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.

Ukraine Appeal | Help Today

Nearly 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes from the war, 5 million into neighbouring countries.


Oxfam have a busy partner-led humanitarian response running in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and Romania, aiming to reach up to 800,000 people, or more if possible.
In Poland, we have already reached more than 225,000 people.


We are concentrating on protection, water and sanitation, and food and economic security. We are providing cash and basic sanitation facilities for families in need of urgent assistance.

Thank you for your continued support.
 

4 links between the war in ukraine and the horn of africa hunger crisis

A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a road to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj. Photo: Peter Lazar/AFP via Getty Images

The world is facing a powerful convergence of crises. Conflict, COVID-19 and climate change are all contributing to record emergency aid needs.

The devastating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reminded us all of the need for global solidarity. But as the world watches Ukraine, we must also remember other crises around the globe. This is important since the economic impacts of the Ukraine crisis – including unprecedented food and energy price inflation – will be felt by the most vulnerable in our deeply unequal world.

One of the situations Oxfam is most concerned about is the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – spanning Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Here are some similarities, and connections, between this crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Sowda Omar Abdile makes black tea in her home in Wajir County, located in Kenya’s northeast. Photo: Khadija Farah/Oxfam

The Ukraine crisis will worsen hunger in the Horn of Africa

In recent years, conflict, COVID-19 and the climate crisis have deepened catastrophic food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Over 14 million people in the region – about half of them children – were already experiencing extreme hunger. Now, the Ukraine crisis threatens to make things even worse. The war in Ukraine is disrupting supply chains and causing food prices to skyrocket. This will push more people to the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa, which imports 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. The number of people on the edge of starvation will rise to 20 million by the middle of 2022 if rains continue to fail and prices continue to rise.

In both crises, women and girls are suffering most

Humanitarian crises are hard for everyone, but particularly for women and girls. This is the case in both the Ukraine and Horn of Africa crises.

In the Horn of Africa – especially in conflict-affected areas – women and girls are facing extraordinary dangers to secure food for their families, including gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Food insecurity also has tragic consequences for young girls. Desperate families sometimes resort to harmful coping mechanisms like pulling their daughters out of school or marrying them off in exchange for a dowry to secure some income. Since women are often responsible for caring for, and nourishing, their families, they tend to eat last and least. This makes them more likely to suffer from malnutrition, with consequences for their own health and the health of the babies they are carrying or breastfeeding.

In the Ukraine crisis, women and children make up 90 per cent of those fleeing the country. The gender and age profile of these refugees – who have lost everything and are often forced to put their trust in strangers – significantly increases the risk of gender-based violence, trafficking and abuse.

Both crises are equally urgent

The escalating violence and massive displacement in Ukraine are shocking and have rightly captured the world’s attention. The geopolitical significance of the Ukraine crisis, together with 24/7 media coverage, has led to near record levels of funding for the humanitarian response. This fast and generous support stands in stark contrast to the attention given to other crises – including the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Despite increasing needs, the humanitarian response for the region is woefully underfunded.

While the world watches Ukraine, we must remember the millions of people in neglected crises who are also suffering and in need of urgent support. Meeting humanitarian needs in Ukraine is vital, but donors must not displace funds that are badly needed to respond to challenges elsewhere. They must dig deeper and get creative. We shouldn’t need to choose between helping a refugee from Ukraine or a Somali farmer who lost her harvest. All lives are equally valuable. Both these humanitarian crises are worthy of urgent support.

Oxfam and local partners provide packages that include hygiene products and non-perishable food items to internally displaced people at the Ebnat aid distribution centre in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Photo: Serawit Atnafu/Oxfam

Oxfam is responding to both crises

When disaster strikes – whether it’s war or a hunger crisis – Oxfam responds with high quality lifesaving assistance, emergency supplies and essential protection for the most vulnerable.

In Europe, Oxfam is working to set up safe travel routes for Ukrainian refugees. We are supporting partner organizations who are providing vulnerable families with essential items like food, water, warm clothing, hygiene equipment and legal support.

