From the field

,

The refugee crisis you won’t have heard about: On the ground in Tanzania

The situation facing refugees from Syria has been one of the big international stories of the past year but another crisis has been less visible.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi, a landlocked country in East Africa, into neighbouring Tanzania after election tensions last year led to weeks of violent protests.

Michael O’Riordan, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Coordinator, took a lead role in organising the humanitarian response.

Having been involved in many humanitarian programmes before ranging from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines to South Sudan, Michael was well prepared for his secondment to Tanzania last year.

Nevertheless, the huge influx of refugees arriving from Burundi meant it was like “setting up a small town from scratch” at the Nyarugusu camp.

Michael first arrived in May last year after approximately 30,000 people crowded onto a rugged beach shore of Kakunga Beach, Lake Tanganyika, on the Burundi and Tanzania border. Many spent up to three weeks here in exposed, cramped conditions with little clean water, food or sanitation.

Watch this video where Michael shares his experiences in Tanzania, responding to the Burundian refugee crisis:

The refugees there were brought to the Nyarugusu camp, where Michael helped set up Oxfam’s emergency programme. Often whatever worldly belongings they brought on their journey had to be left behind to be transported to the camp at a later date, meaning that many refugees arrive in the camp with just the clothes on their back. People are thirsty and tired; many are sick. They’ve gone through so much already just to get to this point, and what they need now is clean water, food and a place to sleep.

One of Michael’s main priorities was to expand the existing water and sanitation network within the Nyarugusu camp to allow for the huge numbers arriving. The original water system was built by Oxfam 20 years ago and was designed to be used by 50,000 people but was already being used by 65,000 mainly Congolese refugees. (Nyarugusu was created in the mid-1990s to house people fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo).

The numbers of people now arriving from Burundi since May 2015 has made Nyarugusu the world’s third largest refugee camp today with a population of 173,000 with the vast majority new arrivals (it was once the ninth largest).

Having so many people living in such close proximity to each other creates conditions ripe for diseases like cholera and typhoid to spread. Access to clean running water, a toilet and a shower is vital.

Above: Michael O'Riordan shares a moment of laughter with refugee children in Tanzania.

“We were dealing with approximately 30,000 of the refugees coming from Burundi’, says Michael. “So many basic services were lacking, and we had to set them up from scratch. This meant the first phase of the trip was very busy, with many 24 hour days and very little sleep. We also had to import some of our equipment due to the lack of services in the area. The only way of importing this was driving from Nairobi in Kenya all the way to northern Tanzania, which was a good four/five days of physical driving.”

The Tanzania Water and Environment Sanitation (TWESA), a local NGO set up by Oxfam, partnered up with Oxfam in dealing with the crisis. Michael describes how TWESA’s local knowledge of the area meant they had the capacity to respond effectively to the crisis. There was also a reunion of old friends, as many of the Oxfam and TWESA staff had previously worked together before.

The long days and limited services were challenges for Michael and his team, but it was easy to be reminded of the importance of a humanitarian presence in the area on his first day meeting refugees. “I was talking to a woman who had been separated from her husband and some of her children, and who had not received food in five days,” he says. “It really brought home to me the desperate situation which many were facing, and the work that needed to be done.’’

Clockwise from top: Boy using Oxfam water station for hygiene at Tanzanian refugee camp. Oxfam workers prepare water supplies at Tanzanian refugee camp. Refugees in Tanzania.

Along with improving water and sanitation systems and providing basic hygiene items like soap, toothpaste and sanitary towels, Michael observed a need for something else basic but equally vital – buckets, cooking pots and kitchen utensils for people to carry, prepare and eat the food being distributed to them, something which Oxfam has since distributed.

People were using any container they could find to collect the nutritious porridge-like food that was being distributed, and Michael watched as a man, who had queued for hours, finished what he had to eat and walked down the length of the queue to pass his precious container onto the first person who had none.

“That generosity, even in their hardship, these people were willing to share with each other to make sure that they could each get food really struck me. I met that man again several weeks later, and he was able to take me to where he was staying now… he had set up a little barber business using a razor powered by solar energy. In so far as you can be in that environment, he was trying to make his life normal again.

