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.

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
 

Ebola cases in DRC reach 500

 

OXFAM: Ebola cases in DRC reach 500, as country faces threat of more violence ahead of elections

In response to the number of Ebola cases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 500, Chals Wontewe, Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, said:

“DRC is battling to keep Ebola under control; cases are increasing at a quicker rate and the virus has spread further.

“Although the outbreak is still far from the scale of the West Africa epidemic, we’re operating in an extremely complex environment and facing the very real threat of more violence and instability in the run up to the elections.

“The response could be forced to slow down, or even be suspended - every time this has happened before the virus spread further.

“The election must be allowed to take place peacefully and all candidates and their supporters must put the well-being of the Congolese people first, if we’re to have any hope of putting an end to the Ebola outbreak and the horrendous suffering people have faced for decades.”

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

 

Oxfam closely monitoring Super Typhoon Mangkhut bearing down on Philippines

Oxfam and partner staff in the Philippines are preparing to respond to Super Typhoon Mangkhut as it barrels towards the north of the country.
 
Super Typhoon Mangkhut/ Ompong, Philippines. Photo Credit: PAGASA forecast
 
Known locally as Ompong, the super typhoon is predicted to make landfall in north of the main island of Luzon on Saturday morning and is packing devastating winds gusts up to 250 km/h, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
 
The state weather bureau also reported that this could be the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year.
 
Oxfam in the Philippines Country Director, Maria Rosario Felizco, said the organisation was concerned by UN estimates that 1.9 million people lived in the predicted path of this dangerous storm.
 
“Super Typhoon Mangkhut is bringing very destructive winds and torrential rainfall, and it could cause storm surges and flash flooding in northern Philippines,” Ms Felizco said.
 
“We are also concerned about the potential for landslides, due to the mountainous terrain in northern Luzon, and flooding from the expected heavy torrential rain.”
 
Oxfam has strong response capacity in The Philippines with a team of experienced responders on the ground, and strong relationships with partner organisations.
 
Oxfam has expertise in water supply, sanitation and hygiene, cash programming, emergency food security and livelihoods, and gender and protection.
 
“If Super Typhoon Mangkhut maintains its current intensity and hits the northern Philippines, the consequences could be devastating,” Ms Felizco said.
 
“We and our partners are on high alert and ready to respond if needed.”
 
The Philippine Government considers Super Typhoon Mangkhut to be highly threatening and has said a request for international assistance might be considered, depending on landfall and impact.
 
ENDS
 
Oxfam has spokespeople available on the ground.
 
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: 
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org  
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org 
 
 

Oxfam: fear and violence could still undermine efforts to contain Ebola in DR Congo

 
New cases of Ebola found in urban areas over the last few days show the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not yet under control and the next few weeks will be critical to contain the virus, Oxfam warned today. 
 
Despite a strong response, not enough is being done to help communities overcome their understandable fears and in some cases lack of knowledge about the disease. Conflict, which has plagued the eastern part of DRC for decades could also still undermine efforts to contain the latest outbreak, which has claimed ninety lives since it began on 1 August.   
Fear within communities is making it difficult to provide help or take action to prevent the spread of the disease – with people at times threatening those trying to help. Many people don’t know who to trust, having spent years caught up in conflict, with little response from the international community or the government. They do not understand why people are now coming in such large numbers. 
 
Apollinaire, a 38 year old nurse from Mangina, was attacked by grieving families. Photo Credit: John Wessels/Oxfam
 
Jose Barahona, Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, said: “While the transmission rate appeared to be slowing down due to communities responding quickly to prevent the spread, these new cases in urban areas mean we’re not out of the woods yet. In big cities, people come into contact with far more people, especially in a major trading place. 
 
“It’s also of real concern that three cases of the virus were found in a place where armed groups are highly active. These are hostile groups, who don’t negotiate, and our ability to reach people in need is extremely challenging. We cannot predict the scale of the consequences if the virus spreads further into rebel-held areas, or if these armed groups start to attack areas which have been hardest hit by Ebola.” 
 
