HOTLINE - week of July 11, 2011

Assistance continues in tsunami-devastated Japan; CWS providing assistance in drought-affected Kenya; Security risk management in Asia

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Young volunteers in Japan
These two young people helped in the clean-up following the March 11 tsunami in Japan, through the CWS-supported Peace Boat program.
Photo: CWS Asia/Pacific

Assistance continues in tsunami-devastated Japan

Some four months after the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc in Japan, killing more than 15,500 people, much remains to be done.  Church World Service continues to work with Japanese partners to assist families and individuals impacted by the disaster.  More than 197,000 people from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures continue to live as evacuees.

Through Japanese partners on the ground, CWS has been providing humanitarian assistance since the onset of the emergency.  Initially, CWS worked in partnership to provide health services to thousands of evacuees.  CWS also helps to provide pest control – particularly important along the coastline where seafood processing plants were smashed, leaving tons of rotting fish.

CWS is working with partners to provide psychosocial services in seven centers in Rikuzentakata.  Activities, some aimed at elderly people, include physical and occupational therapy.

CWS has also been supporting Peace Boat’s volunteer program, which has mobilized more than 2,000 volunteers to meet the critical needs for food (including hot meals), non-food items, and to help with debris clearance in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi prefecture.  In Ishinomaki, one of the worst-hit cities, one-third of government staff was killed.

A hotline for women seeking psychosocial support is also being supported by CWS through the Single Mothers Forum.  SMF is providing hygiene items and underwear, and has initiated women-safe spaces in evacuation centers to ensure that their privacy is respected.  Another CWS-supported organization, Shelter Net, is running a phone hotline for women suffering from sexual abuse and domestic violence.

CWS is also helping to provide shelter; assistance in re-establishing livelihoods through offering employment to local people and regenerating local business; support for day-care centers; assistance in coordinating the work of humanitarian organizations; and help in creating awareness and understanding of quality and accountability in providing humanitarian assistance.

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CWS providing assistance in drought-affected Kenya

2011 has been the driest period in the Eastern Horn of Africa since 1995, with reportedly the lowest level of rainfall in 60 years.  As a result, food security – the access to and availability of food – has deteriorated for most households in arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya as grazing land has dried up.  Many communities now need external support.

In Kenya, the drought is having a severe impact.  In addition to the food shortages brought on by failed crops, food prices, particularly of maize (Kenya's staple food), have increased dramatically.  The drought is affecting water supplies and livestock health and leading to increased incidences of conflict.  High rates of malnutrition are being reported.

In all, more than 10 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought – some 3.5 million in Kenya, 2.4 million of which are thought to be food insecure.  Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan are also affected by the drought.

CWS plans a response centered on the Mwingi and Kibwezi areas of Kenya, by providing emergency food relief, water tankering and long-term disaster risk reduction programs.  CWS is also supporting the response of other ACT Alliance members in Kenya.

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Security risk management in Asia

A key component of the CWS Asia/Pacific Regional Risk Management Program is to train local groups so they can return and train others.  Even as attacks on aid workers continue to rise, those trained by CWS in safety and reducing risk to security threats are helping to spread awareness.

Consider Gowry, who attended a CWS security workshop in Bangkok and has returned to Colombo to help others understand the importance of security.  The CWS strategy – part of CWS’s Regional Risk Management Program, funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department and DanChurchAid – targeted local NGOs, aiming to raise awareness of safety issues and pass on practical knowledge for the development of security protocols.  In organizing her staff from around Sri Lanka to attend a recent two-day workshop, Gowry demonstrates a proactive approach to sharing what she has learned as well as a determination to institutionalize her knowledge with the inputs of her staff.

“Security is everyone’s responsibility, and the more people we can train, the more it becomes universal,” CWS Asia/Pacific Regional Coordinator Marvin Parvez says.  “It’s especially critical for vulnerable communities such as refugees, who may be dealing with a whole host of threats and take great risks.”

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