This work is made possible by our supporters. Regular donations allow us to be first and fast when emergencies strike. Please consider giving a monthly gift.

,

Entertain, educate, organise: how radio supports development

To mark World Radio Day on Saturday 13th February, Oxfam celebrates how radio impacts millions of people every day, and remains an important tool for development and a lifeline in times of emergency. 
 
Oxfam uses radio as a vital medium in its overseas programme work tackling poverty and assisting vulnerable people during humanitarian crisis.
 
Radio dramas and entertainment/education campaigns offer the potential to deliver critical information to those who need it most across vast geographic distances via compelling, entertaining programming. 
 
In Tanzania, for example, Oxfam is supporting a community station, Radio Lolondo FM, by helping to provide equipment, solar powered energy supplies and salaries, as it works to raise awareness about development work in Tanzania. The station educates people about Oxfam’s livelihood projects which help people grow more crops and set up their own co-ops, among other things, as well our campaign against violence on women and girls in Tanzania.
 
One of its broadcasters, Janet Mbunito explains radio’s benefits and its immediacy as a communications tool for essential information: “Newspapers are slow getting here and few can read them. With radio, we can bring the news of Arusha and of Tanzania quickly and the key is to broadcast local issues in the local language.
 
 
Janet Mbunito during a broadcast by Radio Lolondo FM, an Oxfam-supported station in Tanzania. Photo: Geoff Sayer/Oxfam
 
“We play music, take phone calls, and bring people in from the villages to talk. The station is here to entertain, to educate and to support development...”
 
Similarly, Oxfam and its partners in Haiti have developed a radio drama to change and influence knowledge, attitudes and behaviours amongst local communities, tackling issues such as nutrition, gender-based violence, destruction of natural resources, cholera, and safe hygiene practices. 
 
And in Liberia in 2015, Oxfam helped to develop radio jingles and a drama about the signs and symptoms of Ebola, which were broadcast via radio for four days nationwide. In Sierra Leone, the Radio Bintumani station in Koinadugu district also played jingles to highlight the signs and symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent it. Steven Bockarie Mansaray, the station manager, says that the promotion of health messages was key to keeping Ebola out of the district for so long.
 
 
Steven Bockarie Mansaray is the manager of Radio Bintumani in Sierra Leone. The district station played jingles to highlight the signs and symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent it. 
Credit: Holly Taylor/Oxfam
 
Nepal is another powerful example of the positive role that radio can play in Oxfam’s humanitarian work.
 
Following the two devastating earthquakes that hit the region in April and May 2015, Oxfam quickly responded, ensuring safe and equal access to water and sanitation facilities, and provision of basic needs such as food, cash and hygiene materials. 
 
However, as our community mobilisation teams in Nepal hit the ground to ask communities what they needed and to better understand the challenges they faced, it soon became apparent that in addition to basic essentials there was more we could do to help connect communities with information.
 
As Simone Carter, Oxfam Community Mobiliser and Public Health Promoter, says: “Families had lost access to information; their radios and TVs had been destroyed or buried in the earthquake, and travelling to access this information was impossible at the time.
 
“People were also confused about how to access the much-needed aid from the numerous organisations and relief agencies. This information gap resulted in rumours and questions about everything from selection criteria for reconstruction grants, to myths regarding the next earthquake.
 
 
Above: Radio Sindhu DJs Gurash Gureng (22), Deepak Khatri (23), and Asmi Tamang (21) in Nepal. After the earthquake made their station building unsafe they relocated to this open bike shed and set up their equipment for broadcast. The team received regular missing persons calls and helped to reunite people with their families. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam A Nepalese woman with one of the radios distributed by Oxfam, following the devastating earthquakes in 2015. Credit: Oxfam
 
“An organisation focused on improving access to information in affected communities, Internews, was in Nepal running a programme called OpenMic Rumour Tracking, which they had first trialled in Liberia with Ebola. 
 
“They collected rumours from communities and then published a weekly report in English and Nepali comparing these common rumours to facts, as well as providing contact details for people who could provide further information. 
 
