Emergency / Relief

News and Updates on relief works.

A mother’s heart

by Annila Harris
World Vision Communicator

“Are you ready to go?” asks World Vision’s Operations Manager, Faith Chastain.

Was I ready to venture on a five hour long drive to one of the worst affected districts, by the earthquake, in Nepal? The images of the devastation that were all over the news still lingered in my mind; buildings crumbling to the ground, hospitals overflowing with injured families and death toll figures rapidly escalating. People desperately hoping that loved ones trapped within the rubble were still alive.

Landscape

With the tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and gear all loaded onto the vehicle, we head out to Gorkha. As we drive past the outskirts of Kathmandu, sights of dilapidated structures and people taking refuge under tarpaulins  no longer feel like glimpses of news stories, but a desperate reality that now faces the Nepalese people.

Soon the picturesque countryside, with its lush green foliage and high breathtaking mountains, takes me back to a tranquil time before the 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the country. How long it will take for the people to move from a state of constant panic to one of stillness and calm, I can’t imagine; the transition seems far away.

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Nine-year-old Bishal plays with his younger brother Sansaar in the open space close to where their parents work. Many schools are closed due to damage, and the boys’ educations have been put on hold.

“I love school because I get to read and play there. But my school is closed now because of the earthquake. There are cracks in the walls. I am waiting for my school to open, I want to meet my friends. When the earthquake came I was in the field with my relatives. The field was shaking and I was about to fall. I just held the ground till it stopped. I was scared and shouted ‘what is happening?’ but I did not cry,” Bishal remembers.

Unlike his brother, little Sansaar takes time to approach me. Enticed by the yellow safety-whistle hanging around my neck, he slowly moves closer. In a flash, he blows hard on it, making a loud whistling noise. A sheepish grin beams across his face. Excited about his new experience he runs back to his mother, clutching onto her dress and occasionally peeping to see where I am.

Picking him up, Sansaar’s mum, Sita, recalls being in the house when the earthquake struck.

“The house jolted and I was thrown to one side. When I got to my feet I ran out of the house and went to search for my children. Thankfully my children were safe. But our house is damaged.”

“As a mother I have lots of plans for my children. I hope for them to study and have a brighter future for themselves. The earthquake has affected my children’s studies. All schools are closed. The school building is cracked.”

The heart of a mother wants safety and security for her children. I know of cases where both the mother and child have lost their lives because of the earthquake. But I imagine those cases where the mother has survived and the child died, or where the child survived and the mother died – my heart goes out to them. We cannot compete with nature but for those who have survived we need to try to live happy lives.” It’s at times like these, Sita says, that we really value what we have and what we could lose.

Driving through the mountainous terrain, we stop at a roadside restaurant before pressing on towards Gorkha. At the empty restaurant 38-year-old Sabitri is busy with preparations for the day, in the hopes that travellers will be stopping in to buy food.

A mother of two, whatever Sabitri earns is invested in her children’s education.  But she tells us that her business has taken a severe beating since the earthquake.

“Tourists used to come visit the nearby temple. They used to come to my restaurant to eat my famous fish. But now, after the earthquake the business has gone down. I see no tourists now but relief workers. My sons are in college and were due to have exams but they have been postponed because of the earthquake. The college is damaged too,” she says.

As a working mother, Sabitri clings to the hope that her situation will soon improve. As we continue our journey, we encounter similar scenes of destruction across the rural landscape. The earthquake spared no one.

Finally, we arrive at a small village that had recently been a spot for tourists to rest and immerse themselves in the local culture. But the earthquake left no stone unturned as it swept across the country, destroying the entire village and reducing it to dust. Here, Savita, a mother of two children describes her brush with death.

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Savita with Pritam, 7, and Pushkal, 3, living temporarily under the tarpaulin given by World Vision

“When the quake hit I was washing clothes. I just left everything and gathered my children, clutching them closely, and ran out into an open space. I screamed ‘help, help!’. The house shook like the trees sway when strong winds blow. I saw my house collapse before my very eyes. For 18 years we have been in that house. My children were born there. All my memories of motherhood are attached to that house. But it is just a house, I have my children with me and they are safe,” she says.

