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IOM Training Workshop on Managing Population in Natural Disasters

Posted by African Press International on December 15, 2013

Dakar: IOM Training Workshop on Managing Population in Natural Disasters


GENEVA, Switzerland, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– The International Organization for Migration’s Regional Office in Dakar is organizing a five-day workshop for Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) to train trainers during natural disasters. The event is made possible due to funding from the European Commission’s Office for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

The West and Central Africa Region has suffered from numerous political, social and ecological crises in recent years and all will only be exacerbated by climate change in years to come. This underlines the relevance of CCCM which sees the increasing importance of managing populations displaced by natural disasters.

“The objective of the training is to train as many Governmental counterparts as possible to strengthen their capacity to manage with dignity and according to international standards the respective caseloads of forced migrants,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa

IOM and the CCCM Global Cluster have strong ties with the overall humanitarian system and national disaster management structures. Large scale displacements caused by border-crossing regional natural disasters demand an operational preparedness of the highest standards for management of camps and evacuation centres. To meet these challenges, the region increasingly needs a comprehensive system of joint preparedness involving humanitarian partners, disaster management agencies and governments.

Participants are from both countries of West and Central Africa region, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Gabon, Mali, Mozambique, Lebanon, Liberia, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Syria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. IOM also welcomes members from ECCAS, the Somali Disaster Management Agency, the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, the National Disaster Management Agency of Mozambique, the Zimbabwe Department of Civil Protection, the Office of National Security in Sierra Leone, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, the Malian National Directorate for Social Development and the Senegalese Military.

Exchanges during the workshop will allow CCCM perspectives from a global and regional perspective to inform and develop an enlarged focus on information management and gender issues. Coordination of crucial relations between national, regional and local actors, as well as those within the camp itself, is an important part of the curriculum. Creating protection mechanisms and ensuring participation of host population, displaced people out of and in the camps, including vulnerable groups, are some of the issues that add to the relevance of this training.

IOM’s CCCM Training of Trainers in Dakar is the third training of this kind in a global effort to target national authorities. The first was in Indonesia last August and focused on natural disasters in the Asian region, and included participants from the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and Switzerland. The second was in Bogota, Colombia and included the Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, the Regional Office of IFRC in Mexico, and El Salvador.



International Office of Migration (IOM)


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Flooding in Chad. Use of technology to warn of disasters is increasing

Posted by African Press International on August 19, 2013

Flooding in Chad. Use of technology to warn of disasters is increasing

DAKAR,  – Mobile phone, geographic information systems (GIS), Twitter and other technologies are increasingly being used to warn communities of potential crises and inform them how to prepare, and to help governments and aid agencies predict how emergencies may unfold.

IRIN looks at some of the ways these innovations are transforming early warning and preparedness.

Market monitoring

Aid agencies are increasingly using mobile phones to monitor and analyse market data in remote areas. Buyers, traders or other informants communicate information about food availability, the functioning of local markets, and food prices to agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) using SMS.

These programmes are used all over the world, including in Kenya, northern Mali, Niger, Somalia and Tanzania. Agencies then use this data to inform programming – cash vouchers may be provided in markets with high availability and high prices, for instance, and food assistance may be provided in areas of low availability.

Health early warning messages

Many organizations now use mobile phones to help prevent health emergencies. For instance, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in West Africa, Oxfam and other agencies say they send out periodic health information related to HIV/AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, hygiene and other issues to raise awareness among phone users.

A recent survey of the impact of these health messages by IFRC in Sierra Leone found that 90 percent of people who received such messages changed their behaviours in a positive way.

“When it comes to mitigating crises, we obviously need to be more proactive, not reactive, and this technology really helps us with that,” said Moustapha Diallo, IFRC spokesperson in Dakar, Senegal.

In April 2013, to pre-empt a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone during this year’s rainy season (in 2012 the country suffered its worst cholera outbreakin 15 years), IFRC set up an SMS system called the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA), which can send vital information to more than 36,000 people in a single area in less than one hour.

“We’ve been able to reach more than a million people this way, which is more than we could have reached using other methods,” Diallo said. “I think that all humanitarian organizations are now aware of the value of using such technology, and that it will really change the direction that we go in the future.”

Community early warning

Advanced notice of an impending natural disaster can give people a valuable, and often life-saving, head start when it comes to reaching safety.

In Malawi, communities living along the banks of the Katchisa-Linthipe River, a high-risk flood zone, worked with Italian NGO COOPI (‘Cooperazione Internazionale’), with funding from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO), to monitor water levels. The measurements were sent to communities downstream via mobile phone. If water levels start to rise, people have time to prepare for possible flooding.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Save the Children and IFRC have also sent out “blast messages” to warn people of impending threats, such as high flood risk, imminent storms or disease outbreaks in Haiti, Kenya Madagascar, Niger, and other countries.

