Burkina Faso suffers from terrorist attacks

By Judy Gray

Despite the increasing unrest in Burkina Faso, our partners on the APDC team (local rural development organization) continue to work tirelessly to support those in our project villages who are eager to improve their food security and lives in general.

The APDC Staff

This is the latest message from Charles Tankoano, APDC coordinator: “The information you have (about the possible kidnapping) is true. But everyone continues to work in the country. Moreover, the attacks are targeted and we are not very afraid to go to the project area to work. At the moment we are all well and we still do not feel enough fear to prevent us from going to the project area. Thank you very much; we understand your concerns. But we trust God.”

World Neighbours Canada has been greatly saddened by the growing insecurity in Burkina Faso due to terrorist attacks. The most recent incident involves Canadian Edith Blais, who, along with her Italian companion, has not been heard from since mid-December (they were travelling in a relatively safe part of the country). The Canadian government is attempting to learn more of the pair’s whereabouts but, to date no information has emerged (see BBC and CBC News articles for more details).

In addition to this possible kidnapping, there have been many attacks by suspected jihadists, especially in the north and east part of the country. It is evident that the attacks are not limited to Westerners, and in fact Burkinabé citizens are being targeted in greater numbers. Namoungou, one of the villages that APDC is working with, sustained an attack in December. Charles told us “The village was attacked. The jihadists hit several people and one child died. But we continue the activities because the calm has returned. Also security forces stormed the area killing 6 attackers. We cannot give up work because this is happening everywhere and the people of Burkina Faso cannot give up their activities because of this. “

According to GardaWorld, “Terrorism has become an increasingly severe security threat in Burkina Faso since 2015. Educational institutions, local government officials, and security forces are specifically targeted. Initially concentrated in the Sahel region, attacks have spread to other regions, including eastern Burkina Faso (Est region) which is also known for high crime rates. Attacks are usually attributed to Ansarul Islam and other groups affiliated with Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). According to an official account released in mid-September, jihadist attacks have killed at least 118 people since 2015; at least 22 attacks were recorded in the Est region since February 2018.” ( for full article see: https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/181746/burkina-faso-attack-against-security-patrol-in-est-region-dec-3)

We, of World Neighbours Canada, are hoping that the political climate in Burkina Faso improves and stabilizes so that we will again be able to visit our project villages and communicate directly with APDC staff.

The Current Reality of Honduras

Editor’s note: The following comes from a mid-term evaluation of our Infant-Maternal Health Project in Honduras. I was struck by the chapter that contextualized the situation in Honduras presently and thought it worthwhile to share with our members. This has been Google translated from Spanish so please keep that in mind.

The work of Vecinos Honduras (VH) is in rural zones of Honduras, in poor populations, marginal and excluded, who have to settle in remote hill areas, because they do not have another option to keep their families; who had to build with tenacity and sacrifice a social coexisting system with many limitations: they do not have public services, lack worthy income; high deterioration of the natural resources, low production and productivity; suffer contamination due to agro-chemicals and garbage; bad infrastructure.  The majority of the families do not have potable water; more or less half of them lack electricity, and in the majority of the cases the houses need to be improved.

Household plumbing.

This scenario of shortages contributes to the precarious life conditions of the population.  They basically depend of subsistence agriculture, mainly for consumption. The only factors that contribute to local economy and alleviate a little the crisis of family subsistence, are the remittances in the south and coffee in the eastern part of the country.

Vecino Honduras teaches families how to diversify their crops to not only grow coffee but also more food for their family.

There is a very deficient education service: pre-school and elementary school with many limitations, and a poor public health service oriented to curing illnesses.

In research made by the World Health Organization to measure the performance, quality and coverage of the health services, Honduras occupies the 131 place of 191 countries.

The greatest potential for development in Honduras is agriculture.  However, investing in this sector implicates a very high risk with respect to the return of capital.  It is for this reason that neither the private companies, nor the financial system or the government support this sector, which could easily generate one million jobs at the national level (study from ANAFAE).

