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.

Five things I’ve learned being a humanitarian aid worker

This World Humanitarian Day, Iffat Tahmid Fatema, Oxfam public health worker, shares what it's like helping people in our Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh.

I started working for Oxfam last year at the height of the emergency when Rohingya refugees were arriving in huge numbers every day. At that time, I was toiling in a lab at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong pursuing my Master's degree in Bio-Technology, but I knew I wanted to work with real people, face-to-face. What's happened to the Rohingya people really upset me. I had never seen people living with so little. It really hurt me.

Now I teach Rohingya refugees living in the camp in Cox's Bazar about health and hygiene, to help them keep well and to prevent a major outbreak of disease. We discuss the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene like washing your hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating. We work with volunteers from the Rohingya community, training them so they can teach other refugees and spread good hygiene messages far and wide. The Oxfam team has reached more than 266,000 people in the camps so far.

1. Know what motivates you

In this job you need drive, good communication skills, and initiative.

When it's extremely hot, or raining heavily, or you’re tired, you might not feel like spending another long day in the camps. But then you think of the refugees and how you are working for them - that motivates you to keep going.

 

2. You have to build trust

Humanitarian work is also about building trust. You have to be sensitive to local culture and traditions.

You also have to be able to talk to different groups of people in different ways, from children to older people and Imams, the religious leaders. And you need to be a good observer so you can try to understand how people think.

 

3. Speak their language

Sometimes the refugees can be uncomfortable with someone who is not like them, so it helps that I can speak a similar language. But the language is also the biggest challenge as the regional language, Chittagonian, is only about 70 per cent the same as Rohingya.

Oxfam has worked with Translators Against Borders to develop a new translation app in English, Bangla and Rohingya, including specific vocabulary about health and hygiene, so this will be a big help.

 

4. Be prepared to face challenges

Working in the monsoons has been extremely hard and can be dangerous. When there is a heavy downpour of rain, conditions in the camps become very bad, very quickly. You can sink into the mud and lose your boots. When you climb the dirt steps there is the possibility the whole thing will collapse.

5. Patience is a virtue

The most important thing I have learnt is to be polite and be patient - even though I might be repeating the same thing hundreds of times, such as how to wash your hands. I am very impatient by nature, but working in the camps I have learned how to control my frustrations.

The most satisfying part of my job has been hearing from refugees what a difference Oxfam’s support has made to them.

We run regular listening groups where the community can give us constructive feedback. Recently a grandfather told me: "We are happy that you come and you listen to us. Thank you for the work you do."

That made me feel very happy.

This entry posted on 18 August 2018 by Iffat Tahmid Fatema, humanitarian public health worker for Oxfam’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh, as part of our World Humanitarian Day program.

All photos: Iffat Tahimd Fatema, humanitarian public health promoter for Oxfam, in the Rohingya refugee camps, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

More life-saving aid needed urgently as a third big quake hits Lombok, warns Oxfam

MEDIA RELEASE 
 
More life-saving aid needed urgently as a third big quake hits Lombok, warns Oxfam
 
A third earthquake of 6-Richter magnitude which struck Lombok on Thursday (August 9th) has severely escalated the need for life-saving aid and has slowed down rescue efforts, Oxfam has warned. 
 
With the latest quake adding to the misery of tens of thousands people already in temporary shelters and under open skies, there is an increasing need for water, food, shelter, medical supplies, and other essentials. 
 
Local organisations supported by Oxfam have been on the ground since the first big quake hit more than a week ago and are assisting 5,000 people with clean drinking water, food, and tarpaulin sheets, with plans to increase the delivery of aid
 
Meili Nart, Oxfam Project Manager based in Lombok, said: “The people here are severely traumatised. They’ve lost families or don’t know where they are. In many areas, four out of five buildings, roads, and other facilities have been destroyed. It’s a struggle to find water, food, electricity and other essentials. 
 
“We’re trying to get aid to them as fast as we can. We also want to help them deal with the trauma too, but it’s difficult, and progress is slow due to conditions on the ground. We thank the Indonesian government and local organisations for their tremendous efforts, but we need to do more.” 
 
Monday’s 6.9 magnitude tremor, the largest so far, reportedly killed over 350 and destroyed the homes of over 150,000 people. Many caught in the rubble of collapsed buildings and in mudslides are still awaiting rescue. 
 
Before the latest quake, the Indonesian Agency for Disaster Mitigation said the death toll and damage could be higher with conditions making it extremely difficult to assess the devastation. Earlier reports suggested at least 600,000 had suffered from impact of the three big quakes and hundreds of tremors over the past two weeks. 
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam has spokespeople available on the ground in Lombok, as well as in in Ireland, to discuss the humanitarian situation. 
 
