WHD 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good news from the front lines of hunger

Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme

 The past year – my first as Executive Director of the World Food Programme – has vanished in a blur.  The unfolding crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries has kept all of us in the humanitarian community busy, but for me, it is the continuing crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa that has provided a constant backbeat to my first twelve months in this job.

I chose Niger as the first country I visited as Executive Director in April last year.  At the time, the country was at the epicentre of a drought that had affected the whole Sahel region, pushing millions into the protective arms of the humanitarian community.   Hunger gnawed at the very soul of people caught in the unforgiving lean season that precedes the arrival of crops from the new harvest.

Twelve months later, when I visited Burkina Faso and Mali, millions were still facing the prospect of the next hunger season.  But this time they were better equipped to cope, even though the simmering conflict in Mali had complicated matters by forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. 

In 2012, humanitarian agencies and national governments worked together to avert a potential catastrophe.  In 2013 we are helping those same communities continue on the road to recovery as they adapt to shifts in weather patterns that have made droughts more frequent and more severe.

This is all good news.  Lives have been saved and money has been invested in building resilience, ensuring the people of the Sahel are better equipped to cope with future droughts.  But does good news get the attention it deserves?

Blink and you would have missed any news coverage of the successful early intervention that prevented disaster in the Sahel in 2012. This year, the Sahel has barely registered on the news media radar.  I may have missed it, but I don’t recall seeing any coverage of the healthy babies I saw in Mopti, Mali when I visited a few weeks ago.

Good humanitarian stories, it seems, are not worthy subject matter for newspaper headlines or top billing on television news channels, even when the lives of millions are at stake and tax-payers’ money is being used efficiently to provide vital assistance.

It’s not so long ago that a television report featuring harrowing images of a starving child would open the floodgates of support, compelling governments and the public to respond, donating the cash that humanitarian agencies need to stop more children going hungry.  It is a formula that has worked again and again since the first televised famine in Ethiopia in 1984, and it has been difficult for humanitarian organisations to resist.

At some point or other, we have all been complicit in identifying a “poster child” to tug on the heartstrings of the public and encourage them to reach for their wallets.  But while this may have worked in the past, it is becoming increasingly obvious that people have seen and read enough about food shortages and famine to acquire a more questioning approach to the causes of hunger and the potential solutions.

Today, potential supporters are more likely to ask why after so much work has been done, are children still starving?  And what has been achieved after all the millions of dollars have been spent, when so many people are still vulnerable to hunger?  As humanitarian agencies we must answer these questions  ourselves, but we also depend on media organisations to help us deliver the message explaining the rationale behind our response as well as to highlight success when it is deserved.

Of course we don’t work for each other, but media organisations and humanitarian agencies do depend heavily on each other’s goodwill.  We support each other as we strive to fulfil our different missions, finding ourselves accidental partners at the scene of every disaster.

The Sahel in 2012 was no Biafra, nor was it Ethiopia in 1984, or Somalia in 2011.  But human suffering – that image of a severely malnourished child - should not be the measure of whether a story merits news coverage.  Our role in the humanitarian sector must be to inspire journalists to move beyond reporting that is driven primarily by images that exemplify our collective failure.  If it takes television footage of a starving child to move a donor into action then we are acting too late.

For more go to www.wfp.org
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Africa in control of its fortune

By Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International

Several African countries are amongst today’s fastest growing economies in the world, boosted in many instances by new discoveries of oil, natural gas and strategic mineral reserves. Extreme poverty on the continent is in decline, and progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals has accelerated. A number of very poor African countries, including Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia have made recent and substantial improvements in their levels of income equality.
Yet Africa’s impressive growth is not shared by millions of its people. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a third of the world's poorest people, and six of the top 10 most unequal countries in the world. Where income inequality is high, the benefits of economic growth are inaccessible to poor people. Poverty and exclusion are bad for social stability, preventing productive investment and undermining growth itself.
The continent’s potential is also being undermined by illicit capital hemorrhaging out of African countries – often in the form of tax evasion and trade mispricing by multinational oil, gas and mining companies, and in collusion with corrupt elected officials. In 2010, Africa’s oil, gas and mineral exports amounted to $333 billion in 2010. But estimates of illicit financial outflows from Africa are estimated as up to $200 billion annually, dwarfing the development aid it receives.
Together, income inequalities and illicit capital flows are cheating Africa of its wealth and potential for the investments in education, agriculture and healthcare needed to support productive citizens.
This month in Cape Town, African business and government leaders met at the World Economic Forum on Africa. My message to them was: For Africa to meet its real potential, you must stand behind the millions being left behind by economic growth. Otherwise, social and economic progress on the continent will be undermined.
The European Union last month agreed a deal on a law that will make oil, gas, mining and logging firms companies declare payments to governments in the countries where they operate. This bolsters similar, recent legislation in the United States under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and is excellent news. Transparency is a great disinfectant. It will put pressure on governments to account for how they spend money they receive from fees and royalties.
Some African states are making some of the right moves to manage resource wealth responsibly. In Ghana, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act has compelled quarterly disclosures of payments and production figures while in Liberia the voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been turned into a binding statutory requirement.
But Africa can’t do it alone. The private sector is the engine of Africa’s economy, and if working responsibly, holds the key to fair and sustainable economic development. Companies’ policies and practices must respect the rights of the people in the countries where they operate. Communities affected by extractive projects must be informed and consulted, and given the opportunity to approve or reject proposed operations.
For their part, Africa’s development partners can deliver aid which will promote good governance, and support civil society to keep their leaders accountable.
We are witnessing a scramble for Africa’s natural resource reminiscent of the period of the industrial revolution in Europe. It is urgent and imperative that policies are in place in each country to protect the rights and interests of African people, most especially those living in poverty. To sustain high growth rates, priority must be placed on forging inclusive policies that ensure that growth is both equitable and sustainable. Much more of the proceeds of the African resource boom need to go directly into education, health and nutrition and improving the productive capacities of the poorest citizens. If not, efforts to boost economic growth in a sustainable way will be undercut.
It is time for a new, fair deal for poor people in Africa, one that gets Africa’s resources working for all its people.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sahel: Millions need long-term support

By the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

The UN’s senior humanitarian representative in the Sahel region of West Africa has called on the international community to maintain its commitment to millions of people who face another year threatened by malnutrition, displacement, conflict and high food prices.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel and Assistant Secretary-General Robert Piper said that the region remained in crisis, even though the response to last year’s food crisis was “fast and substantial”.

“A lot of things went right in 2012 despite the scale of the challenges,” he said. “The temptation going into 2013 was to breathe a sigh of relief and take the foot off the humanitarian accelerator.
 “(But) we can’t take a year off just yet. The Sahel is still in crisis as a region.”

Over 10 million need food

A range of factors have left an estimated 10.3 million people in need of food assistance across the region. Many communities are still reeling from last year’s food crisis, which came less than two years after the previous one. Cereal prices remain high, exacerbated by floods in northern Nigeria (an area that produces 50 per cent of the Sahel’s cereals) as well as insecurity in Nigeria and Mali.

This insecurity and flooding have meant that pastoralists in Chad and Niger are cut off from Nigerian livestock markets, making it difficult for them to sell their cattle at the prices they need to make a living. Finally, continued Piper, many people need assistance because of the very deep nature of their vulnerability.

“We need to recognize that one reasonable agricultural season will not reverse the levels of acute vulnerability in the region,” he said. “Vulnerable households affected by cycles of ever-frequent crises don’t need much of a push to go under the emergency line.”

Funding thwarts efforts to tackle root causes of vulnerability

For 2013, UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have appealed for US$1.7 billion to help them support communities in the nine countries that make up the Sahel. To date, $473 million – about 28 per cent of what is needed – has been received.

“2013 is not the year to reduce our commitments to the Sahel,” said Piper. He noted that the type of funding received was limiting the ability of agencies to respond effectively to the crisis.

Forty-three per cent of the funding that has been received has been directed towards short-term food aid. While this has ensured that 1.2 million people across the region received food assistance in the first two months of 2013, it also meant that aid agencies were constrained in their ability to address the root causes of vulnerability.

“The resources that are being received are slanted to particular sectors,” Piper said. “They do not allow us to tackle the root causes of vulnerability in the Sahel.”

