Health & Sanitation

  • Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. That’s wrong. We all have the right to clean water. Oxfam is providing life-saving clean water, and sanitation and hygiene education in some of the world’s poorest countries, as well as in areas struck by humanitarian crises.

Ukraine Appeal | Help Today

Nearly 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes from the war, 5 million into neighbouring countries.


Oxfam have a busy partner-led humanitarian response running in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and Romania, aiming to reach up to 800,000 people, or more if possible.
In Poland, we have already reached more than 225,000 people.


We are concentrating on protection, water and sanitation, and food and economic security. We are providing cash and basic sanitation facilities for families in need of urgent assistance.

Thank you for your continued support.
 

Why is Clean Water Important?

Oxfam built a water desalination system powered by wind and solar energy on the west coast of Yemen to help families get clean water.
Oxfam built a water desalination system powered by wind and solar energy on the west coast of Yemen to help families get clean water. Pablo Tosco / Oxfam Intermon

Safe water, sanitation, and hygiene save lives during emergencies and in the long-term struggle against poverty.

When a sustained drought in southern Ethiopia in 2017 killed all of Amina Ibrahim’s sheep, goats, and camels, it was an economic crisis for her family. Then the lack of safe drinking water became an even bigger threat. People in her village started drinking whatever water they could find, got sick (most likely from cholera, but Ibrahim could not say for sure), and started dying.

“I thought I would die also,” the 50-year-old mother of 12 said later. She and her family fled to a nearby town where Oxfam and the Ethiopian government provided clean water, decent latrines, and cash-for-work projects so she could buy some food.

Like Ibrahim, more than 2 billion people in the world lack a source of safe water at home, and as many as 4.5 billion don’t have a safe sanitation system either, according to the UN. It’s a crisis during emergencies, especially the current COVID-19 pandemic. But the long-term effects of unequal access to clean water and decent sanitation in people’s day-to-day lives are also a major contributor to poverty. That’s why water, sanitation, and hygiene are priorities for Oxfam’s work--which supporters like you make possible.

Clean water saves lives

Any conflict or emergency that drives people from their homes and forces them to gather in places with no safe drinking water or sanitation systems creates conditions that are ripe for water-borne diseases.

Cholera is one of the most severe diseases: When about a million Rwandans fled violence to eastern Congo in 1994, there were as many as 60,000 (some estimate 80,000) cases of cholera. Within about a month, more than 40,000 people died. In Yemen, more than six years of conflict has so severely damaged water systems that the country has endured a multi-year cholera epidemic that has killed thousands.

Oxfam helps reduce the threat of diseases in emergencies by providing clean water. With partners, we treat local water sources, or bring water to areas hosting refugees and displaced people by truck, store it in tanks and bladders, and set up pipes and taps to dispense it. We dig and repair wells, and train people to maintain them, so that after the emergency passes communities have a safe source of water.

Oxfam works with engineers to repair municipal water systems damaged in conflicts and earthquakes. After bombings in the Gaza Strip damaged water desalination plants in 2020, for example, Oxfam provided the chemicals needed to get them up and running. We also build systems to purify water where needed.

After air strikes damaged municipal water systems in northern Gaza in May 2021, Oxfam helped rebuild the sanitation system in Beit Lahia.
After air strikes damaged municipal water systems in northern Gaza in May 2021, Oxfam helped rebuild the sanitation system in Beit Lahia. Hosam Salem/Oxfam

Promoting good hygiene is also essential, especially during a pandemic. Oxfam partners train community leaders to encourage handwashing at critical moments. We provide hygiene kits with soap, water purification tablets, and other necessities that help people displaced by emergencies keep clean and avoid cholera outbreaks and COVID-19.

Safe sanitation is also crucial. Oxfam helps install latrines where people need them and ensures they are sited appropriately for women to access safely (installing solar lights if needed). Oxfam helped build about 8,000 latrines in the months following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. After more than 800,000 Rohingya people fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017, Oxfam worked with the UN and people seeking refuge in camps to build a massive sewage treatment plant that processes waste from 150,000 people.

