With the 2010s coming to a close and a new decade on the horizon, it’s a good time to step back and take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going. At Concern, the last ten years have included a number of milestones: We celebrated our 50th anniversary, we entered new countries, and we successfully wrapped up work in others (including Laos and Cambodia).
And, even in countries where we’ve been for multiple decades, significant strides have been made in the fight against extreme poverty and its root causes. Here are ten highlights from our last ten years of operations, including response and relief efforts to some of the crises that have shaped this last decade, as well as the proactive and productive work that carries on across multiple regions and in multiple iterations, all towards the same goal.
1. Haiti: Rebuilding after an earthquake and two hurricanes (2010 – Present)
The 2010s began with a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. Having been in the country since 1994, many Concern team members bore their share of the human and economic toll of this disaster, which left 1.5 million homeless. Within 48 hours, we were already rolling out one of the largest emergency responses in our history, which continued through the ensuing horror of a massive cholera outbreak, Hurricane Tomas later in 2010, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
We’re still in Haiti, working to help transform the hugely disadvantaged urban community of Cité Soleil.
Protecting what's precious in Haiti
It’s hard to think that any parent would choose to raise their child in an urban slum. For the mothers and fathers of Cité Soleil, that’s a choice they don’t have.
2. Syria: Conflict response (2013 – Present)
A protracted conflict in Syria entering its tenth year in 2020 has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Most recent estimates suggest that 11.8 million Syrians have been displaced (over half of the country’s estimated pre-war population), and an additional 5.4 million are living abroad as refugees. As of 2019, 8 in 10 people live below the poverty line.
Concern began working in Syria in 2013, and in the same year we established operations in Turkey and Lebanon (which host the largest number of Syrian refugees). This dual approach has helped over 337,000 Syrians still living in their country with livelihoods and cash support (as well as providing access for education and water), while also meeting the increasing humanitarian needs of neighboring countries whose populations have grown disproportionately since the beginning of the conflict.
Thank you for not giving up on my son
Six-year-old Kareem* struggled with overwhelming anger and sadness as he grew up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Now he's thriving.
3. Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan (2013 – 2015)
In November, 2013, the Philippines were hit by Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm on record. Causing nearly $3 billion in damage and claiming the lives of over 6,300, the storm spelled disaster for millions of Filipinos. Fishing communities were hit especially hard, with 70% of those in this line of work losing their incomes, and 65% losing assets.
Concern went to work immediately with the country’s most vulnerable communities living along the coastlines and on small islands. After putting emergency supplies in the right hands, we stayed in the country long after the news cameras had left and worked with fishing communities to help rebuild the fleet and get back to sea, and to help repair damaged mangroves and coral reefs. In the end, this multi-year relief effort benefitted nearly 122,000 people.
4. Liberia/Sierra Leone: Ebola Response (2014 – 2016)
In March of 2014, a case of Ebola was confirmed in the West African country of Guinea. The one case sparked history’s largest Ebola epidemic, which officially ended on June 9, 2016. In between, the virus spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal, and killed over 11,000 people. Concern had been working in the two countries hit hardest by the outbreak (Sierra Leone and Liberia) for over 20 years, and we were one of the first NGOs to respond to the crisis.
By the end, we’d established a safe and dignified burial system that helped to curb the disease’s spread and helped to bury over 17,000 Sierra Leoneans. (In 2018-19, our team has also responded to the DRC Ebola outbreak.)
The West African Ebola epidemic
The most lethal Ebola outbreak in history struck two countries where Concern has had a longstanding history. Here's the full story.
5. Nepal: Earthquake response (2015 – 2018)
Concern had worked in Nepal from 2006 to 2010. When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country in 2015, killing over 8,700, injuring over 22,000, and flattening entire villages, we immediately sent teams back in to get help to those most in need. Many of Nepal’s poorest citizens lived in mud and stone mountainside homes structurally unable to withstand the quake. Despite multiple aftershocks — including a 7.3-magnitude tremor near Mount Everest less than 3 weeks after the earthquake — we delivered essential relief supplies and shelter to nearly 80,000 people.
Of course, we also ensured that the people of Nepal could cope with some of the longer-term challenges caused by the disaster, including repairs to local infrastructure and getting kids back into school. We remained in Nepal for 3 years to ensure that the recovery efforts were sustainable — and to help communities prepare for future disasters.
