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Five things I’ve learned being a humanitarian aid worker

This World Humanitarian Day, Iffat Tahmid Fatema, Oxfam public health worker, shares what it's like helping people in our Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh.

I started working for Oxfam last year at the height of the emergency when Rohingya refugees were arriving in huge numbers every day. At that time, I was toiling in a lab at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong pursuing my Master's degree in Bio-Technology, but I knew I wanted to work with real people, face-to-face. What's happened to the Rohingya people really upset me. I had never seen people living with so little. It really hurt me.

Now I teach Rohingya refugees living in the camp in Cox's Bazar about health and hygiene, to help them keep well and to prevent a major outbreak of disease. We discuss the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene like washing your hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating. We work with volunteers from the Rohingya community, training them so they can teach other refugees and spread good hygiene messages far and wide. The Oxfam team has reached more than 266,000 people in the camps so far.

1. Know what motivates you

In this job you need drive, good communication skills, and initiative.

When it's extremely hot, or raining heavily, or you’re tired, you might not feel like spending another long day in the camps. But then you think of the refugees and how you are working for them - that motivates you to keep going.

 

2. You have to build trust

Humanitarian work is also about building trust. You have to be sensitive to local culture and traditions.

You also have to be able to talk to different groups of people in different ways, from children to older people and Imams, the religious leaders. And you need to be a good observer so you can try to understand how people think.

 

3. Speak their language

Sometimes the refugees can be uncomfortable with someone who is not like them, so it helps that I can speak a similar language. But the language is also the biggest challenge as the regional language, Chittagonian, is only about 70 per cent the same as Rohingya.

Oxfam has worked with Translators Against Borders to develop a new translation app in English, Bangla and Rohingya, including specific vocabulary about health and hygiene, so this will be a big help.

 

4. Be prepared to face challenges

Working in the monsoons has been extremely hard and can be dangerous. When there is a heavy downpour of rain, conditions in the camps become very bad, very quickly. You can sink into the mud and lose your boots. When you climb the dirt steps there is the possibility the whole thing will collapse.

5. Patience is a virtue

The most important thing I have learnt is to be polite and be patient - even though I might be repeating the same thing hundreds of times, such as how to wash your hands. I am very impatient by nature, but working in the camps I have learned how to control my frustrations.

The most satisfying part of my job has been hearing from refugees what a difference Oxfam’s support has made to them.

We run regular listening groups where the community can give us constructive feedback. Recently a grandfather told me: "We are happy that you come and you listen to us. Thank you for the work you do."

That made me feel very happy.

This entry posted on 18 August 2018 by Iffat Tahmid Fatema, humanitarian public health worker for Oxfam’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh, as part of our World Humanitarian Day program.

All photos: Iffat Tahimd Fatema, humanitarian public health promoter for Oxfam, in the Rohingya refugee camps, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

More life-saving aid needed urgently as a third big quake hits Lombok, warns Oxfam

MEDIA RELEASE 
 
More life-saving aid needed urgently as a third big quake hits Lombok, warns Oxfam
 
A third earthquake of 6-Richter magnitude which struck Lombok on Thursday (August 9th) has severely escalated the need for life-saving aid and has slowed down rescue efforts, Oxfam has warned. 
 
With the latest quake adding to the misery of tens of thousands people already in temporary shelters and under open skies, there is an increasing need for water, food, shelter, medical supplies, and other essentials. 
 
Local organisations supported by Oxfam have been on the ground since the first big quake hit more than a week ago and are assisting 5,000 people with clean drinking water, food, and tarpaulin sheets, with plans to increase the delivery of aid
 
Meili Nart, Oxfam Project Manager based in Lombok, said: “The people here are severely traumatised. They’ve lost families or don’t know where they are. In many areas, four out of five buildings, roads, and other facilities have been destroyed. It’s a struggle to find water, food, electricity and other essentials. 
 
“We’re trying to get aid to them as fast as we can. We also want to help them deal with the trauma too, but it’s difficult, and progress is slow due to conditions on the ground. We thank the Indonesian government and local organisations for their tremendous efforts, but we need to do more.” 
 
