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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC/Church World Service Emergency Response News Briefs -- March 18, 1999

Index to News Briefs:

Emergency Response Office Developing Y2K Brochure; Updates Web

CWS Supports California Interfaith Response to Freeze

NEW YORK CITY ---- Church World Service, the humanitarian assistance ministry of the National Council of Churches, has contributed $15,000 for interfaith response to needs of the most vulnerable farm workers affected by the December freeze that damaged or destroyed northern California citrus and seasonal crops.

President Clinton has declared seven counties eligible for federal disaster funds to supplement unemployment compensation for unemployed farm laborers and other farm industry workers. But undocumented workers – 40 percent of those affected – do not qualify for assistance. Some 15,000 workers are facing long-term unemployment, with 45,000 people affected – including 25,000 dependent children. People are in desperate need of food; some face the loss of their homes and need help with rent and utilities.

Three interfaith groups are providing food and housing assistance within the context of Valley Interfaith Freeze Relief (VIFR). The CWS money will help VIFR establish services in Kern and northern Tulare counties, increase the capacity of existing local interfaith organizations and establish a coordinating office.

In all, the interfaith network is seeking $715,800 for direct assistance to families. CWS has opened an account, #976238, to receive funds for its seed money assistance and interfaith development and capacity-building activity, estimated at $20,000 total.

Dick Eskes, of Walnut Creek, Calif., Disaster Relief Consultant of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, is assisting VIFR. He may be reached at 510-939-1250; fax 510-937-5815.

CWS Supports Global Response in Africa Emergencies

NEW YORK CITY – Church World Service – the humanitarian response ministry of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches – is supporting global ecumenical response, primarily through ACT (Action by Churches Together), in several emergencies in Africa, including the following:

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Civil War and Crisis Emergency

SITUATION: War broke out in many regions last year. A rebel faction, supported by outside forces, caused extensive damage and suffering in the Bas Congo and Kinshasa areas, and quickly took control of most of the DRC’s eastern areas.

Fighting and violence, along with accounts and allegations of human rights abuses and mass killings by all sides in the conflict, continue, with the rebels and their allies - Uganda and Rwanda - controlling the DRC’s eastern third and the Kabila government and its allies - Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad - the western two-thirds.

In areas affected by the fighting food stocks are low and market prices are high, preventing families from feeding themselves. Large numbers of people have fled into the forest to escape the fighting and are struggling to survive. Waterborne diseases are on the rise due to contaminated water sources. Hygienic supplies are almost non-existent. Recently, the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator confirmed that there are just under 200,000 refugees in the DRC and possibly as many as 500,000 displaced persons.

RESPONSE: The Church of Christ in Congo (Eglise du Christ au Congo – ECC) is targeting humanitarian relief to more than 8,000 families and more than 9,000 children, including basic medicines, medical supplies and services, food, temporary shelter, seeds, tools and hygiene supplies. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) is providing similar assistance in the Uvira area. Church World Service has raised $43,000 ($40,000 from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and $3,000 from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) toward a goal of $225,000 in support of the ECC and NCA work.

Uganda Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation

SITUATION: The conflict in northern Uganda has raged for 11 years. Various rebel groups have emerged and disbanded while others have resurfaced. Many people continue to be displaced, killed, maimed by landmines, raped and abducted while property continues to be destroyed. There are no signs of the situation ending, and many vulnerable people remain in need of emergency relief and assistance.

RESPONSE: The Church of Uganda (COU) Development and Rehabilitation Department is proposing emergency assistance to approximately 10,525 most vulnerable persons (about 1,316 families) and rehabilitation assistance to around 8,000 persons (or approximately 1,000 families) in the Gulu and Kitgum areas along with emergency relief for the most vulnerable (around 8,000 persons) in the Bundibugyo and Kabarole areas.

