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.

Your Kindness Saves Lives: How the East Africa Hunger Crisis is Unfolding

Khadija Farah/Oxfam

The fourth consecutive failed rains across East Africa were confirmed during March to May of this year, causing extensive devastation. Livestock deaths, crop decay, food stock depletion.

The current dry season is also magnifying the issues. Climate change has led to abnormally high temperatures this summer. Leading to excessive plant and soil moisture-loss, the earth is cracking and turning to dust.

 And we are facing into another huge set-back. Current predictions indicate that we may be facing into an unprecedented fifth failed rain season this October to December. Meaning further desolation is expected for the region.

In June, Hoden reached out to Oxfam supporters, to ask for help. Your response to her request has been astounding. You have made a positive difference to families facing this crisis.

Thanks to supporters like you, food and other essentials are being provided to vulnerable families, like Hoden’s in Ethiopia.

Photo: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam Intermón

As you will see below, we have assisted 4.5 million people in Ethiopia.  We have been supplying vital  food parcels of maize, lentils, cooking oil and salt.

4.5 million individuals have been reached in Ethiopia

  • We are still pushing to reach all 7.2 million individuals affected. To date we have managed to address the immediate needs of 63% of those at risk.

3.9 million people in Somalia have received supplies

  • The good news is that 75% of vulnerable individuals have been supported, thanks to you.
  • However, we are still working towards reaching a total of 5.2 million people in need.

585,404 people have been supported in Kenya

  • We are sorry to say that much more aid is needed here. We have reached just 14% of the vulnerable population.

  • Due to our funding gap, we are far behind our target of reaching 4.1 million.

Our promise to you is that we will continue to focus the world’s attention on, continue to amplify the voices of, and continue to request support for - the people suffering in East Africa.

Note from Clare Cronin, Oxfam Ireland:

I will be travelling to Kenya at the end of August to see what more Oxfam Ireland can do. Please watch out for the trip report, which you should receive in mid-September.

I will arrive in Nairobi for urgent discussions at the Oxfam Head Office. I will then travel to determine where the needs are greatest in the north of the country, where the Hunger Crisis has reached emergency levels. I will assess the situation first-hand and report back on the needs and how best they can be addressed.

Please be confident that while the Hunger Crisis has not abated, we are, and will continue, doing all that we can to save lives and prevent people’s suffering.

I promise you, that together, we will continue pushing for justice.  

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Starvation in the Horn of Africa is political failure

Hirsiyo Mohamed and her daughter, Maryam, at an aid camp in Doolow, southern Somalia in early May. File photograph: Malin Fezehai/New York Times

Just over 10 years ago, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson travelled to the Horn of Africa with Irish development and humanitarian organisations to sound the alarm on a devastating hunger crisis unfolding in the region. More than 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were at risk due to one of the worst droughts to strike the region in 60 years. As a result of a delayed global response, the 2011 famine claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people in Somalia, half of them children under five.

The international community swore never again. Yet, a decade later, it is estimated that one person is likely to be dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Irish development and humanitarian organisations have come together once more to call for urgent and collective action to tackle catastrophic hunger levels in the Horn of Africa and reduce the risk of widespread famine.

The figures are stark. The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled since last year — from over 10 million to more than 23 million today, with nearly half a million people in parts of Somalia and Ethiopia facing famine-like conditions.

The United Nations has warned that escalating global food insecurity is putting 750,000 people across five countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan — at immediate risk of “starvation or death”. The UN also estimates that 1.5 million Somali children under the age of five will face acute malnutrition throughout this year, including over 385,000 who are likely to suffer severe levels.

Starvation is a political failure — it was in 2011 and it is today. The potential deaths of hundreds and thousands of people, especially children, may come despite clear, repeated and credible warnings from the humanitarian community. The failure to adequately address the deadly combination of climate change, conflict and the economic impact of Covid-19 has left the region in crisis and lives hanging in the balance.

The crisis is now being exacerbated by a global food shortage triggered by the conflict in Ukraine. East Africa imports 90 per cent of its wheat — a staple food for most people in the region — from Ukraine and Russia. Disruptions in grain supply, in addition to soaring prices of oil and fertilisers, are driving regional food prices to an all-time high. In Somalia alone, the prices for staple grains are more than double those of last year.

Equally important is the escalating climate crisis. The Horn of Africa is in the grip of its fourth successive dry rainy season. This year’s March-May season is predicted to be the driest on record. In some places, it hasn’t rained since 2019.

The reality is the most vulnerable communities who are least responsible for the climate crisis are being hardest hit. Rich and industrialised countries have contributed around 92 per cent of excess historical emissions and 37 per cent of current emissions, whereas Africa’s current emissions stand at just 4 per cent. The collective carbon emissions of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are 0.1% of the global total.

