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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

The Rohingya crisis: a matter of life and death

On 25 August 2017, the Myanmar military began a brutal crackdown on Rohingya communities causing more than 700,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. Since then, refugees having been living in camps and Bangladesh communities with little hope for the future. Refugee and Bangladeshi communities are intertwined, and harmony between them is essential for the security and peace of mind. Elizabeth Hallinan, Oxfam’s Advocacy Manager in the Rohingya crisis explains why we must move beyond the emergency response in Bangladesh and give people better infrastructure and the chance to earn and learn.

For over a year, I have been working in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar where I have seen the refugee and host communities settle into a life together. One member of the Bangladeshi host community with a keen sense of history is Abu Jahed from the Teknaf area. His life story demonstrates the intertwined histories of Rakhine and Cox’s Bazar. 

Abu Jahed at his home in the Teknaf area. Photo credit: Mutasim Billah/Oxfam

Situated between the Bay of Bengal to the west and the Naf River to the east, Teknaf is a peninusula with paddy fields and river embankments from where you can see beyond to the high green hills of Myanmar. Two years ago, Bangladeshi villagers watched smoke rising from these hills and prepared themselves for the new arrivals. 

Safety in Bangladesh

Abu Jahed remembers those early days: “We could see the smoke of their burning houses from here.  They came, crossing the river – can you see how big that river is to cross? Many of them died doing so. Those that made it here had nothing – no food, no water, and barely dressed. I went to the main road to invite them to my house.”

This was not the first time refugees from Myanmar braved the Naf River to arrive here. The Government of Bangladesh currently hosts more than 912,000 refugees (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/70585): about 710,000 of whom came in 2017, but about 200,000 have been here longer, since conflict in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Refugees have come to Bangladesh, searching for safety, about a dozen times since Myanmar became a country in 1948.

The fight over natural resources

Like many places in Teknaf, refugees landing in Abu Jahed’s village, arrived quite literally in the host community’s backyards. They put up shelters in paddy fields, chopped down precious jungle forest, crowded the water pumps.

“We, the local people, are dependent on three things – the forest, the land and the river.  These people have chopped down our forest, they have taken our land, and now even the army does not let us cross the river for fishing and trade. You can see why people say that the Rohingya took everything from us. In no time at all, we were quarrelling.”

Poverty and limited social services

Cox’s Bazar is the second poorest district in Bangladesh; the host community was struggling even before the latest arrivals.  There are about 335,000 Bangladeshis, and nearly three times that many refugees. The strain is undeniable. 

I asked Abu Jahed why he decided to take people in?

“Let me tell you something about me,” he says.  “In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, I myself was a refugee in Myanmar. I was 10 years old when we woke in the night to find our houses burning, and we made the awful journey to Myanmar to save our lives. People there took us in. We had nothing, but we were safe there.

“To this day, we are very thankful to them and now feel a responsibility to pay them back for this kindness.”

Repaying the kindness

Many host community members have expressed this kind of sentiment to me.  Some were themselves displaced in the 1970s, others felt a bond with fellow Muslims or said that helping the refugees just seemed like the right thing to do. While many local community members expressed empathy for the refugees, they also see that the sheer scale of the new population is a larger issue.

Abu Jahed put it like this: “Let me tell you a story… Some boys were playing by a river where some frogs were floating. The boys started throwing stones at the frogs, when a passing village elder asked the boys what they were doing. ‘We are playing,’ they answered. Listening to the boys’ reply, the frogs called out, ‘Throwing stones at us might be a game for you, but our lives are at risk.’ The Rohingya people and the people of Cox’s Bazar are like the frogs of the story. The world is playing with us. This situation is a game for them, but for the hosts and the refugees living in these conditions it is a matter of life and death.”

Refugees need legal status

Refugees in Bangladesh do not have legal status, so they cannot work, move freely around the country or access a formal education.

