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MEDAIR | news

No. 3  | 2013 |

Rising from disaster Haiti: A Spirit of Resilience Madagascar: Peace of Mind


I distinctly remember my first day in Haiti. I had arrived two months after the deadly earthquake in 2010 and, after landing at the decimated airport, I was driven through the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Chaos does not even come close to describing the scenes I witnessed. Amid such large-scale devastation, causing significant loss of life and billions of dollars of damage, it was hard to imagine how the country would ever recover. But helping communities recover, like those in Haiti, is the business Medair is in. And, right from the word go, we consider how we can help these communities to not just recover, but to be stronger in the face of future disasters. It’s what we call ‘building resilience’. In this edition of Medair News we’re focusing on why disasters are on the rise and what we can do to help people prepare for them. We share with you amazing stories, from Haiti to Madagascar, to show that recovery is happening and communities are growing in resilience – thanks to your generous support. I hope you feel as inspired as I do by these positive stories of change and – together – what we are achieving in some of the most challenging environments on our planet. As ever, thank you so much for your support.

Alex Day Director, Medair UK


C r i s i s B r i e f i n g

Disasters on the rise


H a i t i

A spirit of resilience

8 M a d a g a s c a r

Rising from disaster

9 P r o g r a mm e s

Sources : 1. Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. 2007. SDC Guidelines on Disaster Risk Reduction. 2. UK Department for International Development (DFID). 2011. Defining Disaster Resilience: A DFID Approach Paper. 3. European Commission. 2012. The EU Approach to Resilence: Learning From Food Security Crises. 4. World Bank. 2012. The Sendai Report: Managing Disaster Risks for a Resilient Future. 5. USAID. 2012. Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis. 6. ACF International. 2011. Disaster Risk Management for Insecure Contexts. Funding Partners: Haiti: Swiss Solidarity, United States Agency for International Development, Däster-Schild Foundation (CH), Generations Foundation Madagascar: Swiss Solidarity, EC Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, EC Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Cover Photo: A girl stands in front of the ruins of her school in Madagascar, destroyed by Cyclone Giovanna. Medair provided a cash distribution to help people in her village rebuild. © Medair/Véronique André

Disaster risk management around the globe M EDAIR U K

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D is a s t e r R e si l i e n c e

Disaster In 2012, Haiti was hit by two powerful storms, Isaac and Sandy, destroying thousands of homes.

When Isaac passed, and then Sandy, I was scared that the roof might fly away, but after the strong winds passed, the house was intact. I won’t be scared of any hurricanes in the future because the house is built to stand,

Resilience 100 % of Medair’s 3,490 disaster-resilient shelters and homes safely withstood the storms.

even when there are heavy rains and strong winds like Sandy. – Madenièse Valentin, 73, who received assistance from Medair to make her home disaster-resilient.  |  August 2013  | Medair 


C r isis B r i e f in g

Disasters on the rise More disasters are happening around the world—and more people are affected by them—than ever before.

2011 was the costliest year of disasters on record, with estimated global losses of US$380 billion. Hundreds of millions of people are affected by disaster every year, and experts predict that the frequency and intensity of disasters will continue to increase in the coming decades.

Why Are Di sa ster s on the Ri se? Population growth

Rising population in disaster-prone regions: coastal areas and flood plains.

Climate change

Increasingly extreme temperatures causing more chaotic weather patterns: severe storms, floods, and droughts.

Environmental degradation

Escalating disaster damage due to loss of vital ecosystem buffers: soil, forests, vegetation, and mangrove swamps.

Disasters bring chaos, death, and destruction. Survivors search for safe water, food, shelter, and access to health care. Conditions are ripe for disease. Disasters destroy people’s homes, tear apart communities, and lead to economic ruin. Families take on debts they may never recover from.

Communities need to prepare for disasters to withstand their impact. In the past 30 years, low-income countries accounted for just nine percent of disasters, but suffered 48 percent of the fatalities.

9% 48%



Conflict makes the impact of natural disasters much worse. Conflict creates a spiral of insecurity that leads to greater disaster vulnerability and fuels even more conflict. Assessing the vulnerability of a community is about assessing natural hazards and also human threats such as conflict and deforestation.

