5 countries, 5 videos, countless unforgettable stories

January 17, 2017
Written by Helene Hetrick
Photo by Kieran McConville

Here’s a handful of remarkable videos from last year. The stories they tell reflect the full range of our shared experience on the ground — some are happy, some humorous, and some complex and difficult. All of them leave us determined to work even harder to help bring change in 2017.

For many of the people we work with in 24 countries across the globe, last year saw huge strides forward in many areas — poverty reduction, the availability of education, and better health, to name a few. But 2016 also brought conflict, natural disasters, and widespread food shortages. Concern was on the ground, working hand in hand with communities through the good and the bad — and sometimes we managed to capture it on video.

Here’s a collection of the highlights, from public restrooms in Sierra Leone — yes, really — to a race-against-time construction effort in a South Sudan displacement camp:

1. War in Syria: half a decade and counting

At the end of 2016, we were overwhelmed with news of the devastation in Aleppo, but that’s just one part of the tragedy unfolding in Syria. More than a quarter of a million people have lost their lives in the conflict so far, over 13.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million are displaced inside Syria, and another 4.4 million have fled the country. Concern is working with many of these refugees in Turkey and Lebanon — here are some of their stories.

2. Sierra Leone’s lacking loos

Every day, thousands of people gather, shop, and work in Sierra Leone’s bustling Waterloo market. Along with the crowds come serious health risks, as open defecation has long been the only option when nature calls. Beyond the social discomfort of it all, open defecation threatens everyone’s health, especially children. Diarrhea-related illnesses are responsible for more child deaths than HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. In addition, a lack of privacy for women and girls can increase the risk of sexual violence. So what did we do about it? We built the best darned loo in Waterloo, of course!

3. Battling drought in Ethiopia

Scattered across a vast and often dry landscape, the people of Ethiopia are particularly vulnerable to climate shocks. Early last year, many parts of the country were struggling with the effects of insufficient rainfall the year before, a situation that was only compounded by the arrival of the hot, dry El Niño weather pattern. Together this spelled potential disaster for millions of Ethiopians, 80% of whom are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Concern provided emergency nutrition support, distributed drought-resistant seeds, and trucked thousands of gallons of water to remote communities, where some people have to walk five hours a day just to get water.

4. Conversations for change in rural Kenya

Our Community Conversations model is a way of getting people together to talk about — and agree on — their needs and priorities, which is the first step to achieving those goals. It’s a simple but powerful idea, as shown by this community in rural Kenya that used its collective voice to influence those in power and get its list of proposals included in the local government’s 2017 budget. See how it happened!

5. Racing the rain and building a city in South Sudan

Over just three months, the population of the Protection of Civilians site on a UN base in Bentiu, South Sudan ballooned from 50,000 to over 100,000, as people sought refuge from the conflict that has plagued the world’s youngest country since its independence in 2013. Although they’d escaped the violence, families faced new misery as the camp could not support shelter and sanitation for all. The impending rainy season would surely bring flooding and increased risk of water-borne diseases if major changes weren’t made to the camp. So, the Concern team joined forces with the camp’s residents to build an amazing 150 shelters per day, for a total of almost 10,000 in just a few months! By population, the camp is now South Sudan’s fourth largest “city.” See how they did it.

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