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Friday, September 30, 2016

Remarkable progress in the face of huge challenges

Droughts, massive forest fires, powerful storms, and flash floods continue to receive a lot of news coverage worldwide.

It appears that the severe weather patterns that can trigger these disasters are becoming the norm, and families here in Canada, and overseas, are living with the consequences.

Many severe weather events are linked to El Niño and La Niña, both of which are periodic departures from expected sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Warmer or cooler than normal ocean temperatures affect weather patterns around the world by creating high and low pressure systems, with stronger winds, large amounts of precipitation, or extreme heat.

In some cases, the result for affected regions can range from too much water to too little water – both of which create humanitarian and development challenges on a massive scale.

El Niño and La Niña have a significant impact on agriculture and the environment. Parched or eroded farmlands, decreased agricultural production, widespread food scarcity, interrupted livelihoods, and failed markets are the hallmark of these big weather patterns.

El Niño and La Niña also affect the health of people. Rates of water-borne diseases rise with the flood waters. Malnutrition intensifies in areas affected by drought. In both scenarios, food insecurity is present. El Niño and La Niña also cause mass displacements of people in arid regions of the world as they move in search of basic needs such as food and water.

There are, however, effective ways to help families and communities respond.

Communities in countries such as Cambodia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Haiti, and Honduras are more resilient today than previously because friends of HOPE International Development Agency provided the funds needed to provide the support that saves lives, crops, and livelihoods.

Water systems have been installed to ensure sufficient access to water, even during times of drought. Communities are using new infrastructure and equipment to irrigate farm fields during the driest months. Farmers have learned special techniques to preserve plants and crops with minimal water, until the rains come again. In some cases, farmers have even been able to make modest gains in producing more food than in previous years by applying these techniques.

Families and communities are doing remarkable things in the face of huge challenges brought about by severe weather.

Now, as El Niño has tempered into a “neutral phase”, many of these same families and communities are bracing for the next wave of tropical storms and floods of an ensuing La Niña season.

The good news, amidst all the difficult news, is that the families who have received help from friends of HOPE are now well positioned to deal with the challenges associated with severe weather.

While it can be distressing and discouraging to grasp the full implications of weather patterns that are out of our immediate control, understanding the cycles and effects enables us to stand in solidarity and react with generosity to support our partners around the world as they work with communities to build resilience amidst a changing climate and respond to disasters brought on by El Niño and La Niña.

If you would like to learn more, The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) released a comprehensive report this week containing an overview of the impact of El Niño over 2015-2016.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Transforming immediate solutions in times of disaster into a long-term vision.

When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in late 2013, it devastated much of the country and left lives in ruin.

HOPE International Development Agency’s partners in the Philippines used their expertise and vast knowledge of the country to plan an immediate response to help families in the areas worst affected and most often neglected. Equally importantly, the planning also included initiatives to address the need for people to restore their livelihoods, grow food, and increase their resiliency in the face of future disasters.

Friends of HOPE International Development Agency responded generously to the call for help and provided the funds needed to provide immediate help, including food, vegetable seeds, and materials to repair damaged infrastructures such as roofs on homes and schools.

While the immediate relief was vitally needed and well received, it could only address a small portion of the long-term needs of the people affected.

In the months and years after the storm of 2013, HOPE and its partners in the Philippines have continued to work with families and communities to create solutions to poverty, including solutions focused on making families and communities better prepared for future disasters and more resilient in the aftermath.

This work has included disaster risk reduction training, which helps government and community leaders plan for quick and effective action when future disasters occur, minimizing human suffering and expediting relief and recovery efforts. Some of the long-term responses have included providing rice seeds and fertilizer, training for farmers, fishing boats and fishing nets for families who had lost their livelihood.

Recently, Barugo, one of the communities that HOPE has worked with since the disaster was featured in a national newspaper in the Philippines.

According to a national ranking, Barugo has improved immensely on the indicators of economic dynamism, governance efficiency, and infrastructure.

Barugo’s ranking among similar municipalities jumped from 436th in the country to 56th in one year. In real terms, this increase means more people have access to economic opportunities, and more effective and supportive government agencies. Instead of just recovering and getting back to the way life was, the people of Barugo are looking at new investment opportunities and partnerships with new sources of income such as tourism. The building of resilience to future disasters also will ensure that the gains made will not be lost if another natural disaster wreaks havoc on the area.

While many factors have contributed to this success, the recognition for what has been accomplished is best directed at HOPE supporters who made it possible through their generosity and desire to create lasting change.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Resiliency in Sri Lanka

Resiliency is a bit of a buzzword these days as world leaders consider how to prepare for and address the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Resiliency is the ability to spring back into shape after being bent, stretched, or compressed; it is the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from challenging conditions.

