Today’s post was written by Regine A. Webster, Vice President at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The organization aims to transform the field of disaster philanthropy by providing educational, fund opportunities and strategic guidance to increase donor effectiveness throughout the lifecycle of disasters. In this piece, Ms. Webster provides an overview of the current refugee crisis with an eye on what smart funders are doing to achieve greater impact.
Trends in the Refugee Crisis: Tips for Smart Funders By Regine A. Webster
[ref-u-gee:noun A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence.]
The global refugee crisis has continued to grow, and more than 65 million people are forcibly displaced around the world. More than half of those refugees come from three countries: Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).
The United Nations Refugee Agency notes that a record 34,000 people a day, or roughly 24 people a minute, are displaced from their homes by conflict and violence daily. Children make up 51 percent of the world’s refugees. The organization lists three main reasons:
Conflicts that cause large refugee outflows, like Somalia and Afghanistan – now in their third and fourth decade respectively – are lasting longer.
Dramatic new or reignited conflicts and situations of insecurity are occurring more frequently. While today’s largest is Syria, wars have broken out in the past five years in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic, while thousands more people have fled raging gang and other violence in Central America.
The rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War, leaving a growing number in limbo.
As stated by UNHCR, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.” This comes as we enter the seventh year of the Syrian civil war. And, at the same time that the world is witnessing four countries tumble into famine. In effect, we are not just witnessing the largest displacement, but rather, it is the largest human displacement coupled with the largest number of food insecure people across the globe since World War II. If that fact is not enough to stop you in your tracks, then I am not sure what could.
And yet, remaining complacent is not an option. Doing nothing is not an option.
To make a real difference, I recommend that your organization look to follow in the footsteps of smart funders who are taking the following actions:
Educate yourselves about the crisis. Funders are learning about effective actions taken by other members of the U.S. funder community, researching what they can DO to make a difference, and working to understand the refugee journey. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has authored a series of resource guides that support this investigative effort. CDP is also always available for a phone conversation to help you and your organization craft a strategy to support the global refugee crisis.
Give your time, talent, and resources. Smart funders are working outside of normal bounds by volunteering locally for a refugee resettlement organization (or one of their local partner organizations like a food bank). They are also lending their legal, financial, or computer expertise to local resettlement organizations or national NGOs. Lastly, smart funders are investing their own personal dollars or recommending organizational investments to finding solutions to the refugee crisis or providing life saving services to refugees and internally displaced persons globally.
Share and discuss. Smart funders are talking about the refugee crisis with their work colleagues and friends to let them know what they are reading, how they are working to help mitigate suffering or resolve the crisis, and how they are investing their dollars (or recommending institutional dollars be channeled) for good.
Be a champion. Smart funders are paying careful attention to the proposed changes to the federal budget. The proposed budget cuts 31 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budgets. It also cuts the U.S. Refugee Admissions budget by 11 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services Refugee and Entrant Assistance budget by 31 percent. All told, more than $1 billion dollars in cuts to programs that not only help the world’s most vulnerable, both at home and abroad, but help preserve our national security interests around the world. As it pertains to these budgetary issues and welcoming refugees, smart funders are making calls, and sending letters or emails to members of Congress. According to Georgetown Professor Emeritus and CDP Advisory Council member, Susan Martin, members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are being asked by smart funders to:
Provide full funding to organizations that aid and protect refugees and internally displaced persons.
Maintain robust levels of refugee admissions so that the US can continue to provide much needed leadership with regard to refugee resettlement.
Ensure that US asylum and temporary protection policies protect refugees who are already in the United States from return to life threatening situations at home.
I started this post with the definition of a refugee – A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence. Imagine packing one bag per person as you are forced, by fear or famine, from your home. I urge you to read that definition out loud – make it real to you, make it real for your work, make it real for your community.
We are pleased to present a new issue brief that examines critical issues of climate change, refugees, and land tenure rights. This is the product of a collaboration between members Landesa and BRACgenerated through the Hilton Prize Coalition Collaborative Models Program. Landesa led the desk research for and writing of the brief on land and climate change, with a specific focus on slow onset displacement due to drought. The brief highlights a case study by BRAC in Uganda as one of the countries where slow-onset disaster has taken a toll in recent years, and presents best practices as well as a call to action. Read more and download the brief here.
This earthquake in Nepal and the ongoing efforts to rebuild were the focus of the Hilton Prize Coalition’s first production under the Storytelling Program. Below is a recap of some of the stories from the past year that have helped us think about effective approaches to disaster preparation, as well as some updates on the work being done today.
FILM: On Shifting Ground
The pilot project highlighted six member organizations that were among those who mobilized in response to the earthquake: BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAgeInternational, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. The resulting film, “On Shifting Ground,” has been shown around the world to initiate dialogue around rethinking approaches to disaster response and ways to build community resiliency. Click here to view the film.
