Food & Hunger

  • In a world full of food one in eight people goes to bed hungry every night. Small farms around the world put food on the plates of one in three people on this planet. Yet extreme weather and unpredictable seasons are affecting what farmers can grow. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Nearly a billion of the world’s poorest people are finding it even harder to feed their families. We demand a fairer and sustainable global food system so everyone has enough to eat. That means investing in small-scale food producers, helping farmers adapt to climate change, and securing and protecting their access to land.

Yemen: Still the world's worst humanitarian crisis

We’re only a little more than two weeks into 2020 but the bad news has come thick and fast. Devastating flooding in Jakarta. Catastrophic bushfires in Australia. Rising tensions between the US and Iran.

Every story is important. Every story deserves our attention.

But sometimes, the pace of breaking news is so fast that other, equally important stories be forgotten. Stories like the ongoing war in Yemen.

Woman lost her husband
Nuha* lost her husband in the war. She and her eight children are surviving on support from aid agencies. Photo: Husam Al-Sharmani/YHMA

As the war enters its fifth year, the situation for the Yemeni people remains dire. More than 12,000 civilians have been killed and some 4 million people have had to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting. Around 24 million people – 80 percent of the population – need emergency aid, while 10 million people are only one step away from famine.

The country’s economy has been shattered. Countless homes, warehouses, farms and vital parts of civilian infrastructure have been destroyed. Basic services, like health or water supply, have collapsed. The flow of food – nearly 90 percent of which had to be imported even before the conflict started – has been massively disrupted by the warring parties.

Prices are continuing to rise, while many of the poorest people have lost their incomes. Parents cannot afford to buy enough food, leaving 2 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Around 350,000 of them are under the age of five.

Displaced hungry families
Oxfam is supporting displaced families in this camp by providing clean water, hygiene kits and cash grants. Photo: Oxfam

What has been described by the United Nations as the world’s ‘worst’ humanitarian crisis has also resulted in one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in recent history. Between April 2017 and December 2018, there were over 1.3 million suspected cases and 2,760 associated deaths.There was an increase in suspected cases last year, according to the World Health Organisation, with over 696,500 suspected cases and 913 associated deaths recorded between January and the end of September.

What Oxfam is Doing

Since July 2015, we have helped more than 3 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and food vouchers. We’ve also provided clean water and sanitation to more than one million people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, by trucking in water, repairing water systems, delivering filters and jerrycans, as well as building latrines. This included trucking in water to more than 5,000 displaced people living in camps in Khamer and Al Qafla in Amran governorate last year.

Syria: As winter draws in, we count the cost of the war

We all get a bit preoccupied with numbers and statistics at this time of year – in the coming weeks, newspapers and talk-show hosts will dissect the average household Christmas spend, some of us will already be counting the days between our final pay packet of 2019 and the first of the New Year, and others will start thinking about their mounting winter heating bills.

In Syria, meanwhile, where winter is also bearing down on communities, people are counting the cost of a brutal eight-year war which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Winters in Syria can be harsh when temperatures plummet and snow and freezing rain strikes. Syrians are very vulnerable to these weather extremes – after all, more than 11.5 million of them – around half of the population – need humanitarian aid, while 6.2 million people have had to flee their homes within Syria, many several times. 

Young refugee
Hassan is among the many children who have had to flee. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

The Syrian conflict is also driving the world’s largest refugee crisis – 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country to seek refuge in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordon, where they are also facing another winter of freezing temperatures. Many are living in flimsy shelters and don’t even have enough clothes to keep them warm.

Harsh winter in refugee camp
Winter is harsh in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley refugee camp. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Refugees face other challenges in their host countries too, where four out of 10 Syrian families don’t have enough food to eat. Just 3 percent of Syrian refugees have been resettled by rich countries, far short of the UN target on 10 percent.

Meanwhile, four out of five Syrians still living Syria are living in poverty, with more than 6.5 million in abject poverty. On average, every second Syrian is unemployed and poverty has forced children into extreme survival measures – such as child labour, early marriage and recruitment into the fighting – to help their families make ends meet. A third of the population don’t have enough to eat and 15.5 million people need clean, running water.

How You Can Help

Please help us provide Winter Survival Boxes which could contain thermal blankets, food vouchers, jerry cans, tarpaulin to insulate their shelter – simple, yet life-saving items.

As the nights start to get colder and more unbearable for Syrian refugees, your gift can’t come soon enough and will help support our emergency responses in places like Syria and where needed the most.

Pakistan: Who takes the heat for the climate crisis?

