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To build an understanding of the brand new Quality and Accountability (Q & A) initiative, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), the Q&A team of Community World Service Asia organized a two day in-house “Write-shop” for its relevant staff members from July 31st to Aug 1st at the O’Spring Estate in Murree, Pakistan. The write-shop was the first of its kind to be conducted in-house. It promoted the importance and explained the structure of CHS and its implementation internally as well as externally. Participants were asked to prepare some of the session plans on the assigned topics for the training which they each presented through various methodologies. At the end of the write-shop, participants developed a concrete action plan that aimed to help them in implementing CHS internally and as well as providing technical services to external stakeholders.

CHEF staff engaged in a role playing learning exercise

Community World Service Asia organized and conducted a four day training on Sphere Minimum Standards focusing primarily on the theme of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) for the staff of Comprehensive Health & Education Forum (CHEF) International. The training was held from July 6th to 9th in Muzaffargarh, which is among the more disaster prone cities of Pakistan. Attended by 23 participants, 17 men & 6 women, the main objective of the training was to develop a thorough understanding on the use of Sphere Minimum Standards in Health related projects.  To meet the learning needs of the participants, new and contextualized Sphere training materials were used through interactive learning exercises which helped in achieving the goal of the training. At the end of the training activities, the participants were asked to prepare a three months action plan on incorporating the standards learnt through the training. To support the participants in the implementation of the Sphere Standards, Community World Service Asia will be providing follow-up technical support to all the training participants at CHEF.

Communities seek safety on higher ground of river embankments as their homes are flooded
Village organization planning emergency evacuation as part of a DRR training in Thatta.
Village organization planning emergency evacuation as part of a DRR training in Thatta.

Heavy rains have been severely affecting communities in Union Council Bijora, District Thatta, in the Sindh province of Pakistan.  Community World Service Asia has been present in the area since the devastating flooding in 2010, and continues to run health and livelihoods projects.  As part of an initiative funded by Christian Aid, Community World Service Asia is supporting the livelihoods of community members through vocational training and literacy classes for women, and community mobilization for disaster preparedness.

Thatta is an extremely flood-prone area, and flooding presents a serious hazard to the wellbeing and livelihoods of the local population. The destruction of crops, livestock and property results in significant losses and lead to the accumulation of debt and continuing poverty for already vulnerable households.  The recent monsoon rains have left 25 to 35 families homeless, rendered pathways between villages inaccessible and heavily impacted the earnings of people who rely on agricultural labor for their wages.  A lack of safe drinking water has also caused illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea, which are particularly dangerous for young children, and especially so in a situation of food insecurity when many children are already malnourished.

Since 2013, Community World Service Asia has been conducting disaster risk reduction (DRR) trainings for community members and establishing village organizations to mobilize the community and facilitate them in disaster preparedness.  These organizations have undertaken a variety of key DRR initiatives, including the establishment of a community-based early warning system, based on regular and close monitoring of radio reports, hazard assessments and regular coordination and communication throughout the community.  They have conducted evacuation drills and have formed Emergency Rescue Teams to be ready for, and activated in, an emergency situation.

This value of this preparation became clear when the heavy rainfall began to affect the area, as the village organizations and community members promptly began coordination and activated the rescue teams to evacuate villagers to safety on the high ground of the embankment.

The village organizations are also coordinating with local authorities, utilizing the contacts that were provided during Community World Service Asia’s trainings. This had resulted in the district coordinator coming to inspect the situation of the village, and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority providing tents to shelter the displaced families.

The pro-active response of the community has demonstrated the effectiveness of the training methodologies. More importantly it has shown the importance of empowering the community to take ownership of its preparedness, and engaging the local population in efforts to reduce the risks posed by flooding.

Community members from Union Council Bijora, District Thatta, put evacuation drills into practice as they gather on the high ground of the embankment, constructed to protect the area from flooding.

Community World Service Asia has conducted DRR trainings for 858 community members in UC Bijora since 2013 as part of the Livelihoods project supported by Christian Aid!

The death toll of the heatwave affected individuals has risen to 1400 with more than 40,000 people suffering from heat exhaustion and strokes according to UNOCHA’s latest report. To respond to this growing crisis Community World Service Asia initiated an emergency heatwave response. In collaboration with its partners, Participatory Village Development Program (PVDP), Transformation and Reflection for Rural Development (TRD) and Society for Safe Environment and Welfare of Agrarians in Pakistan (SSEWA Pak) the response has completed its first week.

Heatwave rehabilitation centers in three different districts; Dadu, Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar of Sindh have been established and are running successfully. A number of consultation meetings were conducted with the government health departments in order to set up these relief centers.

Free medical consultations and medicines have been provided to 215 patients from the affected population under this response so far. Of the treated patients, 104 are men, 61 are women and 50 are children. Awareness raising activities on heatstroke orientation, its symptoms, treatment and prevention are also being conducted for the public sector paramedic staff and the visiting patients. The community members have been actively participating in these awareness sessions and the attendance is seen to have increased by the day.

