More Sustainable Source of Resilience and Recovery

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In disaster management, the framework of participatory capacities and vulnerabilities analysis (namely “PCVA”) has been widely adopted for needs assessment over the past three decades in different countries.  This lens was also referenced by ZeShan team to understand not only the impact of the ongoing 5th wave of COVID pandemic on vulnerable people but also the systemic drivers behind such impact.   These often touch upon issues related to social inclusion, public governance, health equity, equal access to public resources and even policy issues.

PCVA is rooted in two proven social development methodologies.  First, of course, it stems from the traditional tool of CVA which enables frontline workers to design and plan relief projects, based on capacities and vulnerabilities of a community.  It recognizes vulnerable people have capacities to cope with adversity and can take actions to improve and rebuild their lives, before, during and/or after a disaster.  Second, PCVA has originated from the belief that empowering communities to participate in program design, planning and/or management would lead to increased ownership, accountability, and impact.  This is therefore the best way to bring about recovery or even changes.

This framework indeed aligns very much with ZeShan’s core approach of community empowerment in all program planning.   We believe, in every community, people have resources and capacities, but often unnoticed and then under-utilized.  In the process of disaster relief and recovery, it is therefore very important to identify these resources and capacities, and then empower people at all levels, including the so-called victims.  This process is always a more sustainable way to help people help themselves and others, and rebuild their own life and community.

In the past three months, through this lens, we discussed with peer foundations, project partners and people in Hong Kong.  We have identified the pressing needs of the most vulnerable ones as well as some of their precious but unnoticed resources and capacities.   With more than 10 new relief grants, ZeShan has focused on those marginalized or excluded under the existing policy frameworks and mainstream service provision or subsidy schemes.  These include grassroots families, ethnic minorities, refugees and asylum seekers, small businesses and social enterprises struggling with unsold food stock and poor cashflows.   Designing each of our relief programs, we have tried hard to mobilize their own untapped labour and unused materials inside our hard-hit communities, with a view to preparing themselves better and stronger in the forthcoming process of economic recovery.

For a charitable foundation, we consider it not difficult to hand out materials to the needy.  We are therefore trying hard to be more forward looking.  At this current relief stage, whenever possible, a more empowering process was consciously designed and executed in our relief projects.  For we believe, this will be a more effective and sustainable way to help them rebuild their own communities at the next rehabilitation phase.

Our recent relief grants:

Initiated by Project
Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation Wu Wu Cheng” Community Mutual Support Initiative”
Fullness Social Enterprises Society Limited Love Our Neighbour
Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Foundation
WeCare (Emergent Emotional Support for Vulnerable Elderly)
Health In Action Emergency Relief to Cleaners and Deprived Families Working and/or Living in Kwai Chung
Run Hong Kong Covid Relief – Health and Essential Services
Covid Relief – Psychological Support
Christian Action – Centre for Refugees COVID-19 Fifth Wave Emergency Distribution
United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service COVID-19 Care for Ethnic Minorities
The Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council Friendly Food Support Scheme
Hong Kong Unison 5th Wave (COVID-19) Ethnic Minority Emergency Relief Project

Irene SO
Executive Director
ZeShan Foundation

Staff and volunteers distributing relief packs to elderly (Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Foundation)
Staff and volunteers distributing relief packs to elderly (Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Foundation)
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Volunteers distributing vouchers to beneficiaries
(“Wu Wu Cheng 2.0” Community Mutual Support Initiative/ Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation)
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Social Enterprise (Angelchild) staff packing food packs
(Fullness Social Enterprises Society)
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Staff distributing daily necessities to refugees and asylum seekers (Christian Action- Centre For Refugees)
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Fresh shop at RUN! Refugees and asylum seekers collecting fresh food, milk, cleaning supplies and toiletries every fortnight.
(RUN Hong Kong)
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Volunteers packing COVID relief packs
(Hong Kong Unison)
Staff and volunteers distributing relief packs to elderly (Dialogue in the Dark (HK) Foundation)
With help of volunteers, the COVID-19 Care Package were delivered to different districts
(United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service)
Staff visited cleaners’ workplaces to talk about the proper usage of PPE correctly and the use of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits, etc. (Health In Action)
Staff visited cleaners’ workplaces to talk about the proper usage of PPE correctly and the use of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits, etc.
(Health In Action)
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Haiti Earthquake Relief

World Vision

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Early in the morning of 14 August 2021, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, causing hospitals, schools and homes to collapse, claiming over 2,200 lives and leaving communities in crisis. According to UNICEF, it has been estimated that about 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, have been affected by the powerful earthquake.

The disaster caused damages in mainly the departments (or provinces) of Sud, Nippes and Grand’ Anse which were 125km away from the capital city of Haiti. There were severe damages to infrastructure, including shelters built from previous storms, buildings like hospitals, schools and churches, roads which were necessary for the community to carry out relief services and to recover. Several hospitals have been damaged or destroyed, while those still operating are overloaded, with a serious shortage of personnel and medical supplies to address growing health needs.

