How you're helping in West Africa

Widow Adoaga Ousmane (45) is responsible for finding food for her six children as well as caring for three grandchildren. Like many people caught up in the current West Africa food crisis, she finds food by picking tree leaves and digging up anthills to find wild grass seeds.

Even then, there is little to feed her family. “(At night time) I think a lot... about my family – what will they eat, what will I find for them, will I be able to feed them today, I make calculations for tomorrow,” she worries.

TOP LEFT: Adoaga looks for seeds in anthills in the hope of finding something for her family to eat. TOP RIGHT: Adoaga holds a bowl of leaves, which are used to make a ‘sauce’ to accompany traditional maize dish called la boule. Families grind the maize they receive at Oxfam’s food distributions to make the dish. ABOVE: Adoaga at home with her children. Your generous donations are providing emergency food aid for many families like Adoaga’s. All photos by Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

“I always think about how I’m going to find food for my children, wishing that my husband was still alive to help me provide for the children, because I don’t really have anyone I can turn to for help. If my friends have nothing to give me, we won’t eat anything.

“I let the children eat first until they are full and then I eat whatever is left, I need to build up enough strength so that I have the energy to find food for my children when this runs out so I have to make sure I keep some of the food for myself.”

Thanks to your response to our West Africa appeal, we’re providing food to families like Adoaga’s in the Guéra region of Chad.

TOP: Adoaga’s child licks her spoon clean after eating. ABOVE LEFT: The little girl with Adoaga. ABOVE RIGHT: Adoaga at home with her children. All photos by Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

On the day of our food distribution, Adoaga is clearly relieved to be able to feed her family. “All my worries have now left me and I am much calmer. I can find sleep more easily. If I eat like this more often then my stomach will be full and I will begin to grow stronger.

I feel well today. Much better and calmer than before the food distribution and I have less worries now that we have enough food for a while. “We are eating bigger portions and with more nutrition so my children and I can sleep much more easily.”

Oxfam distributed food to 61,326 people in the Guéra region between May and September 2012. Each family receives 34 kilos of maize, 4-5 kilos of beans, 2.25 litres of oil and 0.37 grams of salt, enough food to feed an average family for one month. Your generosity is making a huge difference.

We aim to reach a total of 1.8 million people across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and the Gambia with emergency aid. But we need to raise more money in order to do so.

Water is life

It’s finally here. Helen Ewoton, her husband and her five children in Nawoyatir in Turkana, northern Kenya, have been waiting for this day for a very long time. Today, thanks to your support, Oxfam will dig a new borehole to provide clean water.

“There is water here and Oxfam knew the water was here,” says Helen (48). “When I saw the drillers I felt very happy. We were all very happy when we saw the water spurting out.”

TOP: The borehole means Helen can access water locally, ending her daily three-hour round trip. ABOVE LEFT: Helen says the borehole will improve the health of kids like her grandchild Kaisa. ABOVE RIGHT: The women of Nawoyatir village sing and dance to celebrate the arrival of clean water. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam.

Not only will it end their daily three-hour round trip to fetch water, but the arrival of this source of safe, clean drinking water has huge health benefits for the community of Nawoyatir. Previously, locals were forced to drink water from hand-dug wells sometimes contaminated by faeces. Serious water-related illnesses, such as cholera, are common in Turkana, an area that was badly hit by the East Africa food crisis in 2011.

Oxfam Ireland - East Africa: One year on

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This incredible video captures Helen and her community's delight as Oxfam builds them a borehole, bringing desperately needed fresh water to this village in northern Kenya. Thanks to everyone who donated to our appeal – your generosity has enabled us to implement projects like this.

“People get diseases drinking contaminated water,” Helen explains. “Some children from the neighbourhood became ill. One child lost their life. “The goodness of the borehole is that it provides clean water. It will bring hygiene at home. It will bring good health and will help the school children to bathe quickly and go to school. It will reduce the diarrhoea diseases in households.”

