Blog

,

The horrors in Aleppo continue to mount

Published Oct 14 2016

 
A child watches as a military jet flies over the ruins of the Al Mashad neighbourhood in Aleppo. In neighbourhoods on the frontline where people still live, there is little or no water or electrical energy supply. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
 
As battles rage in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the situation is dire – and becoming increasingly intolerable for residents caught up in the ongoing conflict.
 
250,000 people are trapped in rebel-held East Aleppo with no access to aid and facing constant attacks from the air. The bombardment of hospitals, schools and civilian areas is appalling. There are daily reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. Food and fuel are scarce and expensive, leaving many vulnerable to the risk of water-borne diseases. 
 
WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN ALEPPO
 
 
Oxfam has supplied and installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station, which can supply enough water for a million people in Aleppo. Photo: Oxfam
 
Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, helping to provide clean water across battle lines in Aleppo, as well as elsewhere in the country. 
 
Oxfam has installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi water pumping station, which supplies most of Aleppo, to power the station when the national grid is down. Oxfam has also equipped three wells in West Aleppo to produce around 500,000 litres per day and installed eight water purification units – though four of them are currently being repaired after sustaining damage – on the Qweik river to also produce 500,000 litres. 
 
Oxfam also has desperately-needed 3,500 hygiene kits ready to be distributed in East Aleppo, but with the continued fighting the convoy cannot currently access the opposition held part of the city.
 
Oxfam is also working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, providing clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and vouchers for hygiene supplies. 
 
VOICES ON THE GROUND 
 
People still inside East Aleppo have been revealing how the horrors continue to mount. Residents of Aleppo are reporting the use of ‘bunker busting bombs’, which create large craters in the ground, making even underground shelter unsafe. 
 
People on both sides of the city, opposition-held East Aleppo and government-controlled West Aleppo, are now relying on water from wells or delivered by trucks, which are unreliable and sometimes contaminated sources.
 
Speaking to Oxfam, an East Aleppo resident, Basma* (35), said: “The water network is damaged in some areas, to the point where you can see [bomb] craters filled with water. We are still managing to get water through different means, from local wells. But it’s not safe to go out in the street”.
 
Nassim* (65), another resident of East Aleppo said: “One of my children went missing five days ago. I spend my day looking for him. Food is scarce. Fetching water from the local wells is another daily challenge, as going out is dangerous and the water quality is an issue. You can’t be sure if the water is safe or contaminated”.
 
 
“UNBEARABLE” 
 
Walid* (35), from West Aleppo, said: “Queuing to get water is a time consuming struggle, and buying water is becoming expensive. You need to pay more to get water first from truckers. Winter is coming and we have no electricity, and fuel is not available. The situation is becoming unbearable. If it remains like this, I will leave Aleppo with my family.”
 
Tayseer* (40), in East Aleppo, said: “We stored bread before this crisis. We have nothing but bread now. You can’t find any shops open. People are sharing their food supplies with each other. We no longer have spices, so we are just boiling the grains that we have. I’m not concerned about myself or my wife, just about my children.”
 
Nahla* (25) recently fled from East to West Aleppo: “I can’t send my kids to school. And we have no running water, we depend on water trucking. I have no money and no income. Prices are very high in the market. Others in the community have helped me with bread and a bit of food. I can work in cleaning or sewing but I don’t know where to start to look for a job. I don’t know what to do or what will happen tomorrow.” 
 
22-year-old Sham* in East Aleppo: “I don’t have enough food to feed my two brothers and two sisters. Even if we have money, there is no food in the market to buy. We are afraid of sending them to school after the recent attacks. No place is safe now. We don’t know what to do, we feel trapped in our basement.”
 
Souad* (55) lives in a public park in West Aleppo: “I fled East Aleppo with my grandson. His father stayed in East Aleppo. We are unable to reach him. We just want to hear his voice to make sure he is okay. I have no income and everything is expensive. We are relying on people to help us and on aid workers to provide water and other necessary services. We lost our dignity during this crisis. All I want is to go back home, take care of my garden, and have my grandchildren around me.”
 
MARIAM’S STORY 
 
Mariam (64) saw her world fall apart when her only son, a father of four, was shot last year in East Aleppo. 
 
Mariam, her daughter-in-law and the children – three boys, aged 11 and twins of 8, and a 4-year-old girl – moved from place to place, driven by the continuous fighting in Aleppo, until they ended up in a small room, with mouldy walls, and inappropriate sanitation.
 