Social challenges emerged as gangs’ violent activities spread over the country urged the need to support on protection or security alongside the intervention like health, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), shelter, food security, children protection and education to the damaged area.

Before this earthquake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere; about 65% of its population live under the national poverty line. Political instability has hindered the economic and social development.

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, about 4.3 million people (44 percent of the population analyzed) were expected to be starving severely from September 2021 to February 2022. The worst situations were reported in Nord-Ouest, Centre (the Haut Plateau), Sud and Nippes, which are classified to be in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Dated 12 Nov 2021)

ZeShan therefore made a relief grant to support World Vision’s relief work to address the pressing needs of health and nutrition, child protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as shelter.

Deworming activities are on-going in schools

Deworming activities are on-going in schools  ©World Vision

children friendly space

Children friendly space.   ©World Vision

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Forget Famine Not

Oxfam, World Vision and Medecins Sans Frontieres

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A deadly mix of conflict, COVID‐19, insect attack and persistent droughts have pushed more than 7 million people across six countries in East Africa to the very edge of starvation. According to UN reports, approximately 108,000 people there were under catastrophic famine‐conditions, a phase marked by critical acute malnutrition, starvation, destitution and death. This phase is understood in the humanitarian sector as the highest and most urgent Integrated Food Insecurity Phase Classification (IPC) of level 5. Additionally, almost 7.8 million people are exposed to emergency phase (IPC4), and if things worsen are one step away from famine. As many as 26 million are classified at “crisis level” (IPC3), where action is needed now to stop them sliding into emergency.

The region has endured substantial and widespread breeding of desert locusts since late 2019, resulting in loss of pasture and crops. Added to this, from June to December 2020, rising conflicts has exacerbated the food insecurity situation in the region. The Climate Prediction and Application Centre and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have both made predictions of dry conditions and worsening food insecurity situation in 2021. Coupled with economic impact of COVID‐19, lockdowns continue to destroy livelihoods and push millions into desperation.

This challenging period could erode human and economic development gains that have been made towards the global Sustainable Development Goals across the region. The rising food insecurity also increases the risks faced by women and girls, including gender‐based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.

In view of these pressing emergency needs, ZeShan Foundation made in the summer of 2021 three major emergency grants to support the ongoing famine-related relief operations in South Sudan and Ethiopia by three INGOs, namely Oxfam, World Vision and Medecins Sans Frontieres.  The relief efforts include provision of food relief, clean water and sanitation, emergency healthcare and protection of vulnerable groups, especially children and women.

Hundreds of people in Shire’s University IDP site live in an unfinished building, where they sleep, cook and eat. Many don’t have mattresses or blankets. ©Claudia Blume/MSF

Hundreds of people in Shire’s University IDP site live in an unfinished building, where they sleep, cook and eat. Many don’t have mattresses or blankets. ©Claudia Blume/MSF

It is one of the camp sites in Tigray region. Oxfam is providing life-saving aids, including food, water and hygiene kits to displaced people in Tigray since Jan 2021. ©Oxfam

It is one of the camp sites in Tigray region. Oxfam is providing life-saving aids, including food, water and hygiene kits to displaced people in Tigray since Jan 2021. ©Oxfam

Caregivers preparing nutritious food. ©World Vision

Caregivers preparing nutritious food. ©World Vision

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Disaster Relief in the Philippines

World Food Program & Oxfam Hong Kong, the Philippines

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In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and caused severe and extensive devastation, resulting in numerous casualties and hundreds of thousands homeless. 13 million people were affected by the typhoon, 3.5 million people displaced and over 23,000 injured.  A number of provinces in central Philippines had witnessed massive destruction and loss of life.
In response to the disaster, ZeShan Foundation donated HK$1 million to three leading international humanitarian organizations, namely Doctors without Borders (also known as Medecins sans Frontieres – MSF), the United Nation World Food Program (WFP), and Oxfam Hong Kong for their disaster relief efforts.  The donation will help to provide vital relief to families and also facilitate the rebuilding of their homes and communities in the affected regions.
[Feature photo source: AFP]
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Disaster Relief in Nepal

Habitat for Humanity, World Food Programme & MSF, Nepal

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In response to the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015, ZeShan Foundation supported disaster relief organizations providing food, medical support and shelter.

Nepal, which remains one of the world’s poorest countries, was rocked by a 7.8-magnitute earthquake on April 25, 2015. Hundreds of aftershocks followed, including a 7.3-magnitude quake on May 12. The disaster killed some 9,000 people, injured more than 20,000, and displaced hundreds of thousands across the country. The quakes also caused widespread devastation, destroying some 800,000 houses.

