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.

Oxfam responding to devastating Cyclone Idai

 
Following on from the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai in Southern Africa, Oxfam’s local humanitarian teams have been assessing the damage caused by this deadly weather event.
 
The most affected countries include Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, with estimations of 1,000 casualties at this early stage. This figure is likely to grow significantly as the real scale of the destruction is understood.
Mozambican flood victims have said that they had to pay to make the trip by canoe. Those that did not have the money remained behind.
 
People trudge through a muddied path to safer ground in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/REX
 
These rising numbers of people to internally displaced persons camps are already putting a strain on limited water supplies. 
 
There are additional concerns that sanitation will soon become a problem and food assistance will need to be brought in to provide extra immunity to the people affected.
 
Oxfam teams are assessing the needs of people in all three countries. They are reporting extensive damage to homes, crops, roads and bridges, and communications. 
 
Some areas have been rendered inaccessible because roads, bridges and phone lines have been washed away.
 
Oxfam teams will be prioritising shelter and sanitation as part of a large-scale evacuation of the worst affected areas. 
 
We urgently need your help to reach people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe who have been affected by Cyclone Idai. Please give what you can today. 100% of your donation will go to our emergency response.
 
The coming hours and days will be absolutely critical to our life-saving efforts. 

You can help

A donation of €50/£40 can give a month's supply of clean and safe drinking and cooking water for families in need
A donation of €100/£90 can provide a hungry family with enough money to buy food for 3 months
A donation of €125/£100 can give sanitation to 120 people to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases.

 

For more information , please contact:

Cyclone Idai leaves trail of death, destruction and homelessness in southern Africa

 
 
 
Oxfam will be responding with water, sanitation services, food and other non-food items to people affected by Cyclone Idai that hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on March 14-15. Scores of people have been killed, several hundred more are still missing and almost a million have been left destitute and in need of aid and basic services.
 
Winds of up to 140 km/h destroyed farmlands and damaged houses, some beyond repair. Damage is likely to run into millions of dollars. The Presidents of Zimbabwe and Mozambique have both declared a national disaster. 
 
Oxfam teams are assessing the needs of people worst affected in all three countries. They are reporting extensive damage to homes, crops, roads and bridges, and communications. Some areas have been rendered impassable with roads and bridges and phone lines having been washed away. 
 
“We are still gathering data from the field. It’s clear that three provinces of Zambezia, Sofala and Tete have been hit particularly hard. Information is still trickling in. It is likely that Oxfam will respond in Zambezia and Beira at least,” said Lyn Chinembiri, Oxfam Zimbabwe's Humanitarian Manager in Mozambique. 
 
Oxfam has activated its new “Emergency Response Team” of water and sanitation, food and livelihood experts to assess the chaos. They too have been hampered by broken roads, communications and continuing bad weather.
 
In Malawi, the United Nations estimates that 739,000 people have been affected, exacerbated by floods that hit the country two weeks ago. Oxfam teams are assessing people’s needs in Phalombe and Mulanje districts, which were hit hard by floods.
 
Oxfam with support from the UNICEF in Mozambique and utilizing its emergency funding in Malawi, is initially planning a three month-long response in water, sanitation and hygiene work, including the provision of purifying tablets, buckets and hygiene kits as well food aid to vulnerable households.
 
In Mozambique, Oxfam is part of the COCASA consortium (with CARE, SCF and Concern) that is being led by the General Director of the National Institute of Disaster Management. COCASA is focusing on emergency shelter, water and sanitation services and other provisions and public service support.
 
Oxfam’s Southern Africa Regional Director, Nellie Nyangwa, said: "We regret the loss of life, and the first few days were difficult days as official agencies focused on saving lives and trying to assess the impact of the floods in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. We expect that there will be over a million people affected in the region. We are already beginning to focus on work that will help recover people's livelihoods, prevent water borne diseases, and protect displaced people, with a key focus on women and children."
 
For more information , please contact:
 
ROI:     Nyle Lennon on 083 197 5107 / nyle.lennon@oxfam.org
 
NI:        Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org
 

 

Biggest-ever waste treatment plant in a refugee camp is ‘step forward’ for safer human waste disposal in emergencies

Author: Kelsey-Rae Taylor, Oxfam New Zealand
 
 
Oxfam has opened the largest human waste treatment plant ever built in a refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The industrial-scale plant, funded by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, can process the waste of 150,000 people – a population bigger than Tauranga. 
Being able to treat large volumes of faecal waste on site, rather than having to transport it elsewhere, is a big step forward in how to safely and sustainably dispose of such waste in emergencies. 
 
Last year more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea were reported in the Rohingya camps, as well as respiratory infections and skin diseases like scabies – all related to poor sanitation and hygiene. 
 
