In December 2016, together with the Disasters Emergency Committee, we launched an emergency appeal for Yemen. Since then, supporters have helped us raise a staggering £1.5 million.
The world’s largest humanitarian crisis
Violent civil war has crippled the nation’s water, sanitation and health infrastructures. Thousands of people have died and 18.8 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Mother of five, Mahri, was forced to flee her village because of the conflict. To survive, she was forced to wait daily at a public distribution point for a precious ration of five litres of drinking water.
- Thanks to generous gifts from our supporters, we have been able to provide her and her family with a water filter so they can have enough clean water every day. So far the generous response to Tearfund’s emergency appeal has enabled us to reach 9,157 beneficiaries in the following ways.
- Hygiene and sanitation projects
- Emergency food distribution
- Water supply and rainwater capture systems
- Vital medicine imported and distributed
‘We are so thankful for the generosity of our supporters – this money is helping us reach some of the world’s most vulnerable families living in conflict,’ shares Megan Howe, Tearfund’s Programme Officer for Yemen. ‘We are privileged to work with partners who, despite the difficult environment, continue to provide food and clean water to families in need.’
- There is still so much to be done and we really appreciate your continued prayers as we seek to serve the people of Yemen.
- Please pray for an end to the conflict which is destroying people’s homes and lives.
- Pray also that aid blockages and restrictions on imports to Yemen will be lifted, so that essential resources and humanitarian assistance can get through.
- Pray for safety and strength in the face of immense suffering for all the people affected by the conflict. And pray for the millions of people living in areas that are too dangerous for aid to reach.
Thank you once again for your kind support – without your help our partners would not have been able to carry out their life-saving work and bring hope to thousands of men, women and children.
WHEN THE RAIN DOESN’T FALL
The way people in Somaliland talk about the current drought tells a story in itself. For me, adjectives like arid, dry, hot and bleak come to mind. But when Tearfund’s Andy Morgan recently visited nomadic pastoralists in the Toghdeer region, he heard this current drought referred to in Somali as ‘the drought where nobody can help one another’. This is because everybody is affected, and no one has livestock to spare for their neighbours.
It is the third rainy season in a row where there has been little or no rain in Somaliland. In light of this, describing a drought in those terms makes sense. It truly is a desperate situation.
As a self-proclaimed state, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency; however it is not recognised internationally as being separate from Somalia. Mostly people in Somaliland are semi-nomadic pastoralists who herd goats and camels across the arid landscape. Sitting in the Eastern Horn of Africa, it’s included within the Tearfund and DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal.
Andy is Deputy Head of the East and Southern Africa Team. I caught up with him on his return from Somaliland to find out more about what’s happening there, and what we can do to help.
Can you describe what you saw on your visit?
‘It was a shock to see the depth of the crisis. We went to quite a lot of communities, and every single person we spoke to said something like, “I’ve lost everything because of the drought”. One lady, Kahalidi, told me: “I used to have 100 camels, and now I have four. I used to have 300 goats, and now I have 50.” And then you talk to the next person and they give you the exact same story. The UN estimates that 80-90 per cent of all livestock has died during the drought.’
‘In this part of the world, everything revolves around livestock. Families are dependent on selling their goats and camels on a regular basis to be able to then buy the food they need to feed themselves. So if you now only have four camels, you don’t have anything to sell, therefore you have no livelihood, no income, and no food. Goats take two or three years to get to the age where you can sell them, so it’s going to take a long time for these families to recover, if ever.’ ‘Livestock are used almost like bank accounts – exported, sold, and the money used to buy imported staple foods like rice and spaghetti. With no livestock, livelihoods – even lives themselves fall apart.’
And that’s the story across the whole country?
‘Yes. Across the whole country, goats and camels are the only animals that usually survive in this environment because there’s no grass. There are just scrubby bushes, and sparse trees from which the camels and goats eat leaves. But when we were driving around this time, we could see very little vegetation.’ ‘Even the trees seemed to be dying off. They had no leaves on, so you can understand why the livestock are dying.’
So why isn’t it raining?
‘From a scientific perspective there is no doubt this is due to climate change. Over the last year there have been very strong El Niño effects in the Horn of Africa, with below average levels of rainfall. This is a symptom of climate change. With the drought, Somaliland has actually become a desert for the last two years, so that’s why goats and camels haven’t been able to survive.’
