From the field

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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Nov 22, 2012

Nov Linking together for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

22
2012

“My husband was very abusive towards me and my children.”

There are many facing the same situation as Emilia Chuma. One in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her life. 
 
In Tanzania, where Emilia lives, violence against women is widespread. One study found that over half of women are beaten regularly by their partners. Why? Because there is a long-standing belief among men and women that such behaviour is acceptable. In 2009, a survey of women in Tanzania found that 56% agreed it was important for a man to “show his wife who was the boss” and 61% believed that a “good wife” obeys her husband regardless of the situation. 
 
But these attitudes are changing. The Oxfam-supported We Can! campaign has seen more 350,000 men and women across Tanzania pledge to become change-makers in their communities, promising to recruit at least 10 others who sign the same pledge to stand up to domestic violence. 
 
 
TOP LEFT: Emiliani Dionis in Mgeta village, Tanzania. He used to beat his wife and five children but is now a change-maker thanks to the Oxfam-supported We Can! campaign. TOP CENTRE: Change-maker Emilia Chuma in Mgeta says the We Can! campaign convinced her husband to end his violence towards her and the children. TOP RIGHT and ABOVE: People in Mgeta watch a dramatic performance that shows the impact of violence against women on the local communities. Events like this one encourage people to change the attitudes that permit domestic violence. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam
 
This unique approach asks people to acknowledge that violence is happening within their midst, to commit to not tolerating violence in their personal lives and to take proactive steps to encourage others in their communities to pledge to follow their examples. 
 
“I became a change-maker because I wanted to change my life,” explains Emilia who spoke to us in her village of Mgeta. “The Morogoro Paralegal Centre [an Oxfam partner] showed me the change-maker form and I signed it.
 
“I convinced my husband to change. Now we have a great relationship and our children are much happier.”
 
Emilia was one of the inspirational women met by our ambassador Sharon Corr who travelled to Tanzania earlier this year. See her meeting Emilia and others empowered by the We Can! campaign in our video below.
 

 

We are joining with thousands of individuals and organisations worldwide to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (November 25th – December 10th).

 
The international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign calling for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
 
You can show solidarity with the men and women taking action around the world by showcasing our specially designed paper chains which highlight the devastating extent of violence against women and girls. Displayed in villages, towns and cities throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, join us to demand that the chain of violence is broken once and for all.
 
Get involved by printing off the one-in-three paper chain and hanging it at home, in work or school, in your car or a prominent place in your community.  Email us a picture at campaigns@oxfamireland.org and we’ll share it with fellow activists in our Facebook group.
 
One-by-one, we can make change happen. Download our paper chain today.

 

Nov 12, 2012

Nov Sharon Corr travels to Tanzania with us

12
2012

As part of our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign, our ambassador Sharon Corr and acclaimed photographer Barry McCall travelled to Tanzania to see how we’re helping women to stand up for their rights. Oxfam's own Communications and Marketing Executive Clare Quinlan travelled with Sharon to see how your donations are making a difference.  Here's her account of the trip.

A chorus of singers welcomed us as we arrived. Their voices filled the air, creating a sense of celebration and excitement.

The reason for our visit to Lyenge village – part of a week-long trip to Tanzania – was to meet Ester Jerome Mtegule and other inspirational women who are shaping the future of their communities.

TOP LEFT: Our ambassador Sharon Corr meets Female Food Heroes winner Ester Jerome Mtegule at her home in Lyenge village. TOP RIGHT: Rice farmer Halima Shida shares a moment with Sharon Corr outside her home in Kimamba village. ABOVE: Sharon Corr meets last year’s finalists (from left to right) Mwandiwe Makame, Anna Oloshiro and the winner Ester Jerome Mtegule, along with Oxfam Ireland’s Monica Gorman, at the launch of the 2012 Female Food Heroes competition. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Ester was the winner of our Female Food Heroes competition in 2011. It reached around 25 million Tanzanians – more than half the country’s population – through television, radio and newspapers. This year’s contest was being launched on her home turf, and Sharon was invited to Lyenge as the guest of honour.

The reason why Female Food Heroes is so important is because it celebrates the role played by women who farm and produce food.

Women are at the heart of Oxfam’s work – they make up 43 per cent of the agricultural workforce in the countries where we work, but often face discrimination when trying to get ownership of the land they farm.

Our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign is calling for better support for women food producers so that they can become leaders in their own communities.

Because of widespread media coverage in Tanzania, the Female Food Heroes competition brought important issues to national attention.

Ester and her fellow finalists – whittled down to 10 from 7,000 entrants by a panel of expert judges and a public vote by 10,000 people – participated in a week-long X Factor-style ‘boot camp’ where they received training to enhance their existing skills in farming and food production.


 
TOP: Sharon Corr attends an event in Mgeta village organised as part of our We Can campaign to combat domestic violence. This social movement recruits ‘change-makers’, people who pledge to change their attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women. ABOVE LEFT: Sharon gets ready to play traditional Irish music for locals in Kimamba village. ABOVE RIGHT: Sharon wears a traditional African headscarf presented to her by local women from Iyenge village. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Following a public vote, Ester was awarded first place. She proudly showed us the tractor that she won and also the grain store that she now manages on behalf of her community.

During the time we spent with Ester she warmly welcomed us into her home, where she wrapped Sharon’s hair into a traditional African headscarf and showed her how to grind maize, one of the staple foods in Tanzania.

The impact of the Female Food Heroes competition on Ester's life has been remarkable and she's now become the farmers’ representative on her local district council.

She's also using her prize of a tractor to help others in her community and so far, 10 other farmers have benefited from use of the machine.

Ester says that farming, “like anything worthwhile in life, takes discipline and hard work. Discipline is everything. We need more discipline in agriculture if we are really determined to end food insecurity.”

She has become a beacon of hope for all in her community.

We also met the two runners-up of the 2011 competition, Anna Oloshuro Kalaita and Mwandiwe Makame, each of whom won solar panels. They told us how their lives have changed as a result. They are using their prizes to benefit other women in their communities in a number of ways, such as charging household lamps.

TOP: Sharon Corr dances with local women and men in Kimamba village. Your donations help us to support many female rice farmers from the village to get title deeds to their land so they can farm their land securely and free from outside threats. ABOVE LEFT: Sharon watches a dramatisation of domestic violence as part of the We Can campaign with Furaha Kimaro, our Gender Programme Officer. ABOVE RIGHT: Sharon meets a young girl as she arrives at the home of Ester Jerome Mtegule, last year’s winner of the Female Food Heroes competition. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Throughout the visit, Sharon showed great compassion and empathy towards everyone she met. You can see her meeting Ester and other Female Food Heroes in the video below.

In Lyenge, we had arrived to the sounds of women singing in harmony. We left with an insight into how much is achieved when women can be empowered to come together and build a better future for their communities.

To add your voice to our call for increased government support for projects that empower women and combat gender-based violence, sign up today.

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