“I lost my beloved son. My four grandchildren became orphans at a very young age. My heart is broken. I have never felt as weak as I do now. Our only breadwinner left us and now the burden of being ‘the man of the house’ has been placed on the shoulders of my 11-year-old grandson. Finding food and drinking water is a difficult task.” 
 
One of Mariam’s neighbours, who has several water tanks, has been providing water to the family. As for food, they rely on help from other people and some charities. Food prices in East Aleppo have shot up, especially since the area was besieged by government forces. For example, one kilogramme of sugar costs 3,000 Syrian pounds compared to 350 in Damascus.
 
“I was able to plant some plants in the backyard. When we run out of food, we boil some roots to curb our hunger. As for the water, my grandson has to go fetch it, though it is so dangerous for him to go out.
 
“I used to think that losing my child was my biggest tragedy, but seeing my four grandchildren and their mother feeling thirsty and hungry is definitely worse.”
 
WATER AS A WEAPON OF WAR 
 
Oxfam is calling for an immediate and complete ceasefire in Aleppo. At the very least, a pause in the fighting is necessary to deliver food, water, and medical help, as well as evacuate the sick and wounded, and assess damages.
 
Hospitals have recently been hit by airstrikes. Oxfam is urging all warring parties to ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and civilians and civilian buildings, including schools, hospitals, homes, and water services, are not targeted to advance military and political objectives. 
 
All parties should refrain from using basic services such as water as a weapon of war. 
 
HOW YOU CAN HELP
 
 
* All names have been changed to protect identities.
 
,

Hurricane Matthew hits hard in Haiti, Oxfam responds

 
Food, shelter and clean water are urgently needed in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which swept through the country on 4th October, destroying homes and infrastructure and killing hundreds of people. The United Nations has estimated more than 2.1 million people are affected, with 750,000 in urgent need of assistance. Vast areas have been flooded and thousands of families have been left homeless – many were still trying to recover from the destruction of the earthquake which hit in 2010. 
 
At least 800 people were killed in the worst hit areas of Haiti and the greatest fear is that the possible spread of cholera and other diseases, along with food shortages due to the loss of crops, will cause more deaths than the actual hurricane over the next days and weeks.
 
 
It is feared that cholera, diarrhea and other diseases will increase after Hurricane Matthew, especially among children. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
HOW OXFAM IS RESPONDING ON THE GROUND 
 
Oxfam teams are responding to local people most in need in Haiti. Our teams have started to assess urgent needs and distribute aid, including clean water, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and construction material such as temporary roofing materials to help people repair their homes in some of the worst-affected towns. 
 
We are sending three tonnes of water-purifying equipment and moving rapidly to ensure hygiene and sanitation are restored to prevent outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and other water-borne diseases in Saint Louis du Sud, Miche, Les Cayes and Cavaillon. We are also repairing or installing clean water supplies.
 
We are also calling on the international community to help people cope with the widespread loss of harvests. While there is an immediate need for safe water and shelter, the main issue after this type of shock is the impact on the livelihoods of vulnerable people. 
 
Jean Claude Fignole, Oxfam’s programme director in Haiti, said: “What is most urgent now is to provide safe water to prevent disease, as well as food and essential supplies. In the longer term we fear a jump in cholera, and malnutrition due to crop loss.”
 
 
In coordination with local authorities, Oxfam has begun distributing hygiene kits to people affected by Hurricane Matthew in order to prevent cholera and other diseases. Oxfam is also installing water tanks and distributing tarpaulins to temporarily cover the damaged roofs of houses. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
“EVERYTHING IS LOST”
 
Some 60,000 Haitians live in camps in the capital following the 2010 earthquake which killed at least 230,000 people. Many of them have lost their few belongings due to the hurricane. 
 
In Haiti’s most devastated areas more than 80 percent of the population relied on self-sufficiency farming. With their crops destroyed and farm animals killed by the hurricane, many people are now going hungry and cannot afford to buy replacement seeds or farming tools. 
 
 
Senita Terbil (26) now lives in a precarious shelter with her husband Samuel and their two children, after her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam 
 
Senita Terbil is a mother of two from the village of Castambie in the Sud department of Haiti. Her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane and she lives now in a precarious shelter built by her husband. Senita told Oxfam: “Everything is lost. All our animals are dead. We have nothing to feed the children. We have no means to plant again; we have no seeds or tools. We have nothing, no food or money, even my sister who is injured cannot go to hospital."
 