6. Bangladesh: The Rohingya refugee crisis (2017 – Present)
Attacks on Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State aren’t new, but they escalated so much in August, 2017 that it triggered the world’s largest current refugee crisis, with over 900,000 fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. This crisis is one of the largest humanitarian emergencies of the past decade, and one of Concern’s largest response efforts. In Bangladesh (where we’ve worked since 1972), we swiftly ramped up our response to meet the needs of Rohingya arrivals, setting up emergency nutrition centers in various camps and providing water, shelter, and ongoing food assistance to over 100,000 people.
In 2018 alone, we screened approximately 49,500 children under the age of 5 monthly for signs of severe acute malnutrition. We admitted over 6,100 to our outpatient clinics, and saw a cure rate of 97%.
From tragedy to recovery: A refugee story
Nearly a million Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh. Here's how one turned his personal suffering into a mission to care for others.
7. From CMAM to CMAM Surge
Our Rohingya crisis response wasn’t the only milestone for Concern’s work in the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM). A model we’ve championed for nearly 20 years, we began to adapt the CMAM model in 2012 with the pilot of CMAM Surge. In our years with CMAM, we began to notice that, in many contexts, the number of children in need of treatment for acute malnutrition “surges” during certain months of the year. In these peak times of year, the potential to save lives with RUTF and basic treatments is greatest, yet governmental health systems and the wider humanitarian sector are often not able to provide timely, effective response.
In two pilot tests that ran in Kenya from 2012-14, we saw that the CMAM Surge model managed these peaks, without undermining other health and nutrition efforts. Following these positive results, we’ve begun to roll CMAM Surge into our nutritional efforts around the world, further refining an already successful program.
RUTF and CMAM: A humanitarian revolution
The side effects of childhood malnutrition can have a lifetime effect. But there is hope — and it comes in a simple package.
8. New frontiers for the next generation: Child Survival and Innovations
This past decade was marked with a number of new and continued initiatives on Concern’s part to ensure that the next generation are able to live healthier lives and reach their full potential — thereby breaking an inter-generational cycle of poverty. The “Child Survival” model, driven by the U.S. government, has helped to lower global child mortality rates from 17 million in 1980 to 7.6 million in 2010.
Similarly, the 2010s were marked by another Concern program that sought to improve health for mothers and children. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Innovations for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health was launched in 2009 and ran through 2016, developing and testing creative, crowd-sourced (and often simple) solutions for improving the survival of mothers, babies, and children. Some of these solutions are still in effect, after being scaled up and taken over by local governments.
Chipatala Cha Pa Foni
A new program funded by Innovations uses mobile phones to help moms know when and where to go for treatment, while also improving the quality of home-based care.
9. The growth of Climate Smart Agriculture
The 2010s were marked by a growing international concern around climate change and its negative impacts (especially on the world’s most vulnerable communities). Realizing that we cannot prevent much of the current effects of climate change, we’ve focused instead on response and resilience, especially around food security for those most affected by the climate crisis. Over the last ten years, we’ve promoted Climate Smart Agriculture practices, which enables communities to sustainably and reliably increase their crop yields, adapt and build resilience to the changing climate, and (where appropriate) contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We’re also supporting the African Union to roll out CSA to 6 million farmers in Africa by 2021.
Being climate smart in Malawi
Almost everyone in Malawi relies on the land for survival. But, as the weather has become more erratic over the years, that reliance has become a problem.
10. Graduation on the rise
Our work to end extreme poverty means not only empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty, but also ensuring they do so in a way that allows them to stay out of poverty. Concern first adopted the “Graduation” approach in Haiti in 2007, but it was really in the last decade that our Graduation program grew and flourished to what it is today, with improvements in housing, access to goods, household income, and education all indicating the success of this approach in countries like Malawi, Burundi, and Rwanda. This multifaceted program means lasting change across the board.
Stawa the Supermom
A Graduation participant, Stawa is a quiet woman — shy and unassuming by nature. But the story of her journey makes her our hero.
Support Concern in the decade ahead
Of course, none of this work (or everything else we’ve been able to accomplish in the last ten years) would be possible without your support. For every dollar donated to Concern, $0.90 goes to our work in 24 of the world’s most vulnerable countries, where we reach tens of millions of people each year. Please consider donating to Concern to fuel the next ten years of innovations and impact.