Finding temporary shelter under the tarpaulin provided by World Vision, Savita is trying to piece her life back together, but is still contemplating where to begin.

As I make my way through the bludgeoned, torn-down village, some villagers are still trying to salvage what they can find.I take a moment to try and grasp the mammoth loss suffered by the people of Nepal. In a flash, the earthquake stripped many of them of everything they’d ever possessed – their homes, their livelihoods, their material possessions. But the quake was unable to tarnish the vivacious spirit of the Nepalese people.

Dhurga

Upon arrival to her devastated house, 82-year old Durga offers me a banana. “You have to eat something. These are organic bananas from our field for you.”  In the midst of all her loss, she shares her limited stock of food with me. Durga was in her house when the earthquake struck. Holding on tight to the doorpost she survived. So did her entire family.

As we left for the day, I reflected on Sanasaar and Bishal, and thought of their mother and the other incredible women I had met. Motherhood is universal. The heart of a mother looks out for her child, their protection and their safety, no matter the circumstances. As she fed me bananas from her garden, Durga kept telling me that she sees herself in me. She left me with a motherly advice – always be good.

Aid is still urgently needed to help the people of Nepal, please consider donating : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Nepal earthquake: Strangers wanted her little boys

By Theodore Sam
World Vision

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7-year-old Aaram and his family are vulnerable to a variety of dangers after losing their house in the Nepal earthquake. (Photo: Theodore Sam/World Vision)

A week after Nepal’s deadly earthquake, families are still living out in the open, in tents, in the cold, afraid of aftershocks and returning to unstable, damaged homes.

A few days ago, a stranger approached Kanchi, a mother of three, and asked to adopt her two boys.

See how World Vision works to protect children from a variety of dangers after disaster strikes.
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After surviving Nepal’s deadly earthquake, Kanchi, a mother of three, says that her family faced another danger: Strangers wanted her two little boys.

Strangers approached her and her husband two days after the powerful tremor shattered their lives. After losing their home, the family lived out in the rubble-strewn streets. That’s where the strangers found them.

“I didn’t know who they were and why they wanted to take care of my sons,” Kanchi says. She said that the strangers offered to adopt her boys, Aaram Sai, 7, and Sri Krishna, 11. “I said, no! I don’t want to live separate from my sons. I don’t know if they approached any more families here.”

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, children continue to face dangers to their survival.

Nepal is already among the poorest and least-developed countries in the world. Children make up half the population, and are also some of the most vulnerable people in any society as they can fall prey to abuse, exploitation, and neglect, World Vision officials say.

“Our first priority in a situation like this is the children,” said Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. “Children are the most vulnerable to exploitation, disease, or the lack of shelter, food, and water. That’s why we do our best to quickly set up places where children will be protected.”

World Vision opened its first Child-Friendly Space (CFS) on 1 May, for children affected by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck central Nepal on 25 April. In the coming days, the organization will set up six more safe spaces in Tudikhel and Lalitpur to help address the emotional needs of children, like Kanchi’s boys, who were impacted by the quake. World Vision is also creating temporary learning centers in the same locations.

“There are immediate emotional needs as well as practical ones. Many children lost everything they knew when the earthquake struck. It claimed lives of parents and friends and reduced homes and schools to rubble,” said Arpanah Rongong, World Vision’s child protection specialist in Nepal.

Child Friendly Spaces are protected places for children to start coming to terms with this loss, giving them a bit of calm amid the chaos,” she said. “Young people often start expressing their emotions through artwork, which helps them start to make sense of the devastation around them.”

Child-friendly spaces are also important in keeping children away from dangerous places and protecting them from exploitation or abuse. Trained staff can identify and respond to children in need of counseling or medical care.

Kanchi and her children have been sleeping under a makeshift tent since the disaster. Their house is gone, and they couldn’t salvage any of their belongings.

“We don’t even have a change of clothes,” says Kanchi, deeply worried about the future of her family and boys. “And whatever the other people in our tent give us, we eat that.”

Aaram Sai says he is still scared. He remembers the earthquake: “I was playing outside, and suddenly I saw everyone running and buildings falling down. I was so scared, and my mother came and picked me up.”