As per the project plan, awareness sessions on building resiliency towards extreme weather are to be extended to village levels. Mobile health teams will conduct these sessions with the communities in other villages as well. Awareness about heatstroke prevention and extreme weather precautions will also be disseminated through text messages and interactive theaters.

Some of the affected areas in Sindh received its first surge of rain after a long drought last week but the showers were minimal. Thus, the drought and extreme heat spell is expected to continue in this part of the country. Medical specialists have started warning government departments about the possible spread of gastroenteritis amongst the affected communities in the coming days.

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We are excited to announce that our application to the ACT Alliance has been formally approved. Community World Service Asia is now a proud ACT member. After going through a comprehensive application process, the ACT Alliance Governing Board approved our membership application in their meeting this May.

ACT Alliance is a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organisations working together in over 140 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalised people regardless of their religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation, race or nationality in keeping with the highest international codes and standards. The Alliance is supported by 25,000 staff from member organisations and mobilises about $1.5 billion for its work each year in three targeted areas: humanitarian aid; development; and advocacy. As an ACT member, Community World Service Asia strives to work for positive and sustainable change in the lives of people affected by poverty and injustice through coordinated and effective humanitarian, development, and advocacy work as defined by the Alliance’s united mission.

We would also like to take this opportunity to share that Community World Service Asia is the first ever local and regional organization to be a member of the ACT Pakistan Forum. To add further, we are also currently chairing the Pakistan Forum which makes us the first ever local chair in the country. ACT Pakistan Forum is a shared platform composed of Community World Service Asia, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) Pakistan, who are the members of ACT Alliance presently based in Pakistan and Christian Aid, Church of Sweden and ICCO Cooperation, who are supporting programs in Pakistan from abroad. The forum works with common interests defined broadly by their commitment to the mission, vision, and values of ACT Alliance in humanitarian disaster assistance.

The ACT Pakistan Forum is part of the ACT alliance and is not a separate entity which incorporates and reflects ACT policies and guidelines in its own operations. The Forum also provides input into the development of ACT Alliance policies and procedures.

In celebration of Global Earth Day, Community world Service Asia had organized tree-plantation activities in villages in Thatta, Sindh, with the communities it works with.

Cultural Activities on promoting environmental responsibility were conducted while the plantations were ongoing. Communities were also made aware of how these tree plantations help in disaster mitigation. Many children in the Phul Jhakro village took part in these planting activities. The communities understood the importance of such activities towards the protection of the planet and realized that the global community needs to stand together in doing so.

Community World Service Asia also collaborated with a boys’ school in Ahund Baradia, Thatta to organize activities on Global Earth Day on April 22nd. Students took part in a group activity divided under different topics such as “importance of plantation”, “flaws of deforestation” and “how to protect the earth” to showcase their understanding on the concerns. They also exhibited the safe village models that they had made to show the various DRR activities they have learnt through Community World Service Asia’s workshops. The model also displayed how the earth is made safer through tree plantation.

The main purpose of conducting these activities was to create awareness at different levels on environmental degradation and the benefits of tree plantation and how both of these impact climate change.

Community World Service Asia’s Capacity Institutionalization Project (CIP) demonstrates consistent accountability towards their partners through the provision of various skill trainings and workshops. Held in Islamabad, The advanced level training on financial management for development professionals organized and hosted by Community World Service Asia was designed to build capacity of staff engaged in the financial management of NGOs. The aim of the training was to coach them on modern techniques of budgeting, accounting, financial reporting and overall financial management.

Finance is an area that is often mismanaged and overlooked by many organizations; the result being, an ineffective financial structure. Finance is a major performance measurement tool which, if applied correctly, can influence the performance of the core activities of any organization. In most of organizations, financial management is only used in its’ traditional context for recording transactions and preparing basic level financial reports. While this training aimed to orient professionals on the many additional functions it has in the management of an organization.

Budgeting was amongst the main topics selected for the workshop. It was recognized that incorrect budgeting could lead to poor operations management which is why the concept of output based budgeting was introduced. Other topics included financial accounting, reporting and donor reporting. Many participants acknowledged that they had insufficient knowledge on trial balance and financial statements after which more emphasis was laid on the methods of preparing them. Participants were made to practice developing these in the sessions so that practical skill enhancement is achieved.

In addition to the sessions on creating financial statements based on international standards, financial reporting formats and templates of various donor agencies, such as The World Bank and The Asian Development Bank, were also discussed. Interpretation of financial reports for instance, ratios of donor dependency, survival of the organization and variance analysis were covered in detail in the context of its importance in achieving real time control on the operations and finance of an organization. Directly related to management of the organization, the last sessions focused on different economic safeguards for assets protection.

The training was facilitated by Noaman Ali, a certified Chartered Accountant, with more than twelve years of experience in the field of financial management, accounting, auditing and financial reporting. He has worked for more than eight years in the development sector and has also worked on public sector reform projects in the area of financial management. Mr. Ali has worked on a number of World Bank, UNAIDS, UNDP and Government of Pakistan projects.