From the field

Jan 15, 2014

Jan Helping refugees stay warm this winter

15
2014

If there’s one thing that makes winter weather feel even worse, it’s not being properly dressed for the cold. Without our usual winter layers, it’s easy to imagine that we would feel the chill and wind much more acutely. 

Right now, staying warm is essential in in Ireland where we are feeling the grips of January frost and where sub-freezing temperatures are becoming normal. It’s also essential in Lebanon, where nearly one million refugees from the conflict in Syria are facing cold temperatures, rain and even snowstorms. Families are shivering through the winter in tents, unheated shelters, and other tough living conditions. Many fled their homes with little or no possessions, and now lack the means to buy warm clothes to bundle up against the chill.

“The clothes in Lebanon are so expensive I can’t afford to buy them for my children,” said Kawser Silka, 23, whose family of five people shares a single 10-by-13-foot room in a building inhabited by 12 other refugee families. This living situation has become a problem in winter, she explained: “It’s too cold. We don’t have stoves or any heaters and the windows are not fixed.”

Clockwise from top: Leila Silka, 5, holds a bag of winter clothes that were just purchased by her mother, Kawser, with a €30 voucher provided by Oxfam and a local partner organization. Kawser Silka, 23, a mother of three from near Idlib in Syria, holds her son Abdul Brahim, 2. Khaldiyeh Sika, 37, from near Idlib in Syria, looks for clothes for her five children which she will pay for with a €30 voucher supplied by Oxfam, with the assistance of partner agency JAK, in Qalamoun, north Lebanon, on December 26, 2013. Photos: Sam Tarling/Oxfam 

To help some of the most vulnerable families in Lebanon survive the cold, Oxfam is distributing cash and vouchers to 11,900 refugees so they can buy plastic sheeting, heating stoves, fuel, blankets, and warm clothing. The support will benefit about 59,500 people.

Among them are families in Qalamoun, north Lebanon, including Silka’s, who in late December received €30 vouchers from Oxfam’s local partner organization JAK. Families used the vouchers to buy coats, sweaters, and more to help their children stay warm in the winter months. Silka said this is the first time she has been able to give her three children new clothes since they came to Lebanon a year ago.

Giving people vouchers that they can spend themselves, rather than handing out clothes, empowers families to make their own choices about what to buy—a privilege that many of us sometimes take for granted. Enaam Yousef, 40, told Oxfam that it had been a welcome change to be able to choose the clothes she wanted for once, instead of hoping that relatives in Syria could buy clothes and send them to her.

“I’m a widow of 14 years and my daughter is too young to work,” said Yousef. “If nobody helped me, who could support this family? No one.”

Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, delivering life-saving essentials, and we’re making great progress thanks to our supporters. Overall, we’re helping a half-million people affected by the Syria crisis across Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Join us today.

Jan 2, 2014

Jan Families living in fear in South Sudan

2
2014

The situation in South Sudan is rapidly deteriorating and we are deeply concerned about the impact the fighting there is having on thousands of ordinary families.

In a conflict that has already claimed at least 1,000 lives, human rights violations including extreme acts of violence have left people in fear. The fighting has seen almost 200,000 people flee their homes and many are living in dire conditions, including being forced to go hungry or drink dirty water.

Above: Will Juma's family arrived in Jamam camp in South Sudan after fleeing conflict in their village in Sudan in 2012. When this picture was taken, he said: “We are relying for everything on this tree. We sleep here underneath it – there is nowhere else to shelter. And there is nothing except its leaves for us to eat. Food is our biggest concern here.” In 2014, thousands of families in South Sudan are facing a similar situation as the latest wave of violence forces people to leave their homes. Alun McDonald/Oxfam

On the ground

Oxfam has been working in the Southern Sudan region for 30 years and we are on the ground helping to provide desperately needed food, clean water and sanitation to those most in need.

One such area is the Awerial refugee camp on the banks of the Nile which is now home to 75,000 displaced people. Our rapid response team is there to support in the delivery of clean water, construction of latrines and public health work.