“The world is facing an unprecedented scale of disasters.” – S wiss Agency for Development and Cooperation


Medair  |  August 2013  |

C r isis B r i e f in g

Disaster risk management With disasters on the rise, we need to help communities strengthen themselves and so enable them to be more resilient to future threats. Disaster risk management uses a broad range of interventions to strengthen local resilience before, during, and after a disaster strikes.


BEFO RE Preparation and Prevention

Work with local stakeholders to assess and reduce risks Early warning systems, evacuation plans, disaster simulations, emergency supplies


D URIN G Life-Saving Rescue and Relief

Emergency shelter, health care, nutrition, water, sanitation, urgent road repair, food assistance

Safe water and latrines Drought-resistant crops, protection of livestock and agriculture


AFTER Recovery: Bounce Back Better

Cash distributions or cash-forwork to meet urgent needs Disaster-resilient reconstruction of homes, roads, infrastructure Rehabilitation of water points Health and nutrition services Capacity building of local NGOs Income-generating activities and livelihood stimulus


Disaster-resilient construction and refuge houses Access to health care, vaccinations, and health, hygiene, and nutrition education Natural resources management

Even more of everything listed under


BEFO RE Prepar ation and Prevention

“Disaster risk management requires that we assess the exposure of individuals, households, and communities to natural and human threats. We must understand a community’s unique vulnerabilities and capacities to effectively work alongside them and help strengthen their resilience.” – William Anderson, Medair Programmes Manager  |  August 2013  | Medair 



Haiti: A spirit of resilience Haiti is regularly devastated by severe disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, disease outbreaks, massive flooding—catastrophic events that leave a path of death and destruction in their wake. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Haiti’s earthquake was one of the deadliest in history for a reason. The country was full of poorly built masonry buildings that collapsed when the earth shook. “It’s pretty much a fact that the large majority of death and damage due to disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake, can be avoided,” says our Shelter Manager Thomas Jardim. Haiti has been plagued by outbreaks of cholera and diarrhoeal disease, but these diseases can be prevented when people have access to protected water sources and sanitation facilities and adhere to good hygiene practices. Tragically, too many communities do not. In October, just two months after Tropical Storm Isaac wreaked havoc, Hurricane Sandy lashed Haiti for three straight days, bringing fierce winds and heavy rainfall that caused massive floods. Water roared down the mountainsides, eroding away 6 

Medair  |  August 2013  |

roads and valuable cropland and destroying homes and crops. “The flooding caused by Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy painfully showed the problem of the deforestation of hillsides in Haiti,” said Johan ten Hoeve, head of Medair’s Haiti programme. “There was nothing to slow the water down. To prevent these kinds of destructive flash floods, you need to retain water higher up in the mountains and give it time to infiltrate the soil.” As a disaster-prone country, Haiti must undeniably become more resilient to the hazards it faces. What can’t be denied, however, is the immense resilience found in the spirit of the Haitian people, who continue to pick themselves up from the ruins and start again. “After the earthquake, my house was destroyed,” said Clemente Aubrand, a mother of 10 in Côtes-de-Fer. “Now comes Sandy

“Medair’s shelter programme has been hugely successful at adapting their construction designs to meet the needs of the local communities. The Medair houses are well-built and wellappreciated by the homeowners. “The houses have good structural integrity and fit well with the local environment and culture, while also allowing residents to provide their own design solutions and finishing touches. Medair has acquired an undeniable expertise in reconstruction techniques that work well in rural Haiti.” – Béatrice Boyer, Team Leader (Urban Architect), le Groupe URD, independent experts mandated by our funding partner Swiss Solidarity to perform an external assessment of the quality of Medair’s construction work in Haiti.

