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.

WASH in the camps

Women collecting drinking water supplied by Oxfam in Kalunga camp, Kalemie, Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Oxfam is providing water, sanitation services and training to keep families healthy. Photo: Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi/Oxfam

In Kalemie province in southeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the extreme violence between the Bantu and the Twa ethnic groups and brutal clashes between armed group have very forced more than 654,000 people to flee their homes and thousands of families are facing an increasingly critical food shortage. Women, children and the elderly are among those most affected after having seen families killed, villages burned and fields destroyed. The situation remains volatile and threatens to flare up again at any moment, preventing the displaced from going back to their villages and rebuild their lives.

Oxfam has been working in Kalemie since February 2017 and has already reached 58,302 people forced from their homes and the communities who have welcomed them. Oxfam is helping to provide clean water and sanitation facilities and working with community volunteers to educate people about the importance of good hygiene for staying healthy.

Left: Therese*, a Public Health Promoter talks to a child in Kalunga IDP camp, Kalemie, Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Right: Therese cleans Oxfam sanitation facilities in her community. Photo: Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi/Oxfam.

Therese has been in the Kalunga camp since November 2016. When her village was attacked, she was separated from one of her children and her husband. Therese went looking for them after the attack but couldn't find them, and three months later she was told that their bodies had been found. Therese lives in the Kalunga camp with 9 of her children, ages 7-17 years old. She was trained by Oxfam to be a camp hygiene promoter, and she works daily to clean sanitation facilities in the camp, as well as distributing water purification tablets to families so they have safe water to drink.

Therese said: "We fled as we were. There was no time to pack anything. You only took your children and ran."

"We walked for two days before reaching here. I had so many thoughts in my mind. I had been left with nothing. Sometimes I wish it was me who had died instead of my husband, because this burden is too much for me to bear."

"I have 9 children remaining. One of them is paralyzed and so I had to carry her all the way."

"We reached here in November last year and were received well. We received food for the first two months as well as some money to help us buy other things from the shops. But how can you bring up 9 children in these conditions?"

"People have been talking of going back when the fighting ends. Others are even going there to check on their farms or what is left of their possessions."

"I have experienced war in my life but never have I been forced to leave my home and live in a (IDP) camp. I have never seen fighting like this."

"I never thought I would ever be here. My plan was to save money to build a house where my family could live comfortably and live an ordinary life. But now I can’t even think beyond today. How can I think of a good education for my children if I don’t know where their next meal will come from?"

Oxfam is suppling drinking water to the people in Kalunga camp. Oxfam also trained 61 women from the camp as hygiene promoters. Their daily work includes cleaning sanitation facilities (toilets and bath areas) in the camp, distributing water purification tablets to families.

One woman leading the way for healthy mothers in Bangladesh's refugee camps

By AJM Zobaidur Rahman, Campaigns and Communications Officer, Oxfam in Bangladesh

Rajiah, sitting here in her home in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, is a community health volunteer who helps share health information with pregnant refugee women. Photo Credit: OXFAM

Rajiah, 46, fled violence near her home in Myanmar 6 months ago, with her younger daughter, who is 15 years old. She is now living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh with thousand other Rohingya. Rajiah is one of close to a million Rohingya people have fled violence in Myanmar to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. This unprecedented number of refugees, of whom more than half are children, has caused a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Left: Rajiah sharing health information with a pregnant woman in her home in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Right: Rajiah walking through the refugee camp to visit her pregnant neighbor in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo Credit: OXFAM

WOMEN HELPING WOMEN SURVIVE AND THRIVE

Rajiah has been surrounded by women throughout her life as the eldest of 10 sisters. She herself has 5 daughters, two of which are also in camps living as refugees in Bangladesh with their husbands, while the other two remain in Myanmar. Tragically, Rajiah’s husband disappeared when the violence broke out in Myanmar and Rajiah has no way of knowing where he is. Like so many women in the camp, Rajiah must head up her household alone.

