From the field

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Fighting famine in East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen. Join us.

Across the world, millions of children, women and men are starving due to a devastating food crisis. A catastrophic combination of conflict and drought has left them facing terrifying food shortages – and there is no end in sight.

In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in East Africa, more than 19 million people are on the brink of starvation, while war in South Sudan has forced more than 3 million from their homes, and left millions more desperate for food. In February of this year, South Sudan became the first country in the world to declare famine since 2011.  

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, Fadumo lost three of her children – her triplets – to malnutrition when they were less than a month old. 

The 32-year-old farmer said: “They died because of a lack of food – they were malnourished. They were less than one month old. First one child died, then two more. I was afraid.

“How can anyone be happy when they have lost three children?”

Meanwhile, the drought has claimed two-thirds of her livestock.

“I had shoats and camels,” she explained. “Before, I used to have 60 animals, now I just have 20. I have one camel which is still alive.”

Now she fears for the lives of her remaining children and said: “What will they eat? We are getting some help – have some food and water.”

But she added: “We need many things. We need food which is nourishing. Food is our biggest need.”

Elsewhere, parts of Nigeria – where at least 4.4 million people are experiencing crisis levels of hunger – are also thought to be in the grip of famine. However, the situation in the country is so volatile due to conflict that it has been almost impossible to confirm that famine has taken hold.

And in Yemen, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces has left more than 17 million people on the brink of starvation. Without a massive humanitarian response, it will be impossible to avert famine.

Millions of people – in different parts of the world – have one thing in common: they are all experiencing the devastating impact of severe hunger on a daily basis.

Oxfam is supporting communities facing famine and hunger by distributing emergency food supplies and providing clean water and sanitation as well as providing cash or cash vouchers so people can buy what they need locally, supporting local business. We are working to prevent fatal diseases such as cholera by getting clean water to the most vulnerable, and to support them get their crops growing once again so that they can feed themselves and their families.

We are already helping over one million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and plan to begin a response to the drought in Somalia.

In situations where hunger and malnutrition are rife, it is usually the children who suffer the most. Even if they manage to survive prolonged periods of extreme hunger, they often pay the price in the long term as they lose their immunity and their ability to fight disease.

Like countless other infants and children in South Sudan, Tabitha’s baby daughter is in danger of becoming severely malnourished. 

Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

Tabitha’s daughter is sucking on a dry “Tuok” – a dry seed from a type of palm tree which is eaten when there is nothing else left.

Tabitha fled with her baby to seek refuge in Garbek, a small community in Unity State, after they were chased out of their home when violence broke out.

Now, with food so scarce, Tabitha is desperate – and resorts to eating whatever she can get her hands on.

“We feed on water lilies, fish and anything we could find in the river,” said Tabitha, who also lost most of her animals during her journey.

“What we currently need is food [and] medication. The more time it takes the worse it shall be for us.”

We’re determined to act quickly to ensure that mothers like Fadumo and Tabitha do not see their children go hungry. We have already reached many thousands of people with food, water, sanitation and support – but we are most concerned about the people we have yet to reach. 

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Stories of hope for International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day 2017, we're celebrating some of the inspirational women we have the privilege of working with around the world.

MAITRE FROM HAITI

Pictured top left, Maitre says “I’m very proud because I am a strong woman. I am a girl doing a man’s job and I am capable and able.”

Maitre Marie Nadeige (36) from Haiti is one of 100 women trained by Oxfam in construction. These women have joined the workforce and are now helping to improve infrastructure and repair roads in their areas. Since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Oxfam has been working with partners to help people rebuild their lives and make their communities less vulnerable to disaster. 

AYINKAMIYE FROM RWANDA

Pictured top right, Ayinkamiye Josepha works on the Tuzamurane Co-operative – an Oxfam partner-run pineapple farm in the Kirehe District in east Rwanda. Before the co-operative, women were growing and selling pineapples on a much smaller scale for a low price and were trapped in poverty. Now the women working as part of the co-operative grow pineapple crops on both their own land and the co-operative’s and these are sold to be juiced or dried in the in-house processing plant. The profits from sales are invested back into the business and shared between the members. Oxfam has also helped connect the women with banks so that they can access funds to pay for health insurance and school fees.