Meanwhile, conflict — exacerbated by the climate crisis — is also fuelling the hunger crisis. Conflict damages food systems, limiting the ability of farmers to access their land and their pastures.

Ireland has been outspoken at the UN Security Council on highlighting the impact of conflict, climate change and hunger on the ability of people to produce and access food essential to their survival. This voice is needed now more than ever.

We are calling on the Irish Government to demonstrate and hold firm leadership at an international level to ensure an immediate and radical mobilisation of aid in the region. This includes ensuring that rich nations, as well as our own, meet the UN appeal for Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia to help save lives now. The UN estimates that humanitarian funding of US$4.4 billion (€4.2 billion) is required to provide life-saving assistance and protection in the region. At the time of writing, the appeal is drastically underfunded.

Each day of delay unnecessarily exacerbates human suffering, increases the scale of the crisis, and raises the cost of the response.

The members of Dóchas are coming together to sound the alarm on extreme hunger and do all we can to avoid widespread famine. Warnings can no longer be ignored instead, it is imperative that governments, including Ireland, and the international community act now to prevent the catastrophic humanitarian disaster that is unfolding before our very eyes.

Jane-Ann McKenna is chief executive of Dóchas, the Irish network of international development and humanitarian organisations.

Information source, The Irish Times.

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Climate and Economic Shocks Create Crisis in East Africa

Abdulahi in front of his homestead in the Puntland region of Somalia where he raises cattle. He says his livestock is heavily affected by the drought and lack of pasture, and he is worried about the future of his family. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

Oxfam is responding in four countries and urging more international assistance to help people facing severe hunger.

In the northern Somali state of Puntland, pervasive drought is endangering the lives of people and their livestock. “Within my lifetime, this is the worst drought I have ever experienced,” says Abdulahi Farah Isse, 27, who has lost nearly 40 of his 100 cows in the last few months. He says that it is not unusual for dry conditions in some years to kill livestock, “but it’s never been like this.”

“I am very much worried for this drought and the near future,” Isse says abut the hunger crisis in Puntland. “If these cattle all die, the people will be at risk. Our children need milk from the cows, which is a challenge now but we are trying to do our best so our people will survive.”

The problem people like Isse are facing in Puntland is not just a lack of rain, but a combination of prolonged climate-induced drought, conflict, the economic fallout from COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine that has caused a spike in grain prices across the world.

Ahmed, who works for Oxfam in Somalia, checks a completely empty water storage facility built by Oxfam & KAALO Aid & Development in Puntland. Lack of rain for nearly four years has dried up water resources across the region. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

These factors are affecting people across Somalia, where 90 percent of the country is experiencing drought, as well as other parts of East Africa. One person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, according to estimates by Oxfam and Save the Children in a report highlighting the world’s repeated failure to stave off preventable disasters. The report, titled Dangerous Delays 2: The Cost of Inaction, published 10 years after famine in Somalia killed more than 260,000, says that nearly half a million people across parts of Somalia and Ethiopia are facing extreme hunger and famine-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering extreme hunger.

What Oxfam is doing to prevent extreme hunger

Oxfam is working with local organisations to reach more than two million people across four countries: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and in South Sudan, where five years of seasonal flooding has displaced 350,000 people.

In Somalia, Oxfam is working with local organisations, such as KAALO Aid and Development, to provide lifesaving water, sanitation, and health support. Together, we are drilling wells, distributing hygiene kits (to help protect communities from water-borne diseases), distributing cash, seeds, tools, and training farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming.

Oxfam is working with a network of organisations in northern Kenya’s arid zones. These organisations are providing cash to help people buy food and other essential items. So far we have distributed cash to 40,000 people. We are repairing wells and other water systems, and promoting good hygiene to help people prevent COVID-19 and other diseases in eight of the most hard-to-reach, and worst-affected, counties.

To respond to the severe drought in Ethiopia, Oxfam is scaling up our work in the southern Somali region to reach 180,000 people with support for small businesses, vaccination and veterinary treatment of livestock, agricultural support, and cash-for-work projects.

Oxfam’s work with partners in South Sudan is helping people in five states and aims to reach 383,000 people with safe water, resources for sanitation and hygiene, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and support for people to build their incomes, such as seeds, tools, and fishing kits.

Oxfam is also advocating for governments and others to respond to the immediate crisis with humanitarian assistance, while also investing in programs and services that fight inequality and help people improve their lives over the long term and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

“We must respond now, at scale, to avert further tragedy,” the Dangerous Delays 2 report concludes. “But we must also learn the lessons of the past decade to ensure that next time we act pre-emptively to avoid the crisis. As climate catastrophe threatens a future of increased crises, we dare not fail that promise again.”

