- 29 May – 4 June World Week of Prayer for Israel Palestine
- June 5 World Environment Day
- June 20 World Refugee Day
Internal Displacement at highest level since mid-1990s
In a new report the United Nations states that more than 27 million people were uprooted by violence within their countries, including Pakistan, in 2009, the highest number since the mid-1990s.
The six countries listed in the report with the largest internally displaced people (IDP) populations are: Sudan, with nearly 5 million; Colombia, with between 3.3 and 4.9 million; Iraq, with almost 2.8 million; the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with nearly 2 million; Somalia, with 1.5 million; and Pakistan, with 1.2 million.
Africa is the region witnessing the greatest volume of internal displacement, with a total of 11.6 million IDPs in 21 countries, while South and South-East Asia saw the biggest jump in numbers of IDPs from 3.5 million in 2008 to 4.3 million in 2009.
The report attributed the rising numbers of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, to long-running internal conflicts. It also found that the number of IDPs has soared from 17 million in 1997 to more than 27 million last year, while the number of refugees has remained fairly stable, fluctuating between 13 million and 16 million in the same period.
The term IDP and other jargon do not come close to doing justice to the truly awful experience of being displaced, disoriented, traumatized, confused, fearful, disempowered, dependent, helpless said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, at the report’s launch on Monday in London.
Last year alone, 6.8 million people were newly displaced. “This tells us not just that humanitarian needs are greater now than ever, but also that our worst-case projections of where humanitarian trends would go in the next few years are materializing,” Holmes said.
Humanitarian work, he noted, will continue to focus largely on conflicts, as internal clashes materialize, impacting civilians trapped by fighting. Demands of aid agencies are also on the rise due to vulnerabilities caused by climate change, the recent global food crisis, population growth and urbanization, among other factors.
Refugee Sunday Worship resources
World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on June 20 and is an opportunity to focus on the tens of millions of people who have been forced to leave their homes. CWS has prepared materials for churches to use in worship and prayer that focus on climate refugees and the internally displaced people in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They are available here or from firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the Swap
Events celebrating the difference that fair trade were held throughout the country. Trade Aid hosted the dynamic Meera Bhattari from Nepal and ran local events. Churches held Fair Cuppas and had displays, other groups held stalls and organised debates. People talked about why they had swapped to fair trade and the huge difference it is making to the lives of poor farmers and producers in developing countries. Support for fair trade is growing as people make a considered choice. More information and resources about fair trade or on how to become a Fair Trade Church is available from email@example.com
World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel
Churches and people of goodwill are encouraged to take part in prayer and action for Israel and Palestine. CWS has two appropriate documentaries available for loan: A Refugee Life and Ending Occupation.
Changes in government funding
The government is due to announce major changes in the funding available for nongovernmental agencies through the overseas development assistance budget. The intention is that the new fund will distribute 50% of grants in the Pacific, 30% in South East Asia and 20% for the rest of the world. Once the details are available CWS will be able to assess the implications for existing partners and its work.
CWS joins humanitarian accountability group
CWS has signed up as an associate to the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP). This is an international group of organisations committed to championing the rights and dignity of survivors of humanitarian crises and disasters. It works with accredited members to meet agreed standards of accountability and advocates for better response to those affected by such crises.
Church leaders have concerns about new Philippine president
Filipino church leaders, who began the presidential election race in their country with optimism, now say they have much lower hopes of the person who is likely to become the next president. “It is too soon to say but based on his campaign line, it will be hard work pressing him to address people’s issues,” said the Rev. Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Reyes was one of a number of church leaders interviewed about their expectations of front-runner Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is so far convincingly ahead in the vote tally after the 10 May election. The official tally of votes is scheduled to be done by a joint session of Congress scheduled to start on 24 May.
CWS helps hungry School Children in Zimbabwe
CWS made a further $35,000 grant to provide the midday meal for every child in 49 government primary schools in Zimbabwe’s Zvishavane District. Christian Care has provided a nutritious corn soybean meal for these children over the last eighteen months, helping to keep children at school and staving off malnutrition. In this marginal region where food is short this meal has made a critical difference for 16,923 children in the month of May. They will distribute 81 metric tons of food. The project has been funded by the Netherlands Government in the past but has not been continued. The funding CWS is able to give will extend the programme for another month but more help will be needed to help keep the children learning until the next harvest season.
Please help keep the children fed and in school. Donations can be sent to CWS, PO Box 22 652, Christchurch 8142 marked Zimbabwe Appeal.
Water for Timor
High in Timor Leste’s interior Ailieu district, Rosa Maria celebrates the arrival of water to her village. When Trish Murray, CWS staff member arrived in the church grounds after an arduous journey, there was no village to be seen. Suddenly people arrived and she discovered that their homes were spread in the neighbouring hills.
The newly piped water arrives in the centre of the ‘village’ and is already saving hours of climbing each day. The safe, potable water supply is the first step to development for this isolated community. In the next month, the village members will complete an accompanying water tank with materials supplied by CWS partner, Fusona. It is part of efforts to build this new country from the ground up. Fusona is working in some of the most inaccessible areas without other support.
In visiting Timor Leste for the third time, Trish noted the considerable change as the government moves from its status as a fledgling independent state in 2002 to a new 20 year plan. She noted that security was not such a concern although there are sporadic outbreaks of gang violence. The first time she went despite the precautions of CWS partners, their vehicle was attacked by rock throwing young people. Trish believes Jose Ramos Horta’s decision to forgive his attackers after he was shot in 2008 has made a huge difference in resolving tension. A lot of the militia have come down from the hills and are being resettled. However, some 70% of the population regularly goes hungry and community development urgently needed.