Over seven months, Oxfam engineers and Rohingya refugees have built the massive system which has been specially designed for the steep, hilly terrain and to have the cheapest possible operation and maintenance costs. 
 
A suitable site was provided by the Government of Bangladesh and the project was delivered in collaboration with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner's Office in Cox’s Bazar.   
  
Oxfam water and sanitation engineer Salahuddin Ahmmed said: “Safe sanitation is vital to prevent outbreaks of disease but disposing safely of human waste in the world’s biggest refugee camp is a major challenge. This ecological plant will help to keep refugees healthy by treating 40 cubic meters of waste a day – a huge amount. The initial investment is well worth it because the plant is cheap and easy to run and could last for 20 years – benefitting local communities when this emergency is over. We expect to replicate this model in future crises.” 
 
In emergencies, the most common method of waste disposal is to use tankers to suck out the sewage from latrines and take it away. But around 85 per cent of the world’s refugees are in developing countries, often lacking adequate sewage systems to deal with all this extra waste. Treating it on site reduces the risk that it will which end up being dumped in a field or polluting a local stream. 
 
The new, ecological plant, made up of treatment ponds and wetlands, is safe for people and the environment. It has multiple treatment stages to prevent contamination of local water sources and a high-density polyethylene liner and covered anaerobic unit to stop unpleasant odours escaping. 
 
The plant also produces biogas – Oxfam is exploring how to get this to refugee families to cook with. 
 
Aki is an 18-year-old Rohingya refugee who works as a community volunteer for Oxfam, talking to fellow refugees about good hygiene, handwashing, and keeping toilets clean. After a tour of the new plant, she said she had a better understanding of how her work is part of Oxfam’s wider efforts to stop outbreaks of disease. 
 
Aki said: “I didn’t know what happened to all the waste from the latrines. I’m happy that Oxfam has built this plant as it will help prevent the spread of diseases. Last year lots of people were sick with serious diarrhea. But we are seeing improvements. We can tell our community that this plant is doing something that will help for the future, and maybe also produce cooking gas. It’s great.” 
 
Close to a million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh still need food, water, shelter and other essential aid to survive. Oxfam is calling for more aid and resources to improve conditions beyond the basics and keep people safe. 
 
Oxfam is providing vital aid including clean water and food vouchers to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and has so far reached at least 266,000 people. 
 
Notes to editors: 
 
The plant was designed by a German organisation called BORDA - specialists in sanitation systems in developing countries. 
 
In 2018 there were more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea reported in the Cox’s Bazar camps, according to the WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
 
The UN calculates that 85 per cent of refugees are in developing countries. 
 
-ends-
 

Pregnant women, children and survivors of torture abandoned in Greek camps

 
New Oxfam report highlights how system is failing to protect the most vulnerable
 
Wednesday 9th January
 
Hundreds of pregnant women, unaccompanied children and survivors of torture are being abandoned in refugee camps on the Greek islands, an Oxfam report revealed today. The report – Vulnerable and abandoned ¬¬– details how the system to identify and protect the most vulnerable people has broken down due to chronic understaffing and flawed processes
 
It includes accounts of mothers being sent away from hospital to live in a tent as early as four days after giving birth by Caesarean section. It tells of survivors of sexual violence and other traumas living in a camp where violence breaks out regularly and where two thirds of residents say they never feel safe. 
 
For much of the last year there has been just one government-appointed doctor in Lesvos who was responsible for screening as many as 2,000 people arriving each month. In November, there was no doctor at all so there were no medical screenings happening to identify those most in need of care. 
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Winter has brought heavy rain to Lesvos turning the camp that thousands call home into a muddy bog. The temperature is expected to drop below freezing in the next week and it could snow. Meanwhile, Moria camp is severely overcrowded at double its capacity. 
 
“All of these factors compound the many challenges already faced by people living in the camps, making those most vulnerable even more desperate. Pregnant women and mothers with new-born babies are sleeping in tents, without heating, while children who arrived on their own are being placed in detention after being wrongly registered as adults. 
 
“It is absolutely vital that vulnerable people are quickly identified and can access the protection and care they need, including suitable accommodation, medical and psycho-social support and access to other basic services.”
 
Under Greek and EU law, the legal definition of vulnerability specifically includes unaccompanied children, women who are pregnant or with young babies, people with disabilities and survivors of torture, among others. They should have access to the normal Greek asylum process instead of a fast-tracked process designed to send them back to Turkey.
 
The report highlights a particularly worrying trend of authorities detaining teenagers and survivors of torture after failing to recognise them as vulnerable. Legal and social workers told Oxfam they frequently came across detainees who should not have been locked up because of their age or because of poor physical or mental health. Once in detention, it is even more difficult for them to get the medical or psychological help they need.
 
