Aid now getting through in the Philippines but challenges remain

I am this morning in Cebu City, readying to move out mid-morning with an aid distribution of hygiene kits (toothbrushes, soap, blankets) and water kits (storage containers, water treatment solution) to Daanbantayan, northern Cebu. 

Even though access is now improving, health concerns continue to increase, with urgent need for safe drinking water and medical assistance, especially in Leyte and Samar.


Our teams have returned from four days of assessment and say that what they have seen is deeply troubling. Two teams are left there as the chopper could not land due to the torrential rains. Their food rations are short but they are fortunate to have the option of leaving soon. 

Clockwise from top: Life-saving aid being loaded onto lorries from Oxfam's distribution centre. These hygiene kits include items such as toothbrushes, blankets, underwear and soap. The Oxfam bucket has been used in our emergency response around the world. It has a built-in cap and spigot (part of the tap) to keep water clean. These amazing 'life saver' boxes are a new addition to Oxfam's emergency kit. When the handle is pumped, the built-in filter turns dirty water into water that is safe to drink.

People are lined up in Tacloban we are told, waiting for emergency food distribution, in the torrential rains. There are reports of security problems and looting, but also that people are ‘getting stuff because they need it – they are sharing stuff around.’ 

As the days grow and basic requirements are held up, inevitably and understandably people’s capacity to cope will erode. Clean water, food and shelter – the absolute basics are critical.

Above: Oxfam Eastern Samar Rapid Assessment Team covering the areas of Barangay Batang for emergency drinking water distribution and an assessment of Guiuan Poblacion. Photos: Jire Carreon

There are always stories that are heartening and give you hope out of this horror. Oxfam is bringing in many items of aid, including hygiene kits, water kits, clean up tools and other things. 

Local people active in relief efforts

Cebu resident Mani Osmena and her family have donated their Cebu warehouse to Oxfam to help get aid speedily dispatched to typhoon-affected areas.

She said: “Everybody needs help, and this is the least we could do. Why does a charity need to pay [for warehouse space] when they are only giving to help the needy?”

Her family is also identifying volunteers to go out with the workers to help with the disbursement of emergency hygiene kits. 

They are keen to help with logistics where they can. The aid community is in town, but we should not forget the strong civil society groups and the many amazing people directly and indirectly affected themselves who also are rising to the challenge of this disaster.

You can help by donating here, calling 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or making a donation at your local Oxfam shop.


Bring hope amid utter destruction in the Philippines

“Help. We need water, food and medicines.” 
The sight of desperate children holding up these signs is just one of many heartbreaking scenes our teams are witnessing in the Philippines as they assess the damage wreaked by super typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda.


Clockwise from top: A Filipino boy scales a brakewater at a coastal village in Las Pinas city, south of Manila, Philippines, which has been struck by one of the strongest storms on record. Photo: EPA/Francis R. Malasig. A Filipino resident carries a baby as they cross a river. People who rely on fishing for their livelihoods have seen their boats and tackle destroyed. Photo: EPA/Francis R. Malasig. In Cebu, 98 per cent of houses and buildings have been damaged, including a building being used as an evacuation centre. Families sleep on the floor as they seek refuge inside a gymnasium turned into an evacuation centre in Sorsogon City, Bicol region, Philippines. Photo: EPA/Kit Recebido. 

With their crops wiped out, fishing boats ruined and homes destroyed, it is the poorest that have been hardest hit by this violent and deadly storm.

Making sure people have clean water, safe sanitation and a roof over their heads is our immediate priority.

My colleague Tata Abella-Bolo, a member of Oxfam’s emergency team on the ground in the Cebu area where these children were seen begging for help, tells us: “The scene is one of utter devastation. There is no electricity in the entire area and no water. Local emergency food stocks have been distributed but stocks are dwindling. The immediate need is water, both for drinking and for cleaning.”

Oxfam has been working in the Philippines for many years. This super typhoon has affected 4 million people and comes on the heels of a deadly earthquake and a storm last month that wiped out rice harvests in what is the world’s third highest disaster risk country.

There is a strong connection between the Philippines and the island of Ireland, where Philipinos are an integral part of our local communities. We urgently need your help to bring life-saving emergency aid to those worst affected by Haiyan.

Please give what you can today. 

Jim Clarken is Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland.


You Spoke. Coca-Cola listened.

What does it take to make a global sugar giant promise to improve its policies on land? You. And 192,000 others too.

