From the field

Nov 10, 2013

Nov Bring hope amid utter destruction in the Philippines

10
2013
“Help. We need water, food and medicines.” 
 
The sight of desperate children holding up these signs is just one of many heartbreaking scenes our teams are witnessing in the Philippines as they assess the damage wreaked by super typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda.

 

Clockwise from top: A Filipino boy scales a brakewater at a coastal village in Las Pinas city, south of Manila, Philippines, which has been struck by one of the strongest storms on record. Photo: EPA/Francis R. Malasig. A Filipino resident carries a baby as they cross a river. People who rely on fishing for their livelihoods have seen their boats and tackle destroyed. Photo: EPA/Francis R. Malasig. In Cebu, 98 per cent of houses and buildings have been damaged, including a building being used as an evacuation centre. Families sleep on the floor as they seek refuge inside a gymnasium turned into an evacuation centre in Sorsogon City, Bicol region, Philippines. Photo: EPA/Kit Recebido. 
 

With their crops wiped out, fishing boats ruined and homes destroyed, it is the poorest that have been hardest hit by this violent and deadly storm.

Making sure people have clean water, safe sanitation and a roof over their heads is our immediate priority.

My colleague Tata Abella-Bolo, a member of Oxfam’s emergency team on the ground in the Cebu area where these children were seen begging for help, tells us: “The scene is one of utter devastation. There is no electricity in the entire area and no water. Local emergency food stocks have been distributed but stocks are dwindling. The immediate need is water, both for drinking and for cleaning.”

Oxfam has been working in the Philippines for many years. This super typhoon has affected 4 million people and comes on the heels of a deadly earthquake and a storm last month that wiped out rice harvests in what is the world’s third highest disaster risk country.

There is a strong connection between the Philippines and the island of Ireland, where Philipinos are an integral part of our local communities. We urgently need your help to bring life-saving emergency aid to those worst affected by Haiyan.

Please give what you can today. 

Jim Clarken is Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland.

Oct 29, 2013

Oct Technology changes everything

29
2013

This week, the Web Summit takes place in Dublin with some of the world’s most innovative start-ups and technology companies touching down in Ireland for the event. 

Founders from Dropbox, Evernote, Hootsuite and Wordpress will join the extensive line-up to explore one idea - technology is changing everything. And faster than at any other point in modern history.

This got us thinking, and we’d like to share some great examples of Oxfam's use of technology in its work to end poverty and injustice. 

Cambodia

Our innovative Pink Phones project gives mobile phones to women like Vansy (pictured) living in rural areas which they use to get the latest farming information, such as market prices for their crops and weather patterns, helping to plan the best time to harvest. Having access to this technology has transformed their lives, enabling them to sell more vegetables and build a sustainable livelihood. Simon Rawles/Oxfam

Haiti

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the country in 2010, Natasha Mytal (pictured) was one of more than 4,000 people who received a cash transfer from Oxfam via her mobile phone in the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake. “The money has really helped me to do a lot,” she says. “I’ve been able to buy oil and other food for the children and other food that I can sell in the street to earn some money.” Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Ireland

We’re always looking at new ways to raise vital funds for our programmes around the world and earlier this year we launched the Born Again range of refurbished computers online and in many of our shops, with the help of Cathy Hacket (5), Ella Sharkey (5) and Chloe Sharkey (8). It’s the green way to get digital! Each one has been restored, tested and supplied with a fresh operating system. Prices start at just €120 / £99 for a desktop and €180 / £150 for a laptop. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Hacking for Good

We're delighted to say that Oxfam will be taking part in the Web Summit Hackathon - where over 150 of the world's leading engineers, designers, product builders and entrepreneurs will apply their technological expertise to solve humanitarian, disaster relief, environmental and hunger-related problems.  

So play your part and use technology to change the world. Start by sharing this post on social media!

Keith McManus is Oxfam Ireland’s Digital Communications Manager.

