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Archive for May 26th, 2013

A day in the life of a family hosting Syrian refugees

Posted by African Press International on May 26, 2013

SAADNAYEL, BEKAA VALLEY,  – Two years ago, as Syrian refugees began streaming across borders, Lebanese families opened up their homes. Unlike in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are being housed in camps, at the beginning of the influx into Lebanon, the majority of refugees were hosted by families. Some Lebanese households to ok in as many as six refugee families.

But as the conflict next-door has dragged on and the number of refugees in Lebanon has grown, so too has the burden on their Lebanese hosts.Today, most of the 425,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon are renting homes or apartments; with only 6 percent hosted by families, according to a survey by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).IRIN spent a day with some Lebanese hosts, bringing you this portrait of a family trying to balance obligation and sacrifice.

It was a series of twists of fate
that brought together two families – one Lebanese, one Syrian – that did not know one another.They met 15 years ago in a shared cab on the way to Syria, where the Lebanese family often shopped for cheaper products. Becoming friends, they met once or twice a year in Syria after that.

When Israel began bombing Lebanon in 2006, as part of a war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the Lebanese family fled to Syria, where their new acquaintances hosted them for one month.

Six years later, the tables were turned.

On a sunny Thursday morning, Hannan is preparing a simple Lebanese breakfast of bread and vegetables for guests in the small Sunni village of Saadanayel, in Lebanon’s eastern Beka’a Valley.

Houda, 7, Bassima, 14, and their grandparents Sadika and Mohammad are seated on the floor of the living room, preparing to eat.

Hannan has been hosting the family of seven Syrian refugees in her humble two-bedroom house for the last five months. The children’s parents, Fadia and Houssam, have been out since early morning, like every day, searching for jobs in the surrounding cities of the Beka’a Valley. Their third child, 10-year-old Kamal, is out fetching water.

When their neighbourhood near the Syrian capital Damascus was bombed in December 2012, Fadia and Houssam called the only people they knew in Lebanon, and Hannan immediately responded.

“It’s a pity. They had nowhere to go,” she said. “I couldn’t say no. It would have been an offence against God not to help them.”

Hannan’s husband has a second wife, and only sleeps at the house every other day. Their five grown children do not live at home any more. So Hannan gave up her bedroom for the young Syrian couple, and is now sharing the second room with the grandparents and three children.

She spends her morning with the grandparents, interrupting their chit-chat every five minutes to take laundry off the clothesline, prepare coffee, garden, and watch over the refugee children playing in the field next door (They arrived in Lebanon too late in the year to enrol in school).

Everyone helps out with the household tasks, even Sadika, who has arthritis and leg pains. Fadia helps with the cooking and cleaning when she gets home from the job search. But as far as Hannan is concerned, that’s the easy part.

“I am used to cooking a lot of food for my visitors, so I don’t mind cooking for 10 people. It is not the logistical side which is difficult. It is the financial side,” she whispers. “We are struggling to get enough food for everyone.”

The Syrian family has run out of money, so she, her husband and her seven guests live off the little money her husband gets from his pension, from their rented out horse pen, and from the garlic they grow in the backyard, which they trade for other vegetables.

They have cut back on meat almost completely and Hannan and her husband no longer buy new clothes or things for the house.

“I don’t want to tell them that it’s difficult, because I fear God,” Hannan says. “In 2006 when I stayed at their place it was different. I was staying with the grandparents, and it was only for a month.”

Around midday, the visitors begin stopping by. First it is the neighbours; then shisha-smoking friends of Hannan’s son, some of them Lebanese soldiers; then her own friends. They pass the time under the shadows of trees in the garden. The coffee is always flowing. The visits do not stop until late afternoon.

They chat about everything and nothing, and when the discussion turns towards the situation in Syria, Hannan springs out of her seat, and disappears into the house, finding a new task to keep busy. She doesn’t say so, but the discussions appear to make her uncomfortable. At the very least, she’s tired of it. “They spend all day talking about Syria,” she says.

At 2pm, the school bus drops off the neighbours’ children, who join the Syrian children chasing each other around the field. Shortly after their arrival, Fadia returns from hours of job-hunting. She cannot afford to take the bus every day, so sometimes she walks for kilometres.

She checks on her children, then immediately turns to helping Hannan with the daily tasks. She doesn’t get very far before a new visitor arrives.

A local representative from the Sunni political party Future Movement has stopped by. (He sometimes distributes food vouchers to the Syrian refugees, but he does not have any with him this time).

“They’re lucky to have found a host family,” Anouar Choubasse says. “A lot of Syrian refugees have nothing, not even a roof.”