Oxfam has come to know Rajiah as a leader when she was unanimously selected to represent her community during an Oxfam assessment of what their most pressing needs were. Rajiah is well educated and has been working with and for her community throughout her life. She told us that she delivered some 10,000 babies as a midwife in Myanmar.

Now, as a refugee in Bangladesh, she is making sure she puts her experience to good use and supports and provides information to the pregnant women in her community. Her name means “Hope” - a true reflection of her personality and life’s work.

Left: Rajiah and her younger daughter inside her house in the refugee camp. Right: Rajiah taking notes about International Women's Day. Photo Credit: OXFAM

RAJIAH BRINGS LEADERSHIP TO COX'S BAZAR

Rajiah was born in a relatively affluent family in Myanmar. Education was an important part of her childhood, and her family made sure all the girls had 8 years of schooling. Rajiah speaks particularly highly of her father, who she says was the greatest influence in her life.

Rajiah honed her leadership skills from a young age, starting at school as a class leader. Later, organizations who were working in her community, including the UN, selected Rajiah as one of their volunteers. She continued working as a health worker and played a major role in the vaccination process in her area, helping to prevent children dying needlessly from preventable illnesses.

Rajiah is outspoken and confident, a full believer in women’s role outside the household. That way, she says, women can get knowledge and they can advance – and then other women can also come forward simply by seeing these role models. She is very keen on working and further helping her community, especially the women in her community.

OXFAM IS THERE

Oxfam is planning to organize women’s groups in the camps and Rajiah is the ideal person to lead this process in her community. With her leadership skills, kind and warm personality, she will undoubtedly make great progress with the women in the community. Oxfam is also currently focusing on providing water and sanitation and adapting to better deal with the crowded conditions and sheer numbers of people. We are drilling wells and installing water points, toilets and showers. We’re also helping people stay healthy and hygienic by distributing soap and other essentials and working with community-based volunteers to emphasize the importance of clean water and good hygiene, especially as monsoon season approaches. So far, we have reached at least 185,000 people, and hope to reach more than 250,000 in the coming months.

Donate now to help those in refugees camps in Bangladesh

Stop the war in Yemen

In a camp for people forced to flee their homes due to the war in Abs district, Hajjah governorate, Ahmed lives with his younger brother and three sisters. He is only 14 but has a thousand reasons to end this inhuman war. His father was diagnosed with cancer, his house was bombed and his sheep, the family's main source of income, died. Thankfully the family survived and moved out to this camp in Abs.

Left & Right: Ahmed and his siblings in Al-Okasha IDP camp, Abs district, Hajjah governorate - Credit: Ahmed Al-Fadeel / Oxfam Yemen.

The story doesn't end here, even though I wish it did. That would have been considered a happy ending compared to what actually happened. Earlier this year, and after seven months of suffering, Ahmed's father died, leaving his family behind to face poverty alone.

Days without food

Shortly after his father’s death, Ahmed was awakened by his sisters crying around their mother's body. Ahmed rushed into the room just to realize his mother had died. After burying her, they all moved to live with their uncle, who later sent them back to the camp because he couldn't afford to take care of them along with his own large family.

Ahmed suffers from asthma and works to provide food and clothes for his siblings. He tries to work with any opportunity he can find, people give him whatever they call, sometimes a few dollars, most of the time nothing. His sister also collects firewood that he sells on the market in exchange for food. It happens that they spend days without food.

Famine threatens

Famine is threatening eight million people across Yemen, and much of the country’s basic infrastructure has been bombed, including hospitals, schools, water-sources, factories, markets, bridges and ports.

Civil workers haven't been paid their salaries for over a year now, and the UN appeal for Yemen hasn't been fully funded for the third consecutive year, while vital life-saving ports are blocked for more than what people could afford.

Today in 2018, millions of people in Yemen are neglected and suffering, slowly battling starvation and disease. Our people have been bombed, killed, injured, scared, displaced, starved, blocked, sickened, and denied basic rights for nearly three years now.