“Oxfam teams did not have a channel to disseminate the information, so we decided to partner with a local community station, Radio Sindhu, to produce a programme, including a section on myth de-bunking.”
 
The earthquake had made Radio Sindhu’s building unsafe to operate in, and soon the station was receiving calls from people across the area saying they could not hear its shows.
 
Despite difficulties in getting supplies to the region, the station was given a new aerial, they relocated to an open bike shed, got hold of fuel for the generator and set up their equipment for broadcast. Radio Sindhu was broadcasting around the clock within two days of the earthquake. The team received regular missing persons calls and helped to reunite people with their families. 
 
Simone Carter explains: “Internews provided capacity building to help the station produce the show with Oxfam, and our community mobilisers worked with communities to gather the content. 
 
“By working through local radio we have been able to provide communities with the information they want and need, in a way that they find accessible, and which is part of their daily life. The show has been so successful that other local stations have been airing it as well.
 
“Topics have included health, gender, humanitarian assistance and government programming. Other topics addressed by the show have included preparing for winter, how to tell if your child has trauma, and success stories of communities recovery and rebuilding.
 
“By also inviting other organisations including the Red Cross and government agencies to be on the show, we encouraged communities to listen to just one station, with one show that aims to address their key concerns. The show has been running since June 2015 and although there are some national radio equivalents it is the only local radio show with community dialogue, focused on serving the needs of the community post-earthquake.
 
“Oxfam distributed over 1,000 radios to women's groups and youth groups to encourage members to listen. The show is replayed at four different times and on two different stations, allowing these groups different opportunities to sit together and listen. Our community mobilisers and the female community health volunteers also carry recorded versions of the show to play during community visits. This means that when our teams arrive in communities and they bring up key issues, they can play the episode on that topic or take note of the issue and organise an upcoming episode to address it.
 
“We are now trying to do live segments from communities and to have story collection done by the radio station, encouraging the station to take more ownership of the programme, so that it will be sustainable in the long-term.
 
“Not only do the radio shows provide key information to communities, they also serve as a constructive forum for the community to discuss and share information and experiences among themselves. We have hosted children's groups, promoted community events and showcased local talent. 
 
“The show has done more than inform, it has helped to grow and strengthen community bonds, bringing people together in the process of recovery and reconstruction after the earthquakes.”
 
You can help support Oxfam projects worldwide by making a donation.
,

Gifts from Oxfam, spread the love this Valentine’s Day!

It can be hard to pick the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day but with our Unwrapped range of alternative gifts, we’ve got you covered.
 
Here are three gifts from Oxfam that can help spread the love this Valentine’s Day:

GOAT COUPLE:

 
Goat Couple €70/£50 (Available online for half price, just €35/£25)
Celebrate your togetherness with the dynamic duo that is our Goat Couple. Now half price online, pick up this pair and help change the lives of people in extreme poverty who rely on animals like goats to provide for their families.
 

HONEYBEES:

 
For that someone sweet in your life, give the gift of Honeybees and you could help rural farmers to learn about the latest beekeeping methods and build brighter futures by harvesting more honey from their hives.
 

CHOCOLATE:

There is no better way to show you care than with calorie-free Chocolate – a gift that’s free of guilt and full of potential for farmers everywhere, especially cocoa farmers.
 
All three of these gifts raise vital funds for our Livelihoods programme that helps make possible a whole range of life-changing livelihoods projects. Whether that’s increasing agricultural production, safeguarding animal health and well-being, or providing small-scale farmers and other producers with access to more opportunities, we promise to maximise your generosity by helping poor families to thrive.
 
Unwrapped gift cards are available at your local Oxfam shop and online as a printed card or eCard.*

*Please note, the Goat Couple is only available at 50% discount online, not in store. Offer available online until February 16th 2016.

,

Two sides of the same story

 
Imagine a tax haven, and you might imagine an island with palm trees, yachts and pristine white sands. Some tax havens look like this, some are less glamorous. But however they look on the surface, underneath a very different picture can be found.
 