Peace solution urgently needed

The bloodshed and misery must stop. As peace talks begin in Ethiopia, political leaders taking part must urgently agree to halt the violence and work actively towards resolution of the crisis.

Oxfam strongly condemns the use of violent force against civilians and requests all parties to the conflict to respect the human rights of all its people regardless of their political or ethnic identity.

Oxfam in South Sudan

Oxfam has been working in Southern Sudan since 1983, providing humanitarian aid to victims of conflict, drought and floods, as well as long-term development assistance to some of the most vulnerable Sudanese communities, both in Darfur and South Sudan.

In the past year, we helped 172,000 vulnerable refugees who fled from Sudan to South Sudan with emergency relief and long-term development aid. Our work in the region has been a balance between humanitarian response as the priority focus in some areas, and where there is greater stability we help people to grow food and develop livelihoods.

We work through local partners and civil society organisations including women's groups.

A difficult place to live

South Sudan, which became an independent state on 9 July 2011, remains one of the poorest and least developed regions of the world, and most communities still have little access to basic services. It is increasingly reliant on emergency aid.

The country needs urgent support to respond to the humanitarian crisis now and be able to provide enough food, water and essential services to its people over the coming years.

You can help

Please donate here, call 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or go to your local Oxfam shop.

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Dec 5, 2013

Dec On the ground in the Philippines

5
2013

Those left homeless by the devastating super typhoon Haiyan are being empowered to choose the best type of assistance for their families. 

Filipino communities are working with Oxfam to carry out vital repair work to their homes. Oxfam is helping the communities to feed their families and purchase essential items, enabling the individuals to focus on rebuilding their lives.

Oxfam humanitarian manager Colm Byrne (pictured below right) is on the ground in Brgy Baigad on the island of Bantayan where he can see first-hand how this approach is transforming communities.

Colm said: “What is different about this form of response is it gives people a choice to determine what sort of assistance they need because every family, every individual, has different needs and priorities. If we treat everyone as a homogenous group then everybody would get the same form of assistance. But the assistance Oxfam is providing recognises everyone’s needs are different – just the same as families in Ireland."

Photos: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland

Above right:

  1. Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne with hygiene kits, water tanks and water bladders, just some of the ways Oxfam is supporting hard-hit families on Bantayan Island.
  2. Jonalyn Batayola (25) with her two daughters and niece. She will use the voucher she received to buy nails and wood to rebuild her house.
  3. Clearing the debris in Brgy Baigan on Bantayan island.

Above left:

  1. Young children play amidst the debris in the village of Brgy Baigad.
  2. School children at Mojon Elementary School on Bantayan Island.
  3. Family members stand outside their damaged home on the island of Bantayan.
  4. Community members in Brgy Baigad clear debris.

Latest figures show 5,680 people were killed when Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – swept through the Philippines on November 8. More than 11 million people were affected with around four million of these losing their homes.

Nov 20, 2013

Nov Christmas gifts that will help change lives

20
2013

Here at Oxfam Ireland, we are already getting excited for Christmas. It’s the time of year when we unveil our latest Oxfam Unwrapped gift range, and show off our great Christmas gifts!  

We have 14 unique gift ideas that will help you get Christmas "in the bag" early this year! The new  Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue is bursting with fantastic gifts like our cute goats, cheerful chicks or knowledge-filled school books.

Unwrapped gifts help change lives. Take our bestselling Clutch of Chicks.  No-one expects to buy a little chick and help local families in Tanzania to feed, thrive and survive. But that’s what makes our unwrapped gifts so special!

