News Article | May 15, 2017
Maybe, Rakia Soumana sometimes thinks, life could have been a little different. It’s not so bad in Tessa, her village in rural Niger, where she lives with her three children, her husband, his first wife Halimatou Soumana, and Halimatou’s five children. The wives get along, each doing more than their share of household chores when the other one is pregnant or has just given birth, and Rakia, 30, wants at least two more children because it will put her family on equal footing with Halimatou’s. She likes her husband, but she’s dependent on him, and the weight of her daily workload is heavy. Maybe things would be a bit easier if she had stayed in school past the age of 14, if anyone had even noticed when she dropped out. But no one did. She just stopped going. “No one told me to stay,” says Rakia, a tall woman with a teardrop-shaped scar under each eye. And so with her own children, she is strict. “Two days ago, my first child, I even beat him because of school, because he wouldn’t do his homework,” she says. “I don’t want him to make the same mistake I did.” In makeshift schoolhouses equipped with wooden benches and blackboards, some girls in Niger who have dropped out of school or never went in the first place try to catch up. In remote villages, NGO Mercy Corps runs these girls’ education centres, classrooms inside hangars covered by thatched or aluminium roofs where girls come to listen and learn. There are between 25 and 30 pupils per school who attend six days a week, 34 hours a week, as instructors walk them through the standard primary school curricula: Reading and writing, grammar, basic mathematics, in Hausa for the first two months and then in French. These centres offer intensive instruction to get girls up to speed in time for their high school entrance exams, so they might be able to attend secondary school and, advocates hope, be on the track to a marginally more secure life. But there are a lot of girls who are left behind. Women and girls in Niger are some of the least educated in the world. Fewer than a quarter of young Nigerien women are literate, and only about 8% of Nigerien girls attend secondary school. Only 31% attend primary school, although almost twice as many girls are enrolled – they just aren’t showing up. The UN’s Education Index, calculated by comparing the expected years of schooling to the average years citizens actually attend school, places Niger last among 187 countries. In a country debilitated by crushing poverty and increasingly tested by violent extremism, huge numbers of under-educated young people forecast a troubling future. Men and boys, too, face low rates of education and literacy in Niger, but women and girls remain worse off. Economically and culturally, boys tend to be afforded more opportunities, and when a family decides it can only send some of its children to school, it’s the girls who stay home. That, advocates say, feeds into a series of other social ills. Chief among them is early marriage, which brings with it poverty and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Marriage, says Maggie Janes-Lucas, Mercy Corps’ senior programme officer for west and central Africa, “can be physically, emotionally detrimental to her and to her longer-term health. We believe that giving these girls the opportunity to integrate [into] formal schooling and to continue their schooling will reduce these risks.” Low rates of education also help keep Niger poor. One World Bank study found that a year of secondary schooling can mean as much as a 25% increase in a woman’s earnings later in life, which in turn helps fuel her country’s economy. According to some estimates, a single percentage point increase in girls’ education translates into a GDP boost of .3%. And an educated mother is more likely to send her own daughters to school, fueling increased educational attainment and economic development over generations. Getting more girls into school, then, is a linchpin to increase wealth, stability, equality and development. Niger has a long way to go on the UN’s sustainable development goals for both education and gender equality and investment in education remains outpaced by need. The complex set of intertwined political, cultural and economic forces keeping the country impoverished and volatile means the simple task of getting girls to stay in school is bigger than it looks – and a challenge even the most dedicated educators and advocates have yet to figure out how to meet. Niger’s startlingly low rates of literacy and education are both caused by and feed back into a cycle of poverty, early marriage and large family size. For the Soumana children, and children across Niger, the barriers to formal education are high. In a rural country, schools are often far from the village, and students walk several kilometres each way in the punishing heat. Many schools don’t have functional latrines, and so when girls start their periods, they stay home. Teachers are often on strike because they aren’t paid well or go months without being paid at all; this year, education advocates say, public school teachers have been on strike nearly half of all teaching days, leaving their students well behind in their studies. Under the Nigerien system, students have to pass an exam to enter secondary school, and when they aren’t going to school consistently, many of them fail and drop out. Even when students attend school, Niger’s low literacy rates and booming numbers of young people – almost half of Niger’s population is under the age of 15 – means there simply aren’t enough literate, trained teachers to go around. Much of the educated population leaves. As a result, especially in the country’s more rural reaches, much of the in-classroom instruction is only just about better than nothing. “The huge problem is that with that rapid population growth no matter how many schools we build or how much support we give the ministry of education, it’s never enough,” says Patrick Rose, who works as a crisis communications specialist for Unicef in west and central Africa. “It’s a moving target. You can set a target and deliver X amount of schools for X amount of population, but the reality is it’s growing faster than anyone is able to cope with.” Conflict, too, keeps girls out of school. The kidnapping of the Chibok girls from their school in northern Nigeria made headlines around the world, but it’s only one in a long list of assaults Boko Haram has leveled on schools, snatching girls and killing teachers – including in Niger. In the Diffa region of the country, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced by war. Parents fearful for their children’s lives don’t want to send them into danger; teachers fearful for their own often stay home or flee. Educators, then, face bigger challenges than just getting children into the classroom. To reach students who are kept out of school due to conflict, Unicef and the EU are working on a programme that will bring educational radio into people’s homes. Communications volunteers will deliver small radios to families, many of whom live in homes without electricity or running water, and some 150 educational programmes will be broadcast out to them. “It seems like a low-tech solution,” Rose says. “Everyone is like, ‘We should be doing 3G tech stuff,’ and in New York that sounds really cool, but when you get out to these communities you see that it is a cool innovation.” Other strategies are even more straightforward – for example, offering bilingual education to students coming into the classroom for the first time at seven or eight years old. Niger’s education system is in French but families speak local languages at home, meaning children who didn’t spend their early years learning French are intimidated and discouraged. It’s a huge task to develop a bilingual curriculum, especially in a nation with nearly two dozen spoken languages. It’s an even bigger project to make sure teachers can and will teach in multiple languages. It works, Rose says, by making sure that “not every day is an exercise in humiliation”. In a nation with so many educational gaps, other organisations work to fill them in a hodgepodge of ways. Unicef outreach and the Mercy Corps programme to help girls catch up, called Safe Schools, are just a few of many – but it’s still not enough. Stubborn social norms are a big roadblock. Amadou Mamadou, the Safe Schools programme manager in Niger, says that when many girls are married by 15 and a majority of them are married by 18, after which they’re expected to focus their efforts on childbearing and housework, many parents just don’t see the point in educating a girl. Resources are limited, and any time or money available for education seems better invested in boys. And when girls do go to school, he says, they aren’t supported and encouraged as much as boys, so “they are set up for failure”. The first step, then, is shifting the perspective of the local communities. And so when Mamadou’s team goes house to house in rural villages, they come with the message that educating children – and girls in particular – puts the whole family on better footing, and they give members of the community a role in shaping the schools themselves. For impoverished households, the prospect of their children having better job opportunities sounds appealing. The Safe Schools team also tells families that an educated girl tends to grow up into a healthier mother, whose babies do better in life. Looking around, many families are able to observe this dynamic in real time. Most of the time, they like what they see, and are inclined to believe they’ll benefit from educating their children. But sometimes, especially in the more conservative and religious areas of the country, parents see the changes education brings and are less pleased. According to Mamadou, sometimes, girls go to high school and when they come back to the village “they’ve changed,” he says. “They’re not taking on the traditional roles they would have if they hadn’t gone to school.” Their behaviour and their ideals no longer sync up with their parents, which the family – and others in the community – may find distressing. Pathfinder, an NGO that works in Rakia Soumana’s village, works to break down misconceptions and stereotypes around gender – that family planning is only for the educated, and that education isn’t important for girls. “All the educated people in Niamey [the capital city], they agree to go for family planning,” says Garba Kimba, the director of a health centre which works with Pathfinder. “But if you go to the community level, most of them are ignorant” – by which he