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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Declaration of famine just the beginning as the situation in the Horn of Africa goes from bad to worse

Hunger is rapidly becoming starvation in the Horn of Africa as death continues to tighten its grip on more than 10 million people trying to survive amidst the worst region-wide drought in 60 years!

The United Nations has declared that famine has arrived in the region. Setting aside the technical definition used by the UN when declaring a region to be in famine, in real terms it means that an already terrible situation is getting much worse and rapidly deteriorating.

Our life-saving efforts in the region are concentrated on identifying and helping families who have not yet received help or are unable to access aid as the crisis continues to deepen.

HOPE International Development Agency is focused on providing emergency food aid, materials, and medical aid, as well as continuing to ensure that a food crisis can be averted through agricultural support.

See how you can help today.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Philippines: A Milestone for Indigenous Children

This past spring, two of the schools that we support in the Philippines celebrated their first ever Elementary Graduation. These schools are incredibly special: they are attended by children from Indigenous Peoples’ tribes.

Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of the Philippines are so neglected and dirt-poor that they are unlikely to meet minimum caloric intake standards for six months out of every year, much less attend school.

This milestone is an exciting one. Many students received special awards for classes that demonstrate the firm footing these schools have in traditional IP culture: agriculture, dance, archery, poetry. These schools also create in-roads of vital learning in the greater community, ensuring that their rich traditions are bolstered by the skills that give the people power in wider Philippine society. Witness Ernesto Manalay, a fourth grade student who has given special honours for teaching his parents to read and write.

We were presented with a Kuglong, the Matigsalog tribe’s most well known instrument, as a token of gratitude for helping these children to realize their dreams. Friends of HOPE International Development Agency should know about the gift—without them, of course, nothing would have been possible in the first place.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

South Sudan: Peace Comes from the Underground

For those who have been following the story, the establishment of a peaceful post-war Sudan has been a long, uphill struggle. When we chose, a few years ago, to make South Sudan a special focus of our efforts to bring clean water and self-reliance to the poorest people in the world, we knew that complication, struggle, and adversity would be the order of the day.

While the secession of South from North Sudan certainly injects an element of instability into a context that has long been dysfunctional, none of what the Sudanese people are contending with is a surprise to us.

We know now what we have always known: the Sudanese people are trying to sort out a mountain of historical problems, and they need help if they are going to do it with peaceful outcomes.

So there continues to be areas in South Sudan where people are fighting over resources, fighting over what they believe is the destiny of their nation. There continues to be a greater community who are working hard to make peaceful, healthy villages, who simply wants to live without fear - and some of these people get hurt.

In particular, the areas of South Sudan that border the North have been experiencing attacks, and when there are victims, our standard response is not to throw up our hands at the persistence of violence, but to help the people who are hurt. These people, once assisted, can keep up the good work of making peace, of making a South Sudan a good place to live.

After all, that’s our job—to simply help. We always try to be clear about that.

Many of you are aware of our latest appeal to help victims of recent violence in the borderlands and perhaps you have chosen to help us care for the people affected. If so, you should know just how beautifully and well our friends in South Sudan are going to use your gift to help people. It is our job to help, purely and simply, but it certainly encourages us to do all we can when we see how hard the Sudanese people work to respond compassionately and intelligently to these incidents.

Earlier this year, when people had to flee from a village called Bahamani that was attacked by Northern Sudanese militias, we were very moved by the way in which local people from surrounding communities volunteered to help with our emergency response. In so many places, the distribution of aid can become an ugly thing, with disorganized aid workers unsuccessfully managing crowds of desperate and violent victims. We have none of this in South Sudan. Our friends here form volunteer committees that count the families correctly, distribute the food, shelter materials, and medicines properly and peacefully, and even go the extra mile to ensure that households that are headed by widows or who have disabled family members get priority status on the distribution lists. These local volunteers make it beyond easy to help those who need it badly.

The South Sudan we know is committed to peace. There is a whole nation within this troubled nation that is more devoted than ever to health, safety, and self-reliance. We will always help this South Sudan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge on Trial, Sort Of

Perhaps it should come as a surprise to no one, but the complications seem endless as Cambodia continues the painful process of putting the perpetrators of one of the 20th century’s most criminal and violent regimes on trial.

No one — not even Cambodia’s famously corrupt government — can say with a straight face that no legal reckoning of the Khmer Rouge should take place. But it seems that while publicly endorsing these complex, internationally prominent trials, the powers that be still feel comfortable undermining them in every way possible.

So far one prison commandant named Comerade Duch has been sentenced to thirty years in prison and four more former high-ranking leaders of the Khmer Rouge are on trial. A rather small tranche of a movement that was responsible for the deaths of 17 million Cambodians in the late 70s.

But when further trials have been proposed, Prime Minister Hun Sen himself said that ‘he would rather have the tribunal fail than see more than two trials'. He told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in October that additional cases were "not allowed."

Sadly, most of the current Cambodian government is strongly tied to the globally vilified Khmer Rouge. They have a vested interest in keeping justice at bay. As with so many places in the world, a despotic and deplorable past is never too far from the present — especially when you’re looking at the people in power.