In the Horn of Africa, in response to the worsening food crisis in the region, Oxfam is providing cash and vouchers. Communities will be able to use these to purchase essential food items and to meet basic nutritional needs. We also provide agricultural inputs, including seeds and tools, with training on more climate-resistant production to better prepare farmers for the future.

Since the hunger crisis in much of the region is caused by a prolonged drought, we are trucking water to remote communities and drilling wells to get clean water flowing. Many families rely on livestock for food, so we are supporting livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns. We are also helping people who have been displaced by conflict and drought by training protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distributing solar lamps to protect women and girls at night.

Fleeing Conflict in Ukraine

Julia, 44, her mother-in-law Leana, 58, her son Andrey*, 9, and nieces and nephews from Kharkiv at the Hallo Kijowska reception centre for refugees from Ukraine. Korczowa, Poland.
Julia, 44, her mother-in-law Leana, 58, her son Andrey*, 9, and nieces and nephews from Kharkiv at the Hallo Kijowska reception centre for refugees from Ukraine. Korczowa, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Conflict has forced over 4 million people to flee from their home country of Ukraine. They are arriving with only what they can carry. Right now Oxfam is working with partners in countries bordering Ukraine, including Moldova, Romania and Poland to ensure the changing needs of those who’ve been forced to flee can be met as they seek safety.

Julia fled her home in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with her family. She tells Oxfam they are traveling to Georgia to stay with relatives.
Julia fled her home in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with her family. She tells Oxfam they are traveling to Georgia to stay with relatives. JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Julia

When Julia left Kharkiv, Ukraine, she took one last look at her home. “You look at your house and think about what to take with you, and then you realize you don’t need anything,” she says.

Julia left with her mother-in-law, her 9-year-old son, and nephews and nieces during a break in the bombardments they had endured for days, sheltering in a bunker. Her husband, like all men between 18 and 60, was forbidden by the government from leaving Ukraine.

"Children played jokes and smiled, they did not understand what was happening – they gave us strength to live on."

Tanya, 31, a book keeper from Cherkasy, Ukraine at the Przmeyśl Glówny train station after fleeing to Poland. Przmeyśl, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Tanya

In Ukraine, Tanya 31 was an accountant in a fairly well-known corporation. Tanya and her family left their hometown of Cherkasy on a 18 hours bus journey to travel to Przmeyśl, Poland.

“Everyday there is an air raid siren and missiles fly nearby - it is very scary. I was forced to leave my country in order to ensure the safety of my children.

"I have a friend in Poznań, she is also a refugee. She has recently arrived and has settled down there for a while. She will help us to settle things too.

"It's incredibly scary when military planes fly overhead. Even now in a safe country where the situation is calm, I am frightened by every loud sound."

Ludomira, 74, from Kharkiv, Ukraine at the Lodyna transit centre for refugees. She is on her way to Rewal, Poland. Lodyna, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Ludomira

Ludomira 74 left Kharkiv, Ukraine and hopes to return and live back in her home.

"I had a nice apartment with good furniture, a lot of handmade things. The building has lost electricity and is without heating, but it is still standing. My husband's grave is there too. I miss him, and what will happen now? I don’t know where we are going, why are we going.

"All I want is that there be peace as soon as possible, that we return to our homes, to our friends, to our neighbours, and that I can visit my husband's grave."

Liuudmyla, 37, a pharmacist from Sumy, Ukraine, and her daughter Natalia*, 11, at the Przemyésl Gléowny train station on their way to Germany after fleeing their home. Przmeśl, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Liuudmyla

In Ukraine Liuudmyla 37 worked as a pharmacist and her daughter Natalia* was in fifth grade at school who played the piano and participated in competitions. On the 8th March, with thanks to the humanitarian corridor, they left Sumy, north-east Ukraine.

They travelled for 12 hours by bus and then 20 hours on one train, and then another 10 hours by train to get to Poland. Liuudmyla’s husband has stayed in Ukraine. Her sister and her husband’s mother who is 76 years old also stayed behind.

“I felt anxious when I arrived here and realised that my relatives stayed behind as it is now very unsafe there. I am calm for my child because she is here with me in Poland, but I am very worried about my relatives who stayed behind in Ukraine.”