Through the production of the film, the organizations gained greater familiarity with one another’s capacities in the region and formed a framework for collaboration that continues to this day. In March 2017, more than 10 organizations met in Kathmandu to establish protocols, building on the lessons learned and their collective experiences in the sector. Read more in this blog post by the Coalition’s Collaboration Coordinator in Nepal, Sumnina Shrestha.
BLOG SERIES: Voices from Nepal
Director Steve Connors, along with members of Storytelling crew, shared insights about their experiences during the February 2016 filming process and beyond, highlighting especially the collaborations that have since taken root.
We were also pleased to learn about BRAC’s ELA program in Nepal that is empowering girls today, in this blog post written by Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Sheetal Tuladhar.
VIDEOS: Leading Thoughts
Hilton Prize Laureate organizations recognize how critical preparation and collaboration between organizations are to effective disaster preparation. Here are two clips from the “Leading Thoughts’ series that address how these played out in Nepal. Click on the links or watch them on the Story Wall.
Sumnima Shrestha is the Communication and Resource Mobilization Manager with Heifer International – Nepal. She currently serves as Collaboration Coordinator for the Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal. Sumnima holds more than 9 years of experience in the development sector, especially in advocacy, networking and resource mobilization, program development, project management, community empowerment and entrepreneurship. Here, Sumnima reflects on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP) workshop held on March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu.
Hilton Laureates in Nepal Join Hands for Disaster Preparedness and Response
by Sumnima Shrestha
Getting different organizations and people together on one platform, and building a common understanding among them is a challenging part of any coalition. The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal is unique in itself. Coalition member organizations are working in diverse sectors with varied missions ranging from income and food security to disability and health. They have fascinating stories of their own, their interests are different, and above all, they are busy. When I became Collaboration Coordinator under the Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program, I had to overcome the challenge of making myself and others motivated and comfortable. I took this as an opportunity and met with each of the members, learned about their interests and worked to define one common goal to achieve greater collective impact for the world’s most vulnerable people.
A common footprint manifested by each of the Coalition members was their involvement in relief and response activities during the April 2015 Nepal mega-earthquake. Though disaster relief is not the primary mission of all of these organizations, they moved out of their comfort zones and brought extraordinary results towards relief and recovery, benefiting thousands of people. Based on the lessons learned by the members and their interest to rise up during humanitarian crises, the need of a joint plan for future disaster preparedness and response was realized. A workshop on “Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP)” was designed with objectives to understand disaster preparedness and emergency response as an integral part of development, and to develop joint response plans for working together in future natural disasters.
A total of 18 participants from 10 Coalition member organizations attended the workshop March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu. The theoretical sessions built capacity of the participants on disaster management cycles, preparedness and response, a vulnerability assessment tool for preparedness, and linkages with development interventions they are currently implementing. Phanindra Adhikari from CVICT, an IRCT member organization, described the event as “a wonderful experience. I had opportunity to gain knowledge as well as share my learning.”
The sessions were enriched by stories and experience-sharing of the participants. Said Sheetal Tuladhar of BRAC, “Sharing experiences of participating organizations was the most valuable part of this workshop…being a beginner in the development and humanitarian sectors, it was especially valuable to learn these concepts and match them with organizational experiences.” Moreover, the group discussion on institutional mechanisms of disaster preparedness was eye-opening to the participants. The workshop focused on developing objectives of joint disaster preparedness and concluded with an official response plan of the Coalition. A task force comprising of BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, and SOS Children’s Villages was formed for completing this plan.
The 2-day workshop with networking and team-building activities helped to strengthen these formal and informal connections, as well as personal relationships among Coalition members. One of the participants commented, “This workshop provided a platform for networking with such good organizations and I also got to learn more about them. This helped me for future collaborations, and I will definitely work towards it.”
Without a doubt, this workshop helped to establish unity in diversity. The beauty of this Coalition is that there is no competition between its members. Each are working in individual themes that are not overlapping with each other; integrating these themes results in holistic development. The Storytelling Program pilot advanced this collaboration and I am happy to be a part of this journey.
(Sheetal Tuladhar at bottom row left, with BRAC ELA club members)
Ms. Sheetal Tuladhar is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, which is devoted to empowering people living in poverty. Originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, she received her Master’s Degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University in 2014. In this blog post, Sheetal writes about her experience working in Nepal after the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, establishing BRAC as an INGO in the country, and the programs that have provided her with first-hand experience in the world of international development. Sheetal is also featured in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program documentary “On Shifting Ground.”
