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The first ever Training of Trainers on the Sphere standards was conducted in the city of Iran this May. Funded by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and planned in collaboration with the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), the training was thoughtfully designed and facilitated by Community World Service Asia considering the Iranian context. To promote effective humanitarian response in Iran, ICRI has conducted a series of Sphere trainings in Iran during recent years in coordination with NRC. Following the three day basic Sphere trainings, the key stakeholders involved recognized the need of creating a larger pool of Sphere trainers in the country to join existing three member sphere trainers’ team.

Community World Service Asia has been providing humanitarian support to programs assisting refugees in Iran since June 2015. However, this has been the organization’s first experience in its quality and accountability interventions in the country as they provided technical support to conduct this first-ever Sphere ToT. Participants at the training belonged to various sectors of the humanitarian community present in Iran. These included Red Crescent staff, government officials, UN representatives and national aid workers. This event proved essential in providing a joint platform for key stakeholders of the humanitarian community to collaborate on understanding the Sphere handbook and its application.

Discussions are underway to support the selected ToT graduates to become expert Sphere trainers. As an immediate outcome of the ToT, one of the participants introduced the Sphere Standards in his recent lecture at the Iranian Red Crescent’s research institute. The respective agencies are looking forward to having a joint strategy in building the national capacity in Iran through the use of the Sphere Minimum Standards.

For the second consecutive year, an extreme heat wave has hit South Asia. To prevent the loss of lives, we have been working towards spreading awareness via social media and radio. Our health centers running in various parts of Sindh have been equipped to provide immediate care to those suffering from heat-related illnesses. In this video message, we would like to appeal to our partners and donors to support us further as we continue to save lives of the vulnerable.

Thank you to the support of all our international partners who have helped launch the response to this life threatening natural calamity! Y Care International The United Methodist Church Church of Scotland CWS Start Network UMCOR – United Methodist Committee On Relief

My entire family was at home as the earthquake struck. I yelled at all of them to come out to the open yard in front of the house. They all rushed out. We all gathered outside, staring in awe at the shuddering building of our house and everything around it. However, as the earthquake continued, the brick wall of the mosque next door to our house collapsed, with bricks falling on three of my granddaughters, aged 16, 10 and 5.

 My dear grandchildren were trapped under a heavy pile of bricks and I was helpless as I could not rescue them from the rubble on my own, even when I tried. All of us were in a state of trauma and my hands were shivering.

After a little while of the earthquake ending, fellow villagers came to help me rescue my injured family members. We pulled them out of the rubble together and immediately took them to the Central Hospital in Mingora where all three of the girls were admitted and given treatment. Two of my younger granddaughters fractured their legs while the elder one fractured her jaw and a leg. Her jaw has been operated upon in emergency and the doctor has advised for a follow up operation as well.”

This is the first account story of a 65 year old Rahim Gul, head of a family of ten. He belongs to and lives in the earthquake affected Union Council Malik Khel in District Shangla. Rahim Gul owns and runs a small tuck shop in his resident village, through which he supports and fulfills the basic needs of the family.

On October 26th, Rahim Gul had returned home for lunch when the dreadful earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck their home village. Seeing his family affected and his grandchildren hurt, he has been feeling helpless.  Rahim Gul feels guilty for asking his family members to evacuate to the open yard outside his house since the house survived the earthquake without much damage. Little did he know they were in more danger outside than inside the house.

The concerned grandfather has not been interested in claiming any relief from organizations or the government but is worried for his injured grandchildren.

Community World Service Asia’s Emergency Health Response team is currently providing health services through their Mobile Health Unit in District Shangla. The unit is supported by a Mobile Laboratory that diagnoses the affected communities through tests. The unit has so far conducted 1853 consultations in the five union councils of Kuz Kana, Shahpur, Pirkhana, Lelownai, and Malak Khel of district Shangla. A total of 869 male and 984 female patients have been checked at the MHU since it has been set up. These include children. In addition, 136 lab tests have also been carried out in these three union councils.

We have also distributed one month food rations to 371 earthquake affected families in Shangla as part of the response.  Provision of emergency winterization kits and more food packages as a means of extending the assistance is to be continued in the following weeks. Our current target districts for response are Shangla and Swat while expansion to other districts is subject to the community needs and the availability of funds.

Please follow our live photo update from the earthquake affected areas on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/communityworldserviceasia/

November 3, 1600 Hrs. Pakistan Standard Time

ACT Pakistan Forum is hosting an online discussion with MR. GEORGE KHOURY, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) In Pakistan, on the massive earthquake which hit Pakistan and Afghanistan on 26 October 2015. He will be talking about the current situation and the ongoing response. Furthermore, he will be speaking to us on the state of humanitarian action in Pakistan.