A month ago, we launched the second action of our Behind the Brands campaign asking three of the biggest companies in the sugar industry – Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods – to commit to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs. 

In just a few weeks tens of thousands of you took action – adding your name to the petition as well as sending messages and photos to the companies to get their attention.

And the result? It’s working! With almost 200,000 of you putting your names behind the campaign, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purchaser of sugar, has done what you asked – commit to “zero tolerance” for land grabs. 


Coke is the first of the ‘Big 3’ to agree to do more to respect communities’ land rights throughout their supply chain – and these moves are happening because of the pressure you applied. 

Coca-Cola has said it will do sweeping social and environmental assessments across its supply chains beginning with Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil, then moving on to India, South Africa and other countries, and that it will publicly reveal its biggest sugarcane suppliers. 

“Today one of the biggest companies in the world stood up to take greater responsibility for the impacts of its operations,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive. “Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show its customers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs. This will resonate throughout the industry.

“The public response to the campaign has been tremendous. This commitment is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers. The biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers are demanding it.”

We’ll be closely tracking Coca-Cola to make sure they follow through on their promises. In particular we will continue to advocate for appropriate resolution for the communities in Brazil and Cambodia who continue to struggle to regain the rights to their land. 

The time is now. 

Edilza Duarte (24) is a Guaraní-Kaiowá mother of two, living in Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul. Her community's land, Jatayvary, was taken from them 40 years ago. Now it's all covered in sugar cane.  

Above: Edilza Duarte, her daughter Stephanie and her son Jason are among the Guarani Kaiowá people who live at Jatayvary Indigenous Land Ponta Porã in Brazil. She says that the sugar plantations have put an end to her culture by clearing the forest and spreading 'poison' (the chemicals sprayed on the sugar plantations). Tatiana Cardeal/Oxfam

"They should stop doing this. They have damaged our lives enough. That's why we need our land back; so we can plant and eat. We want our land back."

Land grabs like this are the sugar industry's bitter secret – and this is not just happening in Brazil. In countries like Cambodia and around the world, families are facing the same fight for their land. 

Now is the moment.

Now that Coca-Cola (which sells over 20,000 drinks every second across the world) has committed to make sure the sugar in its products don’t lead to land grabs, Pepsi and Associated British Foods have no excuses to keep lagging behind. 

And with Pepsi’s shareholder filing deadline is coming up, now’s the moment to start increasing the pressure on them specifically. We need you to blast their inboxes with messages, telling them to keep up with Coca-Cola and commit to zero tolerance for land grabs.

Over to you, Pepsi and Associated British Foods.

Mary Quinn is Oxfam Ireland’s Campaigns and Outreach Executive.



Technology changes everything

This week, the Web Summit takes place in Dublin with some of the world’s most innovative start-ups and technology companies touching down in Ireland for the event. 

Founders from Dropbox, Evernote, Hootsuite and Wordpress will join the extensive line-up to explore one idea - technology is changing everything. And faster than at any other point in modern history.

This got us thinking, and we’d like to share some great examples of Oxfam's use of technology in its work to end poverty and injustice. 


Our innovative Pink Phones project gives mobile phones to women like Vansy (pictured) living in rural areas which they use to get the latest farming information, such as market prices for their crops and weather patterns, helping to plan the best time to harvest. Having access to this technology has transformed their lives, enabling them to sell more vegetables and build a sustainable livelihood. Simon Rawles/Oxfam


In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the country in 2010, Natasha Mytal (pictured) was one of more than 4,000 people who received a cash transfer from Oxfam via her mobile phone in the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake. “The money has really helped me to do a lot,” she says. “I’ve been able to buy oil and other food for the children and other food that I can sell in the street to earn some money.” Jane Beesley/Oxfam


We’re always looking at new ways to raise vital funds for our programmes around the world and earlier this year we launched the Born Again range of refurbished computers online and in many of our shops, with the help of Cathy Hacket (5), Ella Sharkey (5) and Chloe Sharkey (8). It’s the green way to get digital! Each one has been restored, tested and supplied with a fresh operating system. Prices start at just €120 / £99 for a desktop and €180 / £150 for a laptop. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Hacking for Good

We're delighted to say that Oxfam will be taking part in the Web Summit Hackathon - where over 150 of the world's leading engineers, designers, product builders and entrepreneurs will apply their technological expertise to solve humanitarian, disaster relief, environmental and hunger-related problems.  

