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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cambodia: Water Festival Disaster Illustrates

Cambodia’s most important yearly celebration, the Water Festival, has been marred by an unthinkably random disaster. Celebrants crossing the bridge to Diamond Island became trapped in a crush of bodies so severe that it injured and killed hundreds.

The Calmette Hospital is the country’s best-equipped hospital and most of the 700 injured have been brought there. The situation is very grim, since the hospital does not possess facilities large or sophisticated enough to deal with such an onslaught.

Calmette’s inadequacy casts the basic struggle of the poor in stark relief. Poverty may be just barely livable - until disaster strikes. Of all the things distinguishing the ‘western’ quality of life from the ‘southern’, the ability to absorb shocks just may be the most fundamental. In bad times, there is no margin of recovery.

We believe that poor communities should be supported so that they can absorb the shocks that inevitably visit human beings.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Canada and Philippines: The Costs We Carry

Staff and volunteers for HOPE International Development Agency have recently returned home from their annual cross-Canadian tour of film premieres. One of the more important and least pleasant tasks for our audio-visual volunteer is carting a heavy video projector from airport to hotel to airport to hotel, again and again and again. After the about a week of minding this particular piece of luggage, the dreariness of travel can really set in—although our volunteer appreciates the upper body conditioning that the task demands.

However, it is often these types of chores that should connect us more deeply to the families that will be directly impacted by our failure or success in securing the funds for their clean water systems.

For example, let’s consider Befesa Ligmon’s family. They live in the community of Sito Fatima, San Vicente, in a rural community of the southern Philippines. In the Philippines, children are responsible for water collection. So Befesa’s youngest children make 2 one-hour trips a day carrying a 20 litre water jug over a hilly path to an unprotected spring.

This will be an imprecise calculation, but let’s assume that the jug, when filled, weighs 20.2 kilograms, or 45 pounds. According to standard calorie counters, the act of carrying this weight for an hour would cost a one hundred pound child between 350 and 600 calories. So in one day, water collection might conservatively cost that child between 1,000 and 2,000 calories (assuming he shares the load with his sibling).

That’s a big problem. The fact is, their lives are full of laborious tasks and it is extremely unlikely that Befesa’s children are consuming even 2,000 calories a day, the average for Western children. It’s no wonder that malnutrition is so rampant among families like theirs. Their daily lives are energy-costly and food-poor.

When our volunteer finishes a day of highly unglamorous schlepping, he can and should and will have a delicious meal. When Befesa’s children return home, they’re going to be eating just to stay on the right side of starvation.

Let’s carry the luggage, raise the money needed for the water system that will save these children two hours and 2,000 calories, and then everyone can enjoy that fine balance between hard work and replenishment.

Learn about bringing clean water to the people of the Philippines

Friday, November 5, 2010

Field Update - Tomas brings more suffering to Haiti

Torrential rain and high winds announced the arrival of Tomas in Port-au-Prince earlier today.

“Tomas, a violent and potentially deadly storm, is the last thing the survivors of this year’s deadly earthquake need right now given the fragile nature of their recovery,” according to Clifferd Dick, a HOPE International Development Agency’s colleague who called from the rain drenched streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti this morning.

The bad news, according to Clifferd, is that Haitians – already near the edge of survival and living in makeshift tent and tarp cities strewn throughout Port-au-Prince – are going to be pushed even closer to the edge with the arrival of this storm.

The good news, however, is that our latest large shipment of medical supplies and medicines has arrived earlier this week and is being prepared for quick distribution. The medical supplies include items that will help in the fight against the cholera outbreak that has claimed nearly 500 lives so far.

“The medical supplies and equipment are absolutely crucial because they strengthen the capacity of local hospitals and field clinics to deal with the unprecedented and continuing demand for services,” says Clifferd. In areas surrounding some of the hospitals and clinics, the population increased by nearly 40 percent as people fled the capital in the days following the earthquake.

Building materials, distributed over the past months, have enabled survivors to construct sturdier shelters than the tarps and tents they’ve lived in since the earthquake. These people, according to Clifferd, will weather the storm much better than those who have not yet received help.

Previous container loads and airlifts of medical supplies and equipment, sent immediately after the earthquake and more recently, have played a key role in saving lives and rebuilding the health of Haitians as they continue their long journey of recovery.

HOPE International Development Agency was helping the people of Haiti well before the earthquake in January and will continue to do so long after Tomas passes this weekend.

Read an update of our efforts to help Haitians recover.

Haiti - Replacing uncertainty with the certainty of hope!

One of the most devastating aspects of poverty, beyond the physical suffering and anguish, is uncertainty.

For Haitians like Janese, her husband, and their four children, the only certainty in their lives has been uncertainty.

Twice they have lost everything. In 2008, after hurricanes ravaged Haiti, Janese and her family moved to the mountainside village of Brelis and settled in on a small patch of land owned by her parents. They were starting over again and their new life in Brelis began with the building of a small hut made of mud and thatch.

Janese’s husband joined the local agricultural cooperative and gained access to training, improved varieties of crop seeds, and a network of community support. Their garden flourished, and their family grew with the arrival of two more children.

Life was better, but uncertainty was still lurking - a fact that came into sharp focus in January of this year when a killer earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince. The shock waves rumbled through Janese’s tiny mountainside community and her family’s mud and thatch hut was destroyed. Though no one was injured, they were devastated - all was lost and there would be no way to recover without some form of assistance.

HOPE International Development Agency, in addition to providing emergency supplies in the hours, weeks, and months after the January earthquake, has also been helping families like Janese’s recover from the devastation by providing the cement, wood, tin roofing, and nails survivors need in order to build shelters that protect them from the intense sun and cold rain.

In Janese’s case, her family was able to contribute additional wood, limestone, water, and labor toward their shelter project. Though it will be a while before they can build their next home, they have been able to build a frame for the house and replace the leaky thatch roof with a tin one; with a drier home, they have been less sick.

HOPE International Development Agency is also supporting the local agricultural cooperative, of which Janese’s husband is a member. This support enables the cooperative to provide families like Janese’s with extra crop seeds as well as the minimal interest agricultural credit so desperately needed by farmers who sold or ate their seed stocks in an effort to survive in the aftermath of the earthquake.

As Janese and her family continue to recover and rebuild, it’s clear that uncertainty is beginning to yield to the certain possibility that life can be much better than it has been.

Read a brief update on our efforts in Haiti.