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Humanitarian Aid Afghanistan South Sudan

Fast humanitarian responses in South Sudan and Afghanistan 

In a span of 45 days Cordaid will have delivered life-saving aid to 20,500 people in Bor (South Sudan) where exceptional rains burst the banks of the Nile, and in Kunduz (Afghanistan), where revived conflict displaced entire communities.

Both humanitarian responses were financed within 48 hours by the START Fund. Cordaid is a member of the START Network, which provides a uniquely rapid response to the kind of small-scale crises that often pass unnoticed – but which affect millions of people each year.

Nile banks burst in Jonglei State

Persistent rains between March and August caused the Nile to burst its banks in Jonglei State. The downpours destroyed the only levee that protected communities against rising waters.

Thousands of farming, cattle breeding, and fisherman’s families who had lost everything in the floods, were seeking refuge in makeshift camps. These were the people we reached out to.

Bashir James, Humanitarian Aid Coordinator

The floods displaced 26000 people in the Bor area alone. “We are used to heavy rainfall, but these conditions are exceptional and climate change-related,” says Bashir James, Cordaid’s Humanitarian Aid Coordinator based in Juba.

Raising funds within two days

Cordaid was quick to assess needs and raise the alert within the START network and applied for funding. “Within a week we mapped needs, concerted with other agencies such as Save the Children, submitted a funding request to the START Network – which it took just 2 days to process and approve – and got the actual funding of 150.000 British Pounds”, James continues. 

Carrying items through water and mud

In the next 38 days, ending on September 28, a life-saving aid operation was rolled out in tough conditions. Bashir James: “By September, thousands of farming, cattle breeding, and fisherman’s families who had lost everything in the floods, were seeking refuge in makeshift camps. No human fatalities had been recorded, but over 15.000 cows, goats, and sheep had drowned. Apart from animals suffering, this loss meant thousands of women, children and men had not only lost their homes and belongings but also all means of sustenance. These were the people we reached out to.”

Bor, Jonglei State. Discussing aid operations with community members.

Blankets, tarpaulins, buckets, water purifiers, sleeping mats, kangas (cotton cloths), soap, hygiene kits, and – of significant importance given the malaria-prone conditions – mosquito nets were distributed among 12.000 people. “We procured all the items in South Sudan’s capital Juba and transported them 200 km northwards to Bor”, explains James.

Getting access to the camps through the flooded areas was the biggest challenge. “Vehicles couldn’t pass. All items were carried by people through the water and the mud.”

The situation today: temporary protection

“The downpours have diminished but it’s still raining,” says Bashir James, assessing today’s situation near the broken Nile banks. “The families we have been able to support have now put up shelters that provide basic temporary protection. Parents can keep their children dry and warm, protect them against malaria, and have safe drinking water.”

Bor, Jonglei State. Members from different families collecting buckets with taps and lids.

“This fast intervention is not the end of our commitment,” he continues. “We keep on monitoring distributions. And in UN Cluster settings, we are assessing longer-term needs for recovery and resettlement. How can farmers who lost their cattle, their land, and their homes, move beyond survival to self-reliance and to generating the incomes they once had? Cordaid and other agencies now need to assist people in these longer-term steps. Meanwhile displaced people themselves are going full steam ahead, by uniting forces and repairing the broken river levee with their own hands.”

The ability to act fast and to act together

The START funding mechanism enhances the rapidity which is key to humanitarian action. “We were able to act fast when the needs were high and the adversity was severe,” Bashir concludes. “With START funding, we reached out to 12,000 people in record time. Usually, a humanitarian operation on this scale and in these isolated settings takes three months. We did it twice as fast.”

Read more about Cordaid’s work in South Sudan

Revived armed conflict in Kunduz

While humanitarian action was ongoing in Bor, Cordaid initiated another START-funded humanitarian response in Kunduz province, Afghanistan.

Since August, revived conflict between Afghan security forces and a non-state armed group caused massive displacement in the country’s northeast. At the start of September over 40.000 displaced persons needed shelter, food, health care, and drinking water. Makeshift shelters are overcrowded, making it impossible for people to follow Covid-19 instructions. The risks of displacement, such as health risks, insecurity, and gender-based violence, disproportionally affect women, girls, elderly, ill, and disabled people.

Cordaid’s response: cash support and COVID-19 awareness

Within two days, Cordaid concerted with humanitarian partners, assessed needs, and, together with Relief International and other START partners, raised an alert in the START Network. The alert mechanism was activated and the requested funding of 225.000 British Pounds was approved.

Khan Abad, Kunduz. Cash support to Khatera (30) and her children.

Kabul-based Humanitarian expert Abdur Rauf Safi, who coordinated the Kunduz response: “As we speak, we are rolling out cash transfer and COVID-19 awareness activities for 8,575 people in Kunduz city, and in Khan Abad and Imam Sahib districts. Displacement is mostly concentrated in these relatively safe areas.”

I would say we gained at least 2 weeks. For displaced families in need of immediate assistance, two weeks is a lot.

Abdur Rauf Safi, Humanitarian Aid Expert

Single and female-headed households, households with elderly, ill, and disabled persons, people with a low food consumption score, and high coping strategies are prioritized. By October 21, all displaced families will have received cash support worth 195 USD, covering their minimum expenditure basket.This amount allows families to cover immediate needs for one to two months,” Abdur Rauf explains. “Most commonly, families will spend this on food, household items, health care, and rent.”

Kunduz. Cash support goes hand in hand with the distribution of COVID-19 prevention items, including gloves and facemasks.

Funds were transferred online to Kabul and then to Kunduz city (provincial capital). From there, to reach the eligible displaced households in person, the money needs to be transported physically. Abdur Rauf: “So far, operations are on track. Apart from cash, we also provide Covid-19 PPEs, like gloves, masks, and soap to all families, as well as Covid-19 awareness sessions. In two weeks, 1,225 households will have received this assistance.”

Delivering aid while the fighting is ongoing

In Kunduz, insecurity is the main challenge. “The fighting is ongoing, especially at night,” Abdur Rauf explains. “To reach the displaced persons that need assistance, our staff travel through areas controlled by non-state actors. So far, no incidents took place. Over the last two years, it has become slightly easier for NGOs to negotiate humanitarian access with armed non-state actors in this area. The fact that most of our field staff are local and familiar with all the sensitivities and risks, is of key importance.” 

Two weeks faster

In general, cash support is a less time-consuming and more cost-effective modality of humanitarian support. “Procurement and distribution are relatively easy. Even then, START mechanisms allowed us to be faster than usual. I would say we gained at least 2 weeks. For displaced families in need of immediate assistance, two weeks is a lot,” Abdur Rauf concludes.

Read more about Cordaid’s work in Afghanistan 

Dwindling funds

Globally, funding humanitarian responses such as in Bor and Kunduz is becoming increasingly difficult. “Due to Covid-19 we expect many Western countries to further cut their humanitarian and development budgets”, says Margriet Verhoeven, Cordaid’s Humanitarian Aid Expert who coordinated the Bor and Kunduz responses from The Hague. “At the same time, humanitarian crises continue to increase. Against this backdrop, the added value of the START Network is obvious. It allowed Cordaid to provide focused and quick responses, addressing the immediate needs of people in two different crisis areas in just 45 days.”