22nd August, 2017
SOUTH ASIA: Seasonal floods in Nepal, Bangladesh and India ‘worst in years’
In excess of 16 million people affected by fatal floods across large areas of South Asia
A new humanitarian crisis has emerged in South Asia, seasonal flooding has hit Bangladesh, Nepal and India in what The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has dubbed the worst crisis the region has seen in ‘many years’.
As many as 16 million people have been affected in a region that already has profound underlying issues of poverty and poor infrastructure. Concerns are growing over the shortage of food, the spread of disease and the innate difficulty in accessing stranded, crisis-hit people in the region.
The IFRC’s Deputy Director, Martin Fuller says the flooding emergency is “fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years, and urgent action is needed to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by these devastating floods."
The Statement, which underlines the growing need for humanitarian aid in the region, comes at a time when floodwaters are already at a record high in Bangladesh. The situation continues to worsen, as swollen Indian rivers flow down through the country in the coming days, in a cascade effect, which is expected to plunge the country’s people into even more desperate emergency.
Fuller went on to say that, "Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters."
As flood levels continue to rise, and polluted water becomes a growing threat, the Director of Save the Children, Mark Pierce, echoed Fuller’s statement, he said, "The sheer volume of water is also making it really difficult to access some of the communities most in need."
With further heavy rain forecast for the coming days, out-of-reach communities becoming increasingly isolated, and suffering from an up-turn in disease and exacerbated food shortages, the desperate situation of the people of Nepal, Bangladesh and India is set to deteriorate further.
Penny Appeal is on the ground working to distribute food, medical supplies and shelter to the people worst hit by this disaster. You can help the crisis-hit people of South Asia by supporting us in our efforts to save lives and return a semblance of stability to the region. You can donate here
17th August, 2017
BANGLADESH: Providing eye care services to the poor
Lack of eye care provision in rural Bangladesh leaves many in the dark
Bangladesh has a profound problem, many of its people have no immediate - or indeed – any access to even rudimentary eye care. Per percentage of population, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of people suffering from blindness.
The extensive nature of this issue reflects tangibly in figures released by the Bangladesh National Blindness and Low Vision Survey, from 2003, with figures thought to have increased considerably since this report. There are around 750,000 adults and 40,000 children in Bangladesh who are blind from cataracts or other easily treatable ocular diseases. There are simple treatments for these ailments that we take for granted in the Western world; the real tragedy is that for the blind people of Bangladesh there is often a cure.
Quite simply, the need for outreach and awareness programmes in Bangladesh, in regards to eye care – particularly in rural areas – is immediately apparent. The need arises form a perfect storm of underlying issues, that chime together to ravage the eye-health of an estimated 4.6 million (uncorrected refractive error) people living in abject poverty, 1.3 million of these, rather worryingly - are children.
This perfect storm is created through three elements, the first is unsurprisingly the abject poverty in which many people in Bangladesh live within, especially in rural areas – that with poor infrastructure and a lack of funding - are made innately hard to reach. The second intertwines naturally with the first, geographical location. And finally the third manifests itself as unavailable services, as most of the top eye care provision in the country are located well within established urban areas, ergo Bangladesh’s main cities, such as Dhaka and Chittagong. Tying together these three elements, is one simple statistic, 80% of Bangladeshis who live in rural areas are nigh on completely deprived of any eye care provision.
As a result of this problem, Bangladesh is one of the highest disease burden countries in the world for ocular morbidity, with remarkably low cataract surgery rates (CSR). Indeed, current CSR rates meet only one third of the need of the entire country. With a huge backlog of cases of cataract related blindness expected to snowball in the coming years, the figures, which include around 150,000 additional cases per annum, indicate that the blindness problem will worsen without significant remedial steps taken - as a matter of priority.
In response to this problem, Penny Appeal and its partners have been working in Bangladesh since April 2017, as part of the charity’s wider Open your Eyes programme, to deliver eye care solutions to the extreme poor. The objectives of this project are threefold, firstly to raise awareness among communities in eye care programme areas, to increase the overall utilisation of eye care services in these areas, and to reduce the burden on the patient’s family by restoring the sight of the visually impaired person. The inter-relationship between poverty and blindness is well recognised, therefore, effective implementation of the programme is also intricately linked to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the wider region.
The project has organised free eye care camps in the Netrokana, Bogra, Bagerhat and Pabna districts of Bangladesh, servicing seven upazilas therein. The camps go some way to remedy the innate problem that Bangladesh’s rural areas have, that being, economic insolvency - which results in lack of treatment to those who live outside of urban centres, and a profound lack of awareness of modern eye care services. This can lead to patients seeking out traditional medicine, instead of unknown modern techniques. Another consideration, is that - many people rely on public sector healthcare service delivery, and eye care services are notably absent at upazila level. The project plans to address this situation by providing eye care services for people suffering from refractive error, adult cataract, DCT, DCR and peterygium conditions. The initial phase of this is to raise awareness of the camps and the services they provide. After the treatment takes place, follow up services are provided to those who require it, to complete their treatment and as a further touchstone subsequent to initial screening contact for people in the community.