EMAM FROM IRAQ

Pictured bottom left, Emam Mahdi Saleh (36) is a business woman and mother of five from Jalawla in Iraq. Her salon was damaged during the ISIS occupation of the town but she’s now back in business after receiving a loan from Oxfam for repairs. Oxfam has been helping other business owners like Emam to get back on their feet through small loans and paid work to help rebuild the town. 

NATALIA PARTSKHALADZE FROM RUSSIA

Pictured bottom right, Natalia says “Everything started with an idea and a very small investment from a small saving. Oxfam supported with branding and restoration of the facilities. It is important to work together…”

Natalia Partskhaladze (41) is the founder of the Kona Co-operative in a village in Georgia’s Kaspi Municipality in Russia. The co-operative produces black and herbal teas and was set up in 2015 as part of a nationwide project led by Oxfam that has facilitated the formation of 48 co-operatives in 13 municipalities, employing around 10,000 people. Natalia’s co-operative employs five women and buys materials from other co-operatives to supplement locally sourced herbs and flowers.

Video: A story of hope from Iraq

Zahia and her family were forced to flee their home when ISIS came to their village. When ISIS were gone Zahia returned to her house and with a little help from Oxfam, regained hope of creating a home and an independent life.

This is her story.

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Slowly starved to death: escalating crisis in Yemen

Deadly clashes and air strikes in Yemen have forced millions of people to flee their homes and killed and injured thousands.

Now Yemen is being slowly starved to death. Children and parents are at risk of catastrophic hunger and the country is just a few months away from running out of food.

A recent harrowing report from Yemen by the BBC’s Fergal Keane has shone a spotlight on the crisis in this part of the world.

The situation 

Bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East increasing when fighting escalated in March 2015.

A 20 month-long war, waged between a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf countries and the Government of Yemen against the Houthis, has brought the country’s economy to near collapse. 

Half of the population – 14.4 million people – require help with food. 21.1 million people are in need of life-saving aid, over 80% of the population.

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate with fuel shortages, rising food prices and a severe lack of basic services making daily survival a painful struggle for millions.

Oxfam is there. Our Country Director in Yemen, Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, says: “People desperately need food and water, medicine and health services, they need aid that can reach them – ultimately they need the conflict to end so they can rebuild their lives. All those fuelling Yemen's tragedy need to stop being arms brokers and start becoming peace brokers. The international community must redouble its efforts to help bring this crisis to a peaceful resolution.”

Ferdose

Ferdose (40) fled her home in Taiz when her house was burnt in the war and she had nowhere to go.

“Local residents hosted us in a room in one of the houses. My husband lost his job. For about a year now, we have been depending on the aid provided by local residents and Oxfam,” she explains. Oxfam provided Ferdose with a hygiene kit, as well as food vouchers every month so she can buy food in the local market.

Above: 40-year-old Ferdose fled Taiz when her house was burnt in the war and she had nowhere to go. Our team provided Ferdose with a hygiene kit, as well as food vouchers every month so she can buy food in the local market. Photo: Moayed Al-Shaybani/Oxfam

What Oxfam is doing

We are delivering clean water to people in the north and south of the country and have reached more than 913,000 people with water, food vouchers, hygiene kits and other essential aid. Our aim is to reach 1.2 million people with the help of our supporters.

Help so far has included:

  • Cash payments to 106,000 people to help families displaced by the conflict to buy food.
  • Clean water and sanitation services for 435,500 people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, by trucking drinking water and repairing water systems and latrines. We are also providing equipment to enable urban water authorities to pump water to an additional 820,000 people in Aden and Al Hawtah.
  • Supporting more than 11,000 families with livestock treatment and supporting more than 14,000 people with cash for work.

We are calling on the Saudi-led coalition to lift shipping restrictions to allow food and other vital imports to increase, and urging all parties in the conflict to allow food to move freely around the country and agree a meaningful ceasefire and restart peace talks.

How you can help

Please help Yemen – give what you can and get clean drinking water to people who urgently need it.

 
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Andrew Trimble meets refugees in Tanzania: ‘They’re focusing on making each day count’

Just over a week after returning home from the Ireland rugby tour in South Africa in the summer I found myself heading back to the same continent but for very different reasons.
 
Most of the people on the flight to Tanzania were heading there to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on safari. I was travelling with Oxfam Ireland to meet people affected by a crisis that’s totally off the world’s radar.
 
In the past year, over 130,000 people have fled their homes in Burundi because of unrest and crossed into neighbouring Tanzania.
 