In April and May 2015, two massive earthquakes and numerous aftershocks shook Nepal. Fast asleep in my Brooklyn apartment, I began to receive frantic calls from my Nepali friends living in the U.S. around 3:00 a.m. What followed was a series of attempts to call my parents and family back home in Kathmandu, without any success. Photos and videos started pouring in on social media of buildings and ancient cultural heritage sites collapsing and reducing to rubble. At the time I thought, everything is gone.
I had just finished a three-month internship with BRAC USA. As an eager and fresh Master’s graduate in Sustainable International Development, I was looking for opportunities to work in the development sector for an organization that had meaningful and true impact in the lives of poor people. Within a week of the earthquake, I received a call from BRAC USA to go to Nepal to help set up BRAC International’s newest office in Kathmandu as a Fellow. As unfortunate as the earthquakes had been, they gave me an opportunity to go back home, and as cliché as it may sound, to make a difference.
When the earthquakes struck Nepal, BRAC was one of the first global organizations to respond. With a six-member team from Bangladesh, the organization set up medical camps in coordination with the Government of Nepal-Ministry of Health and other international organizations, including CARE. Apart from the medical camps providing immediate relief, each BRAC staff member had the opportunity to contribute one day’s salary, and BRAC matched that amount to make a fund of USD 1.5 million to set up operations and work in long-term rehabilitation of earthquake-affected communities in Nepal. Over the next few months, BRAC registered as an INGO in Nepal and began implementing a reconstruction project in Kavre, one of the most affected districts.
During this project, BRAC Nepal built two permanent houses for two widow-headed households in the Sunthan and Charikot villages of Kavre district. At the same time, we launched pilot programs in health, sanitation and youth development to facilitate longer-term rehabilitation in the earthquake-affected community of Shyampati Village Development Committee (VDC) in Kavre. Due to the damages sustained to their toilets during the earthquake, residents of Shyampati were forced to use the forest to relieve themselves. BRAC Nepal is restoring and constructing new toilets to rehabilitate the 265 damaged in the earthquake to make Shyampati an open-defecation-free zone again.
During times of disaster and peace, women and girls are pillars of strength and resilience in the community. They have indeed become an instrumental part of BRAC’s programs in Nepal. Female community health volunteers (FCHVs) are a key component of the health system. Started in 1988 by the Government of Nepal, the FCHVs provide health services to communities in coordination with the VDC. BRAC Nepal is providing trainings to strengthen the capacity of existing FCHVs so that they can better provide health education, preventive and curative health services to their community members.
Another BRAC program in Nepal is known as Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA), which focuses on empowering adolescent girls. This is one of BRAC’s most successful initiatives worldwide and has proved especially valuable in Nepal. Despite a declining trend, child marriage is pervasive across Nepal. Ten percent of women are married before the age of 15, while 37 percent are married by the age of 18. Poverty is both a cause and a result of child marriage. Empowered adolescent girls are able to break the cycle of poverty, unlocking their economic potential through education, life skills and livelihood opportunities. The first of its kind in Nepal, ten ELA clubs have been set up as safe spaces for adolescent girls aged 11-21 to read, play and socialize. Some girls are trained as mentors, and through them, the other girls receive training in health and nutrition, life skills, livelihoods and financial literacy. Over the course of the program, they will also have the opportunity to be linked to microfinance institutions, to take out small loans for any income-generating livelihood activity they like.
To say that this has been a life-changing experience is an understatement. I always wanted to work in Nepal, but my younger self was only slightly aware of the challenges. After returning from eight years of (comfortable) living in the United States, I found myself overwhelmed by the dynamic, haphazard urbanization and population growth of Kathmandu as well as the intricate bureaucracy that must be navigated at every step of our work in Nepal. One day I would be addressing government officials at the national level, another I would be working with local community members to discuss their pressing needs, and then the next I would be meeting donors and INGOs to discuss potential collaborations to add value to the development of Nepal. While learning about my country, I get to learn and grow as an individual, personally and professionally.
As a part of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, I had the opportunity be a part of “On Shifting Ground,” a documentary that highlights the role of non-governmental organizations at the time of humanitarian crisis. Now as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I have the opportunity to enhance my skills as a development practitioner in disaster resilience, learning first-hand how organizations working closely with communities can strengthen their own capacities to build the resilience of their beneficiaries.
(HPC Storytelling Program Director Steve Connors interviews Sheetal Tuladhar with beneficiaries in Nepal, February 2016)
Mr. Sunil Pokhrel is currently the Senior Injury & Rehabilitation Officer and Physiotherapist with Handicap International Nepal. He is responsible for injury management, early detection, health promotion and rehabilitation and assistive device services. Sunil is featured in the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program documentary “On Shifting Ground,” sharing the work of Handicap International Nepal before, during and after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. In this piece, he highlights the importance of rehabilitation services and the different collaborations that have occurred across the country since the disaster.
