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.

New Ebola cases in Goma pose risk of disease spreading internationally, says Oxfam Ireland CEO

In response to the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said:

“Ebola has now been confirmed in Goma, a major transport hub with a population of more than one million people. The city’s location on the border with Rwanda only increases the risk of international spread of this deadly disease.

“We need more intensified and coordinated action from the international community and this decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a major step in attracting the world’s attention to the Ebola crisis in DRC.

“We welcome their recommendation to prioritise community engagement, as we know that getting the trust of communities affected by the virus has been a massive barrier and focusing primarily on a medical approach hasn’t been working.”

Over 13 million people in DRC are facing acute levels of hunger and many have endured decades of violence and conflict. 300,000 people have recently been displaced by renewed conflict in Ituri, an area not far from an Ebola outbreak which nearly a year on has killed 1,600 people.

Clarken added: “The recent Ebola deaths in Uganda also show the devastating potential for Ebola to spread across borders. Vast numbers of people on the move makes it even more difficult to track and treat patients at risk of the virus.

“We echo the WHO’s call for authorities to allow borders to remain open, so people can cross safely at official points where they can be screened for Ebola. Given the intense conflict in the region, there’s a huge risk of people crossing illegally if borders are closed. Millions of people are also dependent on cross border trade and if this lifeline is cut off it would only put poor people at risk of losing their livelihoods, while generating more anger and distrust towards the Ebola response.”

Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, Corinne N’Daw, said: “This is also a crucial opportunity to strengthen the public health response and to respond to broader humanitarian needs in the country. Any new funding must be accompanied by stricter accountability to ensure that everyone is working effectively together to end this dreadful outbreak, that has claimed the lives of so many Congolese people.”

Oxfam has been providing assistance in North Kivu and Ituri with public awareness and education on how to keep safe and stop the spread of the disease. Oxfam has also responded to previous outbreaks elsewhere in DRC by providing hundreds of thousands of people with clean, safe water, and working with local community leaders and volunteers to increase understanding of how to prevent Ebola.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Oxfam has spokespeople on the ground and in Ireland. Supporting materials are also available, including photos, testimonies and video of Oxfam’s response. For more information, or to arrange an interview please contact: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

 

Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo is declared an international health emergency

News broke yesterday of the first confirmed case of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the heavily populated city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), located on the Rwandan border.

Serious concerns are being expressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the safety of the one million residents in this large urban area and about the spread of the virus beyond, as Goma serves as a major gateway for transport to and from the DRC.

The WHO has now declared the Ebola outbreak in the DRC a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This declaration will mean a greater response from the rest of the world on the plight of the Congolese people.

Oxfam has been providing assistance in the Goma region with public awareness and education on how to keep safe and stop the spread of the disease and is ready to respond further if this first confirmed case leads to more.

It is important that travel in this area is unrestricted until we have further information about Ebola in Goma because millions of people depend on cross border trade to make a living in this already extremely poor part of the world.

In the rest of the DRC, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people by providing clean, safe water and working with local community leaders and volunteers to increase understanding of how to prevent Ebola.

Louise is a community leader in a district within Mangina, the most affected area by the Ebola virus. Copyright: John Wessels/Oxfam

Three hundred kilometres north of Goma in Mangina, a community leader, Louise, told us about her experience in this heavily impacted part of the DRC:

“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.

“From the beginning of the outbreak, we called a community meeting and we decided to isolate any dead bodies. It was not easy because we do not have a mortuary in Mangina and people usually stay with the body for several days.

“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 have seen families flee from here, one after the other. They may come back at the end of the epidemic.”

We urgently need your help to continue to play a vital role in preventing the disease from spreading. Oxfam is providing clean, safe water and hygiene kits and working closely wih community leaders and volunteers to raise awareness and increase understanding of how to take preventative measures against the disease.

Please, donate now to help meet the most critical needs. 100% of your donation will go to our Ebola response in DRC.

Oxfam - Response to Ebola outbreak

“It is not easy to live in isolation” – the women caught up in DRC’s Ebola crisis

Ebola has claimed more than 1,400 lives across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since August of last year. The most recent figures from the World Health Organisation show the total number of cases at almost 2,100, while the outbreak – the second largest in history – has also spread to neighbouring Uganda.

Oxfam was one of the first agencies to respond to the crisis in conflict-ridden DRC by providing clean, safe water and working with community leaders and volunteers to increase understanding of how to prevent the virus, and to dispel people’s myths and fears. So far, we’ve reached 138,000 people across the country.

Yvette* carries one of the children on her back. Photo: John Wessels/Oxfam. *Name changed

In Mangina, mother-of-seven Yvette* now cares for 10 children. Ebola claimed the life of her neighbour, so Yvette looks after the three orphaned children as well as her own family.

“She was only 35 and died at the beginning of the outbreak,” says Yvette. “Her children are like mine. The little girl fell sick after the death of her mother, her eyes are inflamed.”

For Yvette, the good news is that the children are on a vaccination list – they are currently waiting for a medical team to visit. In the meantime, she says that she feels isolated, adding: “The community is afraid of us.”

Elsewhere, mother-of-two Judith, who works as a primary school teacher, also found herself isolated as a result of Ebola.

 

Judith in her classroom. Photo: Alain Nking/Oxfam

Judith was quarantined for 21 days after the director of her school died of the virus. She says: “During my isolation, I felt like I was going to die at any moment. It is not easy to live in isolation and to always think that you may be carrying the dangerous and deadly disease that killed my director.”

Even when Judith eventually returned to work, she found a mostly empty classroom.