The earthquake displaced as many as 2.8 million people. Every night, more than 40 people sleep under that one tent where Aaram Sai tries to rest.

Many families are sleeping outside for fear of aftershocks and being trapped inside their houses. Regardless, having to sleep outside in open spaces makes children vulnerable.

Children need so much support to be able to recover from catastrophe and disaster, and the odds are against them.

Children need safe shelter, but that is only the beginning. They need special protection.

*Additional reporting by Chris Huber and Sevil Omer.

Help us keep children safe in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. Donate to our Nepal Earthquake Relief response.

Reflections on an impossible road.

By Edmond Lee, Communications, World Vision Malaysia

For 2 days, I was stuck in the back seat of a truck belonging to the Elite 4×4 Search & Rescue Squad as we attempted to reach the most isolated Orang Asli villages in Kelantan on a medical mission. Here are some of my thoughts from the trip.

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Roller coasters.

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I have never liked roller coasters. But right now, I would rather go 5 hours on the world’s most terrifying roller coaster than spend another second slowly traversing these mountain roads. At least roller coasters have basic safety standards.

Pow! Bang! Crash! Every jerk, every twist causes you to be thrown into your fellow passengers or the truck door next to you. Waves of nausea overtake you every time you shudder up and down an uneven hill. When you lean out over a vast hole where the side of the road should be, it’s like staring death in the face. It takes every ounce of energy to stay upright. More than I have sometimes.

I am so glad for these trucks. They are tenacious, taking the teeth-rattling roughness of these roads in their stride. Our driver Chok is no slouch either. The truck fights his every move, but he fights back, muscling it up roads that nearly any other wheeled vehicle would find impossible to navigate.

It always strikes me as absurd that anyone has to travel these roads. But the Orang Asli do. What choice do they have? The maddening geography makes the chances of consistent aid deliveries close to nil. They travel to the Kuala Betis relief centre every day, and every one of them will have to navigate a treacherous path to get there. They will lift their motorcycles over debris. They will climb massive hills. They will cross bridges that don’t even look safe enough to step on.

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The writer is pictured here in orange

They will do it as many times it takes, because their community needs them.

Mud.

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Rain causes it. Children play in it. No one would build a road out of it.

Here though, roads are nothing BUT mud. Mud that can stop a huge 4×4 truck dead in its tracks or cause it to slide and lurch just out of the range of human control. Mud that sloughs off at the slightest provocation, leaving gaping holes and ruts where solid ground should be. Mud that catches your feet in its clutches and refuses to let go without a fight.

If the roads here were JUST hard and bumpy (and they are), maybe the long distances that must be travelled to reach these remote villages would almost be tolerable. The steep hills and sheer slopes are bad enough, but when a truck simply can’t move for the mud, the time needed to get anywhere grows exponentially.

Time. That’s what the Orang Asli don’t have. In the hours it may take a relief convoy to move five feet, how many Orang Asli children will die because of dirty water? Or hunger? Or a preventable illness? We haven’t heard news about any children dying. But again, it would take time for news to reach us. Time we’re spending stuck in place.

I hate mud.

A bridge too far.

When you’re riding a motorcycle, a river or sudden gap can become an insurmountable obstacle. For the Orang Asli who live in the most remote villages, a river is literally the difference between reaching the aid station or turning back empty handed. When people are starving, thirsty, or ill, the latter option is unacceptable.

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Building bridges must come naturally to the Orang Asli. With no real infrastructure to speak of, they have been forced to rely on their own creativity to get over the obstacles nature has set in their path. It’s almost an art form: Strong young men heaving heavy logs down the slopes, grunting in military-like unison. Others float more logs down the gentle currents of the river, swinging them against said currents to put them into position.

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They are glad for any assistance you can give them. They accept sturdy ropes and metal ties gratefully; another flood could wash their hard work down the river, so any security is welcome. A hard, heavy axe and a truck winch makes short work of felling trees.

As the work continues, we are told that there are over a dozen villages across the river, with more than 2,000 people. I’m sure there are actually far more than that. But even if each village sent a representative to Kuala Betis, how many bags of aid could each of them possibly bring back? Two? Three, maybe? That’s hardly enough, but it’s better than nothing at all. Some will walk for three days to get a few bags of food or water. They will walk three days to get back. Rinse and repeat.