Louis Joelle, who lives outside the city of Les Cayes, said: “We expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water. We need drinkable water and food, we don’t have anything, everything is destroyed. We need water, food, seeds, and shelter”.
 
37-year-old Bernadette Julien lives in Camp Perrin, in the Southern Department, in southwest Haiti and is eight months pregnant. The family is taking refuge with other neighbours in a makeshift shelter in municipal offices. Her husband lives from selling what they grow in the garden and animal breeding, but everything has gone because of the hurricane. “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed. I have no food to give to my children,” said Bernadette.
 
In Haiti’s capital Port au Prince, many people have also suffered the consequences of Hurricane Matthew, but to a lesser extent. 
 
Marcele Duby, who lives in the Truitier neighbourhood of Port au Prince, said to Oxfam: "If it had occurred in the middle of the night I would have lost my children. But it was broad daylight, and so I could save them. The water in the house was up to my waist. I was afraid because if the water had risen a little more we couldn't have done anything." 
 
Jimmy Leys, a resident of Ti-Ayiti, said: "Children are going to fall sick because flooding causes epidemics. Some pregnant women are already ill. Diarrhoea and malaria are diseases well known here." 
 
 
Bernadette Julien (37) is eight months pregnant and is sheltering with her family in municipal offices in southwest Haiti: “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed.” Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
HOW YOU CAN HELP
 
Lost harvests and continued flooding make those most affected vulnerable to a food and health crisis that needs to be prevented. 
 
Help Oxfam respond to emergencies like Hurricane Matthew.
Posted In:
,

Bringing your voice to the UN Summit on migration

Oxfam brought its global call to stand as one with people forced to flee their homes to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

From a sea of life jackets laid beneath the Brooklyn Bridge highlighting the sobering reality of this crisis, to meetings at UN Headquarters, we reminded world leaders that over a quarter of a million people worldwide have joined our movement to support people on the move.

Left: Hundreds of life jackets, collected from the beaches of Chios in Greece, lie on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the desperate plight of children and adults forced to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Photo: Darren Ornitz Photography; Right: Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken remind Ireland’s UN Ambassador David Donoghue (centre) that 250,000 people worldwide are standing as one with refugees. Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam

WATCH: Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Marissa Ryan reacts to the sea of life jackets at Brooklyn Bridge

We were there and made sure your voice continued to be heard

As Irish and UK Government leaders – including an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and UK Prime Minster Theresa May - addressed the very first UN Summit on Migration and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit, they did so knowing that over 25,000 people across the Republic of Ireland and almost 6,500 people from Northern Ireland (over 86,876 from the United Kingdom in total) were demanding they show strong leadership and take action to protect and uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Left: Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Right: Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

Some UN migration summit highlights

"Refugees are already taking action. We want world leaders to do the same" - Mohammed Badran

Mohammed Badran, a refugee from Syria and Oxfam partner, addressed the opening segment of the UN summit on migration, calling for world leaders to do more to protect and empower refugees everywhere. Mohammed is the Chair of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, a network of over 600 volunteers who work to give back to local communities.

“World leaders need to remember those who are relying on them – the people running for their lives from their homes, trying to keep their children calm as they set off on an inflatable dingy across the Mediterranean sea, or facing barbed wire and check points instead of compassion in their desperate search for safety.” -  Jim Clarken

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken attended the summits and highlighted our call to stand as one with people forced to flee live from New York.

“I cried my eyes out when I arrived in the UK, a refugee.” -  Winnie Byanyima

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima shared her experience of being a refugee from Uganda and called on world leaders to make sure these summits amount to more than a half-hearted beginning to help those millions of people forced to flee but are the start of real and lasting solutions. Read Winnie’s article here: 

More needs to be done and we are not giving up

Over 65 million displaced people were counting on the outcome of the summits – an unprecedented opportunity for a bold and fair deal to ensure their safety and dignity. While we welcomed world leaders’ calls for a more equal sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, we were disappointed that they failed to make tangible commitments on how they are going to affect real change for refugees and migrants.

We will continue to speak out and ensure that the Irish and UK Government play their part in responding to this global crisis. We will not allow these summits to amount to more meaningless talk but will continue to fight for the political commitments of the summits to be translated into action to ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move.

People from across the island of Ireland continue to show that refugees are welcome here by writing messages of solidarity at Oxfam’s Culture Night events in Dublin and Belfast the weekend before the summits in New York.

Help us to stand as one with children, women and men fleeing conflict, persecution, disaster and poverty.