means they lack basic education. And that impacts birth rates, keeping them sky-high, which in turn weighs on Niger’s already limited resources, its pervasive food insecurity, and its fragile political system. “It’s because of lack of education,” Mai Fanta, an older midwife at a health clinic in Niger’s Magama region, says matter-of-factly. “The history of Niger, they wanted many children to work in the fields,” and as a globalised economy and the realities of climate change shift that agrarian lifestyle, families haven’t caught up. Soumana’s family still lives in the old way: she pounds millet, defers to her husband, and believes women’s primary purpose is childbearing. But she’s catching up as fast as she can. Unlike most of her neighbours here, who expect their kids to marry in their teens, she wouldn’t mind if her children married well after they finished college. “Even if they are 30 years old, if they are studying, that is no problem with me,” she says. “I want them to be great people. I want one day to watch them taking a plane to your country, to travel to the United States.” Getting educated young people to emigrate is far from the goal of NGOs and the Nigerien government, but convincing parents to educate their children is – in part so that those children grow up healthier and can eventually contribute to Niger’s flagging economy. The most basic solutions to Niger’s education problem come in two parts: changing community mindsets about the value of education so that parents put their kids in school and improving the schools so that attending is actually worthwhile. Doing that requires more resources: to train teachers so they can be effective and so that there are enough of them; to open up dialogue about the value of girls education and challenge assumptions, often fueled by a conservative interpretation of Islam, that girls shouldn’t go to school; to build schools out of quality materials, that have latrines, running water, and dorms for students traveling from remote areas; and to make schools physically safer places for students and teachers alike. It also requires local by-in, and getting parents to internalise a sense of responsibility for educating their own children and valuing education more generally. It’s a long list, and community involvement is the most esoteric part. But that, advocates say, is the only way to get more girls into the classroom. Mercy Corps, for example, forms local community committees that have a stake in deciding what their Safe Schools programme looks like. Members are encouraged to visit the schools, weigh in on programming and implementation, and identify local girls who have dropped out or never attended school in the first place. “It’s showing the parents do have a role in this,” says Mercy Corps’ Janes-Lucas. “And that communities do have power in how good their schools can be.” Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter. Join the conversation with the hashtag #Dev2030.
News Article | May 23, 2017
The global organization Mercy Corps urges Congress to reject significant cuts to foreign assistance in the administration’s FY18 budget request. The budget proposes the complete elimination of Food for Peace (FFP) Title II and slashes humanitarian funding for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) nearly in half. If enacted, cuts to FFP would result in more than 30 million people not receiving food aid, and cuts to OFDA could jeopardize humanitarian aid to tens of millions of vulnerable people. “It would be absolutely shameful to cut foreign aid at a time when four countries are experiencing or are on the brink of famine and we are facing the greatest humanitarian need since World War II,” says Andrea Koppel, Vice President of Global Engagement and Policy at Mercy Corps. “Cuts will completely undermine U.S. leadership and standing in the world – not to mention global security and stability – and potentially wipe out decades of progress.” The proposed zeroing out of Development Food Aid Programs (DFAPs) comes at a time when food security programs are needed most. For the first time in six years famine has been declared and 20 million people face starvation in four countries. Some 795 million people are undernourished, and DFAPs are critical to building long-term food security and lifting people out of poverty. Each year DFAPs help address the underlying drivers of chronic hunger for approximately 7.5 million people. “It is shortsighted for the administration to propose gutting development programs in order to save taxpayer dollars, when these very programs are breaking the cycle of hunger, violence and poverty and decreasing reliance on aid dependence in the long term,” says Koppel. “If Congress does not act and restore funding for the International Affairs Budget to $60 billion, we will be forever stuck in a perpetual cycle of humanitarian and military intervention while never solving the conflicts fueling today’s massive humanitarian crises. Cutting conflict-prevention programs is a huge step backward in our efforts to make America – and the world – safer.” With support from partners including the United States government, Mercy Corps helps 30 million people in more than 40 countries survive through crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good. Join us and support our work.