“We used to have more than 150 goats, all of them but two have died because of the drought. Which is devastating…goats generate milk, meat, and money if we sell them.” Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

A Dangerous Delay

The climate crisis is devastating lives and livelihoods. And it is the people least responsible who are paying the heaviest price.

Across East Africa alone, millions of people are suffering severe hunger because of a deadly combination of conflict, extreme weather – flooding in some countries, drought in others — and the economic fallout of COVID-19. It’s time to act.

4 links between the war in ukraine and the horn of africa hunger crisis

A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a road to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj. Photo: Peter Lazar/AFP via Getty Images

The world is facing a powerful convergence of crises. Conflict, COVID-19 and climate change are all contributing to record emergency aid needs.

The devastating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reminded us all of the need for global solidarity. But as the world watches Ukraine, we must also remember other crises around the globe. This is important since the economic impacts of the Ukraine crisis – including unprecedented food and energy price inflation – will be felt by the most vulnerable in our deeply unequal world.

One of the situations Oxfam is most concerned about is the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – spanning Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Here are some similarities, and connections, between this crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Sowda Omar Abdile makes black tea in her home in Wajir County, located in Kenya’s northeast. Photo: Khadija Farah/Oxfam

The Ukraine crisis will worsen hunger in the Horn of Africa

In recent years, conflict, COVID-19 and the climate crisis have deepened catastrophic food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Over 14 million people in the region – about half of them children – were already experiencing extreme hunger. Now, the Ukraine crisis threatens to make things even worse. The war in Ukraine is disrupting supply chains and causing food prices to skyrocket. This will push more people to the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa, which imports 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. The number of people on the edge of starvation will rise to 20 million by the middle of 2022 if rains continue to fail and prices continue to rise.

In both crises, women and girls are suffering most

Humanitarian crises are hard for everyone, but particularly for women and girls. This is the case in both the Ukraine and Horn of Africa crises.

In the Horn of Africa – especially in conflict-affected areas – women and girls are facing extraordinary dangers to secure food for their families, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Food insecurity also has tragic consequences for young girls. Desperate families sometimes resort to harmful coping mechanisms like pulling their daughters out of school or marrying them off in exchange for a dowry to secure some income. Since women are often responsible for caring for, and nourishing, their families, they tend to eat last and least. This makes them more likely to suffer from malnutrition, with consequences for their own health and the health of the babies they are carrying or breastfeeding.

In the Ukraine crisis, women and children make up 90 per cent of those fleeing the country. The gender and age profile of these refugees – who have lost everything and are often forced to put their trust in strangers – significantly increases the risk of gender-based violence, trafficking and abuse.

Both crises are equally urgent

The escalating violence and massive displacement in Ukraine are shocking and have rightly captured the world’s attention. The geopolitical significance of the Ukraine crisis, together with 24/7 media coverage, has led to near record levels of funding for the humanitarian response. This fast and generous support stands in stark contrast to the attention given to other crises – including the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Despite increasing needs, the humanitarian response for the region is woefully underfunded.

While the world watches Ukraine, we must remember the millions of people in neglected crises who are also suffering and in need of urgent support. Meeting humanitarian needs in Ukraine is vital, but donors must not displace funds that are badly needed to respond to challenges elsewhere. They must dig deeper and get creative. We shouldn’t need to choose between helping a refugee from Ukraine or a Somali farmer who lost her harvest. All lives are equally valuable. Both these humanitarian crises are worthy of urgent support.

Oxfam and local partners provide packages that include hygiene products and non-perishable food items to internally displaced people at the Ebnat aid distribution centre in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Photo: Serawit Atnafu/Oxfam

Oxfam is responding to both crises

When disaster strikes – whether it’s war or a hunger crisis – Oxfam responds with high quality lifesaving assistance, emergency supplies and essential protection for the most vulnerable.

In Europe, Oxfam is working to set up safe travel routes for Ukrainian refugees. We are supporting partner organizations who are providing vulnerable families with essential items like food, water, warm clothing, hygiene equipment and legal support.

In the Horn of Africa, in response to the worsening food crisis in the region, Oxfam is providing cash and vouchers. Communities will be able to use these to purchase essential food items and to meet basic nutritional needs. We also provide agricultural inputs, including seeds and tools, with training on more climate-resistant production to better prepare farmers for the future.

Since the hunger crisis in much of the region is caused by a prolonged drought, we are trucking water to remote communities and drilling wells to get clean water flowing. Many families rely on livestock for food, so we are supporting livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns. We are also helping people who have been displaced by conflict and drought by training protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distributing solar lamps to protect women and girls at night.

East Africa hunger crisis affecting 28 million

A woman walks past the bodies of dead livestock in Wajir county, Kenya, an area experiencing severe drought. Khadija Farah / Oxfam

Climate-induced drought, conflict, and global food prices are all creating a humanitarian emergency.

