Communities in peril lack reliable water, sanitation and electricity, basic health care and education and adequate economic opportunity. Women are particularly vulnerable, and families struggle to stay together. These are the ingredients of societal crisis that foster extremism and violence.
- 35,000 Sudanese fleeing conflict in Darfur and the south live in a mud-hut settlement, 35 kilometers from Khartoum, where the government relocated them
- 60,000 Egyptian farmers struggle to learn desert agriculture near Lake Nasser, where the government plans to move one million people from the Nile Delta
- Girls in dozens of Berber villages miss school in the face of traditional attitudes and the need to spend all day gathering wood for cooking
- Palestinian children in the northern West Bank lack adequate nutrition and schools, and single mothers have few job opportunities
- 46 villages in the Tarabe Korombana region of Mali''s Inland Niger Delta face the failure of traditional millet and rice cultivation as the desert encroaches and they exhaust available wood and water supplies
NEF''s hundred-plus staff-- who come from the countries where they work -- guide communities through stages of identifying problems; recognizing the value of collaborative problem solving; and forming civil society organizations in response. For people often isolated and intimidated by their conditions, traversing these stages requires gaining confidence in NEF, themselves and their newly-formed organizations. As these associations, councils and committees find and apply solutions to their communities'' problems, they gain the competence to continue these homegrown efforts as self-sustaining activities and enterprises.
- NEF built and operates a clinic providing the only health care in Dar es-Salaam ar-Rabwa, the Sudanese refugee settlement, where NEF also supports community schools, water projects and micro-credit.
- NEF operates a pilot agricultural extension project in three villages near Lake Nasser and plans to establish the area''s first health clinic.
- NEF has fostered the establishment of parent-teacher councils that have increased female attendance at school to 100%, up from an average of 10%, and have launched micro-businesses to fund improvement of school facilities in twenty-one Berber villages.
- NEF has organized women''s centers in and around Nablus to prepare meals for 10,000 children in kindergartens; this year, NEF plans on feeding 30,000 kindergarteners and has begun to renovate some of the kindergartens.
- NEF has introduced irrigated rice farming and women-run village gardens and led efforts to restore water and plant life to marshes and lakes and protect and manage date and eucalyptus groves in dozens of villages in Mali''s Inland Niger Delta.
NEF''s intervention comes when communities are poised between survival and sustained development, when they are settled, but are not stable. Emergency relief is not needed, yet social investment is not feasible. This is a crucial opportunity for communities to organize themselves to meet their basic needs and begin developing economic activities. Freed from the vagaries of nature or the risk of conflict, people need not become dependent on aid. Through civil society organizations, communities gain the ability and confidence to manage their own lives and seek public services from government through the political process. They thus join society at large and the world community.
NEF operates in Egypt, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Palestine and Sudan. Offices in these countries accommodate a staff of approximately forty professionals and sixty others. NEF''s New York staff of six professionals supports them with administration and program management.
NEF, an international non-governmental organization, had its origins in emergency relief for Armenians seeking refuge from the Ottoman Empire. It established and operated orphanages, hospitals and schools throughout the Balkans, Caucasus and Near East that served refugees after World War I and then World War II. As it evolved into a grassroots economic development agency, it presaged President Truman''s Point Four Program and later the Peace Corps. Then, as now, NEF relied on the philanthropy of individuals and foundations, as well as governments.