TOP LEFT: Engineers prepare the rig by putting the drill bit into place. TOP RIGHT: Drilling engineer Henry Kaisa (34). ABOVE: Pipes are laid out ready to line the borehole. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Helen’s livestock will also benefit from the new water supply. “It will help the goat not to catch any diseases. Those goats will multiply and become many in the household.” Helen and her community have celebrated the new borehole by writing a song:

“This song says Oxfam is good for coming to drill for us clean water. To me this is a good day, it’s a big event that they have drilled clean water. When there is no water there is no life. Water is life.”

ABOVE LEFT: Ipoo Ngachara (55) collects fresh water from the new water supply. TOP RIGHT: Children play in the borehole as fresh water is sprayed from a pipe. ABOVE RIGHT: Ipoo joins in the celebrations. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Only 15 per cent of the largely nomadic population of Turkana has a reliable water supply. Serious water-related illnesses, such as cholera, are common in this part of northern Kenya. We drilled and installed six boreholes with hand pumps between February and April 2012. At least 12,500 people are using them.

Thanks to your support, we are changing lives forever. To help us implement more projects like this, please give what you can today.

A new beginning

When drought kills your livestock or floods wipe out your business, how do you put food on the table for your children? This was the situation faced by Elisabeth and Mary. Thanks to the support we've received through our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign, hope is on the horizon.

Meet Mary

A life can change in the blink of an eye. Mary Atabo and her family went from being comfortably-off nomadic farmers and shopkeepers with a thriving small business to relying on food aid and the sale of charcoal to feed themselves. All because of the vagaries of the weather: first a drought claimed 90 of their 100 goats and then flash flooding destroyed their shop.

Almost one million people in Turkana, Northern Kenya, eke out a living in semi-arid conditions. But the proud people who call Turkana home are determined not to give in. They are adapting their traditional ways to cope with drought or floods – whatever the unpredictable climate throws their way.

TOP: Thanks to your donations, Mary Atabo (centre) and her family are rebuilding their lives following a devastating drought and flooding. ABOVE LEFT: Nanyiti Alkaram is one of the women who is planting vegetables using the tools, seeds and other support you provide. ABOVE RIGHT: Children in Katiko village can eat more nutritious food grown in the vegetable gardens. All photos by Alejandro Chaskielberg/Oxfam

Mary and her family are not giving up. They face a new beginning; a difficult one but one with hope for better days at the end of it.

And Oxfam is there with them; and others throughout Turkana. In Katiko village, children have more nutritious food because of our work, supported by you.

Women like Nanyiti Alkaram are improving things by planting kitchen gardens using hoes, rakes, watering cans and seeds provided through your generosity.

Life in Turkana is tough. But it doesn’t mean it can’t change for the better.

Meet Elisabeth

When she was widowed, Elisabeth Ekatapan was left solely responsible for caring for her eight children in the village of Natoo in Turkana, Northern Kenya.

It’s an inhospitable place. Elisabeth grew up as a pastoralist, living off the livestock that she herded from one place to another to find water and grazing. But an increase in drought over the previous decade has forced her to look at other means of making a living.

“Animals are not sustainable anymore. When there is drought your animals die and you are left with nothing. If I could make one thing happen it would be to have my own business and earn money,” she says.

TOP: Like Elisabeth Ekatapan, John Ekono Ekiman, who lives near the village of Lomekui, lost animals during the drought. He has received camels and goats as part of our project helping farmers. John says: “I remember laughing when Oxfam gave me my camels – it was the happiest day of my life. I feel really proud of having them. In the future I want to expand and grow my camels and goats.” ABOVE: Widow Elisabeth Ekatapan now grows vegetables to feed her family thanks to your donations, which have funded a vegetable allotment project for 400 familes. All photos by Alejandro Chaskielberg/Oxfam

Everyone has the right to decent work, income and freedom from hunger. So we’re working with 400 families in three villages in Turkana (Riokomor, Karebur, and Nayenaeemeyan) to develop vegetable allotments. The gardening scheme has turned a desert landscape into a green oasis of hope.

