- 8 International Literacy Day
- 15 Day of Democracy
- 16 Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
- 21 Day of Prayer for Peace
International Day of Prayer for Peace
The World Council of Churches invites all people to take part in the International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September. In the final year of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence, the focus is on Africa. More information is available:
Churches Week of Action on Food
CWS is inviting support in this global effort to focus attention on the right to food 10 – 17 October. Initial information from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance:
Pakistan Floods: Pakistani Families Rebuild
Allah Nawaz, an eighteen year old from Basti Sakhani in D. I. Khan, has started to rebuild. “My father is a shepherd and I am a day-labourer so I know how to build walls and work with cement. Water dried up about a week ago and we decided to collect bricks from destroyed houses to start rebuilding.
Nawaz and his family were able to start rebuilding because they possess the required skills but lack of income is a problem. “Thankfully, everyone in our village is safe from harm but our belongings have gone with the water, our rations are destroyed, and we are afraid of disease that may come from drinking water.” He has to salvage bricks because they have more than doubled in price, along with food and other necessities.
For families who could not afford savings and now have no income earning possibilities, rebuilding homes depends on assistance from the humanitarian community. Nawaz adds, “We have to use our time to rebuild our homes and because of this we cannot work for anyone else, but money is running out.”
With 20 million Pakistanis affected by the floods, the need for emergency assistance is great. The U.N. estimates approximately 4.6 million people are without shelter. Thousands of people are on the move within the country, either to seek shelter with relatives and friends or returning to assess damages to their homes and property. Even for those affected families who have some form of shelter, in most cases tents or partially damaged homes, the living conditions are terrible. if these conditions are prolonged they pose health and other risks that could lead to a second wave of deaths.
Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS P/A) plans to set up construction trade training centres, offer cash for work, voucher and cash grant schemes to help reestablish agricultural livelihoods, and continue offering health services. Please give generously to the Pakistan Appeal.
Please give generously to the Pakistan Appeal. Donations can be sent to CWS, PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142 or made here: https://secure2.godzone.net.nz/cws/donations/ProcessDonation.cgi
Pakistan: Pregnant Women at High Risk
Within the next three months about 100,000 births are expected in flood affected areas. The lack of adequate facilities and pre and post natal care are a great concern for expecting mothers and their families. Government officials are worried about how to provide a safe environment to over 500,000 expectant mothers in the flood affected areas. Furthermore, approximately 35,000 female health workers have been affected by the floods, placing additional strain on the health system and its ability to meet the needs of the affected population, particularly women.
The requirement of necessary vitamins and ample nutrition for expectant mothers also places them at further risk in an environment surrounded by challenges. Insufficient quality and quantity of food increases the risk of undernourishment which could lead to complicated deliveries and pose threats to both mother and baby. CWS-P/A’s health team reports that the majority of consultations are with women and children, further supporting concerns that they are at greater risk of health related problems.
Support to meet the medical needs of the affected population is crucial for preventing a second disaster in terms of human loss. Efforts to restore damaged health facilities to full function and alternatives such as mobile health units are necessary to provide treatment to the thousands in need. Special consideration is required to ensure that these services are available to women and the economically worst off segments of society who cannot afford to reach the few operational health facilities remaining.
CWS-P/A in its preventive and curative health initiatives continues to provide consultations to thousands of people affected by the floods in Mansehra, Kohistan, and Swat through operating mobile and basic health units. The three mobile health units have treated 2,446 patients as of August 23. This includes 44 antenatal and 6 postnatal consultations as well as 398 children under the age of five.
This week’s distribution is ongoing. As of August 24, food packages were distributed to 3,703 individuals in D. I. Khan. In Sibi, Balochistan, approximately 32 tons of food items were distributed to 1,610 individuals. Distribution of almost 20 tons of food is ongoing in Kohistan. Distribution of food packages, household goods, and tents will continue in these areas while distribution in Swat and Khairpur will start in the coming days.