In previous years in Wajir county, in northeast Kenya, Ahmed Mohamud Omar says the land was green, they could water their animals at nearby wells, and “our life was prosperous, we had milk and meat.”

“Now that the drought has hit, the animals have died,” he says. The 70 year old says he fears for the children of his community, and these days thinks mostly about what to eat, and where to get water.

“There is no happiness now,” he says.

People in the arid lands of northern Kenya, along with neighbouring Somalia and southern parts of Ethiopia, are now enduring an extensive drought due to the effects of climate change. Conflict in northern Ethiopia as well as unpredictable rains and flooding in South Sudan are disrupting agriculture and spreading hunger and suffering.

Oxfam estimates that 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia have been displaced in search of water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes due to conflicts, especially in northern Ethiopia – where 9.4 million people now need urgent humanitarian aid. East Africa has also suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years. Kenya has suffered a 70 percent drop in crop production and has declared a national disaster with 3.1 million people facing acute hunger. As many as 28 million across the region could face severe hunger if rains do not fall.

Ahmed Mohamud Omar looks for water at a well near his home in Wajir county, Kenya. Oxfam is working with a group of humanitarian organizations in northeast Kenya that is helping communities improve their access to water. Khadija Farah / Oxfam

Global crisis affecting East Africa

“East Africa faces a profoundly alarming hunger crisis,” says Gabriela Bucher, the executive director of Oxfam International who has just concluded a visit to affected areas of Kenya where expected March rains have so far not materialized. She says people in East Africa “are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery will be near impossible unless urgent action is taken today.”

Bucher says the humanitarian crisis is further complicated by recent hikes in food prices due to the pandemic, but also that there are “repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system” affecting millions of people in East Africa (which imports 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine), Yemen, and Syria, all coping with massively underfunded humanitarian emergencies. “Rising food prices will make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal,” Bucher says.

Severe situation in Kenya and East Africa

The climate crisis is having a dramatic impact on vulnerable communities. Droughts, floods, and disease outbreaks are more frequent and intense, leaving little opportunity for affected communities to recover from these successive shocks. Competition over resources also increases the risk of conflict. The UN is calling this “one of the worst climate-induced emergencies seen in recent history in the Horn of Africa.”

Idris Akhdar works for WASDA, an organisation that has partnered with Oxfam in Kenya for 21 years. He says that in recent visits to Wajir county, “Our team have met desperate people. People who are hungry, who are thirsty, and who are about to lose hope. In the last few days, I have seen across the region -- in the Somali region in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya -- the same hunger and destitution all over.”

What Oxfam is doing to help people in East Africa

Oxfam is working with WASDA and others in Kenya to support 40,000 people, and planning to expand the support to approximately 240,000 people with cash for food and other essential items. Other work includes water, sanitation, and hygiene activities such as repairing water points and wells to provide access to safe drinking water, and hygiene promotion campaigns designed to reduce vulnerability to infectious diseases like cholera and COVID-19.

In Somalia, Oxfam is working with organizations including KAALO Aid and Development to reach 420,000 people this year with lifesaving water, sanitation and health support, including drilling wells, distributing hygiene kits, providing materials to help protect communities from water borne diseases, and distributing cash, seeds, tools, and training farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming. Oxfam will also support livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns together with the Ministry of Livestock, train community protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distribute solar lamps to protect women and girls at night. To date we have reached more than 260,000 people.

In Ethiopia, Oxfam has supported 170,000 people in northern Ethiopia with lifesaving clean water, food, and cash assistance in areas affected by conflict. Oxfam aims to reach an additional 750,000 people in the next year in northern Ethiopia with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene kits. Together with our partners, we are also scaling up our work in the southern Somali region to respond to the effects of the drought.

In South Sudan, Oxfam has provided support to 400,000 people and aims to reach an additional 240,000 people with safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and promotion, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and livelihood support like seeds, tools, and fishing kits.

“Before we feared dying of war, now we fear dying of hunger”: Ukraine crisis propelling hunger in Syria

15th March 2022

Eleven years after the Syrian conflict began, six in ten Syrians do not know where their next meal is coming from, said Oxfam today. It warned that reliance on imports from Russia means the current crisis in Europe could ripple into Syria, exacerbating food shortages and causing food prices to soar. In the last year, food prices in Syria have doubled.

Oxfam spoke to 300 Syrians in government-held areas of the country. Nearly 90 percent said they could only afford to eat bread, rice, and, occasionally, some vegetables. After ten years of conflict, the shockwaves of Covid-19, and the Lebanese banking crisis coupled with the Ukrainian crisis are having serious repercussions for the floundering economy, disrupting food and fuel imports and causing the Syrian pound to plummet at breakneck speed. 