Speeding up delivery

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a pilot programme of Action Aid and infoasaid in Kenya last year showed that sending advance text messages to aid recipients about pending deliveries cut down distribution time from three hours to 30 minutes.

Similarly, IFRC says they were able to reach more people in a shorter amount of time in Nigeria when distributing mosquito nets just by sending out text messages beforehand.

Geo-hazard mapping

WFP has partnered with NGOs, UN agencies and governments around the world to map vegetation, crop coverage, market locations and water sources in areas that are prone to natural disasters, using technologies such as satellite imagery, spatial analysis and GIS.

Many governments have also begun creating geo-hazard maps, which identify areas that are prone to natural disasters, such as flash floods, soil erosion or landslides. When a natural disaster occurs, these same technologies can be used to map out where roads have been destroyed or washed away, and to pinpoint the location of victims.

CRS first started using this system during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to map out destroyed homes, track the construction of 10,500 transitional structures and calculate piles of rubble. It has since expanded the program to Madagascar, the Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and plans to reach 30 other emergency-prone countries over the next 18 months.

In West Africa, IFRC, along with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Change Centre, has been using weather forecasts from the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development to create easy-to-read maps, which allow field offices in risk zones to preposition supplies and quickly deploy teams in the event of a disaster.

Monitoring payments to indicate vulnerability

Mobile cash transfers to vulnerable people are now routinely used by WFP and its partners, both in and before crises. By collecting data on recipients, these cash programmes can also be used to signal impending crises.

For instance, if many recipients are suddenly in need of more cash immediately after a transfer, or if many begin defaulting on micro-loans, aid organizations know to look for underlying causes.

jl/aj/rz source

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Malian refugees returning home face challenges

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

Malian refugees return home as stability improves

DAKAR,  – Malians are slowly returning from refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger as stability improves more than a year after a military coup and an insurgency shook the West African country.

Some 8,148 people who returned on their own were registered between 25 June and 12 July in Mali’s Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu regions. It is the most significant number of returnees since reports emerged of spontaneous returns, said Anouk Desgroseilliers, an information officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Mali.

“There are still explosive remnants of war, robberies in some regions as well as a sense of wariness, but the lull in violence over the past three months, and the presence of the army, the authorities and the local administration is encouraging returns,” said Boni Mpaka, OCHA’s deputy head of office in Mali.

More than 175,000 Malians are still living in refuge and 353,455 others have been displaced within the country since the outbreak of violence mainly in northern Mali following the March 2012 coup.

“We are not encouraging any returns at the moment. But we are assessing the needs the returnees will have,” Desgroseilliers said. Aid groups voice worry about high malnutrition rates in northern Mali’s Gao Region, which they say could worsen with the spontaneous return of refugees. The global acute malnutrition rate is 13.5 percent, slightly below the 15 percent emergency threshold.

The country’s elections set for 28 July are also encouraging returns, said Lucien Simba, a humanitarian affairs officer with OCHA in Dakar. “People hope things are going to change.” The authorities have set plans for refugees in neighbouring countries to vote.

“Search for pasture, preparation for next year return to school, the upcoming elections, people coming to verify the status of their homes and belongings; there are several reasons why people are gradually moving to Mali,” the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), told IRIN.

However, the returnees lack sufficient food, need to be helped in rebuilding their homes and restocking their animals. Children will also need conditions in place a part from safety, teachers and functional schools for returning to school next year. A lot of efforts should be channeled to work on social cohesion and rebuilding resilience capacities at the community level which has been weakened by the unrest, DRC said.

cr/ob/cb source

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Cashew price dips

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2013

Around 40 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s cashews remain unsold due to poor prices this year

DAKAR,  – A slump in cashew nut prices in Guinea-Bissau has left nearly half of the population eking out food, with families skipping meals or selling livestock to survive until the next harvest in September, aid groups say.

The average price per kg of cashews is 112 CFA francs (two US cents) – the lowest yet – down from an average of 300 CFA in 2012. The 63 percent drop is due to plummeting international prices, reduced demand from Guinea-Bissau’s main cashew importer (India), the April 2012 coup, disagreements between the government and traders on benchmark price as well as banks’ decision to reduce loans to traders.

“The result is a significant decrease of [people’s] food security which obliges them to revert to coping mechanisms such as skipping meals, reducing food intake, selling animals and so on,” Ussama Osman, the World Food Programme (WFP) country director in Guinea-Bissau, told IRIN.

This year marks a second consecutive year of falling cashew nut prices. InJuly 2012 the country exported 60,000 tons of cashew nuts compared to more than 100,000 tons by the same time in 2011.

Eighty percent of Guinea-Bissau’s 1.6 million people are involved in cashew nut production. Farmers sell their produce basically to buy food, or they barter cashew nuts for food. The terms of exchange have also worsened. One kilo of rice now “costs” 3kg of cashew nuts, up from an exchange rate of 1:1, Osman explained.

