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Yemen needs both aid and peace to avert famine, warns Oxfam

April 24th 2017

More money is urgently needed to ease the humanitarian suffering in Yemen but aid alone is no substitute for reviving efforts to bring about peace, Oxfam said, as ministers gather in Geneva for a high level pledging event.

The United Nations hopes to raise US$2.1 billion to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to Yemen but the appeal – intended to provide vital help to 12 million people – is only 14 percent funded [as of 18th April]. According to the UN, Yemen has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with nearly seven million people facing starvation.

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland's Humanitarian Manager, said: “Donors need to put their hands in their pockets and fully fund the appeal to prevent people dying now. But while aid will provide welcome relief it will not heal the wounds of war that are the cause of Yemen’s misery. International backers need to stop fuelling the conflict, make it clear that famine is not an acceptable weapon of war and exert real pressure on both sides to restart peace talks.”

While aid is desperately needed to save lives now, many more people will die unless the de-facto blockade is lifted and major powers stop fuelling the conflict and instead put pressure on all sides to pursue peace. The two-year conflict has so far killed more than 7,800 people, forced over 3 million people from their homes and left 18.8 million people – 70 per cent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. 

And Yemen's food crisis could become even more severe if the international community does not send a clear message that a possible attack against Al-Hudaydah – the entry point for an estimated 70 per cent of Yemen's food imports – would be totally unacceptable.

Several countries, including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, and Italy, are attending the event while they continue to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to parties to the conflict. The UK Government has approved arms export licences for £3.3bn worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia in the past two years. It has also provided military experts to advise the Saudi Arabian armed forces.

Colm Byrne continued: “If the parties to the conflict – and those fuelling it with arm sales – continue to ignore Yemen's food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine.

“Many areas of Yemen are on the brink of famine, and the cause of such extreme starvation is political. That is a damning indictment of world leaders but also a real opportunity – they have the power to bring the suffering to an end.”

Yemen was experiencing a humanitarian crisis even before this latest escalation in the conflict two years ago, but successive appeals for Yemen have been repeatedly underfunded; respectively 58 percent and 62 percent in 2015 and 2016, equivalent to $1.9 billion over the past two years. On the other hand, over $10 billion worth of arms sales were made to warring parties since 2015, five times the amount of the Yemen 2017 UN appeal.

Oxfam is calling on donors and international agencies to return to the country and to increase their efforts, to respond to this massive humanitarian crisis before it is too late.

Oxfam is also calling on the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and raise vital funds for people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

ENDS 

For interviews or more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org  

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

NOTES TO EDITORS 

The number of people in need as a result of Yemen’s conflict continues to rise, but the international aid response has failed to keep up. For more information on which donor governments are pulling their weight, and which are not, download our Fair Share Analysis, "Yemen on the brink of famine"

Oxfam has reached more than a million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, food vouchers and other essential aid since July 2015. 

Oxfam is also calling on the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and raise vital funds for people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

 

 

 

 
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Famine in South Sudan: communities at breaking point

In South Sudan, the violent and brutal war has put millions at risk. Women, men and children who have fled their homes in search of safety are now facing a new threat - hunger. With harvests still months away, the famine already declared in parts of the country will spread across the rest of the country, unless we act now.

Majok at the WFP registration site in Nyal. He had to make a one and half hours trek, helped by family members, from his home to Nyal to ensure he was physically present for the registration. Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

In South Sudan, the violent and brutal war has put millions at risk. Women, men and children who have fled their homes in search of safety are now facing a new threat - hunger. With harvests still months away, the famine already declared in parts of the country will spread across the rest of the country, unless we act now.

When the rains begin in late April or May, conditions will become even more difficult for the people in need and for the humanitarian groups trying to reach them. Flooding makes roads and airstrips impassable and can cause a rise in cholera and other water-borne diseases.

George* sits on his mother’s lap as health personnel takes his measurements to determine his nutrition level. There are 208 malnutrition cases in this hospital in Nyal, Unity State. These don't include the many adults facing extreme hunger in the area.

Nearly 5 million people - 40 percent of the population - are facing extreme hunger. "We are seeing communities now at breaking point. In the swamps between the famine-affected areas and where Oxfam is working, we know that there are thousands of people going desperately hungry,” says Dorothy Sang, Oxfam's Humanitarian Campaign Manager in South Sudan.

Panjiyar County, in southern Unity State, sits next to the frontline of some of the heaviest fighting we are seeing in South Sudan today. It is no coincidence that this frontline is also home to the 100,000 people who have been hit by deadly famine. Many have traveled for days on foot to reach generous host communities, who themselves are now sharing what little food they have with their neighbours and are waiting for that next food aid delivery in order to survive.

An elderly woman at the registration site in Nyal Catholic church, South Sudan. She came from Nyandong Payam with the help of family members. Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

So far, Oxfam and other humanitarian organisations have been able to help to keep famine from spreading with food distributions, clean water and other vital aid. So far, we have been distributing food to more than 415,000 people as well as providing more than 140,000 people with clean water and sanitation services.

