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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Vote for two important refugee projects

Posted by The IRC on 28 August, 2008

American Express members project banner
The IRC is supporting two projects nominated for the American Express “Members Project,” a charitable giving contest.Please vote to get them into the top 25 where they’ll have a chance for a share of $2.5 million in funding from American Express.

Malaria Prevention for Refugees in Thailand
Providing bed nets and other simple and cost-effective malaria control activities to significantly reduce the incidence of malaria among Burmese refugees in Thailand.
Vote for this project >

Refugee Career Development
Providing career development activities to increase job readiness, job retention and earning potential for newly arrived refugees in the U.S.
Vote for this project >

The deadline is next Monday, September 1, so please click now and vote!

Posted in Asia, health, howtohelp, refugees, UnitedStates | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Waiting for the long grass to grow” / Uganda

Posted by Joanne Offer on 20 August, 2008

Joanne Offer/The IRC
Ajok stands in front of Labuje mother camp, where thousands of people fled to escape the Lord’s Resistance Army. Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC
Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her posts from Uganda here.

It’s all the K’s in Uganda – after Karamoja and Kiryandongo, we move next to Kitgum district. The IRC has been working in camps here since 1998 to help thousands of Ugandan people displaced by atrocities carried out by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, (LRA).

Since a peace agreement was struck in 2006, people have gradually been moving back home to their original villages, although many still live in small transit camps while they rebuild their dilapidated houses. To ensure these people have the basic services they need, the IRC is also moving with them. For example we’re fixing village boreholes to improve water sources, we’re building essential sanitation in schools, and we’re setting up support centers to reduce incidences of gender-based violence as people return.

An IRC health officer examines a young girl at a special outreach clinic for people now living in transit camps.

An IRC health officer examines a young girl at a special outreach clinic for people now living in transit camps.

We’re also supporting the government’s local health centers to fight a serious outbreak of hepatitis E, a disease that’s killed more than 100 people in Kitgum this year. Our health teams go daily into the field and we’ve set up a special team on the Sudan border – the point of origin for the outbreak –  to diagnose the diseases and offer advice.

As more and more people return home, the IRC is beginning to phase out some of its services. For example, we used to run an adult literacy program in Labuje mother camp. This helped young women like Ajok Irene Innocent, 19, who fled to Labuje about 4 years ago when the LRA attacked her parish of Pagen.

Ajok says, “I dropped out of school when I was 17 to have a baby. I couldn’t stay in school, but IRC’s literacy classes helped me to keep up with my exams and I now go to secondary school like everyone else. It’s definitely helped me while I’ve been in the camps.”

Like many others, Ajok’s family are now getting ready to return to their home village. “We’re just waiting for the long grass to grow so we can use it for the roof of our new house,” she explains. “I want to go home. Here we are too crowded and we have no land.  It will be better at home.”

Posted in Africa, education, health, peace, refugees | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

In a temporary home, health & a harvest to come / Uganda

Posted by Joanne Offer on 15 August, 2008

Joanne Offer/The IRC
IRC volunteer Yazid uses his hygenic tippy-tap. Behind, you can see a new crop of beans growing. Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC
Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her posts from Uganda here.

Our next stop is Kiryandongo, where the IRC has been supporting Sudanese and Kenyan refugees who’ve fled to Uganda to escape violence in their countries. It’s totally different from Karamoja. The land here seems much more fertile, and all around I see immature crops of maize, beans and sweet potatoes.That’s because Kiryandongo is a refugee settlement, as opposed to a camp. Refugees here get 1 acre of land to farm and, although the rains came late this year, most seem to be growing a modest crop and should have some food for their families come the harvest.

One Kenyan man called Yazid tells me he’s been in Kiryandongo since May. He fled the violence in Kenya that followed last December’s presidential election and has no intention of going back just yet. He says, “I come from Mount Elgon where things are still not calm. People are still arguing over land there, but here a few of us live together and so we feel safer.”

Yazid is actually one of IRC’s environmental health volunteers who go around promoting good hygiene practices among the refugee community. His small area of the settlement is a brilliant example of how, even in the harshest of environments, ensuring good hygiene really makes a difference.

Yazid tells me, “We still live in tents but with IRC’s help we’ve dug pit latrines, built a refuse pit, and put up a drying rack so our pots and pans don’t sit on the ground in the dirt. We also have a tippy-tap – that’s a tap for hand washing but you turn it on by using your feet. It means you keep clean without contaminating the water supply.”

