Solar power keeps the water flowing in Malawi
BLANTYRE, Malawi, 24 January 2018 – It’s early morning at Namera Primary School, located in the countryside outside Malawi’s second city of Blantyre. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Chalire emerges from a classroom in her blue and yellow school uniform, smiling broadly after completing her end-of-year maths exam. Lucy attends school every day and is third in her class, but it wasn’t always this way.
The heroes keeping the water flowing for families in eastern Ukraine
LUHANSK, Ukraine, 21 November 2017 – Inna Krasnyakova was born, raised and married in the small village of Artema, in Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine. In June 2014, she was at work, operating a water pumping unit at the Petrovskaya pumping station, when conflict broke out.
How toilets are saving lives and money in Afghanistan
NILI, Afghanistan, 18 November 2017 – For 23-year-old Fatima, it took the death of one child to spark a simple but transformational change, to convince the whole village to start using toilets and improve the health of many young lives.
Agents of change: Children in Lesotho bring improved sanitation from classrooms to communities
QHOLAQHOE, Lesotho, 27 September 2017 – The road to Qholaqhoe High School, perched on an isolated mountaintop in northern Lesotho, is long and rocky. Here and there, a peach tree blossoms pink or white against the drought-parched yellow hills. Dotted between the aluminum-sided shacks and the round thatched-roof houses is the occasional backyard gravestone.
Nepalese communities confront flood aftermath
Rautahat, Nepal, 6 September 2017 – When Ram Patiya Mahato, 32, went to bed on Friday 11 August, she expected to go the next day to a medical facility to give birth to her fourth child. Instead, she woke to see her home flooded.
Clean water changes lives in a town in South Sudan
BENTIU, South Sudan, 5 September 2017 – Imagine having to fetch water from a river every day and it taking more than an hour each time. Now imagine having to do that using a wheelchair.
4 things you need to know about water and famine
20 million people at risk of famine across Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and north-east Nigeria – including nearly 1.3 million severely malnourished children at imminent risk of death. Increasingly the crisis is one not only of food insecurity, but also of clean water, sanitation and health care.
Gaza children face acute water and sanitation crisis
GAZA, State of Palestine, 1 September 2017 – Eight-year-old Sawsan and her family live in a tin-roofed shack made from metal sheets. In summer, she cannot stay inside as it becomes unbearably hot. In winter, the place is flooded with rainwater mixed with sewage from the street.
Floods affect millions in Bangladesh, India and Nepal
SAPTARI, Nepal, 21 August 2017 – As the floodwaters receded, Asha Devi Raya, 30, came down from the roof of her house. She had spent the night up there along with her 28-day-old baby daughter, four other children, and her in-laws. Relentless rainfall across much of Nepal has resulted in monsoon flooding and landslides.
Mobilizing communities to fight a severe cholera outbreak in South Sudan
Kapoeta, South Sudan, 15 August 2017 – It started around 6 p.m. one evening, shortly after supper. Regina Lotem had been warned about it for weeks and even though she tried to prevent it, she knew it might happen. Her five-year-old son Juma had been vomiting and had severe diarrhoea for several hours. If not treated properly, she knew his life could be at risk.
Families in despair as cholera outbreak spreads across Yemen
ALHESN, Sana’a, Yemen, 18 July 2017 – A whirl of dust and wind sweeps through Alhesn, a village perched atop Sana’a’s highest hill. A young girl and her little brother slowly climb up the steep stony path leading to the village, carrying half-filled jerry cans of water. Nearby, a shepherd herds his cattle through the walled entrance of this hamlet, which is home to 70 families.
Fathya and the army of volunteers combating cholera in Yemen
SANA’A, Yemen, 5 July 2017 – It was in late April that cholera and acute watery diarrhoea broke out in Yemen, spreading rapidly across the country. By the end of June, the number of suspected cholera cases had surpassed 200,000 with over 1,400 deaths.
In Kyrgyzstan, girls lift shroud of shame on menstruation
VASILEVKA, Kyrgyzstan, 26 May 2017 – Menstruation is a taboo subject in Kyrgyzstan. Girls enter puberty without understanding what is happening to their bodies, and suffer in shame and despair as a result. Many do not attend school during their periods, affecting their educational performance.
Children of Yemen are in the grip of the second cholera outbreak in six months
SANA'A, Yemen, 22 May 2017 – For Um Taha and four of her children, the past few days have been nothing short of harrowing. Camped in a little corner of the diarrhoea treatment centre at the Al Sabayeen hospital in Sana’a, the 39-year-old mother has spent sleepless nights trying to take care of her children, all of whom have been diagnosed with cholera. Her husband is looking after their other five children back home.
Water, sanitation and hygiene: the basics of infection control in Sierra Leone
NGELEHUN, Sierra Leone, 8 May 2017 – Nurse-in-charge Elizabeth Kadie Momoh at the Ngelehun Community Health Post has just finished checking a pregnant woman in the facility’s labour room and heads to a sink to wash her hands. Clean water gushes out as she opens the tap.
Malawi hunger crisis forces teenage girls to sell sex
MANGOCHI, Malawi, 21 April 2017 – It is the start of the rainy season on the shores of Lake Malawi, and the landscape is now a lush green. Streams and rivers flow where before there were dry, dusty river beds. Fields of maize, as tall in places as the mud huts of farmers, tower over the children who run past them.
In Damascus, water cuts and crumbling sewage systems pose serious health risks
DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 13 April 2017 – For 37-year-old Kawthar and her eight-year-old son Mohammed, life has become unbearable.
UNICEF seawater desalination plant helps head off Gaza water crisis
GAZA, State of Palestine, 6 April 2017 – For 13-year-old Ahmad, the idea of drinking water from the tap did not make sense. “I have never drunk tap water because it is not clean, and it could make me sick,” he says. “My parents told me that they used to drink tap water at home, but it must have been many years ago, before I was born.”
Hundreds of thousands affected by devastating floods in Peru
CARAPONGO, Peru, 25 March 2017 - Nine-year-old Aldony Cabrera proudly admits to being a Star Wars fan. Carrying his plastic light sabre, he walks through the devastation in Carapongo - a community near Lima, the capital of Peru - caused by some of the worst flooding in decades.
Syrian children suffer as taps run dry in Damascus
DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 16 January 2017 – An estimated 5.5 million people, including 2 million children, have been cut off from running water for over three weeks in Damascus and its surroundings – the longest cut the Syrian city has seen.
Hurricane Matthew three months on: Life for Haiti's children
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 9 January 2017 – Around three months ago hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, disrupting the lives of over two million people. In addition to the personal losses of homes and crops, more than 716 schools, numerous health facilities, and the existing sanitation infrastructure all suffered damage. Today, 1.4 million people in Haiti, including 600,000 children, require humanitarian assistance.
Children displaced from east Aleppo: distressed, injured, alone
ALEPPO, Syrian Arab Republic, 29 December 2016– For the families who fled the fighting in Aleppo city, the arduous journey was full of chaos and horror. Terrified and alone, many of the children arrived in shelters unaccompanied or separated from their families, with many suffering from injuries.
In Guinea-Bissau, teenagers sing the praises of handwashing
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau, 15 December 2016 – For any aspiring musician, hearing your song on the radio is a major milestone. This year, 19-year-olds Lizidória Mendes and Venâncio Cá got to experience this dream come true when their song “Laba Mon Ku Sabon” (wash your hands with soap) was chosen as the winner of a Global Handwashing Day song writing contest, organized by UNICEF.