For example, agricultural projects that are designed to help communities build resilience against disasters and break the cycle of aid dependence have received only five per cent of the financial support they need. Only 108,000 of the estimated 5.9 million farmers in need received seeds ahead of the May 2013 planting season, meaning that many millions may face a third year of crisis in 2014.

“Last year’s response to the food crisis was extraordinarily good,” said Piper. “(But) we need to learn from this success. Our record for 2013 looks less promising but it’s not too late.”

The need for greater investment in addressing the root causes of vulnerability will be a major focus of the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that is being held in Geneva this week. This event will see governments, the UN and the wider humanitarian and development communities continue to explore the global framework for reducing disaster risk. It comes on the heels of a new report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) that warned that direct losses from disasters have been underestimated by at least 50 per cent, and have cost the global economy in the range of $2.5 trillion since the start of this century alone.
The need for greater investment in addressing the root causes of vulnerability will be a major focus of the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that is being held in Geneva this week. This event will see governments, the UN and the wider humanitarian and development communities continue to explore the global framework for reducing disaster risk. It comes on the heels of a new report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) that warned that direct losses from disasters have been underestimated by at least 50 per cent, and have cost the global economy in the range of $2.5 trillion since the start of this century alone.

For more go to http://www.unocha.org/rowca/
Follow OCHA for West and Central Africa on Twitter

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Defusing the Sahel time bomb – ECHO Director General visits the Sahel


At the beginning of the 2013 lean season in the Sahel, when people´s resources and food reserves start running low, ECHO´s Director General, Claus Sørensen, visited the region. Here is what he found on the ground.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rapport malnutrition 2013

Par l'Unicef

Un nouveau rapport de l'Unicef révèle le lourd tribut que payent les enfants du monde à la malnutrition. Un enfant de moins de 5 ans sur quatre souffre d'un retard de croissance, ce qui a des conséquences lourdes sur la santé, mais aussi sur tout le développement des pays concernés. Des solutions simples et efficaces, mises en oeuvre par l'Unicef, ses partenaires et les Etats, existent. Et participent ainsi à la lutte contre la pauvreté.

Pour plus visitez www.unicef.org
suivez Unicef sur Twitter

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mali in crisis. The power of music

By Oxfam

Music is the heart of Mali - the country is known throughout the world for its talented musicians. In this short film, Malian musicians tell how conflict has devastated the North of the country and how people are working across the divides for peace and development.

This film was produced by Oxfam in collaboration with the Sahel Calling project.

For more go to http://www.oxfam.org/fr and http://www.sahelcalling.com/
Follow Oxfam on Twitter
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mohammed: Great cost to go to secondary school 

By Mohammed, a teenage boy living in Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso / Through Plan


Displaced by the Mali conflict, Mohammed’s family has borrowed all the money they can to send him to school, while they stay in Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso.

21 March 2013: I am extremely excited today, like every Friday afternoon. I am going back home to spend the weekend with my family. This is my life now here in Mentao.

Since we arrived in this part of Burkina Faso, fleeing the troubles in Timbuktu, I have been somehow parted from my parents. That was the only solution for me to stay in school. In the Mentao camp, where we live, there are no secondary schools - only primary schools run by Plan. The closest secondary school is in Djibo, about 50 kilometres from the camp.

At the beginning of the school year, we discussed it with my dad. He said I had to go to Djibo to study but that means I would have to become “more independent” and learn to be “on my own”.

Learning to survive

This is so new for me. With dad and other parents of the camps, we found a house to rent in Djibo. There are 6 of us in this small 3 bed house. The rent is paid by our parents and there is a woman from the camp who is coming once or twice a week to cook for us.

When we started living on our own, I just thought, ‘this is great, this is what I have always wanted to have - my own place’. Over the past months, I have learnt that there are strings attached to this gift.

The simple things I was not bothered to think about are now all mine. From turning the light off while leaving the house, to making sure doors are locked, taking care of bills and liaising between the landlord and my parents.

Education cost

My dad said it is a learning curve and that it is how I learn to become adult. Perhaps he is right. I don’t care that much because I strangely discovered a new passion for my studies here in Mentao.

