Nepal extends lock down to June 2nd as cases surge

Our contacts from TSS (Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti) in Nepal informed us that the Nepalese government has extended their lockdown from May 24 until June 2nd. This is following the first couple deaths due to Covid19 and an increase in cases.

Originally Nepal reported very few cases with no more than 11 by April 10th but it was also not in a good position to test for Covid. Now, of May 25, the government has pledged to test 600,000 people, or 2 percent of the population. Currently they have only tested 51,642 people with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, while 95,192 people have been tested with rapid test kits, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population.

In the last week the numbers of confirmed cases has more than doubled to 682 confirmed cases. The restrictions are tighter than before.

Suresh Shrestha, the Executive Director of TSS told us “Now a person is required two approvals from government administration offices both from origin and destination districts (if they wish to travel). However, it is still flexible to transport medical personnel, security persons, media persons, commodities suppliers and emergency medical services without any prior approval. Kathmandu and Ramechhap was considered safe zone (green zone), but due to movement of people from Terai and other affected areas into these districts, it has become a risk zone as well.”

The government is claiming the increase of cases is because of a failure to test Nepalese migrant workers who returned home from India.

 

Source:

Nepal plans to conduct COVID-19 test among 2 percent of population – Xinhaunet.com

 

Celebrating Mothers

If you are wondering how to honour your mother or grandmother this Mother’s Day, why not consider making a donation in her name to World Neighbours Canada and have your money go directly to support mothers not as fortunate as yours.

All our projects support some of the poorest women in areas of Nepal, Honduras and Burkina Faso and provide opportunities for women, and often mothers, to learn skills that will allow them to earn a little money of their own, improve their health and better care for their children. This is especially true right now, as we all attempt to deal with the life-changing effects of COVID-19.

Children made Mother’s Day cards as a special activity.

Should you wish to have a card sent to your mother as a memento of your gift, please send an email to the following address: ( peterjudy1352@gmail.com ), along with your name and the name and address of the recipient and a card will be mailed shortly.

Information about making a donation is available on the website. (www.worldneighbours.ca )

A community water tap in Nepal

Nepal in lock down, but will it be enough?

Shown in the photo is the main commercial street in Kathmandu – Durbar Marg – with absolutely no traffic. Nepal, on the day of this photo, was in the 3rd week of a total lockdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

At World Neighbours Canada we are waiting with concern to see how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect our partners and the communities they work. Unfortunately, the countries they are located in are ill prepared to deal with the crisis. This is certainly the case in Nepal where health care funding has been traditionally low, they lack the basic health care equipment to test and treat Covid positive patients, and complaints of corruption have stalled getting proper safety equipment to health care workers. As a result, very few people have been tested so the current number of confirmed cases of 9, as on April 10th, is not an accurate assessment of the situation.

In order to limit the spread of the virus the government closed it borders and enforced a mandatory lockdown. Suresh Shrestha, the Executive Director of our partner NGO, Tamakoshi Sewa Sameti (TSS) puts it this way:

“Since 24th March, we are under the official lockdown period. About 90% people are confined within their homes. All offices and shops are closed nation wide. As per the government order, it has been prohibited all public movement outside the home, except for medical & purchase of food stuffs. All public and private vehicles without special permission are forbidden in the streets. All national and international flights have been suspended until 30th April. The daily necessary food selling stores are open for 2-3 hours only. Anyone defying the government order will be punishable according to Infectious Disease Control Act.”

The lockdown has not stopped many Nepalese who were stuck working abroad in India to return home to their communities. There is an increased risk that they are bringing the virus with them to remote communities.

On April 7th Nepal reached an agreement with the World Bank to access $29 million dollars to improve testing facilities, equip health facilities with personal protective equipment, create new ICU, beds, and isolation facilities, and strengthen public institutions to coordinate the response.

This is good news as without testing, and certainly without testing outside of Katmandu, there is no way to assess the seriousness of the situation, or to deal with it.

We are hoping the communities we work with are able to weather the storm. At least they have access to water and improved sanitary conditions thanks to the work of TSS and those communities.

