Tag Archives: Norwegian Refugee Council

WFP, Norwegian charity come to the rescue in Iraq

The war in Iraq has left many civilians trapped and blocked from receiving humanitarian aid. Such was the case in al-Baghdadi, a town in the Anbar governorate of Iraq.

The town was under siege for months by the ISIL terrorists. The Iraqi army, in retaking the town, cleared the way last month for civilians to escape to Baghdad.

But now these Iraqi victims faced another crisis: hunger. Saker, one of those who fled from al-Baghdadi, said,

The militants shot at us and they shot our houses. We walked for four days to get to Baghdad. We left with only our souls. We are very poor, and don’t have money to buy food.”

In Baghdad, Saker and others would get help from the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Along with the Norwegian Refugee Council, WFP distributed immediate response rations for Saker and 18,000 Iraqis.

These rations are ready-to-eat food, packed with nutrients, to give newly displaced Iraqis some quick nutrition. This food does more too. The rations give some hope for those Iraqis who have suffered for months from hunger and fear while under attack by ISIL.

After immediate response rations are finished, WFP provides monthly food parcels to displaced Iraqis. This is when they are registered and settled enough to eat more prepared foods.

Saker told WFP the food csme at the most critical moment. That is the case for millions of Iraqis who are depending on WFP and their partners like the Norwegian Refugee Council for life-saving rations.

Yet these rations, which do so much good, might disappear. Low funding for the WFP mission could lead to 1.8 million Iraqis losing food assistance by May. A WFP report says there is a shortage of US $250 million for the Iraqi relief mission.

WFP depends on voluntary funding to do their life-saving work. With the conflict ongoing in Iraq, funds are needed from the international community to feed the hungry war victims.

Read the full article at Examiner.

Leave a comment

Filed under global hunger

Norwegian Charity Says More Aid Needed for Somali Refugee Children

Displaced children in Somaliland are deprived of basic rights such as access to clean water, food, health services and education. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl

The Norwegian Refugee Council is calling on the world to increase aid for Somali children displaced by conflict and famine.

Last summer the world was stunned with tens of thousands of Somali children starving to death. A severe drought had struck Somalia and East Africa, causing massive food shortages. Conflict within Somalia made the situation far worse by preventing aid from reaching the needy.

Thousands of children and their families were able to flee the worst hunger and conflict areas. Many of these “children of famine” found refuge in camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

A year later their plight in the refugee camps is largely silent to the world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) wants to change this by focusing on these children’s needs. They have a chance to recover if the world gives them enough help.

Somali refugees need the basics of food, water, shelter. They also need education to learn and develop the skills needed to get out of these camps and build a life. NRC issued a report in May about the lack of educational resources at the Dadaab camps.

Dadaab does not have enough school facilities and teachers. There are 221,000 school age children in the refugee camps but only 57,000 are enrolled in school. Funding is needed to build up the schools.

The NRC Regional Director Hassan Khaire says, “The universal right to education applies also for refugee children in Dadaab, but only in theory. The international community has to step up and demonstrate the importance of investing in the development and future of young Somali refugees.”

NRC is partnering with other organizations on developing accelerated learning programs to help children “catch up” and get their education back on track.

For those who are already enrolled in school at Dadaab, there is the problem of staying the course. The NRC report says, “The number of students who actually complete school is much lower, as the drop out rates are very high especially for girls.” The challenge is getting kids into school in East Africa and then keeping them there to finish their education.

School feeding programs run by the UN World Food Programme and other groups are vital especially with malnutrition being such a threat to the refugees.

Astrid Sehl, an NRC officer, recently took some time to answer a few questions on how the world can help the children of the East Africa famine.

What is being done to increase the number of schools and teachers in the Daddab refugee camp?

UN and non-governmental organizations are doing what they can to build more schools and educate more teachers in Dadaab – e.g. the joint Education strategy (Accelerated learning program). However, as always, funding when it comes to crises and education, is very limited, and a lot more should be done!

Could take home rations be added to any existing school feeding in order to reduce the dropout rate?

Yes, take home rations is a good idea. For the time being, we provide school feeding and we are investigating funding opportunities for take-home rations (or introducing school gardens, where the kids are taught how to grow vegetables and they can bring the knowledge and produce home).

For children displaced inside Somalia has NRC been able to reach them with educational materials?

Yes, we have large educational programs for internally displaced persons across Somalia – in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central. So we’re supporting thousands of internally displaced children and youth with education, skills training, we train teachers and build schools – but again – more efforts are required to meet children’s right to education.

Leave a comment

Filed under global hunger

Interview: Alain Homsy of the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

School feeding in the DRC (WFP photo)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suffered through decades of instability and conflict. And as the country moves forward with elections and peace building, it must contend with hunger, poverty, and displacement.

The International Food Policy Research Institute calls the hunger crisis in DRC “extremely alarming.” In fact, its Global Hunger Index (GHI) report recently revealed that, “among the six countries in which the hunger situation worsened, the Democratic Republic of Congo stands out. Its GHI score rose by about 63% owing to conflict and political instability”.

