Rights in Crisis

  • We believe that the women, men and children who are affected by conflicts and disasters have a right to live in safety and dignity. Those most at risk – whether because of an earthquake, a drought or civil war – have a right to a life free from violence, and to have clean water, shelter and food. They also have the right to be heard and to take control of their own lives.

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

Oxfam condemns attacks in Yemen, as horrific bombing kills civilians in Hodeidah fish market and hospital

3 August 2018

Oxfam has condemned yesterday’s horrific attacks on the fish market and hospital in the key port of Hodeidah in Yemen, which reports say killed at least 52 people and injured 101.

Oxfam is calling on all parties to the conflict to respect international law and protect civilians from harm, and is urging the UN Security Council to also condemn the attacks. 

The attack came as the UN Security Council met to discuss the situation in Yemen, during which the UN Special Envoy announced that parties would meet in Geneva in September.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “The UN Security Council needs to take firmer action, starting by urgently condemning this and all attacks, calling for an immediate ceasefire, and for all parties to ensure the free flow of vital goods through the port to where they are needed. The Irish and UK governments can also play their part by continuing to press for international action to end the conflict.

“This summit is a welcome step towards revitalising peace efforts. In the meantime, the violence, including the escalation in the city and governorate of Hodeidah, must be addressed.

“All parties to the conflict must protect civilians from the violence and end attacks like this horrific incident. Yemen is on the brink of starvation, the cholera season is under way and the war continues unabated. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye.

“Powerful members of the Security Council cannot sit on their hands and allow this to continue to get worse. It is time for the UN to condemn the attacks and put their full weight behind a renewed push for peace in Yemen. All parties to the conflict must take immediate steps to end fighting and come to the table for talks to achieve lasting peace without any further delay.”

Oxfam has been in Yemen since 1983 and is stepping up its work in Yemen to tackle the humanitarian crisis. Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 3 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers.

ENDS

Spokespeople are available in the region and in Ireland. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Hodeidah Governorate is one of the worst affected areas of Yemen with a quarter of children suffering from malnutrition. Last year it was just one step away from famine, with nearly 800,000 suffering from severe hunger and the situation remains desperate.

Oxfam is helping 10,000 people who have fled north of Hodeidah but helping those outside the city is also proving difficult due to the ongoing conflict. The port of Hodeidah is key to providing the bulk of all the food imported into the country and the majority of its medicines. If this vital life line is cut for a significant amount of time then the lives of more than 8 million people who are already on the verge of starvation will be further put in jeopardy. 

Oxfam ready to respond as new cases of Ebola threaten vulnerable communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Oxfam is launching an urgent response in Beni, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as four news cases of Ebola are confirmed – just nine days after a similar outbreak in the Equateur province in the western part of the country was officially declared over.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “People in Beni are already facing unimaginable suffering – the province has been deeply unstable for years due to armed conflict and this instability extends to the whole country. Millions of people are in the DRC are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing terror of violence and war. People are hungry and at risk of deadly disease – many have been forced to flee their homes. 

“Ebola has the potential to devastate communities already on the brink – and threatens our ability to help them. Having helped to tackle the previous outbreak in the Equateur province, we are urgently responding in Beni as new cases are confirmed. We will be working with communities, local partners and other aid agencies in the area to provide clean water, sanitation and information to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

In Beni, Oxfam’s ongoing work is reaching thousands of displaced people and host communities with food, clean, safe water and sanitation facilities.

ENDS

Spokespeople are available in the region and in Ireland. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo prolonged and recent conflicts in Ituri, North and South Kivu, the Kasaï provinces and Tanganyika have left millions of people hungry and at risk of disease.

Rebuilding Al Rusul Primary School for Girls in Mosul

By Jerry Wessen, Oxfam Ireland’s Communications and Campaigns Intern.

The Iraqi city of Mosul was left devastated after occupation by ISIS – homes were ruined, schools were blown apart and infrastructure was uprooted. Now that the fighting has ended, families have returned to the city to rebuild and are slowly sending their children back to school.

One school located in west Mosul, Al Rusul Primary School for Girls, was completely destroyed. Muna Husein Kadu, the headteacher of the school explains: “It [the school] was destroyed, the furniture was broken. All our records were all over the floor. There was nothing left for us.” Students are two years behind on schooling and lost records make the situation worse.

“The kids are the ones with hope, they want to carry on and progress.”

Other than the school’s building being damaged, the bathrooms were also in dire need of attention. The toilets and sinks don’t work, and new septic tanks are needed - plus the smell makes it unbearable to step foot in the bathroom, let alone use it.

With so many obstacles already making it hard for these children to go to school, sanitation should not be one of them. So, Oxfam has focused our efforts on rehabilitating the water and sanitation systems of several schools in Mosul.

Gashaw Shareef is the lead of the project for Oxfam, in charge of contracting out the work and being the headteacher’s liaison. She explains the tasks at hand: “We clean the toilets first and then rehabilitate the sinks and then repair the taps with handles. [To] get rid of the smell is the most important thing.”

The efforts to reconstruct the bathrooms in the Al Rusul school took a total of three days, including installing new pipes and water tanks and sanitising the bathrooms.

One of the students said: “[Before], we couldn’t even go inside before because of the dirt and the horrible smell. It’s so much better now.”

Rehabilitating the bathroom was not the only goal. Gashaw explains: “We fix all the toilets and then we teach them how to use it.” Proper sanitation techniques are as important as new bathroom facilities for keeping communities safe from deadly disease.

Gashaw says: “When I see the results I will be happy, they are happy and that’s enough for me.”

 

Heavy monsoon rains hit Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Thursday 26th July

The situation:

Urgent action is needed to help Rohingya refugees who are today being hit by monsoon rains in camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. The heavy rains and widespread flooding have already caused over 130 landslides, damaged 3,300 shelters and affected 28,000 people, Oxfam has said.

Outside of the camp in Cox’s Bazar, reports claim that up to 5 children have been killed in a landslide elsewhere in the town. Fallen trees and landslides are blocking some of the roads. There are predictions of up to 100mm of rainfall per day for next few days.

A survey of Rohingya refugees carried out by Oxfam before the monsoon season found that more than half were almost completely unprepared for the floods, landslides and disease that accompany the monsoon weather, with women most at risk.

The UN warns that 200,000 refugees are at risk from flooding and landslides, with around 24,000 of those considered at high risk. So far nearly 25,000 refugees have been relocated to newly flattened ground that should be safer.

What is Oxfam doing?

  • Oxfam is working with the government of Bangladesh and the UN to relocate refugees to safer areas and to make the remaining areas as weather-proof as possible.
  • To help keep disease at bay, Oxfam is supporting the UN to build water and sanitation infrastructure in two of the new, safer zones in the Ukhia mega-camp.
  • Oxfam teams are also cleaning and replacing full latrines, drilling deep wells that won't be polluted by dirty ground water, and working with refugee communities to promote good hygiene.
  • Oxfam teams are assessing the impact of the current heavy rains. They will provide further information on the numbers of households affected, landslide locations, and these teams will also be prepared to distribute some humanitarian items if necessary.
  • As part of Oxfam’s emergency plan, trained and identified Emergency Response Team members in Dhaka are available to rapidly deploy.

·         Since the start of the crisis, Oxfam has helped more than 180,000 Rohingya refugees with clean drinking water, emergency toilets and food rations.

Spokespeople and media materials

Oxfam has spokespeople available in Ireland and on the ground to discuss the humanitarian situation.

Oxfam media materials will also be available, including to mark the forthcoming first anniversary (August 25th) of the violence in Myanmar which sparked the current Rohingya refugee crisis.

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

Pages