And what about the children who need to go to school? There are few good schools near the villages so they have to attend school in Gua Musang or go out of state. And what if they get seriously ill? There aren’t enough good doctors and the better hospitals are in town. More long distances. More treacherous paths. More bridges to be built.

Speaking of which, it has taken more than two hours to finish a rickety bridge that just barely supports the weight of three trucks. It’s going to be a long day.

Kg.Tohoi

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Kg. Tohoi is almost idyllic. Nestled in among the mountains and shrouded by fog, it feels like a postcard. The other trucks have moved on to the next village to delivery some relief goods, and I am here with Dr. Rashidi as we examine the village chief. I feel inadequate as a writer to say that I never got his name.

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He has a variety of complaints. His wrist is in pain, and his legs are weak. During the flooding, he had to be carried to safety because he can barely walk. I do not hear the diagnosis. I’m glad journalism isn’t my current career.

Dr. Rashidi examines the whole family. He is disturbed by their heartbeats. Something is irregular. He checks peculiar rashes inside a child’s ear. They are red and angry-looking. He borrows my flashlight to look down a girl’s throat. His concern mounts. There is clearly some sort of major health issue facing the community. He doesn’t have any medication on hand, but it’s obvious that he wants to come back here. They need medical help badly.

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Suddenly, a drop of rain falls from the sky. Oh no. This is not good. The worse the rain gets, the worse the roads will be. We come here to save people, but are we the ones who will need saving? The trucks arrive. We rush for them. We need to get on the road now before it’s too late. There are a few more trucks with us. More things that could go wrong. We’re off.

When the convoy makes it back to the makeshift bridge, we find to our dismay that it has been washed away by a strong current. The rain is still coming down, the sky is darkening, and it’s just not safe to go any further. We’re stuck.

Stranded.

When you’re cold, damp and hungry in the middle of the jungle, a cup of instant noodles is a tasty treat. A tent stretched across the tops of the trucks isn’t a house, but you’ll take any shelter you can get. The inside of a truck is too cramped for sleeping, but… well, you get the picture. When you’re stranded out here, making do is a requirement.

The career adventurers in our group are cavalier about the whole thing. They’ve been in worse fixes than this. Like earlier on, when we were trying to beat the rain back to the bridge. Water was splashing across the road, turning it into a waterfall. Robert, a bulky man who rides a souped-up motorcycle, was stuck in the middle of the deluge, the back wheel of his bike slipping out from under him. We had to use ropes to pull him to safety. A night in the woods is a walk in the park.

I’m not feeling the same way. I haven’t been at my best all trip long, but this situation is the nadir for me. I am physically and mentally exhausted. Crammed into the back seat of a stuffy truck with colleague Dawn, who takes up two thirds of the back seat, I get no sleep at all. I can hear the others chattering outside as they watch over the fire they built. I wish I could share their enthusiasm.

There are two female colleagues with me on this journey, and they’re both doing better than I am. Dawn in particular. She is a small woman, but she has thrown herself into every situation with brio and enthusiasm. She has a deep faith in God, and it’s not uncommon to hear her uttering words of prayer in dangerous situations. She is a comforting presence to have around.

Once again, my thoughts drift to the Orang Asli who travel these roads for days to reach help. When they can’t find shelter, where do they sleep? Do they lie out under the trees, exposed to the elements? Are they accosted by wild animals? Actually, are there wild animals out here?

Suddenly, I’m glad for this cramped, stale truck.

Plan B.

When you’re stuck at a bridge that you can’t cross, you need a Plan B. When you’re stuck on the other side of a bridge that isn’t there at all, you need a Plan B.

This whole trip was defined by Plan B. Some of the absolute worst routes we took came about because the shortest possible paths weren’t available to us. And sometimes, the best moments came about because our first plan didn’t work.

This brings us back to the bridge that was swept away. We had every intention of repairing it, and in fact, most sections of it were completely intact. The ropes had saved them from floating off entirely, and we were able to pull them into position.