I have always been quite good in school. But now I have a strong reason to be studious. My dad has paid over 140 000 FCFA (US$254) to get me and my brother into the private school I am attending. There was no place left in the overcrowded government-owned Lycée provincial in Djibo.

My parents sold a lot of our belongings and borrowed money from friends and relatives to make it happen. I feel there is an extra pressure on me to perform. I have been reading my lessons and doing my homework every day without failing.

So proud

I was so proud when I brought my first term results and I had so many good marks. I think my dad was relieved too. I heard my dad talk about next year and his worries about his ability to keep us in school, because of the high fees. I am worried too.

Many of my friends in Mentao camp don’t go to school anymore. They have dropped-out because there is no secondary school in the camp and their parents cannot afford the fees of the private schools in Djibo, plus the rent.

They spend all their days doing nothing in the camp. That is really sad. I know I am lucky. I often share my school experiences with them and I can see they envy me somehow. We all hope things will get better and all of us will be able to attend school.

Plan support

Like many secondary school teenagers in Mentao, my brother Abdul and I have applied for a bursary with Plan. We are praying we will receive the money to help our parents, who are clearly struggling to make ends meet.

My friend Muhammed, is hoping this bursary will help him go back to school - he hates staying at home all day long doing nothing.

The other day we were discussing about this school thing during our weekend stay in Mentao. A friend said he overheard his parents talking about a Plan project to build a new school building in the government owned Lycée provincial in Djibo, so that there are spaces for all of us.

Things are looking great thanks to all these projects going on. I now envy my friends who are enjoying a gap year in Mentao camp and will certainly be back to school when the new school year starts in October next year.

For more go to http://plan-international.org/
Follow Plan on Twitter
Read more blogs from teenagers in the Mali conflict

Monday, May 13, 2013

Local factory provides home-grown response to malnutrition in the Niger

By Bob Coen, UNICEF

A new report by UNICEF reveals the high prevalence of stunting in children under 5, but also outlines the tremendous opportunities that exist to make it a problem of the past. A factory in Niamey is transforming the way the Niger responds to the threat of malnutrition. It is also transforming the local economy.

In just five years, the company has been able to provide
100 per cent of the country’s ready-to-use therapeutic food.
In 2012, that food treated 370,000 children.
A few hundred metres from the banks of the mighty Niger River, where the routines of fishers and farmers continue as they have for centuries, a modest factory is transforming how this West African nation responds to the threat of malnutrition.
Societé Transformation d’Alimentaire (STA) is a wholly owned and operated Nigerien enterprise in the nation’s capital, Niamey. Within the walls of its plant, personnel work shifts on a gleaming, high-tech assembly line. They turn out carton after carton of a peanut-based ready-to-use therapeutic food, the go-to product for treating severe acute malnutrition in children.

Response to multiple food crises

Since 2005, the Niger has experienced several serious food crises, which have threatened hundreds of thousands of children with severe acute malnutrition. In 2006, UNICEF decided to enter into a unique partnership with the still-fledging STA to help it develop its capacity to manufacture ready-to-use foods locally. In just five years, the company has been able to provide 100 per cent of the country’s ready-to-use food; in 2012, STA delivered 2,800 tonnes of the food, which treated 370,000 children.
“[Ready-to-use-foods] have brought about a real revolution in the treatment of children suffering from malnutrition because these are products that meet international standards and the needs of children,” says UNICEF Niger Deputy Representative Isselmou Boukhary. “They are also extremely easy to use in the health centres, and especially at home, which is important in a country like Niger.”
“We are very happy about this collaboration,” says STA Deputy General Manager Ismael Barmou, watching trucks being loaded with cartons of the food to be taken to the UNICEF central warehouse. “One of the things we’re most proud of is to be able to be competitive in the international market. So, it’s a win and win partnership, especially for the end use, which are the kids in Niger that are in need of nutritional solutions.”