Nigeria’s ‘Iron Lady’ of water and sanitation
BAKORI, Katsina State, Nigeria, 18 November 2016 – “They call me the Iron Lady, I don’t know why,” laughs Zainabu Abubakar. “I’m not ferocious or anything, I’m just doing my job.”
Water cuts add to the daily challenge of survival for Aleppo’s children
ALEPPO/DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 14 November 2016 – Being born in Aleppo was always considered a rich blessing in eight-year-old Huda’s family. That changed abruptly when violent conflict reduced the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city to rubble. To protect her five children from indiscriminate daily attacks, Huda’s mother Manal fled with them to a neighbourhood on the west side of the city, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
When cleanliness nears godliness in Bhutan
CHHUKHA, Bhutan, 28 August 2016 – As we veer off the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway and ascend the rough road towards Pagar in Chhukha district, dark red chilies drying out in the fields provide a glimpse of the hues we will soon encounter as we mount further.
Averting a major health crisis in Yemen’s capital city
SANA’A, Yemen, 3 August 2016 – When conflict escalated in Yemen in March 2015, the resulting damage to infrastructure cut off electricity to a sewage treatment plant that turns human waste into harmless manure for fertilizing agricultural lands. Production at the plant ground to a halt, and raw sewage water streamed dangerously through Bani Al-Hareth, a district north of the capital, Sana’a.
In Ghana, a long overdue ‘place of convenience’ for an entire community
HO, Ghana, 21 July 2016 – A place of convenience, lavatory, restroom, toilet facility, washroom, comfort station. These are all names used in Ghana to describe a toilet or bathroom. But when these facilities are unavailable – especially for children in schools – it can be anything but comfortable or convenient.
For internally displaced in South Darfur, finding water is a new challenge
KALMA CAMP, South Darfur, Sudan, 5 July 2016 – When 45-year-old Mohamed Abdel Hamid traipsed into Kalma refugee camp in 2014, he left behind a shattered world.
Solar pumps bring safe water to families in Myanmar
MAGWAY REGION, Myanmar, 3 June 2016 – Mon Taw village is a community located in Pauk Township, north-western Myanmar. Most regions of the country receive large amounts of rainfall each year, but Magway regularly experiences droughts, which are being exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
‘WASHComs’ drive change in northern Nigeria
JIGAWA STATE, Nigeria, May 2016 – In north-eastern Nigeria, 300 miles north of the capital city of Abuja, lies the village of Gidan Darge. Though the village is located in a dry, remote area, it is pioneering advances in water, sanitation and hygiene for the entire country.
In Sierra Leone, clean water returns to a rural school
MASORIE, Sierra Leone, 25 April 2016 – As Rosemarie Yema Blake pushed down on the water pump, a government technician held a plastic bottle under the spout to collect a sample from the gushing stream. Ms. Blake is an engineer from UNICEF’s NGO partner Living Water, and her most recent project brought her to an abandoned well at the Harry C Primary school in Sierra Leone’s Western Rural district.
A community bores deep for water, in Democratic Republic of the Congo
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19 March 2015 – Nothing escapes the eye of Papy Bakambu. Papy closely monitors his workers as they drill a well in Binza Météo, a poor area in the suburbs of Kinshasa.
Foot soldiers in Haiti’s fight against cholera
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 18 March 2014 – Jean Petit Marseille, Coordinating Engineer in Central District for Haiti’s department of water and sanitation (DINEPA), believes so strongly in the work of his team that he calls them “foot soldiers” in the fight against cholera.
A fresh solution to Gaza's water crisis
GAZA, State of Palestine, 14 January 2014 – Every other day, Ramadan, a resident of Nuseirat refugee camp, used to carry empty bottles and jerry cans through the tiny alleyways of the camp until he reached a private water vendor. He would spend the equivalent of US$10 a month on water, a large sum for cash-strapped families living in the coastal enclave.
How Haiti combats cholera
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 27 December 2013 – The cholera treatment centre of Camp Perrin has a young patient with a suspected case of cholera. Exile Sylveus Junior and his team race to the scene in in Les Cayes, south of Port-au-Prince.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director visits programmes supporting Palestinian children
EAST JERUSALEM, 12 December 2013 – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt recently concluded a four-day visit to the State of Palestine to view and discuss the situation of children with partners from government, civil society and the international community, including the United Nations system, and observe UNICEF-supported programmes.
Water for one million Afghan schoolchildren
HERAT, Afghanistan, 30 October 2013 – When you enter Tajrabavi Girls School in Herat, your eyes are drawn to the shiny, pastel-green pipes that skirt the new sink, and the sparkle of the water droplets that dance about as children drink clean water and wash their hands and faces.
Capturing water fit for drink, in Bangladesh
DHAKA, Bangladesh, 28 October 2013 – There’s so much water in Bangladesh that it is hard to imagine that, for much of the year, a lot of it is undrinkable.
Big steps towards an open-defecation-free Nepal
CHITPAL, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, 28 October 2013 – It’s party time, in Chitpal. School is out, and everyone is gathering.
Simple solutions to keep girls in school in Bangladesh
MAULVIBAZAR, Bangladesh, 9 October 2013 – Imagine a school with just two toilets for 1,400 students, who wait in long queues just to use them.
Faith-based organizations form alliance for children's right to safe water and sanitation
NEW YORK, United States of America, 26 September 2013 – The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the first global interfaith initiative to promote safe water, sanitation and hygiene, was launched at UNICEF House on 25 September. The alliance brings together faith-based organizations in common pursuit of a water-secure world – one in which all children may enjoy their right to safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation.
In Mongolia, back to school, back to better water and sanitation facilities
KHUVSGUL PROVINCE, Mongolia, 30 August 2013 – Khaliunaa, 13, and her sister Bulganaa, 9, live in Tarialan soum, Khuvsgul province, a remote area in the north of Mongolia. Their father Buyanbadrakh and mother Narangerel are nomadic herders – the family move several times a year in search of better pasture land for the sheep, goats, horses and cows that are their livelihood.
In Afghanistan, a UNICEF staff member stands strong as a champion for children's rights
KABUL, Afghanistan, 23 May 2013 – Mohammad Qasim Nazari started his career with UNICEF Afghanistan in 2001 when he was appointed as WASH Assistant with UNICEF in Herat, western Afghanistan. Later he was promoted to the position of WASH Officer in the same region.
He narrowly escaped death when their UNICEF vehicle came under attack in Afghanistan but Mohammad Qasim Nazari still stands strong as a champion for children's rights
Kabul, Afghanistan, 23 May 2013 – Mohammad Qasim Nazari started his career with UNICEF Afghanistan in 2001 when he was appointed as WASH Assistant with UNICEF in Herat, western Afghanistan. Later he was promoted to the position of WASH Officer in the same region.
In Syria, a glimpse into the everyday dangers faced by humanitarian workers
DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 17 May 2013 – As I was first arriving in Damascus from Beirut by road, the only accessible route for UN staff travelling into the conflict-torn Syrian capital, I saw a huge plume of black smoke rising in the distance. My colleague, the UNICEF driver who picked me up from Beirut, said it was coming from the direction of Daraya. The name immediately rang a bell, as it was frequently mentioned in the news as a scene of intense fighting.
In rural Homs, reaching families displaced by conflict
HOMS, Syrian Arab Republic, 12 August 2013 – Summer is usually the time of year when schools sit empty, but hundreds of them in the Syrian Arab Republic are busy and crowded, providing emergency shelter for displaced children and their families.
