From the field

Jan 29, 2013

Jan Crisis in Syria

29
2013

The Syrian refugee crisis is accelerating with a dramatic increase in the numbers of people flowing across its borders.

Over one million refugees have now fled into neighbouring countries since the onset of the crisis in March 2011.

In Jordan alone there has been a three-fold increase in the daily rate of people escaping the war ravaged country in the last week. Now extreme winter weather is compounding misery for refugees, with an increase in respiratory infections and pneumonia recorded in clinics in Lebanon and Jordan.

 

 

CAPTIONS: Top: A woman and her child take shelter as a syrian air force jet bombs the streets surrounding her house in the  neighbourhood of Ahadarea, Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Sam Tarling / Oxfam. Middle: Refugees are flooding into camps in The Bekaa valley, trying to survive a harsh winter. Luca Sola/Oxfam. Bottom-left: Hanin Handan, 20, her husband Rasmi, 26, and their son. After their home was burned down during the fighting they fled Syria with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Luca Sola/Oxfam. Bottom-right: Samira arrived from Syria 3 days ago. She is living in a self made shelter with just one room, which she shares with 12 other people. She has no food, barely any blankets and is living in squalid conditions. Luca Sola/Oxfam.

Living in a self made shelter with just one room, Samira’s story encapsulates the challenges faced by many. A 45 year old widow (pictured above, right), she shares a home made from one wall of breezeblocks and plastic sheeting with 12 other people, including 7 of her eight children. 

The floor is wet and icy cold, outside snow melts into the ground creating icy mud. 

“It has been eight months since I left my home, I have no idea what happened to it we just had to leave it behind and escaped because of the fighting.” 

Like her, an estimated 670,000 people have fled violence in Syria to neighbouring countries since the onset of the crisis in March 2011.

Families have arrived exhausted and traumatised.  Some have faced bombs and bullets to get to refugee camps like Al Jaleel in the Beqaa Valley, which was originally built for Palestinians. 

Nestled between snow-covered mountains and shrouded in a thick blanket of fog, it is a safe haven for thousands fleeing the escalating conflict. 

Now, they are trying to get through one of the most brutal winters in the last two decades with almost nothing. 

One of them is Hanin Handan, who fled to Lebanon with her husband and son.

“All of our food is from food distributions, we have no money for food as we lost everything when our house burned down. We used to have a good life, my husband had a good job rearing chickens and we were happy. Now we have nothing left.”

Oxfam Ireland is launching a crisis appeal to help the tens of thousands affected by the continuing crisis in Syria.

Their homes destroyed and lives shattered, these ordinary people are eking out an existence, in camps with no heating or furniture during one of the most brutal winters in the last two decades.

We cannot put an end to the fighting. But with the right determination and resources, we can help make things better for the many Syrian families who have lost almost everything.

Jan 15, 2013

Jan How you’re supporting people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

15
2013

What value can you put on a human life: A million? A billion? Perhaps priceless?

How about €0.28/£0.23? That’s what it costs to provide a Malawian living with HIV with life-saving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

But for two-thirds of Malawians with HIV that price is too high.

This is a country poor even by African standards, and one which is ravaged by HIV. One million people – 1 in 12 – of the population are living with the virus.

On a recent visit to Malawi, Oxfam ambassador and actor Bill Nighy met with some of the people who have had their lives transformed by ARVs.

CAPTIONS: TOP-LEFT: Enoch, a Malawian farmer in his 60s, says anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs have kept him alive. Gus Gregory/Oxfam.  RIGHT: AIDS orphan Fanny Jeofry (16) in the Kayera District, Malawi. Your donations are helping to provide holistic care for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam. BOTTOM-LEFT: Actor and Oxfam ambassador Bill Nighy meets Mara Banda and some of her helpers. Mara runs a support programme for people with HIV near Malawi's capital Lilongwe. Gus Gregory/Oxfam.

Take Enoch, a farmer in his 60s, who has been living with HIV for 10 years: “If you’d seen me three years ago you wouldn’t think I was the same person. “I was very, sick, I couldn’t stand up. I’m alive today because of the medication I receive.”

Donations from our amazing supporters across the island of Ireland are enabling people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi to know their rights to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services, and advocate for these rights locally and nationally.