“Yesterday, my daughter fainted in assembly,” says Hooran. “Her teacher told her to start eating fruit in the mornings before she comes to school so she has enough energy. It made me so upset to hear that, because we barely have enough money to buy roti (bread). Fruits are a long shot away.”

Pakistani woman looks at the camera
Photo: Khaula Jamil/Oxfam

This is what life on the frontline of the climate crisis is like for Hooran in Badin, Pakistan. She’s one of the 1.8 million people living there who endure frequent floods, but also drought-like conditions caused by a lack of water and changing rainfall patterns. All of this means it’s harder to grow crops, feed livestock, and get by from one day to the next.

Woman waters her dry crops
Photo: Khaula Jamil/Oxfam

“MY CHILDREN ARE NOT HEALTHY,” SAYS HOORAN. “THEY ARE QUITE WEAK BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF NUTRITION AVAILABLE TO THEM.”

This is worlds away from the childhood Hooran remembers.

“Growing up, I used to go to school, cut wood to earn money, and help my mother with the chores. In our house there was livestock, farming and my mother’s tailoring business, and all of this meant we had multiple sources of income. I had a very happy childhood because of this.”

But as the years went on, the weather became less predictable – and so did the harvests.

Very dry cracked land
Photo: Khaula Jamil/Oxfam

“OUR CROPS STARTED DECREASING. WE USED TO GROW RICE, SUGARCANE AND COTTON. WHEN THE FARMING STARTED TO FAIL, WE STARTED SELLING THE LIVESTOCK TO SURVIVE.”

In 2003, a cyclone caused flooding that destroyed all of Hooran’s crops and land. Oxfam is helping people prepare for climate change, deal with its effects, and adapt when disaster strikes. In Badin, we’re focusing on supporting women, young people and people with disabilities to develop new farming methods and learn other skills to make a living.

Hooran learned new skills so she can earn money beyond farming.

Woman learns to tailor for new livelihood
Photo: Khaula Jamil/Oxfam

“I learnt how to stitch, make soap bars and gurda (a local drink made from sugarcane). I chose to be a part of the training to learn how to sew undergarments. I wanted to make it better for women and girls here when they go through their period. We have to suffer through really unhygienic conditions because we don’t have the resources to buy pads, and they are so expensive. So I want to start making these undergarments so they can use them during this time.”

She’s also learned how to grow vegetables even under the unforgiving conditions that the extreme weather brings. “Before the training we could only buy stale vegetables, but now we can grow our own fresh vegetables with our own hands… now we are free from that stress.”

Hand touching a seedling
Photo: Khaula Jamil/Oxfam

There is still much work to do but Hooran is adapting fast so she can earn a living. This shouldn’t have to be her reality. It is a fact that he world’s poorest people have contributed the least to the climate emergency, yet they are suffering the most.

Urgent action is needed to save our planet.

Syria: Preparing for a harsh winter

Last winter, nearly 4,900 families, who have escaped the fighting in Afrin, Syria, received warm winter clothes that helped them face the harsh weather conditions, especially with the little heating they had and the lack of proper attire. Each kit consisted of two adult winter coats and three children-sized. 

Funding for these winter kits came at a time of a great need for some of Syria’s most vulnerable people who have escaped the violence and are still hoping for a better future for both them and their children.

Woman carries a winter survival box
Credit: Islam Mardini/Oxfam

Nazeera* was displaced from Afrin and now struggles to provide food and clothes for her five children. “We lost our home and livelihood when fighting escalated in our hometown, destroying my husband’s shop. It was very difficult for him to find another job and we must now rely on the support of relatives. Our disappointment is only increasing, day by day, as we cannot return home and cannot afford to live here,” Nazeera* tells Oxfam.

Elderly man receives winter box
Credit: Islam Mardini/Oxfam

70-year-old Nezar*, was also displaced from Afrin and now stays with his relatives in Aleppo. His leg was injured, and he cannot walk without crutches – but still he perseveres. “I lost three sons to this war, and now I must support their three little children. My condition does not help, and this means we must rely on handouts for the time being. We live in a shoddy apartment with no reliable electricity, which means scarce heating in the cold winter months. We can’t afford to buy fuel. I really miss my old house and hope to return to it soon,” he tells Oxfam.

How You Can Help

Winter is upon Syrian families who fled for their lives across the border to Lebanon or Jordan. Many of them live in flimsy, improvised shelters.

Please help us provide Winter Survival Boxes which could contain thermal blankets, food vouchers, jerry cans, tarpaulin to insulate their shelter – simple, yet life-saving items.