A humble Nigerian carpenter rethinks latrines
BENUE STATE, Nigeria, 3 July 2013 – Lately, Martin Dewaun Iyo’s humble carpentry business has seen a buzz of activity in what is normally a slow trade in cabinets and doors. Mr. Iyo has invented a new product – a ventilated drop-hole cover for the latrine.
Revolutionary optimists bring their message to UNICEF
NEW YORK, United States of America, 3 April 2013 – Armed with loudspeakers and mapping devices, young activists who call themselves ‘the Daredevils’ have amplified the concerns of their communities in Kolkata’s slums loudly enough for the world to hear.
As more and more Malian refugees arrive in Mauritania, UNICEF steps up relief efforts
MBERA REFUGEE CAMP, Mauritania, 19 March 2013 – Nightfall in Mbéra refugee camp brings some relief for the refugees and humanitarian workers after a hard day in this hot, dry, remote region.
In the Niger, a community-led sanitation programme transforms lives
MARADI, Niger, 13 December 2012 – A year ago, recalls Ashorou Miko, 31, “We were living surrounded by human excreta. The only way to relieve ourselves was by defecating in the bushes. The stench was unbearable.”
Hit hard by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Petit Goave recovers and rebuilds its water system
PETIT GOAVE, Haiti, 13 December 2012 – The massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 destroyed the water system of Petit Goave, a coastal city near the quake’s epicentre.
UNICEF staff member visits scenes of devastation in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha
DAVAO ORIENTAL, Mindanao, Philippines, 12 December 2012 – It has been a week since Typhoon Bopha, ‘Pablo’, hit the southern Philippines. I was one of six UNICEF staff deployed as part of the government and United Nations assessment to the four most affected regions. Presently, about 2.3 million children are affected.
In the Philippines, UNICEF responds to families affected by Typhoon Bopha
PHILIPPINES, 7 December 2012 - UNICEF is providing assistance to families affected by Typhoon Bopha (local name ‘Pablo’), with a focus on ensuring clean water supply and providing temporary sanitation and non-food items for displaced families.
In the face of ongoing insecurity in Pakistan, a 13-year-old boy plays an active role in a camp for displaced persons
JALOZAI CAMP, Pakistan, 5 December 2012 – In his spare time, 13-year-old Irfan Ullah practises spin bowling, copying his favourite Pakistani cricketer, Shahid Afridi. Handy with a bat, Irfan hopes to represent Pakistan’s national team one day.
For villages in Turkana, Kenya, a new initiative that brings clean water to the community is life-changing
TURKANA, Kenya, 29 November 2012 - At Namukuse Village, in Turkana Central District, northwestern Kenya, sandy landscape leads to the shores of Lake Turkana. The lake is the fourth largest in Africa and a source of livelihood for the fishing community that lives along its shores.
Children are caught in the new wave of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
New York, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 19 November 2012 – They were too young to understand the violence that would kill them. Bearing the brunt of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict on their shrouds, four children from the Dalu family were buried amidst continued bombardment in Gaza City, occupied Palestinian territory. Their family home was turned into rubble by missile attack on Sunday.
Hit hard by massive flooding for the third successive year, people of Pakistan's Sindh province have no respite
JACOBABAD, Sindh, Pakistan, 13 November 2012 – As the only breadwinner of a family of 13, Sikandar Ali is deeply concerned about the health and nutrition of his wife, nine children and two sisters. Although the family had hardly recovered from hardships brought by floods in 2010, widespread monsoon flooding has, once again, deprived him of his livelihood.
In India, Formula 1 star and UNICEF Ambassador Fernando Alonso says hand-washing is a simple solution to saving millions of children's lives
NEW DELHI, India, 5 November 2012 – Formula 1 driver and UNICEF Ambassador Fernando Alonso visited the village of Tugarpur, Uttar Pradesh, to promote hand-washing with soap.
In occupied Palestinian territory, UNICEF and partners tackle the risks of open cesspools
Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory, 2 November 2012 - White birds fly low over the mirror-smooth pond before landing in the grass, where, much to the delight of 16-year-old Ahmed, some start singing.
In Lebanon, UNICEF and partners race to provide clean drinking water and prevent disease
BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon, 23 October 2012 – The large chalkboard is a reminder that the crowded shelter housing Zaineb, her family and more than a hundred other Syrian refugees is actually a school.
At Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, as a million litres of clean water arrive each day, focus turns to conservation and future supply of water
AMMAN, Jordan, 22 October 2012 – The Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan is a safe haven for almost 30,000 refugees who have fled conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. Hundreds of people arrive daily.
In Pakistan, UNICEF and partners provide essential services in area devastated by monsoon floodwaters
JACOBABAD DISTRICT, Pakistan, 19 October 2012 - Reshma is a cheerful first-grader with hopes and aspirations for her future. She makes beautiful dolls in her spare time.
Haitian students spread the message of hand-washing, a critical measure in the fight against disease
FRECHOU, Haiti, 16 October 2012 – Derilus’s mother nearly died of cholera last year in this small mountain village just outside Port-au-Prince.
For children in Mali, hand-washing and safe water save lives
SIRAKORO, Mali, 15 October 2012 - It is a bright, hot day in the tiny village of Sirakoro in Mali’s central Mopti region. Children, their parents, school staff and community leaders have met up with a team of UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialists, along with local partner NGO Association Recherche Action Femme et Développement (ARAFD).
In the Philippines, public elementary schools take the lead in promoting proper hygiene practices
GUIMARAS ISLAND, Philippines, 12 October 2012 – Schoolchildren in this small, hilly province in central Philippines may just have a new favourite ‘subject’ – hand-washing and tooth-brushing – which is now included in their daily curriculum.
In Jordan, huge water delivery and testing operation meets the life-saving water and sanitation needs of Syrian refugees
MAFRAQ, Jordan, 10 October 2012 - Massive water trucks trundle slowly through Za’atari refugee camp, filling the tanks that supply drinking taps and latrine and shower blocks.
In Jordan, Syrian refugee children continue education as first school opens at Za’atari refugee camp
MAFRAQ, Jordan, 8 October 2012 – “I’m very happy that school has started,” says Tabark, 12, who is in her fifth day of class at Za’atari refugee camp’s new emergency school. “I enjoy Arabic and writing the most. I would like to be an Arabic teacher.”
With cholera cases on the increase worldwide, UNICEF develops a 'Cholera Toolkit'
NEW YORK, United States of America, 24 August 2012 - Cholera is a significant public health priority currently making headlines, including The New York Times article of 22 August ‘Cholera Epidemic Envelops Coastal Slums in West Africa’.
As the food crisis in Mali worsens, UPS and UNICEF deliver humanitarian aid
BAMAKO, Mali, 21, August 2012 - On 16 August, a large M-11 jet airliner touched down at the Bamako-Sénou International Airport, as the United Parcel Service (UPS) made its first free-of-charge delivery to UNICEF Mali. As part of UPS’s efforts to help people in the Sahel affected by the food and nutrition crisis, 20 metric tons of supplies were delivered to Mali. The supplies are part of UNICEF’s emergency response to the food and nutrition crisis in the North of Mali, which has been complicated by a cholera outbreak and armed conflict.
Syrian refugees struggle to adapt to new surroundings in Za’atari camp
ZA'ATARI, Jordan, 17 August - The number of Syrian refugees crossing to Jordan is rising. To date, more than 7,000 people live in the tented Za’atari camp in Mafraq, north of Jordan. They are battered with frequent sand storms, hot weather and lack of natural shade.
