Syria crisis

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.

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.

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.

Jul 9, 2013

Jul Reema’s story - a 12 Year old Syrian refugee in Lebanon

9
2013

Reema (12) lives on the first floor of a house still under construction in Lebanon. There are piles of rubble and concrete all around. There are no windows, no comfort. She sleeps in a small ‘room’ with her parents and four siblings. Rats are frequent visitors.

A year ago her home in Syria was destroyed by the bombings. In the time that followed she moved with her family from place to place, one of the 1.6 million Syrians who have no fled their war torn country in search of refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and further afield.

By the end of the year, close to 3.5 million Syrians are expected to have fled.

“I used to enjoy writing before but since coming here, after this tragedy” says Reema. “I wake up in the morning and I see children going to school and I cry why don’t I have the right to go to school and I sit here and I remember our home back in Syria before the fighting.”

Clockwise from top: ‘I don’t want my photograph to be taken because I’m afraid that when we go back something might happen to us.’ Reema (not her real name) has been writing moving poetry about her situation and desire to return to Syria. This stark, un-plumbed room serves as a toilet and bathroom for Reema, 12, and her family in Tripoli, Lebanon. Remma shares her story with Oxfam Communications Officer, Jane Beesley. Photos: Sam Tarling / Oxfam.
 

A year ago it was destroyed by the bombings. Now she is one of 750,000 young Syrian refugees.

“I miss my friends,” she says, “I miss my teachers. I miss my classes, my English classes, my Arabic classes, my music classes. Now I’m just sitting here every day.”

She spends her spare time writing poetry, remembering her home and longing to go back to it. 

This is part of one of them:

When I take my pencil and notebook,
What shall I write about?

Shall I write about my school,
my house or my land of which I was deprived?

My school, when will I visit you again
take my bag and run to you?

My school is no longer there
Now, destruction is everywhere
No more students
No more ringing bells
My school has turned into stones scattered here and there

Shall I write about my house that I no longer see
where I can no longer be,
Shall I write about flowers which now smell destruction?
Syria, my beloved country
Will I ever return back to you?
I had so many dreams
None of them will come true
 

Clockwise from top: Reema's shoes, the only items other than her clothes she took with her from Syria. Reema's sketchbook. Reema's notebook. Photos: Sam Tarling / Oxfam.

Reema’s family will receive two payments of $150 dollars as part of Oxfam’s cash transfer programme. This money is intended to help families like Reema’s pay their rent over the next two months.

Families like hers are in desperate need of shelter, food, water and medical care. We're scaling up our response to help families through the coming months.

Please give what you can today.

May 28, 2013

May First impressions mask difficult reality of life in a Syrian refugee camp

28
2013

Before I arrived in Jordan, Zaatari Refugee Camp in my mind had taken on almost mythical proportions. I had heard that it was initially constructed to accommodate a population of 35,000 but was now rumoured to have a registered population of more than 130,000. And frighteningly, not the largest refugee camp in the world.

As I approached by car, it seems strange to say but I was disappointed by first impressions. Zaatari refugee camp sits atop a relatively flat landscape not far from the Syrian border and without an aerial view the sense of scale I had imagined was impossible to view.

 

Above: The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is a sprawling city with rows of tents as far as the eye can see. Anastasia Taylor-Lind/Oxfam

Surrounded by a high wire fence for security, it appears orderly with its seemingly evenly spaced rows of regulation refugee tents. It is solid underfoot too with crushed stone to prevent muddying caused by vehicles and human traffic in winter rain. And either side of the road that leads from the main entrance is a remarkable array of market stalls selling everything from fruit, vegetables and cooked food to clothes and toys and household basics sourced from local traders outside the camp. The refugees from Syria have proven themselves to be remarkably self-reliant and resourceful.

“It doesn’t seem that bad,” a companion commented. Indeed there is much about Zaatari that on first appearances “doesn’t seem that bad”…if the alternative is to be trapped in a bitter conflict that has left an estimated 70,000 dead and forced another 6 million (yes, million) people to flee their homes.

First impressions too of course can be deceptive and as the morning and hours passed, the realities of life in the refugee camp became more apparent…more than anything else the sense of confinement, the restricted space, the lack of opportunity to escape even for just a short time from the heaving bustling hive of activity. 

Clockwise from top:  Clothes drying on a high-wire fence in the camp. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Oxfam public health staff put the finishing touches to 95,000 litre water tanks that will considerably increase the water storage capacity in the refugee camp. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. A woman and child gather water in the camp where Oxfam has installed tap stands and towers, latrines, bathing areas, laundry areas, water collection points and wash blocks. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Syrian children in the camp share a smile. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. Syrian refugees arrive at the camp, originally built for 35,000 but now accommodating more than 130,000. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.

And as we moved beyond the road that once formed the main axis of the camp, it is with regret that I say my expectations of scale were finally met. Row upon row upon row of tents dominated the horizon as far as the eye could see. This was no camp. This was a sprawling city, ironically the significance of which is only best understood when you see the enormity of the blank canvas of land that has been cleared to accommodate still more tents and, more recently, prefabs.

Later, faces pressed against the fence outside a health clinic where lines of mothers and young children queued served only again to re-enforce the sense of claustrophobia and suggesting that, despite best efforts, supply of services had outstripped demand. It could hardly be otherwise. 

Organisations like Oxfam are working closely with the refugee population to provide access to the most basic of human needs such as clean water and washing facilities but the scale of need is frankly overwhelming…1,500 people arrive on average each day. I wondered how we in Ireland would cope with such an influx. More importantly still, how do the Syrian refugees cope?

Refugee camps are rarely constructed as homes but places of temporary refuge until it is safe to go home or some alternative option is found. Almost as though lives can be put on hold while diplomats, like economists, trade options...and futures...of those whose recent past, and perhaps even lives, have been comprised of choices few of us could ever even conceive.

As I write now amidst a flurry of international activity to bring about a resolution to the conflict, I hear that the influx of refugees across the border into Jordan has almost ceased. And then the question, why? And quickly the realisation that those in Zaatari are the lucky ones...they were able to flee. And it is then you understand the true meaning of “it doesn’t seem that bad”.

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