All of this has happened in front of the very nations that promised to protect human rights. It has happened under the watch of the United Nations and, painfully, many international NGOs who are here with us, struggling on a daily basis to provide help, either because we’re denied access to local districts or because of the blockade of Yemen’s vital life-saving ports.

Left: A displaced woman in Taiz governorate. Zeyad Ghanem / Oxfam Yemen

Oxfam is there

Through Oxfam, we have seen ugly truths that the world is silent about. We have seen death in people's eyes, bodies too hungry to live and malnourished small children suffering from cholera. We don't need to tell you what else we saw, because history is full of examples of war tragedies, some of which are still happening here in Yemen. More than 5,500 civilians have died in this war and over 2,000 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly.

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners. Yet over 22 million people are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

World leaders are silent

And still, while the situation keeps on deteriorating, the war is being fueled by arm sales that kill my people. World leaders silently continue to watch what many call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and Yemen is facing a world-class humanitarian despair.

World leaders and the United Nations are failing humanity once again. We are disappointed and so are 29 million other Yemenis.

I desperately wish to see the war end and no more children to suffer like Ahmed. There are far too many families like Ahmed's.

Ibrahim Yahia Alwazir, Social Media Officer and Ahmed Al-Fadeel, Field Media Assistant

A generation being deprived of education

Continuing with the second of a three part blog by Ibrahim Alwazir, Oxfam’s Social Media Officer in Yemen.

Part 2: A generation being deprived of education

Ahmed Saleh is 39 years old, is a father of 10 and lives in Al-Shanitifah village in Amran governorate. He works as a farmer during the rainy season in summer – he grows millet – and as a porter outside the village during the rest of the year. Despite the work, he is barely earning enough to feed his big family. He never had the opportunity to provide clean water to his family, because he was never able to afford the clean water from the water trucks that usually cost him 12,000 YER, which is more than what he makes.

In the village, men gather every morning outside their small houses to discuss rumours of available jobs, unavailable cash and the disappearing hope that they will have something for their families to eat by noon.

Left: Abdullah*, a fourth-grade student in Khamer district of Amran governorate, holds his notebooks. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez. Right: Wadi Akhraf -Water source, in Habor Zulaimat, Amran governorate Wadea Al-Mekhlafi / Oxfam Yemen.

In these villages, men only have two main job opportunities: either farm or perform hard-labour tasks such as construction or carrying goods. Many lack proper education or vocational training, making it hard for them to perform other jobs or better serve their communities.

Farming usually is seasonal and that is due to the lack of agricultural training, research and funding, as many farmers are unaware of the best practices to enhance their crops or to make use of the land all year long. There is also no storage capacity for the crops to be sold during the entire year. Most fruits and vegetables are available only during certain seasons, while their prices change based on supply and demand throughout the year.

I remember the beauty of many farms we had passed by and it seems that Yemenis pay as much attention to their farms as they do to their children and houses. One can see that the farms are neat, well-built and have enough supplies of water and fertilizers that nourish plants and satisfy viewers' eyes. No matter how isolated the farms were, water is regularly delivered to them through pipes or water-trucks to the extent that plants started to believe they are growing somewhere near the equator.

Yemenis are known to be the first to build agricultural terraces over mountains, to make use of rain to water the lands. They unfortunately never managed to come up with an idea to make water continuously available to their houses and save their wives and children the troubles of fetching water from faraway and sometimes dangerous locations.

For thousands of children in Yemen, walking every day with heavy jerrycans filled with water is more common than attending school. Some rural communities in Yemen do not see school as mandatory or necessary for children as they sometimes believe that men don't need an education to work and women don't need schooling to get married and have children. Many cannot afford either the fees or the supplies needed to attend school.

If the school is nearby and there are no chores to be done, then children can go but only until sixth grade, when they will then be old enough to help their families inside or outside the house. Girls help their mothers with house chores and take care of younger siblings, while boys help their fathers with farming, livestock or just hang around with their friends when their parents are busy.

The war has strongly exacerbated this situation – schools have been bombed, destroyed or occupied, and an entire generation is now being deprived of education.