Battling dust storms and the burning desert sun to meet the most basic need of the displaced - water
Za’atari, Jordan, August 17, 2012 - Eleven year old Abdullah stares silently at his dust covered toes under the scorching afternoon sun in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp.
Youth teach handwashing skills to keep their community healthy
N’tjibougou, Mali, 9 August 2012 -12-year-old Youssouf Dissa sits close to his grandfather Adama, speaking urgently and using his hands to emphasize what he’s saying. Youssouf has come from school with important information to pass on to his family.
Education of water rationing for Syrian refugees in Jordan
RAMTHA, Jordan, 5 August 2012 - As Syrians pour into Jordan, work is underway not only to provide essential safe water and sanitation, but to make sure the water lasts. Jordan is the fourth most water scarce country in the world and the influx of people is putting a strain on an already limited water supply.
Teaching the principles of good hygiene to school children
KATSINA STATE, Nigeria, 30 July 2012 – Nigeria has a vast coastline and river tributaries that irrigate the south, yet insufficient access to clean water contributes to millions of deaths every year. One in seven children will die in Nigeria before they reach the age of 5, many of them from waterborne illnesses.
Aid for children abducted and exploited by armed groups in the Central African Republic
OBO, Central African Republic, 25 July 2012 – “I was at home asleep with my mother, brothers and sisters. In the night some men came with weapons and torches. They took me and two other children away from my family and many others from our village,” said Sophie*, recalling her abduction and enslavement by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Central African Republic.
In Yemen, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake calls for efforts to improve child nutrition and well-being
SANA'A, Yemen, 10 July 2012 – “Wouldn't you instinctively want to invest in hope more than horror?” These were the words of UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake during his three-day visit to Yemen this week.
In Sierra Leone, school-led sanitation programmes improve health and save lives
MASAKA, Sierra Leone, 10 July 2012 – Memunatu Conteh, 14, lives in Masaka with her mother and four siblings. She has a busy daily routine, collecting water and sweeping her family’s compound in the morning, going to TDC Primary School Masaka to attend classes, then fetching water for the classrooms. After school, she plays football, then returns home to help her mother with the cooking.
Aid workers in Jordan race to meet the needs of Syrian refugee families
AL MAFRAQ, Jordan, 9 July 2012 – Funnels of dust race like miniature tornadoes at this former airfield near the town of Al Mafraq, in Jordan’s north.
Children exercise their ingenuity and protect their health building sanitary hand washing stations
LOMÉ, Togo, 3 July 2012 - In Togo, under-5 child mortality rates are staggering; more than one in ten die before their fifth birthday. Many of these children could be saved if simple hygiene practices, like hand-washing with soap, were adopted.
In the Republic of the Congo, UNICEF and WHO launch initiatives to treat, combat and prevent cholera
ISLE M'BAMOU, Republic of Congo, 12 June 2012 – The diarrhoea and vomiting started at 3 a.m., and hours later, 12-year-old Steward Okoulokami was weak and losing weight. His panicked father, Dimitri, packed him into a dugout boat and brought him to Brazzaville.
Field Diary: Clean water improves health and education for children in Cerritos II, Honduras
LEPAERA, Honduras, 21 May 2012 – “Before, we had to go very early to collect spring water. We walked for a long time to the spring and home again. Then, there were times when we got sick,” said 12-year-old Selvin Hernandez. “But now everything has changed.”
Partnership helps restore public services in rural Sri Lanka
TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka, 15 May 2012 – It’s the morning rounds of the village mothers’ support group. Today, they’re visiting one of the poorest families in this remote village in eastern Sri Lanka.
Community-led sanitation saves lives in rural Chad
N’DJAMENA, Chad, 8 May 2012 – “It was a night in April,” explained Annour. “Our child began to vomit and have diarrhoea repeatedly. We gave him water, thinking that it would pass, but it went on. No one in the village health centre knew what it was, so we decided the next morning to take him to the hospital in N'Djamena – but he died on the way.”
Displaced families find shelter in north-western Pakistan
NOWSHERA, Pakistan, 2 May 2012 – Safe now at a camp for displaced people, Jan Bibi recalls the horrific events that led her family to flee for their lives earlier this year.
Manual drilling stations bring safe drinking water to Guinea's Boffa region
CONAKRY, Guinea, 27 April 2012 – The plains of Boffa are a sea of green – and yet there is no drinkable water here.
In post-flood Pakistan, 'Children's Fairs' entertain while promoting child rights and health
BADIN DISTRICT, Pakistan, 27 April 2012 – Thousands of flood-affected children and families have learned new life skills and enjoyed a much-needed reprieve from the stresses of post-flood life at a series of UNICEF-supported Children’s Fairs taking place in some of the worst flood-affected districts of Sindh province.
UNICEF Executive Director announces new global immunization strategy
NEW YORK, USA, 25 April 2012 – This week, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, alongside partners in the newly renamed Measles and Rubella Initiative, launched a new global strategy aimed at reducing measles deaths and congenital rubella syndrome to zero.
In DR Congo, a UNICEF programme is empowering communities to improve water and sanitation
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 23 March 2012 – Years of civil war have limited progress in improving health and sanitation services throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Today, half the population of 66 million still has no access to clean water sources, and one out of every five children under age 5 suffers from persistent diarrhoea.
In Niger, refugees from Mali are assisted with clean drinking water
MANGAIZÉ, Niger, 22 March 2012 – For the displaced families in the Mangaizé settlement site, located in a dry, empty stretch of the Sahel, access to clean drinking water is a matter of survival. Over 35,000 refugees and returnees have come to Niger seeking safety from the ongoing fighting in northern Mali.
Podcast #55: What does achieving the MDG target on water mean for schoolchildren?
NEW YORK, USA, 21 March – UNICEF and the World Health Organization recently announced that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the 2015 deadline.
Focus on water, sanitation and hygiene improves child health and nutrition in Pakistan
MUZAFFARGARH DISTRICT, Punjab, Pakistan, 21 March 2012 – Inside a dusty farm house compound in rural Punjab, 7-year-old Ume Hani helps her aunt Ume Hassan, 16, prepare flat bread. Ume Hassan sits on the ground, dipping her hands in clean water as she kneads the dough.
Safe water remains scarce in Somalia, contributing to disease and malnutrition
MOGADISHU, Somalia, 21 March 2012 – A line of women and children curves around the wall of a defunct hospital, now home to an Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) in the Hodan District of Mogadishu.
UNICEF supports children and women displaced by insecurity in north-western Pakistan
JALOZAI CAMP, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan, 9 March 2012 – Ongoing insecurity in north-western Pakistan has caused thousands to flee their homes. Families are streaming into Jalozai Camp seeking shelter, support and food.
Millennium Development Goal target on drinking water met
NEW YORK, USA, 6 March 2012 The world has met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the MDG 2015 deadline.
UNICEF and partners support victims of inter-communal conflict in Jonglei, South Sudan
PIBOR, South Sudan, 1 March 2012 – It was an ecstatic scene as Nora Wacha, a 20-year-old woman who had been abducted during the recent fighting between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, was reunited with her family in Pibor.
In Haiti, a radio programme entertains while encouraging healthy behaviors
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 17 February 2012 – People crowded into a Tap Tap, Haiti’s most popular form of public transportation, nod their heads and smile at the conversation pouring out of the speakers.