News Article | May 23, 2017
The proposed zeroing out of Development Food Aid Programs (DFAPs) comes at a time when food security programs are needed most. For the first time in six years famine has been declared and 20 million people face starvation in four countries. Some 795 million people are undernourished, and DFAPs are critical to building long-term food security and lifting people out of poverty. Each year DFAPs help address the underlying drivers of chronic hunger for approximately 7.5 million people. "It is shortsighted for the administration to propose gutting development programs in order to save taxpayer dollars, when these very programs are breaking the cycle of hunger, violence and poverty and decreasing reliance on aid dependence in the long term," says Koppel. "If Congress does not act and restore funding for the International Affairs Budget to $60 billion, we will be forever stuck in a perpetual cycle of humanitarian and military intervention while never solving the conflicts fueling today's massive humanitarian crises. Cutting conflict-prevention programs is a huge step backward in our efforts to make America – and the world – safer." With support from partners including the United States government, Mercy Corps helps 30 million people in more than 40 countries survive through crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good. Join us and support our work. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mercy-corps-administrations-foreign-aid-budget-is-indefensible-300462536.html
News Article | April 19, 2017
In its annual study of more than 4,000 brands across more than 500 categories, the Harris Poll has recognized Mercy Corps as the 2017 EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” and “Most Loved Brand” in the category of International Aid Nonprofits. This recognition comes from both cultivating outstanding brand equity and creating a brand that people love. “We could not have earned this recognition without the support of our donors and countless other champions, as well as the unrelenting dedication and hard work of our team members everywhere,” says Dara Royer, Chief Development and Marketing Officer at Mercy Corps. “We see the possibility of a better world, and so do you – and we thank you for that.” The annual Harris Poll EquiTrend Study is a syndicated brand equity survey that measures and compares a brand’s health over time and against key competitors. Other categories measured include travel, financial, automotive and entertainment. Over the past four years, Mercy Corps has undertaken a robust, data-driven effort to refresh the organization’s brand and bring it to life across all its touch points, from fundraising to digital marketing to advocacy. “We are proud that so many people have joined our cause to empower children, women and men to survive through crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good,” says Royer. Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work around the world. Mercy Corps received the highest numerical Equity Score and the highest numerical score relating to Love among International Aid Nonprofit brands included in the 2017 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study, which is based on opinions of 102,617 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online between December 30, 2016 and February 21, 2017. Your opinion may differ. “Highest Ranked” was determined by a pure ranking of a sample of International Aid Nonprofit brands.
News Article | April 20, 2017
The global organization Mercy Corps has begun providing civilians in the eastern half of Mosul with cash assistance, the first international aid organization to do so. The government of Iraq estimates that military operations in Mosul have led more than 362,000 people to flee their homes. “As we’ve entered previously inaccessible areas in the city, we’re learning more about the very difficult circumstances under which families are living,” says Su’ad Jarbawi, Iraq Country Director for Mercy Corps. “Adults are telling us they try to eat less and skip meals so that their children can eat. Most families we’ve spoken to so far say they can’t afford the basics, even food and medical care.” Mercy Corps surveyed 712 families in east Mosul in March and April, revealing a concerning level of humanitarian need: Mercy Corps is delivering cash distributions of $400.00 to families in need, and currently expects to reach nearly 4,000 families – approximately 20,000 people – impacted by the crisis in Mosul. “Cash is the quickest and most efficient way to help people because they can buy what they and their families need most,” Jarbawi says. “And an important side benefit to cash is that by spending money, people are supporting the local economy.” Mercy Corps has operated continuously in Iraq since 2003, providing assistance to 5 million Iraqis affected by war, violence and displacement in all 18 governorates. Currently the organization is addressing the needs of people affected by conflict, including refugees from Syria, displaced Iraqi civilians and Iraqi host communities. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | November 16, 2016