“Soon he will be running”

Women grind peanuts in Tchadoua. These locally farmed peanuts
are the main ingredient of ready-to-use therapeutic food,
which is produced by UNICEF partner Societé
Transformation d’Alimentaire
Some 700 km from the factory, Nana Hassia has reported to her local health centre with her 20-month-old son Hassan, who is recovering from severe acute malnutrition. A health worker carefully weighs and measures the boy. Ms. Hassia is given a week’s supply of the ready-to-use food, which she will use to treat Hassan at home.
With five other children to care for, Ms. Hassia says, “It’s a big advantage for me to be able to treat my child from home and not have to keep him at the health centre.”
Once home, all she needs to do is to tear open the sachet of paste for Hassan, which he quickly and eagerly devours. The food is given five times a day.
The results are nothing short of remarkable. In a matter of days, most children are already gaining weight and strength. “I’m so happy,” says Ms. Hassia, as she feeds Hassan. “I can see my child getting stronger, and soon he will be running.”

Supplies when and where they are needed

In order for ready-to-use food to be available to mothers like Ms. Hassia when they arrive for their weekly appointments at health centres, it is essential that there be a reliable supply chain of the product – a reason that having a local supplier is so important. “It makes our supply chain much more efficient and easier to manage,” explains UNICEF Niger Supply and Procurement Manager Stephane Arnaud.
Before the partnership with STA, UNICEF imported large shipments of the food via the neighbouring port of Lomé, Togo, which would require months of planning. Getting the product from the STA factory to the more than 900 health centres around the Niger is much simpler, says Mr. Arnaud. “Having it locally, I can reduce my costs of warehousing – and it’s also much easier to manage for the shelf life of the product.”

Benefit to the local economy

The UNICEF–STA partnership has also had a positive impact on the local economy.  The company employs more than 100 people in its manufacturing plant, as well as scores of women at an adjoining facility who inspect and clean the peanuts by hand.  At agricultural markets in the various farming centres around the country, wholesalers can purchase sacks of peanuts directly from farmers. Hundreds of other people are employed as peanut shredders.
“I’m really happy and also proud to know that there’s a company here in Niger that is using peanuts to make this special food for children,” says peanut farmer Hassan Nomao.
“I’m happy because I know that these peanuts are going to help save a lot of children.”
Pour plus visitez www.unicef.org

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuareg refugees in Niger herd their livestock to safety

By Bernard Ntwari /UNHCR / Intikane, Niger

The long column of animals – flanked by men sitting high in the saddle – headed eastwards at a steady pace, raising clouds of dust on the trek towards new pastures.

It may sound like a scene from a Western, but this drama was being played out thousands of miles away and across an ocean in the West African nation of Niger. The cast includes 800 animals, ethnic Tuareg nomads from Mali and the UN refugee agency.
Tuareg nomads from Mali head eastwards on their camels
during the livestock drive in Niger. © UNHCR/B.Ntwari
In late April, the caravan of camels, cattle, donkeys, goats, sheep and three horses left the refugee settlement at Agando, about 10 kilometres from the border with Mali, and began the three-day trek to Intikane, a vast area where the Tuaregs will be able to live in an open area and lead their traditional nomadic lifestyle in safety.

All of the 8,000 refugees at Agando and nearby Chinourawen village fled to western Niger with their animals to escape the fighting that erupted in northern Mali early last year or because of continued insecurity or fear of reprisals since January this year, when a French-led counter-attack pushed back rebel forces.

The Niger government's decision to move the Tuaregs to Intikane was based on security grounds: Agando is located just 10 kilometres from the border in an area that remains unstable. It was also a way of letting them lead a more normal life.

"Helping refugees to move their animals will allow them to maintain their livelihoods and to continue living as pastoralists and nomads rather than ending up in a refugee camp dwellers and dependent on aid," noted Karl Steinacker, UNHCR 's representative in Niger.

The Tuaregs were involved in the relocation process from the start. "We held several meetings and we worked out an itinerary," said Mouhamoud Abdoulaye Al Kan Afi. "We were able to go and see Intikane. It is suitable for us and for our animals," added the respected refugee elder, who rode his horse like a young man and was one of the chief herdsmen.

UNHCR brought in local partner, Akarass, to help organize the caravan, which was a major logistical operation. "We worked on every detail: there were water points along the way and food for the herdsmen," said the NGO's Oumarou Danni Saadou, adding that gendarmes on camel-back provided security.