Six months after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, a powerful earthquake once again hit the region. The earthquake occurred at 2:09 pm Pakistan time on 26 October 2015. Pakistan Metrological department reported the magnitude of today’s earthquake as 8.1 (US Geological Survey reports it at 7.5). In Pakistan, it affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Gilgit Baltistan, Punjab and the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. As of 30 October 2015, the National Disaster Management Authority reports a total of 272 deaths, 2,123 injured and 25,364 houses in the country. Majority of the deaths and injuries (over 80%) as well as damaged shelters (62%) were Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Members of the ACT Pakistan Forum (Christian Aid, Church of Sweden, Community World Service Asia, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, ICCO Cooperation and Norwegian Church Aid) mobilized partners and resources to conduct detailed assessments. ACT Rapid Response Funds have been released to provide food and health services to the affected communities. An ACT Appeal is expected to be launched in the next few days.

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The World Food day is celebrated as the day of action against hunger and commemorates the creation of UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on October 16th each year. Its goal is to raise public awareness about the increasing hunger problem prevalent in the world. It aims at unifying people against hunger, malnutrition and poverty and to draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.  The objectives are to encourage and stimulate non-governmental efforts as a means of eradicating hunger, as well as encouraging the rural populations to take part in agricultural activities which will positively influence their living conditions. The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Social Protection & Agriculture-Breaking the cycle of Rural Poverty”.

Community World Service Asia’s food security projects are aimed at improving the availability, access and utilization of agrarian communities. These initiatives may include emergency food distribution of agricultural inputs directly and through voucher schemes, establishment of nurseries, orchards and seed banks as well as providing poultry inputs. By improving agricultural practices, the communities are better able to utilize their resources to increase the quantity and quality of food, resulting in increased income, food security, and better nutritional status. Food security and livelihoods remain at the core of the organization’s recovery and rehabilitation activities with a particular focus on agriculture restoration. Our initiatives help disaster-affected communities meet their immediate food, non-food, shelter, health, and WASH needs while simultaneously establishing the basic foundation for resilient, longer-term recovery and development of lives and livelihoods.

When heavy monsoon rains hit different parts of Pakistan in late July this year, 10716 houses were damaged and 4111 villages were totally inundated by the resulting floods while many more villages were partially flooded affecting 1.5 million people across the country. These floods also severally damaged the infrastructure and the local livelihoods.  A total of 715 cattle perished in the floods, and more than 200,000 acres of agricultural land was damaged.

Sindh, positioned on the tail-end of Indus River, was one of the most flood-prone provinces. Need assessments were carried out by the Community World Service Asia teams to assess the urgent needs of affected communities and food Assistance was found to be the top priority for the flood affected communities.

The Sphere minimum nutrient requirements given in the table below were used to assess the suitability of general rations targeted towards the flood affected population.

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Adhering to the Sphere minimum standards, food packages were designed according to the nutritional requirement for average household size of six persons in Sindh. Community World Service Asia ensured that Sphere’s standard requirement of the provision of 2,100 kcals/person/day were met for the affected communities.

To improve the nutritional quality of the ration fortification of staple commodities, inclusion of fortified blended foods, and inclusion of locally purchased commodities were ensured to provide the necessary nutrients. Aside from the ensuring the adequate calorie content in the diet, consideration of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in food planning was of key priority.

Impartiality was ensured as similar food packages were provided to similarly affected populations and population sub-groups. Community World Service Asia completed the distribution of monthly food packages to 3224 flood affected families who received monthly food packages. Additionally 2100 families are to be supported with monthly food rations for five consecutive months in District Sujawal of Sindh province.

Along with the provision of food aid, the Community World Service Asia has also been providing seeds to disaster affected communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to protect their upcoming crops after disasters and to ensure the sustainability of their livelihoods and food source. Direct seeds distribution as well as distribution through voucher schemes is implemented through various Disaster Response and Livelihood projects.

Livestock restocking, provision of poultry inputs is another way of ensuring that the livelihoods of the affected communities are sustainable. In addition to the emergency food assistance provided by Community World Service Asia in times of various disasters and conflicts in the region, the organization is also involved in projects ensuring livestock productivity and decreasing livestock morbidity rate of the communities it works with. To learn more about such projects, view the latest infographic on one of the organization’s Vaccination and Deworming Campaign on our website at: http://communityworldservice.asia/enhancing-livestock-productivity-for-idps-in-kohat/.

The horrific bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan has once again illustrated the growing lack of respect for the Geneva Conventions and other international norms in conflicts around the world. This is having a catastrophic effect on civilian populations and on humanitarian workers.