But this process was too long and cumbersome compared to Plan B: The water was shallow enough. Why not just set up a winch on the other side of the river and use it to guide the trucks through the water? They are built for river crossings after all. The bridge was a necessity for the Orang Asli, but we had to get ourselves unstuck first.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the alternative plan turned out to be the best one. Seeing the trucks splash through the river, water gushing from the wheel wells, was a spectacular moment that lifted the spirits of everyone who experienced it. Except for the occupant of truck 279. It stalled midway through the crossing.

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But we made it. While we attempted to get truck 279 fixed, we turned around and saw the Orang Asli who had gathered nearby… busy fixing the broken bridge.

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We had helped to extricate the logs and secure them, but the speed with which they pulled the assembly back together was stunning. They are architects and builders of the highest order. Soon, motorcycles were driving over the bridge like it was never gone. Will it stand up to another flood? Probably not, but never doubt they have a Plan B.
We took another detour back to Kuala Betis. It was among the worst terrain we had ever seen. Oh well. It’s good to be back.

Epilogue.

This was always going to be tricky to write. It’s hard to compress so much into so few pages. (At 8, I think I’m pushing it). And it’s even harder to end it, because everything I’ve talked about is still going on. The health problems, the impossible roads, the bridges. The Elite 4×4 team is still out there, helping the Orang Asli communities. The relief efforts may be winding down a little in other parts of the country, but here, they’re just getting started.

Do me one favour: Don’t forget about the Orang Asli. These people are resilient and ingenious. And they need you. They need all of us. It will be hard, but nothing is impossible.

If you’d like to contribute back to the rebuilding of communities and lives, please consider and give here : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Livelihood lost

For Khor Siu Yan who is from Tumpat, her livelihood is in a mess.

Her family has always produced and sold fish and prawn keropok for a living.

When the flood waters began to rise at 10pm on 24 December, the family tried shifting the important items to the back of the shop but the waters continue to rise and soon it was at chest level. As best as they could, they moved items to the 2nd floor.

When the waters finally receded after 7 days, the mess and the mud was everywhere.

Her machines for keropok making and the fridge that would keep the seafood fresh were spoiled.

An unmistakable sadness appeared on her face when she realised that she had no means for future income generation.

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The shop next door which they also own and rent out, is wrecked and can’t be rented out now.

“This flood has done much damage but we thank God that we can still live in our house, despite all the mud. My mother’s house got completely washed away by the flood waters.”

World Vision and their partners Crest were able to distribute some food items to help the Khor family.

Many families have lost their homes and means of income generation as the flood waters rose as high as 6 feet in some areas. Do consider donating to help those affected by the floods : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Worst floods in more than fifty years

By World Vision Malaysia Monsoon Floods Response Team

TUMPAT: Standing outside her grandfather’s house, Nor, 21, speaks of the fearful days when her family realised the floods this time weren’t going to be the annual downpour.
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“My family has lived in this area for more than 50 years; five of these houses belong to my extended family. We have never seen floods like this before,” she said.

Last month saw some of the worst floods in Malaysian history, with the northern and eastern states being the most affected.

A total of 21 people were reported to have died, and more than 225,000 people had to flee their homes and seek shelter in evacuation centres.

In Nor’s village of Kampung Kelong, the water levels reached more than six feet high, and her family had to seek shelter in a nearby primary school for a week.

Her father and uncle, however, braved the floods and stayed in the house as there had been stories of looting and theft as families fled their homes and left belongings behind.

With the lack of clean water, many families including hers have been drawing water from the river that runs through their village. However, the water is muddy and unclean.

“My aunt actually caught a water-borne virus from the dirty water, which gave her fever and throat problems,” she said.

They are also using the river water to try and wash away the mud from inside their homes, but to no avail as the water itself contains mud.

Another big concern for her is her young cousins who will be starting school next week.

“We lost everything in the flood, including school uniforms and their books. We will have to find a way to get them ready in time, that is what we want to do,” said Nor, a kindergarten teacher.

Nor’s family is one of the registered beneficiaries due to receive various relief kits through World Vision Malaysia and its local partner Crest. These include food kits, hygiene kits and back-to-school kits.

As a child-focused humanitarian organisation, World Vision is committed to ensuring that in all its relief work, children are cared for and protected.