One of the world's gravest humanitarian crises.

More than 14,600 civilians have been killed or injured during three years of devastating conflict in Yemen and over 2,200 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly. Over three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting. The country is on the brink of famine and is also now suffering the largest ever outbreak of cholera since records began, as nearly 1 million cases have been reported. 22 million people in Yemen are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance, the greatest number in any country in the world.

Oxfam is there

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners in Yemen. Help includes water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers.

We are delivering emergency aid but we urgently need your help to do more.

Make a donation to support our work

 

*Name changed to protect identity

Water is Life

Hungry, thirsty and needing care

To mark World Water Day, we present the first of a three part blog by Ibrahim Alwazir, Oxfam’s Social Media Officer in Yemen.

Part 1: Hungry, thirsty and needing care

Left: Residents waiting since early morning for a water truck. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez  Right: Dispute over the water project in Al-Shanitifah village in Amran governorate. Photo: Oxfam Yemen/Hassan Shuaifi

I was recently on my way to Al-Shanitifah village, in Habor Zulaimat district in Amran governorate, to interview some of the people Oxfam is helping. The road was long and rough, and based on what I’d heard, I was expecting the place to be isolated and abandoned, except for the unfortunate residents who had no choice but to live there.

On an unpaved road, a donkey was travelling with jerry cans on its back, dirty and empty ones, led by an unfortunate lady carrying sorrow over her shoulders.

In many villages in Yemen, for so long it has been the women's job to fetch water, so much so that I have started to believe their genes have evolved to enable them to do that job better than any athlete or professional climber.

In an isolated place, where dust covers human skin as it covers roofs, wandered a boy with a stick in his hand playing around some sheep that he met by chance. Both the boy and the sheep had something in common – they both were hungry, thirsty and needed care.

To my surprise, after 10 kilometres of that bumpy road, we suddenly arrive at this heavenly place: I first saw the stream, which I didn’t expect, but I know that water brings life wherever it flows and so it did in that rough place. Trees were growing over both sides of the water stream, camels were passionately drinking water, quenching their thirst after a long journey, birds were flying above, while flamingos proudly stood on one leg. A cool breeze of fresh air carried an aroma of what I like to call Earth, straight into my lungs. I took a deep breath and allowed myself to enjoy the beauty of nature one can hardly resist.

We finally reached our destination and what felt like a beautiful dream was interrupted by the unpleasant reality of sounds of angry men and faces of scared women sneaking behind opened doors and semi-closed windows.

Oxfam had dug a well and built water distribution points in Al-Shanitifah village, which was the best location considering it was serving the most populated area, while still close to other nearby villages. However, residents of one of them disagreed with that decision and had promised to destroy the water project during a quick fight, a few minutes before we arrived. Despite being 300 metres away from their small village, they thought they should have a well too, as it would be unfair otherwise. Before the water project was built, it took the nearest villagers two kilometres to reach the nearest water source, which is the stream we had seen on the way. But now the villagers only travel less than 500 metres, for those furthest away, to reach Oxfam’s water project.

The fight ended quickly as the water authority and the village leaders intervened and promised to solve the issue. They explained to the villagers the reasons for choosing that location for the water project to be built. After everyone calmed down, I smiled and greeted one of the villagers whose eyes explained how sorry he was that I had to witness that. I said hi and asked him to join me so we could have a chat in a nearby place away from the crowd.

One of the world's gravest humanitarian crises.

More than 14,600 civilians have been killed or injured during three years of devastating conflict in Yemen and over 2,200 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly. Over three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting. The country is on the brink of famine and is also now suffering the largest ever outbreak of cholera since records began, as nearly 1 million cases have been reported. 22 million people in Yemen are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance, the greatest number in any country in the world.

Left and Right: Women from Al-Dhafer village in Amran governate carrying water. They walk for two hours back and forth. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez

 

Oxfam is there

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners in Yemen. Help includes water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers.

We are delivering emergency aid but we urgently need your help to do more.

Make a donation to support our work

 

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