Mercy Corps aid agency urging Edinburgh residents to help out

Picture: Cate Gillon
Picture: Cate Gillon
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A CHARITY which has helped tranform the lives of people around the world is calling on the people of Edinburgh to help it prepare for future disasters.

With crises like those seen in the last year increasing – from the bombardments in Gaza and refugees flooding from Syria and the Congo, to the earthquakes and tsunamis in Guatemala and the Philippines – aid agency Mercy Corps said it needs Edinburgh’s support now more than ever.

The charity, which is based in Sciennes, has previously helped on the front line of major disasters including the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

And while its staff are working around the clock to save lives, it warned that it expected to see more large-scale disasters in 2013.

A spokeswoman for Mercy Corps said: “It’s clear from the past few years that tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts and floods are on the increase, and the impact they have on vulnerable communities without the resources to deal with them is huge. That, on top of the very unsettled situations in the Middle East and conflicts elsewhere in the world, means our help and support from here in Edinburgh is more important now than ever.”

Mercy Corps’ 4500-strong team work in disaster zones and poverty-stricken areas around the world.

Over the last year, with the help of residents in the Capital, the charity has fed more than 500,000 hungry people in places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen, and brought clean water to more than one million people across the globe.

Jennifer Adams, a co-ordinator for Mercy Corps who lives in Shandon, said: “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone in Edinburgh who’s supported us across the past few years. Donations from the Capital have helped us respond to huge emergencies and chronic poverty.

“But we need help now more than ever before. In 2013, people living in some of the world’s toughest places will face crises every single day and even though these may not make the headlines, we will be there to help them rebuild.

“Here in the UK we all have the luxury of spending the holidays eating, buying presents and spending time with our families, but there are children and families in other parts of the world who will spend much of this year hungry and scared.”

The 25-year-old added: “We can change this for millions of people, but we can’t do it alone. We need the support of people here in Edinburgh, and that’s why we’re asking you to help us. Your help will make a difference in 2013. It will help us to stay prepared for emergencies, act quickly when disasters strike, intervene and ultimately change and save the lives of those who need all our help most.”

Mercy Corps has helped hundreds of women survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the Central African Republic to access medical treatment, therapy and legal support over the last year, as well as giving farmers the seeds, training and advice that they need to replant after disaster and grow more food in Sudan, Ethiopia, Nepal and Haiti.

The humanitarian and disaster response charity runs mobile health clinics to bring medical services to remote areas and keep malnourished children alive in the Horn of Africa, and has rehabilitated former child soldiers and kept other vulnerable children safe from harm in Colombia, Central African Republic, Yemen, Jordan and Haiti.

Mercy Corps is urging residents across the Capital to make 2013 the year they “commit to saving lives around the world” by donating whatever they can afford, or signing up to give a regular donation each month to help vulnerable families.

Case studies

Zamzam, Syrian refugee in Jordan

Six-year-old Zamzam came to Jordan with her family in March 2012 from the city of Homs in Syria.

Along with many other families, Zamzam walked for several hours to cross the border and settled in the city of Mafraq.

Zamzam described how she felt when she first arrived in Mafraq: “I couldn’t find new friends here in Mafraq.

“The city was strange for me, I had no old friends or neighbours and I missed my bed and my home.”

Mercy Corps offered Zamzam and 300 other Syrian children free schooling. It also provided the students with a school uniform, school books, a school bag and stationery.

Zamzam said: “I am so happy with my uniform – I have never had a uniform or even books since I was not attending school back in Homs.

“I have made five new friends in school, I love my school bag and the stationery. I feel that I am now the same as other students.”

Zamzam’s father said she had a hard time during the attack in Homs, having nightmares and feeling scared and anxious.

However, Zamzam now travels to school every morning on the school bus with a smile on her face.

Baby Makol in Ethiopia

Life in rural Ethiopia has never been particularly easy for 25-year-old Assol Buh, but when her crops failed during the drought last year, surviving became a daily struggle.

With little food to eat, her newborn daughter, Makol, struggled to breastfeed and when she was seven months old, she was so underweight and weak that Assol thought she might lose her.

Terrified, she visited a local health worker who referred Makol to Mercy Corps’ mobile health unit for an emergency assessment.

Mercy Corps’ health specialists examined Makol and diagnosed her as being severely malnourished with a mild case of pneumonia. They immediately transferred her to a specialist hospital unit for underweight babies where she was put on a course of highly nutritious food and antibiotics to help her gain weight and grow stronger.

Makol has now been in the unit for a few weeks and is slowly putting on weight. When she is stable, she will be allowed home and treated as an outpatient.

Assol is extremely relieved to see her daughter recover.

She said: “Mercy Corps has been there for me more than enough. They saved my baby’s life. I hope my child’s health will get better.”

Marsa, a teenager in South Sudan

When South Sudan became independent last year, 14-year-old Marsa and her family returned to their homes there.

They had been living in the north for years, having fled the fighting in the south for safety during the years of war.

More than 400,000 others returned to be part of the new country, but the area has been war-torn for so long that there is not nearly enough infrastructure to support everyone.

Schools are a particular problem. Many children, including Marsa, are having to sit outside in the dirt for lessons.

Mercy Corps is building schools and providing learning spaces for 70,000 children.

Marsa said: “My school doesn’t have blackboards or chairs. The new school will be good because when it rains, we can shut the windows and continue learning. We will not have to go home because of rain any more. For me, school is everything.

“If a man agrees that I can go to school then I will marry him. But if he wants me to stay at home, I will not accept his proposal.

“If I become a teacher I can teach people, and if I become a doctor I can treat people – it’s good.”