Recently, we were humbled by the resiliency of families in Sri Lanka who survived a massive storm and lived through months of hardship and challenges.

Three months ago, Cyclone Raonu crashed into Sri Lanka. More than 300,000 people were affected by the massive storm. In the aftermath, 100 people were dead and 113 were missing.

The communities of Aranaya and Rambukkana were hit hard. During the storm, nearly 23 metres of mud came rushing down the nearby mountain, destroying both communities to the point where every family had to leave and find refuge nearby.

In the days and weeks that followed, friends of HOPE International Development Agency ensured that the families of Aranayaka and Rambukkana received shelter, food, clothing, and medical support, enabling them to remain healthy enough to begin rebuilding their lives.

On behalf of these very resilient families, thank you for your support.

A father receiving emergency supplies for his family in the aftermath of Cyclone Roanu

Friday, September 9, 2016

Everything changes when clean water is present

In many respects, Dalume Zalla is a typical small community in southern Ethiopia, with one very notable exception. The community has clean water!

Sinafikish Tolba, a 34-year old mother of six children remembers what it was like when clean water was not available. Sinafikish and her children, ranging from 6 months to 15-years old, would begin their day well before sunrise as they set off in search of water for the day.

On some days, the journey would take them as far as 4 kilometers away from their community. On each day, the water they did find was sure to make them sick because it was gathered from stagnant ponds frequented by animals.

Today, because of the support received, Sinafikish and her family, along with every other family in Dalume Zalla, gather clean water right in their village – less than 3 minutes away from their homes.

The incidence of water-borne disease has been dramatically reduced, if not eliminated. Children are able to spend more time in school and less time trekking through the arid hills in search of water. Parents are able to spend more time tending their small plots of white potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, and sugarcane – generating much needed sources of income and food.

“The water we have is clean,” says Sinafikish. “We are so fortunate to see our children not getting sick anymore. And of top of this, I no longer worry about my children being late for school because they were out fetching water. To have water in our community is a sign we are moving forward. God bless you!”

Before the arrival of clean water, the people of Dalume Zalla felt neglected, undervalued, and hopeless. Today, the community feels affirmed and is ready to take on other initiatives that will further improve their quality of life.

When we invest in the value of others, like Sinafikish, the legacy is sure to continue for generations to come.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Overcoming challenges in rural Pakistan

People living in communities stuck in poverty find it a challenge to raise their voices and ask for even the most basic of services or opportunities when the basic needs of the day are constantly pressing in on them.

HOPE International Development Agency is working with people living in impoverished communities in Pakistan using a two-pronged approach to overcoming the challenge.

The first is to improve the economic independence of people who have been relegated to the margins of their communities.

The second is to help people learn how to lift their voices together to enact change in their communities.

Bottom up economic independence

Entrepreneurship training, creating groups with a common interest, and helping new entrepreneurs start income-earning businesses have proven very successful. To date, 350 people have been become entrepreneurs and are taking part in business ventures.

In five rural districts of Pakistan, these initiatives have led to new businesses in goat rearing, sewing, tailoring, and food processing (mostly through the creation of flour mills). The common interest groups of each of these business sectors decide how their businesses are run, and what resources will be combined in order to make them more efficient and profitable.

Creating change by speaking with one voice

Rural people now combine their voices to ensure that local leaders in their community are listening and acting on their concerns. This amazing transformation was accomplished by creating Community Action Groups, which work closely with other civil society organizations engaged in creating positive change that benefits the most marginalized.

The groups bring concerns forward and help their fellow community members resolve issues of shared importance, such as obtaining national identification and birth registration documents, school enrollment campaigns, community infrastructure such as roads and bridges, resolving community conflicts, and animal vaccination programs.

Speaking and acting together brings positive change

Some of the many successes Community Action Groups have achieved include the construction of a new road, relief and rehabilitation support for flood-affected families, medical camps to address health emergencies, and heightened awareness regarding the rights of farmers.

These initiatives in Pakistan have allowed people on the margins of society to gain economic independence and demand better from those in leadership positions.

The learning continues and so does the success

The 350 entrepreneurs recently visited other business leaders and others involved in local markets, learning more about the ins and outs of their trades, and sharing stories of their successes and failures.

The Community Action Groups enabled people to come together, share common challenges they face in their communities, and work together on solutions that were meaningful and sustainable.

The two-pronged approach of the work is creating new economic opportunities and enabling people to speak with one voice on issues that are important to their communities, as well as creating positive change today and improving prospects for the future.