Pakistan: Drowning in debt as well
With Pakistan being pushed to the brink of collapse by unprecedented flooding, the World Bank and the IMF could further damage the country’s economic future. Before last month’s flooding, Pakistan owed US$49 billion and paid the equivalent of one third of the government revenue in loan repayments. In a June 2010 review, the IMF projected its loan to jump to $US 70 billion in 2015. Along with a World Bank loan of US $900 million and another US $2 billion from the Asian Development Bank, the IMF acknowledged the country’s vulnerability. The IMF loan required large budget cuts, energy price hikes, the introduction of a value-added tax (VAT) and other cost cutting measures. Internationally, debt campaigners including CWS, will be calling for a debt freeze, new assistance to be in the form of grants not loans and the withdrawal of harmful conditions attached to the loans which were already threatening the 60% of people living on less than US$1 a day. Pakistan cannot be expected to deal with the flooding and the reckless loans made by the international financial institutions.
See the Jubilee UK report on the impact of debt in Muslim countries like Pakistan. See the Jubilee UK report on the impact of debt in Muslim countries like Pakistan
UN: Helen Clark speaks in Christchurch
Visiting head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Helen Clark, spoke at the inaugural Christ Church Cathedral Annual Lecture on global progress towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals. In a meeting jointly sponsored by CWS, she spoke to a packed audience on the moral imperative to enable the poorest and most vulnerable to have a decent life. “Our world simply cannot be at peace with itself when so many of our fellow human beings continue to live in extreme poverty, severely constrained in their efforts to build a better life for themselves and their families,” she said. She also insisted that governments like New Zealand meet their commitment to spend 0.7 % of Gross National Product on Official Development Assistance. The full address is available:The full address is available:
Government Funding Narrow
CWS like other agencies has received the final details of the new government funding schemes, the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and the Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF). However, the tight timeframe and other operational constraints will put pressure on many of CWS’s long term partners. Its narrow focus on ‘sustainable economic growth’ and regional focus aiming for a funding ratio that spends 75% in the Pacific, 15% in South East Asia and 10% in the rest of the world may exclude some of our partners doing excellent work in their communities. Applications for the first round of the SDF close on 9 September. CWS has prepared an update on the effect of the scheme in response to the many enquiries and concern expressed for CWS long term partners. The update suggests some key points that may be raised with the government. Briefly they are:
1. Disappointment at the abrupt end of the successful KOHA-PICD and HAF schemes that had enabled broad ranging and effective community development.
2. The importance of locally controlled partner programmes that respect social and cultural rights in the Pacific and elsewhere,
3. The need for sound development policies and practices that make sure people get out of poverty and adapt to changing circumstances such as climatic change, irrespective of any government’s political agenda.
4. Promote a foreign policy that ensures New Zealand contributes to global efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, assists after disaster and promotes global peace and security.
CWS and four other agencies received $100,000 each of government funding through the HRF for Pakistan. Agencies have signed a joint letter seeking clarification and improved processes around the fund that initially was only offered to four agencies, who had previously received Pakistan funding. Those who had not used government funding for humanitarian work in Pakistan would have been excluded.
If you want to raise concerns with an MP see: http://www.cws.org.nz/take-action/aid
Rural Haiti: The issue is food
Life as a farmer has never been more difficult in Haiti than it is now, says octogenarian Arnold Alcimé. He recalls earlier times when credit and new equipment were easier to get and when the land itself seemed to suffer less.
Hurricanes in 2008 destroyed three-quarters of Haiti’s agricultural land, a situation worsened by deforestation which led to flooding. When compounded with the cycles of debt and high interest rates – which farmers compare to usury - the accumulated problems amount to a real crisis for rural Haiti.
Alcimé never expected such problems at the end of a hard life spent on the land. But he soldiers on, he said, because, “I have no other options.”
Out of a population of 9 million, nearly a third - 2.4 million Haitians - are “food insecure.” One-third of newborn babies are born underweight, and nearly one in ten is born acutely undernourished. Some estimate a quarter of all children are stunted, an obvious sign of malnutrition.
A key reason is food policy. Economic reform measures forced on Haiti by Western lending institutions in the 1990s resulted in trade liberalisation, which among other things, reduced tariffs on imported food. It became cheaper to import rice than grow it, leaving many in rural areas without jobs (and the means to buy food) and the country dependent on an outside food supply.
Raising tariffs to stimulate local farming and making investments in such inputs as good seed, tools and fertilizer could, said Rothenberger, “turn this tide and redistribute Haiti’s population in a more sustainable way and also empower Haitians to meet their own food security needs.”