For the hundreds of thousands of refugees still navigating the often treacherous journey from the Middle East to Europe, the challenges don’t end once they hit safer shores. The complex bureaucracy of governments and aid organizations can make finding basic necessities like shelter, food and medical care maddeningly difficult. A big issue for humanitarian organizations is finding an efficient and effective way to get up-to-date information to refugees and other aid groups. Typically, these organizations maintain their own lists of services that they might share with other groups. But it’s difficult to keep the lists current because of a high turnover of staff , and the fact that the activities and services they offer change frequently. Now, a new web app, created by Canadian nonprofit PeaceGeeks, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), aims to bring all this information together in one place to make it easier for refugees to find what they need . The app, called Services Advisor, is available in both English and Arabic, and can be accessed using a smartphone or computer. It lists categories including shelter, health, education, protection, food and clean water. Users click on a category, and a list appears with detailed information about when and where they can access the type of service they want, including a map with clickable pins. For example, if someone selects “food”, a list comes up of charity organizations, such as International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), that provide items such as vouchers and parcels of food. In this instance, whoever is clicking will see that the service is only available to Jordanians and Syrians and that opening hours are Sunday to Thursday. The app is also aimed at humanitarian and aid organizations to help them guide refugees to the right services. For instance, a health worker may see a child for a medical checkup, but discover the child isn’t in school. The app allows the worker to find the right education service for that child, and make a referral to the organization if needed. “Refugees arriving in a new country have no job, no home and no support system to access even their most basic needs,” said Renee Black, executive director of PeaceGeeks. “Technology can play a critical role in empowering refugees to be active agents in their own future.” Services Advisor is trying to eliminate the need for every organization to maintain their own lists of services offered by them and other groups. With the web app, organizations only need to update information about their own services, which is then shared in one central place online. PeaceGeeks hopes to launch the app this month, first to service providers, and then to refugees in December. Once the app is ready, UNHCR will send a text message to the more than 650,000 refugees under its mandate in Jordan to alert them. The agency will also distribute brochures to advertise the app. PeaceGeeks presently doesn’t charge any ongoing licensing fees and the app will always be free to service providers and refugees. The company has put more than $200,000 into the app to date, according to Black, and is now hoping to raise a further $40,000 to launch in Somalia and Turkey in January. It might seem incongruous that refugees have access to smartphones, when many have fled their home countries with scarcely more than the clothes on their back. But according to humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, 85% of Syrian refugees have a smartphone. It’s not all that surprising that the current flock of refugees are technologically-minded, said Paul Spiegel, a professor of health systems and director of the center for refugee and disaster response at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Syria is a middle-income country, meaning people are well educated and were already using smartphones and various social media apps at home. According to a report from phone manufacturer Ericsson, there were 395m mobile phone subscriptions in the Middle East in 2016, a number the report says will increase by more than 200% between by 2021. “Now they’re using social media to help them deal with a new situation,” Spiegel said. Spiegel has seen firsthand how integral smartphones have become for refugees to communicate with family and friends. “When I was in Greece, the first thing that the Syrians did when they got out of the boat was not to ask for water or food,” he said. “It was to unwrap their smartphones that were intricately wrapped in cellophane or Ziploc bags – and call either home or their relatives and friends who arrived ahead of them.” Services Advisor isn’t the first web tool of its kind. Mercy Corps, together with the International Rescue Committee and Google, launched a website and app called Refugee.info (formerly Refugeeinfo.eu) in 2015, which helps refugees arriving in Greece find services such as lodging, medical facilities and transport. The website, available in four languages including Farsi and Arabic, has about 1,000 unique users a day and reaches about half of all the refugees in Greece. “At the height of the European migrant crisis, people were moving through borders and countries very quickly, the context changed from day to day,” said Sonal Shinde, director of migration response at Mercy Corps. “We found that technology was best to respond to this need for information – it’s flexible, responsive and can be adapted to meet changing needs and contexts.” Mercy Corps recently relaunched the site following focus groups with both female and male refugees in Greece. The site was first geared towards an emergency setting, offering information on food and shelter for people moving from place to place. Since the EU-Turkey refugee deal and the closing of borders, the website was modified to include information more suited to a static population. For instance, refugees in Lesvos, Greece can find information on education and schooling. The new site also links to the app and a Facebook page, “given that many people use the social media site as a portal of information,” said Shinde. One of the biggest challenges with these kinds of apps is managing the data over time, said Black. “It’s really complicated. You need to have