We believe that the best people to assert these rights are community members themselves. That’s why we help local organisations get the resources and develop the skills needed to ensure the voices of those living with HIV and AIDS are heard. This means they’re helping to influence health policy and calling for increase in the allocation for people living with HIV and AIDS in national health budgets.

Your support is also helping to tackle the stigma that can surround people living with HIV and AIDS in their own communities, along with addressing harmful social practices that put women at risk of infection.

It’s also helping to provide a holistic package of care for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS, including psycho-social support and ensuring access to education. 

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Jan 11, 2013

Jan Haiti: three earthquake commemorations, three steps in reconstruction

11
2013

 

On January 12th, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. People across the island of Ireland made an incredible response to our emergency appeal, raising €1.1 million. Thanks to the generosity and solidarity of supporters like you, a lot of tangible progress has been made. However major challenges remain to rebuild Haiti. Three years on, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still living under tents and tarpaulins with very limited access to basic services, such as sanitation, health care and education.  
 
Urban planner Agathe Nougaret has been living and working in Haiti since December 2010. She joined Oxfam as an Urban Coordinator in August 2012. Here, she writes about finding hope as the third anniversary of the earthquake approaches.
 
I can’t believe it’s been three years already since the earthquake hit in January 2010. I wasn’t in Haiti for “le 12” (“the 12th” a local term to refer to the earthquake), I didn’t witness the mayhem and great solidarity with my own eyes. I arrived months after, when the reconstruction process was supposed to kick-off, once rescue teams and emergency settlement professionals had done their job.
 
 
 
CAPTIONS: Top-Left: “Buying drinkable water every day was not that easy for people in the neighbourhood. This is one more reason to value the Oxfam intervention,” says Andson Fils-Aimé, who helped build this protected spring-fed water-collection point in the Merger area. Photo: Anna Fawcus / Oxfam. Top-Right: A broken landmark in Croix-Desprez, Port-au-Prince. Photo: Agathe Nougaret/Oxfam. Bottom-left: This mountain of waste in Croix-Desprez, Port-au-Prince, is a daunting task for 2013. Agathe Nougaret/Oxfam Bottom-Right: Yvon Neptune (58): “I moved here in 2009, so I can tell what the difference is since Oxfam did the water captage and canalisation, and started its sensitisation campaign in 2011. This is the answer to the cholera threat and also to other waterborne diseases and malaria.” 

January, 12th, 2011

I spent the first anniversary of the earthquake on the steps of the destroyed cathedral, in downtown Port-au-Prince. In the middle of a political crisis, Haitians had stopped burning tyres to ask for their vote to be accounted for. Everyone gathered in front of this symbol of despair, dressed in white, screaming his or her pain. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t prepare for the questions. As a foreigner, many people came to me to ask why the international community was not rebuilding homes for the victims and stopping the cholera outbreak. I did my best to explain that the scale of the disaster took everyone aback, and setting up temporary settlements, camps in other words, was a complicated and tedious task. “There are less cholera victims in camps than anywhere else thanks to NGO efforts”, I said, but my voice got lost in the fervent religious clamour. What could I say, how could I justify the stalemate Haiti experienced? No available land, no government... I didn’t have words of comfort for the people suffering around me.

January 12th, 2012

Last year, I went to the Port-au-Prince cemetery for the second anniversary of the earthquake. There I met cemetery employees who had to deal with thousands of bodies days after the earthquake. Their stories sent shivers down my spine. Next to the 01/12 memorial sculpture newly built in the cemetery, I met a poet and a painter who explained to me how art helped them to cope with the trauma. They were hopeful, though. So much rubble had been cleared in the past year. The new president promised to take action for what really matters, education of Haitian kids. NGOs were starting to repair homes and even build permanent houses. Over the Christmas holiday, the camp in front of my office had been cleared by the Haitian government through a relocation programme run by international agencies. I was personally involved in this great movement, and I was proud. These first little steps were the hardest to take, as we were paving the way for an important scale-up in relocation and reconstruction efforts.
 