In Chad, clean and sustainable water and sanitation systems keep families safe from disease
N'DJAMENA, Chad, 17 February 2012 – While N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, bakes in the midday heat, Aisha Adoum uses the harsh sun to dry tomatoes, ochre and berries for the market. It is the dry season here, with dust coating everything. Children find relief playing in the low and polluted lakes and rivers, alongside carpet washers.
In Zimbabwe, improving water systems to safeguard children's health
SHURUGWI, Zimbabwe, 16 February 2012 – Emily Butau used to wake up every day dreading the task of collecting water for her family. After sending her three children off to school, she would embark on a long journey to find and then carry home water.
Improving water and sanitation in Haiti’s schools
PORT-AU –PRINCE, Haiti, 7 February 2012 – Eighteen-year-old Yves Nolly Lindor is teaching students at Pétion-ville National School about the importance of improved sanitation.
Alarming outbreak of cholera in the Central African Republic begins to subside
BANGUI and NDIMBA, Central African Republic, 3 February 2012 – Véronique Yassambatendji was awakened late one night in October when her husband began experiencing severe diarrhoea and vomiting. The 30-year-old mother of four brought him directly to the local health centre in Ndimba, where he was treated with oral rehydration salts.
Field diary: In Sudan, a long wait for the journey home to South Sudan
KOSTI, Sudan, 1 February 2012 – A raggedy doll is all that 18-year-old Sabina Saisa has left to remind her of her best friend, Jacqueline.
Piped water project offers health, opportunities to Angolan families
LUANDA, Angola, 25 January 2012 – When Beatriz da Encarnação got her own tap, the ready access to clean water quickly improved the health of her sons, 8-year-old Filipi Capitango and 8-month-old Beomiro Pedro.
Life-saving action against cholera in DR Congo
MBANDAKA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 16 January 2012 – “At the beginning I thought she had just diarrhea, but when she didn’t stop vomiting I took her to the hospital, where they told me it might be cholera,” said Getou Bofala, 35.
A brighter future for Rwanda’s girls
KIGALI, Rwanda, 16 January 2012 – On the outskirts of Rwanda’s capital, a UNICEF-supported child-friendly school is helping to transform the way girls access education.
Northern Ghana remains vigilant against Guinea worm
DIARE, Ghana , 28 December 2011 – Azaratu Zakaria once limped unnoticed through the dusty lanes of her village. Now she is approached by strangers who call her an ambassador – something which she, as a woman with a disability in rural Ghana, never thought possible.
In Haiti, guarding families from cholera with local water treatment product
LEOGANE, Haiti, 22 December 2011 – “My children only drink treated water,” said Celie Bien Aime, in Leogane, Haiti. “When they go to their friends’ houses, they don’t drink the water there.”
UNICEF responds to extensive flood destruction in the Philippines
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines, 21 December 2011 – In a city devastated by floods and fatalities, the arrival of Christmas is the last thing on people’s minds.
As flood-affected return home in Pakistan, services are threatened by insufficient funding
SINDH PROVINCE, Pakistan, 20 December 2011 – Nawo squints in the early morning sunlight as her 3-year-old daughter, Sarita, walks barefoot through the dirt. Around them, the land is scarred and piled high with the ruins of their home.
Online training sessions help professionals improve water and sanitation in schools around the world
NEW YORK, USA, 20 December 2011 – A global certification course on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is being conducted for the third time, teaching development professionals around the world about effectively managing and implementing WASH programmes in schools.
UNICEF responds to Philippines communities devastated by Tropical Storm Washi
MANILA, Philippines, 19 December 2011 – Over 600 people have been killed, and hundreds more are missing, after flash floods devastated northern and western parts of Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines.
Urgent need for aid continues in Pakistan in wake of devastating floods
NEW YORK, USA, 14 December: “All these houses have drowned. We are getting no help here,” said 9-year-old Saeen Bukhsh in September, after torrential monsoon rains and flooding destroyed his home in Farooqabad, Pakistan. “We don’t even have anything to put on the ground and sit.”
UNICEF and partners provide hygiene education and clean water in post-flood Pakistan
SINDH, Pakistan, 13 December 2011 – Tens of thousands of flood-affected children in Pakistan are being kept free of disease through the emergency provision of safe water, sanitation facilities and hygiene lessons. But a lack of funding is putting in doubt future humanitarian assistance.
UNICEF-supported sanitation and hygiene initiatives improving living conditions in Uganda
KYENJOJO, Uganda, 11 November, 2011 - Selegio Kamihanda used to worry a lot about his family getting sick from worms and diarrhoea, but all this is changing for the better, he says, as he waves to his grandchildren while standing in the morning light in his compound. Selegio, a father and grandfather, lives in the Kyangabukama village, a place set among densely planted banana trees and rolling hills in Kyenjojo District, western Uganda. The village is among 16 ‘model villages’ in the district that have implemented a community-led sanitation approach for improved hygiene and sanitary behaviours with UNICEF’s support.
Zimbabwe launches health transition fund to revitalize care for children and women
MARONDERA, Zimbabwe, 2 November 2011 — In a move to revitalise Zimbabwe’s ailing health system, the Government, in partnership with UNICEF and international donors, has launched the Health Transition Fund to reduce the country’s high maternal and child mortality rates.
Seasonal rains are a mixed blessing for parched north-eastern Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya, 26 October 2011 – The rain has begun on schedule in north-eastern Kenya, bringing the first real precipitation that many people in the semi-arid region have seen for months, if not years. But while eagerly anticipated, it’s both a blessing and a curse.
Lao lathers up for Global Handwashing Day
VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 25 October 2011 – In a crowded courtyard, rows of children lather their hands, scrubbing in unison and reciting the steps to proper handwashing. The activity, punctuated by peals of laughter, is part of a day-long event celebrating the fourth annual Global Handwashing Day.
In Ethiopia, students learn environmental responsibility through active participation
DEBRE MARKOS, Ethiopia, 13 October 2011 – According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Ethiopia and most countries in Africa suffer from several forms of environmental degradation, leading to desertification and a detrimental impact on food and agricultural productivity and production.
UNICEF and ECHO aim to prevent waterborne disease in Togo, by promoting safe hygiene practices
LOMÉ, Togo, 10 October 2011 - In October 2010, Togo experienced heavy seasonal rains which caused flooding in most parts of the country. Affecting more than 82, 000 people, the southern region of Maritime was amongst the hardest hit, as floods severely damaged agricultural land and water systems in the areas surrounding the capital city of Lomé.
‘Water is our life’ – Pastoralists adapt to village life in drought-stricken north-eastern Kenya
DADAAB, Kenya, 3 October 2011 – “The last time I saw rain was five years ago,” says Fatima Suthi, a 50-year-old mother of eight living in Labisigale village, 15 km from Dadaab town in north-eastern Kenya. Host to over 400,000 refugees from Somalia in three camps, Dadaab is now considered the most populous refugee settlement in the world.
Large scale effort underway to totally eradicate malaria in Mozambique
NHAMADZI, Mozambique, 28 September 2011 – Under the shade of a tree in deep rural Mozambique, nurse Sonia Tomocene is speaking to a small gathering about malaria prevention. Before her, pregnant women and young children sit on simple reed mats and listen to her advice attentively.
A displaced family sets up a makeshift 'home' in flood-affected southern Pakistan
BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH, Pakistan, 22 September 2011 – Lado Shero holds her 3-year-old granddaughter Shama tenderly to her body as she sits on the ground in a makeshift roadside shelter in the severely flood-affected Badin District, in southern Sindh Province.