Posted In:
,

Apple tax ruling tip of the iceberg - EU governments must do more

The European Commission today ruled that Apple received €13 billion in illegal state aid from the Irish government.

This decision follows the investigations on illegal state aid between the Dutch government and Starbucks, the Luxembourg government and Fiat, and the Belgian government for its ‘excess profit’ tax scheme.

Reacting to the decision, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive at Oxfam Ireland, said: “Ireland has benefitted from multinational investment but all companies should operate here under rules which are fair and which do not benefit some companies over others. Deals that exempt companies from paying their legitimate share of tax mean the ordinary taxpayers have to foot the bill.

“Apple is one of the world’s most well-known companies and Irish consumers want their favourite brands to do the right thing and pay their fair share of tax. A nationwide survey commissioned by Oxfam earlier this year found that the vast majority (86%) of people believe that big companies are using tax loopholes to dodge paying their fair share of tax. 83% believe vital public services like schools and hospitals in Ireland and across the world are suffering as a result.

“The Government now must move to end these practices for once and for all, and reassure citizens that sweetheart tax deals with either companies or individuals are a thing of the past. They cannot be tolerated, especially when public services are in vital need of investment.

“So far, multinationals found by the European Commission to have benefitted from sweetheart deals only have to pay the taxes they were previously able to avoid and no additional fines are levied. The status quo clearly does not pose a sufficient deterrent whatsoever.

“Adequate measures to prevent such deals in the future must include public disclosure of where multinational companies generate profits and where they pay their taxes, giving governments and citizens the power to hold them to account.

“A proposal earlier this year by the European Commission obliging companies to publicly disclose more information about their tax arrangements is too weak – it will only apply to the biggest of companies and the information they need to provide is too limited. The European Parliament and Member States need to strengthen these requirements by making them apply to all large multinationals, and multinationals must be forced to publish tax information for all countries where they are present. “In addition, the establishment of a public centralised register of beneficial ownership would allow citizens here and in developing countries know who is really behind companies and trusts. Without the financial secrecy which has wreaked such havoc to the global economy, tax evasion and avoidance would be much more difficult.”

Make Tax Fair:

When big firms don’t pay the tax they should, governments lack funds for schools, hospitals and tackling poverty. Tax dodging hurts us all, but it affects poor people the most. Developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year, according to the OECD. The money lost is enough to end world hunger twice over. We want the government to ensure Irish law and tax practice does not help companies or individuals to avoid tax by requiring companies to say publicly where profits are made and tax is paid and increase international tax cooperation.

Video: Inequality in Malawi

(Subtitled so you can watch without audio.)

Posted In:
,

Forced to flee Boko Haram and facing hunger – crisis in Nigeria and West Africa

Thousands of people are believed to have died due to hunger and malnutrition and experts say that more than 65,000 people are officially classified as suffering from famine in a desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, one of the poorest places on earth.

Those experiencing the most extreme form of hunger are in pockets of north east Nigeria, mainly in Borno state, only recently accessible to humanitarian agencies following protracted military action to secure areas formerly under the control of Boko Haram. They are part of a humanitarian crisis largely ignored by the international community which is also affecting people in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

 

Unless there is a rapid scale up in the provision of assistance, there will be many more deaths. Estimates suggest that as many as 67,000 children aged under 5 could die by the end of September in Nigeria’s Borno and Yobe states alone – that’s 184 every day – due to lack of nutritious food.

Oxfam is providing life-saving support in Nigeria, Niger and Chad to people who have been forced to flee their homes as well as the already impoverished communities in which they are taking shelter. We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to protect health and prevent the spread of disease. And we are also calling on donors and governments to act now to support humanitarian efforts.

BACKGROUND TO THE CRISIS

The present crisis across the Lake Chad basin began seven years ago as a result of the emergence of the group Boko Haram in Nigeria and military operations against it. Violence has escalated further in recent weeks exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. It has forced 2.7 million people to flee their homes, including 1.9 million Nigerians alone, and left over 9 million people in need of help.

Unable to grow or buy food, or access humanitarian aid, millions are going hungry. 3.8 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region as a whole face severe hunger. Over 20,000 people have been killed and thousands of girls and boys are thought to have been abducted. There have been alarming levels of sexual violence, violations of international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) and human rights law including the forced recruitment of civilians, even children, as combatants.