The 24 members of the Start Network, all international NGOs with a global humanitarian reach, condemn this event and align ourselves fully with the call by MSF for an independent investigation through the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission (IHFFC).

The world is a safer place for all peoples when humanitarian action is respected. An IHFFC investigation, regardless of its outcome, will confirm that governments and people around the world value the Geneva Conventions and the protection of humanitarian workers. Even war has limits in a civilised world.

We call on the UN and member states, in particular those governments from the countries in which our network members are based, to implement this independent investigation without delay and commit to following up its findings.

For more information please contact:
Mike Noyes, Head of Humanitarian Response and Resilience, ActionAid UK
Tel: +44(0)7720 084 061
Email: mike.noyes@actionaid.org

Alexandre Brecher, Head of Communications, Start Network
Tel: +44(0)795 0908774
Email: a.brecher@savethechildren.org.uk

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Community World Service Asia celebrated International Literacy Day with the community in Thatta.  Supported by Christian Aid, we have opened two adult literacy centers in which 100 women are enrolled, and are learning to read on write using phonetic methodologies. Raj bai, an adult literacy student, shared that she will become an “educational partner” of her children following the completion of the course, while Fayyaz, a fourth grade student, shared, “I will struggle for the enrolment of other children in my school as well, and I will make it true that my village becomes 100% literate.”  We hope to continue working with the community in Thatta to make Fayyaz’s dream a reality!

Photographs were taken by our Thatta team as an assignment of the in-house photography training follow up.

A young patient's visit to Dr. Shazia Shah

Dr. Shazia Shah, 30 years old, from Jamshoro, Sindh, is a humanitarian worker and a practising gynaecologist. She works for Community World Service Asia as the only lady doctor serving the community of Union Council Bijora, District Thatta, in the Sindh province. She tells us about the experiences, the challenges and what drives her in her work.

“My mother, Ghulam Zahra, is my biggest inspiration. She always encouraged me to do better. It was her dream to make me a doctor.”

While talking about her work in the humanitarian sector, she shares:

“My work is rewarding for me, I count myself very lucky to be able to make a living doing what is in alignment with my values and the things that I believe in. The contentment I draw from working in this field motivates me to make it my life’s mission to improve the lives of women and children.”

When asked to share an inspiring story which she will never forget, she took a pause and recalled a former patient with a beaming smile:

“I will never forget the smile on Noor Jehan’s face after she saw her new-born baby for the first time. When she came to me, her medical situation was complicated and she had no money or other means to get medical care. She was scared and in a lot of pain, I assured her that despite the complication, I would try my best and she wouldn’t have to sell her livestock to pay the medical bills. She gave birth to a healthy baby here in the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) center.”

Dr. Shazia added that empathy and compassion are the keystones for humanitarian work; it is the ability to feel what the other person is feeling. This ability connects you with people you work for; it makes you realize that how similar we all are despite coming from different areas, background and cultures.

 “The people I have met in this line of work are among the most wonderful friends and colleagues I can imagine. The bonds that are formed working together in intense situations are very powerful, so they stay with you for life.”

As the only female doctor in Ranta village, Dr. Shazia provides access to health care for women and children in need. Her services touch and affect many lives; and a huge amount of energy goes into making sure the necessary support is delivered.

Working as a humanitarian aid worker exposes you to a side of human nature and reality that we are shielded from in our privileged modern day lives. While talking about the challenges and risks she faces during her work, Dr. Shazia is candid. It gets messy, chaotic, and difficult at times—but I am hooked.” She added that, on a personal level, this experience has transformed her from a naive newcomer to a hardened, hopeful but critical realist. She expressed, “We all know that humanitarian work, especially in crisis situations or in unprivileged areas, is not easy work, but we still go for it because we believe in the worth of the work.”

Dr. Shazia is a beacon of hope and a role model for many mothers and young girls in Ranta village. Not only does she provide them with medical support, but is constantly changing the traditionalist mindset of the villagers too. They are now more open to the idea of sending their daughters to study in schools.

She believes that the world needs more empowered women, and that we should motivate and mobilize women by enabling them to live their life and their dreams to the fullest potential.

“Humanitarian work can be conducted anywhere in the world. What you do today can change a person’s life, so always try to celebrate humanity in your own capacity.”

Temperature check by Dr. Shazia, her favorite doctor!
Temperature check by Dr. Shazia, her favorite doctor!

On the World Humanitarian Day, Shazia articulates, “I want to see women unified and empowered by sharing the belief that they hold the power to create and shape. They are a powerful agent of change so we all should do more to support women and promote their role in the humanitarian action”