Diana Shaw

Diana writes on Asia, the Middle East and all things Red Cross.

Posts by Diana Shaw:

From garden to plate in Nepal



Kanchhi Laamichhane holds a bowl of corn kernals in front of her home

Who doesn’t like the idea of growing fresh and nourishing vegetables, then cooking a delicious dinner?

But this takes on a new meaning in Nepal, which only last year was struck by two enormous earthquakes.

Thousands of people died and many others lost their food, crops, farm equipment and homes.

Since then, the Red Cross has given 3,000 farming families grants to replace the seeds and tools they need.


Mongolia: when your animals are your life

Baynakhand holds a young goat inside her ger


How would you feel about keeping a goat or two in your living room? Every night, Bayankhand Myagmar shares her one-room home with her husband, son, daughter, and some cold and hungry goats.

This traditional herder family is caught up in Mongolia’s dzud – a hot, dry summer followed by an extremely cold winter. Temperatures can fall as low as -60C at night.

First, the summer drought means there is not enough grass and hay stocks are low. The animals get weak from hunger and the bitterly cold winter finishes them off.


Nepal floods: mothers with a mission

Photograph of Padma, leader of the flood committee in her village in Nepal


Padma could have kept quiet. Many women in her small community in Nepal do.

Fair enough – they are usually working very hard. Their husbands mostly live abroad to earn extra money so they have sole responsibility for their children, livestock and homes.

Many also work on tea plantations, earning as little as £1.20 a day for their labour – less than the cost of a mother’s day card in the UK.

Padma makes ends meet for herself, her son and daughter by raising two goats, two cows and seven chickens on a small piece of land.

But she spoke up because, on top of all of this, her home and land are threatened by regular flooding. So are most houses in her village, which lies in a flood plain near the Mechi River in Nepal’s Terai region.


Volunteering in Syria, for worse and for better

Children and SARC volunteers sit in a circle and play with Lego in Homs, Syria

A children’s centre in  Syria – © Syrian Arab Red Crescent

Excited young faces look round a stack of brightly coloured Lego. Who can build the tallest tower? Whose will be the most colourful?

You can see similar scenes anywhere in the world, but these children are in Homs, a key battleground in the Syrian conflict.

Playing with toys like Lego and talking to the children is just one of the ways the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) – a partner to the British Red Cross – gives emotional and psychological support to children living through the war.

It brings some fun and a brief respite to children who have already seen more than most.


In Mongolia, beware of the dzud

Oyunbatt stands outside a snow-covered log house

Oyunbatt outside his home

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a rather dramatic weather event.

People in Mongolia are used to harsh winters. But this year the winter is even worse than usual: the country is in the grip of a ‘dzud’ (pronounced zood) – a hot, dry summer followed by a freezing, windy and snowy winter.

Temperatures average lower than -40° Celsius at night. Can you imagine?


Nepal: Keeping warm and supporting choice this winter

A Red Cross worker checks details written on an envelope while watched by a man and woman who will received it

People receiving their cash support from the Red Cross ©British Red Cross/Mark South

Just before Christmas, an orderly queue stretched for hundreds of feet from desks where men and women sat with paper, pens and envelopes of full of cash.

But this was not a holiday celebration: it was a Red Cross support programme for 17,000 families affected by earthquakes in Nepal’s Kathmandu valley. The worst in 80 years, the quakes destroyed over half a million homes last April and May.

Nepal’s destroyed houses typically had thick walls to withstand the winter weather and many people no longer have this protection. With political issues also leading to a steady rise in the price of heating fuel, keeping warm has become a challenge.


Supporting displaced people through Iraq’s harsh winter

Iraqi family sitting in a makeshift tent

Millions of Iraqis are living in difficult conditions after fleeing their homes ©ICRC

Imagine the population of Birmingham – around one million people – having to flee their homes and live in tents, abandoned buildings or temporary shelters. Now imagine this happening at the same time in Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield.

This is the reality in Iraq right now. There are over three million displaced people in Iraq ­– families who have been forced to move to other parts of the country to escape intense fighting.


When Facebook saved lives in Nepal

Men use ropes to move boulders in a destroyed building

5.6 million people were affected by the Nepal earthquake © Palani Mohan/IFRC

This is a guest post by Ruth Newman, Nepal programme officer for the British Red Cross

When the massive earthquake struck Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley last April, I was about to board a plane on the other side of the country. Not knowing about the quake, I landed in Kathmandu less than two hours later surrounded by panic and devastation – buildings had crumbled, people were trapped, and electricity supplies and mobile phone networks were down.

But there was a wifi connection so I quickly logged onto Facebook on my phone to tell family and friends that I was OK.