Today’s humanitarianism has changed and working with local communities to be disaster resilient has become an absolute priority for non-governmental organisations. Climate change-related volatility now means we must move quickly and respond to disasters more frequently, often with limited warning. This makes investing in planning, preparedness, early warning, and resilience building even more important, writes ChildFund CEO Mark Collins.
After more than 20 years working in leadership positions in the finance industry, I learnt there is never too much planning you can do. I was only a teenager in 1987 when the Black Monday share market crash rocked the world but in 2007 and 2008 when the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit, I was right in the thick of it.
While no one had a crystal ball and knew the financial destruction that would result from the GFC, there were many warning signs in the market like high debt to loan ratios and we all could have been better prepared.
We are three months into 2023 and already extreme temperatures, floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, and the resulting loss of life and livelihoods, have headlined news constantly both here in New Zealand and overseas.
We have all watched, listened and been heartbroken by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and the devastation of cyclone Gabrielle in the North Island.
Lives, livelihoods, and homes have been lost. Not to mention the massive disruption to people’s everyday lives and wellbeing, some of whom already were struggling significantly. These events have made us all acutely aware of the terrifying impact they can have.
In developing countries, the severity of impact of disasters is magnified because many lack the resources and funding to protect their communities adequately. For example, many families in developing countries do not have access to sufficient shelter or support to withstand such disasters. As a result, they are often displaced under these tragic circumstances.
At ChildFund, we are hearing from our colleagues in Zambia about torrential rains and horrendous floods, while severe droughts are affecting our colleagues in Kenya. From one extreme to another, we know that extreme climatic events are increasingly happening.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a core part of the work that ChildFund does with communities. Then when an emergency strikes, we respond – like in Syria after the earthquake in February and in Kiribati after the government declared a state of emergency due to an ongoing drought. DRR is proactive and emergency response is reactive, but both are important in the communities we work with.
Alongside these, a focus for ChildFund is working with communities on projects that have longer term outcomes, including DRR, that lead to them being self-reliant. These projects, I have to say, are what really gets me out of bed in the morning.
Last May I was lucky enough to attend the opening of a Moringa processing plant in the semi-arid, rural area of Emali in Kenya where ChildFund works. Moringa is a drought resistant tree that produces highly nutritious leaves that can be eaten as is and processed into other products. ChildFund has worked with crop farmers in Emali for over six years to grow Moringa and to form cooperative groups that work together to process Moringa and then sell at the market, creating sustainable incomes for families. Most recently ChildFund has worked with local growers to open a processing plant and now Moringa is being processed into a highly nutritious leaf powder on a larger scale.
This project, like others of ChildFund's, are notable examples of international development work with longer term outcomes that help communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters.
There is still immediate need of food and water during crisis times and right now ChildFund is responding to drought in Emali. The current drought is extreme, the worst in 40 years, and we must help children and families living there get through it.
As the severity and impact of droughts in Kenya worsens with climate change our aim is not only to help with food and water in times of need but to work with the community to be better prepared. Being able and ready to support themselves into the future is vital. .
All development work should have a long-term focus and should help grow self-reliant communities so that disasters like droughts and floods have less impact on the community. For organisations like ChildFund, it means we not only have to remain responsive to sudden emergency needs but must also build resilience into communities to support long-term self-reliance.
ChildFund New Zealand is a member of ChildFund Alliance, a global network focused on ending violence and exploitation against children and promoting a world in which all children enjoy their rights and achieve their full potential. Please visit childfund.org.nz for more information.
For further information or interviews contact ChildFund New Zealand Engagement Manager Carolyn Brooke on 0272859978 or email email@example.com