In Pakistan, new floods leave displaced families in limbo
BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH, Pakistan, 15 September 2011 – Mubarak, 37, and his son Rajab, 10, wade through the dirty flood waters up to their waist. They are attempting to rescue something from the murky depths, but from a distance it is not clear what it is. As they get closer and the water shallower, a heavy wooden chest comes into view.
Displaced youth in South Yemen cope with the effects of war
ADEN, Yemen, 15 September 2011 - It is the fourth day of Ramadan in Aden, a port city in the south of Yemen, and the temperature has reached over 40 degrees centigrade. Although it is summer holiday, the yard of Belqis School in Aden is full of children. Some play under the sun, while others attend educational sessions in a tent organized by UNICEF. The children are from families displaced by fighting in the restive region of Abyan between government troops and militants suspected of links to al-Qaeda.
In Pakistan, monsoon floods return to new areas causing widespread devastation
BADIN DISTRICT, SINDH PROVINCE, Pakistan, 14 September 2011 - Like déjà vu, exceptionally heavy monsoon rains that caused an unprecedented disaster in Pakistan during 2010 have returned with a vengeance to hit the southernmost part of the country.
With water scarce, innovative solutions in Kenya
WAJIR, Kenya, 12 September 2011 - At the side of the road in one of the most remote parts of Wajir in north east Kenya, a flurry of activity buzzed around a covered water tank.
Emergency aid arrives as UNICEF and partners work to restore Libya’s water system
TRIPOLI, Libya, 2 September 2011 – The fighting in Libya, particularly in the past weeks, has left the capital short of water and fuel. The disruption of the water supply to Tripoli through the country’s ‘Great Man-Made River’ pipeline system has left approximately 4 million people without potable tap water.
UNICEF acts to stave off potential water crisis caused by fuel shortages in Libya
BENGHAZI, Libya, 29 August 2011 – As sporadic fighting continues across Libya, the country is facing a potentially disastrous water shortage. The crisis results mainly from disruptions of the pipeline network that serves desert areas lacking local water sources.
In Djibouti, families fleeing conflict and drought continue to struggle in camp
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti, 24 August 2011 – In what looks like a rubbish dump off of the main road southwest of the capital city Djibouti, a few hundred families have set-up makeshift tukuls and call them home. They have no water, no toilets, no electricity, and barely any hope.
Improving lives by providing access to safe water in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 23 August 2011 – For seven-year-old Babylove Milande Clement, every new day means tiring walks in the sun across her displacement camp outside of Port-au-Prince to buy safe water for her and her mother. Carefully balancing the water-filled bucket on her head so as not to spill a drop, she makes her way from a water kiosk to the tent where the two live alone.
UNICEF mounts urgent response to contain the spread of cholera in Somalia
NAIROBI, Kenya, 18 August 2011 - Foday Ali’s five-month-old baby is looking around, showing signs of life for the first time in four days since she was admitted to the Banadir Paediatric Unit in Mogadishu for severe malnutrition. She was born in an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in Mogadishu just days after her mother completed the 25 kilometre walk from her home just north of El Ma’an.
In Kenya’s refugee camps, hygiene promotion aims to prevent disease by changing behaviour
DADAAB, Kenya, 18 August 2011- It is early morning amidst the shelters of Hagadera refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya, and Mohamed Shorie, 22, is already at work promoting the benefits of hygiene. Surrounded by three families from Block B 0C, in what seems just a matter of seconds, at least 20 more people arrive, most of them women and children, curious to hear what he has to say.
New pipeline brings hope to drought-affected communities in Kenya
TURKANA DISTRICT, Kenya, 16 August 2011 - In the middle of the dry river bed, children and adults alike worked to collect water from the dirty puddle at the bottom of the pit. Taking small, quick scoops in order to avoid the grit, the group patiently gathered just enough water for drinking. Without sediment, the water looked clean, but no amount of diligence could get rid of its saltiness or the fluoride contamination which makes this water barely potable.
After the storms, the rebuilding process continues in Lao PDR
BORIKHAMXAY PROVINCE, Lao PDR, 15 August 2011 – Seven-year-old May had been asleep for hours when the floodwaters came rushing through her village in the middle of the night.
Thousands of lives at risk in Chad due to cholera epidemic
N’DJAMENA, Chad, 11 August 2011 - Cholera has resurged in Chad affecting more than 7000 people since March 2011, most of whom are the poorest and most vulnerable.
UNICEF helps to rebuild a school in a flood-ravaged village in north-west Pakistan
NOWSHERA, Pakistan, 1 August 2011 – In July 2010, when floods reached the village of Kheshgi Bala, Maryam’s school – located right next door to the Kabul River – sat directly on the front line. Normally a sleeping giant, the river swelled with the intense monsoon rains and surged onto the land, filling the school with up to three metres of water and half a metre of mud.
Communities in Mozambique lead the way to safe sanitation
DEWE, Mozambique, 19 July 2011 – Village leader Chingore Manuel Mabeto, 65, remembers the frequency with which cholera outbreaks used to strike his community’s young and elderly residents.
Field diary: Mindanao families and children endure the reality of flooding in the Philippines
COTABATO CITY, Philippines, 15 July 2011 – A number of tropical storms have hit the Philippines recently, bringing floods, flash floods and landslides to many regions. During my mission, most of central Mindanao, in the southern part of the country, was submerged.
Kaski District in western Nepal marks a milestone in sanitation
POKHARA, Nepal, 14 July 2011 – On a warm day recently in Pokhara, the hub of Kaski District in western Nepal, people from different corners of the city congregated around City Hall to celebrate Kaski becoming the country’s first open-defecation-free district.
Fighting cholera, a deadly threat to child survival in DR Congo
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 13 July 2011 – “I have never been as worried as during the past three days,” sighs Maman Vombi Sidania. After a night of continuous vomiting and diarrhoea, her granddaughter Mimi, 11, was taken to the health centre in Maluku. There, the girl was diagnosed with cholera – a potential death sentence from dehydration.
In Ethiopia, UNICEF helps meet water supply challenges in drought-hit Raya Azebo district
AZEBO, Ethiopia, 1 July 2011 – Tilalem Kiros, 13, a seventh grader in Raya Azebo district in the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia, wants to be a doctor when she grows up. But she fears her daily struggle for water will ultimately prevent her.
UNICEF child-led WASH programme reaps rewards in India as hygiene-related illnesses fall
GUNA, India, 28 June 2011 – As they dash from class to the school’s canteen for their midday meal, Mahesh Kushawaha, 13, and fellow students stop and fumble in small plastic containers. But it’s not food they seek. It’s soap.
UNICEF mobilizes Haitian ‘Rara’ for cholera prevention
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 27 June 2011 – Rara music groups from Voodoo religious communities empowered Haitians to protect themselves and their families in the ongoing fight against cholera at a recent campaign event.
UN Secretary-General launches global drive to meet sanitation targets by 2015
NEW YORK, USA, 21 June 2011 – Sanitation and access to proper toilets must be at the centre of discussions on development, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering this morning at UN Headquarters that included members of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and other dignitaries.
UNICEF provides thousands of people displaced by Sudanese fighting with life-saving services
KHARTOUM, Sudan, 15 June 2011 – Ten days after hostilities erupted in and around Kadugli, the morning routine for the small UNICEF team still in the town has begun to take on a familiar feel.
New water supply system transforms lives in Lao PDR
KEUNG VILLAGE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 9 June 2011 – It is 4 a.m. and Sinsai, 12, is beginning his day. He starts by collecting water and then helps his mother wash the dishes and clean the house.