“People’s diet is becoming very poor. They stick to the basic food [rice] but the terms of exchange affect the quality and quantity of their food intake,” he said. “Forty-eight percent of the entire population faces a huge food gap during this lean period that requires an emergency intervention.”

A June rapid food security assessment conducted by WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Guinea-Bissau’s Ministry of Agriculture, the National Cashew Nut Agency and the National Institute of Statistics in seven of the country’s nine regions found that only 8 percent of those interviewed had cereal stocks to last one and a half months.

Some 38 percent of this year’s harvest has not been sold due to the poor prices. Rice imports, which depend on cashew revenue, are expected to be low, “thus combining lack of access and availability of the main source of food during the lean season,” said Patrick David, FAO’s regional food security analyst based in Dakar.

Over-reliance on cashews

Cashews account for 90 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s exports and 45 percent of its GDP. With the withdrawal of budgetary support by key lenders following the 2012 coup, the government will face difficulty in paying public service salaries after the cashew harvesting season ends in September, theInternational Monetary Fund foresees.

Over the years, farmers have converted swathes of forest into cashew orchards and increasingly rely on the land-extensive and low-labour- intensive crop, thus drastically reducing cereal production. Cashew revenue funds tin roofing for houses, marriages, feasts, funerals, bicycles and buying rice among other things, explained Marina Temudo, an agronomist at the Portugal-based Tropical Research Institute (IICT).

“The country has been transformed into a huge cashew tree plantation. This has both economic and environmental hazards. While farmers are now aware of the economic perils of being exclusively dependent upon one cash crop whose market is highly unstable, they have still no idea of the risks of mono-cropping in terms of pests and diseases,” Temudo told IRIN.

“The change from a relatively broad-based food provisioning to almost full dependence on one cash crop is not without shortcomings for farmers’ livelihoods. Food insecurity and indebtedness are growing as a result of the combined effects of a reorientation of the farming systems towards cashew production and dependence upon the market for food supply, as well as the consequences of climate change and the increased use of credit to solve pre-harvest food shortages.”

Farmers should diversify, said Temudo, noting that some farmers have begun switching to food production. “This process should be supported by external agents and donors with incentives for food production and processing facilities,” she said.

The current crisis is forcing some farmers to sell their yet-to-be-harvested food crops at half price in order to buy staples, WFP’s Osman explained. The organization has seen funding for basic nutrition and food security programmes frozen since the coup.

“There is need for immediate financial support from the donors. They have to realize that political pressure, sanctions and boycott are punishing the most vulnerable. A gesture to these people is needed immediately,” he said.

ob/cb source

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Humanitarian needs rising

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2013

Malian refugees in Damba camp, Burkina Faso (file photo)

DAKAR, 4 July 2013 (IRIN) – Humanitarian agencies have revised upwards their appeal to help Sahelians affected by hunger, malnutrition, impoverishment and conflict to US$1.7 billion, said UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Robert Piper.

“The Sahel is always in crisis mode,” Piper told journalists at a Dakar press conference.

Some 11.3 million Sahelians are estimated to be short of food this year and 1.5 million under-fives acutely malnourished.

As of May 2013, 345,000 acutely malnourished children had been treated in UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and NGO-run nutrition centres. But despite year-on-year nutrition support, surveys show malnutrition rates of over 10 percent in almost all of the countries, and above the 15 percent threshold in parts of Chad, Mauritania and Niger.

In Mauritania one third of the population is food-insecure.

Most vulnerable are families who were affected by the 2012 drought, and who have not yet recovered their animal or seed stocks, and the half a million Malians displaced by conflict in the north. But even Mali – the most “visible and acute” crisis in the region, with 3.5 million people estimated to be food-insecure – has received just 29 percent of the funding called for.

Just 35 percent of the amount needed – US$607 million – has been received thus far, leaving a US$1 billion shortfall. The funds received are unevenly spread, said Piper. “We recognize the response that has been given, but we are concerned that it is not equally spread across all sectors.”

Agriculture is just 23 percent funded, meaning it is already too late to get the necessary seeds to farmers to plant in time for the rains.

“We have missed a window of opportunity here to support agriculture and reduce the number of farmers in need of aid. We cannot distribute the seeds that are needed [for rain-fed agriculture] but there is still a lot that can be done,” said Piper, pointing to livestock vaccinations during the rainy season, getting animal fodder where it is needed, and getting seeds to farmers who plant on flood plains during the rainy season (the harvest is in late August).

Other severely under-funded sectors include water and sanitation (11 percent) and health (26 percent), both of which underpin infant nutrition; as well as education (10 percent), and early recovery (8 percent).

Most Malian refugee students living in camps are unable to go to school because of the lack of funds.

Interestingly, early recovery is not prioritized by donors (despite much talk of the need to boost resilience in the Sahel this year) to make vulnerable families less reliant on aid and more able to cope with harsh climatic conditions and endemic poverty.

aj/cb source

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