"You kept your promise!"

By Jon Hargreaves

 What a joy to be back in the remote Maharashtran village of Kahandol in time to celebrate the inauguration of their two new wells.  Just four months earlier I had been standing on a dried up riverbed with my Indian colleagues, Shilpa, Sam and Akshay and the head of the village, Patil Ramdas Warde.  Ramdas told us how the drought had brought great hardship to his village and he asked us if there was anything we could do to help.

HCR began working with Seva Social Welfare Foundation (Seva) in January 2018, with a vision to use a community-centred media approach to transform indigenous tribal communities, known as Adivasis, who are some of the most disadvantaged people in the country.  “In the last 10 months since the first audio programmes were distributed we have seen a dramatic decline in many illnesses as people have changed their habits around water, sanitation and hygiene,” Shilpa Shinde Seva’s chief executive told me.  Besides monthly health camps, the community have been receiving creative audio programmes on “speakerboxes” (Mp3 players) which have already brought about significant change on a range of issues ranging from health and hygiene to livelihoods and the importance of educating female children. 

But it was the water crisis that has focused the attention of the Seva team for the last four months.  With support from HCR and the very generous gift of British family with a passion for India, the Seva team facilitated the sinking of two wells and tanks that will mean the village will never lack for water again. 

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

After colourful tribal dances and music played on traditional instruments followed by a community meal, Ramdas turned to me and said, “This water has given the gift of life to this community for generations to come.  You came back.  You kept your promise.  Thank you!”

 

In September we will be facilitating a major evaluation to assess how the project has impacted the community with a view to scaling the project up to reach many more tribal villages across the state and then across the country.

If you would like to support this project or would like further information please contact hcruk@h-c-r.org.

"Electric fan was no better than a handheld fan!"

by Hazeen Latif

Picture this: a village with around 120 households; men, women, children and elderly all living together in conditions very few would dare to live. As the night falls the world beyond the village illuminates with lights glowing from house windows and on the streets. Cool air wafts from air conditioners and fans are blowing. But this village in KPK looks like a campsite with candle lights getting dimmer and dimmer as night get deeper.

 “We can’t sleep at night as the children cry of mosquito bites and heat,” says a local resident. Because of low electricity voltage and power cuts, electric fan speed is no better than a handheld fan. The problem was caused by a 25 kVA transformer with weak and rusted links, which connected the village to the national electricity supply grid. The transformer has been repaired over two dozen times and cannot be repaired anymore.

But thanks to our partner’s community radio program “Naway Saher”, which highlighted this issue before summer reached peak temperatures, a brand new 50kVA transformer has been installed replacing the older one. The voltage is very stable and community houses are much happier places to be. Residents say “this good fan speed is much better than hand fan!”

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

Stations collaborate to end violent extremism

By Jon Hargreaves

HCR partner station Amani FM in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, has joined forces with another community station to promote peace in this conflict-affected region.  The project “Amani Mashinani,” which in Swahili means peace at the grassroots, involves young people in the design and creation of feature stories and talk-shows that promote peace, using the airwaves of Amani FM in Garsen and TBS (Tana Broadcasting Service), in Hola.   Besides creative radio content, many on-the-ground activities involving youth are being planned around the district to encourage awareness of how conflict happens and how it can be resolved.

The initiative follows concerns that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab have been trying to recruit vulnerable, unemployed young people in the eastern areas of the country, near the border with Somalia.

HCR Associate Kelvin Nyangweso, one of the architects of the project, says the radio stations are operated by young volunteers who come from different communities in Tana River and who have a good understanding of the dynamics and needs of their own people. 

“The radio stations will provide the youth with a platform to engage in planning and producing media content through a collective, participatory approach,” says Kelvin. 

Besides training the young citizen journalists in the techniques of “peace journalism” and communication that counters violence,  youth leaders in the county will also undergo training to help them prevent and respond to issues that threaten to destabilise their communities. 

Amani FM was established by HCR in July 2017 ahead of Kenya’s controversial elections, in an effort to promote peace and complement the work of Una Hakika which was set up to combat rumours, misinformation and fake news, the key drivers of conflict in Tana River County.

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Spraying for peace ...

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

These community volunteers in Majukay are amazing! Despite the intense summer heat and the fasting period, they got out and sprayed mosquito hotspots in their community to prevent Dengue fever infections.

Has it made a difference? This year we heard people saying, more people are gathering together again in the places where community happens. In previous years there were too many mosquitoes and people avoided their normal meeting places in mosquito season. People meeting together is a big win for peacebuilding and the mosquito numbers are down - that’s a big win in the battle against disease.

Local government funded the spraying activities after hearing HCR Pakistan’s partner Naway Saher (NSCSG) talk about community concerns on local radio.

Radio station supports thousands fleeing attack

By Jon Hargreaves

Umoja FM, HCR’s partner station in Nobili, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is supporting communities fleeing attacks by Islamist rebels. “Our team are doing all we can to provide essential information to displaced people as well as support to the wider population,” said Station Manager Baraka Bacweki.

According to the UN, urgent action is needed to help tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes, following a spate of armed attacks in the eastern DRC by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, which are linked to so-called ‘Islamic State’. Local MP, Hon Albert Baliesima described the situation as deplorable for communities who have already endured so much suffering and hardship. He said makeshift schools had been set up in Nobili, and surrounding areas near the Ugandan border to try and provide children with some education and stability.

Makeshift classrooms have been set up to provide education and some stability for displaced children

Makeshift classrooms have been set up to provide education and some stability for displaced children

This latest humanitarian crisis was triggered by attacks which began on March 30 and have continued for a month in Beni territory, North Kivu. According to local health authorities, over 60,000 people were displaced in April alone.

Tamba Emmanuel Danmbi-saa, Oxfam's Humanitarian Program Manager in the DRC, said: “This is a deeply worrying situation. These people fear going back to their homes and are being forced to live in cramped, unsanitary conditions, in an area where Ebola remains a significant threat. These people urgently need food and adequate sanitation facilities as well as clean water and health services.”

Several thousand people are reported to be sheltering in a primary school just 1 km from the border crossing to Uganda. The only water available to drink is from the river and there are only a few toilets at the school, meaning the threat of disease spreading is high. As no food is being provided, for many people the only way to get food is to go back to their villages where they don’t feel safe.

Hon Albert Baliesima, MP for Beni Territory being interviewed by Baraka Bacweki from Umoja FM in Nobili

Hon Albert Baliesima, MP for Beni Territory being interviewed by Baraka Bacweki from Umoja FM in Nobili

“The radio station is providing vital information at this challenging time,” says Baraka. “People are very confused and need information to help them make decisions.”

Humanitarian organisations say that that ongoing violence in the area makes reaching people with aid from within DRC extremely difficult and Ugandan authorities are preparing to receive an influx of new refugees. 

HCR supports communities facing crisis in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. For more information contact hcruk@h-c-r.org