HOTLINE - week of May 16, 2011

Spring tornadoes, floods wreak havoc in several states, New Sphere handbook for humanitarian standards launched in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Flooded Corn Field
Cornfields are swamped and crops destroyed by flood waters along the Mississippi River near Yazoo City, Miss.
Photo: REUTERS/Sean Gardner, courtesy www.alertnet.org.

Spring tornadoes, floods wreak havoc in several states

Nature’s fury has been unleashed in numerous areas of the United States this spring. Severe storms and tornadoes ripped through several states, killing more than 325 people and causing widespread destruction. Most severely impacted were Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois.

Extensive damage was also done in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio. While much of the nation’s focus is on the devastation in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and St. Louis, the damage throughout the impacted areas is extensive. Scores of smaller communities affected by the storms will also need assistance with their long-term recovery efforts.

With the heavy storms and rains, flood waters are still rising as the Ohio and Mississippi rivers reach record highs. The impact of the flooding is being felt from Cairo, Ill., all the way down to the lower Mississippi Valley in Louisiana. Cities and towns are being flooded in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and Louisiana.

Some areas have had to make hard choices – blasting levees and opening flood gates to protect Baton Rouge, New Orleans and some smaller cities. Though the more populated areas are being saved, the water flowing into the flood plains has inundated millions of acres of farmland and affected many families in smaller communities.  

In response, Church World Service has supplied hundreds of CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets, Hygiene Kits, Blankets, School Kits and Baby Care Kits for people affected by the spring storms, tornadoes and floods.

CWS Emergency Response Specialists continue to monitor the needs of these disaster-stricken communities, working with government and voluntary agencies, as well as with churches and faith based organizations, to provide immediate and long-term assistance. CWS is also involved in the long-term recovery process, establishing and training groups to develop and implement disaster recovery projects. CWS has budgeted $80,000 for material resources, emergency response grants and disaster recovery training.

We need your help! Requests for CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets are coming daily and our supplies are being rapidly depleted. Find out how to assemble CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets at www.churchworldservice.org/buckets. They can be sent to either the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., or Ferncliff Center in Little Rock, Ark. You can also send a donation through your church or directly to Church World Service, or donate online at the website address above.

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New Sphere handbook for humanitarian standards launched in Islamabad, Pakistan

CWS-Pakistan/Afghanistan remains a leader in shaping the minimum standards for humanitarian assistance, as outlined by the Sphere Project. At a recent launch event hosted by CWS-Pakistan/Afghanistan, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance introduced the latest Sphere Project Handbook 2011. The new guidelines include a chapter on protection, for both humanitarian aid workers and people affected by disaster and armed conflict.

Since 2005, CWS-P/A has spearheaded the Sphere Project’s efforts to define and promote quality and accountability principles to local, national and international NGOs, government agencies and funding partners. In that role, CWS-P/A has used the Sphere handbook’s Minimum Standards in Disaster Response to provide training for aid workers from more than 500 organizations in seven countries. That training is based on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and operational independence, as set out in the 1994 Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. Together, CWS, the Sphere Project and other partners are determined to raise the bar in humanitarian assistance worldwide.

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