We’ve produced a short video of our work in Côtes-de-Fer. Meet Madame Cadet and discover how we’re building 200 earthquake and hurricane proof houses for families at homesforhaiti


(Left) Sansélie Jacotin’s home withstood Hurricane Sandy without damage. (Above) Residents work to repair the roads that Sandy washed away.

and all my harvest is destroyed too—the trees, the fruit. Everything is destroyed. But I am not sad. I know there are people who are more vulnerable than me.” One of the regions hardest hit was Côtes-deFer, a remote mountainous area dotted with small villages where Medair works to improve shelters and water access. Our team rapidly assessed the region and found massive damage to crops, homes, and water points, and roads so severely eroded that communities were effectively cut off from the outside world. In response, we distributed water treatment tablets and supported home and road repairs through a cash-for-work programme that allowed families to buy food and avoid taking on unsustainable debt. We also sought to build long-term resilience in Côtes-de-Fer so that future disasters would not have the same destructive impact. “Whether you are raising capacity in construction techniques or combating deforestation, it is crucial to focus efforts on reducing and mitigating risks for future generations,” said Thomas.

With this in mind, we are supporting the repair and rebuilding of 200 disaster-resilient homes and shelters for the most vulnerable families in the region, including training for local builders on safe construction techniques. “After Medair leaves Côtes-de-Fer, we will not only have strong houses, but also highly skilled builders who can build houses resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes,” said 69-year-old Sansélie Jacotin. Our teams are also repairing and protecting 45 water points to withstand future floods and running a cash-for-work project to repair roads. The project includes flood-control structures such as drainage ditches and check dams so that heavy rains won’t be able to destroy the roads again. “The day Sandy hit, I saw the water running down and I was scared that my house would be washed away,” said 64-year-old Zabulon Félix. “These check dams will reduce the strength of the water flowing down. The work Medair is doing to protect the land gives us hope.”  |  August 2013  | Medair 



Madagascar: Rising from disaster Cyclones are a fact of life in Madagascar. Frequent storms bring high winds and flooding that leave a trail of destruction: drownings, devastated homes, ruined crops, contaminated water, and outbreaks of disease.

“Now that we have this refuge house in our village, we have more peace of mind. What a privilege for us to have it. The presence of Medair, making this house a refuge with us, has really changed our lives.”

Chief Rakotozafy (left) has more peace of mind thanks to Medair’s DRM work.

Communities can’t prevent cyclones, but they can reduce their impact by being prepared and taking precautions. We deliver a comprehensive disaster risk management (DRM) programme in Madagascar that assesses vulnerabilities and responds accordingly—before, during, and after cyclones strike. During emergencies: When cyclones hit, we rapidly disinfect contaminated wells and distribute water and hygiene kits that reduce the risk of disease.

Before and after: We help strengthen communities for the day the next disaster strikes. Early warning systems, cyclone simulations, emergency plans Cyclone refuge houses Disaster-resilient construction training DRM mentorship for communities, local committees, and government Resilience-building education Post-disaster cash distributions for shelter Flood-protected water points Latrines and hygiene promotion

“Madagascar is the most vulnerable of any African country to cyclone disasters. Making a cyclone-resistant house in a country annually hit by cyclones is a good investment.” –A  lain Rakotovao, coordinator of ICPM, a DRM consortium in Madagascar

“Medair has achieved a lot of work in the District of Maroantsetra, but what touches me in particular is how they work on the minds of people. Medair has convinced the villagers to use the refuge house and take care of their property. They have made people aware of ways to prepare for disasters. For this we are thankful.” – District Chief Rakotozafy, Ambodinmandrorofo village


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Disaster risk management around the globe

D.R. Congo: To prevent the spread of deadly disease, we are vaccinating thousands of children who have been displaced from their homes by conflict.

Somalia/Somaliland: To secure renewable water supplies, we are helping drought-prone communities rebuild rainwater reservoirs—many of which were destroyed during times of conflict.

Afghanistan: Medair is assisting communities with land and water management projects to reduce flooding, increase water infiltration and groundwater recharge, and decrease the impact of future droughts.  |  August 2013  | Medair 


D on a t e Tod a y

A life-saving investment Prevention and Preparedness

Disaster risk management helps address the root causes that make someone vulnerable to disaster. DRM saves lives and strengthens communities. It’s also a good investment. Funding disaster preparation and prevention is at least four times more cost-effective than funding a disaster response.

3.6 %


24.8 %

Why then does only a tiny fraction of global disaster funding get invested in preparation and prevention? From 1989 to 2009, less than four percent of global funding went to preparation and prevention, while the vast majority of donor funding went to emergency response and reconstruction. With disasters on the rise, that needs to change.