Tax havens are at the heart of a global system that allows multinational companies and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share while 896 million people worldwide are trapped in extreme poverty, and seven out of ten people on the planet now live in countries where economic inequality is worse than it was 30 years ago. Tax havens deprive governments of the resources they need to provide vital public services, like health and education, and to tackle rising inequality.
 
While the super-rich benefit vastly from this global system, its devastating impact can be felt in some of the poorest communities in the world.
 
 
Above: The Jamaica Dump, Nairobi, Kenya – April 2014
 
When we met him, Morgan said he thought he was five years old but he wasn‘t sure. He was playing at a dump in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi while his mother worked, sorting through the rubbish. The local children often come here to scavenge for food scraps, or work alongside the adults. Morgan told us he wasn‘t at school as his family couldn’t afford it.
 
It’s a huge injustice, especially when you consider that Kenya is the fastest growing economy in Africa. While some progress is being made, too many ordinary people aren’t seeing the benefit. In fact, around 34% of Kenya’s population live in extreme poverty.
 
According to the World Health Organisation, there is only around two doctors for every 10,000 people . And for the people of the Mukuru slum, even basic services like sanitation, water and education are scarce. 
 

Meanwhile...

 
In February 2015, leaked files revealed that a small number of rich individuals connected to Kenya were stowing away around $560 million in bank accounts in Switzerland. This is hidden, untaxed wealth - revenue that Kenya’s government needs to ensure that children like Morgan have a future.
 
This is just one example of a huge problem that’s happening around the world, not just in Kenya. The systemic use of tax havens by wealthy individuals and multinational companies is denying the poorest governments hundreds of billions in unpaid tax, and it’s holding back the fight against global poverty and inequality. 
 
TODAY, JUST 62 BILLIONAIRES OWN THE SAME WEALTH AS THE POOREST HALF OF THE POPULATION.
 
Every year, the gap between rich and poor gets even wider – and it’s being fuelled by the use of tax havens. As much as $7.6 trillion of personal wealth is being hidden in offshore accounts, and it has a devastating impact on poorer countries.
 
As much as 30 percent of all African financial wealth is estimated to be held offshore, costing an estimated $14 billion (approx. €12.9bn/£9.7bn) in lost tax revenues every year.
 
This is enough money to pay for healthcare for mothers and children that could save 4 million children’s lives a year, and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school.
 
 
Then there are the vast profits made by corporations and stored in tax havens. While rich individuals can hide their wealth in tax havens, multinational companies can use them to shift profits from the countries where they do business. 
 
It‘s estimated that tax dodging by multinational companies costs the world’s poorest countries at least $100 billion every year.

How the other half live

Barbara is a widow. She spends hours every day walking to collect water for her crops, so she can feed her two children. And when her husband was alive, she had to sell livestock to pay for his care. She never had the chance to go to school. If she had, she would have liked to be a nurse or a teacher. Barbara told us she felt like “a lost person”.

But Barbara knows that things could be different. If everyone paid their fair share of tax, we could have a chance to meet the basic needs of people living in poverty, give them control over their own lives and the opportunity to change their futures.
 
 

THE GENERATION TO END EXTREME POVERTY, THE GENERATION TO BUILD A FAIRER WORLD

Every day, kind and generous people are doing what they can to help change things for people facing poverty - and great strides are being made. In fact by 2030, we can end extreme poverty completely. To achieve this, we need a powerful and practical response. We need to make sure economic growth benefits the poorest people. If we’re going to end extreme poverty, we need to make sure global tax rules work for the many - not just the few. We all need to be part of the solution. And you can help right now, by signing a letter to the government calling for an end to tax havens. It’s time for change.

,

As winter settles in, refugees from Syria face increasing hardship

Hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping the ongoing conflict in Syria face another winter of dreadful conditions in Lebanon and Jordan.

Above, left: A Syrian boy stands in front of his family’s flooded tent in a settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. As the first winter storm hit the country, thousands of refugees have little means to face the harsh weather. They urgently need warm blankets, stoves, and fuel. Above-right: Syrian refugees inspect the damage inflicted by the first winter storm to their settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Tents were flooded and the agricultural land on which the camp is set up turned into muddy pools. Photos: Joelle Bassoul/Oxfam

It is nearly 5 years since the start of the conflict in Syria, and an unprecedented human tragedy continues to unfold on an unimaginable scale.

