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These five Oxfam innovations are changing the way people fight poverty

Author: Divya Amladi
 
Diaa', a Syrian refugee living in the Za'atari Camp, is a team supervisor in the Superadobe construction project that is bringing temperature-resistant homes to the camp. Photo: Nesma Nsour/Oxfam
 
From futuristic homes that adjust to extreme temperatures to apps that allow refugees to speak up for their own needs, here are just a few of the creative solutions implemented by Oxfam and our partners on the ground to help vulnerable communities take on new obstacles
 
What comes to mind when you imagine the word innovation? Is it a shiny new gadget, a hack, or an app that helps you get whatever you need at a touch of button? Or, maybe it’s a new way of seeing things? Oxfam thinks of innovations as solutions to problems that are keeping people in poverty. Here’s a look at some of the tools, programs, and yes, even apps, we developed this year to help tackle some of the challenges faced by people we work with.
 

Rice farming goes digital

 
 
Development and Partnership in Action (DPA) is one of Oxfam's partners on the ground implementing the BlocRice project. Photo provided by: Development and Partnership in Action
 
In November 2018, Oxfam launched BlocRice, a program that aims to empower rice farmers in Cambodia to increase their negotiation power for better and fairer pay. The initiative will use digital contracts between rice farmers who are working in agricultural cooperatives, exporters in Cambodia, and buyers in the Netherlands. These contracts are tools for social and economic empowerment, Solinn Lim, Oxfam in Cambodia’s program director, explained at the launch. “Farmers thus gain collective bargaining power since agricultural cooperatives will be parties to the contracts.”
 

An app for when words fail

 
The app helps aid workers address the needs of the nearly one million Rohingya people who are living in severely crowded conditions in makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar. Photo: Kelsey-Rae Taylor/Oxfam
 
Aid workers in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, encountered a challenge working with Rohingya refugees, whose language is similar but not close enough to the local dialect to ensure effective communication. With nearly one million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, it is imperative that nongovernmental organizations clearly communicate with the refugees to allow them to speak for themselves. That’s why in June, Oxfam, Translators without Borders, and UNICEF released a glossary app with translations in the five languages spoken in the camps: Bangla, Burmese, Chittagonian, English, and Rohingya. The app is helping Oxfam and others on the ground address the needs of the Rohingya population.  
 

Growing barley grass in the desert

 
The hydroponics project is the brainchild of Oxfam engineer and Sahrawi refugee Taleb Brahim. Photo: Tineke D'haese/Oxfam
 
In the harsh climate of the western Sahara, it is nearly impossible to grow anything naturally. There are frequent sandstorms, and temperatures can exceed a blistering 122 degrees. Sahrawi refugees from western Algeria have been living in camps there for more than 40 years, and one-quarter of them face chronic malnutrition. Food assistance helps, but it’s not a long-term solution. In 2017, Oxfam started a hydroponics program—using a technique for cultivating plants that doesn’t require soil—to feed the goats the camps’ residents depend on for milk, meat, and income. So far, the project has yielded sweet success with greenhouses producing about 132 pounds of fodder each day—enough to feed 20 goats. 
 

Managing Waste

The Oxfam in Bangladesh team celebrates the installation of a centralized waste treatment plant in Cox's Bazar. Photo: Salahuddin Ahmmed/Oxfam
 
When an influx of people in a temporary refuge creates demand for latrines, and then pit latrines start to fill up, how do you treat all the waste? That was the question facing Oxfam in Bangladesh earlier this year—which has been providing water, sanitation, and hygiene support to more than 266,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar since 2017. In November 2018, the team in Bangladesh built an industrial-scale centralized sewage management plant at Cox’s Bazar with the capacity to process the human waste of 150,000 people. The process is completely environmentally friendly, and to our knowledge, this has been the first successful attempt to carry out something of this scale in a refugee camp.
 

Homes designed to be out of this world

 
A new construction project called the SuperAdobe is taking shape in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, in which freely available materials—such as sandbags and barbed wires—are used to build simple shelters. These temporary houses are more comfortable, environmentally friendly, and more liveable than the current caravans refugees inhabit. Most importantly, the SuperAdobes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, a necessity in a desert environment where summer temperatures reach as high as 104 degrees.

Innovative SuperAdobe Houses: Building a dignified future for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Pregnant women, children and survivors of torture abandoned in Greek camps

 
New Oxfam report highlights how system is failing to protect the most vulnerable
 
Wednesday 9th January
 
Hundreds of pregnant women, unaccompanied children and survivors of torture are being abandoned in refugee camps on the Greek islands, an Oxfam report revealed today. The report – Vulnerable and abandoned ¬¬– details how the system to identify and protect the most vulnerable people has broken down due to chronic understaffing and flawed processes
 
It includes accounts of mothers being sent away from hospital to live in a tent as early as four days after giving birth by Caesarean section. It tells of survivors of sexual violence and other traumas living in a camp where violence breaks out regularly and where two thirds of residents say they never feel safe. 
 
