Humanitarian aid activists in Taiwan for 30-hour famine campaign

Taipei, Current and former World Vision activists arrived in Taipei Thursday to share their experiences helping refugees in Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia, describing the needs and challenges faced in the lead up to the annual 30-hour famine campaign that will be held by the charity organization's chapter in Taiwan this coming weekend.

World Vision Taiwan's 30th "30-Hour Famine Hero Rally," which carries the title "Saving the lives of children," will start at 12 p.m. Saturday in Kaohsiung with a campaign calling on the public to fast for 30 hours and make donations to help those who suffering due to lack of food and resources, or are displaced because of war or famine.

Kinan Diab, a former World Vision communications and translation officer for the humanitarian response in Syria, said that in the wake of the civil war that broke out in 2011, the country, which had a population of 18.5 million, currently has 5.7 million refugees in other countries and 6.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

To provide some idea of the international support that is needed in Syria, he shared information about the daily operations of a hospital World Vision built from scratch near northern Syria, but declined to give its location for fear of being targeted.

"This hospital has 25 incubators (for premature babies), which is a service that is very rare in northern Syria and we save about 90 lives every month," he said, adding that the hospital is the only one of its kind that also performs pediatric surgery. Nzinau Janet Abishai, a refugee-turned-activist who helps to provide access to food for IDPs in South Sudan, said the civil war that broke out in that country in 2013, two to three years after independence from Sudan, has caused a humanitarian crisis.

"The impact of the war was huge, children have lost parents, and resorted to moving to refugee camps alone, while women were raped and abused," she said.

The war caused over 2 million refugees, over 1 million IDPs and created about 9,000 child soldiers, she said.

Narges Ghafary, Communications Manager at World Vision in Afghanistan, said child marriage is a major challenge in the country, with about 1.5 million girls getting married before the age of 18.

Other abuses include 2.6 million children engaged in child labor, and 2.2 million girls not attending school, she said.

Afghanistan, which has a population of around 32.5 million, has had "over 40 years of conflict and war. In addition, the Afghan people have faced natural disasters such as drought and flood," she said.

In order to buy food, girls as young as 12 years old have been sold and married off by their families, she said.

Shambel Mohammad from Ethiopia, who works for World Vision, said the 1984-85 famine that struck the nation, in addition to civil war and political instability, resulted in an estimated 1.2 million deaths and left 2.5 million displaced, in addition to 200,000 orphans. One of the worst affected areas was Antsokia, where he was born in 1980, Mohammad said.

"People used to die every day," he said, adding "some families lost all of their children, while others lost both parents."

Over 160,000 people in the area at the time needed the help of World Vision, Mohammad said.

Through donors and the support of World Vision offices around the world, including Taiwan, children like him received clothes and education, Mohammad said, adding that he became a World Vision sponsored child in 1991 and attended a secondary school until 2001.

Today, he holds a Master of Arts and also a Bachelor of Science, Mohammad said.

World Vision, which was established in 1950, is an international organization that helps to empower people out of destitution by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice, according to its website.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel