Posts tagged Africa

A “Note From The Field” from Women in the Zam Zam Refugee Camp, Darfur, Sudan

January 22, 2013

The Relief International team recently received this “note from the field” from a camp meeting in the Zam Zam Refugee Camp in Darfur, Sudan, where RI is helping women and families rebuild their livelihoods.

During a meeting of our staff and some members of the community in Zam Zam, the topic of the most important and basic needs of the people came up. This topic spurred a heated and passionate discussion among many of the women in Zam Zam. As they all sat in a circle, with enthusiasm, our staff member started jotting down notes as the women voiced their requests and their concerns about their community’s future.

Together, Relief International and the women of the Zam Zam Camp outlined these basic needs for us to take note of.  Simply glancing at their needs, we are humbled. 

Some of these basic requests are things that we take for granted as they are readily available to us here at home.  Everyone in the world should have the right to these basic necessities.  We share this list with you to highlight the resilience and strength of these women.


The note reads (translated from Arabic to the best of our capacity):

“In the name of God the Merciful”


 of newly displaced people from the area of "immigrants" to the Zam Zam Camp”

 - Widening the narrow roads, at the time of fire, roads become dangerous
2 -
 Improving the level of health in the new camp
3 -
 Educating children and giving attention to adult literacy
 - Building latrines in the new camp
5 - Building
 5 [grain] mills and peeler (scaler) 
 - Providing building materials, blankets and tents
7 -
 Providing kitchen utensils and clothes”

8 - Providing groceries and food supplies due to the lack of firewood for cooking

9 - Provide generators for lighting the camp
10 - Providing drilling equipment

11 - Providing the basic essential needs of the people in their daily lives” 

Relief International’s Senior Program Officer, Virginia Zaunbrecher, Reports from the Field in Darfur, Sudan

November 18, 2012

Senior Program Officer, Virginia Zaunbrecher, writes from Darfur, Sudan, about how Relief International programs are keeping people alive and helping them move on with rebuilding their livelihoods.

Darfur is a place that is stuck in the middle.  There is still too much conflict for most people to return home, but there is too little conflict to garner public attention.  As aid workers, we find ourselves trying to triage the situation, and at the same time look for opportunities to help people move ahead.  Two of the people I have met so far exemplify this dynamic.

Relief International is a primary care provider for a population of approximately half a million people in North Darfur, including 164,000 displaced persons.  When visiting one of our malnutrition treatment centers in the Zam Zam camp for displaced persons last week, I met 18-month-old Fatima.  She was, bluntly stated, the most malnourished child I have ever seen.  She was tested for appetite and fed ready to use therapeutic food—popularly known as Plumpy-Nut.  She was also referred to the main state hospital 15 km away because she required substantial medical treatment, but that is an extremely long way for her mother to travel with her, especially given that there are other children at home that need attention. 

When I visited again this week, I was told that Fatima’s mother had not taken her to the hospital—a “defaulter” in nutrition program terms.  Relief International outreach workers are contacting Fatima’s mother and encouraging her to visit the RI clinic (closer than the main site hospital)—which is no small feat in this maze of 164,000 people.  Relief International has plans to open a stabilization center that can treat malnourished patients in the Zam Zam camp by 2013, so children like Fatima don’t have to travel for life-saving services.


Above, Staff weigh malnourished children at Relief International’s nutrition center in the Zam Zam Camp.

Just a short distance away at the Hassenfeld Community Center, I met someone who exemplified how the people of Darfur are trying to move forward.  Saida is a widowed mother of five, whose husband was killed in the conflict.  She fled to the Zam Zam three years ago with her children when they were forced from their village by fighting.  Saida’s leg is injured, so she is unable to work as a day laborer, which severely limits her options.  Undeterred, Saida hopes to provide a better life for her children.  While they are at school, Saida visits the library at the Community Center.  She studies books on work skills and English to improve her chances of getting a job.  When Relief International was stocking the library, we asked the community what kind of books would be most useful.  It is telling that their first request was items that could improve the capacity of people to find work.


Above, Saida (right, dressed in black) uses the library at the Community Center in the Zam Zam camp along with other women displaced by conflict.

