Monthly Archives: May 2017

Reaching out to refugees affected by fire in Zambia

Fleeing your home due to conflict and fear of persecution and getting away from the only life you have known is difficult. This is harder if you are a refugee, with barely any means of survival or a source of income, and your business is razed to the ground by a fire.

This was the experience of at least 55 refugees who owned businesses in Lusaka City Market before a section of the market was burnt down on 4th July 2017, destroying goods worth millions of Kwacha and affecting hundreds of families’ livelihoods.

The 55 refugees, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, depend on humanitarian support from UNHCR through its implementing partners. Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) is one of these implementing partners. As much as the market fire resulted in loss of livelihoods for refugee entrepreneurs, the stress was compounded with cases of high blood pressure and two cases of stroke among the refugee victims. The two cases of stroke were reported within seven days of the fire incident.

On 3rd August 2017, AAH-I facilitated a stress management session for refugee victims of the market fire. Through community volunteers, the refugees were mobilized to the venue of the event, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kanyama.

The objectives of the stress management session were to identify victims with high risk of high blood pressure, to give refugees a space to share their experiences as a way of mental stress relief, and to allow project staff and health professionals to gain insights into the situation.

The first activity involved medical screening by AAH-I’s Health Coordinator Wycliffe Matende. Out of 31 refugees screened, a total of 26 (12 male and 14 female) presented blood pressure above 120/80 mmHg. The range was 130/90 – 190/120 mmHg. Those identified with high blood pressure were put on regular monitoring at nearest health facilities or referred to the Health Coordinator’s office for appropriate medical advice. Contact numbers of health staff were shared for future urgent needs.

AAH Zambia’s Wyclliffe Matende (R) screening fire victims for high blood pressure

Following the screening was an open session for the victims to openly share their experiences. On hand to encourage them was psychiatrist Dr Eddie Mbewe, a lecturer and the Head of the Psychiatry Department at Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka. The session concluded with distribution of second-hand clothes and insecticide-treated mosquito nets for the victims. Each received two mosquito nets and three items of clothing.

Psychiatrist Eddie Mbewe (L) talking to the fire victims

Refugee leader Benard Lukungu (R) assisting with distribution of clothes

“Thank you for organizing this event, and for bringing in a doctor to support us. His words have encouraged us and helped to allay our anxieties. May God bless you and AAH-I for making this session possible”, said the refugee leader Benard Lukungu, on behalf of participants.

AAH Zambia has been implementing the Urban Refugee Project through provision of social, health and psychological services to vulnerable urban refugees. Since 2011, we have facilitated social support to refugees in Chawama, George, Kanyama and Mandevu outreach centers.

Elwak: Working with communities to achieve the SDG 6 on Clean Water & Sanitation

My children were frequently being hospitalized with acute watery diarrhoea and cholera. As the sole breadwinner after my husband’s death in 2016 in a militia attack, the medical expenses were placing a huge strain on my budget. I am vey thankful to the people who came to our village and taught us about the importance and benefits of good sanitation,” says Ijabo Ahmed Hirsi, a resident of Waberi 1 Bulla, Elwak district.

Ijabo says she never attributed the frequent illnesses in the family to the practice of open defecation practice and poor hand washing habits in her household. She attended Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) mobilization and awareness meetings conducted by Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) in partnership with the Nomadic Assistance for Peace and Development (NAPAD). With their support a pit latrine was constructed in her homestead.

The challenge of open defecation is equity and dignity and safety, especially for women and girls. Ijabo agrees with this. “For my own privacy, I would wait for night fall or walk long distances whenever I needed to use a toilet. In addition, I did not practice hand washing.”

My six children and I can now access to a pit larine in our own homestead. We also had a hand washing facility with water and soap fitted for us. “My privacy has been restored and I no longer have to worry about rape, harassment or the shame of using bushes as a toilet.”

Ijabo and three of her children outside their pit latrine

My privacy has been restored and I no longer have to worry about rape, harassment or the shame of using bushes as a toilet – Ijabo

With support from Bread for the World, AAH-I has been implementing the ‘Integrated community rehabilitation programme’ in Elwak District, Gedo region. One of the goals of the project is to improve and maternal and newborn health in the region by 2018. The project is complementing one of the targets (achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations) of Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The CLTS approach prioritizes behavioural change beyond mere toilet construction. Emphasis is placed on community mobilisation instead of individual households, in order to create open defecation-free villages.

“I thank NAPAD and AAH-I for introducing this good idea and fighting a social problem that affects many households in our locality,” concludes Ijabo

Mogadishu: Championing for peace through football

The joy and pride of the Yemeni refugee community football club was palpable when they scored five goals against Benadir football club’s three goals in a penalty shoot-out, at a match held during the World Refugee day in Mogadishu.

