REPORT BY – Milward Mwamvani – Humanitarian Coordinator – IAS
As we commemorate this World Humanitarian Day (August 19th, 2016), IAS reflects on current trends and issues in the Humanitarian circles. The Humanitarian situation around the world continues to pose many challenges, as needs increase, and the response capacity is usually limited due to financial restrictions. As natural disasters affect communities, many others are also being affected by man-made disasters, including wars and terrorism, which put humanitarian workers in harm’s way increasingly.
Despite this, IAS continues to engage in some of the most hard-to-reach areas and seek to alleviate the human suffering there. IAS is actively responding to various humanitarian situations in different countries. Notable in the past three months are rapid responses that IAS has engaged in as various disasters have unfolded.
In response to flooding that happened in Sri Lanka in May 2016, IAS partnered with local actors and rose up to alleviate the suffering of affected people. The floods led to the overflowing and back-flowing of toilet systems in the poorer areas of the city, in addition to the loss of household properties as water filled houses to about 6 feet for seven days. IAS responded by helping with the cleaning up of household and communal toilets in selected neighbourhoods of Kollonawa, Colombo, with the aim to enhance hygiene conditions and save lives. Outside the city of Colombo, in Hanwella, shallow water wells were filled with over-the-ground water, making the water unsafe for human consumption.
While a well-cleaning response was just commencing, part of the area was hit by another disaster as an army ordnance depot blew up and led to substantive destruction of property, including water wells. A response in the area has brought hope and smiles to the affected communities as they were struggling to find clean water. Above these, the dignity of women and children has been upheld by the provision of basic survival hygiene items.
Pictures: Sathees Kumar – Sri Lanka
Attacks by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region of Niger in June 2016 led to the displacement of communities in the area, with many of them flocking to the town of Diffa in Eastern Niger. IAS, being already engaged in the provision of clean water to the IDP communities there, engaged in the provision of basic household survival kits to help the newly displaced people. The basic critical household items, and some food, have helped the affected people to begin rebuilding their lives in difficult circumstances.
Pictures: Milward Mwamvani – Diffa, Niger
The effects of the El Nino phenomenon have been felt in various countries in Africa, mostly indicated by severe food and water shortages. IAS has been working in the Borena Zone of Ethiopia for several years, working on alleviating the acute shortage of potable water. With the setting in of this current drought, IAS has embarked on the provision of emergency water through truck deliveries, while the longer-term solution is being sought by the drilling of boreholes and construction of water collection ponds. This will help in alleviating the suffering of communities and control the forced migration that would have occurred due to the need.
Picture: Ketema Kinfe – IAS Ethiopia
While IAS has been engaged in responding to the crisis-affected communities in South Sudan over the past two years both in South Sudan and Uganda, the fresh outbreak of hostilities in Juba on July 7, 2016 has led to new levels of humanitarian needs. Leading to the evacuation of staff and temporary suspension of activities among affected people in South Sudan itself, the flight of South Sudanese women and children across the border and influx into Uganda has challenged the humanitarian community. Conditions continue to be dire in the reception centres and newly opened villages. IAS is responding to the WASH needs of the displaced people and striving to help them rebuild their lives. With most of the men restricted from leaving South Sudan, the women and children that arrive face many challenges (see our earlier story at http://www.ias-intl.org/response-to-the-South-Sudan-crisis).
Pictures: Julius Bitamazire and team – IAS Uganda
Facing the Challenge
So, as we commemorate this day, we think of the communities that have suffered, and continue to suffer, not only in Sri Lanka, Niger, Ethiopia, and South Sudan/Uganda, but also those in other places facing dire needs. We appreciate our supporting partners, largely in Sweden and Denmark, who have encouraged us and mobilised financial resources to enable us respond accordingly. So, as IAS we will rise up, hold hands with supporting partners, and engage in saving lives in the other hard-to- reach regions of Yemen, Lake Chad Region, Syria, Somalia, and beyond, and alleviate the suffering of communities in those areas, as we remain Fit for Purpose.
Milward Mwamvani – Humanitarian Coordinator – International Aid Services