‘In previous droughts, I was told that the drought affected either the highlands or the lowlands, or the east or the west. To cope, communities split their herds, with one herd surviving and one herd failing, and the average is seen as a positive. But during this drought, all livestock across all regions have been affected.’
What is happening to the people in Somaliland? They must be under so much pressure now?
‘We stayed in a town called Garadag, where we came across a new village of 450 families (around 3,000 people). This village hadn’t existed two months ago. They were all nomadic, but were now living in small round houses which appeared to be randomly placed along the side of a dry river bed. Because they’ve lost all their livestock, they are compelled to congregate. When we were there, the local mayor was doing an assessment to try and lobby agencies to come and help, but you know what, 3,000 people, a new town of 3,000 people that’s sprung up in two months – it’s just huge.’
‘As they are nomadic – usually out on their own – the fact that they’re now all in one place brings its own problems. For example, if you’re nomadic you don’t need toilets. This lack of experience and knowledge is causing diarrhoea, which contributes to malnutrition because of lack of utilisation of food, with children being most affected.’
Tell me how Tearfund and its partners are responding to this growing crisis?
‘We’ve got three partners. Our main partner is World Concern and I spent most of my time with them, and we visited a number of their communities where cash distribution was taking place. Beneficiaries are receiving around $150 dollars per family to help them to buy food.’
‘Because it’s not a conflict area, the markets are working, so if people have money in their hand they can buy food, or at least traders can go and get food relatively easily. This is why we do cash distribution. It also allows families to buy what they need, whether that is food or medical supplies.’ ‘We’re also setting up water points and trucking clean water in, sometimes from 100 miles away, on a regular basis.’ ‘We really need to scale up this work given the severity of the drought, and are very thankful for the £4 million raised by Tearfund supporters so far in the East Africa Crisis Appeal. As you’ve heard from me, the need is still great and we will continue to go there, to the places where Jesus would go.’
- Pray that we can continue and expand our work to reach those in most need in Somaliland and across East Africa.
- Rain is desperately needed, please pray that it will fall.
- Thank God for the generous gifts and prayers of Tearfund supporters so far in response to the East Africa Appeal.
THE POWER OF LOVE…
When you have lost everything and can’t feed your family, it can be hard to feel you have any value. In some desperate situations, giving cash is an effective way, not only to meet needs but also to restore dignity. This is what Tearfund was able to offer for families in Iraq. ‘We had everything we needed,’ says Alma, aged 60, remembering life back in Bashiqa, northern Iraq. ‘We had water and electricity. My family worked. That was before ISIS.’
Alma fled her home with 11 of her family. Since then her husband has had a stroke. ‘We set up a makeshift tent with one room,’ she says. ‘All of us, my children and my grandchildren, live here because we don’t have money to pay rent.’ Hundreds of thousands of families are displaced in Iraq, living in a life of uncertainty in camps and unfinished buildings. They hope against hope that they can rebuild their lives.
Better cash flow
But there are almost no possibilities of going home and there’s little work for displaced people. Families have no money to buy basic necessities: food, soap and toothbrushes. Parents feel humiliated – powerless to provide for their families. The traditional idea of disaster relief brings to mind supply trucks snaking through bleak landscapes – a lifeline for those stripped of everything by disaster. But the picture is changing… Where local markets still function it’s often better to give families cash rather than goods, to cover basic needs and give people the opportunity to make a living.
‘Having cash helps people decide what they need most, giving them the flexibility and dignity of choice,’ says Ninos, Tearfund Programme Officer. ‘People know their needs. With cash they can meet them.’ More than 500 families were given cash in one project in Iraq, so they could prepare for winter by buying warm clothes, blankets and heaters. They supplemented their diets with fresh food from the local markets. Others were able to buy medical treatment. Cash benefits a region’s economy because money is spent on local goods and services. It’s often more efficient than providing goods – it cuts out the added cost of storing and transporting items.
Make good money
When so many choices have been taken away, having cash enabled Alma to decide what was most important for her family. ‘I will buy medicine for my husband, and look after my children and grandchildren,’ she said. ‘Life is still very hard, but I am so grateful for this money.’ Giving back control and dignity in the midst of desperation is priceless.