It was my first time in this kind of situation and naturally you feel a bit self conscious – a rugby player walking around a refugee camp.
 
You’re aware of how you stand out. The people in the camp were very welcoming, but probably wondering who this bloke was and why he was having his photo taken beside the water pumps and the sanitation facilities!
 
 
Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at an Oxfam water treatment tank supported by Irish Aid at the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
Travelling through the camp, you’re very aware that everybody you see – the adults, the children, even the volunteers working with Oxfam – are refugees.
 
We heard stories of husbands and wives who got separated on the journey to safety, or ended up in different camps hours from each other and unable to reunite.
 
The two camps we visited – Nyarugusu and Nduta in the north west of Tanzania - were different to how I expected. Dry season means red dust was everywhere – and it’s still on my shoes some time later back home in Belfast.
 
There are rows and rows of tents, but there is also shade and vegetation thanks to the trees. Some people have started to plant vegetables near their tents. The trees offer important protection from the sun for the children who study at the camp’s outdoor school.
 
Others are in school buildings and we visited one where the kids seemed to be enjoying school a lot more than I used to! They were full of smiles. You got the sense that going to school was at least providing them with some normality; something familiar, even if just for a few hours each day. Their teachers are also refugees, trying to keep going; knowing that educating these children is key to their future.
 
 
Children enjoying a lesson on rugby by Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble with Irakoze* and Zebunissa* during a rugby lesson by Andrew at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
With a few rugby balls brought from home, I tried to show them what rugby had to offer. It was a fun afternoon, and one brave girl put up her hand to volunteer to try to tackle me. You could almost forget that these children have witnessed harrowing things. In that moment the kids are like any other group of children – laughing, smiling and simply wanting to play.
 
But children have to grow up quickly here, like the five-year-old girl I saw carrying her baby brother, or the boy – no more than a year and a half – fetching water by himself. And that’s when it struck me, he’s the same age as my wee fella Jack, just out picking up water from the tap by himself. That’s the contrast.
 
This time last year the picture of the body of the Syrian child, Alan Kurdi who was aged three, washed up on a beach in Turkey was something that stuck with anybody who saw it. I became a father myself shortly before that so the impact was increased.
 
More recently we’ve been shocked by the photo of an injured five-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. It shows you the level of desperation for people coming from countries where they just need to get out of there.
 
We visited a children’s centre, a place where kids can come and play in safety. They were putting on a play about going to the toilet, as part of an Oxfam project to teach children about staying safe and healthy. It was very funny but with a serious message – diseases like cholera are a real threat in crowded camps so the children need to learn about washing their hands.
 
Their parents welcomed us into the humble tents they call home. They smiled too, but there was a sadness there too.
 
I try to picture what it would be like to leave my house and run for my life, and what I would need to do to keep my family safe.
 
 
Burundian refugees Belange Mugisha* with her one-year-old son Remy Habonimana and husband Habonimana Christophe* meet Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble outside the tent they now call home in the Nduta camp in Tanzania. Asked why they fled Burundi, Habonimana* says: “I was hunted.” The life they had hoped for has not come to pass and it seems like everything is on hold. “Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Yet despite the challenges, they are trying to make the most of their situation. Habonimana* is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while Belange* has a job in one of the camp’s schools.” Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
One of the refugees I met was Habonimana Christophe*. He’s 31 like me, and is also married and the proud dad of a one-year-old boy called Remy Habonimana. He showed us inside his tent. He opened up to me about his journey from Burundi and why he had to leave. “I was hunted,” he told me.
 
This is actually his second time living the in the Nduta camp. He arrived here as a child in 1993 with his family and lived there until 2008. Habonimana found himself back in the Nduta camp this time with his wife and child in November 2015.
 
“This is the first time for my wife to be a refugee,” he says. “It wasn’t easy for her.”
 
Habonimana is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones, volunteering his time. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while his wife has a job in one of the camp’s schools.
 
Both Habonimana and his wife have diplomas in language studies. He was planning on graduating with a degree at university in Burundi before life changed so radically. 
 
The life he hoped for has not come to pass. Everything is on hold.
 
“Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Inside his tent are his certificates.
 
“Whenever I chat with relatives and friends that are in other countries and in universities, I feel bad as my life has already bust as I have my certificate that allows me to go to university. But I will live here for the rest of my life.”
 
Yet he’s focusing on making each day count – and I am in awe of how he and his wife have managed – coming here under pressure and raising a child.
 