Media interviews are available with:
Ancilla Bere, Oxfam Indonesia Humanitarian Manager, who will be on the ground in Lombok from Friday 10th August
Meili Narti, Oxfam Indonesia Project Manager on the ground in Lombok
Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager, based in Dublin
 
CONTACT: 
 
For interviews or more information, contact: 
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org 
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits: Petrasa Wacana
 

Helping the People of Syria

Deir-Ez-Zor, Syria

The human suffering caused by seven years of civil war in Syria is overwhelming. Thousands of lives have been lost and over 13 million are living in extreme poverty, and in desperate need of humanitarian aid. We are helping those affected by the crisis across Syria with life-saving clean water, sanitation and vital food supplies. We have also been campaigning and advocating for an end to the fighting, and a sustainable and inclusive political solution since the beginning of the crisis.
 
Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in eastern Syria, gets really cold in the winter. At the beginning of the year, with the help of a local partner, we distributed over 25,000 packs of warm clothing and 400,000 bundles of bread to the families that had come back. The city of Deir-Ez-Zor was under ISIS control for the last 3 years. The civilians who remained in the war-torn city lived under besiegement with little access to food, water and medical supplies. 
 
"Before and during the besiegement, there was no food or water, people were dying. There was no medical supplies, there was nothing." 
 
It is only since late 2017 that the people of Deir-Ez-Zor have begun to return to the city. The people of the city have lost everything, their homes and their livelihoods. Due to the devastation of the city, many people had no protection from the harsh conditions of the extremely cold winter months. 
 
Since the liberation of the city, Oxfam has been providing thousands of families with warm coats for the winter and distributing bread,
 
"Thank God we can get bread and water, the water is pumped everyday, bread is available everyday, and now we are more comfortable. "
 
"Now we are warm, after being cold for a very long time me and my brothers and sister, we all feel warm now."

Oxfam: Hodeida offensive must be stopped to save lives and the chance for peace

The UN and NGOs received warnings over the weekend for staff to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday ahead of the offensive, affirming the humanitarian community’s worst fears for Yemen. The UN peace envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has already said that this attack would “take peace off the table in a single stroke,” and the UN has cited the worst case scenario: 250,000 dead, with hundreds of thousands more affected. 
 
Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director Muhsin Siddiquey said, “It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach.  To avert catastrophe, we call on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to call for de-escalation and restraint, and to exert pressure and take action to ensure the parties keep Hodeida and Saleef ports open and uphold their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.” 
 
The people of Yemen have already had the lifelines of food, fuel and medicine blocked for years, but the offensive on Hodeida will massively escalate this humanitarian crisis while millions already are on the brink of famine. Oxfam is hearing from local NGOs that there has been a dramatic increase in families forced to leave their homes in the last couple of days. Truck drivers are too frightened to enter Hodeida to move vital food and supplies, and businesses are closing, leaving civilians in the war path without basic supplies. The fact that this attack would happen during Ramadan makes it even more difficult for families to prepare.
 
Siddiquey said, “Even with these warnings, this assault and escalation of the conflict is not a foregone conclusion – there is time for all parties to navigate a path to peace and save countless lives, and the international community must continue to stand up for this peace and the lives of the Yemeni people.”

Oxfam fears worsening humanitarian needs in Gaza

 

Oxfam today warned that prolonged closure of crossings into Gaza could cut Palestinians from essential goods such as fuel and food and threatens to further deteriorate what is already a dire humanitarian situation. 

Israel’s 10-year blockade of Gaza has caused infrastructure and services to collapse, provoking a humanitarian crisis for nearly two million people, mostly refugees, who have been effectively trapped inside. 

Some forty percent of Gaza's population struggle to get enough to eat.  Unemployment is over forty percent and over 23,500 have been displaced from their homes due to the aftermath of the last war in 2014.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: 

“The vital Karem Shalom crossing, one of the only entry points for goods in and out of Gaza, was damaged three days ago and is now closed, or opening for limited goods. If this continues, this could spark a further fuel shortage which would hit agricultural irrigation. Oxfam is working to rehabilitate a number of irrigation wells in Gaza but we don’t have a Plan B at this stage. The knock-on inflation on food prices would hit poor families hard and quickly.” 

Any sudden fuel shortage would also hit Gaza’s vital desalination plants which ninety percent of the people of Gaza depend on. 

Mr Clarken said: "Oxfam condemns the killings of at least 58 demonstrators in Gaza. The international community must take strong and urgent action to end the violence and ensure restraint from all sides.  The killings should be investigated – independently and immediately – for any breach of international law and those found guilty be brought to justice. " 

Oxfam is currently helping 258,000 people in Gaza providing food and vital water and sanitation. 

-ends-

 

For more information or interviews, please contact Phillip Graham, Oxfam Ireland, on +44 (0) 7841 102535 or at phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 

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