Moutaz Adham, Country Director for Oxfam in Syria, said: “People have been pushed to the brink by a collapsing economy. Around Damascus, people queue for hours to get subsidized bread at state bakeries, while young children rifle through garbage trying to find scraps of food. Struggling to put food on the table means many families are turning to extreme ways to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals each day. Marrying off young daughters has become another negative coping strategy as it is one less mouth to feed. This is against a backdrop of 90 percent of Syrians living in poverty, unemployment rate at 60 percent and a monthly minimum wage in the public sector of approximately 26 US dollars.”  

He added: “Syria relies heavily on Russia for imports of wheat. The crisis in Ukraine has seen the Syrian government starting to ration food reserves, including wheat, sugar, oil, and rice amid fears of shortages and price surges, and this could be just the beginning.” 

Hala from Deir-ez-Zor told Oxfam: “It makes no sense for us to think about tomorrow, if we cannot even figure out what to put on our table today to feed our children.”  

Majed from Rural Damascus told Oxfam: “I work 13 hours a day to feed my children, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes I wish there is more than 24 hours a day, so I can do more work. I’m exhausted and don’t know how I will survive this harsh life with my family.”  

Moutaz Adham added: “An average income only covers half of basic expenses.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam has been working in Syria since 2013 to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. In the last year, Oxfam’s work reached 1.2 million people. We provide clean drinking water to people, emergency cash assistance, and soap, hygiene, and other materials. We help farmers get back to farming, and bakers back to baking. We run Covid-19 awareness raising campaigns.  Oxfam is calling on international donors to focus on funding early recovery and social protection while also keep focusing on emergency needs and responses, including hunger response activities to save lives now.
  • 12.4 million people in Syria are food insecure, child labor occurs in 84% of communities, and child marriage for adolescent girls in 71% of communities, according to the latest figures from the Humanitarian Needs Overview.
  • The price of the World Food Program (WFP) standard food basket (a group of essential food items) has increased by 97% in the past year.   
  • Last year, the Syrian government reportedly had to import 1.5 million tons of wheat, mainly from Russia.  
  • As part of its Emergency and Food Security response, Oxfam interviewed 300 beneficiaries in government held areas of Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor and Rural Damascus governorates, 100 beneficiaries in each governorate and found that 88 percent eat only bread, rice and occasionally vegetables. Additionally, 60 percent of people Oxfam spoke to say they earn less than what they need to cover their food needs. 10 percent said they rely only on bread and tea to survive. Since subsidized bread provides approximately 840 kcal per day, this amounts to only 40 percent of calories needed to survive (an average family of 5 can buy 12 bundles of subsidized bread, each consisting of 7 loaves, this leaves 2.4 loaves per person per day, having no more than 350 kcal). Strikingly, only 1.5 percent said they can afford to buy meat and only on rare occasions.    

A year in pictures what we accomplished together in 2021

Pascaline, public health officer, shows the community at the Mwaka IDP site, DRC, how to use a new handwashing station that can be quickly installed in a variety of emergency settings. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Oxfam

2021. So much continuing turbulation and uncertainty for everyone. A year – another one – when the need for us all to stand up and stand together, to help others, has been so very difficult to do. But a year – another one – when time after time, across the world in big ways and small, the power of people to organize, reach out and help one another prevailed – inevitable, vital, positive and affirming – again and again.

 

End of Year 2021

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Our supporters and partners reached over 25 million people last year through Oxfam’s humanitarian and programmatic work, more than 14 million of them directly from our Covid-related responses. With your support, we worked with 4128 partner agencies and implemented 1843 projects worldwide. Thank you. We hope all of our supporters, partners, staff, the people living in the communities across the world, can take a moment of reflection and pride in this snapshot of stories that hint of the work we accomplished together to make a real difference in many millions of people’s lives in 2021.
Photo: Roanna Rahman/Oxfam

In India, we raced against time to protect the most vulnerable from Covid-19.

When the second wave of COVID-19 hit India in late April, it created a public health crisis that left hospitals overwhelmed and people literally dying in the streets. In less than a month, the country saw more than 100,000 deaths, bringing the total death toll to more than 300,000 – the third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil. To help government hospitals cope with this deadly second wave, Oxfam procured and delivered medical equipment such as oxygen generators, thermometers and oxygen tanks, beds, and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for frontline health workers. We also assisted people who have lost their means of livelihood and helped migrant workers stranded far from home with no work, money or food during lockdowns.
Photo: Kaff Media/Oxfam

In Yemen, we worked tirelessly to provide relief to the most affected.