Sources:

World Bank News

Foreign Policy Insider

Nepali Times

Al Jazeera

Anadolu Agency

Life stressors in the Sahel

Charles and some of the team of APDC

By Judy Gray

I recently came across two articles which describe the current situation in Burkina Faso as it teeters on the verge of a major crisis. During these strange and unusual times when COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, one would expect the virus to be the number one concern  in Burkina Faso also and it is certainly mentioned regularly. However, in the Eastern region where our project villages are, there is an even greater worry right now – the daily fear of jihadist terrorists entering a village and harming individuals. Charles Tankoano, coordinator of our local partner organization, keeps us updated on these difficulties but also reports that his staff continue to support people as much as they can. We are actively discussing with Charles if and how the program needs to change to meet people’s needs and keep staff safe.

The following excerpt from an article published in a journal, The Intercept, describes the situation in the country:

On March 18, Burkina Faso suffered the first confirmed Covid-19 fatality in all of sub-Saharan Africa…Tiny, impoverished, and conflict-scarred, Burkina Faso is now West Africa’s worst-affected country, with 146 confirmed cases, including four government ministers [as of April 4, that number has risen to 302 cases and 16 deaths].

Burkina Faso has seen more than its share of hardships: poverty, drought, hunger, coups. But the coronavirus poses a new kind of threat to a country wracked by a war that has displaced around 700,000 Burkinabe in the last year. Many of those people now find themselves under great physical and emotional strain, lacking proper shelter, food, and the other necessities — all of which makes them more vulnerable to the pandemic. Experts fear that Covid-19 could decimate entire settlements of Burkina Faso’s displaced. The number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), will soon reach 1 million. [Though the number of IDPs is much lower in the Eastern region where our project villages are located, the same situation is occurring as families flee their villages to avoid living with the fear of terrorists, according to Charles Tankoano in his recent semi-annual report].

While Burkina Faso has recently adopted a Covid-19 response plan that takes IDPs into account, it doesn’t change the fact that 135 health centers in the country have closed due to violence, 140 have reduced their services, and 1.5 million Burkinabe now depend on humanitarian health assistance. Covid-19 will exacerbate an already dire situation.

Survivors of a recent attack on Rofenega (northern region, close to Mali) recounted a story that is increasingly common among farmers and cattle herders in rural Burkina Faso. Armed men on motorbikes roared into villages just before dusk and began shooting. “They shot our men at the gates of our homes,” Dialla Seybata, a 50-year-old survivor of the massacre, also stranded in Kaya, told The Intercept. [To date, there have been no deaths in the project villages supported by World Neighbours Canada, but the unannounced arrival of terrorists is occurring more and more frequently. According to Mr. Tankoano, the terrorists are preventing information sessions from taking place and even preventing the planned agricultural improvements from getting underway].

Stone bunds are a simple way to retain the limited water available to these farmers

Another article, published by the UN News, paints a similar picture about the current critical situation in Burkina Faso:

The number of food-insecure people in Burkina Faso is expected to triple in the next lean season…Humanitarians have repeatedly warned that chronic insecurity linked to successive drought and violent extremists who exploit the lack of a strong State presence have created an unavoidable crisis, which WFP said has now extended to the coastal countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Forecasts indicate that Burkina Faso will see food insecurity more than triple, to more than 2.1 million people in June, up from at least 680,000 at the same time last year.

ADPC works with communities to help create community gardens which in turn help improve the health of the community and provide additional funds.

“This is a crisis layered on top of a crisis, and the situation risks getting out of hand,” said Chris Nikoi, the World Food Programmes’s Regional Director for West Africa. “People are on the brink – we must step up now to save lives – we are the only hope for millions.”

Here are the links to these two articles in their entirety:’

The Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2020/03/26/burkina-faso-africa-coronavirus/)

UN News (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1060942)

Communities facing a new crisis

By Bruce Petch

The evolving COVID-19 crisis has reached the countries where World Neighbours Canada provides support. More than any previous disaster, this crisis reminds us that we are all “world neighbours” and our fortunes and misfortune are linked together. One of our partner organizations in the U.S., Groundswell International, stated it aptly – we are one human family and community. Our partner organizations in Burkina Faso, Honduras and Nepal are facing a great deal of uncertainty because the health systems in their countries are not at all prepared for an epidemic on this scale. Nonetheless, the organizations and the communities they serve have faced disaster before – whether hurricanes or flooding or earthquakes or insurgencies – and pulled together in solidarity. We stand with them and hope that the communities will recover quickly.

