Disaster Relief

Spirulina to the Rescue in Horn of Africa

In the summer of 2011, the UN identified severe drought in the Horn of Africa. Affected countries in this East African region include Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan. Considered the worst in 60 years, the drought caused a severe food crisis across the region, affecting close to 10 million people. Read more

Haiti: Hurricane Matthew

Haiti: Hurricane Matthew

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The most powerful Hurricane in the Caribbean in a decade passed over Haiti with devastating results. Violent winds and heavy downpours have deeply affected the country that has not recovered from the mega earthquake in 2010 and remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

We evacuated all the kids and staff at our center in Port au Prince the day before the storm hit, (no easy feat!).  We were especially concerned for our center/school/children’s home, worrying the retaining walls would not hold up and we would lose everything to the force of the river.  We monitored the storm all day, and were able to stay in touch with teams around the country via skype and whatsapp. The hurricane ended up bearing more west than initially predicted, sparing Port au Prince from being flattened. There was localized flooding, loss of homes and a number of bridges were washed out, but our center was still standing when the storm moved on.

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All our kids and staff have returned and the school is open. Our team in the Southeast experienced tremendous amounts of rain and some flooding, but our school and all the programs are safe.

Unfortunately other parts of  Haiti were not so fortunate.  In the southeast, many villages have been devastated. The town of Jeremie in particu;ar was hit hard. In a recent report from a pilot doing a fly over he states: Jeremie, “It’s wiped out. Barely 1 percent of houses are standing. The people are alive … they survived. But soon, they may starve. They’re cutoff.” He went on to say here are some villages where they still haven’t been able to hear from a single person.

The Anse Rouge district in the northwest was badly affected as well. We have sent in a small team to do an assessement in the southwest and will follow up with aid. Here is an excerpt from the repost sent by our team coordinator in the Anse Rouge area in the NW:

“The heaviest impact has been felt in the coastal villages which have been battered by 10′ high waves and 75 kmh winds, destroying houses and roads.  The main connection between Gonaives to the south and Anse Rouge has been cut off.  The % of houses damaged moderately to severely is still being assessed, but it is already clear that the heaviest impacted areas have been Anse Rouge, Coridon, Point des Mangles, and Gran Savan.  Fishing boats and equipment have been destroyed in virtually all the coastal villages.  The extent of the damage reaches the mountainous areas all the way up to Commune Terre Neuve, with reports coming of farms and roads washed off and livestock lost.  As of today heavy rains continue, the dry rivers in the area have cut off connections between villages, making thorough assessment in the entire Commune more difficult at this point.

The main type of assistance which we can foresee being most useful is unconditional cash vouchers to support families in shelters and those most vulnerable, house reconstruction/construction, livelihoods assistance (primarily fishing and salt livelihoods), and seeds/tools.  We will be meeting with our traditional partners here in Haiti and will let you know what kind of emergency programs will be activated here in Haiti.  I will be present at the National Emergency Coordination meetings in Port-au-Prince and will share all relevant information as well. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, and we’ll greatly welcome any news of possible assistance for this emergency effort”

A big concern now is to make sure that people get safe drinking water and safe water for washing as the threat of a major cholera outbreak is very real.  The doctors in Haiti are saying “though the storm has passed, experience tells us that the worst is yet to come.”

If you would like to be part of this relief effort, please consider making a tax- deductible donation now.  Thanks much.

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Greece: Mother & Baby Care for Refugees

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For the past 10 months, Amurtel volunteers in Greece have been working with refugee families, providing support for pregnant and nursing moms and newborn babies. This wave of migration is unprecedented since WWII and is changing the face of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also changing the way relief organizations operate. Amurtel, as the only NGO focused solely on the needs of women and babies from pregnancy through infancy, works together with many of other groups, to create spaces and services for these most vulnerable of refugees.

Excerpts of reports from the field:

“It was a swelteringly hot day in Victoria Square, downtown Athens. Inside one of the many refugee tents sat a very pregnant woman with two small children at her side. Even from the pavement we could see sweat on her brow as she fanned herself continuously. Seeing how swollen her feet and legs were, we asked how pregnant she was. She falteringly answered, “Nine.”  Nine months pregnant? This was still the time when refugees walked from the border of one country to the next, sometimes for days on end. I could easily imagine the horrifying thought of her going into labor in the middle of nowhere.
The desperation and urgency in the minds of those transiting through Greece on their way to northern Europe is staggering. Statistics tell us that amongst refugee populations, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death among women. Our team of midwives, doulas, and breastfeeding specialists, are present in the camps in Athens and periodically on the island of Lesvos to meet these women and babies and offer support.
We’ve seen many mothers ready to give birth any day and newborns sometimes days old. A brief maternal or infant check can go far in reassuring the family.. For these mothers, fear for their children’s safety constantly grips their minds. While moving from camp to camp, from boat to bus to train to going on foot, it’s a constant worry. Being shown how to use baby carriers has offered great relief for mothers and fathers alike. Knowing the child is on them and with them at all times creates a sense of safety and helps shelter the child from some of the traumatic effects of the journey. As one mother said,  after being given an infant wrap that let her wear her two month old close on her chest, “I  feel more at ease. My hands are free for my older children while my heart takes care of my baby.”