The health of the animals was looked after by a vet, and on arrival at Intikane all the animals were given vaccinations to prevent the spread of disease among livestock owned by the local community.

The three-kilometre-long train of animals arrived in Intikane to a warm reception from the local community. "The refugees and their animals are welcome. What happened to them could happen to anyone," said the village headman, Alghadawi Ilhouda. "We have to support them by sharing our water and pasture," he added in an arid area of scrub and sand.

Some of the Malian herders were delighted to discover that there was a well at Intikane, operated by powerful pumps and generators that had been rehabilitated by UNHCR. "This is simply like rain," said one refugee, Omar Mouhamadou. The 700-metre-deep well also benefits the local community in this part of Niger's Tahoua region, where the Sahel region meets the Sahara.

The Niger government, with help from UNHCR, plans to bring other communities of refugees to safer pastures deeper inside the country over the coming weeks. But unlike the animals and their drovers, most of the refugees will make the journey on convoys prepared by UNHCR's partner, the International Organization for Migration.

UNHCR is protecting and assisting some 50,000 Malian refugees in Niger. They are among more than 175,000 Malian refugees in surrounding countries, including Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

For more go to www.unhcr.org

Monday, May 6, 2013

Burkina Faso : la crise oubliée

Par Héloïs Ellien, Croix Rouge Française

Au Burkina Faso comme dans de nombreux pays sahéliens, l’hivernage s’annonce au gré des premières pluies chaudes que l’harmattan vient balayer dans un tourbillon de poussière qu’il suspend pour quelques mois au ciel, où s’accrochent les espoirs et les craintes des Burkinabè.

Espoirs de voir les pluies cesser pour ne pas avoir à compter par centaines les victimes des inondations. Craintes de n’en recevoir que trop peu et subir une des pires crises alimentaires de l’histoire du pays… Depuis quelques années, le Burkina semble polariser les conséquences directes ou indirectes des drames que subit l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Un poids difficile à porter pour ce petit pays enclavé.

De la crise alimentaire à l’afflux de réfugiés

Ils sont des dizaines de milliers à avoir fui les violences et traversé la frontière qui mène du Mali au Burkina Faso. Et leur nombre n’a fait qu’augmenter. A l’image de la mosaïque des communautés qui peuplent habituellement le Nord Mali, ces réfugiés sont Tamasheks, Touaregs, Bellas ou encore Peuls. Avant d’être transférés dans les cinq camps de réfugiés que compte aujourd’hui le Burkina, ils ont d’abord été accueillis dans des camps de fortune. Comme souvent dans un pays qu’une crise humanitaire vient frapper de plein fouet et avant même que l’aide internationale ne se mobilise, peu d’acteurs étaient présents pour assurer l’acheminement d’un minimum d’aide et de soutien. La Croix-Rouge Burkinabè (CRBF) était de ceux-là. Depuis plus d’un an maintenant, les différentes branches de la CRBF sont sans cesse sollicitées, aussi bien par les autorités nationales que par les acteurs internationaux, pour les distributions de biens de première nécessité, la construction d’abris, l’accès à l’eau et à l’assainissement, etc. Les volontaires répartis sur tout le territoire, comme les personnels du siège central, sont actifs sur tous les fronts de l’urgence, tandis que le nombre de réfugiés ne cesse de croître.

Une collaboration nouvelle

Au fil des mois, les contacts se sont multipliés entre Ouagadougou et Paris. Une délégation de la CRBF s’est même rendue au siège parisien de la Croix-Rouge française (CRF) afin d’envisager les modalités d’un partenariat entre les deux Sociétés nationales, pour tenter de répondre aux besoins immédiats, mais également en vue d’une collaboration sur le long terme. Car outre les crises récurrentes, la situation économique et sociale du Burkina Faso en fait l’un des pays les moins développés de la planète[1]. Une situation qui avait déjà amené les Croix-Rouge française et burkinabè à collaborer entre 2002 et 2004 et à maintenir des liens forts depuis une dizaine d’années.
C’est à travers l’angle psychosocial qu’a été mise en place une évaluation initiale, en octobre 2012. Encore trop peu développé lors des situations de crise, le soutien psychosocial aux populations s’est rapidement imposé comme une évidence pour Stéphan Richard. Délégué des missions internationales au sein de la délégation française de Côte d’Ivoire, ce psychologue de formation a été dépêché durant un mois au Burkina Faso. Au contact direct des réfugiés et au sein même des camps de Mentao, Damba ou Gandafabou, Stéphan a pu se rendre compte de l’ampleur des besoins chez ces populations déracinées, sans moyen de subsistance, sans écoute, parfois sans parent ou famille auxquels se raccrocher. C’est aussi leur capacité à se relever, leur résilience qui est mise en danger.