Oct 17, 2013

Oct What families around the world will eat in one week

17
2013

‘Where do you do your shopping? How much are you paying for groceries? Do you shop around?’

As the recession continues to bite, the food we eat, where we buy it and how much for seem to be fast replacing the weather as the most popular topic of conversation.

Shiny supermarkets leaflets showcasing ‘2 for 1’ deals falling out of every newspaper, the rise in the number of people splitting their weekly shop in multiple supermarkets to maximise these special offers, the growth in growing vegetables at home  and the popularity of blogs such as CheapEats.ie (tagline: ‘tough times, great food’) and activist Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack (documenting the challenges of feeding herself and her three-year-old son on a weekly budget of just £10/€11.70) prove as much.

In a world where there is enough for everyone to eat, 870 million of us go to bed hungry every night. It’s a place where food banks are springing up at home but where food waste is still startlingly high (a third of food bought in Ireland ends up the bin, costing the average household up to €1,000/£850 a year).

Here we visit families from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe to see what they will eat in one week:

AZERBAIJAN

Mirza (47) and Zarkhara (37) Bakhishov and sons Khasay (18) and Elchin (15) with a week's worth of food outside their home in Shahveller village. Mirza says: “Our small cattle and poultry is everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them. The main problems for us are related to agricultural water and irrigation of our crops. We used to have problems obtaining animal feed, but now thanks to Oxfam and [partner organisation] Aktivta, our problem is solved.” David Levene/Oxfam

ETHIOPIA

Bayush photographed with her daughter Genet (14) and son Destaw (11) and week's supply of food outside their home in the village of Amba Sebat. The food includes vegetable oil, maize, sugar and shiro (chickpea flour). They live in a small thatched hut without running water or electricity. Bayush is part of a cooperative of 31 women who collectively own land on which they farm vegetables. Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

LIBERIA

Blagnon Gnepa Herve (43) and Elise Gnamlin Boe (41) and children – (left to right) Ezechiel (21), Ange (18), Isaac (13), Jonathan (15), Moise (6) and Paul (3) – with their food rations. They’re standing outside their tent in a temporary refugee camp for people fleeing violence across the border in the Ivory Coast.

PAKISTAN

Husna La Shari, her husband and seven children live in the village of Khawand Bax La Shari. Husna is responsible for providing for her entire family as her husband is too old to work. Floods destroyed the fields she relied on for farming and harvesting. “It was difficult for me before the flood and now it is more difficult for me as there is no farming or harvesting… I am scared for how I will feed my children," she says. Timothy Allen/Oxfam

SRI LANKA

The Kumarapar family – (left to right) Thangalatchmy (44). Saratha (34), Surkitha (30) and Selvern (70) – outside their house in the village of Muruganwr with a week’s supply of food. They have thampala (a green leafy vegetable), tomatoes, potatoes, onion, chilli, spinach, leeks, cabbage, pumpkin, rice, flour and chicken. Their village is located on the border of what used to be a conflict zone. They have seen their neighbours’ homes set alight and at one point the conflict became so bad they were forced to leave and live in a refugee camp. In 2009 the conflict ended and now the family are rebuilding their lives. Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

TAJIKISTAN

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba (centre) and her family – (left to right) Siyoushi (11), niece Gulnoya Shdova (14), Jomakhon (6), Shodmon (9) and Jamila (13) – with a week’s total food supply in Kaftakharna village. Like many women in rural areas, her husband has migrated to Russia to find work, as there is not enough work for them in Tajikistan to feed their families. Andy Hall/Oxfam

ZIMBABWE

Three generations of the extended Mudzingwa family outside their home in Gutu District with their typical supply of food for a week – a bucket of ground nuts waiting to be shelled by hand and a bucket of maize flour that's turned into a porridge-style paste for every meal. They have been given a plot of land in an Oxfam-supported project and had just planted their first crop when this photograph was taken. Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

We are helping to ensure people have enough to eat in three ways: by providing emergency food supplies in humanitarian disasters, through long-term development projects that develop sustainable farming methods and with our campaigning that gives a voice to the vulnerable, such as the women farmers who feed their communities and those who provide the raw ingredients for some of the world’s biggest brands.