Figures from the quarterly progress report of the eye care services suggest that palpable impact and effectiveness was achieved, just 3 months into the project. As of 15th July 2017, 1,606 people have benefitted from initial eye screening, 686 people have received eye drops and related ocular medicine, 569 people were provided with refractometer tests, 489 people were provided with spectacles, 125 people benefitted from cataract surgery, with a further 3 people benefitting from DCR and peterygium operations.
Initial feedback reports suggest that a positive image has been created in the communities in which the eye camps operate - as well as leaving an imprint in the local administration’s wider awareness of health care services, and the lacking nature of that provision in Bangladesh. Initial surveys suggest that successfully treated patients are able to increase the income of their families and reduce dependency with their new found vision.
To better understand the human impact free eye care can have on people and communities that live in extreme poverty, with no prior access to established eye care provision - the story of Rahima - a 70-year-old grandmother from the isolated rural village of Sharonkhola is a remarkable example.
Rahima was born into poverty, at an early age both her parents died and shortly after she lost her home due to river erosion, she had to seek refuge in her uncle’s house. Rahima then started work at her neighbour’s residence as a maidservant, after a period of work she was married by her uncle at the age of 11, to a tea stall labourer in a riverside village. Although she hoped marriage would bring about a brighter future, her husband travelled often for work, which meant she was seldom at home.
Then, tragically, her husband and only son died after they contracted fever, Rahima once again became helpless in the world, during this time she adopted an orphan boy from her relatives. As she had no way to provide for her adopted son, she began to beg for both of their survival.
Rahima’s plight began to worsen as she experienced a deterioration in her vision, she explains, “Since a couple of years back, I started to face some problems in my eyes which recently turned into serious problems. I could not beg any more or ask people to help me, as I could not find a way of moving to others.’’
In a distressing time for her family, Rahima’s daughter in law described how her vision became an increasing problem, “After putting boiled rice on her plate, still then she was seeking it and asked me ‘have you put rice on my plate’ and searching for vegetables before they had been placed on the plate. She could not recognize her grandchildren.”
By now Rahima must have thought all hope was lost and that she was destined to die in poverty, until Penny Appeal and its partners reached out, as part of the pre-eye camp screening process and discovered the destitute grandmother crying out in the street. “Oh, Sabuj where are you? Please help me to reach home, I cannot find anything.” It is at this point that a training officer named Toma noticed Rahima’s distress, and called back, “What happened, why you are crying? Mother!” Rahima replied, explaining to him that she could not see anything.
From here on in Rahima’s luck began to change for the better, as Toma arranged for her to visit one of Penny Appeal’s eye camps in Bagerhat’s collegiate school. Following a consultation Rahima was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, with surgery scheduled at the nearest hospital. Although she was scared initially, workers from the eye camp convinced her that this was the best course of action, and accompanied her.
Before her operation one of the camp’s staff asked her, “What are your wishes to see first after restoring your sight?” Rahima replied simply that she wanted to see the people who helped to bring her sight back.
As Rahima was transported home, via the eye camp following her operation, she was asked if she could now identify the people who had helped restore her sight, Rahima replied, with an unmistakable smile on her lips, “I pray to God for those who helped return my sight.”
There are many similar stories to be told, people just like Rahima who live in extreme poverty in Bangladesh are now receiving the eye treatment they desperately need. Rahima’s operation cost around £20. The notion that such a small figure can so dramatically transform a person’s life for the better is certainly worth underlining, as is the excellent work all the staff undertake every day in the 7 eye camps Penny Appeal currently organise in Bangladesh.
9th August, 2017
NIGERIA: Islamic Farming Project
Training of farmers underway after land secured in Kano State, Nigeria
Our Islamic Farming Project is well underway in the Rano Local Government region of Kano State in Nigeria. Land has been secured by Penny Appeal’s partners; as part of the wider Feed our World programme to train local farmers and orphans on how to farm sustainably and responsibly in their community.
The project will teach 100 beneficiaries on the secured land, they were chosen based on their location, their relative farming skill and their current economic situation. The project will run throughout the year through 4 cycles, by which time it is estimated the full 100 trainees will be trained as proficient farmers.
The training will inform the beneficiaries how to increase the yield of their chosen crop, reduce waste material, and improve the overall livelihoods of the farmers, their dependents and the wider community.
Trainees are being taught about the most cost-effective and nutritious crops they can grow and harmful environmental side effects of modern agricultural methods and how to mitigate them. Lessons will also be held on sustainability of natural resources and how best the farmers can connect with their local marketplace.
As part of the wider project, a canal will be constructed to form part of the training practices, which will later be used to help farm the land. A large water storage tank will also be purchased and installed on the farm to aid irrigation efforts in the dry season.
As part of the project, and in the spirit of teaching younger generations about the importance of a sustainable agriculture initiative, a ‘teach your daughter to farm’ session will take place on the newly working farm site.
Case Study: Zubairu
The Islamic Farming Project’s positive effects are already starting to emerge in Nigeria, previously difficult times have transformed into optimistic smiles as the training and all-round education of the project begins to enlighten beneficiaries, and enables them to provide for their families, local communities and make a profit through sustainable farming practices.