Clean water fights poverty

The lack of clean water kills people every day, and water-borne diseases and parasites are a significant hardship . Children under 5 are the most vulnerable. Diarrheal diseases are among the most common causes of mortality for children under 5, and can be easily prevented with clean water, decent sanitation, basic hygiene, and nutritious food.

A convenient source of water can also be a major improvement in the lives of women and girls, who are frequently tasked with carrying water home many times per day. Many girls and young women are deprived an education, just to carry water. This relegates them to an early marriage and limits their prospects of employment.

By helping communities improve their access to clean water and basic sanitation, and promoting good hygiene, Oxfam and the many organizations we partner with make an important contribution to fighting inequality, eliminating at least some of the time women have to spend carrying water, reducing health care costs, and improving the educational prospects of their daughters.

Water for livestock and growing food

Water is becoming more and more scarce in some parts of the world due to climate change. For example, in Central America’s Dry Corridor, an arid zone cutting across five countries, farmers are struggling to grow enough food to survive. In 2019, Oxfam provided cash and food aid to communities in Guatemala’s southern Chiquimula region at a time when farmers had not seen any consistent rain for four years.

Lucas Aldana used the cash to plant corn and beans, and says “I bought a hose to improve my mini-irrigation system so that the plants … don’t dry up.”

Oxfam has helped communities around the world with irrigation systems for farmers, water reservoirs to support livestock herders, and training to help communities manage their watersheds and forests to reduce erosion, improve soil quality, and replenish ground water.

Posted In:

Climate, conflict, and COVID-19 crisis in Horn of Africa

A man brings his herd of camels to a well near the Jarar river in southern Ethiopia. Years of dry weather in Ethiopia and Somalia, combined with conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, are creating a humanitarian crisis. Pablo Tosco / Oxfam Intermon

A combination of factors is spreading suffering across the region. Oxfam is working with partners to alleviate hunger and push for solutions.

Countries in the Horn of Africa are enduring severe hunger, with near-famine conditions in some areas, due to conflict, climate-induced weather shocks (flooding in some countries, drought in others) and COVID-19.

Oxfam is working with local humanitarian groups in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia to deliver emergency assistance and address the underlying causes of hunger.

Ethiopia

Fighting between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the government began in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in late 2020. More than nine million people in Tigray and neighboring Amhara and Afar regions need humanitarian assistance.

One of them is Dagmawit (name changed for security reasons), a 35-year-old mother of three children who left her home in Amhara during fighting in September. ‘‘We fled from our town to save our lives and the lives of our children,” she says.

I don’t know if my husband escaped, which direction he may have gone, or where he is now. I followed other people who were fleeing the gun battle …. Thank God we arrived here safe.’

She found temporary safety in a center for displaced people in Ednat, where Oxfam is working with the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA) to provide water and sanitation supplies, and cash to help displaced people purchase essentials in the local market.

Oxfam and ORDA’s joint response has reached more than 6,000 people with cash, water and safe sanitation, and hygiene kits. Together, we have constructed latrines, bathing facilities, and clean water distribution points. Oxfam is also working with organizations in the Tigray and Afar regions, providing water and sanitation, as well as cash, where possible. In the next year, Oxfam and partners plan to assist 750,000 people with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene kits.

More than half of the people affected by the fighting in northern Ethiopia are women, and 48 percent are children. To date, Oxfam has reached more than 105,000 people across the three regions affected by the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Oxfam’s program in Ethiopia is also engaged in a long-term response to ongoing drought in the southern Somali region, where we are planning to help 180,000 people with clean water and sanitation and livelihood support for farmers and herders affected by conflict and drought.

South Sudan

South Sudan has experienced widespread seasonal flooding for five consecutive years. Since May 2021, an estimated 835,000 people have been affected by flooding along the White Nile, when early seasonal rain caused the rivers to flood areas across the north of the country. Entire communities have fled to higher ground, and about 366,000 people are currently displaced.

Nyakaal Kel Madoot, 56, says she and her nine children escaped the flood waters inundating their home in Ganyiel, and now says, “The biggest issue I am facing with my children is hunger.” She says the area in Lakes State where she has found higher ground with other displaced people lacks clean water and proper sanitation.

The recent flooding also hit areas recovering from conflict, and the threat of COVID-19 is particularly severe in areas where people are already malnourished.

