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Running an international appeal when the crisis is everywhere

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A member blog post by

Huw Owen External Affairs Manager for the DEC in Scotland

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Huw Owen, External Relations Manager for the Disasters Emergency Committee in Scotland, writes about why the DEC have executed a humanitarian appeal for dispaced peoples from some of the most fragile countries in the world and how they have managed to raise more than £1.8 million in Scotland alone.

As our Chief Executive, Saleh Saeed told us all earlier this week as he congratulated our small team for our effort over the past few hectic weeks, this has been one of the most challenging DEC appeals in the organisation’s history.

None of us, of course, have had to plan and execute an international humanitarian appeal of this kind before – when the cause of the crisis is everywhere and appears as much of a risk to each and every one of us and our supporters here in the UK.

However, as all Alliance members will know, whilst no virus discriminates in who it infects, the impact on the victims can largely be predicated on existing vulnerabilities.  Sadly , it is all too clear in the DEC’s target countries that the populations there, with millions of internally displaced people or refugees, driven from their homes by long standing conflict, climate related extreme weather or even on this occasion, plagues of locust, were already hugely vulnerable before the Coronavirus appeared at the start of the year.

The displaced of Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and the mostly Rohingya people on the Bangladeshi border are the most fragile populations in the world.  While the numbers infected with Coronavirus thus far are relatively low compared to those in the West, the conditions in which almost 24 million people must already endure make the virus especially dangerous, with the potential to destroy countless more lives.

Every day Ameena, who is 8, spends hours with other neighbours in the Rohingya camp in the queue for collecting drinking water. 

“My family live up in the hill. We do not have any water supply there. I have to queue hours for collecting drinking water. I have heard about the virus. We have to wash our hands and face after reaching to our tent. But none of us could wash our hands regularly because we have limited water for drinking, if we waste water by washing hands, I have to spend entire day queuing for water.” 

Amina is one of around 855,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar in 2017, live in 34 extremely congested camps, collectively the largest refugee population in the world. 

Despite the lockdown and the financial squeeze and the clear desire of the public to support the NHS and other frontline charities here at home, this appeal has once again caught the attention of the Scottish public.

In just over two weeks, we have raised more than £1.8 million across Scotland in a UK total of £18 million.  This has been helped by the reliable support of the Scottish Government, who immediately released £240,000 towards the appeal through its Humanitarian Emergency Fund, not only benefitting DEC members but also other Scottish based humanitarian charities. There has also been generous support from Scotland’s leading private sector companies and across the public sector too.

The power of the DEC and its tried and tested communications and fundraising coalition comes from 14 of the UK’s most experienced humanitarian charities working together with the main UK broadcasters.  With large amounts of money likely to be raised quickly, humanitarian plans can be activated almost immediately the appeal opens.  In this case that means funds to get clean water, soap and other sanitation supplies to affected populations as well as protective equipment for frontline health workers and crucially more communication.

Despite the positive start, the pandemic is only now starting to take grip in displacement camps and other vulnerable populations.  The appeal will be open for many months yet and the millions who we are trying to help will need global support for years to come.

Check out the DEC appeal to donate.

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