Favoriser la résilience des réfugiés et des populations hôtes

C’est par ce même constat qu’a débuté la mission d’Anne-Sophie Dupeyras. La nouvelle « représentante pays » a rejoint Stéphan Richard deux semaines seulement après le début des évaluations, avec pour objectif de mettre en place les futurs projets de la CRF au Burkina Faso. Pour cette ancienne travailleuse sociale et membre du pool urgence de la CRF, « le soutien psychosocial doit être la pierre angulaire de la collaboration entre les deux Sociétés nationales ». Et les événements récents ont malheureusement conforté les premiers constats. Depuis l’engagement des forces françaises et internationales dans le conflit malien, le nombre de réfugiés va sans cesse croissant. Et avec eux, le nombre de sollicitations pour leur venir en aide.
Ce secteur d’intervention, prioritaire pour la Société nationale de la Croix-Rouge, a su mobiliser l’intérêt de l’ensemble du Mouvement. La Croix-Rouge suédoise cherche actuellement à mobiliser des moyens lui permettant de soutenir l’initiative. Le Haut commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), qui est en charge de l’accueil et de la protection des réfugiés est aujourd’hui en demande d’opérateurs de terrain supplémentaires : « notre stratégie d’intervention psychosociale a attiré l’attention du HCR et nous sommes actuellement en négociation avec eux pour le financement et la mise en place d’activités dans troiscamps au nord du pays », raconte Anne-Sophie Dupeyras.
Des négociations qui, compte tenu de la situation des réfugiés, ont rapidement donné lieu à la naissance d’un premier projet d’urgence, toujours à l’initiative de la représentante pays : « connaissant notre expertise dans les situations d’urgence, le HCR a souhaité que nous prenions en charge les soins de santé des réfugiés sur un camp proche de la capitale où la CRBF et d’autres Sociétés nationales étaient déjà très actives dans le domaine des distributions, de l’approvisionnement en eau et de l’assainissement ». Après une phase d’évaluation rapide et le déploiement de trois délégués des équipes de réponses aux urgences (ERU), la CRF est aujourd’hui en phase d’initiation de ce projet visant à renforcer l’accès aux soins à proximité du camp de Saagnioniogo, mais également à la prise en charge de tous les patients référencés depuis les différents camps du pays jusqu’à la capitale.

Renforcer les capacités de la Société nationale

Les conséquences opérationnelles de la crise et le développement rapide de programmes d’urgence ont également rappelé à tous les membres du Mouvement international Croix-Rouge et Croissant-Rouge l’importance de la coordination dans le soutien à la CRBF. A l’initiative de son directeur national, les différents représentants de la Croix-Rouge belge, luxembourgeoise, monégasque, espagnole, française, ainsi que du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge et de la Fédération internationale, ont élaboré ensemble un plan de contingence. Destiné à mieux anticiper les différents scénarii à venir et surtout, les ressources et moyens à mettre en œuvre dans la capitale et les différentes provinces. Pour tous, la coordination reste un enjeu majeur, tant dans la réponse immédiate aux besoins que dans la construction de stratégies de développement pérennes.