But we couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you.

Sep 23, 2013

Sep Afghan women at risk while police force remains 99 per cent male

23
2013

Only 1 per cent of the Afghan National Police is female. More women are urgently needed in the Afghan police force in order to reduce violence against women and ensure the safety of all Afghans.

Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, and as we near the end of a war which was supposed to liberate them, Afghan women are still not safe in their homes or their country.

Abused, harassed, discriminated against, raped, forced into marriage and jailed for so called “moral crimes” such as running away or sex outside marriage, women in Afghanistan need protection more than ever before. 

Afghan women police

Top: Director Mary Akrimi, a well-known women’s rights activist, head of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) which runs programs such as women’s shelters and gender training for police. Mary Akrimi also advises the Ministry of Interior on women and the police in Afghanistan. Bottom: 28-year-old Pari Gul has been a policewoman for 7 years and is the only woman at the Jalalabad checkpoint, checking women and cars, from 7am-5pm each day. Pari Gul counts herself lucky to have the support of her male colleagues and her boss, Colonel Samsoor. Photo: Ellie Kealey/Oxfam 

I recently met a teacher called Mariam who had been sexually abused by her own husband. She went to her local police station three times and each time turned back because she could not bring herself to tell the male officer what was happening to her. Every time she returned home, the violence continued. 

After it escalated further and caused the pregnant Mariam to miscarry, a friend encouraged her to again go to the police. When Mariam explained she had tried many times before, her friend found a female officer from another police station who listened to her situation, investigated her case and referred it to a prosecution unit. The eventual prosecution happened because of the presence of this female police officer; Mariam was finally able to get the help she needed and her life was saved. 

Over the last few years it has become clear that Afghan women need a police force that will give them the justice and security they need. Most importantly, they need more women police.

A new Oxfam report, Women and the Afghan Police, shows that many women who join the police are faced with abuse and discrimination from colleagues and superiors; they lack proper training and female-only facilities, even basic equipment and uniforms. Much more needs to be done to ensure policewomen are effective and safe in their jobs. 

One of the key findings from Oxfam’s report is that Afghanistan has only one female police officer for every 10,000 Afghan women. Many Afghan women will never see a policewoman, let alone be able to report a crime to one.

But this is not just an issue of justice for women. 

Peace and security will be impossible in Afghanistan until the police gain the trust of communities - and policewomen are crucial to obtaining this trust. Policewomen are more effective in dealing with families and communicating with women and children. They are seen as less threatening, can help de-escalate conflicts in arrests and house searches, and ensure greater cooperation with the police.

Public confidence in the police in Afghanistan is extremely low. With the police focus on counter-insurgency for so many years, they are perceived as a paramilitary force by ordinary Afghans. This is compounded by the fact that the police are often seen to be the cause of so much violence in the communities they are supposed to protect. 

The contempt of the police mixed with society’s disregard of women means that police women face a particularly brutal form of stigma in Afghanistan.  They are not respected, nor is their job deemed respectable. Many are threatened and abused, even by their own families because of their work, and some have been killed.

This has to change, and it can if the right steps are taken. Reforms are already putting a focus on community policing. If more women join this reformed force, and are seen to be dealing with crime and helping stop violence, they will be viewed as valuable members of the community. 

 

Afghan Women Need Afghan Women Police

While the majority of NATO forces will withdraw next year, NATO countries will continue to hold the purse strings for the Afghan security forces. They must take responsibility and ensure that the Afghan government commits to reforms of the police force and the urgent recruitment and training of more policewomen. 

The next 18 months are critical for Afghanistan, and especially for Afghan women. A simple change to the way we police our communities and keep women safe has the potential to lead Afghanistan in the right direction. 

