When the Rain Comes

Marie photo Marie Dahl, Save the Children protection advisor

Man, Ivory Coast

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


It has been a long day of work and I am finally home. As I sit outside, the pitch black sky is lit up by a distant lightning, revealing the silhouette of the belt of mountains that surrounds Man, the town I’m now living in, in western Ivory Coast. There is no thunder, just lightning, and as soon as it’s gone, the sky returns to darkness. Normally, I would have just enjoyed the beauty of this moment, but this time it’s different. I know that later tonight, when the rain catches up with the lightning, there will be children and families unable to sleep because they have no shelter.

Hundreds of thousands of families were forced to flee their homes in the Ivory Coast after disputed elections in November sparked a major crisis. Now, almost six months after the elections, children are still suffering the devastating consequences. Their homes have been burnt down, schools destroyed, hospitals looted and family members killed.

Right now, 150,000 people are still displaced in the West alone. Thousands of children are without a home, some staying with host families who don’t have the resources to support everyone. Others live in overcrowded camps, struggling to find free space to lay their heads at night, which, for many, still means sleeping under the stars.

Today I visited one of the camps where about 25,000 people are crowded together on the grounds of a local church. The conditions are atrocious. Apart from the need for adequate shelter, there is also a massive shortage of food, clean water, mosquito nets and medical supplies.

As I walked through the busy and narrow alleys of the camp, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children – they were everywhere. Many of them showed signs of malnutrition and stomach diseases. Some of them would not stop crying.

The amount of need was palpable at the camp, and I was glad that we were there to take action.

While my colleagues work flat out to provide the basic needs of these children, I work to protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation. Despite the disheartening conditions I had witnessed on my visit, I left the camp with a sense of accomplishment. My visit resulted in a successful negotiation for a free space to set up a temporary school and a supervised playground. Children will soon have an opportunity to learn, play, express themselves and have fun together. In the midst of their daily struggles in the camp, children will have a space to leave their hardships aside and just be children.  

Knowing the space was secured; I had completed my mission of the day and our team returned to our base in Man.

Following a sudden brisk wind and a marked temperature drop, the rain arrived to Man, heavy and merciless. I get myself ready for bed and, knowing that this is only the beginning of the rainy season, I can’t stop thinking of the needs of families spending the night outdoors.

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Please support our Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) Children in Crisis Fund.

Andrise’s Family Receives Water, Hygiene Kits, Household Supplies from Save the Children Distribution

Colin Crowley, Save the Children multimedia emergency response team

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 21, 2010

Andrise_female_9yrs: Save the Children  

Andrise is a 9-year-old girl whose home was destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Watch a video of Andrise

She and her mother are currently living in a makeshift camp in the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles.

 

On January 21, Save the Children carried out a distribution that provided people in this camp with much-needed household items, hygiene supplies and clean drinking water. I interviewed Andrise just after her family received the aid and translated her comments for this blog.

She said, "The day of the earthquake I was washing myself outside when the house started shaking, shaking, shaking. My little cousin was next to me and we got scared and ran back inside the house."

"When we got inside, one of the walls collapsed down to the floor. Another house right next to ours collapsed and two small babies who were inside died. I thought that we were all going to die. I thought it was the end of the world."

When all this happened, Andrise's mother was in class at the university and she had to run outside when the school building started shaking. She was shocked and scared because she thought that Andrise had died. But then Andrise's stepfather found her and took her back to her mother.

"I feel so bad because I have several cousins who died in the earthquake," cried Andrise. "I also have an uncle who died. I know so many people who died when their houses collapsed."

"Our family lost everything. There is a big crack running through our house and it is nearly destroyed. It will only take another shock to knock it down completely so we don’t feel safe living there."

"Now we are living here in this camp. But we’re not comfortable here in this situation because this is the first time we’ve ever had to sleep outside in a place like this."

"This morning Save the Children came and gave us some things that we needed. We had lost hope that any help was going to come, but this morning they came and they gave us water, soap, plates and things. Everybody lined up outside the camp to receive their things."

"I would like to leave this place and I would like for us to get a better place to live and have food to eat and all the other things we need. We don’t want to live this kind of life."

Watch a video of Andrise

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Haiti Earthquake Emergency Podcast

Eyewitness Accounts of Haiti Earthquake Disaster Moderated by Cokie Roberts – Jan 19 2010

Save the Children trustee and award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts moderates the first, four-person panel session with call-in questions to Save the Children experts and rescuers on the ground in Haiti. On January 12, 2010, Save the Children launched an emergency relief effort to assist children and families in Haiti following a major 7.0-magnitude earthquake near the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

(To listen to the Podcast, roll your mouse arrow over the gray box and click.)

In this first episode, the speakers are:

Charles MacCormack, Save the Children president and CEO - 11 min. segment

Lee Nelson, Save the Children's Haiti country director – 8 min. segment

Kathryn Bolles, Save the Children's emergency health and nutrition director – 9 min. segment

Rudy von Bernuth, Save the Children vice-president and managing director – 6 min. segment

Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquakes in Haiti.

Save the Children Sets Up Child Friendly Spaces for Children like Angelo

Save the Children_002 

Filippo Ungaro, Save the Children, communications manager  


Makeshift Camp, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 19, 2010

Angelo, age 8, lost his home and all of belongings in the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Today, he and his seven brothers and sisters are living with their mother in a crowded temporary encampment on the grounds of a church.  

Save the Children

The family survived with only the clothes on their backs. What little food they have they receive from friends. 

Angelo and his sister were just outside their house when the earthquake hit. 

“I was looking for my mum and I was really scared,” he says.  “Now we don’t even have a tent to sleep in. I don’t have anything, not even clothes.” 

Angelo, who would like to be a football player when he grows up, says he misses his home, his classmates and his school.

“I would like to go back home but I know that it’s impossible now. I’m not going to school anymore. It’s a shame because I like school,” he says. 

A third-grader, Angelo’s favorite class is grammar. Instead of being in class since the disaster, he says he spends his time playing with friends “even if I don’t have many here.” 

Save the Children is establishing a Child Friendly Space on the grounds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ruelle St. Cyr, Carrefour Ti-Four, so that children in the encampment where Angelo is staying have a supervised place to play.

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Angelo’s mother, Maria Josette, said their house had been paid for but now they will have to start over.  

“The situation is not good for us,” she says. “I have nothing left.”

Photo credits: Antonio Bolfo/Getty Images

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).