Now with proceeds from the Timor Gap oil (shared with Australia), the government is forging ahead with a new 20 year plan. At a meeting with international donors, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, outlined critical points since the referendum of 1999. Economic growth has been steady: 12.8% in 2008 and 12.2% in 2009 but the importance of building infrastructure, improving governance and meeting the basic needs of the people remain important. In his speech he questioned the imposition of economic policies that did not fit the Timorese context and which were determined by outside consultants and investors rather than the people themselves. The Timorese government is determined to take the country of the list of fragile and poor states and in 20 years become a middle income country. For this to happen, Timor needs the right kind of help.
While in Timor, Trish also met with Fidelio who participated in the 2008 Global Youth Encounter organised by the CWS youth programme. Fidelio is studying for a degree in civil engineering and doing very well. Alcina who also participated in the Encounter is now successfully studying journalism in the Philippines.
CWS works with two partners in Timor Leste, Fusona and the Dominican Sisters.
Donations can be earmarked for Timor Leste and sent to CWS, PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142
Sri Lanka – One year on
May 18 marked the first anniversary of the end of the 30 year civil war in Sri Lanka. Despite assurances from the Sri Lankan government some 76,000 people are still living in temporary camps. They are awaiting resettlement, suitable land and demining.
Many of those left in the camps are widows, separated or low level income families with no where to go. Aid agencies have left or a focusing on returnees leaving only the vulnerable, some of whom are receiving food and hygiene kits from ACT Alliance member, Christian Aid.
For those from the Northern Province where the fighting was heaviest, returnees are finding life difficult with few services available. Many are living in temporary shelter such as tents or under plastic sheeting with no toilets. Fields are overgrown and the land dotted with landmines making life difficult.
Meanwhile 73,000 Sri Lankan refugees are still living in 115 camps in Tamil Nadu, India, hoping to return home.
Internationally, concern has been expressed by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group (ICG) about the repeated violations of international law by both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the war. Both groups are calling for an international investigation and expressed concern at the lack of action. The ICG noted that the international community had failed in its responsibilities, more importantly to protect the lives of civilians.
CWS has written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressing concern for those displaced in the fighting.
Breaking the HIV taboo in Darfur
Last year, ACT Alliance provided HIV information to 120 000 people in Darfur’s displaced person’s camps – a remarkable achievement in an area where HIV and AIDS are considered taboo. Estimates of people infected with HIV vary greatly across Sudan and in Darfur many people would go as far as to question the existence of diseases in general let alone HIV. “You can’t really raise the issue openly in the camps”, says Gloria Gwoka Nakoboji, Project Officer for the Sudan Council of Churches. But she does. Despite the deep seeded cultural perceptions of HIV, the church council continues its innovative work through community networks, campaigns and education in order to counter misperceptions and prevent the spread of the virus. “Most of the people have very little education, and because of religion and culture, it is very sensitive to talk about HIV in a social setting. Because people do not have information, they put themselves at risk,” Gloria said.
A quarter million people in Darfur are assisted everyday by ACT Alliance. The operations are lead by Norwegian Church Aid in cooperation with national organizations and supported by the ACT and Caritas networks.
ACT Alliance has begun seed distribution in Petit Gôave, 68km southwest of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. People have gathered from early morning. When distribution starts, people are called by name to come forward in groups of three. One group is given 50kg of beans, which is to be shared among three families, and 50kg of maize for nine families.
Yvès Raymond, a young farmer from the mountains, is among the first to get seeds. At noon, he leaves for home. “I left home by midnight and arrived here at 5am,” he says. After queuing for several hours, he now has four measures of bean seeds and one of maize. He faces a long walk home under the blazing sunshine.
Like everyone else, Yvès Raymond will plant his seeds in June after the heavy rains. In this way, he will be able to harvest the crop in August-September.
Joseph Galnave Norre, coordinator of a farmers’ association, says that for most people the crop will only cover the needs of their families. ”Those who get some surplus sell it at the market. Some people even go to Port-au-Prince to get a better price.”
In rural areas, many farmers lack cash to buy seeds and food prices have already gone up since the earthquake. ”Seed distribution is very welcome here, since it will give people a good harvest,” Joseph continues. By the end of the day, 1300 farmers have received seeds. The last 200 still need to wait until the next morning.
After the distribution, ACT will see that the seeds are shared equally among the designated families. Meanwhile, it will keep distributing other items in different parts of the country as it has done since the earthquake.
Donations can be made to the CWS Haiti Appeal at www.cws.org.nz or sent to PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142.
Sudan Update: Struggle for oil may derail Sudan referendum
A senior Sudan church official says political parties in the country must agree on the sharing of oil wealth to minimise border tensions between the divided north and south of Africa’s biggest country.
The Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, said the south’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the north’s governing National Congress Party must agree on how they will split the oil wealth, before a 2011 referendum on the possible secession of the south.
“The central government has depended on the oil from the south for its operations. It will be difficult for it to just let oil go” Chan told ENInews on 15 May in Nairobi. “Our position as the church is for the parties concerned to agree on the share of oil revenue in the post-referendum period. This will minimize the tensions.”
Sudan is gearing for the 9 January 2011 plebiscite, mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Through it, the partly animist and Christian south is expected to choose whether to remain part of the united Sudan, which is dominated by Arabs and Muslims.
Chan, however, says plans for the referendum are behind schedule with only seven months to go. A referendum law has been passed, but there is no body yet conduct it. Delays to the referendum will threaten the enduring peace.