purchase food in local markets.
Our work helping traders maintain their businesses is helping keep South Sudan’s markets alive, and our team in South Sudan is continually looking for new ways to help the people of this young country survive and recover in the delicate and constantly changing environment.
READ THE LATEST: Escape to safety — one staff member's journey
Photo: Fatima K. Mohammed for Mercy Corps
The Situation: Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and is, in many ways, a model of prosperous development in Africa. But stark economic inequalities remain — roughly 70-percent of the population lives in poverty, and women and girls have especially-limited access to education and resources.
Ethnic and religious conflict is still seen in pockets across the country, and now, the rise of extremist violence by Boko Haram in the north of the country is putting millions of people at risk and threatening neighboring countries. Nearly one million people are now displaced in Nigeria, creating new humanitarian needs. “That’s a serious one to watch,” says Redmond.
How We're Helping: Our emergency response teams are on the ground and assessing the areas of most urgent need and how best to respond.
Despite the potential for more serious conflict, Mercy Corps’ ongoing programs to support young women's education and job training continue. Their safety and security is our top priority in the insecure environment, but we believe we cannot give up on addressing the root causes of inequality and poverty here.
By helping girls stay in school longer, and providing tutoring and economic and business skills lessons, they will be empowered to make better decisions for their families and contribute to the peaceful development of their communities.
In November 2014, we passed the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. During that time, we reflected on the aid provided and we want to share just a few accomplishments because of you:
To improve water and sanitation services for people living on remote islands Mercy Corps coordinated with other organizations to build toilets and hand-washing facilities in schools, repairing community wells and providing water filters to serve 5,000 people.
As distributions of food and emergency kits slowed down in January 2014, Mercy Corps transitioned to recovery efforts - helping people rebuild with cash assistance, financial training, and access to needs-based finacial services, including loans, insurance, and savings products.
To provide the assistance Mercy Corps worked withBanKO, a local bank that has a purely mobile, branchless banking model that is unique in the Philippines. Together, we reached more than 25,000 households on northern Cebu and Leyte islands with cash transfers - many of whom are living on less than $2 a day. The cash transfers helped families to rebuild their homes and communities.
Based on an estimated average household size of six, programming benefitted approximately 155,000 people on Cebu and Leyte Islands. By February 2015, nearly all the program's beneficiaries (97%) had received cash transfers that totaled $2.3 million.
Lives affected by the typhoon have been improved because of you. Thank you. Though we will continue our long term efforts in the region, we will no longer be doing a project page through GlobalGiving. If you would like to still donate to the mission of Mercy Corps through GlobalGiving, we encourage you to change lives through our Help Turn Crisis Into Opportunity project. You can also continue to follow our progress in the the Philippines and see our other programs in the country as well. We are truly thankful for your generous contributions and for continuing to care 16 months after the typhoon. You have helped the people of the Philippines get back on their feet quicker! With gratitude,
Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are struggling to stay warm since a frigid winter storm hit the Middle East last week. Some areas have been blanketed with snow, while others have sustained pounding rains and strong winds.
Most refugees are living in spaces that are not designed to withstand any kind of inclement weather — fragile tents, uninsulated shelters, or buildings with no heat.
To make sure that refugee families are safe and warm, we work in the region to repair drafty shelters and give refugees the supplies they need to make it through another winter away from home.
More than 95,000 refugees are currently living in Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, and the conditions over the past week have been grim.
To help them get through this unusually-brutal winter weather, we've been providing heaters and distributing coats, shoes and warm boots to children in Zaatari.
Throughout the storm, Mercy Corps staff and volunteers have been at the camps, working to help refugees as they face freezing days and cold, bitter nights. Our team in Lebanon, where many Syrian refugees live in informal tent settlements, is also helping people get through this storm safely.
“We've been hit with quite a bit of now over the past few days. The camp is very wet, cold and muddy,” said Mercy Corps’ country director Rob Maroni after visiting Zaatari. “Everyone has their clothing and blankets hanging out to dry, even though there's no way anything will dry under these overcast, cold conditions.”
The freezing temperatures are unusual for the area — it’s the first time Zaatari has received any snow since its opening nearly three years ago. Refugees have been forced to push inches of snow off their tents and huddle inside for warmth.
“One of our volunteers explained how he helped one family get a tent back up after it collapsed under the weight of snow at 10 pm with a person inside,” Maroni told us.
Mercy Corps has more than a dozen child-friendly spaces throughout the camps, designed to bring a sense of normalcy to refugees who are far from home. On most days, hundreds of children and adolescents come to play, take dance or martial arts classes, exercise at the gym, or learn computer skills.
We’ve kept these spaces open during the storm, offering a place for children and their families to come play or take shelter. Our staff and volunteers have been working to make sure that all the spaces are equipped with gas heaters and generators.
“Our facilities are open for everybody during the storm. Not just the kids,” said senior camp coordinator at Zaatari, Osama Telfah. If the weather gets worse, the Mercy Corps team is prepared to shelter refugees in these facilities, which are spread throughout the large camp.
Below are photos of the storm from the Mercy Corps team in Jordan. The photos, from both Zaatari and Azraq camps, show the hazardous conditions that refugees have faced over the past week.
Learn more about how we're helping Syrian refugees in Jordan get through the winter
How you can help