really good relationships with the different groups doing this work to make sure that the tools you’re developing are working for their needs.” The key is to have someone managing the data and staying in close contact with the humanitarian organizations on the ground to ensure the information is regularly updated. With Services Advisor, that job falls to UNHCR. “It’s absolutely essential,” Black said. “If you don’t have someone who owns the problem of managing the data, then all of a sudden you have an app with a whole bunch of data, but you have no idea of the quality of it.” If that happens, refugees will quickly realize the information is out of date, and stop using the app, she said. There are also other considerations, particularly to do with access to electricity and technology. Refugees living in camps often don’t have access to electricity to power up their phones. Access to a smartphone also depends on nationality and gender. While the majority of Syrian refugees own smartphones, few Afghan refugees do, according to Mercy Corps. Afghans that do have smartphones are typically men. “Through our focus groups in Greece, the majority of Arabic speaking women told us that they obtained most of their information in communal bathrooms,” Shinde said. UNHCR Jordan has contracted PeaceGeeks to maintain and do ongoing development of the app, and UNHCR Turkey has contracted the company to deploy Services Advisor there.
News Article | February 21, 2017
Leading global organization Mercy Corps is calling on the international community to act now to avert a looming famine in Somalia. Drought conditions in the country mean that more than three million people will struggle to survive without emergency food assistance, the Famine Early Warning Systems network has warned. “We are witnessing the collapse of food, water and market systems at a scale beyond the country’s current capacity to respond,” says Abdikadir Mohamud, Mercy Corps Country Director for Somalia. “The international community must act quickly to prevent deaths – but must not simply look for quick fixes. Failing to implement long-term responses will trap Somalis in a cycle of drought, death and aid dependence.” Two seasons of failed rains in the Horn of Africa has seen three-quarters of the country’s livestock die, cereal production drop by 75 percent, and prices skyrocket, with a barrel of water tripling in price. This comes only six years after the 2011 famine which killed an estimated 260,000 Somalis. Forecasts suggest that the April rains this year are also likely to be below normal, just as they were in 2011 when the number of drought deaths sharply increased. “Vulnerable families are exhausting their resources and seeing their animals dying in front of them from disease and hunger, says Mohamud. “Disaster funds don’t last. The lesson of 2011 is not only about the importance of moving quickly, but about the necessity of planning for the future.” Mercy Corps has been improving access to food and water, rehabilitating water-ways, supporting local markets, and providing education and civic opportunities in Somalia since 2005. The organization currently supports more than 100,000 Somalis. Mercy Corps research has demonstrated that long-term responses can strengthen the ability of households to cope with drought in the Horn of Africa. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in Somalia and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Despite seemingly intractable problems including extreme poverty and one of the world’s highest populations of refugees, sub-Saharan Africa can potentially increase economic equity through investments in the financial sector. That’s according to a new report from the global organization Mercy Corps and Financial Sector Deepening Africa, supported by the UK Department for International Development. In the report, Financing the Frontier: Inclusive Financial Sector Development in Fragility-Affected States in Africa, researchers examine the impact of financial sector development on poverty and stability. The findings show that making financial services available to disadvantaged parts of the population may be one of the most effective strategies for cultivating stability in areas with high populations of refugees and internally displaced people. “Fundamental financial tools such as personal-identification-inclusive regulations and digital-payments infrastructure make a significant difference in fragile environments,” says Thea Anderson, Director of Financial Inclusion at Mercy Corps. “A strong, transparent financial sector can drive overall stability, address income equality and encourage the development of entrepreneurship.” Researchers note that despite this strong evidence of efficacy, institutional donors have been sluggish in prioritizing these kinds of market-focused responses in fragile and conflict-affected environments. As a group, so called “fragile-affected” countries lagged behind in reaching critical development benchmarks, including Millennium Development Goals. Today, the 50 countries and economies on the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development 2015 fragile states list – of which 30 are African – are home to 43 percent of the global population who live on less than US$1.25 per day. By 2030, this figure could reach 62 percent. “This report has implications not just in sub-Saharan Africa, but in places all over the world that are facing similar challenges,” says Anderson. “These places should not be overlooked as candidates for successful investments in long-term financial sector infrastructure.” Read or download the full report, and join us and support Mercy Corps’ work around the world.
