CWS Update March 2010
Substantial Rain hits Haiti
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA) says that the lack of shelter is one of the most urgent
priorities facing the humanitarian community. OCHA estimates that only
24 percent of the 1.3 million people in need of shelter have received
tarpaulins or tents.
ACT Alliance members are prioritizing the delivery of shelter items in
hopes of reaching as many people as possible before the rains come.
“We’re all concerned about what to do when the rains come, but it seems
the rains are already here – I think it’s an early onset rainy season,”
said Sophie Gebreyes, for one ACT Alliance member.
“It’s a major concern for us, as for any humanitarian organization
working here. We simply cannot build houses fast enough, so we’re
starting with emergency shelter like distribution of plastic sheeting.
We’ll also start soon with building transitional shelters, and providing
building materials so people can build sturdier shelters before the
hurricane season begins.” The issues of shelter and sanitation go hand
in hand, she said, as the potential dangers of the rainy season include
outbreaks of malaria, dengue, and waterborne diseases.
CWS media officer, Greg Jackson, will be travelling to Haiti on March 5
to work as a communicator for the ACT Alliance.
World Day of Prayer: March 5 at your local Church
“Let everything that has breath praise God” is the theme for this year’s
World Day of Prayer 2010 which will focus on the women and lives of
Cameroon, Africa. Issues that will be highlighted include modern day
slavery, poverty, family violence, corruption and the abuse of power in
The World Day of Prayer has become so established that it now features
in daily diaries as a significant date, a far cry from when it was
established by Christian women in Canada and the United States in the
19th century. The motto of the World Day of Prayer is “Informed Prayer
and Prayerful Action.” Taking part in the event is seen as an
affirmation that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have
immeasurable influence on the world.
New CWS resources
Water quality is the focus of this year’s UN World Water Day held on 22
March. CWS has prepared worship and background material for March 21 or
another convenient day. It is available from cws@ cws.org.nz or click here
Kairos in Palestine
A significant theological document released by all Palestinian churches
in December last year, is ‘a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a
cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine
providence for the inhabitants of this land.’ In it they express
gratitude for the solidarity shown to them in many ways but also call
for repentance from ‘fundamentalist theological positions that support
certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian
people’. They also speak with the urgency of love, asking for an end to
the unjust dispossession of Palestinians from their homes and
occupation. The full document can be found at
Concern for Sri Lanka’s Internally Displaced People
More than 106,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to manage
in closely monitored temporary camps after the defeat of the LTTE
(Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May last year. The government is
now saying that they will be closed in April although they have failed
to meet other self-imposed deadlines.
About 160,000 IDPs have returned to their districts of origin and
another 19,060 people have been released to host families and homes.
According to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the lack of funding for those held in the
camps is expected to affect services, including the maintenance of
sanitation facilities, provision of food and education.
The report also says that most returnees have expressed satisfaction at
restarting their lives in their areas of origin but notes several
challenges, including insufficient basic services, transport limitations
and damaged or destroyed property and shelters.
“Indications of tensions among communities arriving at different stages
of the return process had surfaced, with the civil administration
indicating that it would [be] strengthening its role to support
resolution of disputes,” it says.
As a result of these, IDPs would be grappling with “uninhabitable homes
without the necessary facilities to help them lead a normal life”, said
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, Suresh Premachandran. “It
will take at least two years to resettle people properly with their
infrastructure needs being met.”
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected for six years in January.
With the arrest of opposition candidate General Fonseka on February 8,
concerns about a growing political crisis have been expressed by groups
including the National Peace Council. Fonseka received over 4 million
voters including many Tamils and was arrested on charges of corruption
and attempts to topple the government while in office. In calling for
an end to repressive legislation that they believes allows such abuse of
power, the non-partisan National Peace Council is urging the
government, “to take appropriate measures to honour the voice of all its
citizens as the integration of diversity is at the core of democracy in
a multi ethnic and plural society.”
ACT Alliance – A Powerful Instrument for Hope
The newly formed ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) will be
formally launched on 24 March with a series of local celebrations.
Christchurch hosted deputy director and former CWS national director,
Jill Hawkey, at a meeting in February to explain exactly what this new
network will mean.
The ACT Alliance made up of 150 agencies, churches and aid groups
throughout the world with a common income of more than USD $2 billion
per year, will provide appropriate humanitarian assistance and work to
make sure that people in their communities remain at the centre of their
Humanitarian agencies will have to go urban
The growing movement of people into urban settings is changing the face
of development. According to a recent World Bank report citing
statistics from the UN Population Fund, “Half the world’s people now
live in cities, a share that will rise to 70 percent by 2050. Of urban
population growth (5 million new residents a month), 95 percent will be
in the developing world, with small cities growing fastest.”
Most humanitarian efforts and aid have been focused on rural development
rather than the needs of the urban poor. About 810 million people
already live in city slums, battling overcrowding, insecure tenure,
landslides, flooding, poor sanitation, unsafe housing, inadequate
nutrition and poor health.
The shift to urban programming will “accelerate the already existing
trend within the humanitarian system that has agencies offering less
in-kind inputs and more cash” to build resilience.
Other than urban earthquake preparedness, humanitarian agencies have not
yet focused on emergency response in urban centres. The report also
examines the impact of climate change on urban populations.