After being forced to flee horrors which they would never have imagined, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria have seen another winter descend on the Middle East – for some this is their fifth away from home in increasingly difficult living conditions.

Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which hosts the majority of refugees in this small country, is already shrouded in white, while nights in Jordan’s camps are extremely cold with temperatures dropping to zero. Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in camps and improvised shelters are particularly vulnerable to these conditions.

Above: Children in Zaatari – the refugee camp’s transition into a town is presenting huge challenges as the need for infrastructure and access to jobs grows. Photo: Tom White/PA
 

Asma Qasim, a refugee in Jordan’s sprawling Zaatari camp which hosts about 80,000 people, said: “It’s hard enough to be far from home and our family. I have been living in Zaatari with my husband and three children since 2013. Winter used to be my favourite time of the year until I got here. We can’t sleep most nights because water leaks in and makes everything wet. I am very worried for my children. I think of going back to Syria every day.”

It is not unusual for Zaatari, set in Jordan’s Northern desert area, to witness snowfall, strong winds and freezing rain. Oxfam is helping families to dig drainage channels around their households, to ensure they do not flood.

Oxfam teams are also going door-to-door, informing refugees of ways to keep safe and dry. In case of heavy rains, flooding or snow melt, Oxfam’s Zaatari team has a contingency plan that includes installing additional emergency water tanks, and helping refugees whose homes are damaged to reach communal shelters. We have also mapped flood-prone areas to guide our teams when they reach out to the most vulnerable in the camp.

Outside the camp, we are helping about 1,000 vulnerable families (70% of them refugees, the others Jordanian) by providing relief items such as heaters, gas cylinders, warm blankets and cash to pay for gas refills.

In Lebanon, Oxfam is providing cash transfers through ATM cards to hundreds of Palestinian refugees from Syria. About 450 families will receive a total of US$400 for the winter months in North Lebanon, which will enable them to buy much-needed heating fuel, tools for improving their shelter, and other items, such as blankets, children’s clothing, and stoves. They could also spend this cash on rent, as they all pay to have a roof over their heads.

Above: New lives: Syrian refugee children outside an Oxfam facility in the Zaatari camp, where Oxfam is campaigning for a permanent water and sewage system. Photo: Tom White/PA

In both countries, refugees have seen their resources dwindle as the conflict in Syria drags on. With little or no access to work opportunities, they are forced to rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

The Syria crisis is an unprecedented human and humanitarian tragedy. It is time we ask for accountability from world leaders to take action and solve this together.

If you can, please help by donating to Oxfam Ireland’s Syria Crisis Appeal.

In Jordan Oxfam works in both Zaatari refugee camp and in Jordanian communities that are hosting Syrian refugees. Zaatari camp is now the fourth biggest city in Jordan, housing around 80,000 Syrian refugees. Oxfam currently works in three of Zaatari’s 12 districts, supervising water and sanitation, and also co-ordinating hygiene promotion activities. In addition, together with UNICEF and other international actors, Oxfam is installing a water network in the camp, which will ensure refugees have safe access to water.

Above: Born on the run: baby Sham is just a few hours old, the youngest resident of Zaatari, the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan which has become a semi-permanent city for its residents. Photo: Tom White/PA

To date, Oxfam’s response has included:

  • Building 50 water, sanitation and hygiene blocks, including 318 toilets, 288 bathing areas, 72 laundry areas, and 100 water points, serving up to 15,600 people.
  • Maintaining 120 water, sanitation and hygiene blocks in 3 districts benefitting around 25,000 people.
  • Installing 270 portable latrines as a temporary measure.
  • Distributing 75 commodes for disabled users.
  • Provided 19 x 95,000 litre and 378 x 2,000 litre water tanks.
  • Installed 10 hand-washing facilities in the market area.

Syria Crisis: Winter in Zaatari

Pages