So play your part and use technology to change the world. Start by sharing this post on social media!

Keith McManus is Oxfam Ireland’s Digital Communications Manager.


What families around the world will eat in one week

‘Where do you do your shopping? How much are you paying for groceries? Do you shop around?’

As the recession continues to bite, the food we eat, where we buy it and how much for seem to be fast replacing the weather as the most popular topic of conversation.

Shiny supermarkets leaflets showcasing ‘2 for 1’ deals falling out of every newspaper, the rise in the number of people splitting their weekly shop in multiple supermarkets to maximise these special offers, the growth in growing vegetables at home  and the popularity of blogs such as (tagline: ‘tough times, great food’) and activist Jack Monroe’s A Girl Called Jack (documenting the challenges of feeding herself and her three-year-old son on a weekly budget of just £10/€11.70) prove as much.

In a world where there is enough for everyone to eat, 870 million of us go to bed hungry every night. It’s a place where food banks are springing up at home but where food waste is still startlingly high (a third of food bought in Ireland ends up the bin, costing the average household up to €1,000/£850 a year).

Here we visit families from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe to see what they will eat in one week:


Mirza (47) and Zarkhara (37) Bakhishov and sons Khasay (18) and Elchin (15) with a week's worth of food outside their home in Shahveller village. Mirza says: “Our small cattle and poultry is everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them. The main problems for us are related to agricultural water and irrigation of our crops. We used to have problems obtaining animal feed, but now thanks to Oxfam and [partner organisation] Aktivta, our problem is solved.” David Levene/Oxfam


Bayush photographed with her daughter Genet (14) and son Destaw (11) and week's supply of food outside their home in the village of Amba Sebat. The food includes vegetable oil, maize, sugar and shiro (chickpea flour). They live in a small thatched hut without running water or electricity. Bayush is part of a cooperative of 31 women who collectively own land on which they farm vegetables. Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam


Blagnon Gnepa Herve (43) and Elise Gnamlin Boe (41) and children – (left to right) Ezechiel (21), Ange (18), Isaac (13), Jonathan (15), Moise (6) and Paul (3) – with their food rations. They’re standing outside their tent in a temporary refugee camp for people fleeing violence across the border in the Ivory Coast.


Husna La Shari, her husband and seven children live in the village of Khawand Bax La Shari. Husna is responsible for providing for her entire family as her husband is too old to work. Floods destroyed the fields she relied on for farming and harvesting. “It was difficult for me before the flood and now it is more difficult for me as there is no farming or harvesting… I am scared for how I will feed my children," she says. Timothy Allen/Oxfam


The Kumarapar family – (left to right) Thangalatchmy (44). Saratha (34), Surkitha (30) and Selvern (70) – outside their house in the village of Muruganwr with a week’s supply of food. They have thampala (a green leafy vegetable), tomatoes, potatoes, onion, chilli, spinach, leeks, cabbage, pumpkin, rice, flour and chicken. Their village is located on the border of what used to be a conflict zone. They have seen their neighbours’ homes set alight and at one point the conflict became so bad they were forced to leave and live in a refugee camp. In 2009 the conflict ended and now the family are rebuilding their lives. Abir Abdullah/Oxfam


BiBi-Faiz Miralieba (centre) and her family – (left to right) Siyoushi (11), niece Gulnoya Shdova (14), Jomakhon (6), Shodmon (9) and Jamila (13) – with a week’s total food supply in Kaftakharna village. Like many women in rural areas, her husband has migrated to Russia to find work, as there is not enough work for them in Tajikistan to feed their families. Andy Hall/Oxfam


Three generations of the extended Mudzingwa family outside their home in Gutu District with their typical supply of food for a week – a bucket of ground nuts waiting to be shelled by hand and a bucket of maize flour that's turned into a porridge-style paste for every meal. They have been given a plot of land in an Oxfam-supported project and had just planted their first crop when this photograph was taken. Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

We are helping to ensure people have enough to eat in three ways: by providing emergency food supplies in humanitarian disasters, through long-term development projects that develop sustainable farming methods and with our campaigning that gives a voice to the vulnerable, such as the women farmers who feed their communities and those who provide the raw ingredients for some of the world’s biggest brands.

But we couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you.


Join US

Nearly one out of three of us lives in poverty. But we see a future in which no one does. Sign up to learn how you can help people to lift themselves out of poverty.