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With the closing of the borders at the end of February, camps are gradually being moved from the port into the countryside and people will be staying for longer times.  In May, Amurtel outfitted a small camper as a mobile clinic, allowing our team to meet with women in multiple camps.

A more recent field report:

“It’s a hot day at the port. The sea breeze coming over the water helps cool down the mothers and babies waiting outside our small camper.  We’re parked outside the port’s stone warehouse, a large windowless building converted into a temporary refugee shelter. Located midway between the few other ferry terminals that have also become shelters, we’ve been able to serve some of the thousands left stranded at the port when borders closed at the end of February. Since then, our midwives, breastfeeding specialists and other women volunteers have shown up daily to keep the small but amazingly functional space going.
The inner sanctum of the camper has turned into a safe space for examining pregnant and postpartum women and for breastfeeding counseling. The more open spot towards the entrance is the baby bathing area. Taking turns using the one tub, mothers move their littlest ones in and out, feeling relieved for this bit of cleanliness in the often grimy environment. These services, plus the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit we give daily to the pregnant and lactating mothers to supplement their meager meals, create a steady flow of regularly returning mothers and babies along with new ones arriving every day.”

In response to the changing conditions, Amurtel is moving into a new phase of care, addressing the longer term needs of these families, with our focus on working with mothers and babies in the perinatal period staying unchanged.

Louisiana Flood Relief

AMURT and AMURTEL (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Teams) are responding to the floods in Louisiana that have now caused 13 deaths and has been labeled the worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy. However, despite the severity of the situation, the disaster is not getting the attention that it deserves. Read more

Spring Update on Greece

Smiling baby after bath
Smiling baby after bath

 

It’s a hot day at the port, more like June than April. The sea breeze coming in over the water helps cools down the mothers and babies waiting outside our small camper cum Mother-Baby Area. We’re parked outside the port’s stone warehouse, a large windowless building converted into a temporary refugee shelter. Located midway between the few other ferry terminals that have also become shelters, we’ve been able to serve some of the thousands left stranded at the port when the northern European borders closed towards the end of February. Since then, our midwives, breastfeeding specialists and other women volunteers have shown up daily to keep the small but amazingly functional space going. The inner sanctum of the camper has turned into a safe space for examining pregnant and postpartum women and for breastfeeding counseling as well as just talking when a mother’s emotions or pain are running high. The more open spot towards the entrance is the baby bathing area. Taking turns using the one tub that fits snugly into this tiny corner, mothers shuffle their littlest ones in and out, feeling relieved for this bit of sanitation in an otherwise less-than-hygienic environment. These services, plus the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit we give daily to the pregnant and lactating mothers to supplement their meager meals, create a steady flow of regularly returning mothers and babies along with new ones arriving every day.

During these nearly two and a half months, camps have been erected at different areas throughout Greece and the refugees are being gradually moved from the port. By Easter, May 1st this year, the remainder of them are scheduled to be gone. This signals for us a movement into another phase, from the more immediate emergency response into longer term care. The where and how of that care is still evolving but our focus of mothers and babies in the perinatal period remains unchanged.

Inside the stone warehouse
Inside the stone warehouse
Bathing baby in the camper
Bathing baby in the camper
Mother and children in the camper
Mother and children in the camper
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Amurtel Greece for Refugee Mothers and Babies

As thousands of refugees rea

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ch Greece’s shores daily, Amurtel focuses on the crucial needs of pregnant women, birthing women and mothers with small infants. These women and babies are greatly affected by the lack of stable shelter and routine, nutritious and culturally familiar food and emotional support. They often look exhausted and desperate to stop and yet they go on. The AMURTEL team of midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, concerned mothers and women with skills in the area of childbirth and infancy go regularly to the refugee camps in Athens and the island of Lesvos to offer support for breastfeeding, infant care, postpartum care of new mothers and assistance during birth if necessary.

We also supply emergency birth kits to the camp medical tents if they don’t already have one. We attempt to provide a warm woman-to-woman touch and offer infant and mother care supplies that are as close as possible to what mothers are used to in their own countries. We also continually search for ways of being emotional supportive in an appropriate cultural context.

Donations are greatly appreciated! Be sure to mark the donation as being for ‘Refugees Greece!’

