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.

Time for G7 to End the War in Yemen

On 9 August 2018, a 500lb GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bomb was dropped by the Royal Saudi Air Force on a school bus in Dahyan, Sa-ada Governorate of northern Yemen killing 40 boys aged between six and eleven. They were on a trip, excited, playing together, seemingly happy despite the war that has dominated their lives for over four years. [1] 11 adults were also killed. This brutal act was one of over 50 attacks on civilian vehicles recorded by Human Rights Watch in Yemen during 2018.[2,3]  
 
This is part of a pattern in four years of war where civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)[4]  reports nearly 4,500 direct civilian targeting events resulting in approximately 11,700 reported civilian fatalities since March 2015. Over 8000 of those civilian casualties come from airstrikes launched by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war on Houthi rebel forces.[5]  
 
And it’s not just the bombs. Imports of food, fuel and other goods have fallen because of the fighting. Access to food aid is difficult, and prices in markets have risen greatly because of the war. Save the Children estimated last year that 85,000 Yemeni children may have died of starvation since 2015 – far more than have been killed by guns or bombs.[6]  Cholera has killed over 2500 people in Yemen, and 58% of those victims were children.[7]  Clean water is barely available in Yemen as airstrikes have destroyed water purification and piping stems. These casualties are as much victims of the war as those killed directly by the fighting.
 
Being careless as to whether civilians are hurt by military action isa serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, and western governments that back the Saudi-UAE-led Coalition say the Saudis are investigating such incidents. But by 2018, out of thousands of attacks, the Coalition Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) created to investigate such bombings said it had looked at only 79.  [8]Worse, in 2015, the Coalition had declared Sa-ada, a city home to 100,000 civilians one giant military target, something that was raised before the UK Court of Appeal in the case relating to the illegality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia under the Arms Trade Treaty and UK law.
 
Destruction of civilian houses that were hit during airstrike raids in Sana’a. Photo Credit: Bassam Al-Thulaya / Oxfam Yemen
 
And that’s the crux of the matter. The G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) who meet this month sell tens billions of dollars’ worth of arms each year to Saudi coalition members. The US is the biggest supplier, with major coalition partners. 
 
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt receiving some $19.5bn in arms deliveries from the US since 2015. [9]  The UK has licensed well over £5.3bn in arms sales to Saudi Arabia alone since 2015. Even a relatively small player like Canada sold CAN$1.2bn to Saudi Arabia in 2018, with a massive CAN$15bn contract for armoured vehicles pending. 
 
It’s not just the bombs, planes and other arms, The UK, through both Ministry of Defence and major contractor BAE Systems retains over 7000 personnel in Saudi Arabia, supporting and maintaining the Royal Saudi Air Force.[10]  Under contracts and agreements that date back to the 1980s, UK personnel maintain planes and support military operations. The government denies knowledge of what is going on, maintaining an arm’s length relationship despite years of war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Since 2008 British personnel have not directly loaded bombs onto planes for combat operations, but oversee and support Saudi personnel to do this. They also service the planes which need continuous maintenance to remain operational. According to UK civil servants and BAE Systems personnel,  the coalition “, absolutely depend on BAE Systems” and, if the outside support stopped,  couldn’t continue the war after “seven to fourteen days”.  
 
So egregious are the breaches and violations of IHL that Germany (a partner with the UK in building Tornado and Typhoon aircraft used by Saudi Arabia) has withdrawn support for the export of spare parts to the Saudis. The highest Belgian court has ruled 20 arms export licences to Saudi Arabia illegal. The Italian Parliament has voted to stop sales to Saudi Arabia. The UK Court of Appeal has also ruled UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia illegal. 
 
The G7 nations claim to lead the world, they will undoubtedly deplore the continuing fighting and human suffering in Yemen. But the stark truth is that without them the war would have been over years ago. While they continue to fuel the conflict there is no chance that peace can prevail, and Yemenis of all ages will continue to the price of this with their lives.
 

[1] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/13/middleeast/yemen-children-school-bus-strike-intl/index.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/19/us-supplied-bomb-that-killed-40-children-school-bus-yemen

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/16/yemen-school-bus-bombing-one-of-50-strikes-on-civilian-vehicles-this-year

[4] See more detail at https://www.acleddata.com/?s=Yemen.