Salem* and his son Omar* (name changed) had been displaced four times before moving to Alswidan Camp in Marib, Yemen, where they now live with five other members of the family in a tiny tent. Each time they would leave behind everything and walk for days to reach their next safe location. Omar was born in 2015, the year the war in Yemen started – war is all he has ever known. Conflict continued for a sixth year in Yemen, devastating livelihoods and leaving 13.5 million people suffering from acute hunger. Almost 70 percent of the population urgently need humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing clean water and hygiene items to help people avoid cholera and COVID-19, cash to help them buy food, and support for earning a living through agriculture and small businesses.
Photo: Hosam Salem/Oxfam

In Gaza, we helped Palestinians rebuild and recover from violence.

Abdelsamad Alqanou, Oxfam Water and Sanitation officer, is following the implementation of water and sewage maintenance work in a neighbourhood in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. After 11 days of intense bombardment over the Gaza Strip, a ceasefire was called on the 21st of May. According to the Ministry of Health, 242 Palestinians were killed, and 1,900 were injured. Israeli attacks caused severe damages to residential and commercial buildings, schools, and infrastructure, including roads, electricity networks, water installations and agricultural lands. Over 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes. To meet the urgent needs, Oxfam provided water and sanitation services with spare parts for operation and maintenance during emergencies, including water and sewage pipes, valves, pumps, filters, and oil.
Photo: Shaikh Ashraf Ali/Oxfam

In Bangladesh, we strove to promote health and safety across the refugee camps.

In July, several days of heavy monsoon rain in Southeast Bangladesh led to severe flooding and landslides in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. Rainwater displaced families and inundated roads and bridges, shelters, and critical infrastructure – heightening the risk of water-borne illness.

Impacted communities were surrounded by water—but none of it was safe to drink. The flooding occurred as Bangladesh was logging a record spike in Covid-19 cases – placing refugees, host communities, and responders at heightened risk from the virus.

With our partners, we provided critical repairs to water and sanitation facilities, distributed jerry cans of emergency drinking water and water purification tablets, and shared essential health awareness information to keep refugees safe in the crisis. (Photo: Shaikh Ashraf Ali/Oxfam)

Photo: Mustafa Osman/Oxfam

In South Sudan, we protected girls’ education from the pandemic impacts.

Winnie (name changed), 17, is a graduate student in Oxfam’s Education for Life-program in Juba, South Sudan. A lot of young girls in her area have left school during the lockdown, but with Oxfam’s support, many have been able to return. “I knew that I would eventually go back to school after the lockdown. My biggest dream is to become a lawyer, to solve the issues in my society,” says Winnie.

Women and girls have been the most severely affected by conflict, COVID-19, and climate change in South Sudan. The pandemic and resulting closure of schools in March 2020 exacerbated many of the challenges they face in pursuing an education, like early and forced marriage, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence.

Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

In Iraq, we supported families with cash assistance and grants to start businesses.

It is four years since the city of Mosul and its environs were returned from ISIS control to that of the Government of Iraq.  Thousands of families, who had fled the violence and lived in camps, are now returning. They join others living among destroyed houses, lacking access to healthcare, education, and water. The challenges are immense. We have been supporting people of Mosul with cash assistance, grants to start businesses, repairs to schools and access to water.

Farah (name changed) started her own hair salon after the liberation of the city. It is the main income now for her and her family. “After ISIS everything changed. I gained more independence as now our society has finally realized that women can provide not only for themselves but for their kids and whole family”, she said.

Photo: Arlene Bax/Oxfam

In Vanuatu, we used blockchain technology to revolutionize humanitarian aid.

In times of crisis, traditional aid distributions of food, shelter and other emergency supplies are not always the best or most efficient way to provide relief. Oxfam is one of the first humanitarian organisations to use blockchain technology for cash transfer programming, to deliver emergency cash in a faster, cheaper and more transparent fashion than ever before.


The UnBlocked Cash solution consists of the e-voucher “tap-and-pay” cards used by beneficiaries, a smartphone app through which vendors receive the payments, and an online platform where NGOs like Oxfam can monitor transactions remotely and in real-time.


After a ground-breaking pilot in Vanuatu, we scaled the project to distribute cash and voucher assistance to over 35,000 beneficiaries affected by the Category 5 Cyclone Harold and COVID-19. 
 

Photo: Juanito Bantong/Oxfam

In the Philippines, we sowed the seeds of climate resiliency.

When devastating Typhoon Goni barreled across the Philippines November 2020, it came at the worst possible time - rice harvest season – and while the region was still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Quinta a week before. These typhoons are a common occurrence in the country. They have grown in severity and frequency and are in large part due to climate change. Every time, it takes months for farmers to recover. 


After Typhoon Goni, Rice Watch Action Network (RWAN) offered community leaders in Carangcang village to help them start growing vegetables hydroponically (without soil) through a project funded by Oxfam. Instead of distributing seeds, RWAN and Oxfam distributed seedlings. This way, not only would the community have seeds, but they also had the ability to grow plants that could supply seeds to other farmers. 
 