Events to mark the day were coordinated by Action Africa Help International (AAH-I), in partnership with the National High Commission For Refugees & IDPs (NCRI) in Somalia.

Yemeni refugee community football club celebrating their win

The day began with speeches and a networking session at the Al Jazeera Hotel, which was attended by the refugee community, government officials and development partners.

Deputy Mayor Abdullahi Elmi Erag thanked humanitarian agencies for supporting refugees. He promised continued support of refugees by developing channels for communication to ensure that their grievances are heard and their registration followed through to support their safety.

NCRI Commissioner Ahmed Dahir highlighted the role of NCRI as a government commission whose major role is coordination and monitoring of services refugees. “We work with development agencies to ensure that refugees can access humanitarian assistance according to need and without adverse discrimination.”

AAH-I’s Mogadishu Project Manager Abdullahi Keinan spoke on behalf of development partners supporting refugees in south central Somalia. The International Rescue Committee provides cash assistance, Hannano hospital provides medical services while NCRI provides livelihood support to make refugees self-reliant. With support from UNHCR, AAH Somalia operates two warehouses from where core relief items are dispatched within the region. In addition, AAH-I is supporting inclusive and equitable quality education for refugee children in Somalia by running the Yemeni Community School in Mogadishu. He thanked the government for coordination of humanitarian activities and provision of general security in Mogadishu.

Internally displaced communities thriving in dry season agriculture in Wau, South Sudan

Vegetable growers groups from Hai Kresh and Lokoloko communities in Wau State, South Sudan, participated in a field day on 13th June 2017, where they had the opportunity to showcase their vegetable fields, which they set up in February 2017. The farmers are growing eggplant, okra, tomatoes and amaranth.

Eggplant ready for harvest at the Hai Kresh farm

The vegetable plots in Hai Kresh and Lokoloko are two of three demonstration plots established by Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) with support from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), under the ‘Dry season vegetable project’. The third demonstration plot at New Site was closed down due to armed conflict in the area.

The field day was attended by local community members, government officials from Wau State, a representative from FAO, a representative from UNHCR and representatives from AAH-I.

“Before we started participating in the project, we had challenges in providing for our families during the dry season, while the vegetables would rot before harvest in the wet season. The knowledge we have gained in the project to grow our vegetables during the dry season has helped us mitigate Bacterial Wilt causing rotting of taproots,” said Rizig Peter, a facilitator in the project.

Hon. Peter Opiyo, acting Agriculture Minister and Physical Infrastructure and Reconstruction Minister (in red tie) with Lokoloko Chairman Rasas Mohammed Rasas (in green cap) during a tour of Lokoloko demonstration plot.

“Women are among the most affected people during armed conflict,” said the Minister. “I encourage women in the project to learn as much as they can from the demonstration plots, to take advantage of river Jur for irrigation and to use the knowledge to start kitchen gardens.” According to data collected by the project’s Field Extension Supervisor Oliver Yasona before the project launch, only 1 in every 10 households has a backyard garden of indigenous vegetables.

Martin Damazo (4th left) from the Ministry of Agriculture, facilitating a training on good agricultural practices

Kale at Hai Kresh farm

The tour of the demonstration plots culminated in a luncheon and speeches held at the AAH-I Wau office.

Guests and project partners during a luncheon held after the field day at the AAH-I Wau field office

“We are applaud the resilience of the people of Wau and are proud that they determined to ensure that the project succeeded, despite reports of armed conflict at the New Site. At AAH-I we believe in partnerships. We are grateful for the support we received from the Ministry of Agriculture, especially in their seconding of extension staff to work in the project. This ensures sustainability,” said Richard Ofwono, AAH-I Head of Programmes in South Sudan.

“Do not let the lessons you have learnt go to waste,” AAH-I Wau Field Officer, Officer in Charge Juma Aloro emphasized. Director General, Ministry of Agriculture in Wau State Edward Lino agreed. “Don’t wait for a second set of inputs. You have already received enough support to start you off. Go out as ambassadors and together let’s tackle food insecurity in this State,” he concluded.

The objective of the ‘Dry season vegetable project’ is to support the most vulnerable food insecure people in the area to produce vegetables to alleviate hunger, fight malnutrition and improve their livelihoods. It targets especially women, who make up about 60% of the beneficiaries, and vulnerable children and internally displaced people. Besides receiving vegetable seeds and farm tools, the farmer groups also received training on vegetable production and post harvest management through the farmers’ field school method. They also took part in exchange visits