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October 2011

Research. Rethink. Resolve.

October 2011

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Making Cooking Safer in Crisis Areas

"The turkey roasted in the oven while the beans, vegetables, lentils and everything else simmered on the stovetop. I pressed a button, on it went. When I needed more heat, I turned the knob. That was it. Dinner in Darfur isn’t quite so simple. I was there during Ramadan one year, and this was how it went for the women there during their holiday—they’d wake up in the middle of the night to walk miles into the desert…to find firewood. If they were lucky, they’d find enough that they’d be able to cook the morning meal before the sun rose. If they were unlucky, they would not find enough and they’d miss the meal—and then have to fast all day. If they were really unlucky, they were physically or sexually attacked while they were out there. And then they’d do it all over again the next day."

Comparing cooking Thanksgiving dinner in New York to a predawn Ramadan meal in Darfur, Erin Patrick, who leads the Women's Refugee Commission's Fuel and Firewood Initiative, opened a recent event that we hosted at the United Nations on the issue of cooking fuel as a major protection, environmental and health concern.

Speakers from the National Institutes of Health and World Wildlife Fund added their perspectives on the health and environmental aspects of the problem, calling for a broad effort to make cooking practices safer and healthier. Held in conjunction with the 66th General Assembly at the United Nations in September and co-hosted by the UN Missions of Liechtenstein and Switzerland, the discussion was moderated by WRC Executive Director Sarah Costa.

We are pleased to report that due to sustained advocacy leading up to and during the event, we were able to ensure that the UN resolution on non-communicable diseases includes the need for fuel-efficient stoves and clean fuels in humanitarian settings. And another positive development: the U.S. government announced in September that it will provide 11,000 fuel-efficient stoves for the Horn of Africa.



"Wetsuit" Saves Mothers' Lives in Tanzania

In Tanzania, women’s lives are being saved by a wetsuit-like garment that stops them from bleeding to death after they give birth. In September, Sandra Krause, director of our reproductive health program, and Nicole Rajani, communications officer, traveled to western Tanzania with Pathfinder International to see the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, aka LifeWrap, in action. This is the first time it is being used in a refugee setting. Postpartum hemorrhage is a leading cause of maternal death in many countries, but this simple solution can reduce it. The garment directs blood flow to the vital organs and can buy time for the woman to be transferred to a hospital or larger health center where she can receive appropriate medical care. It was recently featured in The New York Times as a "small fix" that can save thousands of lives.

Read more about the trip, and see photos here.



WRC Endorses a Charter to End Extreme Hunger

While humanitarian organizations and governments are working to provide urgently needed aid to the Horn of Africa region, they have also realized that this disaster could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken early on. In September, the Women’s Refugee Commission joined a coalition of aid agencies and civil society groups in endorsing a "Charter to End Extreme Hunger," which calls for scaled-up efforts to help the Horn of Africa and a commitment from world leaders to prevent future hunger crises. The Charter outlines five key actions that both rich and poor governments should take to stop, and prevent, widespread starvation.



Children Caught Up in Colombia's Conflict

After decades of brutal internal conflict and related violence, Colombia’s population is reeling from the effects—and its children are among those most impacted. In August and September, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a program of the Women's Refugee Commission, spent four weeks in Colombia meeting with war-affected children and their communities, Colombian government officials, UN representatives, foreign diplomats and NGO staff members. A report based on these findings will be released at the beginning of 2012 to coincide with the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Colombia.



Women's Refugee Commission at Global Women's Summit

Executive Director Sarah Costa presented at the Womensphere Global Summit "Creating the Future" in September. The conference brought together women leaders of companies and organizations, entrepreneurs and social innovators from the United States and around the world.



In the News

Michelle Brané, director of the Detention and Asylum program, responded to a New York Times article on the rise of for-profit immigrant detention companies in this letter to the editor.

Michelle also wrote about needed reforms in the U.S. immigrant detention system in a Huffington Post article.

Sandra Krause, director of the reproductive health program, and Diana Quick, director of communications, published an article in Forced Migration Review on the Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises campaign.

Jennifer Podkul, program officer, detention and asylum program, was quoted in a Colorlines article on border patrol abuse.

Michelle wrote a blog for the Huffington Post, "At Risk of Deportation and Thrown into the Clutches of Known Killers" and was quoted in the article "Undocumented Women Forced to Give Birth While Shackled and in Police Custody."