World Vision Malaysia child protection officer Jasmine Lee, who is also part of the response team, said every effort is made to ensure children are supported in their education.

“As different ones, we ought to come together and provide as much support as possible to get a child back to school. Education is a child’s right and our responsibility as individuals and communities,” she said.

Jasmine said sponsors have generously provided stationeries, notebooks and learning resources that help a child get back to normalcy.

“It is part of the rehabilitation process, after a disaster such as this it is important that we help children return to their normal way of life,” she said.

The needs are still very great. Would you consider donating? Please do donate here : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Clean water and latrines make life livable for Syrian refugee families in Lebanon

by Sandy Maroun
World Vision Lebanon

The path to Aisha’s tent is filled with lots of mud and small rocks. The uneven ground is littered with old unused stuff, like chairs and broken appliances. Between tents, round white structured latrines and water tanks can be seen.

“Two months ago, we did not have all this,” says Aisha, 34-year-old Syrian refugee woman. “[The] children used to pee outside the tent, in a hole in the ground, and get their bodies dirty. Today, we have a latrine installed by World Vision and actually it is great,” she adds.

As part of the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project in the Bekaa valley, funded by the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), World Vision installed latrines around Syrian refugee tents as part of informal tented settlements.

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Ibrahim (Aisha’s 5-year old son) happily opening the latrine’s door installed by World Vision in
Bekaa Valley

When the minimum standards for humanitarian assistance were set in 1997, it was established that there should be at least one toilet installed for every 25 persons. Yet, to have a better impact on Syrian refugees, World Vision installed one latrine for every 15 people. The organization also installed water tanks around the settlement allowing Syrian refugees to access clean portable water (the 1,000 litre tanks are filled by World Vision every 10 days) and greywater (filled as needed).

“We have everything we need [in terms of water and hygiene] now. It is definitely much better than before,” says Khalluf, Aisha’s 16-year-old son. “Water is reaching our tent through hoses [now]. Before World Vision, we used to fill water in buckets to get washed or clean our tents or throw it in the hole that contains our sewage,” he adds.

The potable water World Vision uses to fill the tanks is tested in specialized laboratories to make sure it has a healthy composition. As a secondary precaution, however, World Vision also distributed two water filters for each household.

“World Vision’s duty is to ensure the right environment for Syrian refugees, even though they live in tented settlements. These tents are the refugees’ homes now and through the WASH project we wanted to make it [as] comfortable [as possible],” says Simon Tawk, World Vision’s WASH project manager.

As part of the WASH project, World Vision dug a big hole in the ground, and installed a 200 litre hidden septic tank, connected to the latrines, to contain the sewage water. These tanks are emptied by specialized trucks monthly. The refugees pay the truck drivers to empty the septic tanks with vouchers distributed by World Vision.

“[The] WASH project provides Syrian refugees with the indispensable components of their lives, such as potable water to drink and prepare food, and greywater for toilets and showering,” says Simon, who also points out that by these efforts, “World Vision seeks to alleviate their suffering.”

Khalluf lives in the tent with his mother, Aisha, his father, Abdel Wahab, and his seven siblings. He’s the eldest child. Eight months ago, the family fled the war in Aleppo and found refuge in the Bekaa, where other relatives resorted before them.

“We can flush the toilet and we are doing well, much better than before. There is nothing like home, but our situation is better now,” says Khalluf.

World Vision raises refugees’ awareness on the importance of proper hygiene through information sessions given by health promoters in settlements, as part of the WASH project.

“We seek to help Syrian refugees adapt to their new lives and situations by raising their awareness on health and hygiene habits inside camps,” says Simon. “We know that they had great habits back home, but living in a tented settlement is different and our duty is to help them adapt.”

The WASH project in Zahle area in Bekaa reached 1,000 Syrian households thanks to World Vision and ECHO. So far, World Vision’s WASH project in Lebanon has benefited 24,500 Syrian refugees.

Please help meet the urgent needs of the Syrian refugees such as Aisha, Khalluf and Ibrahim today. To make a donation, go to www.worldvision.com.my > Donate Now > key in “Syria Crisis Response” at to rush emergency aid to. Thank you.