Close to 2 million people have been displaced due to the conflict. A majority of these are located in the North and South Kivu areas of the DRC. And the same report shows that 70% of the population in DRC is undernourished – the highest rate in the world.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is coming to the aid of children in the DRC through programmes like school feeding. School meals not only fight hunger and malnutrition, but give children a better chance at getting an education.

Alain Homsy, country director for the NRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently took time to answer some questions about its school feeding mission.

How many children are benefiting from the NRC school meals program in DRC?

In Grand North Kivu (Beni/Lubero Territories – 2011), in a total of 156 primary schools, 87,848 pupils (43,166 boys and 44,682 girls) have benefitted from the school feeding programme, along with 1,953 teachers (754 men and 1,199 women) and 970 cooks (833 men and 137 women). In addition, two NRC Youth Education Program centres also benefitted from the school feeding program with a total of 192 learners (94 boys and 98 girls).

In South Kivu (Mwenga Territory – 2011), in a total of 52 primary schools, 22,367 pupils (11,220 boys and 11,157 girls) have benefitted from school feeding, along with 524 teachers (445 men and 79 women) and 220 cooks (all women). In addition, one NRC Youth Education programme centre also benefitted from school feeding with a total of 192 learners (74 boys and 91 girls).

Have the meals had an effect on class attendance and performance?

In Grand North Kivu [where sending children to school is a priority for those who can afford it and satisfactory security conditions prevailed for most of past decade] thanks to school feeding, enrolment and attendance went up by an average of 28% in the academic year 2009-10, with a maximum of 63% and a minimum of 2%. The regular meal supply therefore appears to have a clear impact on attendance, although changing security conditions also affect attendance in a significant way. In terms of performances, impact of school feeding is more difficult to demonstrate as it is not solely linked to the quality or quantity of daily food intake, and is also clearly affected by other factors, amongst which is an obviously determining one, the class size. Therefore, in some areas with less populated schools (classes of 25-30), the proportion of pupils who graduated went up by 10 to 15% based on the directors’ verbal comments, while in areas where schools listed high numbers of students (classes of up to 58 pupils), graduation rates sometimes decreased by 80% in spite of school feeding.

In South Kivu [where sending children to school has not been a priority and security conditions were bad for most of the past decade due to presence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda], thanks to school feeding, enrolment and attendance shot up by an impressive average of 119% – bearing in mind over 52 schools were covered from 2009 to 2011 – with a maximum of 248% and a minimum of 80%. On the other hand, six schools which were either temporarily occupied by Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) or located nearby temporary armed forces positions lost up to 20% of their pupils. In terms of performances, the proportion of pupils who graduated after school feeding introduction stands at an average 85.2% for girls and 89.1 % for boys, reportedly being an incremental increase of about 5% [school directors’ estimates – not fully documented].

In addition, it is worth remembering that all school feeding should be accompanied by regular, twice a year minimum, de-worming treatments so that food eaten effectively contributes to better child development and higher concentration and learning capacity.

How long does NRC expect to run this school feeding program? Do you anticipate being able to hand it over to the government or local community?

On a general note, emergency school feeding is indeed expected to have an impact on attendance and performances, as well fed kids not only have a higher concentration and learning capacity but also “they do not need to rush back home for a meal as soon as the school bell rings”, to quote from a Masabele primary school director. [The same teacher argued that school feeding is the main reason for an ever-growing number of registered children, and that it helps pupils stay in school after class hours where they can do homework instead of going straight home for food and being called upon by parents for home chores at the expense of studies.]

As such, taking into consideration current instability in DRC and potential renewed difficulties in connection with presidential elections due in November 2011, NRC believes that there will be continued need for emergency school feeding at least for the whole of the 2011-12 academic year, as it stimulates vulnerable children to attend classes and help schools cope with increased number of pupils both in displacement and return areas.

It is important to note that from The World Food Programme’s point of view, however, emergency school feeding is purely linked to nutritional considerations and therefore targeted to areas where indicators justify it. But in light of the recently revised Global Hunger Index, in which DRC ranks first, it is very unlikely that conditions may evolve for the better in Eastern DRC and therefore emergency school feeding should be extended.

Longer-term perspectives, in terms of handing over to local government, are extremely limited as so far even “free education for all” remains a remote dream in DRC. On the other hand, substitutes to emergency school feeding are currently studied by NRC, first involving gradual introduction of a cash and vouchers approach for schools as a first step towards reducing dependency on the WFP supply lines, while increasing efficiency and stimulating the economy by local purchases of food needed in a selection of pilot schools. Thereafter, self-sufficiency of these schools could be reinforced by developing improved school feeding programmes, including food production on school-owned land by parents of vulnerable children, who in return for their work would gain free or cheaper access to education for their kids and receive a share of the harvests. Additional features of such programmes will include introduction of more fuel-efficient kitchen use, both at school and home level, as well as small-scale animal husbandry for a diversified source of proteins and income-generating purposes.

For more information about the Norwegian Refugee Council visit www.nrc.no

Special thanks to Kaja Haldorsen and the field staff of the NRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for helping to coordinate the interview.

Article first published as Interview: Alain Homsy of the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Blogcritics.

Leave a comment

Filed under global hunger