A well ordered farm.

Support is oriented towards large enterprises and crops for exporting such as: Coffee, Bananas, Cantaloupe, Seafood and Tilapia, among others.  The families, who live on the hills in a subsistence limbo, in which institutions with a sustainable development approach, such as Vecinos Honduras, play a very important role in their lives are in many ways lucky because, these type of development institutions are few, and those who would assume challenges in this context, are even less.

According to estimates from the government, for each ten Hondurans seven are poor, and of these seven almost five live in extreme poverty.  This has been this way for at least 100 years; which puts in evidence the erratic public policies applied, which base their dysfunctional neoliberal approaches that had and still have the economy of some developed countries in crisis; the last ones Spain, Greece and currently Argentina.

Neoliberalism does not even work for great powers who have been their promoters; and now USA embraces protectionism, that has generated a commercial war between the USA and the rest of the world, mainly with China and Russia.  Moreover, Honduras continues betting on the recipes of the IMF, when it has been proven that these only seek the mobility of resources to the great powers.

Honduras is known in the world as the country of extreme: the most violent, the most corrupt, the poorest, the most inequitable and more recently, the one with more massive immigrations to the USA.  Complete unemployment and sub-employment has a direct relation with poverty, is because the people do not have access to economic income and are poor.  The development plans of the public sector are subject to national and foreign investment, which never arrives.  The problem is that the families have to eat today, they cannot continue waiting until investment arrives, and in the meantime, how do they feed their families?

Based on skills learned at a Vecinos Honduras workshop she started her own business selling plantain chips and can now feed her family and afford to send her children to school.

Because of the political instability characterized by disrespect to the judicial framework, disrespect of popular will, election frauds, corruption and impunity, as well as fiscal insecurity as the rules change as it is appropriate to the politician in turn, investors don’t know what to expect and prefer to invest their capitals in other countries.

The debt of Honduras is 12 billion Canadian dollars (SEFIM). The Gross Domestic Product (PIB), is approximately 22 billion dollars.  The general budget of the republic is 11 billion dollars for the year 2018 (less than the debt), of this budget, and each year 2 billion dollars are used to pay the debt (capital plus interests).  In the last 6 years, 9 billion dollars has been paid; and the worst part is that Hondurans do not know why we have this debt; how it is used; and if there is evidence of it reaching the country.

“The Honduran health system is deficient in: Doctors, nurses, equipment, supplies, medicines, health centers, beds and budget.  It also suffers from corruption and lack of social sensibility from the staff; therefore, it is considered to be in crisis.  All of the above is summarized in that the State provides the Hondurans a health service which is of a very bad quality.  The greater impact is suffered by the poor, and among these, we find the families who live on hills of the rural areas. “

Vecinos Honduras trains local Health Monitors to do regular health check-ups on the community’s children under the age of 5.

However, what we do see is that because of its payment, investment is reduced in social aspects such as: health, education, housing, community rural infrastructure, etc.  Instead of increasing the health and education budgets, increases go to the police and the army for weapons, equipment and war practices, in a country in which one third of the population is considered homeless. If this spending negatively impacts the living conditions of the urban populations, where there is more employment and more is invested in infrastructure; it affects the rural populations where there is no employment and investment is minimum even more. It is in this context, and with these families, that Vecinos Honduras works.

Reflecting on progress in Maternal-Child Health

The Board of Directors of World Neighbours Canada met recently in West Kelowna for their Annual General Meeting. Board members responsible for communication with each of our partner NGOs – in Honduras, Burkina Faso and Nepal – provided an update on what has been achieved during the past twelve months. Highlighted here is only ONE of the achievements of the past year for each country. During the coming weeks, we will publish more in-depth articles about the activities that have taken place in each country.

Our matching grant from Global Affairs Canada is allowing us to provide much more monetary support to these grassroots organizations. Without our donors, it would not be possible for World Neighbours Canada to apply for such grants. The directors of WNC and our partner NGOs – Vecinos Honduras, TSS (Nepal) and APDC (Burkina Faso) extend a heartfelt thank you for the on-going support. Please remember our projects and our relationships are long-term and support locally appropriate initiatives. It is truly a model of participatory development.