That spirit and determination to keep going despite the odds was something I felt throughout the camp.
 
I met a group of men and women who had been tailors in Burundi. They got together in the camp with the idea of starting a business together. Oxfam provided them with machinery, equipment and a building.
 
 
Rugby player and Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble tries on a handmade jacket which fits his shoulders but not quite his arms during a visit to a tailors’ workshop set up by Burundian refugees with the support of Oxfam at the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Mary Mndeme/Oxfam
 
With the old school Singer sowing machines and fabrics in almost every colour under the sun, they were so passionate about their work. The tailors told me that they are hoping lights can be installed in their workshop so as they can work even longer hours.
 
They hadn’t heard of rugby – but they all knew about football. One of the tailors asked if I was wealthy like David Beckham, perhaps hoping I might be in the market for a wardrobe like his!
 
Listening to how people’s lives changed so utterly because of the war made me think about the choices ahead of me when the time comes to retire from rugby. I’m so fortunate to have options. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be stuck on pause, with no idea of if or when your life will begin again.
 
I’m well used to training for the physical strength and stamina needed for rugby, but that’s surpassed by the mental fortitude and resilience shown by the people I met –people just like you and me, but thrown into an extraordinary situation, not of their own making.
 
People with hopes and dreams just like ours, looking for safety and security for their families and kids, a job, a home, a future.
 
It also made me think about our responsibilities towards helping refugees. The one greeting I heard over and over again wherever we went was ‘karibu’, which means welcome. This attitude towards welcoming strangers helps explain why Tanzania has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing Burundi.
 
It’s incredible to think that this developing country, where there is still widespread poverty, has opened its doors to refugees.
 
This is despite the challenges it faces. During the long journey on dirt roads, I saw children walk barefoot, women walking for miles to fetch water and men pushing bicycles up hills laden with heavy loads. Despite this, Tanzania has welcomed refugees for decades – many of the people I met were actually refugees twice over.
 
You hear it time and again, but it’s truly an eye-opening experience to do a trip like this. When you come back home, you think about everything you take for granted. Simple things, like being able to turn on a tap to get clean water or have electricity and heat at the flick of a switch. Also the freedom to move about, to have a home, to work and to be with your loved ones.
 
The work I saw by Oxfam is genuinely saving and changing lives. It is a strange feeling to be temporarily planted into a world so alien; to have strangers who have lost everything smile at you and tell their life story, and young children whose futures are so uncertain put on an incredible performance of song and dance to welcome us visitors from Oxfam Ireland.
 
But perhaps the strangest feeling of all was to stand in a place of such sadness and find myself so inspired.
 
Andrew Trimble is an Oxfam Ireland ambassador.  

 

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"We fled from our home... there were so many bodies on the streets."

 
Wafaa and her family in the half build house they now call home. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
 
"We fled from our home; there were so many dead bodies on the streets." Wafaa (name changed to protect identity) sits on the floor in one of three rooms in a small, half-built house her brother rents for their families in Kahlo Bazini, in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Conditions in the house are basic at best, some of the walls aren't yet finished and until Oxfam intervened they had no facilities to wash, no toilet, and no clean water.
 
"Our living situation is difficult, but we make things work; my brother works cleaning shops so that he can earn money to provide food for us. My children and I all depend on my brother. He goes to clean the shops and then brings home vegetables, things like tomatoes, and shares them between my children and his. We have lived in this same situation for a while," explains Wafaa.
 
Before arriving in Kirkuk, Wafaa and her family moved several times trying to escape ISIS as they took control of large areas of Iraq in 2014. "When we first left out home, we went to my brother's house in Al Eshaqi. We were there for three days and then attacks, bombing and killings started in the streets, so we left to go to my sister's house; she lived far away from the places that had been captured by ISIS. We didn't stay there very long though, about 27 days, and then the fighting started there as well. There were airstrikes, missiles and bombs everywhere."
 
At one point Wafaa and her family were forced to live in an empty school building: 'The school had no appliances; there was no water, toilets or place to wash; the water we were using came directly from the river, it was dirty and polluted. It gave us a lot of infections and allergic reactions. No one came to check if we were okay and the fighting continued to reach us again.
 
"Then my son got ill; he fell on the ground and his face swelled up. My son is only six years old. I had to tell my family that I couldn't stay there any longer." But the area was surrounded from both sides.
 
