Proving it

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 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.

Nov 8, 2013

Nov You Spoke. Coca-Cola listened.

8
2013

What does it take to make a global sugar giant promise to improve its policies on land? You. And 192,000 others too.

A month ago, we launched the second action of our Behind the Brands campaign asking three of the biggest companies in the sugar industry – Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods – to commit to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs. 

In just a few weeks tens of thousands of you took action – adding your name to the petition as well as sending messages and photos to the companies to get their attention.

And the result? It’s working! With almost 200,000 of you putting your names behind the campaign, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purchaser of sugar, has done what you asked – commit to “zero tolerance” for land grabs. 

 

Coke is the first of the ‘Big 3’ to agree to do more to respect communities’ land rights throughout their supply chain – and these moves are happening because of the pressure you applied. 

Coca-Cola has said it will do sweeping social and environmental assessments across its supply chains beginning with Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil, then moving on to India, South Africa and other countries, and that it will publicly reveal its biggest sugarcane suppliers. 

“Today one of the biggest companies in the world stood up to take greater responsibility for the impacts of its operations,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive. “Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show its customers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs. This will resonate throughout the industry.

“The public response to the campaign has been tremendous. This commitment is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers. The biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers are demanding it.”

We’ll be closely tracking Coca-Cola to make sure they follow through on their promises. In particular we will continue to advocate for appropriate resolution for the communities in Brazil and Cambodia who continue to struggle to regain the rights to their land. 

The time is now. 

Edilza Duarte (24) is a Guaraní-Kaiowá mother of two, living in Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul. Her community's land, Jatayvary, was taken from them 40 years ago. Now it's all covered in sugar cane.  

Above: Edilza Duarte, her daughter Stephanie and her son Jason are among the Guarani Kaiowá people who live at Jatayvary Indigenous Land Ponta Porã in Brazil. She says that the sugar plantations have put an end to her culture by clearing the forest and spreading 'poison' (the chemicals sprayed on the sugar plantations). Tatiana Cardeal/Oxfam

"They should stop doing this. They have damaged our lives enough. That's why we need our land back; so we can plant and eat. We want our land back."

Land grabs like this are the sugar industry's bitter secret – and this is not just happening in Brazil. In countries like Cambodia and around the world, families are facing the same fight for their land. 

Now is the moment.

Now that Coca-Cola (which sells over 20,000 drinks every second across the world) has committed to make sure the sugar in its products don’t lead to land grabs, Pepsi and Associated British Foods have no excuses to keep lagging behind. 

And with Pepsi’s shareholder filing deadline is coming up, now’s the moment to start increasing the pressure on them specifically. We need you to blast their inboxes with messages, telling them to keep up with Coca-Cola and commit to zero tolerance for land grabs.

Over to you, Pepsi and Associated British Foods.

Mary Quinn is Oxfam Ireland’s Campaigns and Outreach Executive.

 

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.

Jul 24, 2013

Jul The joy of clean water in DRC

24
2013

“There is no way we can thank you other than through song and dance,” says Victorine, a representative of the local water committee as we are welcomed in the remote village of Mambingi in the north eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Up until June of this year, the community could only get water, the most basic of all human rights, from an unprotected local spring. They had to pass through thick forest vegetation where women felt vulnerable to get there and were often bitten by snakes attracted to the surrounding palm oil trees.

Today, thanks to our supporters at home and our local partners Hyfro, Mambingi has some 16 water points spread throughout the village managed proudly by local committees.

Importantly, the water is clean and safe. This reduces the risk of spread of preventable diseases such as cholera and dysentery, which regularly plague communities forced to drink whatever water may flow nearby.

Clockwise from top: Oxfam Humanitarian Coordinator Michael O’Riordan measures the flow rate from a new water point constructed in DRC with the support of Irish Aid. Women in DRC often have to travel huge distances to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing. A young girl collects clean filtered water from the newly constructed water points in the village of Kahamba in DRC. A young boy demonstrates the use of simple innovative hand washing facilities made from locally available materials and a simple plastic container located next to a latrine. By pressing on the stick with his foot, the boy tilts the plastic container which causes water to flow shower like from holes made in the side. Good hygiene practice such as this greatly reduces the risk of spread of preventable communicable disease.  Photos: Colm Byrne / Oxfam.

Victorine laughs at me when we ask how long she now has to travel to get to water. Leaning across and stretching out her hand, she says: “No time at all. It is right beside us.”

Mambingi is just one of 12 villages in the region which have benefitted this year from new water distribution systems with the support of Oxfam.

In the process, community members have learned the skills needed to build and care for not only these new facilities but also 577 newly constructed latrines which ensure the safe disposal of human waste without infection of local water sources. Critically, such new skills ensure community well-being not only now but their capacity and independence in doing so well into the future.

Unfortunately, not all communities in DRC are so fortunate. Twenty years of conflict in the country have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in repeated mass movements of people within the country and across its borders.

The conflict, a product of complex international, national, local, ethnic and tribal interests frequently related to competition for the country’s particular mineral wealth, has undermined growth and development. In turn, this has created a fragile political, social and economic context where most people fail to benefit from the country’s rich natural resources and where the reach of state services such as water, health and agriculture is limited if present at all.

Not long after meeting Victorine, as we prepare to leave the region, word reaches us that still more fighting has broken out and that tens of thousands of people only a few hours’ drive away have been forced to flee across the border to Uganda. Yet another tragic event in the history of DRC where life, like the water that sustains it, remains as precious as ever.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

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