Oxfam has been working in South Sudan for 30 years and is collaborating with local organizations to help 130,000 people with clean water, safe sanitation facilities, essential hygiene items, and hygiene education carried out by community members. Oxfam is helping to distribute seeds, tools, fishing equipment, and providing cash to 3,300 households to help them buy food and other essentials.

We are also helping to rebuild schools, provide alternative education to children displaced by conflict in South Sudan, and advocate for women and young people to be involved in peace talks and in setting the course for a peaceful South Sudan.

What's happening in South Sudan report from Oxfam's Michael Pepple

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

Somalia

Somalia is in the midst of a protracted period of drought, made worse in the last year by an upsurge in desert locusts that have eaten crops and pasture. Conflict and the pandemic have also contributed to a severe deterioration of living conditions. The UN and other humanitarian groups estimate 7.7 million people (roughly half of Somalia’s population) will need humanitarian assistance in 2022.

Lack of water and pasture are affecting the health of both people and livestock. “I had 128 cows before the drought,” says Hassan Sagar, 72, sitting in a makeshift shelter in an area hosting displaced people in Somalia’s southern Jubaland state. He fled his home village of Kaima, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away, in search of water and food along with other families that had lost all their livestock—which for many is their sole means of livelihood. “People here share the same predicament,” he says. “No one came here with even a single goat.”

Drought in southern Somalia’s Jubaland region is hitting livestock herders like Hasan Sagar particularly hard: “I had 128 cows before the drought. But only one cow was spared.” Osman Hussein / Oxfam

Oxfam is working with the Wajir South Development Association (WASDA) in Jubaland to provide water and sanitation to help displaced people avoid water-borne diseases like cholera, as well as livelihood assistance and nutrition support. Our goal is to reach 10,000 people with WASDA in Jubaland and 183,000 people in total across Somalia. Oxfam’s plans include well drilling to provide clean water and helping 24,600 people by distributing cash. We also plan to provide seeds and tools and training for 1,000 farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming. We will also support livestock vaccination campaigns, and train local volunteers how to prevent gender-based violence.

Simple Water Solutions, Diverse Benefits

Photo: Abdiaziz Adani/Oxfam

"I collect water four times per day for our household's cleaning, laundry, and other uses. Where I used to collect water was 40 minutes away," explains Caasha Xasan, a mother of seven who lives in Barwaaqo IDP camp in Kismayo.

Recurrent drought in Somalia caused not only food insecurity and displacement but there is also severe water scarcity in rural and urban areas. Rainwater is the primary source of water, and lack of adequate water storage facilities worsens the situation as any rain quickly dissipates.

In many parts of the country, the physical and economic accessibility of water remains a challenge for the poorest and most marginalized communities. Women, who are traditionally responsible for collecting household water, are often most at risk of violence and other risks when fetching water. "Where I used to collect water was 40 minutes away. We would collect water by hand and carry it. Only sometimes would we use donkeys. It would take 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back," says Caasha Xasan.

Photo: Abdiaziz Adani/Oxfam

Because of the long distances to the water facilities, women spend extensive time collecting water, struggling to get enough time to feed their children and do other household chores, which are burdens that reduce other opportunities for women's empowerment, such as study or work.

As part of our humanitarian response in Somalia, Oxfam and partner WASDA rehabilitated four shallow wells in Kismayo IDP camps, intending to ensure regular and easy access to water and provide women with more time to pursue other endeavors.

 "We get lots of benefits from the shallow wells. Firstly, it's very close to the front of my house. I can fill jerry cans at any time, so I don't need many jerry cans. Now, I do household chores and support my children in my spare time. It would be difficult to prepare food for them before, but now it's easier. I feed them before school. It's also beneficial for the broader family," says Caasha.

Photos: Abdiaziz Adani/Oxfam
Besides the benefits that she gets from the water kiosk, Caasha believes these facilities have improved integration amongst displaced people and host communities. "We benefit a lot thanks to Oxfam and WASDA. The town has improved as a community because we share all the benefits, which reduces clashes over resources. We are united," she concluded.
Posted In:

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

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

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.

Pages