Xenia, 35, from Ukraine and Armel, 38 from Ivory Coast, and their son Gabriel* 3 at the "Tesco" Humanitarian Aid Center for Ukrainian refugees. Przmeyśl, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Xenia and Armel

Xenia 35 and Armel 38 travelled with their son Gabriel* 3 from Kharkiv to Przmeyśl, Poland who are going to stay with a friend in Wroclaw.

“We had a basement and my neighbours and I organised it as a bomb shelter. We hid for a couple of days, then we tried for a long time to get to the station, but it was impossible, there was no public transport, there was not even a taxi. It was just awful.”

“When my son hears a siren, he says ‘Papa, siren!’ He doesn’t understand what is going on. Before I was so scared for his destiny.”

Elena, 43, a beautician from Gorishnwi Plauni, her son, Petro* 14, daughter, Olga* 9, and their dog Stephanie at the Hallo Kijowska reception center after fleeing Ukraine. Korczowa, Poland. Photo: JB Russell / Panos / Oxfam

Elena

Elena 43 a beautician from Gorishnwi Plauni, with her son, Petro* 14, daughter, Olga* 9, and their dog Stephanie fled Ukraine to Korczowa, Poland.

“At the moment we have everything necessary for life, we are very happy and grateful for the help from the Poles.

"The children continue to study online (post pandemic) and dream of going to school. We do not have a computer for the children, only a smartphone to help in their studies”

Oxfam Response

These stories were gathered Oxfam staff who were in Poland assessing the needs of refugees and identifying partners that can provide services for people fleeing Ukraine. Oxfam is working with partners in countries bordering Ukraine, including Moldova, Romania and Poland. These partners will lead on projects that Oxfam supports.

Our activities with partners currently range from:

  • Sharing information with refugees at border points and providing access to reliable information through hotlines and social media
  • Distributing the resources that people need to survive today, including food parcels and hygiene kits
  • Setting up handwashing stations and toilets, including ones that are accessible for people with disabilities, and showers.
  • Providing psycho-social support and advice to help people to deal with what they are going through.
  • Access to legal aid so that people arriving from Ukraine can receive support and learn about their rights.
  • Focusing on the needs of vulnerable groups and minorities, including Roma, LGBTQIA+, women travelling with young children and people with disabilities
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East Africa hunger crisis affecting 28 million

A woman walks past the bodies of dead livestock in Wajir county, Kenya, an area experiencing severe drought. Khadija Farah / Oxfam

Climate-induced drought, conflict, and global food prices are all creating a humanitarian emergency.

In previous years in Wajir county, in northeast Kenya, Ahmed Mohamud Omar says the land was green, they could water their animals at nearby wells, and “our life was prosperous, we had milk and meat.”

“Now that the drought has hit, the animals have died,” he says. The 70 year old says he fears for the children of his community, and these days thinks mostly about what to eat, and where to get water.

“There is no happiness now,” he says.

People in the arid lands of northern Kenya, along with neighbouring Somalia and southern parts of Ethiopia, are now enduring an extensive drought due to the effects of climate change. Conflict in northern Ethiopia as well as unpredictable rains and flooding in South Sudan are disrupting agriculture and spreading hunger and suffering.

Oxfam estimates that 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia have been displaced in search of water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes due to conflicts, especially in northern Ethiopia – where 9.4 million people now need urgent humanitarian aid. East Africa has also suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years. Kenya has suffered a 70 percent drop in crop production and has declared a national disaster with 3.1 million people facing acute hunger. As many as 28 million across the region could face severe hunger if rains do not fall.

Ahmed Mohamud Omar looks for water at a well near his home in Wajir county, Kenya. Oxfam is working with a group of humanitarian organizations in northeast Kenya that is helping communities improve their access to water. Khadija Farah / Oxfam

Global crisis affecting East Africa

“East Africa faces a profoundly alarming hunger crisis,” says Gabriela Bucher, the executive director of Oxfam International who has just concluded a visit to affected areas of Kenya where expected March rains have so far not materialized. She says people in East Africa “are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery will be near impossible unless urgent action is taken today.”