Burkina Faso – During the past year, close to 5000 villagers have attended sensitization and/or information sessions on family planning, malnutrition, the importance of vaccinations, nutrition (how to prepare healthier, more balanced meals with local produce ) and gender equality.

Nepal – Over the past two years, TSS has supported villagers with the installation of 4012 toilets in homes in villages in Ramechhap District. This has been linked to a nation-wide campaign to encourage everyone to use proper toilets.

Honduras – The health initiative of monitoring young children for growth by measuring body weight has continued and expanded over the past year and positive results are being observed. Mothers are given advice and support in raising healthy, well-nourished children.

 

Kamloops West Rotary Club raises $1000 for World Neighbours with “Fox Hunt”

World Neighbours directors Bruce Petch, Judy Gray and Libby Denbigh, along with family and friends taking part in the Fox Hunt. This photo was titled “Top of the World” and needed to be “A creative photo of the team taken from a rooftop parking lot.”

Raising money for international projects can be fun, and nobody demonstrates that better than the Kamloops West Rotary Club! They raised $1000 for World Neighbours projects in Nepal with their fundraising “Fox Hunt” this past weekend.

The fundraising activity was a Fox Hunt – a 90 minute adventure game that combined a scavenger hunt with “amazing race” style challenges. Teams of 4 to 8 people raced to complete as many of the 74 challenges as possible within a 90 minute time period by capturing photo & video evidence.

Big Bad Biker – the team posing beside a Harley Davidson motorcycle … luckily one was found in Riverside Park.

World Neighbours Canada directors Bruce Petch, Judy Gray and Libby Denbigh, along with family and friends entered a team in this unique activity, spending a laughter filled time completing crazy tasks around the Riverside Park area of Kamloops. Though the WNC team did not garner a medal, we all enjoyed ourselves and have included a few pictures of the team “in action”.

The money will go towards rural water systems built by villagers with support from Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti, the Nepali partner organization of World Neighbours Canada.

Many thanks are extended to Kamloops West Rotary for the support, and to Global Affairs Canada for providing matching funding for all the work we do in Nepal.

A Reason to Celebrate!

Mr. Govinda from TSS accepts the plaque thanking them for their contribution.

We are celebrating at World Neighbours because our partner organization, TSS (Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti) in Nepal, was recently honoured for their work to help make the Ramechhap District declared an Open Defecation Free (ODF) Zone.

This was a multiyear process which involved the commitment of the community as a whole, individuals, TSS, and the local government. The progress was interrupted by politics and earthquakes but the end result spells a healthier future for the community.

Our TSS contact Suresh Shrestha reported:

“TSS was especially recognized & appreciated for the initiative and incredible contribution in toilet program. On behalf of TSS, Mr. Govinda received the appreciation frame. The appreciation frame was handed over by the Chief Guest, the Member of Parliament of Province No. 3, who was elected from Ramechhap.”

We too applaud and thank TSS for their hard work in helping the community of Ramechhap improve their own situation.

TSS  is one of the oldest and most respected non-government organizations in Nepal. It works in Ramechhap District (in the eastern part of the country) to alleviate poverty and help rural communities become more self-reliant. TSS helps village groups to organize themselves, manage finances, hold effective meetings, and undertake improvement projects. Their initial strategy is to establish and mobilize villagers to plan, organize, build and maintain water systems. When the water systems are installed, villagers often then choose to install sealed, sanitary toilet systems, which TSS and WNC also help them with. The combination of easily accessible potable water and greatly improved sanitation systems has greatly reduced the incidence of gastrointestinal disease in Ramechhap.

World Neighbours Canada, since 1989, has had the privilege of providing and facilitating financial support for the village water systems and the sealed, hygienic toilets that are all installed and maintained by local people. TSS provides only technical guidance and training, and the people themselves provide all local materials and all of the labour needed. Non local materials such as pipe, valves, cement, toilet pans and re bar, are purchased by TSS as needed, and are carried by men, women and children, from the end of the road to their remote villages.