UNICEF water and sanitation programme helps save children’s lives in conflict-affected Darfur
NORTH DARFUR, Sudan, 2 June 2011 – Amira says she is 15 years old, but she looks much older. In the last five months, her family has had to move three times because of on-going instability in North Darfur. Her mistrustful eyes hint at the hardships she has faced in her short life.
Goodwill Ambassador Xuan Bac delivers good hygiene message to children in Viet Nam
HA NOI, Viet Nam, 26 May 2011 – For many Vietnamese children, Xuan Bac, an actor and comedian, is a familiar name associated with friendliness and slapstick comedy. Recently appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), the well-known celebrity is committed to making the position part of his family and professional life.
UNICEF provides shelter and sanitation to families and children displaced by conflict in Libya
BENGHAZI, Libya, 25 May 2011 – Young boys are playing football in the yard and a group of girls are skipping to ring-a-roses in the far corner while their parents look on. A fourteen-year-old boy in a wheelchair is sitting in the shade talking to a group of friends.
UNICEF and European Union respond as climate change alters lives in Kenya and Ethiopia
NEW YORK, USA, 24 May 2011 – Climate change seems to be blighting large parts of Africa. The effects are more pronounced than in the industrialized world, and people in developing nations are less able to deal with them.
Finnish funding enables UNICEF to provide safe water to school children in Afghanistan
MAZAR, Afghanistan, 23 May 2011 – The first thing that catches your eye, as you enter Abdul Khaleq School, is the sun glinting off the galvanized metal of the new water pump and sink and the sparkling of water droplets as children drink, and wash their hands and faces.
Belgian Minister President's visit highlights 'Healthy Villages, Healthy Schools' in DR Congo
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 12 May 2011 – “Your school has become a model of a modern school, which will hopefully set an example for other students and schools in Congo,” declared Rudy Demotte, Minister President of the Walloon Government and the French Community in Belgium, speaking to residents of Mbimi village on the outskirts of DR Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
UNICEF provides vital assistance to thousands of displaced people in Côte d’Ivoire
DUÉKOUÉ, Côte d’Ivoire, 9 May 2011 – More than half a million people were forced to flee their homes during post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, which began late last year. Houses burned to the ground and villages were destroyed.
In Viet Nam, a 'total sanitation' programme makes progress in rural areas
VINH THANH, Viet Nam, 5 May 2011 – Vinh Thanh village is nestled in the rice-producing Mekong Delta region of southern Viet Nam. Residents came together one sunny morning recently to attend a very special performance organized by local health workers.
NOWSHERA, Pakistan -- "Allah was angry with us when the rain came."
Sumaira Bibi unhesitatingly leans on theology to explain what happened here on the night of July 29, when her world was drowned.
Her husband was out of town for work. The 37-year-old mother was left with her five children and sister-in-law to settle in for the night. Then the incessant rain began to swamp this city in northwestern Pakistan, about 50 miles from the Afghan border. It didn't take long for the water spilling over the doorways to send her family on a desperate bid for survival.
"After six hours, we managed to get out with many of our neighbors, wet and scared," said Bibi, who now takes refuge with her husband and children at a camp run by an Islamic charity group. "The rain still did not stop, but we followed the rest of people who had got a boat."
The sounds she remembers most were the anguished cries of frightened children, women screaming for their loved ones, and the unending rain that caused the Kabul River here to sprawl far outside its banks. She and her children made it to higher ground, but not before losing her home and her brother-in-law, who hasn't been seen since.
"The river Kabul was like a demon, swishing with so much water and overflowing the whole of Nowshera. It is something I have never seen in my life," recalled her neighbor Zunaira, 34, who was pushed out of nearby Risalpur village by the floods. "We had to put a hand on our children's eyes, as they were getting more and more scared with each moment."
The cities of Nowshera and neighboring Charsadda, in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly Northwest Frontier province), and their suburbs were the first major communities hit by the unprecedented flooding that swamped one-fifth of Pakistan and left about 7 million homeless this summer. Both women saw scores of buildings, men, women and children swept away by the floods. Though the government puts the death toll for the entire province at about 1,500, almost everyone here believes the actual number of dead is far higher.
These communities found themselves at the epicenter of an unusual weather pattern that dumped record rainfall on northwestern Pakistan and sent floodwaters surging from the north to the rest of the nation.
Residents describing the deluge say it began with a constant, pounding rain that started around July 28 and continued for a week. There were brief pauses of stifling heat and humidity, quickly followed by more rain. It went on that way for over a month. The center of Nowshera was flooded in some places up to 10 feet above street level.
Given such accounts, it's easy to see why Zunaira, Bibi and many other Pakistanis attribute their nation's worst-ever natural disaster to God's wrath. The government attributes the disaster to global warming, but there's more to the story. A ClimateWire investigation into the origins of the flood disaster uncovered evidence that points to a calamity caused by man, the cumulative effect of erratic weather forecast by climate change models, massive deforestation, and lax attention to infrastructure maintenance and engineering standards.
The story of the 2010 flooding in Pakistan is a warning to other vulnerable nations that experts believe will bear the brunt of the gradual shifts in climate and weather patterns expected over the coming decades.
But it's also a sign of how much of the developing world is willfully making itself more vulnerable to climate change, even as poor nations ask rich ones to spend hundreds of billions per year on helping them to adapt. If the industrialized world is to blame for pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, Pakistanis are also at fault for eroding their country's ability to cope with the consequences.
Final cries of the unrecorded dead
Shehryar Shah, station manager at 93.0 Radio Dilber in Charsadda, remembers the thousands of phone calls his team broadcast over the air from July 28 to alert the Pakistan Army as to where people were stranded. His news and talk station was virtually alone in covering the onset of the flooding as national media attention was fixated on a crash that same day of an Airblue passenger plane in the Margalla Hills, just north of Islamabad.
"We broadcasted these rescue cries for three days, and then we moved to the relief phase," he said.
One of his most painful memories involves a caller indicating that there were about 235 people stuck on rooftops in one part of town waiting for help, calling again and again when no one came. "After two or three hours, there was no more contact with them. Their cell phone was off," Shah said, distraught. "But the government is still insisting just 69 dead in Charsadda."
The SOS calls were interrupted occasionally only by the public service announcements Radio Dilber broadcast on behalf of the provincial disaster management authorities, alerting residents to where the river was breaching its banks and how high it had reached. He described rushing floodwaters up to 20 feet deep in some places. The storm grounded army rescue helicopters for at least two days.
"These people never expected such a huge flood in this region," Shah said. The last time his town was hit by such devastation was in 1929, but even then, the extent of flooding was much lighter, nothing like that seen this summer, he insists.
What Shah and the citizens of Nowshera and Charsadda witnessed in those days was a perfect storm event never before seen in Pakistan's history. Government officials say that from July 28 to Aug. 3, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded almost 12 feet of rainfall in one week. The province normally averages slightly above 3 feet for an entire year.
"We say that there is some part of the climate change effect there in this flooding," said Azmat Hayat Khan, a scientist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), part of his nation's Ministry of Defense. "This is an historical event."
What is also exceptional about this year's monsoon, Khan and other PMD officials say, is that it was centered so far north, and over one of Pakistan's driest regions.
The northern section of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa usually sees scattered rains during the monsoon season, but never the deluge it had this year. The inundation even spread as far north as Gilgit and Skardu in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, a mountainous region that had never seen the monsoons.