 

Child Friendly Spaces in a hostile environment

In the white afternoon sun and dust, about a dozen children run through the barbed wire gate of the camp to one dirt hill after another, urging their plastic bag and stick kites into the air. Their numerous brothers and sisters stay behind with parents or the families living in shelters close to their own, sitting in shade where they can find it, fanning themselves in the relentless heat. Behind where they sit are five hundred families more, all sharing six latrines and with no access to water. While the rain would be a welcome relief, it would also destroy the shelters, mostly constructed of cardboard boxes and old T-shirts whose colors and designs have long since faded in the sun.

More than 60,000 people have left the Dominican Republic to live in camps like this. After the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic agreed two years ago to uphold a law stripping citizenship from thousands of people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic and an increase of acts of racism and intimidation against Haitians in the country, many Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans have settled in camps just across the Haitian-Dominican border with little water, food, and support of any kind.

It is in this environment, where children have little to nothing do all day and find their educations disrupted that AMURTEL has begun offering summer camps for youth. In two of the three camps in the southern border area of Ansapit, AMURTEL offers summer camps for about 200 young people. The camps provide children with educational activities, a hot meal and water, and time to play and be kids.

In a recent study, Columbia University and World Vision found Child Friendly Spaces like these summer camps to be effective in providing psychosocial support to young children experiencing trauma. “CFSs provide young people with a safe place to play…and experience healing from any trauma they’ve experienced. They also allow children to return to healthy routines and experience a sense of normalcy again,” says Health MacLeod of World Vision.

Child Friendly Spaces are nothing new for AMURTEL Haiti. Since 2010, after the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, AMURTEL has facilitated activities for displaced children and children living in poverty. Now, as the crisis of displaced people worsens along the Haitian-Dominican border, AMURTEL, which has worked in Ansapit for almost ten years and runs schools and empowerment programs in the area reaching more than 700 families, is well positioned to support these vulnerable individuals and, in particular, children, for whom the trauma of relocation, hunger, and insecurity is most acute.

In fact, in enrolling children in the camps, the biggest challenge that AMURTEL staff faces is limiting the size of the camps to a group facilitators can manage. With more funding, AMURTEL could expand the size of these summer camps and provide more robust meals to the participating children.

Mcleod describes, “We know the long-term impact of [children’s] exposure to traumatic events can be huge if not addressed.” It is precisely as these families decide where to go next and how to manage their family’s new and uncertain future outside of the Dominican Republic that their children are most vulnerable. And it now that proven programs like Child Friendly Spaces are most important for those children’s futures.

Taking refuge in Greece

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A refugee woman from Syria gave birth to her son on the shore of Lesvos as soon as the boat transfering her family arrived from Turkey. The mother and the baby are safe and healthy thanks to the volunteers and doctors who were there.

We are looking for volunteers who can commit time on a regular basis, i.e, once a week (or more), once every two weeks, once a month, etc. The most crucial need is for women with expertise in areas of pregnancy, birth and mother-infant care, such as Lactation Consultants, La Leche League leaders, Midwives and doulas, etc.

Other volunteers are welcome to help with the donation, collection, sorting,
and packaging of the relief items.
Contact us at
amurtel.gr@amurtel.org

Syrian woman
Rania & ch

Nepal Update

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On April 25, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal,  killing close to 10,000 people, injuring more than 23,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, with entire villages flattened.  Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal, with a major aftershock  in May which which left another 200 people dead and more than 2,500 injured. Many who had begun to rebuild their homes watched in despair as this aftershock once again destroyed everything.

AMURT & AMURTEL have been active on the Indian sub-continent since 1970, and therefore have a strong presence in the region. Hence our teams were able to mobilize quickly, with three teams from India joining their counterparts in Nepal to set up relief camps in nine earthquake-affected districts.

AMURT & AMURTEL volunteers provide basic supplies, such as essential groceries, tarpaulins and blankets, along with medical support through mobile clinics. In the first month after the earthquakes AMURT & AMURTEL has distributed food parcels to 15,300 persons, tarpaulins to 2,088 persons and 7,500 people have been treated by our medical volunteers.

With the coming of the monsoon rains, it became critical to get shelters set up. Rain, mosquitos, snakes- all worries added to the desperate situation so many thousands of families found themselves in. At the beginning of July Amurt and Amurtel teams partnered with 180 families to begin rebuilding homes, distributing sheets of metal roofing. As funds come in we will continue to help families rebuild.

AMURT & AMURTEL has begun training teachers to respond to trauma as they welcome back students that had been out of school since the earthquakes. The training consists of four days with two days reserved for theory and exercises and two days of practical coaching with the students back in school.  The training draws on multiple resources such as creative therapies, yoga and group therapies. As most schools were damaged or destroyed AMURT/EL has set up Temporary Learning Centers that starts with the students decorating their classrooms.

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Nepal Relief

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