“Many parents became afraid after the death of the director,” she explains. “They think that their children could be infected by the virus in the school and especially in my contact. Many of them have not passed their final exams.”

Oxfam travelled to Judith’s school to give lessons on hygiene and install water points. Our staff also built an area where pupils and teachers who feel unwell could check their temperature and rest while waiting for transfer to a health centre.

“The Oxfam team came to my house to give me some food,” Judith adds. “The kit really helped my reintegration. When people saw Oxfam vehicles and agents coming to my house, the whole avenue came to see what was going on.

“When Oxfam left, the neighbours stayed at my house all night. It was the first time in a long time that I saw people in my home. It was a real joy for me.”

Ebola has already destroyed lives in DRC and Uganda – and millions more are at risk. Oxfam is working hard to prevent the spread of the virus by distributing clean, safe water and teaching communities about the importance of hygiene. 

*Name changed to protect identity

Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwe

In rural Zimbabwe, where less than half the people have access to safe drinking water, traditionally it is the women who are responsible for collecting clean water for the home. This often involves long walks to a water source, with many of the women having to carry heavy buckets on their heads.  
 
These hours spent walking in search of water eat into the precious time that women can spend doing other things such as earning a wage, getting involved in activities in their communities or spending time with their friends and family.   
 
One woman breaking traditional gender barriers in the country is Takudzwa, an Oxfam water engineer. She has installed a solar-powered water system to deliver clean, safe water closer to the homes of the women in her community, changing their lives for the better. The new system in Masvingo District, which is funded by Oxfam, will supply water to many families in the area as well as a school and a clinic. 
 
Oxfam WASH (Water and Sanitation for Health) engineer Takudzwa at the Oxfam-funded solar piped water system in Somertone village, Masvingo District. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
The 33-year-old mother is proud to work on Oxfam’s water and sanitation projects because she understands that access to clean water is vital to the survival of communities in her country. 
 
Yet despite doing a job that she finds rewarding, Takudzwa says that her decision to become an engineer wasn’t welcomed by everyone in her family.    
 
“My grandma almost came to tears to say, ‘Oh why are you choosing a male profession? What’s wrong with you, my granddaughter?’ But because it’s something that I really wanted, I had to take up the challenge, said Takudzwa, who was the only girl in her engineering class.” 
 
Takudzwa working water system in her community. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
“I love water,” Takudzwa added. “There are so many things that have to be done. Having to come up with so many interventions so that we can always, at all times, have water, that is safe for drinking, that is in good quantities for the population that needs the water.” 
 
Takudzwa with her one-year-old son at her parents’ home in Masvingo before heading out into the field to see the solar-powered water system. Photo: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam 
 
Delivering clean water to rural communities is only part of the work being carried out in Zimbabwe, where Oxfam has been working for almost 60 years. Through our WE-Care programme, we are also tackling the issue of women being left to do most of the household work, which is seen as being less important than paid labour. 
 
This water project also feeds into a larger programme, which is helping to bring about significant change across the country. The work is empowering women and supporting communities in Bubi, Zvishavane, Masvingo Rural and Gutu districts by installing 10 water points as well as 15 laundry facilities. 
 
This means that women will no longer have to travel such long distances to collect clean water or do their washing, ensure household work is shared equally between men and women and help women to have more free time so that they can take part in activities outside the home. 
 
The world will only improve if women expand their role as political, economic, family and social leaders. The cost of excluding women is well-recognised. Yet women bear the biggest burden of poverty, and most of those living in poverty are women. We work to advance women’s wellbeing and increase the benefits of the contributions that women and girls can make to societies and economies. The untapped contribution of women is a priority that we are working to correct by supporting organisations that focus on gender equality, legal reform and ending violence against women. 

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Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwe

4 things you need to know about Cyclone Idai

A man looks at a washed away bridge along Umvumvu river following Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Cyclone Idai has caused widespread flooding, landslides and destruction and left communities in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Here are four things you need to know about Cyclone Idai right now

1. The full impact has taken a while to hit the news

Communications and infrastructure were very badly affected, making it hard to see the sheer scale of the disaster and level of devastation caused at first. Cyclone Idai hit landfall on the night of 14-15 March causing extensive damage in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique with homes and agricultural land completely wiped out in some areas.

2. It could become one of the “worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere”

The exact impact is not yet known and the numbers continue to rise but millions of people have been affected by what the UN’s weather agency is suggesting could be “one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere.”

More than a thousand people are feared to have died, thousands more are missing and millions of people have been left destitute without food or basic services.

A family dig for their son who got buried in the mud when Cyclone Idai struck. Photo taken in Chimanimani about 600 kilometres south east of Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, March, 19, 2019. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/REX
 

3. It’s a race against time

Oxfam teams and local partner organisations are already on the ground in all three countries and will be responding with clean water, toilet facilities, shelter, clothing, food and other essential items. In some of the most challenging conditions imaginable, Oxfam is working around the clock to make sure this vital work happens as quickly and effectively as possible. It is a race against time, you can donate to help us save lives right now

4. A longer-term response will take some time to evaluate

With an estimated 2.6 million people affected across the region, Oxfam aims to reach up to 500,000 initially – hopefully more – across the three countries, including in partnership with other international and local NGO partners. In Mozambique, where 2.1 million people are affected, Oxfam is planning to reach people through COSACA (a consortium of Oxfam, Care and Save the Children) as part of a programme to restore several basic social services including access to healthcare, education and water. In Malawi, Oxfam is looking to help 200, 000 people and in Zimbabwe 50,000 people.

You can help save lives by donating to Oxfam’s Cyclone Idai appeal now.

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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