Clockwise from top: The gift of a Clutch of Chicks will help people like Liku Simon (36), Maheda Gwisu (42) and their children who live in the Maswa district in Tanzania.After joining an Oxfam-supported project, they learnt about good farming practices including disease control. The family have now managed to increase their number of chickens from five to 70 and have also expanded their crops and livestock, allowing them to diversify the family’s source of income. Photo: Oxfam The gift of Care for a Baby will help families like Adoaga Ousmane and her children. A widow aged 45, the mum of six (pictured) was caught up in the West Africa food crisis that struck Chad in 2012. providing what’s needed most in emergency situations around the world, including water, sanitation, shelter and food. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam The gift of Support for a Woman in Business you could help women like Godelive Nyirabakobwa (58) and 800 others like her in Rwanda who have set themselves up as successful pineapple sucker growers and sellers thanks to an Oxfam-supported project. Photo: Simon Rawles/Oxfam

You see, giving your  loved one the Clutch of chicks gift will help raise money for Oxfam’s Livelihoods fund. This fund supports a wide range of life-changing programmes that help vulnerable communities who depend on healthy animals for their livelihoods.

Your gift could help families like Liku Simon (36) and Maheda Gwisu (42) in Tanzania who can make a living and support their children thanks to the Unwrapped appeal. Liku and Maheda rely on chicken farming for their livelihood and often lost some of their flock to various diseases. 

After joining an Oxfam-supported project, they learnt about good farming practices including disease control. The family have now managed to increase their number of chickens from five to 70 and have also expanded their crops and livestock, allowing them to diversify the family’s source of income.

So now we’re asking you to consider us again this Christmas, to unlock the potential of little chicks or any of our other Oxfam Unwrapped gifts and help a family like Liku’s and Maheda’s thrive. Whatever gift you choose, we guarantee you'll be making your friends and family smile and giving people across the world a happier, brighter future.

Nov 15, 2013

Nov Aid now getting through in the Philippines but challenges remain

15
2013

I am this morning in Cebu City, readying to move out mid-morning with an aid distribution of hygiene kits (toothbrushes, soap, blankets) and water kits (storage containers, water treatment solution) to Daanbantayan, northern Cebu. 

Even though access is now improving, health concerns continue to increase, with urgent need for safe drinking water and medical assistance, especially in Leyte and Samar.

 

Our teams have returned from four days of assessment and say that what they have seen is deeply troubling. Two teams are left there as the chopper could not land due to the torrential rains. Their food rations are short but they are fortunate to have the option of leaving soon. 

Clockwise from top: Life-saving aid being loaded onto lorries from Oxfam's distribution centre. These hygiene kits include items such as toothbrushes, blankets, underwear and soap. The Oxfam bucket has been used in our emergency response around the world. It has a built-in cap and spigot (part of the tap) to keep water clean. These amazing 'life saver' boxes are a new addition to Oxfam's emergency kit. When the handle is pumped, the built-in filter turns dirty water into water that is safe to drink.

People are lined up in Tacloban we are told, waiting for emergency food distribution, in the torrential rains. There are reports of security problems and looting, but also that people are ‘getting stuff because they need it – they are sharing stuff around.’ 

As the days grow and basic requirements are held up, inevitably and understandably people’s capacity to cope will erode. Clean water, food and shelter – the absolute basics are critical.

Above: Oxfam Eastern Samar Rapid Assessment Team covering the areas of Barangay Batang for emergency drinking water distribution and an assessment of Guiuan Poblacion. Photos: Jire Carreon

There are always stories that are heartening and give you hope out of this horror. Oxfam is bringing in many items of aid, including hygiene kits, water kits, clean up tools and other things. 

Local people active in relief efforts

Cebu resident Mani Osmena and her family have donated their Cebu warehouse to Oxfam to help get aid speedily dispatched to typhoon-affected areas.

She said: “Everybody needs help, and this is the least we could do. Why does a charity need to pay [for warehouse space] when they are only giving to help the needy?”

Her family is also identifying volunteers to go out with the workers to help with the disbursement of emergency hygiene kits. 

They are keen to help with logistics where they can. The aid community is in town, but we should not forget the strong civil society groups and the many amazing people directly and indirectly affected themselves who also are rising to the challenge of this disaster.

You can help by donating here, calling 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or making a donation at your local Oxfam shop.

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