In one case, a 28-year-old asylum seeker from Cameroon was locked up for five months based on his nationality, despite having serious mental health issues. No one checked his physical and mental health before he was detained and it took a month for him to see a psychologist. He said: “We had just two hours a day when we were allowed to get out of the container...The rest of the time you are sitting in a small space with 15 other men who all have their own problems.”
 
Oxfam is calling for the Greek government and EU member states to deploy more expert staff, including doctors and psychologists and to fix the screening system on the Greek islands. It said that more people seeking asylum should be transferred to mainland Greece on a regular basis – particularly the vulnerable. Oxfam is also calling on EU member states to share responsibility for receiving asylum seekers with Greece more fairly by reforming the ‘Dublin Regulation’ in line with the position of the European Parliament.
 
Oxfam has been working in Lesvos since 2015 running a programme to ensure that people seeking asylum are protected. This includes training community focal points to provide information, running workshops at a day centre for women and providing legal aid and social support for people seeking asylum through partners.
 
Full report available on request.
 
ENDS
 
CONTACT: Spokespeople are available for interview. For more, please contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons at alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org or +353 (0) 83 198 1869
 
 
 
Notes to editors:
 
Spokespeople are available in Lesvos and Brussels. 
Recent, high-resolution photos and video footage from around Moria camp are available.
The full transcripts of the interviews of asylum-seekers and volunteers in and around Moria camp, on which parts of the report are based, are available to the media upon request.
According to the UNHCR, the Moria camp in Lesvos was at around double its official capacity of 3,100 places, with just under 5,000 migrants living inside the camp and another 2,000 in an informal camp next to Moria, known as the Olive Grove.
A survey by Refugee Rights Europe in June 2018 found that almost two-thirds (65.7%) of respondents said they ‘never feel safe’ inside Moria, rising to 78% among children living in the camp.
In September 2018, Oxfam published a briefing arguing that the EU’s plans for ‘controlled centers’ for the reception of migrants saved at sea are modelled on the existing ‘hotspots’ described in today’s report and should not be implemented.
 

Half a million homeless Yemenis on brink of famine face winter freeze

 
More than half a million people who have fled fighting in Yemen are facing a double threat of famine and near freezing temperatures Oxfam said today, as it called on the warring parties to respect the ceasefire agreed in Sweden last week. 
 
People forced to flee their homes are set for a winter struggle to survive in areas of the country which are one step away from famine and often without adequate shelter to protect them or fuel to keep them warm as temperatures plummet. 
 
Almost 20,000 displaced people are facing winter weather in districts already experiencing famine conditions. 
 
Winter temperatures are likely to drop to below freezing in highland areas of Yemen and rain brought in by southwest winds can fall in heavy torrents, leading to flooding. Many of the 530,000 displaced people living in these areas are in makeshift shelters with no insulation or weatherproofing
 
Humanitarian agencies have identified over 75,000 displaced, vulnerable families in districts across the country who will need help to cope during the winter months, and there are likely to be more who haven’t been included in the assessment. 2658 of these families are in districts with catastrophic levels of hunger. 
 
Despite the warring parties agreeing to a ceasefire and withdrawal of forces from the key city and port of Hudaydah at negotiations in Sweden last week, there have been clashes, shelling and airstrikes in recent days. Continued fighting will disrupt aid efforts and make it harder for Yemenis to survive the winter. 
 
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Freezing temperatures could be the final straw for families already struggling to survive desperate hunger. Imagine trying to survive a winter freeze in a tent, far from your home, without knowing where your next meal is coming from - that is the dreadful prospect facing tens of thousands of families. 
 
"It is vital that the ceasefire holds so that aid is able to reach as many people as possible this winter and those struggling to survive at least get a respite from the fighting. 
 
“While a step in the right direction, the international community cannot assume that the agreements reached in Sweden will fix everything. They need to keep the pressure on the warring parties to lay down their weapons and work towards a peaceful solution to the conflict that will give the people of Yemen real hope.” 
 
Malnourished people are less able to cope with disease and extreme temperatures. Food price rises have put the cost of basic necessities beyond the reach of many. The price of a month’s worth of essential food rose 15 per cent in October, the last month for which data is available. This basket of foods now costs 137 per cent more than it did before the conflict began. 
 
Yemen has already been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 
 
Salaries of public sector workers in the north of the country have not been paid for almost two years, leaving approximately 6.9 million people without a main source of income. Around eight million people are thought to have lost their jobs since the beginning of the conflict because of the closure of private businesses. 
 
Oxfam is providing aid, including clean water and cash to buy basic food supplies, to people forced to flee their homes. 
 
ENDS
 
For more information , please contact:
 
ROI:     Alice Dawson-Lyons on 083 198 1869 /alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org
 
NI:        Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org
 

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