Wahzma Frogh is an Afghan activist and co-founder and director of the Afghan organization Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Sep 9, 2013

Sep The day our sweet baby was born

9
2013

Oxfam Campaigner Rachel Edwards meets Liqaa', a 23 year old refugee from Syria, who now lives in Za'atari refugee camp, in Jordan.

Following news from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees that the number of registered refugees fleeing Syria has reached 2 million, it would be easy to lose sight of how everyday miracles are still possible amid a crisis of such staggering proportions. 

Liqaa’, 23 year old refugee from Syria, moved to Za’atari refugee camp, heavily pregnant, earlier this year. Last month, she gave birth to a healthy little girl named Limar. 

Above: Limar was born on 3 August the first child of Liqaa’ and Bassel who currently live in Zaatari camp in Jordan. Photos: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

When we went to see her, Liqaa’ told us about Limar’s arrival:

"It was such a beautiful day for me and for my husband [Basel] to see this sweet baby. I was so happy. After giving birth I was tired but after seeing her I forgot about my tiredness. 

But on what was one of the happiest days of her life, she was overcome with the sadness of being unable to share this magical day with the rest of her family back in Syria. 

"I missed my family so much on that day. I was crying, and until now I miss them... and think of going back but it's not safe. I wanted to go to give birth in Syria and be next to my family but it was too dangerous”.

Although Liqaa’ had become accustomed to the way of life in Za’atari refugee camp, after birth she realised how much she had under-estimated the hardship of raising a child in a refugee camp.

"It's so difficult to raise a baby here. The climate is too hot for her during the day, and in the night it's so cold. Hospitals here are not that good to get medicines and medical services. Adults can get by with the services we have here but for children it's much harder."

Liqaa’ and Basel’s story is not unique. With the snail’s pace of progress towards finding a political solution to the conflict, they won’t be the last to become new parents in such circumstances 

Liqaa’ also told us what becoming a new mum meant for her thoughts about the best way forward for Syria now: 

"We need peace in Syria for our children. Now that I've given birth to Limar it's even more important for me and for her to have our country back, for her to grow up there with our family. What I wish from the international community is to help the Syrian people to find a political solution, to help us to go back to our country, to our life, to our future”. 

More than 100,000 lives have been lost in the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation. We must now support and give hope back to LIqaa’ and her family, and the millions of Syrians like them, as soon as possible. "I look forward to going back to Syria as soon as possible."

Above: With more than 100,000 people already killed in Syria, and two million people having fled to neighbouring countries, Oxfam Ireland staged media stunts in Dublin and Belfast calling on world leaders at this week’s G20 in St. Petersburg to intensify their efforts for a peaceful, political solution to end the bloodshed and the suffering of the Syrian people. Photos top and lower-right: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland Photo lower-left: Matt Mackey/ Press Eye

A generation of Syrians is paying too high a price in this conflict. Limar is just one of the 2 million refugees who have been seriously let down by the international community, which has failed to prioritise a political solution to the conflict. That must change. World leaders - especially President Obama and President Putin - must ensure the long-promised peace talks take place as soon as possible.

The announcement of the two millionth refugee, and this week’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia, prompted Oxfam Ireland to repeat the call for the international community to find an urgently-needed political solution to the crisis. 

Oxfam staged campaign stunts in Dublin and Belfast city centres, with volunteers laying white flowers among rows of white gravestones to mark how more than 100,000 lives have been lost in Syria.  

It is the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation, and Oxfam Ireland is warning that the scale of the Syria crisis is rapidly deepening. Every day more refugees cross the borders into neighbouring countries – often traumatised and in need of the basics: food, water and shelter. But the humanitarian response to the crisis is stretched to the limit.

OXFAM’S RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS IN SYRIA

Oxfam has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 200,000 refugees who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan since the start of the year. We're providing water and sanitation facilities in Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, and to families living in temporary settlements in both Lebanon and Jordan; as well as providing cash support to families living in rented accommodation and settlements in both countries. 

Funds are short but with more money Oxfam would be able to scale up its response to the crisis. Oxfam hopes to have reached 650,000 people by the end of the year, in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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