The United Nation World Food Program: To provide food to survivors;

Médecins Sans Frontières: To fund medical and non-medical teams to set up surgical units, provide support to hospitals, run mobile clinics in remote areas, distribute essential relief items, and provide water and sanitation in Nepal.

Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong: To distribute temporary shelter kits, carry out rubble removal and debris clearance, as well as construct transitional housing and permanent homes in the longer term.

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Building Disaster Response Capacity in Public Health

School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

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While Asia is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, there is only limited region-specific research in relations to the role of public health and medicine in disaster response and management.

In order to improve preparedness for future disasters and mitigate the resulting adverse impact, the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong initiated a research project to develop case studies of public health issues resulting from major natural disasters. Modeled on the concept of case-teaching methods in the research and teaching of disasters and humanitarian studies, the project is led by Professor Sian Griffiths and Professor Emily Chan.

The study examines medical and public health responses to recent major disasters in Asia and their complex emergency situations. The results of the project, including a set of case studies, will be shared among academic, research and policy professionals, and are expected to contribute to the body of knowledge currently available and stimulate further discourse. They will enhance knowledge and understanding of key issues in disaster response and training in the region. The outcome is intended to be used for teaching and as academic references for future research and historical referencing purposes. Also in the plan is a series of public seminars at which public health professionals and academia will be invited to share their experiences in public health and medicine in disaster and humanitarian response.

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Initiative to Rebuild Community Leadership

Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU)

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The earthquake on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan, China, caused enormous damage to human lives and properties, paralyzing the local economy with a direct economic loss exceeding RMB100 billion in Mianzhu City alone. It also dealt a heavy blow to the local community leadership capacity: hundreds of local leaders lost their lives and many more were injured. Those who fortunately survived the disaster felt helpless and incapacitated.

Endorsed by China’s Central State Council, Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) jointly formed the Major Disaster Management Initiative, which aims to resolve a key “bottleneck” in post-disaster rebuilding by restoring local community leadership capacity, and cultivating new blood for grassroots NGO development.

The project selected the Hanwang Shelter in Mianzhu as its entry point to map out a strategy for rebuilding community leadership. The Hanwang Shelter, with over 50,000 residents, was the largest of the many which were hastily put up to accommodate thousands of survivors displaced by the earthquake.

The initiative, under the joint leadership of Professor Zhang Xiulan (BNU) and Professor Cecilia Chan (HKU), combined the strength of social work and community development with social research. While seeking to rebuild local leadership capacity, the project team organized workshops on stress management and work-skills training for community leaders and volunteers. Mutual respect between the project team and local government led to trust and collaboration, which evolved into a strong and ongoing partnership. One of the outcomes was the creation of locally-groomed NGOs that have received strong support from the government.

The strong research component of the initiative has led to comprehensive documentation of the reconstruction experience, which in turn provides useful information to both academia and government policymakers on post-disaster rehabilitation. Research results have been well-received at national and nternational conferences on disasters and community rebuilding. Today, the BNU-HKU initiative is a fixture in the local community’s tireless effort to rebuild and redevelop the disasterstricken region. The service center also serves as a training camp for aspiring social work students from both mainland and Hong Kong universities

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PolyU Asset-based Community Rebuilding

China

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Just a short distance from the epicenter of the 5.12 earthquake, the entire Yingxiu town was practically leveled. Hundreds of lives were lost. Within days of the earthquake, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) dispatched social work teams led by Professors Ting Wai-fong and Ku Hok-bun to Yingxiu. Joined by their partners from Sichuan University in Chengdu and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the teams spent countless hours assessing the immediate and short-term needs while providing recovery assistance to the victims in Yingxiu.

Farther up north in the mountainous Qingping, villagers sustained heavy losses of property and means of livelihood as a result of the quake and landslides. However, due to its remote location, Qingping was completely cut off from the outside world and in dire need of assistance. Undaunted, Professor Ting led a team of young social workers trekking for hours across treacherous terrains blocked by landslides and collapsed roads to reach the villagers. They immediately set up a temporary service center, which has since become a permanent fixture in Qingping.

Although the earthquake-stricken regions suffered huge human and property losses, the PolyU team and their mainland partners immediately recognized that post-disaster recovery and rebuilding could not, and should not, rely on external assistance alone. They helped villagers take stock of local resources to rebuild their lives by assisting with the re-establishment of various means of livelihood in the communities, such as by helping local people with the design, production and commercialization of traditional handicraft items, providing training on ecotourism management, and connecting local bed-and-breakfast establishments with city residents for weekend trips.

Meanwhile, the PolyU social service center in Qingping became the “village hall” where displaced villagers, young and old, found solace and support. Activities and group gatherings reconnected the villagers and fostered a strong sense of community. The project team paid particular attention to elderly villagers and those with limited mobility and earning ability, while also offering counseling services and cultural activities. Local volunteers were organized to document the history of the communities.

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