Emergency Response

69.9 %

Source: Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Disaster Aid Tracking Database. Note: Figures are constant USD 2009.

Give your hand to those struck down by disaster. Give them the strength they need to stand and face the storm. Give today at

In Lord Paddy Ashdown’s Humanitarian Emergency Response Review of 2011, he made the following observation: “In 2006, the Mozambique government asked the international community for £2million to help prepare for floods, an amount it could not secure. After the floods, the international system spent £60million responding to the devastation.” The more resilient a country, the less lasting damage disasters cause and the quicker populations can recover. Resilience is about being prepared for disasters, and having good systems for responding to them. It is about investing in infrastructure, but also about strengthening a government’s capacity to respond; creating disaster management structures and plans. It’s about giving people support. It’s about economic planning that recognises disasters can happen and makes provision for them. Investing in resilience will save lives and money in the future. 10 

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Living like refugees Earlier this year, eight eleven-yearolds from St Andrews Baptist Church’s Youth Bible Study Group asked friends and family to sponsor them to live like Syrian refugees for 24 hours - as best as they could recreate it! Youth leader Ollie Morrison takes up the story: “Saturday came and - true to form - it poured with rain. Unperturbed, we “fled” from St Andrews to a local village and set up camp in the garden of a member of our congregation. Thankfully, the rain passed for some of the afternoon and we were able to get to a nearby park to play and escape the boredom of refugee life. On returning to camp, we cooked some rice, and with a huge pinch of salt the kids managed to eat it!

Honeymoon hike France’s capital is often the romantic destination for honeymooning couples. But less popular is the town of Saint Jean de Pied de Port on the border with Spain. That said, newlyweds Jesse Rowe and Agi Szilagyi will only be staying there for one night. That’s because for their honeymoon later this year they’re walking the Camino de Santiago. It’s a 500-mile hike across mountains and plains until reaching the town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The origins of the Camino de Santiago go back one thousand years when it was an important Christian pilgrimage route. It is thought that the remains of the apostle St James are buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The walk will take them forty days and they are hoping to raise £1,500 for three charities; Medair, Dalit Freedom Network and Central Asian Research and Development. The pair begin their adventure together on 10 September and hope to complete their challenge on 20 October. You can find out more about their exploits - and send them on their way with a gift on their website

“We then had a short Bible study on Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (showing God’s care for the Syrian people even then), before darkness fell and tempers frayed as the kids struggled with living as refugees. Morale was lifted by a food parcel of doughnuts delivered by our Pastor posing as an aid worker! “The next morning, the children shared their ordeals with the congregation. Initially we aimed to raise about £300, but staggeringly, and maybe helped by the miserable look of the kids, church members sponsored them £1,000. “We hope this money will alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees, and even more, we hope that this experience will help cultivate in our kids empathy with God’s people in suffering, and that they would become effective, lifelong intercessors for our world.”

Could your youth group do something similar? If the Medair UK team can be of any help, do get in touch by phoning 020 8772 0100 or emailing united.kingdom@  |  August 2013  | Medair 


We are in the hurricane season now but I have peace of mind. Medair built a solid house for me and my family. I am confident that the house will resist strong winds so I am not worried about hurricanes anymore. — Lorcia Jean, mother of 10, recipient of a disaster-resilient home in Haiti

Your gift gives families the strength to face disasters with courage. Join our worldwide team of supporters today at ! In the previous issue of Medair News, we brought you news from Lebanon and Jordan where we’re delivering life-saving relief to Syrian refugees. Here’s a message from our Syrian Crisis team: “Shukran” is a word that our teams in Lebanon and Jordan hear every day. It means “thank you” in Arabic. We hear it from fathers and mothers for improving the waterresistance of their shelters. We hear it from grandparents and grandchildren for the blankets and mattresses that help keep them warm. Shukran is a word we love to hear because it shows we are making an important difference in the lives of vulnerable Syrian families. It is a word we want to share with you, our donors, because it is your gifts that have made it all possible. From the bottom of our hearts, shukran!

Medair News UK 08/2013  

August 2013 edition of Medair UK's magazine Medair News.