Tearfund’s Cash Advisor, Dora Piscoi, says, ‘I will never forget the words of a man during one of my first cash distributions. He looked me in the eyes and said “Thank you for respecting me.” I’ve never been thanked like that before. ‘There are many advantages of giving cash. But the most important is that it recognises and respects people as individuals. What would we want done unto us if we were in their shoes?
‘By giving cash instead of deciding what item a person should have, we are demonstrating we know that – despite being in a vulnerable situation – people are powerful and capable. We are telling families they are equal and we don’t want to disempower them. We want to come alongside and respect people. For me, that is the power of cash.’
- Praise God for the families who have been helped to meet their needs in challenging circumstances. Continue to pray for Alma and others like her whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing conflict.
- Pray for Tearfund staff and partners who are working with hundreds of displaced families. Pray for wisdom to find the best way of restoring dignity and hope to each individual.
- Continue to pray for the wider situation in Iraq – pray for a breakthrough that would lead to peace and the possibility of families returning to their home towns and rebuilding their lives.
A MOTHER’S GREATEST CHALLENGE
It was Elizabeth’s first time at the Tearfund feeding centre in Maar, South Sudan, when I met her. A 30-year-old mother with five children, she came because she had heard of other mothers in her village bringing their children here. On this particular day, Elizabeth was deeply concerned for her youngest child’s health – but she was also hopeful.
She told me that trying to look after her children is difficult, particularly finding food for her 10-month-old daughter. ‘Sometimes if my child is sick, and we can’t find any food, that defeats me. The children drink the milk from cows, but there is not enough. This is the challenge.’
A poor substitute
In South Sudan it is common for mothers to feed their infants with cow’s milk, as many fear they don’t have enough breast milk. However, babies can’t digest cow’s milk as easily as their mothers’ milk, and the cow’s milk is often mixed with contaminated water, causing babies to get sick and malnourished.
France Bégin, UNICEF’s Senior Nutrition Adviser, states that ‘If all babies are fed nothing but breast milk from the moment they are born until they are six months old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year.’ According to data from UNICEF, babies who receive no breast milk at all in these kinds of contexts are seven times more likely to die from infections than those who receive at least some in their first six months of life.
A crucial intervention
At the feeding centre in Maar, Tearfund staff share knowledge and information like this with mothers, as well as assisting with their basic needs and those of their children. Severely malnourished people are treated each week, and fortnightly clinics are arranged for those who are moderately malnourished, as well as pregnant and lactating women and children under five. The treatment programme usually lasts for about 60 days. The children are given packets of peanut paste called plumpy’nut, and pregnant and lactating mothers are given a blend of maize and soya fortified with other nutrients to make a porridge. The children’s height and weight are used to assess their nutritional status, determine the correct portion of plumpy’nut and ascertain when the child is ready to be discharged from treatment.
David Garang, a Tearfund Nutrition Extension Worker in Maar, tells us the overall feeling at the centre is a positive one: ‘The people here are not sad, because the programme that Tearfund has brought in has changed lives. Especially with malnutrition, people are responding well to the treatment.’
A return to health
‘Today, we have discharged so many children who have recovered from malnutrition. I’m happy that we can show that the children in the programme are responding to their treatment.
‘I’m feeling happy because we are doing some good here,’ says David.
A great impact
Approximately 80-90% of the malnourished children are discharged as cured at the end of the 60-day programme. David is understandably encouraged by this. ‘The mothers feel very happy when their children have been discharged, because the programme is understood and the community is involved in this programme,’ he says. ‘We are addressing malnutrition and saving lives, but we’re also equipping mothers and communities to prevent it from happening in the first place,’ says Josie Smith, Tearfund’s Programme Coordinator for the East Africa Crisis. ‘We do this through teaching infant feeding practices, providing advice on good hygiene and sanitation, and ensuring communities have clean water sources that are sustainably managed. With ongoing funding, Tearfund will be able to continue working among vulnerable communities in South Sudan.
Given all this, I can understand how Elizabeth and others like her can find hope despite the many challenges. Let’s praise God and pray for this vital work.
Please continue to pray for families, like Elizabeth’s, who are suffering as a result of the
- current drought and struggling for food just to survive.
- Pray for all the staff and volunteers working at the feeding centres that they would be able to provide food for those who are in desperate need.
- Thank God for the generosity of our supporters and for the commitment of Tearfund staff and partners as they work hard to help those most in need.
John Gravett – Tearfund Representative