“Low-elevation coastal zones at risk from rising sea levels and coastal
surges are home to about 600 million people globally, and 15 of the
world’s 20 megacities.”
The World Bank report lists some useful recommendations of its own:
– Sound urban planning restricts development in flood-prone areas and
provides critical access to services.
– Infrastructure developments (embankments or levees) can provide
physical protection for many and will require additional safety margins
where climate change increases risk.
– Well-established communication, transport, and early warning systems
help evacuate people swiftly, as in Cuba, where up to 800,000 people are
routinely evacuated within 48 hours when hurricanes approach.
Haiti: An Opportunity from the Ground Up
In the two months since the devastating earthquake of January 12,
Haitians are determined to survive. While the death toll has risen
beyond 200,000, those left are making the most of what they can find.
For the survivors many of whom are traumatised by the quake and its
aftermath the future remains uncertain.
One leader from a community outside Port au Prince, Altenor Ronald,
expressed a mixture of frustration, anger and disorientation as he tried
to coordinate the relocation of survivors into a roadside displacement
“We have no food, no stoves, people are hungry. I’m in charge and I
don’t know what to do,” he said.
One of those he was assisting, Elimeme Jean, said she and others could
stay on the land for two months and not a day more. “We don’t know
what’s going to happen,” she shrugged.
In Jacmel, on Haiti’s southern coast, members of one of many “solidarity
groups” of friends and neighbours that have opted not to move to
displacement camps and instead to stay together on borrowed land, said
they do not know how long they will remain in and around the grounds of
Jacmel’s Wesleyan (Methodist) Church. It could be months, even longer,
“How long will it be? I don’t know,” community leader Francilaire Jeudi
said. “Nobody knows.” Nobody knows – it’s a refrain heard often as
Haitians mark the first month since the devastating earthquake in an
altered and unwelcome world. As they traverse the unknown, not even the
immediate future – a day, a week – can be planned.
If many signs are grim, others are less so. Despite logistical
challenges and many pre-existing social problems in Haiti, Tommy
Bouchiba, for a member of the ACT Alliance, noted that humanitarian aid
is getting to those who need it; aid pipelines are opening up; and
rehabilitation programs are already beginning. “It is getting better,”
Bouchiba said of the overall humanitarian situation.
One reason for the improvement is the assistance provided by the ACT
Alliance to more than 150,000 people. The majority continue to receive
water, sanitation, shelter and/or regular food supplies or meals. Others
have received relief items such as cash or hygiene or baby kits.
Prospery Raymond, ACT/Christian Aid country manager, said that the
resilience of Haitians and the acts of solidarity and kindness between
them have been striking. That, he said, is the foundation on which any
international humanitarian support in Haiti – such as that being
provided by the ACT Alliance — should be built.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “Yes, this happened but it has to be seen as
an opportunity to rebuild the country.”
There are 12 members of the ACT Alliance working in Haiti with local
partners. CWS has already sent $140,000 for the relief effort and
another $5,000 to long term partner, the Institut Culturel Karl Leveque
for their immediate needs. ACT Alliance members are working closely
with local partners to ensure that the affected communities are involved
in the reconstruction of homes and centres that meet their needs. They
are all committed to leaving the people better off than before the
earthquakes but recognise this may take a period of three to five
online or phone 0800 74 73 72. Send a cheque to: CWS, PO Box 22652,
Fairtrade Bananas reach Auckland
The Fair Trade Association has announced the arrival of New Zealand’s
first Fairtrade Certified bananas. The All Good Fairtrade certified
bananas are grown in Ecuador and are helping local farmers work their
way out of poverty. To find out more about Fairtrade Certified bananas
and All Good go to www.checkoutfairtrade.org.nz and
Zimbabwe churches involved in Constitutional Reform process
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) reports that it. “has been
participating in meetings that have been held between church
representatives and Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Select Committee. The
process itself has suffered many hurdles due to lack of funds and
political haggling especially over allocation of members into thematic
committees. The latter has resulted in the appointment of a management
committee made up of the principal negotiators to oversee the process.
An independent secretariat has also been set up to ensure independence
of the process.
“Since the beginning of the year our officers have been deployed in
three provinces on awareness building and advocacy on issues relating to
constitutional reform. The meetings were well attended and participants
were very enthusiastic about raising critical voices even in their own
areas. When the government’s thematic teams are finally deployed ZCC
although with limited resources will be monitoring the process through
programme officers and mobilised members who will also be consulting
with the people on content issues.
“We remain concerned about such issues as freedom of movement and
expression, the security situation in the face of mobilisation of
militants (we are receiving lots of reports on this) to intimidate
people. This is compounded by the partisan way in which some security
personnel carry out their work and such draconian legislation as POSA
Among the critical lessons that we have learnt is the need to maintain a
critical distance when working or interacting with the government or
politicians. Taking a non-partisan stance has helped us to be more
balanced and independent as we carry out our tasks.
“Information sharing between church leaders in the provinces and our
head office, on the one hand and networking with other organisations has
greatly improved our effectiveness and created a great sense of
responsibility and commitment among church leaders at various levels. As
an organisation we have gained visibility.
Most of our operations have been slowed down by a crippling shortage of
funds. We however remain hopeful and determined to fight on as we seek
to fulfil our mandate.”