Because the villagers take ownership of the projects from the earliest stages of planning and design, and because they are in charge of long term maintenance and repair, the projects have proven to be very successful.

Au Revoir Charles!

World Neighbours Canada hosted Charles Tankoano, Executive Director of the NGO APDC (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés) – our partner NGO in Burkina Faso, from March 8-17. In that time he traveled with one of our Directors, Judy Gray and her husband Peter, from Kamloops to Osoyoos, and then on to Vancouver. During this time he gave 17 presentations, to roughly 450 people, in 8 days. He spoke to elementary, secondary and university students (some in English and some in French) as well as several presentations to the public.

He was able to conduct a video conference with GAC staff in Ottawa (thanks to facilities and support provided by the BC Council for International Cooperation). Furthermore, BCCIC staff conducted an in-depth interview with Charles and an article about him and the work of APDC will appear soon in the BCCIC newsletter.

We feel that the tour was hugely successful. Charles was deeply honoured to be invited to come to Canada and share the activities of APDC. Conversely, all the groups that Charles presented to were surprised by the number of activities APDC is undertaking and felt they learned a considerable amount through the presentations about the work that GAC and WNC are supporting in a little known and extremely poor country in West Africa, namely Burkina Faso.

A special thank you goes to Judy and Peter who not only played host but helped with the presentations. Judy acted as translator, as Charles only speaks French, for many of the presentations and interviews, and Peter ran the technical side of the presentation making sure the projector and slide shows worked to compliment the talk.

Despite the exhausting pace, and that there was little time to recover from jetlag, we hope that Charles enjoyed his visit to Canada. Despite thinking it was very cold here he did have fantastic sunny days for traveling and a short tour around Stanley Park. He even had a bit of time for a little shopping!

Charles Tankoano’s recent visit was made possible through a World Neighbours Canada Society grant from Global Affairs Canada under the Maternal Newborn Child Health initiative.

Merci!

Burkina Faso Update – APDC members safe

The APDC Staff

We are relieved to hear that our APDC affiliates and their families are safe after the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, March 2nd.

Yesterday, a Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Obviously, tensions are high in Burkina Faso and we, in Canada, must wait to see how things play out.

Burkina Faso is one of the twentieth poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy for men is 59 years and women 61. There are large gold deposits in the country but the majority of the population is engaged in agriculture. It is in these subsistence communities that APDC does their work.

For more information on the claims by JNIM see https://www.reuters.com/article/us-burkina-security/al-qaeda-affiliate-claims-responsibility-for-burkina-faso-attacks-idUSKCN1GF0GS

For a brief summary of Burkina Faso see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13072774

Honduras Visit 2017

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages.” (Edwin Escoto, Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator.)

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages,” says Edwin Escoto, with a smile and a glance in the rearview mirror as he drives.

He is the Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator, and at this point in the journey, I am starting to believe him.

It is October, and we are in a Toyota 4×4 in the mountains of Honduras. The road is becoming more rough, winding and washed out as we climb.

I am here in an official capacity as a board member of World Neighbours Canada, to monitor the Maternal and Child Health Project funded by Global Affairs Canada, in partnership with our private donors.

Vera Radyo and Magda Lanuza from the Kenoli Foundation are also in the truck. They partner on these projects and we’ve coordinated the visit.

Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving

This is my first time in Honduras, and I’ve come with no expectations. By that, I mean I had essentially no understanding about what lay ahead.

There is clearly an agenda. I catch bits of it, in Spanish, as they discuss the coming days. And I understand they have filled my time with plans to visit several villages to see many things. I’d read the proposal and the reports about the projects, so I knew what this was all about, at least on an academic level. But I couldn’t find the project areas on a map, and I’ve had little experience outside of my Canadian upbringing.