Fatima Mohammed* (35) from Nigeria’s Borno State is living among the Kabbar Maila host community. Boko Haram forced their way in to her home and cut her husband’s throat in front of her and her children. She is struggling and is not sure where her children’s next meal is coming from. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

AFRICA'S FASTEST GROWING DISPLACEMENT CRISIS

The Lake Chad Basin crisis now represents Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis and is the seventh largest internally displaced population in the world. The conflict has caused widespread destruction of vital but already limited infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, roads, markets and farmland.

Across the region, people are on the move trying to escape threats to their lives, liberty and other human rights in search of safety and protection. Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the violence. In 2015, around one in every 15 people who died throughout the world as a direct result of violent conflict died in Nigeria. Countless more are dying or face permanent disability as a result of hunger, disease and a lack of healthcare, the secondary impacts of war.

Children at the government-run Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. It is a camp established by displaced people themselves when they moved into empty unfinished buildings the government was building for government workers. There are also people living in makeshift shelters, especially those who have arrived more recently. Oxfam is providing water, latrines and sanitation in the camp. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

ZAHRA'S STORY

Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria. She and her husband were farmers and grew vegetables. She also collected firewood which she would sell and their children used to go to school.

Caption info: Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria, one of the worst affected regions. She was forced to flee her village during a Boko Haram attack which saw her husband killed. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

But three years ago Boko Haram attacked her village and killed her husband. Unable to bury his body, Zarah was forced to flee with her six children. The oldest child was 12, the rest were aged under 10. They spent one month in the forest. To survive they drank water from open sources such as streams. Often the water was dirty. For food they relied on leftovers from communities they passed along the way, as well as scavenging for food that had been thrown away. It took them one week of walking through the forest on foot to reach the Kabbar Maila host community in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where they now live.

Once in Maiduguri they asked around for people who came from their community. For two weeks they lived in a makeshift tent with 10 other internally displaced families and then through local community leaders she was able to find accommodation to rent with a local landlord. Zarah now lives with her children in a crowded room with a leaking roof. She pays her landlord with money her children bring back from begging but for the last three months she’s hasn’t had enough to cover the rent.

To feed the family, Zarah’s eldest daughter buys sachets of water from a vendor and hawks them on the streets. If her daughter is unable to make money from selling the water, the family goes hungry. When this happens she sends her daughter and some of her other children to beg for money. Zarah is unable to find work as people do not want to give jobs to someone her age as they are looking for younger people to do menial jobs. The family is barely able to eat two meals a day. Their meal usually consists of corn flour or maize and they are unable to afford vegetables or meat.

The local host community have opened their arms and have been very welcoming. They share the little they have but people are poor.

Her biggest need currently is food. When her children go hungry, it causes her pain. Zarah is unable to go back to her village and home because there is a lack of security there. She heard that people had gone back and had been killed. Her hope is to one day return home so that she and her children can grow food on their land and sustain themselves.

Zarah says: “I don’t like seeing my children go hungry, all I want is food. I am ready to go back home today if the government assures us on security, we can farm our food because we have our farms there.”

Read other stories and find more information in the new Oxfam report, Lake Chad’s Unseen Crisis.

A child outside a makeshift shelter at the Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria where 13,000 internally displaced families now live after fleeing their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Oxfam has supported over 250,000 people so far in Nigeria since we began responding to the crisis in May 2014 but we urgently need your support.

We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

An Oxfam water tank in the Kabbar Maila community which is hosting displaced people forced to flee their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

We work in Adamawa, Borno and Gombe states, providing people with emergency food support, clean water and better sanitation, including constructing showers and repairing toilets, and making sure people have areas to wash their hands. We have set up community protection groups for women to give them information about access to support facilities if they have suffered from sexual violence and exploitation. We are distributing food and cooking equipment, as well as providing seeds and tools to help traders and farmers get back on their feet.

In Niger, Oxfam has helped over 31,400 people since our emergency response began there in 2015. We are installing water systems to make sure people have clean water to drink, as well as distributing essential items such as cooking pots, buckets and water purifying tablets. Elsewhere in Niger there has been massive flooding, and in some regions where the lean season – the time when people are at the end of their food until the next harvest comes – there is desperate hunger.

Oxfam has recently started responding to the crisis in Chad, with the aim to reach over 30,000 people. We will distribute cash and tarpaulins for shelter and provide clean water to people to help prevent the spread of diseases.

Please support our West Africa crisis emergency response. 100% of your donation will go directly to this response.

You can also add your voice to our Right to Refuge campaign which is calling on the Irish and UK governments to ensure that everyone has the right to refuge when their safety and dignity is threatened.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

Pages