For much of the last year there has been just one government-appointed doctor in Lesvos who was responsible for screening as many as 2,000 people arriving each month. In November, there was no doctor at all so there were no medical screenings happening to identify those most in need of care. 
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Winter has brought heavy rain to Lesvos turning the camp that thousands call home into a muddy bog. The temperature is expected to drop below freezing in the next week and it could snow. Meanwhile, Moria camp is severely overcrowded at double its capacity. 
 
“All of these factors compound the many challenges already faced by people living in the camps, making those most vulnerable even more desperate. Pregnant women and mothers with new-born babies are sleeping in tents, without heating, while children who arrived on their own are being placed in detention after being wrongly registered as adults. 
 
“It is absolutely vital that vulnerable people are quickly identified and can access the protection and care they need, including suitable accommodation, medical and psycho-social support and access to other basic services.”
 
Under Greek and EU law, the legal definition of vulnerability specifically includes unaccompanied children, women who are pregnant or with young babies, people with disabilities and survivors of torture, among others. They should have access to the normal Greek asylum process instead of a fast-tracked process designed to send them back to Turkey.
 
The report highlights a particularly worrying trend of authorities detaining teenagers and survivors of torture after failing to recognise them as vulnerable. Legal and social workers told Oxfam they frequently came across detainees who should not have been locked up because of their age or because of poor physical or mental health. Once in detention, it is even more difficult for them to get the medical or psychological help they need.
 
In one case, a 28-year-old asylum seeker from Cameroon was locked up for five months based on his nationality, despite having serious mental health issues. No one checked his physical and mental health before he was detained and it took a month for him to see a psychologist. He said: “We had just two hours a day when we were allowed to get out of the container...The rest of the time you are sitting in a small space with 15 other men who all have their own problems.”
 
Oxfam is calling for the Greek government and EU member states to deploy more expert staff, including doctors and psychologists and to fix the screening system on the Greek islands. It said that more people seeking asylum should be transferred to mainland Greece on a regular basis – particularly the vulnerable. Oxfam is also calling on EU member states to share responsibility for receiving asylum seekers with Greece more fairly by reforming the ‘Dublin Regulation’ in line with the position of the European Parliament.
 
Oxfam has been working in Lesvos since 2015 running a programme to ensure that people seeking asylum are protected. This includes training community focal points to provide information, running workshops at a day centre for women and providing legal aid and social support for people seeking asylum through partners.
 
Full report available on request.
 
ENDS
 
CONTACT: Spokespeople are available for interview. For more, please contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons at alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org or +353 (0) 83 198 1869
 
 
 
Notes to editors:
 
Spokespeople are available in Lesvos and Brussels. 
Recent, high-resolution photos and video footage from around Moria camp are available.
The full transcripts of the interviews of asylum-seekers and volunteers in and around Moria camp, on which parts of the report are based, are available to the media upon request.
According to the UNHCR, the Moria camp in Lesvos was at around double its official capacity of 3,100 places, with just under 5,000 migrants living inside the camp and another 2,000 in an informal camp next to Moria, known as the Olive Grove.
A survey by Refugee Rights Europe in June 2018 found that almost two-thirds (65.7%) of respondents said they ‘never feel safe’ inside Moria, rising to 78% among children living in the camp.
In September 2018, Oxfam published a briefing arguing that the EU’s plans for ‘controlled centers’ for the reception of migrants saved at sea are modelled on the existing ‘hotspots’ described in today’s report and should not be implemented.
 

Half a million homeless Yemenis on brink of famine face winter freeze

 
More than half a million people who have fled fighting in Yemen are facing a double threat of famine and near freezing temperatures Oxfam said today, as it called on the warring parties to respect the ceasefire agreed in Sweden last week. 
 
People forced to flee their homes are set for a winter struggle to survive in areas of the country which are one step away from famine and often without adequate shelter to protect them or fuel to keep them warm as temperatures plummet. 
 
Almost 20,000 displaced people are facing winter weather in districts already experiencing famine conditions. 
 
Winter temperatures are likely to drop to below freezing in highland areas of Yemen and rain brought in by southwest winds can fall in heavy torrents, leading to flooding. Many of the 530,000 displaced people living in these areas are in makeshift shelters with no insulation or weatherproofing
 
Humanitarian agencies have identified over 75,000 displaced, vulnerable families in districts across the country who will need help to cope during the winter months, and there are likely to be more who haven’t been included in the assessment. 2658 of these families are in districts with catastrophic levels of hunger. 
 
Despite the warring parties agreeing to a ceasefire and withdrawal of forces from the key city and port of Hudaydah at negotiations in Sweden last week, there have been clashes, shelling and airstrikes in recent days. Continued fighting will disrupt aid efforts and make it harder for Yemenis to survive the winter. 
 
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Freezing temperatures could be the final straw for families already struggling to survive desperate hunger. Imagine trying to survive a winter freeze in a tent, far from your home, without knowing where your next meal is coming from - that is the dreadful prospect facing tens of thousands of families. 
 
"It is vital that the ceasefire holds so that aid is able to reach as many people as possible this winter and those struggling to survive at least get a respite from the fighting. 
 