Fadia is a little surprised by his arrival and keeps her distance. She has tried to keep her family’s presence as discrete as possible – potentially for fear of the growing resentment towards the refugees in Lebanon. She never shares her opinions about politics.

“Saadnayel has always been a [hospitable] community,” says Choubasse. “But now, I can feel the racism growing. A lot of Lebanese people are in a difficult situation and don’t get any help. It’s not as bad [here] as in certain villages, where they imposed curfews on the Syrians. But people are losing patience.”

This Lebanese host family appears to be no exception.

His wife may fear God, but Hannan’s husband Ali does not hesitate to speak openly when he comes home later in the afternoon.

“When I sleep here, I have to sleep on the couch in the living room. I want to sleep in the same bed as my wife again. If the situation lasts for more than two more months, I will set up the family in a tent in the garden. If they will be staying for the long term, I will build a permanent structure for them.”

He pauses to consider.

“Of course we need to help them,” he goes on. “As the Arabic saying goes: ‘If someone is good to you, be twice as good to them’. But we need our intimacy at some point.”

By 4.30pm, the visitors begin trickling out. The Syrian father, Houssam, is still not home. His wife hopes his delay means he has found a job.

While Mohammad, the grandfather, takes a nap in the living room, Fadia and Hannan have lunch together. To accommodate the constant stream of visitors, they have to eat in two shifts. Today, the women eat first. They usually mix with the men, but this change of circumstances makes them laugh. “In the old Damascene tradition, the men ate before the women,” Fadia says. “Now it’s the opposite.”

Whereas both Fadia and Hannan seemed uncomfortable with some of the visitors talking politics, the atmosphere during lunch is much more relaxed.

Houssam eventually returns, still jobless. He is frustrated, but does not show it.

“I have been looking for a job for five months now and haven’t found anything,” he says. “There is too much unemployment in the area and they hire the Lebanese before hiring Syrians… I could take any job, as long as it’s not too physical because I have heart problems,” he adds.

They chit-chat together on the front porch until the sun sets.

At night, they watch a drama series – careful to turn on the TV only after the news is over. Hannan tries to distract them with happier thoughts.

“We don’t want to follow what is happening in Syria,” she explains. “It is too emotional for the Syrian family to talk about it. When you host a Syrian family, you have to be careful and subtle about the topics you talk about. You also have to be really patient.” And apparently, you also have to have a lot of coffee.

ar/ha/cb source


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Kenya Medical and Education Trust (KMET) improves the Education of Vulnerable Children

Posted by African Press International on May 26, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

A total of 7800 Most Vulnerable Children (MVC) living in informal settlements in Kisumu County is currently gaining from early childhood development (ECDEs).

The 7,800 target MVC include in-school children who are at risk of dropping out and out-of school children. The project is designed to complement the Kisumu City Directorate of Education (formerly Kisumu Municipal Education) office’s efforts to achieve the millennium Development Goal number 2.

The Sh 21.1 Million project is being implemented by Kenya Medical and Education Trust (KMET), United Nations for Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Education.

The KMET Programs Manager Mr Sam Owoko said to date 30 school communities and over 7,800 most vulnerable children reached as beneficiaries. This number has risen from the previous 19 schools to 30 with 4,900 vulnerable children.

“We are currently implementing an active inclusion of most vulnerable children in the education projects in the City,” he said adding that they plan to expand to other counties with proper funding.

This, he said is to increase access to early childhood development and education for 3900 children (2730 girls and 1170 boys) aged 4-5 years in the informal settlements within the Kisumu Municipality.

Owoko said the project has three components, ECDEs, Primary Education and Social mobilization and advocacy.

Kisumu Municipal Education Officer, Juma Omwendo said the county education board has in place a committee that looks in to ECDEs, Home craft and youth polytechnics and will ensure that the project runs smoothly.

Omwendo added that all primary schools will have management committees to look further into early child hood development. “At the city level there are already 450 early Childhood centers, and this project is in line with the constitution’s basic right for a child” said Omwendo.

He said that the governor is a superintendent of the ECDEs and that financial assistance will come though small but in the next financial year due to the slow transition of governance.

“A child must get better early childhood development and this includes also better health,” said Owoko. The informal settlements include Nyalenda, Obunga, Manyatta, Bandani and Manyatta Arabs.

Some of the schools that have benefitted from this project include Tido, Manyatta, Kosawo, Kanyamedha and Kodiaga Prison Primary Schools among others.

Owoko revealed that 31 teachers have undergone training on early childhood development three times and will be able to teach most of the vulnerable children after graduation. Out of the project, 50 aged women put in two groups have also been trained to run day care services and 40 children are under their care.