Zubairu, a 40 year-old farmer from Rurum village of Kano State – took part in the first batch of Islamic Farming training held in January (2017). Zabairu was a landless farmer, thus he was relatively qualified to undertake the programme. He chose to grow watermelons, as he thought there was a strong demand for the fruit in his local community.
During the training, Zabairu learnt how to protect his watermelon crops from pests with organic pesticides; this ensures the yield of his watermelons are favourable, as his crop is protected from common pests. As part of his training, Zabairu was able to keep accurate financial records of his farming activities and related commercial ventures.
Zabairu usually supplements his income by repairing faulty electrical equipment, which is especially useful in the dry season; however, the newly trained farmer is confident he will have a successful harvest this year because of the things he has learned.
He is additionally optimistic because the rains have just arrived, which will reduce his reliance on irrigation methods. Although, if irrigation is needed, an upcoming installation of a solar-powered water pump - which is being imported from Austria - will go some way to allay any lingering fears regarding water shortage.
1st August, 2017
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen now a ‘tragedy of immense proportions’
Two-and-a-half-years of conflict and civil war have brought the poorest Arab country in the world to the brink of famine and irreparable disaster.
A major humanitarian crisis is currently taking place in Yemen, a country with a population of 27 million people. A staggering 18.8 million people, two thirds of the country’s population are in need of urgent humanitarian aid according to the United Nations, with over 390,000 currently affected by cholera.
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, called the Yemen Crisis a “tragedy of immense proportions”. According to the UN’s latest figures, 10.3 million people are in acute need of assistance, 17 million are food insecure, 1,900 have now perished from cholera and an alarming 7 million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Prior to the advent of civil war, Yemen had a high level of poverty and crumbling infrastructure. Today, public services are on the brink of collapse and in some districts have broken down completely. Less than half of the country’s health centres are functional and medicine and medical equipment is severely limited.
It is reported that one child under the age of five dies every ten minutes from entirely avoidable causes. The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the NRC says that, “Nowhere on earth are as many lives at risk” as in Yemen.
As well as famine, the country is also in the grips of the ‘world’s worst cholera outbreak’ according to the World Health Organisation, WHO. A problem exacerbated by the ongoing conflict, lack of viable infrastructure to transport aid and devastated healthcare provision. Around 40% of cholera deaths in Yemen are children under the age of 15, and 14.5 million Yemeni people have no access to clean water, ensuring the cholera outbreak is innately difficult to contain, and almost guaranteed to spread further, if left unchecked.
The nature of Yemen’s ongoing civil war, with its varied list of belligerents, effectively means all of the country’s ports and airports are closed until further notice, making it increasingly difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need. These people now have nowhere to go, and unlike in Syria, cannot flee the conflict in their country – they are trapped.
Penny Appeal has been working in Yemen since July 2014 to provide families with lifesaving food packs, hot food provisions, clean water packs and essential aid. We are now urgently seeking donations to help us expand our efforts to save the desperate people of Yemen from the impending famine and ongoing cholera disaster.
According to the UN, the funding shortfall currently stands at $2.1bn, with money needed to reach people whose lives have collapsed, their livelihoods ruined by conflict and their prospects of a future looking increasingly bleak.
Without urgent action, the crisis is set to worsen. The WHO, in a joint statement with the UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme described Yemen’s plight as, “the world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis”. This perfect storm of crises looks to have no end in sight, without urgent aid and financial support; Yemen’s future looks inexorably desolate.
17th July, 2017
Yemen Cholera Emergency
Yemen's people are on the precipice as another humanitarian disaster emerges
War-torn Yemen is on the cusp of a new humanitarian disaster. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCR), there are currently over 320,000 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen, with over 1,700 deaths since 27th April, (latest figures as of 12th July 2017).
This figure represents the ‘world’s worst cholera outbreak’ according to the World Health Organisation, WHO. Around 40% of cholera deaths in Yemen are children under the age of 15. Malnourished children, older adults, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions are amongst those at greatest risk of death.
Yemen’s people are in the grips of a two-and-a-half-year civil war that has torn the country asunder, creating the conditions for the current cholera outbreak and already established famine. The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick says the situation is “entirely man-made, as a result of the conflict.”
Yemen’s infrastructure has been decimated by the ongoing civil war. Its health, water and sanitation services are on the brink of collapse - and any aid delivered to the country is made increasingly difficult by current conflict. Yemen’s ports and airports are under blockade, creating a difficult challenge for NGOs trying to deliver life-saving aid.
Less than half of Yemen’s medical centres are functional, representing a crisis years in the making. Currently, around 14.5 million Yemeni people have no access to clean water, ensuring this cholera outbreak is innately difficult to contain.
The UN has received only one-third of the funding required to tackle this emerging disaster, with a further $47 million needed to contain the outbreak and treat the people in need of urgent medical aid.
Penny Appeal have been working in Yemen since 2014 providing emergency food, water and medical aid following a severe famine and lack of resources due to ongoing conflict. Now the people of Yemen need your help more than ever, if they are to survive this latest crisis.
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