Bucher says the humanitarian crisis is further complicated by recent hikes in food prices due to the pandemic, but also that there are “repercussions of the Ukrainian conflict on the global food system” affecting millions of people in East Africa (which imports 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine), Yemen, and Syria, all coping with massively underfunded humanitarian emergencies. “Rising food prices will make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal,” Bucher says.

Severe situation in Kenya and East Africa

The climate crisis is having a dramatic impact on vulnerable communities. Droughts, floods, and disease outbreaks are more frequent and intense, leaving little opportunity for affected communities to recover from these successive shocks. Competition over resources also increases the risk of conflict. The UN is calling this “one of the worst climate-induced emergencies seen in recent history in the Horn of Africa.”

Idris Akhdar works for WASDA, an organisation that has partnered with Oxfam in Kenya for 21 years. He says that in recent visits to Wajir county, “Our team have met desperate people. People who are hungry, who are thirsty, and who are about to lose hope. In the last few days, I have seen across the region -- in the Somali region in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya -- the same hunger and destitution all over.”

What Oxfam is doing to help people in East Africa

Oxfam is working with WASDA and others in Kenya to support 40,000 people, and planning to expand the support to approximately 240,000 people with cash for food and other essential items. Other work includes water, sanitation, and hygiene activities such as repairing water points and wells to provide access to safe drinking water, and hygiene promotion campaigns designed to reduce vulnerability to infectious diseases like cholera and COVID-19.

In Somalia, Oxfam is working with organizations including KAALO Aid and Development to reach 420,000 people this year with lifesaving water, sanitation and health support, including drilling wells, distributing hygiene kits, providing materials to help protect communities from water borne diseases, and distributing cash, seeds, tools, and training farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming. Oxfam will also support livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns together with the Ministry of Livestock, train community protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distribute solar lamps to protect women and girls at night. To date we have reached more than 260,000 people.

In Ethiopia, Oxfam has supported 170,000 people in northern Ethiopia with lifesaving clean water, food, and cash assistance in areas affected by conflict. Oxfam aims to reach an additional 750,000 people in the next year in northern Ethiopia with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene kits. Together with our partners, we are also scaling up our work in the southern Somali region to respond to the effects of the drought.

In South Sudan, Oxfam has provided support to 400,000 people and aims to reach an additional 240,000 people with safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and promotion, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and livelihood support like seeds, tools, and fishing kits.

Two years of COVID-19 What Oxfam has been doing

Shahida Akter Lucky, a 25-year-old unemployed domestic worker living in Dhaka, stands in line with her eight-month-old son at a food distribution carried out by Oxfam partner Nari Maitree. Photo: Fabeha Monir / Oxfam

Oxfam’s global response to the coronavirus pandemic has reached across the world to help people survive, while also advocating for a People’s Vaccine.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2020, Ann Gakenia Muthungu immediately understood the life-and-death implications. The 69-year-old single mother and grandmother knew that on top of the risk of sickness and death from coronavirus, complying with government mandates to stay home meant people like her wouldn’t be able to earn income for food.

“How can we stay at home without food? We cannot live in the house,” she predicted. “You will die in the house.”

Oxfam worked with partners in Kenya and 68 other countries to provide cash for families locked down without income or food to meet their basic needs, information about the pandemic they can use to stay safe, as well as soap and protective equipment.

In 2020, Oxfam assisted more than 14 million people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuing to help people around the world make a decent living during the pandemic, survive disasters and conflict and climate change shocks, while also advocating for more and better access to safe, affordable COVID-19 vaccines.

Hunger and the coronavirus

The implications of COVID-19 on access to food for impoverished communities was immediately evident in 2020. Farmers, traders, retailers, and consumers all faced challenges, particularly in areas where the poorest people lack any savings or food reserves.

People living in areas affected by conflict-such as Yemen, parts of West Africa, South Sudan, and Ethiopia--continue to be the most vulnerable, as some areas are on the edge of famine. In parts of the Horn of Africa, a combination of drought, flood, and even locusts have killed off livestock and crops.