[5] https://www.acleddata.com/2019/06/18/press-release-yemen-war-death-toll-exceeds-90000-according-to-new-acled-data-for-2015/

[6] McKernan, Bethan (21 November 2018). "Yemen: up to 85,000 young children dead from starvation". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/21/yemen-young-children-dead-starvation-disease-save-the-children

[7] Federspiel F, Ali M (December 2018). "The cholera outbreak in Yemen: lessons learned and way forward". BMC Public Health (Review). 18 (1): 1338. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6227-6. PMC 6278080. PMID 30514336

[8] https://theintercept.com/2018/08/24/yemen-airstrikes-saudi-us-coalition/

9 Figures from securityassistance.org

10 https://www.mikelewisresearch.com/RSAFfinal.pdf

Yemen War - 1000 Child Casualites in a Year

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Nearly 1,000 child casualties of Yemen war in year since shocking Sa’ada bus attack

Number killed directly by fighting is equivalent to eight more bus loads
 
More than 300 children have died in fighting across Yemen in the year since an airstrike hit a bus in Sa’ada killing 41 school children and almost 600 have been injured, as international arms sales continue to fuel the conflict.
 
335 children have been killed by violent attacks including airstrikes, mines and shelling since 9 August 2018, equivalent to another eight buses being hit. Many more have died from hunger and disease, according to the UN, in a massive humanitarian crisis stoked by the conflict.
 
The latest arms sales data, released last month, shows the UK has now licensed over £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since 2015 when the conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, backed by an international coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, escalated. 
 
The Court of Appeal has ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and ordered the UK government to stop licensing new weapons exports while they assess whether airstrikes, including attacks involving children like those above, are a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The UK government has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The world was rightly appalled by an attack that took the lives of so many young, innocent schoolchildren. Yet almost one child a day has been killed in the year since and violence remains a daily threat for Yemenis, alongside the struggle against hunger and disease.
 
“The people of Yemen urgently need a nationwide ceasefire before more lives are lost to this horrific conflict and the humanitarian disaster that it is fueling. All parties to the conflict and those with influence over them should do all in their power to end this deadly war now.”
 
Since the latest figures were published, more children have been killed or injured. Just last week an attack on a market killed at least 10 civilians, including children, in Sa’ada while in Taizz, five children were injured by shelling.
 
Airstrikes and shelling in Al Dale’e in May killed 10 children. In March, five children were killed in clashes in Taizz city while an attack on the Kushar district of Hajjah governorate killed 14 children. Over the year, there have been thirty incidents involving schools and eighteen involving hospitals. 
 
The conflict, between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, backed by an international coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is now in its fifth year. The United Nations has estimated that if the war continues until 2022, more than half a million people will be killed by fighting, hunger and disease. 
 
The Houthis and the internationally recognized government of Yemen reached an agreement at talks in December which included a ceasefire deal for the key port of Hudaydah but moves to implement it have been long delayed.
 
The government and the Saudi-led coalition have accused the Houthi forces of over 5000 violations of the Stockholm agreement, while the Houthis have in turn blamed the coalition and government forces for more than 27,000 violations.
 
The international community is coming under increasing pressure to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition. In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were breaking the law.
 
Clarken said: “Seventy years after the creation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which seeks to protect civilians in and around war zones, children in Yemen still find themselves in the firing line. 
 
“Rather than fighting the legal ruling against weapons, the UK government should join with the international community to focus on protecting the lives of Yemeni civilians and ending this war, not profiting from it through arms sales.”
 
ENDS 
 
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: 
Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Data on the number of children killed and injured has been provided by the UN Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP). It is unverified open source information. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Yemen Data Project also monitor civilian casualties. None is an official source and given the difficulties of working in Yemen, the data from these three sources do not always match.
The CIMP data shows 335 children died and 590 were injured between 9 August 2018, when the bus attack in Sa’ada took place, and 3 July 2019.
The government and coalition allege over 5000 violations of the Stockholm agreement by Houthi forces since it came into effect on 23 December 2018 until 10 June 2019. The Houthis allege 27714 violations by the government and coalition in the period 23 December 2018 to 2 July 2019.
 
 
 

Yemen War - 1000 Child Casualites in a Year

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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

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“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. 

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

We put women’s rights at the heart of everything we do. Join us today and be part of our movement to end the injustice of poverty. Sign up, and we’ll get you started with actions and opportunities that will equip you to change the world.

Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwe

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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. 
 
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