News Article | February 22, 2017
Ahead of this week’s Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region taking place in Oslo, Norway, the global organization Mercy Corps urges governments to commit funding to meet humanitarian needs and tackle underlying causes of conflict. The United Nations appeal for the region in 2017 is $1.5 billion to fund assistance to more than 10 million people across the Lake Chad region, including more than 500,000 children expected to suffer from severe malnourishment this year. “The Lake Chad Basin, with Nigeria at its epicenter, is currently experiencing one of the world’s largest overlooked humanitarian crises, resulting from chronic underdevelopment and grievances that have created a self-perpetuating cycle of insecurity, violence and poverty,” says Iveta Ouvry, Mercy Corps Country Director in Nigeria. “The only way we will break this vicious cycle is by responding quickly to urgent needs in order to save lives. At the same time, we must support longer-term programs that can reduce vulnerability and prevent conflict.” Mercy Corps provides vital assistance such as food vouchers, cash, non-food items and water and hygiene support to tens of thousands of people across northeast Nigeria. In a recent assessment conducted in Dikwa and Ngala, two towns in northern Borno State hosting more than 120,000 displaced people, Mercy Corps found that food continues to be the main need, compounded by fuel shortages that limit many families to cooking only one meal a day. Mercy Corps will begin food distributions in Dikwa in the coming weeks. The assessment, conducted over a two-day period in January, also found that latrines are in short supply, causing people to resort to open defecation with limited access to water and soap for handwashing. Bathing also takes place in the open and usually at night, creating huge safety concerns for women and children. To tackle underlying drivers of the crisis, Mercy Corps is also working in Borno State to reduce youth vulnerability to radicalization, based on recommendations from its 2016 two-part report examining factors behind youth participation in Boko Haram. Read Mercy Corps' brief for conference attendees here. Join us and support Mercy Corps’ work in the Lake Chad region and elsewhere in the world.
News Article | February 15, 2017
The global organization Mercy Corps is expanding its programs in northern Uganda to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of thousands of South Sudanese refugees who have fled an escalation of conflict in their country. Over the past months, the number of South Sudanese refugees arriving at Uganda’s northern border has dramatically increased, with more than 1,800 daily arrivals according to the United Nations. Uganda now hosts more than half a million refugees from South Sudan. Mercy Corps will implement a cash program to help some 15,000 people in Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe, northern Uganda, which is home to over 270,000 refugees, of which two-thirds are children. “Our cash grants will allow refugees to buy what they and their families need most, while also injecting much needed currency into the local economy and supporting local livelihoods,” says Sean Granville-Ross, Mercy Corps Country Director for Uganda. “At Mercy Corps, we believe cash assistance is the most rapid, efficient and dignified manner of providing humanitarian aid.” The Mercy Corps program will focus on the most vulnerable groups of South Sudanese refugees, including the elderly, women-headed households, unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities. A cash-for-work program will be established to provide work opportunities for both refugees and residents of the host communities as part of the conflict-management measures for the settlement. Mercy Corps chose the cash-based response following its market assessment undertaken in November 2016. The study found that marketplaces within the Bidibidi settlement are growing to meet the demands of refugees, and that a cash-based response could stimulate the local economy and support trade. Mercy Corps has been working in Uganda since 2006 specializing in economic development, financial inclusion, maternal child health and nutrition, resilience, and peacebuilding and conflict management. To support Mercy Corps’ work in Uganda and elsewhere in the world, join us at mercycorps.org.