Families working on the allotments received hoes, rakes, watering cans, fencing materials and seeds to plan. The plots of land are irrigated by small water points, either wells or hand pumps, located nearby.

Elisabeth and other mums caring for families can now grow vegetables to cook and sell. They are not reliant on the animals that can’t graze and drink because the rains don’t come. Women make up almost 90 per cent of those who work on the allotments.

Ending Poverty Starts With Women. Help us support women like Elisabeth today.

The perfect recipe

A staple food in many parts of the world, rice has been feeding mankind for more than 5,000 years. At two of our projects in Liberia, there’s bags and bags of the stuff.

ABOVE: Princess Dekar (13) carries rice home in the Zleh Town area of Grand Gedeh county. TOP: Beartrice Quayee transplants rice in River Gee county, Liberia. She is one of the people involved in our cash-for-work project, which provides an income in return for growing rice communally. The farmers tend to their own fields once the jobs are complete. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

But this wasn’t always the case. Many local people were farming upland, often several hours’ walk from their homes. Others were growing rice in swamps, where it tends to thrive, but didn’t have proper access to water. Working alongside our partner Catalyst, farmers in two counties in the south east – Grand Gedeh and River Gee – have now found the perfect recipe for growing rice.

The ingredients:

  • Perfectly proportioned plots of uncultivated lowlands suitable for swamp farming
  • Lots of new dams and irrigation systems and the repair of existing ones
  • Expert training on how to manage swamp farms and use irrigation on fields
  • The right equipment for swamp farming: tools and clothing including a rake, shovel, hoe, file, rain coat, boots and gloves
  • Great dollops of support from people like you.

The final result: Lives transformed.

Lucy Tarlue (40), who lives in the Pouh Town area of Grand Gedeh, is eager to talk about the benefits of swamp farming. “I would explain to [my neighbours] that swamp farming is good. Swamp farming is profitable.”

TOP LEFT: Lucy Tarlue, who lives in Grand Gedeh county, produces enough rice to sell the surplus at the market. TOP RIGHT: Rice is ready for transplanting in a rice field. ABOVE: Lucy at her home. She says she would recommend swamp farming to her neighbours. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

“I have five plots (2.5 acres). If I do the work on time, I can get 25 bags of rice from each plot (in one year from one harvest).”

This is 10 more bags than she could produce upland. Lucy sells her surplus rice at the market.

“I produce enough rice that we can eat some, I’m able to sell some and send my children to school. I sell the rice in the market.”

TOP LEFT: Maye Teh washes rice in River Gee county. New irrigation systems provided by Oxfam makes rice farming more sustainable. TOP RIGHT: A young boy stands along the muddy main road in Grand Gedeh county. ABOVE: Cash for work workers sing and dance as they hold their tools on their way to work in the rice fields in River Gee county. All photos by Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Almost 870 million – more than the population of Europe, the United States and Canada combined – go to bed hungry every night in a world which produces enough for everyone to eat.

With your help, we can help people like Lucy to grow enough for her family to eat and also make a living.

To support to projects like the one in Liberia, please donate today. You’re the essential ingredient.

A child's message of hope

By Jim Clarken, Chief Executive

Letters from our supporters can bring a ray of sunshine to the often dreary Dublin and Belfast mornings. The generosity of the Irish public is inspiring.

The willingness of people to hand over money, clothes, books and other items in order to help people the other side of the world is an incredible testament to the sense of humanity that prevails in Ireland, even during our own economic problems. Recently, I arrived into the Oxfam offices to be greeted by this letter.

It was from three young boys, Dion, Louis and Oliver. The note left no contact details and no information about the boys themselves. But it left a message. A simple message. Dion, Louis and Oliver had made a gesture.

They had sold pictures and raised €65 for Oxfam. That €65 will be used to fund vital work. It will help to bring hope and a better future to people living on the other side of the world. Dion, Louis and Oliver will probably never meet those people.

But that doesn’t matter. Their generosity and goodwill will send a message. A message of hope. On behalf of the people we work with, thank you for your continued selfless support of others.

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