“In West African Coronavirus Hotspot, War Has Left 700,000 Homeless and Exposed,” The Intercept. March 26,2020

Burkina Faso had the misfortune to experience the first COVID-19 death in Africa. As of today, there are 207 confirmed cases and 11 deaths. Our partner organization, APDC, is still operating but they are not optimistic about the course of the disease: “All the members of APDC and their families are doing well. We are currently spared from the Coronavirus. But everyone is afraid because our health system cannot provide care. Our state is far from being able to afford to effectively cope with this epidemic if it gains momentum.” As if the virus were not enough, attacks by terrorists continue to plague the East Region of the country where APDC operates (the North has faced even more violence).

People are protesting the forced lockdown by the government because they do not have enough money to buy food.

Honduras reports 110 confirmed cases and two deaths so far. The government has imposed strict controls on the population (a lockdown, as in many countries). Our partner organization, Vecinos Honduras notes that, “poor families do not have enough food and water in their homes, and I do not think they can bear this situation.” Vecinos Honduras is not able to continue their work in villages. Staff are largely confined to their homes, but the organization is carrying on with whatever work they are able to do through remote communication and virtual meetings.

Nepal has conducted 875 tests so far out of which 870 have come out negative while five persons tested positive.

Nepal reports only five confirmed cases so far. The government decided to lockdown the entire nation for at least one week starting on March 24th. And they have cancelled all tourist visas for the entire climbing season. The mobility of people and vehicles (except for emergencies) is halted. Our partner organization, Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti, runs a small hospital in the district (Ramechhap) – it remains open and they have prepared an isolation ward. An engineer from Kathmandu is visiting Ramechhap as a part of final evaluation of the current drinking water program. He is now stranded in Ramechhap until the lockdown is lifted. We had planned to send two World Neighbours Canada directors and a Rotarian from Oliver to do a final monitoring tour of the current project supported by Global Affairs Canada, but the trip was cancelled.

Everyone associated with World Neighbours Canada feels a bond with the communities that we support, and we are very concerned as the coronavirus threatens lives and livelihoods. Over the next weeks and months, we will keep in touch with our partner organizations and stand ready to support them as much as we are able.

Thank you Edwin!

Edwin discussing their process and Social Justice to a grade 12 Social Justice class.

For nearly two weeks Vecinos Honduras’s Executive Director, Edwin Escoto, toured British Columbia speaking to groups large and small about Honduras and the work Vecinos Honduras is doing. It was an inspiring week! Edwin is a dynamic speaker, and despite doing every one of his twenty presentations in his second language, he was clear, passionate and inspiring.

Edwin often used audience participation to demonstrate community building.

During Edwin’s stay in Canada, he did presentations in Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Cranbrook, and Oliver. He presented to over 500 Canadians; including talks to elementary, secondary and university students as well as several presentations to the public, and with post secondary institutions. He was also able to conduct a webinar with the BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) which is available for anyone to watch online at (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1W4nZwz9zgMZV_IG1JghZhMbfNCcZvfQ-?usp=sharing.

You can watch the BCCIC webinar here.

Edwin was deeply honoured to be invited to come to Canada and share the activities of his organization and the situation in his country. Response from participants was very positive. To be able to put a face and details to a complex situation opened the eyes of many Canadians to international development and Canada’s role in assisting these countries.

Meeting with the International Projects team at the College of the Rockies.

We, at World Neighbours, want to thank everyone who welcomed Edwin, attended talks, invited him into their classrooms, their homes, and made him feel so welcome on his first visit to Canada. A special thank you to BCCIC, Global Empowerment Coalition of the Okanagan (GECCO) and the Okanagan Regional Library for cosponsoring talks.

At the end of his trip there was some concern about his ability to return to Honduras as countries were closing their borders due to Covid-19 concerns. Luckily, he was able to change flights and returned to Honduras a few hours before Honduras shut its borders. He is now self isolating at home.