Oxfam staff Pedro Marial Rock takes the fingerprint signatures of Nyabiey (left) and Nyakonga (right) to verify they are receiving food at a distribution in Nyal on March 20, 2017. Photo: Lauren Hartnett/Oxfam

In Nyal, Panyijar County, some of the most vulnerable people from surrounding islands arrive exhausted after hours on Oxfam canoes. They are here to register for a World Food Programme food distribution. We are using canoes and paying canoe operators to make sure that the most vulnerable do not miss out on access to food.

 

Marissa and her family fled from famine and conflict-hit Mayendit, where all of their food had been burnt and their home burnt down. They brought what they still had to Nyal, pulling their possessions along the swamps in large tarpaulins. They're now hoping to register for a food drop. Photo: Dorothy Sang/Oxfam

Besides providing clean water and toilets on some of the islands closest to Nyal, we are also helping both its island and mainland communities to set up vegetable gardens to boost their own diets and to build up their livelihoods.

“What concerns us most are the people we have yet to reach. The fighting means no one is able to work on the remote islands, and we are only able to send canoes up the river to help the people when we can ensure the safety of our staff,” says Sang.

 You can help

The people of South Sudan are doing all they can to help themselves. Where the newly displaced have arrived, families are generously offering what little they have. But this is not enough. We need to get more food, clean water and other vital support to the most vulnerable people.

We are calling for more funding to help reach people before it’s too late. You can help. Donate now.

Exposed: People seeking safety met with brutality and violence on Europe’s borders

“They put us in a cage and didn’t give us food for three days. They beat us so badly. They even gave us electric shocks.” Isaaq from Afghanistan

These are the words of Isaaq from Afghanistan. After fleeing his home, Isaaq travelled through Iran and Turkey to Bulgaria - in search of safety and dignity. Instead he was met with brutality and violence.

“All the way, we were treated so cruelly. The Bulgarian police treated us so harshly that we will never forget it as long as we live – not only me but also all my brothers standing here faced cruelty in Bulgaria. They crossed the limit of cruelty,” Isaaq said.

This is just one of 140 stories from refugees and migrants using the Western Balkan route to reach Europe which detail violence, brutality and unlawful treatment by authorities. The stories are highlighted in a new report from Oxfam, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association. 

People fleeing unimaginable situations in their home countries - violence, persecution, disaster and poverty - described beatings, robbery and inhumane treatment at the hands of police, border guards and other officials.

In many cases, they also described illegal deportations and being denied access to asylum procedures. In Serbia a group of people, including a two-year old child, were told that they were being taken to a refugee reception centre. Instead, police brought them to a forest on the Bulgarian border in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures and left them there. The group survived, but by the time they were found two of them had lost consciousness due to hypothermia.

A man sits amid the chaos in a derelict warehouse behind the main railway station in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Broken or missing window panes have been plugged by clothes and rags to keep the cold at bay, while firewood has been collected so that those camping inside can light fires when temperatures plunge in the evening. Many people are forced to live in these inhumane and degrading conditions after unsuccessfully attempting to cross the border into Hungary or Croatia. Lack of space in government accommodation, coercion by smugglers and the fear of deportation means this is their only choice of shelter.

Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

A solitary figure sits on a piece of rubble in wasteland close to Belgrade train station. The area has become home to migrants and refugees being pushed from one country into another across the western Balkans. Many have suffered physical abuse from the police at the border.

Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

Two residents of an empty warehouse in Belgrade city centre eat from a makeshift table. A plank of wood on the floor is used as a table while the pair eat takeaway food with plastic cutlery. This poorly adapted shelter has exposed people forced to live there to freezing temperatures throughout the winter.

Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

Keeping clean in these conditions is difficult as there is no running water. Two men wash themselves using water from a large plastic tank outside the warehouse where they are camping.

Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

Desperate to keep warm, three people huddle around a fire lit in the centre of the disused warehouse. Conditions are dire in this makeshift camp, with waste strewn around the floor and no proper sanitation or sleeping facilities. The men sleep in tents which have been erected around the building and sit on whatever they can find.

Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

What is Oxfam doing in the Balkans?

Oxfam is working with vulnerable refugees and migrants in Serbia as well as in the broader Balkans region. We work with people living outside and inside official accommodation sites in Serbia and work with local organisations to reach people in need across the Balkans regions. We’re providing essentials like food and clothing. We are also providing legal counselling and support for people who have been pushed back across the region’s borders. 

Fighting famine in East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen. Join us.

Across the world, millions of children, women and men are starving due to a devastating food crisis. A catastrophic combination of conflict and drought has left them facing terrifying food shortages – and there is no end in sight.

In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in East Africa, more than 19 million people are on the brink of starvation, while war in South Sudan has forced more than 3 million from their homes, and left millions more desperate for food. In February of this year, South Sudan became the first country in the world to declare famine since 2011.  

Photo: Tina Hillier/Oxfam

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, Fadumo lost three of her children – her triplets – to malnutrition when they were less than a month old. 