De nombreux défis à relever

La stratégie d’intervention de la CRF ne s’arrête effectivement pas seulement à la seule réponse directe à la crise malienne. En effet, les sites d’accueil des réfugiés maliens sont situés dans des zones de vie où les populations hôtes sont extrêmement paupérisées. Leurs besoins doivent ainsi être pris en compte au même titre que ceux des réfugiés, pour préserver un cadre propice à la culture de paix et de non-violence si chère à la population burkinabé. Les différentes évaluations menées sur le terrain auprès des populations ont mis en exergue d’autres types de besoins, nécessitant une approche transversale et complémentaire aux activités de la CRBF et des autres Sociétés nationales. C’est à ce titre que la province du Soum a attiré l’attention de la Croix-Rouge française. Située au nord du pays, cette région du Sahel est particulièrement pauvre. Régulièrement touchée par des périodes de forte insécurité alimentaire, elle accueille aujourd’hui près de la moitié des réfugiés maliens.
En complément des activités actuellement menées par d’autres Sociétés nationales (sécurité alimentaire, prévention et prise en charge de la malnutrition, amélioration des conditions d’accès à l’eau), la CRF finalise actuellement la conception de deux projets : le premier destiné à soutenir les agriculteurs des zones rurales et le second - soutenu par la Fondation Chanel - visant à améliorer les conditions de vie et l’autonomisation des femmes. En apportant outils, moyens et ressources de départ à des foyers ne possédant rien ou presque, la CRF souhaite leur permettre d’accroître leurs rendements agricoles par l’introduction de techniques innovantes et la mise à disposition de machines et outils, notamment. L’objectif est de générer des revenus, de promouvoir les rencontres entre ces communautés (réfugiées ou autochtones) et les autorités publiques, de créer des réseaux transversaux et viables.
L’abnégation de la population burkinabé et de la Croix-Rouge est à l’image de l’engagement fort et sincère du gouvernement qui reste très attentif aux besoins des populations réfugiées. Si le « pays des hommes intègres » a malheureusement pris l’habitude de faire face à bon nombre d’épreuves, jamais il n’a été confronté à une telle situation. Alors que le Mali voisin reste la priorité des médias et des bailleurs internationaux, le Burkina Faso ne doit pas être oublié. Et dans ce combat quotidien pour alléger les souffrances, toutes les initiatives comptent.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Challenges ahead for displaced people hoping to return home


By the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies


In a camp for people forced from their homes by conflict in northern Mali, 600 people -- mostly women and children -- live in misery. 30 tents, some kiosks and a makeshift dwelling here and there form a labyrinth within the camp in Sévaré, a town in the region of Mopti. It is now home to 70 families.

Standing in front of a tent provided by the Mali Red Cross, Nana Traoré, a 52-year-old widow, is preparing breakfast for her eight children. On the menu is half a glass of boiled millet without milk or sugar for each child. "It is not enough but it's better than nothing," says Nana, who, a few months before her arrival in the camp, wandered the streets of Sévaré, begging for food to feed her family. "I lost my husband who was my sole support during an attack in Kidal," she says. "After his death, I fled with my children. Imagine this long march on foot and in trucks, with eight children."

A few feet away, her neighbour, Jaffar Maiga, 56, sings to comfort his two children who have not yet taken breakfast. His smile cannot hide his anxiety. A little more than a year ago, before the outbreak of the crisis, he was a prosperous farmer who lived in the circle of Bourel in the region of Gao. "I was the chief of the village of Derrienne and I had hectares of rice and millet fields which allowed me to feed my family properly," said Jaffar. "Today, with no work and no activity, I am forced to beg to survive."
The crisis in northern Mali has displaced thousands of people, including more than 260,000 who have fled to safety in other parts of the country. Many have arrived in their new home on foot, donkey, or by truck. Most arrive with nothing.

An estimated 40,000 people have sought refuge in the Mopti region, accepting assistance offered by host families or in camps. But the assistance, although well-intentioned, is not enough. They live in very poor conditions. And despite northern cities having been cleared of insurgents by Malian and French troops, people are reluctant to return home.

"We lost everything during the crisis. I do not even know what happened to my fields and my livestock," said Jaffar. "Returning home means restarting my life from zero. Without money to buy seeds and tools, it is impossible to cultivate my fields. So it is better to stay here."

Jaffar and his neighbours from the north now survive thanks to aid provided by humanitarian agencies, including the Mali Red Cross. They have received food and essential items including tents, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, soap, and kitchen utensils, as well as medical care. "Security is not guaranteed if we go home," said Nana Traoré. "At least here we are assisted."
For more go to www.ifrc.org