As the nights start to get colder and more unbearable for Syrian refugees, your gift can’t come soon enough and will help support our emergency responses in places like Syria and where needed the most.

*Name(s) changed to protect identity

 

Ethiopia: Surviving a climate shock

For a young family in Ethiopia, surviving a climate shock and a deadly disease leads to the promise of a new livelihood.

Mohammed Dek says a severe drought in 2016 and 2017 turned his life upside down: First, it killed all his livestock. He and his extended family had 150 sheep and about 50 camels, and they moved around parts of Ethiopia’s Somali Region looking for pasture and water. “The rain stopped,” he says, “and the animals lacked feed and pasture.”

For a pastoralist family, losing an entire herd of animals to drought is a cruel form of bankruptcy. Not only do the animals represent their wealth, herding livestock defines who they are culturally. It is as much an existential crisis as an economic one. But for Dek’s family, this was just the beginning of a crisis brought on by climate change that would change their way of making a living— and hopefully lead to a better life.

Man in despair
Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Deadly disease

Dek says they did not dwell on the loss of their camels and sheep. “The livestock were gone; we had to accept that,” he says, using the Somali word “samar,” which means the acceptance of a loss. He and his wife and three children had other more important problems: “We had to focus on human life.”

When a severe drought hits, drinking water supplies become scarce and many families are forced to drink unclean water. This can lead to an outbreak of water-borne diseases and severe malnutrition as people with stomach problems are unable to benefit from what little food is available. In Dek’s village, a small place called Dalad, people came down with severe diarrhea (likely cholera) and became so dehydrated they died.

By the end of 2016, both of Dek’s parents and his uncle had passed away, and the government was advising Dek and his surviving family and others in Dalad to move 13 kilometers to the district center of Gunogado. Nearly three years later, there are still an additional 645 internally displaced families (about 3,900 people) living here, many in makeshift shelters.

Gunogado is in a remote part of the Somali region, accessible only by crossing a vast plain of what should be grassland but in dry times is a dusty expanse dotted by thorn bushes. Approaching the town, an occasional herd of cattle or goats trudge across the arid landscape, kicking up clouds of dust. Nearby, eight gerenuk (long-necked gazelle) seek shade in a group of spindly trees.

“A lot of people come here because we have had some rainfall, so they are coming with their livestock,” says one government official based in the community. But, he continues, in reality there is a shortage of water and pasture, and now the community is becoming crowded. “There are food shortages, and market prices are going up,” he says.

Extremely dry arid land
Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Seeking safety

Dek came to Gunagado at the end of 2016. “We had so many problems. When I came here I felt safe, because we could get some help. There were others like us, and we would be protected by the government.”

“When we first got here,” he continued, “we got a cash disbursement from Oxfam and a plastic sheet for a shelter and some mats for sleeping, soap, a jerry can to store clean water, and a solar light.”

Oxfam set up latrines, brought in water, and hired people to help clean up the community. Dek and his wife worked and used the cash they earned to buy food. They got three payments of 1,200 birr each, or about $120 total.

Children in front of a straw hut
Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

New livelihood

Dek’s thoughts were always on what he could do next to support his family. Now, he says he’s not inclined to rebuild his herd and return to a pastoralist life because the climate is changing and he doesn’t think he can make it work anymore.

“We had a lot of experience with droughts,” he says. “We might lose 50 percent of our herd, but we would always cope, and then it would rain. We would see rain in specific months, but now the rains don’t appear and the temperature is just getting hotter.”

Instead, Dek is participating in an Oxfam business training program and receiving grants (about $400) to start a small restaurant near the market in Gunagado. “I want to sell hot drinks, tea, and food like rice, pasta, and bread,” he says. He already has a location rented and intends to turn it into a successful and more diversified business he can expand to multiple locations.

Elias Kebede, Oxfam’s program manager for this area of the Somali region, says Oxfam is providing assistance for displaced people like Dek to help them diversify their ways of making a living beyond only raising livestock.

Ultimately, he says, “it is the government’s responsibility to ensure there is a good, enabling environment for rural communities, with water, roads, and schools that meet basic service needs. This will not only help pastoralist families, but also help those who want to diversify their livelihood.” He says the government needs to focus on ways to help people, especially women and young people, find the resources to build their own businesses and create more opportunities to earn money.

After he gets his restaurant business established, Dek says he wants to build his family a decent home. His objective is to “give my children a good education, so they can learn to speak English, and enjoy a better standard of living.”

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