 
Wafaa Derwesh* (name changed), 39, was displaced with her family when ISIS took control of her village. She now lives in a small village near Kirkuk called Khalo Bazini. Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Oxfam
 
The school where Wafaa and her family were staying was isolated and very far from any roads, "It was like we had escaped to a small empty island far away", Wafaa explains. "There was no water and no electricity. And then ISIS struck. Three ISIS fighters who were carrying guns and firing passed by us; we were so scared we ran away again.
 
"When ISIS came, there were a lot of other families at the school; many of them left the school with us to escape ISIS. They put their black flag above the school; the same school that had been like a home to us." As Wafaa sits in the dark room of the house she and her family now call home she tells the story of how they escaped from ISIS.
 
"We left the school at around 4.00am and we reached the army controlled area at 12.00pm. ISIS had destroyed all the bridges. It was a cold winter, we had no clothes with us and we were trying to escape from ISIS. We were in bad situation, but there were other families and relatives who couldn't leave because ISIS had already taken control of the area and taken them under siege."
 
Not all of her family had been so fortunate. "My sister was still living at the school. She didn't have a car, and random bombing and air strikes had already begun between the army and ISIS. She was alone in the middle of their battle. She called my mom and told her the battle had begun and that she was about to give birth to her baby.
 
"One of my sister's neighbours was her midwife at the birth. It all happened during these air strikes and bombings. We were having a very cold and rainy spell and my sister was giving birth to her new child. She had been complaining about the pain in her stomach but there was no doctor, no food, and no medicine, and no car for her to get to them."
 
Even though ISIS had surrounded the area, Wafaa and her brothers went back to the school to try and fetch their sister. They wanted to get her the medical help she so badly needed. "She was on the dirty ground that had been polluted and her stomach was too swollen, I can't describe it, we couldn't do anything for her; we were helpless and powerless. It was very difficult to see her like that; she was my sister."
 
 
Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
 
Wafaa managed to get her sister out of the school but she died soon after that. 'That's how I last saw her; it was very tragic; we all suffered and felt sad about losing her. We had become displaced in one way, and her daughters who are very young became displaced in a different way.' After her sister died, Wafaa took in her nieces and now provides for them as well as her own children.
 
There are currently over 3.2 million people displaced in Iraq, and even after their village or town has been recaptured from ISIS, families like Wafaa's aren't able to go home due to the level of destruction, number of mines left behind and the slow vetting process that ensues. "Our area was liberated a long time ago," Wafaa explains, "but they won't allow us to return because there are mines that have been planted, explosive devices and bombs in our farms and houses. Behind our home ISIS planted many bombs and explosive devices.
 
"I'm not afraid of anything. I'm waiting for the checkpoint at Balad to open and then I'll return to my house. My home was small but nice, and I was living happily in it. We left because ISIS attacked us; missiles were falling everywhere and my children were crying. It was a difficult situation and it was hard on my children. I couldn't make them understand that we had left because of the bombing and the battle between the army and ISIS. My children were afraid of ISIS.
 
"My young children are always saying that they miss their games and our house. They ask me when will we go back? All the displaced people here want to return to our homes because we are exhausted."
 
WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN IRAQ
 
On Friday October 7th Irish Aid delivered 80 tonnes of aid to Iraq for Oxfam to distribute to vulnerable people fleeing the conflict in Mosul and beyond. Items being sent include blankets, jerry cans, cooking sets, water tanks, tarpaulins and shelter kits.
 
 
Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he is gravely concerned up to 1.5 million people in the city of Mosul have been living under siege for more than two years, with a further 1 million in surrounding areas currently under ISIS control.
 
Oxfam has been working in 50 villages and towns across Diyala and Kirkuk governorates in northern Iraq since 2014. We are providing safe water in camps and in communities where people who have fled the fighting are sheltering, and enabling people to earn a living so that they can support their families. We have also been helping families as they return home once it is safe to do so.
 
We are now scaling up our response in the Mosul Corridor, operating in Salah Al-Din and Ninewa governorates. Oxfam is also working in the key strategic area of Qayyarat, which is 80km south of Mosul and sandwiched between ISIS-controlled territories. We are providing clear water and sanitation and essential items like blankets and hygiene kits.
 
Oxfam works across Iraq including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
 
As military operations begin to retake the city of Mosul and surrounding areas from ISIS, we are expecting to help 60,000 people.
 
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