A Ray of Hope
by Sunil Pokhrel
In April 2015, I had been looking forward to presenting for the first time at the largest international gathering of physical therapists, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) conference, but I canceled my participation. The event was to be held in Singapore just eight days after the earthquake that shook the foundation of my country. I still remember the moment when I faced the dilemma of whether to fly to the event or to be in Nepal and support the country, which had been reduced to rubble. A voice within me directed me to stay and help the 23,000 injured, to be a ray of hope to the broken.
The earthquake was one of the biggest disasters in the history of Nepal. Local, national and international organizations lent their helping hands to respond together. My decision to stay was influenced by the individuals and organizations that have shaped me as a humanitarian working to strengthen my community. Handicap International Nepal has always prioritized preparedness for unexpected disasters, and this work helped to set the tone for the response from the first day. Sarah Blin, the Country Director at the time, provided sound leadership that was instrumental in allowing the organization to respond to the overwhelming demand of injury management and rehabilitation. I was also inspired by SOS Children’s Villages Surkhet – Nepal, the place where I studied from nursery school to 10th grade; it is my second home that inculcated the humanitarian spirit in me right from childhood.
When the earthquake happened, I was immediately sent to work at the largest government teaching hospital, and I still remember those initial heart-wrenching moments. There was limited space and limited resources to respond to the high need to save people’s lives. My role at the hospital was to support the existing medical team, transferring them safely from ambulances to triage zones; to triage injured survivors, bracing the injured parts on the first initial days. Later on, I was tasked to teach exercises, provide assistive devices (crutches, canes, wheelchairs and braces) after proper assessment and user training and to educate the patients and their family members about the need for follow-up rehabilitation.
In Nepal, rehabilitation services are not fully integrated into the healthcare system, but this is a very important part of healthcare, linked with minimizing the complications and preventing the disabling effect of the injury. Demand for rehabilitation exponentially rises in post-disaster scenarios like earthquakes. Working in post-disaster scenarios is especially difficult because the survivors are experiencing psychological trauma as well as physical injuries.
After the earthquake, I was based at the same hospital for almost three months, directly providing services and also supervising the emergency rehabilitation physical therapists recruited later by Handicap International. I met more than 1,000 injured survivors and family members during that time. Most of them came from remote areas in Nepal where rehabilitation services were not available. During the initial days, it was very difficult to convince patients and their family members to get actively engaged in the rehabilitation process as they were in psychological stress due to injury, loss of family members and property. One main focus at that time was to listen, to explain, with examples, the stories of people with disabilities who have succeeded in life. This practice helped to make the exercises and rehabilitation process easier and participative.
Without the patient’s active involvement, rehabilitation is not effective. One woman with a single leg amputation was in deep distress and was not cooperating during the rehabilitation process despite several attempts by our team. We had an idea to facilitate interactions with Ramesh, a boy with a double limb amputation whom we had trained to use a wheelchair. Ramesh explained to her how rehabilitation had helped him, and this was the turning point for the woman to agree to participate in her own rehabilitation process. Not long after that, one of the most unforgettable incidents occurred during the second earthquake on May 12, 2015, when Ramesh transferred himself from his bed to his wheelchair and was able to secure himself in the safe zone downstairs due to the training we had given him just a few days back. I still remember him expressing, with his eyes full of tears, “I would have gone into shock if I didn’t have the wheelchair and the ability to use it to get to safety.” This made me more dedicated and proud, because I felt the immediate impact of my work on the ground.
(Sunil Pokhrel – right – assists a patient during a physiotherapy session)
(Sunil Pokhrel – right – assists a patient during a physiotherapy session)
Today, more than a year after the earthquake, many Nepalese still live with the nightmare of the catastrophic disaster. Through Handicap International, I support physiotherapists based at six earthquake-affected districts. After seeing a gradual decline of patients in Kathmandu hospitals, our focus shifted to the homes of survivors to ensure follow-up care. Rehabilitation requires time, and therefore continuum of care is very important. Rehabilitation units in these districts are providing follow-up care in close collaboration with the Nepalese government through the support of organizations like DFID and USAID.
Though the earthquake was catastrophic in terms of loss of life and property, it provided solid evidence on the importance and relevancy of rehabilitation services in Nepal’s healthcare system. Currently the government of Nepal is working to define long-term strategies and plans for healthcare. Together with HelpAge International, we at Handicap International are providing the technical back up on this work so that health and rehabilitation issues of people with injury/disability and senior citizens are well addressed.
I do not have any regrets on losing an opportunity to present an abstract paper at my first international conference. More opportunities will arise. In fact, I have been selected as a speaker on the symposium titled Physiotherapy in Disasters in July 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa, during which I am going to share my experiences and lessons learned from my involvement after Nepal’s earthquake with the world.