Emergencies mean a busy beginning to 2011

The year 2011 has, thankfully, begun without a major disaster. But CWS is nonetheless responding to several serious events, including disasters in Brazil, Sri Lanka, West Africa and the U.S.

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

brazil survivor
In Brazil, Nilcimar Fleiman has left her job to try to rebuild her life after recent landslides.  Here she is digging the earth with her hands looking for missing personal items.
Photo:Gustavo Bonato/ACT Alliance

The year 2011 has, thankfully, begun without a major disaster.  But CWS is nonetheless responding to several serious events, including disasters in Brazil, Sri Lanka and West Africa, while also sending material assistance in the wake of severe winter storms in the United States.

"It's important to note that not every disaster is on the scale of last year's Haiti earthquake or Pakistan's floods," said Donna Derr, who heads CWS's Development and Humanitarian Assistance Program.  "Our commitment to partners and to disaster survivors has to extend to emergencies of all scales.  To survivors, any emergency is of consequence."


Church World Service is supporting efforts of CWS partner and ACT Alliance member KOINONIA, an ecumenical service organization that is the lead ACT-member agency in responding to landslides and flooding last month in Brazil.

The flooding, which resulted in a death toll of at least 840 persons, is the second-worst disaster in Brazil's recorded history, officials said.  An estimated 30,000 persons were made homeless from the floods and landslides, which occurred in the Serrana region near Rio de Janeiro.  The area was hit with the equivalent of a month's rain in a 24-hour period, authorities said.

CWS is supplying 1,218 affected families in the three municipalities of Teresópolis, Petropolis and Nova Friburgo with food items and hygiene kits.  Food packages will include dried meat and fish, nutritional supplements, eggs, beetroot, squash and bananas.  These families will also receive organic fertilizers and pesticides as well as basic irrigation equipment to enable them to rebuild their market gardens.

CWS also plans to provide basic household goods and equipment to 200 families whose homes were damaged or destroyed, and training on humanitarian response, organizational development and disaster-risk reduction.

Sri Lanka

CWS is supporting efforts of partner Christian Aid, which is responding to flooding in that island nation.

Christian Aid and its partners are providing food and non-food items to 5,901 families in communities in the affected districts of Trincomalee and Batticoloa.  Christian Aid hopes to assist an additional 1,000 families in this initial response.

The food aid is essential, because as many as 350,000 persons have had to flee to displacement camps.  The floods have also affected farm land, resulting in the possibility of 1 million persons not having adequate food.  Nearly a quarter of the nation's rice crop has been destroyed, according to government officials.

West Africa

CWS is supporting efforts by long-time Liberia-based partner, Concerned Christian Community, which is responding to a displacement and refugee crisis in areas of Liberia that border neighbor Cote d’Ivoire, which has experienced political turmoil in recent months.

Between 30,000 and 50,000 Cote d’Ivoire refugees, as well as 25,000 Liberians living in Cote d’Ivoire, have entered or returned to Liberia recently, creating pressures for Liberian authorities and for host communities that have little ability to absorb them.

The CWS-supported program by CCC is providing:

  • immediate food and non-food item emergency relief assistance to 2,000-3,000 vulnerable families;
  • trauma counseling and HIV/AIDS awareness services to more than 500 women and girls;
  • emergency mobile medical services to the refugees; and
  • limited water and sanitation assistance through the construction of hand pumps and emergency latrines.

United States

Domestically, CWS is providing 300 CWS Blankets and 120 CWS Hygiene Kits to Americorps in St. Louis, Mo., to assist those affected by the recent winter storms in the Midwest.  Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (Los Fresnos, Texas), another CWS partner agency, is receiving 1,020 CWS Blankets in the wake of the storms.

How to help

Contributions to support the emergency response work of Church World Service may be made online or by phone (800.297.1516), or may be sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.


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