This presents a huge problem, explained Abu Jahed: “It is undeniable that education is a must for everyone. If the government can find a way to support their education without causing more problems for us, everyone could support that. Otherwise, what can we expect of the next generation growing up in conditions where their rights are violated, and they have no proper education? We can’t expect anything good.”

International support is urgent

The Government of Bangladesh is under a huge amount of pressure to provide for the refugee population, while also managing the legitimate frustrations of the local communities hosting them.

It is a delicate line to walk, and Bangladesh needs support from countries around the world to continue to develop Cox’s Bazar.  For 2019, the response has only 36% of the funding it needs to help these communities [https://fts.unocha.org/appeals/719/summary].

Myanmar also needs to take steps to address the root causes of the conflict. It must implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission Recommendations, including equal access to  to citizenship for Rohingya while putting an end to movement restrictions and other discriminatory policies [http://www.rakhinecommission.org/the-final-report/].

Listen to the people

Abu Jahed told me, “I would urge our government and other countries to put pressure on Myanmar, so that they stop this and listen to what Rohingya people want to say. They are asking for their citizenship, nothing else. If Myanmar does not listen then the world should come forward to help Bangladesh.

“Remember the story I shared? It might be a game for them, but we are risking our lives.”

Oxfam has been working with Rohingya refugees since the beginning of the crisis. We have supported more than 266,000 people, providing them with clean drinking water, latrines, sanitation and hygiene, fresh food vouchers, lighting, and protection programs. Oxfam also works with host communities providing protection and livelihood opportunities. We advocate at the highest levels for the rights of refugees in Bangladesh and communities impacted by conflict in Myanmar. Oxfam will continue to support refugees, working with national and international partners, to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and that they have access to basic services while working towards durable solutions to this crisis.  

 

7 Things You Need to Know About Yemen

Yemen is experiencing what the UN describes as the ‘world’s worst’ humanitarian crisis. How many of these seven things did you already know?

 

1. Hunger is rampant.

Two thirds of Yemen's people rely on food aid to survive, and 14 million people are on the brink of famine.

2. A ceasefire is urgent.

Maintaining and expanding the ceasefire in and around Hudaydah is vital to millions of people who are struggling to survive. Yemenis desperately need all parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate countrywide ceasefire and return to negotiations committed to achieving a lasting peace.

3. Peace must be inclusive.

The pursuit of peace needs to be an inclusive political process which includes Yemeni women, youth and civil society, to bring an end to the conflict and suffering.
 
Fatima holds her son’s photo, who was killed by an airstrike when they were trying to find safety away from conflict’s frontlines in Yemen. Photo: VFX ADEN/Oxfam

4. The crisis is entirely man-made, and is being fuelled by arms sales from the US and UK, among others.

The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Yemen’s suffering and must stop selling weapons for use in the war.

5. Women and children are hit hardest.

The UN estimates that 3 million women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence. Children and young men have been coerced into joining armed groups, and many girls are forced into early marriage. Families are being forced to make the desperate choice to marry off their girls even as young as three years old to reduce the number of family members to feed, but also as a source of income in order to feed the rest of the family and pay off debts.
 
Oxfam has provided latrines and other humanitarian assistance in hard to reach areas, like this remote village in Al Madaribah district, Lahj governorate, Yemen. Photo: VFX ADEN/Oxfam

6. Oxfam is there.

Since July 2015, working with local and international partners, we have reached 3 million people in Yemen with humanitarian aid. And we've stepped up our work there.

7. We work alongside and through local partners in all areas of our response in Yemen.

This includes water trucking, cholera prevention, repairing water systems and delivering filters and jerry cans. Oxfam also partners with local organizations to campaign for an end to the conflict and an inclusive peace agreement that takes into account the needs and views of women, youth and civil society.
 

How you can help

  • A donation of €50/£40 can give a month's supply of clean and safe drinking and cooking water for families in need
  • A donation of €100/£90 can provide a hungry family with enough money to buy food for three months
  • A donation of €125/£100 can give sanitation to 120 people to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases.
 

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