Relief International staff find stories like this throughout North Darfur, and our programs here reflect that.  We provide basic life-saving health and nutrition services; at the same time we are developing a livelihoods program to help displaced people move forward, despite the challenging situation.  And every day we hope we encounter fewer Fatimas and have the privilege to meet more Saidas.


RI’s programming in Darfur is supported by the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Common Humanitarian Fund, and individual donors.


Relief International volunteer, Bashir Mohamed, reports from the Doro Refugee Camp of Mabaan, South Sudan

March 14, 2012

Relief International volunteer, Bashir Mohamed, reports from the Doro Refugee Camp of Mabaan, South Sudan. He is currently setting up tents as a part of a project that provides around the clock assistance to newly arrived refugees and local families in Mabaan.

Today is my fourth week volunteering with Relief International as the Deputy Community Service Coordinator in the well-known Doro refugee camp of Mabaan, South Sudan. I am currently working on operations for a shelter project that is being funded by UNHCR and implemented by Relief International and have watched as our refugee team in Mabaan work around the clock providing assistance to both the newly arrived refugees as well as those who are settled here.

Today, as part of our routine activities, our team pitched 27 tents in the camp. Mrs. Hajara is the female head of her household and one of 27 families selected from Sorkum (a Doro camp sub-section) to receive a tent from Relief International. Before she received the tent, Hajara and her family of eight did not have a proper shelter. As you can see in the photo, all they had was a small hut that consisted of poles covered by whatever the family could find (mainly pieces of cloth, empty Sorghum sacks, and plastic sheets).


Mrs. Hajara, her husband, and their seven children had fled from Surkum village, located in the Blue Nile state of Sudan, due to the eruption of violence and internal wars in the region. They were not able to bring many of their belongings and her husband went back later to retrieve what they had left behind. Mrs. Hajara has not heard of her husband since, but she hopes that her husband will one day come back home safely.



These two photos depict Mrs. Hajara and her family’s situation before and after they received the tent from Relief International. The photo above was taken in front of their old hut, while the second photo was taken in front of their newly pitched tent.


"Now we own a house, it’s not a tent for us, but before we were homeless," said Mrs. Hajara after receiving her new tent.

As you would notice from the faces of the second photo below, Mrs. Hajara, her children and I are all happy because the family´s lack of shelter nightmare is past.





Update from East Africa: aid worker Eric Anderson reports from the Horn of Africa

Relief International aid worker Eric Anderson is the Senior Program Officer in East Africa. He is currently on the ground working in Somalia to provide relief to communities suffering from the lasting effects of the famine. Below are his thoughts on the continuing problems caused by the famine, and the aftermath of what happens when the United Nations declares a famine officially “over.”  

The Famine in the Horn of Africa is Declared Over…..Now What? 

On Friday, February  3, 2012  Relief International Somalia Country Director Randhir Singh and I attended a crucial UN meeting on Somalia. This event was part of a bi-annual presentation on food security and nutrition that focused on Somalia. The output of this briefing was the announcement that the famine crisis announced last July in Somalia is now over. 

To frame this, let me first offer a couple of explanations:

What exactly constitutes a “famine” crisis situation? The term famine, within the humanitarian community, has come to be a very technical term and though it does (and should) elicit a deeply emotional response, its use in our community is restricted to an evidence-based determination. With limited resources available to respond to crises, the idea of this definition is to better understand the overall severity of a food crisis and to be able to do so in a transparent manner. Famine is therefore made up of three distinct characteristics:

• Extremely widespread food insecurity
o This can be measured in a number of different ways, but is rooted in the definition of food security that suggests food security exists, “when all people, at all times, have access to adequate supply of nutritious food for their biological needs as well as the maintenance of their dignity.”
o The famine threshold implies that more than 75 percent of households are food INSECURE.

• Acute malnutrition rates above 30 percent
o Global acute malnutrition (GAM) is a condition in which the body becomes “wasted” and in which the children that would be expected to undergo rapid growth and weight gain are instead losing weight. Basically, the ratio of their height to their weight suggests that the body is actually breaking down their muscle tissues in order to provide the much needed energy that can maintain basic bodily functions.

