What disaster? 4 global crises that deserve more attention...

Today is a day of observance mostly unknown to people outside of the international relief and development world -- the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

But with the American media largely preoccupied with the goings-on of our dysfunctional political environment, I’m taking the opportunity to commemorate this day you’ve likely never heard of by talking about four disasters you’ve probably not heard too much about.

These disasters impact vulnerable children and families, and they deserve more attention.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa

Dek and his family wait to be registered at Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya. ©2011 Jon Warren/World Vision

What’s going on: Five countries -- Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania and Djibouti -- have been severely impacted by drought and famine, causing major population displacement as people escape areas affected by food shortages and famine.

Scale of disaster: Needs and stats vary by country, but some 13 million people face food insecurity as of September. In Somalia alone, the United Nations reports that there are 450,000 malnourished children -- 190,000 of whom are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

How it got this bad: Consecutive failed rains, inflated food prices, reduced crop yield, and eroded coping mechanisms all contribute to the current devastating state of food insecurity.

What World Vision is doing: World Vision is implementing life-saving interventions for 2.5 million children and families across four countries, in the areas of food security; nutrition; water, sanitation, and hygiene; livelihood recovery; and child protection.

Read more posts about the East Africa food crisis. Donate to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund.

Typhoons in the Philippines

Families line up in the floodwater at a World Vision food and water distribution just one week after Typhoon Nesat and Nalgae. ©2011 Crislyn Joy A. Felisilda/World Vision

What’s going on: Back-to-back typhoons Nesat and Nalgae significantly impacted multiple regions of Luzon Island, including the metropolitan area surrounding Manila, the capital city of the Philippines.

Scale of disaster: Some 3 million people are affected, with a death toll of at least 100.

What World Vision is doing: World Vision will implement a six-month emergency response plan, responding to at least seven towns in Isabela and 32,000 families in the impacted areas of Bulacan and Zambales with relief goods and psychosocial support for children.

Read more about our response to the typhoons in the Philippines. Donate to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund.

Severe flooding in Cambodia

What’s going on: Widespread, severe flooding has hit areas throughout the country -- the result of typhoons and higher than expected rainfall.

Scale of disaster: More than 200,000 households have been affected; the known death toll at this time is 172 (52 of whom are children). Additionally, 17 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces are impacted, with more than 300 schools closed.

What World Vision is doing: World Vision is carrying out assessments to determine the immediate needs of children and families in our development program areas, which have been severely affected.

Donate to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund to support our relief efforts in disasters like this one.

Monsoon rains in Thailand

What’s going on: Severe flooding following torrential monsoon rains has caused the worst flooding Thailand has seen in 50 years. Cities and industrial zones are under water, massive areas of rice fields are flooded, and the government is struggling to manage the flow of millions of cubic meters of water headed south toward Bangkok, the capital city. It's estimated that the flooding will have a $3.4 billion impact on the economy.

Scale of disaster: The government of Thailand has declared disaster areas in 30 of Thailand’s 76 provinces; the death toll is currently uncertain.

What World Vision is doing: World Vision will support families in the rehabilitation process in at least four area development programs and in areas where needs are most pressing. Our team aims to reach 9,000 people.

Donate to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund to support our relief efforts in disasters like this one.

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When disasters like these strike, families living in poverty are often hit first and hardest -- and they have the fewest resources available to cope and recover. In a time when economic uncertainty affects so many American families, it is also good to remember others in the world whose hardships are life-threatening. Today offers an opportunity to reflect on how we can help reduce the impact of disasters on vulnerable families everywhere.

What other global disasters or crises deserve more public attention? Why? How can we build more awareness around them and inspire more action?

Elizabeth Ranade-Janis is a program officer with World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs team. Based in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth has degrees in international studies from Ohio State University and a master's degree in public policy & international development from Georgetown University.


    Ms. Ranade-Janis: I did not think you were slamming America at all - rather, you rightly point out that our media is the culprit. We can only learn about what we read or see, and if the media is slanted toward certain stories about our government, then we will have to dig deeper to find other news. Thanks for your blog so that we have other options!

    I have no words to say...I am absolutely left speechless and heart broken. I long to be there, to take in helpless people who have no hope left, but I cannot be there. I long to give money, but I,too am living on low income. I stand in awe of how selfish the rich can be, and how people can just turn their heads away from it all and going on living life as if there is nothing wrong in the world. My heart pounds in pain for the suffering, and the Holy Spirit hears my anguish that I cannot speak. He will speak to Jesus for me on their behalf, and He will know just how to pray. I shall sit in silence now with our precious Lord and Savior......

    i am a sponsor & supporter of world vision. the unnecessary slam toward america in ur article changed the focus from the cause to defensiveness & indignation on the part of some of ur readers. in the future please stay focused on furthering the cause rather than alienating people who could contribute help. thank you

    I agree with your remark about the slam on America...that bothered me also. Why not China, Japan, France, Germany, etc... None of this really matters. What does matter however, is the fact that there are people, children, and infants who are dying because of lack of food and clean water, no medical assistance, AIDS, HIV,etc. We all need to be united on this situation and help everyone everywhere since there is poverty that is rampant even in America. Thanks so much Stacy, Tracey Nichols

    Hi Stacy and Tracey,

    Thank you so much for your faithful support of your sponsored children- because of the generosity of donors like you, we are able to help vulnerable children throughout the world. And please know that my post was in no way meant as a “slam” to America. Having spent considerable time in difficult places in the world, I agree that is it an incredible privilege to be an American. However, the news in the past few months has been dominated by coverage of the political gridlock in Washington over the debt crisis, presidential debates, etc. These are important issues to be certain, but my intent was to convey that as a result, little media attention has been devoted to other global issues of note. Like you, I believe Americans are generous and do care about these global crises, which is why I believe these disasters should be getting more media coverage. Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment!

    I pray The Almighty Jesus send his angles and Holy Spirit to reduce the adverse effects of these calamities to these people and fulfill their needs abandonly.

    I don't view the words regarding the American media as a slam; rather, I think it's a fairly objective assessment that attempts to provide a reason for why we are largely unaware that these events are even occurring.

    This article appears to be addressed to Americans, by an American. If it was being addressed to or by someone from another country and the "American media" comment was made, I would have a different understanding of their intent (though I suppose they could have said "our media").

    I believe that what was said was a fairly important thing to state. Our reality is entirely based on our perceptions, and much of what we base our perceptions on is media input. And right now (in particular), it's very easy to establish the nature of what exists and is important in our reality as politics and Lady Gaga--simply by nature of what's getting the most airtime in many mainstream media channels.

    What I think we (or at least I) can take away here is that we need to be more proactive about what we include in the media channels that we follow. Everyone (myself very much included) gets stuck in a rut as far as what we go to for information. This has inspired me to take a look around and see what else is out there beyond what is usually in my scope of vision.

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