"Never before have the monsoons gone that far north," said Abdul Qadir, an environment and energy expert at the U.N. Development Programme who is now leading flood recovery efforts in Gilgit. "I think this was the first time in recorded history that there was so much rain in the high alpine areas, and that really basically created these flash floods." Flash flooding led to more deaths in the north than anywhere else.
Monsoons shift away from normal watersheds
Pakistan's monsoon rains normally emanate from moisture swept in over India from the Bay of Bengal. In typical years, the rains open up in the east, centered on Punjab province, roughly near the cities of Lahore and Faisalabad. Experts say the rains then migrate northwest, dissipating by the time they reach the capital, Islamabad, and ending in scattered rains before dying out in Afghanistan.
Isolated flooding incidents occur every year, but Punjab is normally capable of absorbing the monsoon rains. The densely populated province is home to four major rivers that eventually drain into the Indus River, the nation's largest. Punjab is also home to an intricate network of irrigation and water management systems designed for crop use, energy production and flood control.
But for the past few decades, PMD officials have noticed that the center of Pakistan's monsoon has been gradually shifting to the northwest, away from the nation's watershed in Punjab. Whereas flat Punjab is home to long, winding river systems capable of absorbing enormous quantities of water, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border generate relatively shorter and narrow rivers cascading from the mountains that cover roughly half the region.
"Over the past 25 to 30 years, there is a latitudinal redistribution," Khan explained. "Previously, in the past, our flooding was in these river systems [in Punjab], but ... the rainfall has shifted. Its main focus has changed from the eastern parts to the western parts."
PMD believes that climate change is to blame for this northwesterly migration of the monsoons.
The same trend occurred again this year, only farther northwest than ever before, to lands with few major rivers to absorb rains but plenty of vertical surface area to collect water and sweep it downstream. From Lahore and Faisalabad in the east, this year the center and start of Pakistan's monsoon season became instead Nowshera and Charsadda.
And like the fabled "perfect storm" of North Atlantic lore, those monsoon rains eventually collided into two other atmospheric anomalies happening at the same time, creating a perfect storm of their own.
As the monsoons were headed for Pakistan's northwest, from July 25 to Aug. 5 a portion of the jet stream was forced farther south than usual for this time of year by a system of blocking air that mysteriously developed over western China. This buckling of the jet stream dragged with it a wave of low pressure from the west, a system PMD calls the "westerly wave."
This westerly wave low-pressure area collects moisture from the Mediterranean Sea and is responsible for the snows that fall in the Karakoram Mountains. But it usually only comes that far south in the winter months -- in the summer, the normal pattern is for the westerly wave to track north of Afghanistan and miss Pakistan completely.
But because of the blockage of the jet stream's normal course, the westerly wave followed its winter trajectory in late July and early August instead, meeting the monsoon system at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
"Subtropical highs that normally redistribute heat in this region, they were shifted northward," said PMD scientist Muhammad Hanif, describing the system that developed over western China that disturbed the jet stream. "This type of interaction is not very usual."
A climate change-related mystery
The cause of this blocking system in western China remains a mystery. Pakistan's Ministry of Environment suspects climate change is to blame, through record high surface temperatures on land. PMD is investigating that, but is also investigating the possibility that the La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean caused the disturbance. But all agree that the excessive amount of moisture pumped into the atmosphere is a result of high water surface temperatures in the Mediterranean and Bay of Bengal.
That added fuel, and the constrained movement of air caused by the jet stream's dip created a column of rain clouds towering 40,000 feet above Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, much higher than normal monsoon storm clouds, which rarely top 10,000 feet in height. There the clouds stayed for a week, dumping up to 12 feet of excess moisture before traveling to the far west of China, inundating communities there and killing some 1,200 people in landslides.
It was a weather event that the residents of Nowshera, most now either living in camps or in the wrecked hulls of what is left of their homes, say they will never forget.
"These terrible memories will go with me to my grave," camp resident Zunaira said.
"When rain came on Thursday night, we all panicked, it was really very scary," recalled Shamsa, a 16-year-old girl put out of her home and into one of tent cities now ringing the town. "I thought we all were going to drown in floodwaters and die that night, and we had to put up staying on the rooftop of a clinic for two days. But Allah sent the Pakistan Army, who came in their rescue boats and rescued us."
And if this "superflood" event struck at the worst possible place, it also struck at the worst possible time.
Record high temperatures in Pakistan's far north were already producing higher amounts of snowmelt and glacial meltwater runoff from the Karakoram Range and into the Indus River System. Thus, the Indus and other rivers were already swollen with water in the north by the time the supercell of rains from east and west merged above them.
Rivers already filled with 'glacial bursts'
"We have been noticing these glacial bursts from the last couple of years," said Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi, Pakistan's minister for environment, in an interview. "This is not the first time, so that was in addition to the floods which happened."
The result for Pakistan's northwest was flash flooding that killed at least 1,500 people, according to government estimates; washed out numerous bridges; and destroyed a section of the fabled Karakoram Highway, cutting off half a million people from the outside world. At least 70 percent of both Nowshera and Charsadda was completely swamped, as nearby rivers and streams proved incapable of handling the water that came crashing down from the highlands.
The south of Pakistan wasn't spared.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's perfect storm was followed on its heels by a second wave of weather that dropped heavy monsoon rains over the Punjab watershed from Aug. 2 to 9, Khan said.
These storms were also strong, with Mianwali, a city at the heart of the downpour, recording 20 inches of rainfall in three days. That more normal monsoon pattern arrived just in time to catch the record volumes of rainwater streaming down the Indus river system from the heavily hit northwest.
Massive torrents of water from the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej rivers fed by these monsoon rains eventually met the Indus at Rajanpur district in southern Punjab. From there, the waters flowed south into Sindh province on their way to the ocean, spilling far beyond the Indus' banks. Floodwaters also spread west into Balochistan, causing devastation there, as well.
A disaster seen from space
This summer's catastrophe was continuously fed by rainstorms that hit the nation sporadically until around mid-September, though Pakistanis say their monsoon season typically concludes at the end of August. At its height, the floodwaters could be seen from space, with the Indus spreading more than 20 miles wide at some parts.
Every province was hit, and all told, 20 million Pakistanis are said to have been affected in some way by the flooding. About 1,800 are thought to have perished, though Pakistani aid workers and victims dispute the relatively low number, nothing that thousands are still probably missing.
The destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes has forced an estimated 8 million to sleep under tents, in makeshift shelters or out in the open. Thousands of acres of cropland has been destroyed just as planting season was to commence, and roughly 10 million head of livestock are believed to have been killed.
Both the United Nations and Pakistani government officials are convinced that climate change was the key contributing factor to the devastation. The cycle of dry spells that Pakistan has suffered for the past few years, terminated by a massive torrent, aligns almost precisely with trends predicted in the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Environment Minister Afridi says his government plans to drive that point home to other nations at climate change talks scheduled for Mexico at the end of this year.
"We are going to Cancun," Afridi said. "We are looking forward to having a forum where we can cry in front of those people and have them know what has happened with us. The world has seen it themselves."
But Afridi also acknowledges that in many ways, Pakistan set itself up for an even bigger disaster than would otherwise have transpired. Ecological degradation that he says costs his nation about $1 billion in lost wealth per day is also partly to blame.
To what extent the 2010 flood disaster was caused by climate change versus other human impacts is a subject of growing debate in Pakistan.
Next: Part two -- how ecological degradation and neglect made the disaster far worse.
Saadia Haq contributed to this report.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500