The 32-year-old farmer said: “They died because of a lack of food – they were malnourished. They were less than one month old. First one child died, then two more. I was afraid.

“How can anyone be happy when they have lost three children?”

Meanwhile, the drought has claimed two-thirds of her livestock.

“I had shoats and camels,” she explained. “Before, I used to have 60 animals, now I just have 20. I have one camel which is still alive.”

Now she fears for the lives of her remaining children and said: “What will they eat? We are getting some help – have some food and water.”

But she added: “We need many things. We need food which is nourishing. Food is our biggest need.”

Elsewhere, parts of Nigeria – where at least 4.4 million people are experiencing crisis levels of hunger – are also thought to be in the grip of famine. However, the situation in the country is so volatile due to conflict that it has been almost impossible to confirm that famine has taken hold.

And in Yemen, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces has left more than 17 million people on the brink of starvation. Without a massive humanitarian response, it will be impossible to avert famine.

Millions of people – in different parts of the world – have one thing in common: they are all experiencing the devastating impact of severe hunger on a daily basis.

Oxfam is supporting communities facing famine and hunger by distributing emergency food supplies and providing clean water and sanitation as well as providing cash or cash vouchers so people can buy what they need locally, supporting local business. We are working to prevent fatal diseases such as cholera by getting clean water to the most vulnerable, and to support them get their crops growing once again so that they can feed themselves and their families.

We are already helping over one million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and plan to begin a response to the drought in Somalia.

In situations where hunger and malnutrition are rife, it is usually the children who suffer the most. Even if they manage to survive prolonged periods of extreme hunger, they often pay the price in the long term as they lose their immunity and their ability to fight disease.

Like countless other infants and children in South Sudan, Tabitha’s baby daughter is in danger of becoming severely malnourished. 

Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

Tabitha’s daughter is sucking on a dry “Tuok” – a dry seed from a type of palm tree which is eaten when there is nothing else left.

Tabitha fled with her baby to seek refuge in Garbek, a small community in Unity State, after they were chased out of their home when violence broke out.

Now, with food so scarce, Tabitha is desperate – and resorts to eating whatever she can get her hands on.

“We feed on water lilies, fish and anything we could find in the river,” said Tabitha, who also lost most of her animals during her journey.

“What we currently need is food [and] medication. The more time it takes the worse it shall be for us.”

We’re determined to act quickly to ensure that mothers like Fadumo and Tabitha do not see their children go hungry. We have already reached many thousands of people with food, water, sanitation and support – but we are most concerned about the people we have yet to reach. 

Stories of hope for International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day 2017, we're celebrating some of the inspirational women we have the privilege of working with around the world.

MAITRE FROM HAITI

Pictured top left, Maitre says “I’m very proud because I am a strong woman. I am a girl doing a man’s job and I am capable and able.”

Maitre Marie Nadeige (36) from Haiti is one of 100 women trained by Oxfam in construction. These women have joined the workforce and are now helping to improve infrastructure and repair roads in their areas. Since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Oxfam has been working with partners to help people rebuild their lives and make their communities less vulnerable to disaster. 

AYINKAMIYE FROM RWANDA

Pictured top right, Ayinkamiye Josepha works on the Tuzamurane Co-operative – an Oxfam partner-run pineapple farm in the Kirehe District in east Rwanda. Before the co-operative, women were growing and selling pineapples on a much smaller scale for a low price and were trapped in poverty. Now the women working as part of the co-operative grow pineapple crops on both their own land and the co-operative’s and these are sold to be juiced or dried in the in-house processing plant. The profits from sales are invested back into the business and shared between the members. Oxfam has also helped connect the women with banks so that they can access funds to pay for health insurance and school fees.

EMAM FROM IRAQ

Pictured bottom left, Emam Mahdi Saleh (36) is a business woman and mother of five from Jalawla in Iraq. Her salon was damaged during the ISIS occupation of the town but she’s now back in business after receiving a loan from Oxfam for repairs. Oxfam has been helping other business owners like Emam to get back on their feet through small loans and paid work to help rebuild the town. 

NATALIA PARTSKHALADZE FROM RUSSIA

Pictured bottom right, Natalia says “Everything started with an idea and a very small investment from a small saving. Oxfam supported with branding and restoration of the facilities. It is important to work together…”

Natalia Partskhaladze (41) is the founder of the Kona Co-operative in a village in Georgia’s Kaspi Municipality in Russia. The co-operative produces black and herbal teas and was set up in 2015 as part of a nationwide project led by Oxfam that has facilitated the formation of 48 co-operatives in 13 municipalities, employing around 10,000 people. Natalia’s co-operative employs five women and buys materials from other co-operatives to supplement locally sourced herbs and flowers.

Video: A story of hope from Iraq

Zahia and her family were forced to flee their home when ISIS came to their village. When ISIS were gone Zahia returned to her house and with a little help from Oxfam, regained hope of creating a home and an independent life.

This is her story.

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