Edwin Escoto with Kerry Brinkert, Manager of International Projects at the College of the Rockies

Thank you Edwin!

Edwin Escotos’s recent visit to British Columbia was made possible through World Neighbours Canada Society grant from Global Affairs Canada under the Maternal Newborn Child Health initiative.

Only 4 opportunities to hear Edwin

There will only be four public opportunities to hear from Vecinos Honduras Executive Director, Edwin Escoto, when he visits BC this week. He will be speaking to community groups, schools and universities but there will only be four public opportunities.

Luckily, the first opportunity will be online and so you can either join in person in Vancouver or log on for a “lunch and learn.”

This is a great opportunity to learn about our partner, their work, and Honduras in general.

March 4 12:00-1:00 In Vancouver and online

More details at https://www.bccic.ca/event/bccic-groundtruthes-sustainable-development-from-a-southern-perspective-honduras/

March 7th,  3:00-4:00pm in Vernon, BC at the Vernon Library

More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/613214629459257/

March 8th, 3:00-4:00pm in Kelowna, BC at the Kelowna Main Branch Library

More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/245404449812777/

March 12th, 7:00-8:30pm in Oliver, BC at Christ the King Catholic Church

We hope to see you there.

A Visitor from Honduras!

Edwin Escoto

World Neighbours is excited to announce that Edwin Escoto, the Director of Vecinos Honduras, will be coming to British Columbia to do a public speaking tour. From March 2-14 he will travel to Vancouver, Kamloops, Vernon, Cranbrook, Oliver and Penticton to meet with school children, universities, service groups and community organizations.

If you want to host a speaking event in your area, please let us know as he is booking up quickly.

We will be posting a detailed list of events shortly.

Edwin Escoto, is the Director of Vecinos Honduras. Since 2009 Edwin has helped build Vecinos Honduras into a leading NGO promoting rural development and agroecology. Edwin has also been appointed to be the new Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean for Groundswell International, a non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening rural communities to build healthy farming and food systems from the ground up.

Vecinos Honduras uses a very effective and proven approach to empower local people to manage their own affairs. The organization typically stays in an area for 6 to 8 years. Initially they generate interest by training people in specific techniques for growing more crops, raising healthier children, and so on. They also begin to train local leaders to: organize activities among themselves; include women in decision-making; run effective local organizations such as health committees; and manage finances. Gradually Vecinos Honduras staff phase themselves out and local leaders take over. After 6 to 8 years, the goal is that people will have the knowledge and skills to initiate village development projects on their own, and seek technical support and funding from government, national or international organizations as needed.

World Neighbours Canada and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations

By Bruce Petch,

World Neighbours Canada takes a practical approach – we want to help people achieve tangible improvements in their lives. Nonetheless it is useful to keep track of trends in international development from a wider perspective. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the “Sustainable Development Goals”. These goals were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015. There are 17 goals. Goal 1 is no poverty, Goal 2 is zero hunger, Goal 10 is reduced inequality and Goal 13 is climate action, to name a few. They are intended to apply to all countries, not just developing countries. And a key part of the concept is that all the goals are interconnected. The goals (often referred to as the “SDGs”) seem to be mentioned in just about every meeting and document that touches on international development. The high profile of the sustainable development goals has helped to draw attention to the struggles faced by people around the world who are trying to grow enough food for their needs, find enough water, and survive drought and other natural disasters.

Community gardens help improve the health of the community and provide additional funds.

World Neighbours Canada supports the goals, especially the ones central to our mission like no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality and climate action. But we look at the goals from a “results on the ground” perspective. If our programs can be stronger by taking a more integrated approach – for example, the gender equality implications of increasing food crop production – we embrace the concept of the “SDGs.” Our partner organizations have a deep understanding of the connections between the different goals. For example, in Nepal our partner organization has been focusing on goal 6 – clean water and sanitation – but the outcomes they are aiming for are goals 3 (good health and well-being) and 6 (gender equality; women and girls do most of the water-carrying). In Burkina Faso, food security and child malnutrition are critical issues. Our partner organization works in an integrated way towards zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality and no poverty. In Honduras, our partner is embarking on a new initiative to provide entrepreneurial training and support for young people in rural areas, touching on goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal 4 (quality education). In every country, we have a long history of ecological approaches to agriculture, which fits with the environmental goal called life on land (number 15).

The Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful framework for a coordinated approach to the alleviation of poverty and better management of finite resources. World Neighbours Canada is inspired by these goals to support our partners in ensuring that people’s lives are impacted in meaningful ways, rather than focusing narrowly on specific outcomes.

20 reasons for gratitude to start 2020

We at World Neighbours Canada feel blessed and this New Years we wanted to share 20 reasons we feel so lucky. These are the reasons as submitted by our board members and volunteers.

  1. I am grateful to all the people in Canada who support World Neighbours Canada year after year. Every donation, large and small, is appreciated and the moral support means as much to us as the financial support.
  2. I am grateful to the staff and volunteers associated with our partner organizations in Nepal, Honduras and Burkina Faso for their tireless dedication to the alleviation of poverty. They are remarkable people who deeply understand the communities where they work and know how to help villagers achieve self-reliance and avoid dependency.
  3. I’m grateful that the staff of our partner organization in Burkina Faso, (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés – APDC) AND those of our project villages have, to date, escaped being targeted by the Islamist insurgents in the Eastern region of the country. This is a huge concern for all living there and demonstrates the commitment of staff and villagers to implement changes that will improve their lives. 

  4. When our younger daughter died in 2006 she had said that she wanted some of her money to go to Nepal. We were thankful at that time and still are thankful to find World Neighbours. We knew right away we had found the right place to donate Rachel’s money. Water systems seemed so basic and the idea that all the money went to the people and the projects was very satisfying for us. It gave us a purpose and made us see some good coming out of the death of someone in the prime of her life.
  5. I’m grateful for the opportunities my husband and I have had in the past to visit the Fada region of Burkina Faso to see firsthand the work this small local NGO is doing, teaching new skills to the villagers and sharing new ideas so that the beneficiaries are able to become more independent and improve the quality of their lives.
  6. I’m grateful to be a part of World Neighbours Canada as I truly believe that the philosophy of “neighbour helping neighbour”, “a hand up not a hand out” is how lasting change can be achieved.
  7. I’m grateful that World Neighbours Canada’s philosophy includes the notion that change occurs slowly, over generations, and as such we are committed to support our partner NGOs for the long haul.
  8. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve developed with the staff of APDC and admire and respect the commitment they all demonstrate in continuing to support the villagers during these turbulent and difficult times.
  9. I’m grateful for the support I receive from the other directors of WNC, as this support enables me to complete the necessary reports that need to be submitted.
  10. I’m grateful that Excel spreadsheet is still an acceptable form for accountants and government officials for tracking donations and expenses.
  11. It is wonderful to have different directors responsible for each country project to liaise with and to solve any money transfer issues within their assigned country.
  12. I am grateful I got to visit the projects in Honduras and meet the staff of Vecinos Honduras, who my father had worked with, admired, and told me so much about over the years.
  13. I am grateful for the many service groups, and schools who have allowed us to come in and talk about our organization and the work of our partners.
  14. I am grateful Suresh Shrestha, Executive Director of TSS, and Govinda Ghimire, Director on the TSS Board, were able to visit BC in 2019 and give presentations.
  15. I am grateful for our member organization BCCIC (BC Council of International Cooperation) for the training sessions and other educational opportunities they offer. I have learned a lot.
  16. I am grateful for those who read the articles (print or online), and click on the social media posts.
  17. I am grateful for a federal government that understands that small NGO’s are some of the most effective groups in the world to affect positive change in the world, and continues to fund us.  As with all funding, it could be greater and it could come with a little less paper work, but I am very grateful for what we get.
  18. I am grateful for groups like Rotary in Oliver, Kamloops and Aldergrove who have been supportive and generous for many years.
  19. I am grateful for my wife who lets me go traipsing through the mountains of Nepal on bad roads and in suspect vehicles.
  20. I am grateful to know that the future can include positive change and I look to the upcoming year with hope.