January 12th, 2013

I haven’t decided where I’ll spend the anniversary yet. I want to be somewhere significant, where I feel part of the Haitian community. I think I’ll choose the Villa Rosa slum, where I completed a NGO project last June, repairing and building 600 permanent homes. I don’t want to join the choir of critics who state that big land-owners will never help us rebuild the country, that the Government doesn’t have the means to do its job, that 358,000 people still live in camps. They might be right, but I want to celebrate our successes, this year. We have found ways to involve the community in planning, rebuilding and managing their neighbourhoods, and we’ve helped the government to see slums as a challenge, not as a threat. We’re working hard to convince donors to let us replicate this first set of pilot projects. The task was so daunting three years ago, but slowly, we’re getting there. That’s what I want to remember on January 12th.
 
Dec 24, 2012

Dec You made the difference in 2012

24
2012

Relief for those caught in crisis. Water where there was drought. Communities equipped with the skills and knowledge to help themselves. Campaigning that challenges injustice and the root causes of poverty.

Lives changed. All made possible in 2012 by supporters with big hearts and one united voice.

ABOVE: Adoaga from Chad pictured with her family.  We continue to reach people in West Africa through the work you support.

As we mark the end of 2012 and look forward to the New Year, I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of you for what we’ve achieved together in 2012.

Operating in a difficult economic climate has meant that we must do more with less, which is why we are so grateful for your support.

In the past year, you supported our life-changing work with your time, your energy, your dedication and your money.

Regardless of how you contributed, your support has made the difference.

It’s thanks to you that we can achieve so much... from taking the lead in Ireland by responding to the West Africa food crisis to showing politicians North and South why women’s rights must be put at the heart of the international agenda through our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign.

We have also continued our work with people affected by the 2011 East Africa food crisis in Kenya and Somalia, along with responding the escalating situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we are currently providing water, sanitation, food and cash transfer to local communities and those who have fled their homes to escape the terrible conflict.

AVOVE: Supporters at festivals for our campaign on women's rights.  RIGHT: Sharon Corr visits Tanzania with Oxfam to support the same campaign and to raise awareness about the issues that women face.

Our team in Tanzania is reaching hundreds of thousands of people with the We Can campaign, which tackles the attitudes and behaviours that permit violence against women and encourages ordinary people to become change-makers in their local communities, recruiting others to do the same. This is just one of many incredible initiatives taking place in the 94 countries where we work around the world.

Our success in helping people affected by poverty and injustice to change their lives for the better would be impossible without the support of people like you.

On behalf of all the team at Oxfam Ireland, we wish you a very Happy New Year.

Jim Clarken
Chief Executive
Oxfam Ireland

Nov 23, 2012

Nov Violent clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo

23
2012

140,000 people have fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo since mid-November, with over half a million displaced since April.

This week, armed groups captured the strategically important city of Goma, pushing a conflict that has killed 5.4 million people since 2008, into a new and dangerous stage.

Above (top): Oliva Noalla, 6, with her younger  sister on her back, Mugunga camp. Above (left): People have built shelters out of leaves and materials they have managed to find nearby. Above (right): Forced child recruitment is on the increase across the east of the country. Above: Oxfam supplying water in Kanyaruchina.

Violent clashes between armed groups and government forces has already led to a widespread collapse of state control in large areas of the east, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly.

Power and water is gone in the main city of Goma, which means people are taking water from the lake instead of the municipal system. There are large fears of a cholera outbreak.

Meanwhile, forced child recruitment is on the increase across the east.  Annie, 22, questions if her children will be next.

“Although they are young, I know that child recruitment is happening and I would not put it past the rebel groups to take my tiny children. I know what they are capable of” she says.

She fled her own home in August with her husband and two children and came to Goma to escape the violence in her own area.

“We have lived in a state of fear for months” she says.

She says she lives each day tormented by thoughts of what might happen to her family.

“My children know something is wrong. They react badly to things which they did not do when we were at home. Is it a surprise? They sleep without a roof over their head and eat one meal a day.”

Oxfam, which has been in the region for many years providing clean water and sanitation to tens of thousands of people, is on the ground assessing the needs of people

However the job is made difficult not just by the current security situation.

In 2002 Mount Mount Nyiragongo erupted and covered the city of Goma and its suburbs with volcanic rock. The hard terrain makes it extremely difficult to dig for water and to dig latrines. This means Oxfam has to truck water to meet the urgent needs of thousands of people.

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