For farmers, the solutions are relatively fixable, said Haitian agronomist Nicolas Altidor of Petite Riviere. “Help the planters, give them support like fertilizer, reasonable credit instead of usury and fix the drainage so that fields are not always flooding.” he said.
West Africa: Millions in need
A combination of cyclical drought and irregular harvests has led to seriously reduced food production with disastrous results across the region:
• over 10 million people across the Sahel are affected
• in Niger, more than 7 million people – half the country’s population - risk going hungry, 1.6 million are children. 400,000 face starvation
• 600,000 people are affected in Mali where pastoralists are seeing their livestock dying in large numbers
The crisis is also threatening communities in Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria. In parts of the Sahel, people are being forced to scavenge for wild leaves and seeds and drink dirty water. Food is available in the markets but soaring prices have put it out of reach of many of the most vulnerable groups. ACT Alliance partners are providing food, medical and cash for work schemes.
Is bread next?
Wheat prices have doubled in the last two months, notching up the fastest food price rise an economist said he said seen in the last 20 years. “In the last week alone, the price went up by another 20 percent,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist who is also secretary of the Intergovernmental Group on Grains at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
A severe drought and fires in Russia, the world’s largest country and one of the top five exporters of wheat, have sent prices skyward. It would take six months for the price hikes to get transmitted to the domestic markets, he said. That means 2011 could be difficult for wheat-based foods like bread.
Palestine: Liberty for the Captives
Constantine Dabbagh made a passionate plea for new international action to secure a just future for Palestinians when visiting Aotearoa New Zealand from Gaza last month. He wanted New Zealanders to hear for themselves what effect the blockade is having on already vulnerable people and the danger of greater levels of extreme violence if the underlying injustice is not removed.
“It (the siege) is illegal, inhumane and against the rules of God and humanity” he told CWS when describing the situation in Gaza. As the executive director of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches in Gaza, Constantine has many years of experience working to help his people. The situation has worsened, unemployment is almost 60% and the government is dependent on charity. “We don’t have an economy. Without international efforts it would be completely zero. The US$ 800 per capita income is based only on what we receive from outside,” he said. People are dependent on aid for food, medical care and other basic necessities.
The situation is extremely difficult but the people “are healthy, vibrant and not just waiting for relief which is not enough for survival or to meet the needs of their families.” Many goods that fill the shelves are smuggled through 1500 tunnels from Egypt which only people with international salaries or working for the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas can afford.
Despite some “cosmetic softening” of the blockade after international outrage at the attack on the aid flotilla, there is still no free entry of essentials such as medicine, equipment and even concrete. At present people grind up concrete from bombed ruins to make new –albeit weakened – concrete for rebuilding homes destroyed in the January 2009 bombings. Not only are homes unstable, but there are health hazards. Chemicals from munitions leeches into the materials and Gaza is witnessing increased levels of deformities in babies.
We don’t want to be beneficiaries of charity,” said Constantine. “We ultimately want to be able to support and run our own lives, just like everyone else, including the Israelis.’’
Affirming the place of Israel within the borders agreed in 1967 at the UN, he insisted that Israel cannot keep taking more Palestinian land through the settlements. “We expect Israel to be a good neighbour and that there is respect for each other,” he said. Not only are Palestinians losing their land but they are also losing control of their water. The Israeli-built wall has turned the area into a series of small Bantustans, leaving Palestinians cut off from their land and families. Permits to travel to and from Gaza are given by Israel at short notice for one day only.
“We are afraid of the growing radicals who will not accept [the situation],” he commented while urging New Zealanders to stand up for justice for Palestinians. “When the government abstains [at the UN], it is not taking the right stand. Israel has a policy to push Gaza into the control of Egypt…. The majority of Palestinians would vote for a just peace with Israel but if [the siege] continues there will be more support for the militants. We are all the sons and daughters of God. We are all God’s chosen people and we want to live alongside Israel.”
Gaza art show on the way
CWS helps fund the DSPR programme in Gaza, especially maternal and child health, vocational training for young people, and trauma counselling. Artwork from people living in Gaza, depicting their dreams for the future, will be exhibited in Christchurch at Christ Church Cathedral 1-21 October and later in Auckland. Please see www.cws.org.nz for full details.
There will be no Update in October due to @world being mailed out at the end of September. The next issue will be November. We are moving towards e-based news publications so please send us your email address to stay up to date.