• Exceptionally high rates of mortality
o As a rate, this refers to the frequency at which mortality is occurring in a population. 
o The threshold for famine conditions is greater than 2 people per 10,000 people per day.

The term famine can only be used when ALL THREE of these conditions are met, indicating the need for some sort of awareness because the worst of the worst occurs. This was the case in southern Somalia, made clear through the famine declaration in July.

The UN has a sub-agency of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that is mostly staffed by Somalis located throughout the country. The employees collect data dealing with malnutrition , health indicators, conflict, weather, climate, markets, terms of trade, mortality etc., in a vigorous and scientific manner. Twice a year this data is consolidated and vetted amongst a community of up to 200 participants ranging from local Somalia based NGOs to major UN agency representatives.  This is the data that drives humanitarian response, action and funding in Somalia. It is conducted on a bi-annual basis and coordinated with the two major seasons.

The greatest fear at this point is that the take away message is that all is well in Somalia and that it is on the mend from a crisis.  

The truth of the matter is that some of the most horrible outcomes we can imagine have lessened to the point that they are now just below the threshold at which we laid out to distinguish a crisis from a famine.  The southern region experienced a long overdue effective rainy season and thanks to the enormous efforts of the humanitarian community, agricultural production bounced back fairly well, particularly those of FAO-Somalia.

Nine out of 20 children displaced to Mogadishu were acutely malnourished in July. The number has now decreased to four out of 20.  This continues to be massively unacceptable. 

Relief International operates in Mogadishu and is expanding programming to include internally displaced people in and near Mogadishu.  Despite the progress, 2.34 million people remain in crisis. Most of them are located in the south of Somalia, where few agencies are operational.  Though all three indicators are no longer met to define the situation as an outright famine, mortality and malnutrition rates are above the threshold in many locations of Somalia.

Our greatest error now would be to consider this situation resolved and to let the compassion we felt at the height of the emergency in August of 2011 wane. It is important to recognize that now is an opportunity to continue the fragile recovery, to rebuild livelihoods and assets, and to provide the resilience needed against future climatic shocks.

— Eric S. Anderson, Sr. Program Officer, East Africa, 7th February, 2012

To help fight famine and bring relief to those suffering in the Horn, please CLICK HERE and selectHorn of Africa: Famine Relief. Thank you for your support. 

Originally posted on the Relief International website on February 7, 2012. 

February 8, 2012 
A local family smiles at receiving NFIs (non-food items) relief packages from our aid workers in South Sudan. 

February 8, 2012 

A local family smiles at receiving NFIs (non-food items) relief packages from our aid workers in South Sudan. 

Today’s update from RI’s aid worker Tiare Cross, at the Doro refugee camp

February 8, 2012 

Today I wanted to share photos of a refugee family in Doro refugee camp that we met with, taken in the Bellatume area of the Doro refugee camp in South Sudan. The second photo features two women cooking dinner for their families. They are making a porridge out of sorghum, a grain which is distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme, and also grown locally in Sudan. In the local language this porridge is called “maa.”  This family cooked with had some dried okra, along with a type of soup that they were preparing for dinner.  In the photo below, you can see the smiling women cooking over three stone fires, alongside a few pit fires,  created from smaller holes dug into the ground.


Relief International aid worker Tiare Cross reports from Mabaan, South Sudan:

February 1, 2012 

The photo below was taken near a Borehole that was drilled by Relief International in 2008-2009 with PRM funding and is located at the Doro way station, where we currently have three warehouses of relief commodities and conducts distributions. The way station is located in Doro Refugee Camp, which serves as a temporary home to 28,000 refugees coming from the Blue Nile State in Northern Sudan. The Relief International local aid team currently handles camp management operations in Doro with support from funding provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (the UN Refugee Agency). 


In the picture below, a group of women refugees wait to pump water from a borehole well at the Doro way station. A borehole is a type of water well

This photo was taken at a borehole that was drilled by Relief International between 2008-2009 with PRM funding and is located at the Doro way station. Currently, currently our aid workers utilize three warehouses of relief commodities and conduct distributions. The way station is located in Doro refugee camp, where there are 28,000 refugees who fled from the Blue Nile State in Northern Sudan. Relief International is handling camp management with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UN Refugee Agency) funding in Doro.