By mid-2021, Oxfam estimated that 155 million people in 55 countries had been pushed into extreme levels of food insecurity, and that more than half a million were living in famine-like conditions – a six-fold increase in just a year.

 

Oxfam distributed 500 hygiene kits (containing soap and other items to help people keep clean), along with information about how to minimise risk to COVID-19, to families in Salahaddin, Iraq, in 2020. Photo: Oxfam

Oxfam and our partners distributed cash to families in areas with functioning markets so they could buy food, soap, and meet other basic needs during the pandemic. In other areas, we helped farmers with seeds, fertilizer, and training on growing drought-resistant food crops in places like Central America’s Dry Corridor.

Women bear the brunt of the pandemic

When the pandemic hit in 2020, it was clear it would hit men and women differently. Since then, statistics show that women suffered higher rates of job loss (5 percent for women, 3.9 percent for men). Oxfam’s research indicates this cost women globally $800 billion in lost income from 2020 to mid-2021.

When schools closed, and family members got sick, women and girls took up the additional unpaid care work at home. This is yet another factor in the increasing pandemic-driven economic inequality in the world.

And as many women found themselves stuck at home with abusive people, it increased the threat of gender-based violence, further discriminating against women.

In addition to distributing cash to families, Oxfam and our partners and allies also advocated for more and better support for families, such as a research and advocacy campaign in the Philippines that encouraged 28 towns and cities to provide day care services and improve roads connecting to markets.

Oxfam’s WE CARE campaign for women’s economic empowerment carried out research, waged campaigns, and held workshops to shine a light on the burden of women’s unpaid care work during the pandemic in Tajikistan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, just to name a few countries.

Oxfam staff Nikhil Wagh and Parmeshwar Patil deliveran oxygen concentrator to a hospital in Maharashtra state. Photo: Oxfam India

Public health crisis in India

When the coronavirus first hit India in 2020, Oxfam India worked with partners and government ministries on a massive effort to help the poorest people survive. Many were migrant workers at job sites far from home suddenly without work, food, or money. Oxfam provided cash, meals, protective masks, hand sanitizer, and hand washing facilities. At the request of local government officials, Oxfam also provided masks and hand sanitizer to hospital workers and police officers.

Since then, Oxfam has provided food to more than half a million people and distributed $409,000 in cash to 10,000 of the most vulnerable, including transgender people, sex workers, miners, survivors of domestic violence and cancer, weavers, fisherfolk, construction workers, and people affected by floods and cyclones.

When the Delta variant broke out in India in April and May 2021, Oxfam India built seven oxygen generating plants and distributed more than 13,000 pieces of lifesaving medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, ventilators; more than 116,000 safety and personal protection kits; 9,929 pieces of diagnostic equipment such as thermometers and oximeters; and 20,000 testing kits in 16 states. We reached 479 hospitals and other health facilities.

Oxfam provided protective equipment, digital thermometers, and oxygen meters to 64,900 community health workers in nine states. “At the beginning [of the pandemic], we didn’t have any gloves or anything,” said one health worker in Uttar Pradesh said after a training workshop to learn how to use the new digital thermometers, and where she received masks and gloves

An affordable, accessible People’s Vaccine

As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, about six percent of people in poor countries have been vaccinated, while wealthier countries are hoarding vaccines, and parceling out just a few in donations. The result has been millions of unnecessary deaths, a steady parade of virus mutations, and more than two years of increasing inequality and suffering while the major pharmaceutical firms that created vaccines using public funds and taxpayer funded research rake in billions in profits. Four times as many people have died in low-income countries than in rich ones.

Oxfam immediately helped create the global People’s Vaccine Alliance to campaign and advocate for a patent-free, mass-produced, and fairly distributed vaccine available free of charge to everyone, rich and poor alike. This would allow more manufacturing of vaccines in more countries, leading to greater access and faster distribution.

Oxfam has called on companies to explore sharing their technology to boost manufacturing in low-income countries to make more vaccine available to more people, and save more lives.

The race against COVID-19

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