The Lutheran World Federation/Uganda Program is proposing assistance to the most vulnerable Sudanese refugees in the Adjumani (East Moyo) area, while at the same time enabling them to become food self-sufficient and self reliant. Another aim is to provide emergency relief/rehabilitation to directly affected nationals to help them recover from rebel attacks. CWS is sending $30,000 from Blanket Funds and seeking $70,000 to support COU and LWF emergency relief assistance work.

Tanzania Food Crisis

SITUATION: As many as 400,000 persons throughout Tanzania – but mostly in the Singida and Dodoma regions -- are facing severe food shortages. The emergency is complicated by the vulnerable regions’ inability to fully recover from the 1997 drought and 1998 El Nino rains, which were followed by a lack of rains later in 1998.

RESPONSE: The Christian Council of Tanzania - Refugee and Emergency Services (ACT/CCT-RES) has worked with its established church and diocesan partners to assess the emergency needs in 12 regions. In this appeal, CCT-RES is proposing to provide food, seeds and plant cuttings to some 25,000 of the most vulnerable persons affected by the current food shortages and to coordinate a disaster management workshop for CCT-RES partners. CWS is supporting this appeal and is seeking $150,000 in denominational support. The Christian Church (Disciples) has already contributed $5,000.

Sudan Food Security

SITUATION: Those living in communities in southern Bahr el Ghazal have experienced drought and famine since 1997. A large-scale influx of displaced persons from northern Bahr el Ghazal last year led to a loss of crops and livestock and reduced access to fishing grounds and traditional dry-season grazing areas, worsening malnutrition during 1998.

RESPONSE: Since May 1998, Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan (CEAS) and the Lutheran World Federation/Department of World Service (LWF/DWS) have responded to the famine with a food relief and small agricultural rehabilitation program in Rumbek and Yirol counties. With support from ACT International and Caritas International, several hundred metric tons of food and over 300 metric tons of seeds were distributed.

Now CEAS and LWF are seeking to respond to long-term rehabilitation needs. While a large-scale food relief is required during 1999, a program without accompanying work in agriculture rehabilitation may be damaging to natural economic recovery. In addition to on-going relief activities in Rumbek and Yirol Counties, CEAS has responded to requests by the churches, local administration, Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) and communities by formally requesting LWF to help more than 19,000 vulnerable families prevent future famine and restore normal life and economic activities. CWS is seeking to raise $200,000 toward the ACT/Caritas appeal.

Rwanda Relief and Rehabilitation

SITUATION: More than 500,000 people need material assistance in northwest Rwanda, the nation's breadbasket, following a year in which internal conflicts increased and concern heightened over how last August's rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could lead to a severe humanitarian crisis throughout the Great Lakes region. The latest incidents are the most recent problems in five years of war, violence and genocide that have affected millions and resulted in huge numbers of refugees fleeing to camps in the neighboring countries of Congo, Burundi and Tanzania.

RESPONSE: ACT members in Rwanda -- Church World Service, Lutheran World Federation, Protestant Council of Rwanda, Christian Aid and the United Methodist Committee on Relief -- have worked closely to assess the most critical needs of vulnerable groups throughout Rwanda. Through this appeal, these ACT partners members seek a continuation of a collaborative effort of work in Rwanda.

For its part, CWS is proposing a $150,000 appeal project, through Dec. 31, 1999, which will be implemented by a CWS partner, the Rwandan Women Community Development Network (RWN), a local Rwanda organisation that has initiated long-term development through training and income-generating activities for women and families. This program will help build 150 houses and promote credit, savings and community development activities in Urban Kigali, Umutara and Butare prefectures.

Sierra Leone Emergency Relief

SITUATION: After several months of relative peace, Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, has been the scene of intense fighting between the rebel forces, comprising the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the ousted Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and the West African peace keeping force (ECOMOG).

"The rebels have been hunting down people and burning homes, using lists. Who is on the list? People who have been vocal against them," Canon Ajayi Nicol, Anglican vicar of St. Charles Parish Church, Diocese of Freetown, recently told Margaret S. Larom, World Mission Interpretation and Networks Officer for The Episcopal Church.