“While a step in the right direction, the international community cannot assume that the agreements reached in Sweden will fix everything. They need to keep the pressure on the warring parties to lay down their weapons and work towards a peaceful solution to the conflict that will give the people of Yemen real hope.” 
 
Malnourished people are less able to cope with disease and extreme temperatures. Food price rises have put the cost of basic necessities beyond the reach of many. The price of a month’s worth of essential food rose 15 per cent in October, the last month for which data is available. This basket of foods now costs 137 per cent more than it did before the conflict began. 
 
Yemen has already been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 
 
Salaries of public sector workers in the north of the country have not been paid for almost two years, leaving approximately 6.9 million people without a main source of income. Around eight million people are thought to have lost their jobs since the beginning of the conflict because of the closure of private businesses. 
 
Oxfam is providing aid, including clean water and cash to buy basic food supplies, to people forced to flee their homes. 
 
ENDS
 
For more information , please contact:
 
ROI:     Alice Dawson-Lyons on 083 198 1869 /alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org
 
NI:        Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org
 

Oxfam Ballymena unwraps new ‘all-in-one’ store in time for Christmas

 
Oxfam proudly opened its new state-of-the-art shop in Ballymena on Thursday (13th December 2018) – and warmly invites the local community to come browse and buy, raising vital funds that will save and transform lives worldwide. 
 
The new and larger shop is on 6-9 Wellington Street and Oxfam Ballymena store manager Rebecca McCoy said: “We are very excited about our ‘all-in-one’ shop, which boasts a larger floor area and is elegantly separated into 3 distinct zones. I’m sure people in Ballymena and beyond will be suitably impressed too!
 
“The new premises combine a dedicated Oxfam Books section, a Six 4 GOOD section full of brand new jewellery and fashion accessories, as well as a generous range of traditional charity shop goods, including pre-owned quality clothing, homewares, music and DVDs. So it really is a diverse one-stop shop.”
 
The shop is also currently offering Oxfam’s Christmas 2018 range of Fair Trade and ethically-sourced gifts and the Unwrapped gift card range that change and save lives while catering for all your Christmas essentials. 
 
Rebecca McCoy added: “It’s great to have unwrapped and opened this shop just in time for Christmas – it’s like an early present for the people of Ballymena and for the vulnerable people Oxfam works with.
 
“Everything in-store is guaranteed to help beat poverty for good by raising vital funds for Oxfam’s work across the world – from development projects that change lives in Rwanda, Tanzania and beyond, to saving lives in places like Yemen where millions of people face hunger and disease.”
 
Oxfam’s Ballymena store is also looking for additional enthusiastic volunteers to pledge their time and make a difference to the lives of people around the world. “It’s a great way to meet new people and gain new skills, as training will be provided,” said deputy shop manager Laura Gaston.
 
“However you choose to support Oxfam Ballymena – whether by volunteering, shopping with us or donating your pre-loved but now unwanted goods to us – you’ll be supporting our work worldwide, helping to change lives for good through our long-term development work, emergency response and campaigning to tackle the root causes of poverty and injustice.” 
 
If you are interested in volunteering, or wish to donate items for sale, please drop in to 6-9 Wellington Street, Ballymena or contact Rebecca or Laura on 028 2565 8341.
 
ENDS
 
For more information, to request further images or for case studies of how shopping at Oxfam makes a difference, please contact: Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org
 
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
 
Available in-store and online via oxfamireland.org/unwrapped, the Unwrapped gift card range starts at just £7 and support a wide range of life-changing projects. 
 
 
Photos by Jonathan Porter, Press Eye Photography. (Left to Right: Michael McIlwaine, Head of Retail, Oxfam Ireland; Laura Gaston, Oxfam Ballymena Deputy Shop Manager; Margaret Pajakowska, Oxfam Ballymena shop volunteer; Rebecca McCoy, Oxfam Ballymena Shop Manager; Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading, Oxfam Ireland;  Mark Kinneen, District Retail Manager, Oxfam Ireland)
 
Photos by Jonathan Porter, Press Eye Photography. (Left to Right: Laura Gaston, Oxfam Ballymena Deputy Shop Manager; Margaret Pajakowska, Oxfam Ballymena shop volunteer)
 

Ebola cases in DRC reach 500

 

OXFAM: Ebola cases in DRC reach 500, as country faces threat of more violence ahead of elections

In response to the number of Ebola cases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 500, Chals Wontewe, Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, said:

“DRC is battling to keep Ebola under control; cases are increasing at a quicker rate and the virus has spread further.

“Although the outbreak is still far from the scale of the West Africa epidemic, we’re operating in an extremely complex environment and facing the very real threat of more violence and instability in the run up to the elections.

“The response could be forced to slow down, or even be suspended - every time this has happened before the virus spread further.

“The election must be allowed to take place peacefully and all candidates and their supporters must put the well-being of the Congolese people first, if we’re to have any hope of putting an end to the Ebola outbreak and the horrendous suffering people have faced for decades.”

Ends

For more information , please contact:
 
ROI:     Alice Dawson-Lyons on 083 198 1869 /alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org
 
NI:        Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org

 

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