This afternoon I Googled images of the 2011 floods in Queensland. I was living in Hong Kong at the time but many Australian readers will vividly remember the hardship endured by those who were uprooted from homes and lost their businesses. I lived in Oregon in 1997 when similar flooding happened in the Willamette Valley.
In Nepal, floods are often a reality multiple times per year. Resident live in houses of mud and straw situated between two rivers. They are unable to relocate because they must live close to the land they are tending. Floods worsen in the valleys as the glaciers in the mountains melt at ever-increasing rates and trees are cut to make room for more cultivation. A woman of 108 years told us that her village has relocated six times in her lifetime. She remembers the land as dense forest with wild elephants, monkeys, and tigers.
Continual flooding and other natural disasters such as earthquakes contribute the cycle of poverty.
“We don’t sleep for three months,” one man told us. “When the rains begin, we must stay awake so that we can get the elderly, the lactating mothers, and the children to a safe place.”
During the rainy season, pregnant women in need of medical care will brave their way across flooded rivers. Many die.
While waters are high, children are unable to go to get to school. They often miss five consecutive months of school, losing much of their previous learning.
In villages of semi-bonded labourers, villagers are paid little money and are instead paid in food rations. Regardless of natural disasters, landowners require a certain level of production. If those production levels are not met, workers are not given enough food to sustain their families…and the bondage of poverty continues.
Disaster Relief is only the Beginning
How can a community break out of this cycle of poverty? A number of things need to happen over a two- to three-year period:
- means of transportation to come and go from the community, even during times of flood, especially for medical needs and schooling
- early warning systems put in place
- community coalitions are formed with plans and procedures during the rainy season
- infrastructure or temporary shelters for the elderly, pregnant/lactating women, and children.
- systems of advocacy for better wages
Villages in Transition
We visited villages that have gone from the hopeless cycle of poverty to self-sufficiency.
Early warning systems were put into place so that, when water reached a certain level, the community put their emergency plan into action.
Sandbags were provided and the community learned to reinforce river banks with bamboo. This community also received small rowboats so that they could get community members and supplies to and from flooded areas, should necessities arise.
Again, the people of Nepal listed their needs and put the solutions into place. Lutheran World Federation simply provided the materials and education they needed to get started.
Should you have a passion for helping people end the cycle of poverty, you can earmark funds toward that effort. Tax deductable donations can be made online or sent to
Australia Lutheran World Service
PO Box 488
Albury NSW 2640
Classrooms might want to purchase specific items like goat, piglet, pushcarts, or more (all who receive the gifts are educated to use them as part of their sustainability empowerment). They can do that by making a Gift of Grace.
They also currently have a way to give for emergency relief efforts in the fight against Ebola. You can donate online.