Plus, I don’t speak a word of Spanish, so finding out the plans is a challenge all around. So I keep an open mind, and listen intently to the Spanish sentences, trying to pick up what I can, asking for translation when a translator was available.

Luckily, I’ve driven on rough roads before, though Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving. But it helped to quell the panic about the steep inclines and the washouts; the men walking with machetes, and pretending not to be startled when we come across motorcycles rushing at us on blind corners (sometimes on the wrong side of the road). The backs of others trucks we see are full of extra passengers, making the trek up to the villages, or down to Danli, the nearest city.

Almost two hours later: “We get out here.” It’s a farmer’s gathering. We are in a village named Las Flores, and they are expecting us.

It’s a transformed soccer field, with people of all ages celebrating. There is a row of tables on one side of the field, displaying fruit, vegetables. One table has recycled containers of organic fertilizer and pesticides – methods they are learning and teaching each other, from Vecinos Honduras workshops.

All these are the fruits of the labour put in by village participants, who are learning and teaching each other, as part of Vecinos Honduras projects.

It was a grand start to four days of visiting in both the Azabache and the El Guano areas, listening to the stories of project participants, learning about their lives, their struggles, and their successes.

In Claveles, I visited family homes, then a meeting to weigh and measure their young children.

Monthly baby weigh-in sessions are improving child health in Honduras.

The monthly weigh-in is a part of their routine now, thank you to the programs. Before, mothers could never be sure how their babies were growing, or if they were thriving. Now, they see the numbers, and if the young ones are not thriving they get some hands-on advice. Usually, the next month sees an improvement, along with much relief to the mothers and fathers.

In my time in the villages, I watched a monthly child stimulation class; I visited health committee meetings, and heard about goals and struggles.

La Libertad has land set aside for a health centre – they want to put up a building where they can maybe bring in a nurse to help care for pregnant mothers, young children and other health needs. Now, they have to walk about three hours on the rough roads to get to the nearest health centre – in Beuna Esperanza.

Not only did we visit the current project areas, we made a few stops in the El Guano area. This is an area where there are examples of great success from past Vecinos Honduras projects.

Eva Lagos has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, and is supporting her children’s attendance in a better school with her profits.

For example, we visited Eva Lagos, who has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, after learning at a Vecinos Honduras workshop. She sells many pre-packaged bags – enough to make more than $400 USD per month, which she uses to send her children to a better school.

A coffee co-op meeting was held in El Guano, where we heard about the co-op’s successes and ongoing challenges. They have made enough of a profit that they have started a micro-lending program – one per cent interest for women, two per cent for men – a far cry from the interest rates offered by intermediaries who lend to the communities at a huge interest rate that can virtually never be re-paid. We also visited a member of the co-op who used a loan from the coffee co-op to build a coffee dryer.

In Claveles, Francisco Aradón, the water board president, told us about their work. The water board now has two female members, and his village is installing a new water system. Their next goal is to purchase the chlorine they want to use to keep the water safer – something they learned about at a Vecinos Honduras workshop.

Felicita Zaróm back in 2007, after installing an improved stove in her home.

In the El Guano area, I met Felicita Zaróm, who was a participant in Vecinos Honduras programs more than 10 years ago, building one of the first indoor stoves. She’s a community health promoter, and says the programs have changed her life.

Felicita Zaróm now, in 2017, 10 years later.

“I feel like a free woman. After these trainings I realized I was able to speak up in a meeting. I learned to socialize with others, I learned to speak up and have no more fears,” she says.

In my time there, not only did I see the latrines being built  – I used them. I washed my hands, and some dishes, at the pilas (a combination between a sink and a water tank); I drank coffee and spice tea made on the indoor, smokeless stoves that are being installed at a rapid rate in homes.

On my last day, I visited a village called San Jose, where Vecinos Honduras was sponsoring a celebration – the International Day of Rural Girls and Women. It took place in a concrete building with a tin roof – hot, sweaty inside. But there was grand celebration – dancing, pinatas, and lunch. I danced with Manuel Castellanos, the community participation facilitator.