Photo: Samuel Turpin/Oxfam

In Burkina Faso, we helped farmers grow food in a hot and dry climate.

Imagine growing vegetables in temperatures approaching 50 degrees with recurrent droughts. In Burkina Faso, where farmers struggle to survive the effects of climate change, it is a matter of survival for much of the population that depends on agriculture for their food. “All my life I have been farming," says Alizeta Sawadogo, 55, “I used to grow cereals. But it rains less and less, and the dry season is getting longer and hotter. Yields are getting lower and lower.”


With the support of Oxfam and local partner ATAD, Alizeta joined a group of 50 vulnerable and landless women in a collective farm of two hectares, where she learned about climate change adaptation. For Alizeta, it is an opportunity to reinvent herself: “I have learned to produce organic food using environmentally friendly techniques,” she says. “I can feed my family all year round.” 
 

Photo: Tatiana Cardeal/Oxfam

In Brazil, we revealed labour exploitation in coffee farms.

Inequality in the food system has never been higher. Despite the food industry generating revenue of trillions of dollars annually the vast numbers of people who go to bed hungry are themselves food producers or agricultural workers. Covid-19 has sharpened these inequalities and pushed many food workers and farmers in the Global South into greater poverty.

FELIPE NAME CHANGED, 33, lives in the north of the state of Minas Gerais, where he earns his living from temporary jobs. With the pandemic, opportunities became scarce. He worked in slavery-like conditions on a coffee farm in the south of the state. He and a colleague harvested about 2.5 tons of coffee a day and received no salary. They drank contaminated water, slept on the floor and received no equipment to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Photo: Andy Aitchison/Oxfam

In cities across the world, we marched for climate justice.

Climate change has no borders and affects us all. It especially hurts those in poorer countries, which are also the countries that contribute the least to it. The next decade is critical to putting us onto a safer track. We only have eight years left to turn the tides and prevent a catastrophic global temperature rise.

As world leaders gathered at COP26 in Glasgow, we joined the World Climate March to pressure them to act now on the climate crisis. On 6th of November, the Global Day of Action saw thousands of people marching for climate justice in cities and towns across the world. In Glasgow and London our march brought the voices of thousands of activists, particularly the most affected people and areas, to the streets via video screens, ad-bikes and pedicabs.

Emergencies don't stop during the COVID-19 crisis

Here’s a brief update on some of the emergency work Oxfam supporters made possible this year.

Since March 2020 Oxfam has worked to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and support people’s basic food needs and livelihoods. During this time, we also advocated for a mass-produced, fairly distributed coronavirus vaccine that is available to every individual, rich and poor alike: a People’s Vaccine.

In India in April and May 2021 the Delta variant of the disease spread through the country, affecting our partners, Oxfam staff, and millions of others. Oxfam India was already providing cash, food, and hand-washing stations for migrant laborers stuck without money, housing, food, or transport options. As the Delta variant surged, Oxfam continued to provide food (more than half a million rations and food packs) and hygiene items to people, while also delivering medical equipment to more than 100 hospitals and health centers, including gas cylinders, beds, and protective equipment. We also advocated for the government to help migrant workers returning to home villages with no jobs, and to reduce the vulnerability of women to domestic violence. Oxfam is active in 16 Indian states.

Ongoing Emergencies

In the meantime, Oxfam has also continued its response to humanitarian emergencies all over the globe, work made even more difficult owing to increased costs, prevention measures that limit staff movements, and the threat of infection. More than half of the people Oxfam is helping are women and girls, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID.

The UN estimates there are more than 1 million people seeking safety in and around Marib, Yemen. Kaff Media / Oxfam


Yemen: Oxfam has assisted three million people affected by the war in Yemen since 2015, providing water and sanitation assistance, cash, and food. This past year, fighting in the area around Marib has displaced more than a million people (75 percent of whom are women and children), who now seek shelter in camps in areas prone to flooding and sandstorms. Oxfam has assisted 14,000 people in Marib, delivering cash to more than 2,000 families and dislodging 55,000 litres of sewage from latrines each day.

Ethiopia: Since conflict broke out in the northern Tigray region in November 2020, Oxfam has been providing water, sanitation, and hygiene items to people displaced by fighting. Oxfam is calling on all parties to observe a cease-fire, prioritize the safety of civilians, re-establish public services, and grant aid agencies unconditional and safe access to help those at risk of severe hunger. So far, Oxfam and partners have reached nearly 85,000 people, and plan to assist 400,000.

Bangladesh: Since Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence came over the border from Myanmar in 2017, Oxfam and partners in Bangladesh have been assisting people living in extremely overcrowded conditions. Expanding on our mission to provide clean water and sanitation, Oxfam and its local partners stepped up hygiene promotion starting in 2020. We also produced clean water for more than 20,000 people who survived a fire in one section of the Kutupalong refugee camp in April 2021. When heavy rains in July flooded water treatment systems and latrines, Oxfam made repairs and distributed hygiene kits.