“Others that have gained from the ECDE project are 60 teenage mothers in the informal settlements,” said Owoko.

He added that 50 professional women mentors have been identified and 26 inducted on mentorship skills by KMET to help in mentoring girl child to improve their education.

“Children under perform at primary and secondary level if they fail to pass through ECD,” Owoko saying parents should ensure that their children access basic education.

Owoko also said that195 Pupils and 31 patrons have been trained so far to facilitate formation of peer education clubs to help in role modelling in schools.

In strengthening sustainability of MVC basic education KMET has kicked off various interventions through partnerships between target communities and stakeholders in 5 informal settlements.

Such intervention includes community sensitization and awareness meetings, conducted various training to head teachers and quality assurance education officers.

UNICEF Education Officer, Linda Kharemwa said more of advocacy on ECDE will be beneficial since the devolved government does not have enough funding for the same. She however challenged both the devolved and national government to give Early Childhood development a priority instead of laptops.




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Kenya politics> Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa should rally behind Senator Watengula.

Posted by African Press International on May 26, 2013

  • By Goddy Wamalwa, Kenya
Simmering rivalries between the major political players in Western province over who should claim credit for the region political kingpin is set to bury Musalia Muadavadi the son of the former King of Mululu, Moses Substone Mudamba Mudavadi who was prone to political con men and missed the boat in the March 4th General Election once again as he missed in 2002.
Ford-Kenya party considers itself now, by right, to be the primary player in Western and its leaders, more so Bungoma county senator and senate minority leader Moses Wetangula, are keen for that singular recognition, which could put Musalia Mudavadi, the UDF party leader and flip-flopping New Ford Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa that succumbed to sad political affair in the recent concluded General Election. Former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi who led Amani coalition faced a repeat of the events of 2002 which saw him take a political nosedive after decamping from the then National Alliance Rainbow Coalition to support the KANU.
Since his defection from ODM to UDF, Mudavadi could not even manage to assembly or attract a formidable team of leaders for his presidential bid. Many of his political nemesis believed that his bid was bankrolled by Mt. Kenya forces in government opposed to Raila’s presidential ambition.
The Amani Coalition was also viewed as a true replica of the defunct KADU because it amalgamated from Kenya’s tribes and communities which had a very negative attitudes towards the politics of true nationalism and patriotism.
Also the endorsement by Eugene Wamalwa further solidified the perception that the New Ford Kenya leader had similarly been at centre of the storm in the plot to bolster Mudavadi’s numbers and deny Raila Luhya vote. Many viewed his advancing Jubilee Alliance interests in the Amani coalition for reward terming it as a betrayal to Luhya community.
In a nutshell the people of Bungoma are being cheated and hood winked by Wamalwa into believing that he is the best for the position of Luhya political Kingpin based on his record during campaign period which is really far from the truth and simply because he cannot explain how he can be trusted with the kind of loyal to his luhya community and fundamental change which will enable Western people to cut off from the past for a new beginning.
As mentioned elsewhere in this write-up, apart from the apparent lack of openness accountability and transparency in his Local Government Ministry,Mudavadi handling of issues at the Ministry leave a lot to be desired and cannot be good enough reason to endear him into the position of Luhya spokesman . Luhya fraternity needs change which can be trusted if as a community it must progress competitively with other regions and the best way forward is to avoid doing business as usual .
After it became apparent that he could not sell Uhuru’s bid in Luhyaland, he prefered to support Mudavadi’s bid with dreams that he will contest in 2017 evidently that he could not believe Mudavadi will win the seat but he forfeited his bid to reclaim it as a political payback. The is shame being shared with Mudavadi and Wamalwa has little to show for either one of the pair to be made Luhya political Kingpin. Mudavadi and Wamalwa political weaknesses has now opened up for Moses Wetangula to run the show of region politics.Together, the four counties of, Bungoma, Vihiga, Busia, Kakamega and the neighboring Trans Nzoia, dominantly inhabited by a different communities that speak different dialects of the Luhya language should not pay the price for supporting doomed political leaders.
Wetangula who is now enjoying a strong following in Western Province because of his stand in Ford Kenya, the way he used to be before joining CORD Alliance Raila Odinga project. One can only underestimate his influence in the province at his or her own peril. The truth is that if Western province settles on Wetangula with the fact that his Ford Kenya party having majority seats in the region, many will support him.
Wetangula is viewed as the more likely candidate to address the common issues against the state – skewed employment, insecurity, infrastructure and inequitable allocation of the resources.

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