Yazid has also helped IRC to carry out hygiene campaigns throughout Kiryandongo. “I’ve talked about the benefits of a clean environment,” he explains, “because when we all live so close it’s easy for diseases like diarrhea to spread, so we mustn’t be careless.”

There’s no doubt that newly-arrived Kenyan refugees like Yazid are still coming to terms with their displacement to Kiryandongo, but his efforts and IRC’s are definitely helping to make life here that little bit more comfortable.

Posted in Africa, health, refugees | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Life can be hard for mothers-to-be / Uganda

Posted by Joanne Offer on 14 August, 2008

Namoe Helen attends an antenatal clinic where IRC offers mothers-to-be voluntary counseling and testing for HIV.

Namoe Helen attends an antenatal clinic where the IRC offers mothers-to-be voluntary counseling and testing for HIV. Photos: Joanne Offer/The IRC

Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her latest posts here.

I meet Namoe Helen at ante-natal class. She’s pregnant with her second child and has come to St Pius Kidepo health center in Moroto district for a check up. Pregnant women can also get tested for HIV as part of IRC’s work to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.Namoe Helen says, “I’ve been tested for HIV as a precaution and I’m negative. It’s good to be tested because the virus is becoming very widespread; it’s not just affecting town people, it’s in the villages too.”

Examining Namoe Helen is sister Marygoretti, who’s been running the antenatal clinic for the past few months. Marygoretti is originally from eastern Uganda and was shocked by the conditions in Karamoja.

Sister Marygoretti examines Namoe Helen on her latest visit to the ante-natal clinic where women can also get health advice and mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

Sister Marygoretti examines Namoe Helen on her latest visit to the ante-natal clinic where women can also get health advice and mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

She says, “It’s so different here. When you look at the living conditions, you see it’s very harsh. Poor sanitation is a big problem and most of the health conditions are related to this. Nutrition is also a big problem. This year, nothing has grown. But the women here get food rations to help them during pregnancy.”

Soon, barefooted, Namoe Helen is beginning her long walk home. It will take her an hour. Life can be hard for mothers-to-be here in Karamoja.

Posted in Africa, Aids, health, photos, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changes from the ground up / Ethiopia

Posted by Emily Holland on 11 August, 2008

Emily catches up with a group of children around an IRC-built tap stand.
Emily catches up with a group of children around an IRC-built tap stand. Photo: The IRC
International Rescue Committee communications officer Emily Holland and IRC intern and Princeton University student Daniella Raveh are visiting Ethiopia where they will be blogging about the lives and struggles of refugees and young girls and women.  See all their posts here.West Hararghe, Ethiopia When the IRC began building tap stands in peasant villages in West Hararghe, Ethiopia, staff were confident that health would improve for the thousands of residents who live there.  What IRC didn’t foresee was how much life in general would improve—and for women, especially.
 
Kedija, a 30-year-old mother of nine, used to walk four hours every day—two hours each way—to collect water for her husband and children.  Not only did this chore consume most of Kedija’s day, the water she brought back was often undrinkable.
 
Now, Kedija frequents an IRC tap stand that yields clean water just ten minutes from her home.  Her family no longer suffers from water-borne diseases.  Kedija’s family can drink water whenever they choose and bathe and wash their clothes more frequently.  Best of all:  with more time on her hands, Kedija is catching up on the education she cut short to marry and raise a family.
 
Commented Daniella:  “The way that people spoke about life before the tap stand made it seem like a very long time ago.  It’s obvious that this is a new time.  Accessible water is moving their village forward and, when it comes to challenging gender roles, breaking tradition with the past.  Usually, we think of big change coming from the top down.  Here, this tap stand is changing things from the ground up.”
 

Daniella and a friend give the GPS device a try.

Daniella gives the GPS device a try.

And also from the sky…since 2003, the IRC has been using satellite images, digitized maps, and aerial photographs collected in the field using GPS technology to pinpoint areas that lack potable water and identify new water sources.  With the information collected, we’re able to monitor each tap stand, covered spring, and latrine the IRC has constructed in Ethiopian communities.  We’re also able to put this technology to work to analyze other problems:  why are children in this community dropping out of school?  Could it be that water sources are located too far from their schools?  Or from their homes, requiring them to walk miles each day to collect water for their families, precluding school altogether?

Posted in Africa, children, education, health, women | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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