One neighbourhood of Beni has become a transmission hub – often with daily cases in past weeks. A woman confirmed to have the virus and the health worker treating her, have also died in the city of Butembo, a major trade hub that’s home to around 1 million people and close to the Ugandan border. There have been three cases, including one death in the town of Oicha, an area in which it is extremely dangerous to work due to the presence of armed rebel groups. While the virus is thought to be under control here, there have been significant attacks by armed groups on army positions around Beni town in recent weeks, including one this Sunday. 
 
Oxfam is also concerned that fear is making some members of the community take huge health risks by avoiding taking sick family-members to Ebola treatment centers, because they see them as ‘prisons’ or ‘places of death’. A significant number of people who have been in touch with someone contagious have fled their homes and in some cases, people are resisting handing over bodies of their deceased loved ones, making the threat of the virus spreading much more acute. 
 
In Mangina, the epicentre of the outbreak where over 80 percent of fatalities have occurred, Oxfam found people in shock and angry that family members have died so quickly and are being taken away from them. 
 
Whilst the majority of people were aware of the seriousness of the virus and have been making great efforts to break the chain of contamination, those who didn’t know about Ebola, were scared and had heard many rumours.   
 
Amongst the daily incidents of low-level violence, Oxfam staff heard of some instances where fear had resulted in aid workers being threatened by angry people brandishing machetes and wooden sticks, rocks being thrown at cars, and health workers being blamed for ‘killing’ family members. In one village, part of a health-screening checkpoint was burnt down and Oxfam staff witnessed residents of another village create a roadblock, preventing any help from getting through. 
 
Barahona said: “People are facing the virus for the first time, so they are understandably shocked and scared. If you add in the appearance of health workers in space-age hazard suits and the fact they’ve been living with the threat of violence for decades, you can imagine how terrifying the situation is.” 
 
Oxfam is already helping over 138,000 people, by providing clean, safe water and working with local community leaders and volunteers to increase understanding of how to prevent Ebola, to dispel any myths and fears people have. 
 
Barahona said: “From working on previous Ebola outbreaks, it is clear that talking with communities and finding safe solutions with them is critical to containing the virus. When people are informed, and time is taken to listen to their concerns and questions, their behaviour changes rapidly. We have to work with people to change their understanding and behaviour if we hope to keep Ebola under control. 
“These people have lived for years with conflict, and no one has reacted. Now they are seeing loved-ones taken away and not buried as customs demand. Much more needs to be done to ensure that the whole response listens to the concerns of the communities.” 
 
ENDS
 
Spokespeople are available in the region and in Ireland.
 
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: 
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS: 
 
According to the World Health Organisation, 90 people have now died from Ebola and there are 131 cases (confirmed and probable) http://www.who.int/ebola/situation-reports/drc-2018/en/
 
Apollinaire, a 38 year old nurse from Mangina, was attacked by grieving families: 
 
“I have been working as a nurse for over ten years. I already knew of the disease before it arrived here, I knew it was very contagious. As soon as we saw the signs of the disease and the laboratory results, we reported the cases. I have reported ten cases since the beginning of the outbreak. 
 
“Some people in the community got angry because I was referring sick people to the treatment centre. They thought it was my fault their family members were dying and that people were being killed at the hospital. They chased me with pieces of wood and threatened me.” 
 
After this incident, when the community was well informed, they apologized and regretted what happened. 
 
Louise is a community leader (deputy chief) in a district within Mangina, the most affected area by the Ebola virus. 
 
“At first we thought Ebola was witchcraft. We thought it was a spell cast on women because they are the one who are most affected. But since we received an explanation, we have understood that it is a very serious disease that strikes us. Many women have died here in Mangina, at least 20 women, they are almost all from the same family. It must be said that in our community, it is the women who tend to the sick people, they also clean them, and wash the clothes. 
 
“Since the Ebola outbreak many people have died, others are in the hospital.  Many children are without their mothers. These children live with difficulty and the community has few means to help them. Here in Mangina, even finding food for your household is difficult. Sometimes you can spend the day without eating. 
 
“We must start by training ourselves, the leaders, in awareness so that we can raise awareness in return. We are well placed to convey the information to the communities because we know them and they know us. If we talk to our communities, they will understand us.” 
 

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