I left Honduras with a much better understanding of our programs, the people who run them, and the people who participate. I learned to say Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, and Gracias – so much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate in these hard-won successes in the remote communities of Honduras.

If you are interested in seeing more about the programs in Honduras and more images, here’s a slideshow. You can hover over the images and use right and left arrows to view the images below!

A Visitor from Burkina Faso

Charles Tankoano

World Neighbours Canada is very excited to announce that Charles Tankoano, Executive Director of the NGO APDC (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés) – our partner NGO in Burkina Faso, will be in British Columbia this March and available to talk to schools, donors, and community groups about their work.

This will be the first time that World Neighbours has hosted a project partner from Burkina Faso. Mr. Tankoano speaks French but WNC members Judy and Peter Gray will be attending to assist with translation.

Mr. Tankoano will be traveling from Kamloops to Osoyoos and then on to Vancouver between March 12-17. This will be a great opportunity to hear about the successes and challenges of community development in rural Eastern Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, north of Ghana.  Called “Upper Volta” in colonial times, the country lies in the savanna and Sahel zones, the wide band of semi-arid grasslands with scattered trees that separates the Sahara from the forested areas to the south. World Neighbours Canada supports the burkinabé NGO, APDC, and it is this organization that organizes and implements the project activities.

APDC Staff

APDC has experienced great success by using the empowerment of women as a starting point for community development.  This begins with motivation and training of women in maternal health and child nutrition.  In addition, APDC encourages the women to participate in State organized training sessions in literacy and numeracy.  Women are encouraged to form savings and credit groups, and use or borrow from these funds to engage in income generation activities. Villagers are now growing more vegetables and learning how to care for livestock such as goats and sheep. Since 2008, the program has slowly expanded and now includes 18 villages in the Fada region.

Currently, funding for the activities is being provided, in large part, by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) as part of the Canadian government’s initiatives for improved Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in developing countries. These initiatives will contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity, especially in mothers and infants, and also to improving nutrition and development of young children. The current funding grant from GAC covers the period March 2016 to the end of March 2020.

To arrange for Mr. Tankoano to talk to your organization please contact Judy Gray by email at peterjudy1352@gmail.com.

Building Earthquake Resistant Homes in Nepal

The new approved, earthquake resistant designed house, completed.

Photos and article by Dale Dodge

One of the delays to our toilet projects in Nepal was that the 2015 earthquake had destroyed numerous homes and there was no point in building toilets if the homes had not been rebuilt yet. Due to international generosity there was money to rebuild, however, that was severely delayed as the Nepalese government wanted to ensure the new homes could withstand another earthquake, so they put out a call for earthquake resistant designs for the new homes. Traditionally, homes are built of brick and mud which is inexpensive, but not earthquake resistant.

New house construction started in Jyamirbote. Note cement footings, and temporary living quarters.

Building is now underway. The government has a plan in which villagers will get an initial amount of money to start building a government certified, earthquake resistant structure.  If the villager plans to simply build another brick and mud structure, there is no funding.

There are two types of structures allowed which qualify for funding.  If the structure is one story, then there will be a cement floor and foundation, followed by walls that can be made of brick and mud to a height of about 24 inches.  This short wall is then covered either with a layer of wood or a layer of concrete about 3 inches thick – a slip layer.  The wall is then built another 24 inches with brick and another slip panel is added.  The walls look to be about 6 feet high in total, with another slip panel on the top of the wall.  And the roof is corrugated, usually blue, metal – much lighter than the slate that was used before.

Two feet of stone and mud walls topped by a cement slip layer = earthquake resistance.

If the planned building is more than one storey, then the whole building must be built of cement or cement block, with rebar on the corners and in the walls.

After a certain amount of construction, an inspector will give the ok for the villager to then get another installment of his funding, and a final installment is given upon completion.

When one sees the extent of the damage due to the earthquake, it is safe to assume that the rebuilding will take years.  But is has started, and there is a plan, and the end result looks to be much better than what was there before.

0