Sudden Emergencies

Oxfam and key local groups we collaborate with still must help people when conflict, storms, earthquakes, and other sudden disasters hit, even when assets and resources are already committed to long-term programs. Here are just a couple of examples:

Beirut: In August 2020, a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate in Beirut’s port exploded and killed more than 200 people, injured 7,000, and displaced 300,000. Oxfam, already committed to assisting Syrian refugees and host communities in eastern Lebanon, turned to the capital city and recruited 11 new partner organizations to provide cash, food, reconstruction assistance, and other help for vulnerable disabled people, women, and LGBTQ people affected by the blast. Oxfam’s partners continue to assist more than 10,000 people as they recover from the explosion amid the political and economic collapse in Lebanon.

An Oxfam volunteer hands out water purification tablets after heavy monsoon rains in southeast Bangladesh damaged Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, and displaced families. Shaikh Ashraf Ali/Oxfam


Gaza: In May 2021 rocket attacks and shelling in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel led to widespread damage in Gaza. Bombing reduced entire apartment blocks to rubble, destroyed roads, knocked out water and power systems, and damaged clinics and schools. Nearly 450,000 people in Gaza needed humanitarian assistance, and more than 100,000 people were displaced. When it was safe enough to do so, Oxfam worked with local aid groups in Gaza to provide blankets and mattresses, hygiene items, and the chemicals needed to operate three sea water desalination plants that provide drinking water for 400,000 people. Oxfam also provided cash to farming families to help them restart their work, and we plan to repair water and sanitation systems at 19 schools.

These are just a few of the crises Oxfam is working on in collaboration with local groups. Contributions from people like you are making this work possible, and we thank you for your support.

You can help people survive COVID-19 and other humanitarian emergencies while continuing programs to end inequality and poverty.

We have the power to transform the world

You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful.

BEGINNINGS

I started my life in India. At the age of nine, I became a Jain monk. In my late teens, I became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi in the movement for land reform. With Vinoba Bhave and hundreds of thousands of people, we walked around India, calling for social justice.

Later, my friend and I were inspired by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who was calling for nuclear bombs to be banned. We decided to walk from India to Moscow, to Paris, to London, to Washington DC. At that time, these were the four nuclear capitals. For two and a half years we walked 8000 miles, crossing 15 countries, connecting with people around the world. Because war comes out of fear. Peace comes out of trust.

"So you're small…small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. And the trees are made of thousands of small fruit. Humanity now is 7, 8 billion small, small, individuals. So every individual is equally important, never underestimate the value of your work you are doing.” - Satish Kumar

DO NO HARM

My religion is humanity, respect and love for nature. My activism is about compassion for all living beings, whatever your religion, whatever your nationality, whatever your background.

Doctors take the Hippocratic oath when they graduate and promise to ‘do no harm'. I would like to promote the idea of a Hippocratic oath for humanity. Wherever you are, whatever your profession, you are guided by the principle to ‘do no harm'. Do no harm to nature. Polluting our oceans with plastic, destroying the rainforests that are the lungs of the earth are acts of harm to nature. Do no harm to people. Cheap labour and war are acts of harm to people. If we do no harm then together we can create a safe world for everyone.

Satish Kumar - small is beautiful | Oxfam GB

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CLIMATE JUSTICE

Climate change is affecting the poorest people who are least responsible for it. Therefore, social justice and climate action are deeply interlinked.

Fossil fuels come from deep down in coal mines and oil fields. I call it energy from hell. We have created climate change, which is like creating hell on earth. Pollution, poverty, waste and wars are all human-made.

What is made by humans can be changed by humans. We are creative and imaginative. Let's use more wind and water energy, which I call light energy coming from the heavens, from above. We have power to transform the world. We cannot change history, but we can change the future.

THE REAL POWER IS THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE

World leaders gathering at summits once a year is not going to solve the climate crisis. We have to create a strong grassroots movement of people to influence governments, business leaders, industrialists, economists to change course, and to make our world a safe place to live.

It's a journey. To be an activist, you have to be an optimist. Seeing all the young people around the world today demanding change and transformation gives me hope. They are taking the initiative. They will not be satisfied with a system that is causing climate change and destroying biodiversity. I hope that the pressure which the young people and grassroots movements are adding will lead to a much bigger change in the next five years.

You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. Humanity now is eight billion small individuals. Every individual is equally important. Never underestimate the value of the work you are doing. Whatever you do, do it imaginatively, creatively, lovingly, beautifully. That's all you can do.

Satish Kumar is an Oxfam Ambassador, Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist, and co-founder of Schumacher College in Devon where he is a Visiting Fellow.

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