A curfew imposed upon the citizens of Freetown has caused immense hardship and has resulted in shortages of food, water, medicines and other basic amenities. Widespread destruction to homes has forced up to 30,000 people to seek shelter in the national stadium while others have taken refuge in schools and churches. Due to the renewed fighting and critical situation of thousands of newly displaced persons, assistance is required for immediate emergency relief to help the most vulnerable.

At least 17 churches and church-related buildings in Freetown with ties to the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL) have been damaged or destroyed in recent fighting, the CCSL reports, and a CCSL staff member, Sulaiman Kalokoh, was killed. "Places of worship, church institutions and personnel were not spared in this," reports Alimamy Koroma, CCSL General Secretary. Additional churches in provinces are likely to have been attacked recently and once those areas are accessible, CCSL plans to survey them.

RESPONSE: The CCSL, an ACT member, has been asked to provide emergency assistance, including relief from the World Food Program, to large numbers of displaced persons in and around Freetown. CCSL has been allocated the area of Brookfield, which includes the national stadium, to immediately distribute food. (Norwegian Church Aid is donating 40 metric tons of food rations for distribution; the exact amount of the World Food Program assistance has not been determined.)

In addition, CCSL plans to provide plastic sheeting, blankets, used clothing and other non-food items to 15,000 most vulnerable people, especially families who have lost their homes and/or become displaced by the fighting; women and children; pregnant women; older people, and people who have been injured. Reportedly, health, water & sanitation needs are being covered by other agencies. CWS is supporting this work and is seeking $100,000 in denominational support.

Church World Service Post-Hurricane Mitch Response

NEW YORK CITY – Church World Service has named Glenn Rogers, an international relief consultant, Hurricane Mitch Work Team Coordinator, based at the Sager-Brown Center in Louisiana. He began his assignment February 26 and is working with CWS staff, member denominations and Central American partners in coordinating work team assignments in Honduras and Nicaragua.

Rogers, a member of the United Church of Christ, has worked with the Christian Children's Fund, PLAN International and the Pearl Buck Foundation in a number of countries, including Peru, Bolivia and Thailand. Though officially retired and living in Florida, Rogers will live in Louisiana for the 12-month assignment. Betsy Crites served as interim Work Team Coordinator.

Don Tatlock, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) member from Texas, has been named the Honduras-based Hurricane Mitch Mission Team Co-Coordinator, working with the Christian Commission for Development (CCD). The son of missionaries, Tatlock has lived in Venezuela and Mexico and has led numerous work teams to Honduras over the years. He has a social work background, and currently works part-time for the State of Texas Dept. of Social Services, while attending seminary. He will begin work with CCD in mid-June.

More than 30 CWS-sponsored work teams with some 400 volunteers have been scheduled to work in Honduras through November. The teams represent a wide variety of CWS member denominations and churches, ecumenical groups, and colleges and universities. The first construction team, a 12-member group from Granville, N.Y., helped to build and rehabilitate homes in Honduras' Nacaome province.

In partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and along with representatives from the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) in Honduras and the Council of Evangelical Churches (CEPAD) in Nicaragua, CWS is coordinating a volunteer program for rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Mitch. Volunteer teams travel at their own expense to work in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. For more information, call 1-888-283-6113.

CWS Emergency Response Web Updates Include Y2K Brochure

NEW YORK CITY -- The CWS/ERO is developing a brochure on ways local churches and community groups can respond to the Y2K computer problem that could cause technological failures throughout the world. The brochure has been authored by CWS/New Jersey Consultant Laura Porter of the Episcopal Church, who recently attended a meeting in Indiana of a faith-based group concerned with the Y2K problem. Porter also is a member of the CWS/UCC Task Force on Technological Disasters.

The brochure will soon available for use by local congregations; in the meantime, consult the CWS/ERO Web Site.   In addition to added information on Y2K, the CWS/ERO Web Site also includes a new version of the CWS Consultant's Manual, a chat room, a message board and the latest information on volunteer opportunities in Central America.

-end-

Information for these news briefs was drawn from CWS Emergency Response Office bulletins.

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