Monday’s 6.9 magnitude tremor, the largest so far, reportedly killed over 350 and destroyed the homes of over 150,000 people. Many caught in the rubble of collapsed buildings and in mudslides are still awaiting rescue. 
 
Before the latest quake, the Indonesian Agency for Disaster Mitigation said the death toll and damage could be higher with conditions making it extremely difficult to assess the devastation. Earlier reports suggested at least 600,000 had suffered from impact of the three big quakes and hundreds of tremors over the past two weeks. 
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam has spokespeople available on the ground in Lombok, as well as in in Ireland, to discuss the humanitarian situation. 
 
Media interviews are available with:
Ancilla Bere, Oxfam Indonesia Humanitarian Manager, who will be on the ground in Lombok from Friday 10th August
Meili Narti, Oxfam Indonesia Project Manager on the ground in Lombok
Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager, based in Dublin
 
CONTACT: 
 
For interviews or more information, contact: 
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org 
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits: Petrasa Wacana
 

Help Oxfam’s shops celebrate National Book Lovers Day

Celebrate National Book Lovers Day with us!

As well as Oxfam’s local shops throughout the island of Ireland selling donated books, we also have five dedicated Oxfam Books stores bursting with must-reads and covering all genres: Rathmines and Parliament Street in Dublin; Ann Street and Botanic Avenue in Belfast; and French Church Street in Cork.

We hear from our retail team, who are ready to help you source a bargain from the varied range of book titles available while you are in-store.

Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail Michael McIlwaine

Book shops are special places and Oxfam is extra special, because every book donated and purchased in-store means a positive change in the life of someone who really needs it overseas.

Oxfam shops are so familiar on our high streets that it's easy to forget how much good they do. By buying and donating books, CDs and DVDs and other goods, you are helping raise vital funds for Oxfam’s work from emergency responses to long-term development programmes.

If you spend just €5/£5 on books in an Oxfam shop, Oxfam can provide a month’s food for two people affected by the present hunger crisis affecting millions of people in South Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia; €25/£25 can help a family of six with food for two months.

So on this National Book Lovers Day, take some time out and treat yourself, while helping others. Why not browse and buy in-store – or bring along some books to donate – to make a real difference by helping to raise funds for Oxfam’s life-saving work. You’ll be helping vulnerable people in poverty turn a new page in their lives.

Barth Bialek, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Rathmines, Dublin

Like all the Oxfam Books stores, we have science and natural history, spirituality and philosophy, classical literature, Irish fiction, travel guides and travel writing, crime and thrillers, fantasy and horror, biographies, sport, health and medicine, non-fiction, gardening and cooking, along with children’s books, audio books, music books, drama, poetry and sheet music – plus lots more besides!

To mark National Book Lovers Day, we have a special offer on fiction/novels, offering any two for €5.00, and that will run until Sunday.

Chris Scott, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Botanic Avenue, Belfast

You’ll also find collectable and antiquarian books. Past donations include a book dating back to 1912 about the Titanic along with a Bible from 1587, the year that Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded. Call in and see what you might discover!

Christine Kostick, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Parliament Street, Dublin

We stock thousands of great quality second-hand books and music, with everything from Plato to Peppa Pig and from Nietzsche to New Order. Explore our wide-range of book genres and browse through our CDs, DVDs, classical sheet music and vinyl.

Eleanor Preston, Manager of the Oxfam shop in French Church Street, Cork

We have a wide selection of page-turners. You’ll find fiction best-sellers, literary classics, sci-fi thrillers plus lots more! We also have a music collection and DVDs. Donations of all of these items are gratefully accepted.

Niall Browne, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Ann Street, Belfast

No matter what genre you’re into, there are plenty of great reads waiting to be discovered in-store. We have ‘a wee bit of everything’, from modern fiction to military history and lots more besides. There’s also the occasional first edition, rare book, collector’s item or signed copy. Come in and have a browse!

To find the local Oxfam store nearest to you, visit the website at www.oxfamireland.org/shops

Oxfam provides drinking water and shelter to thousands as 600,000 are hit by Indonesia earthquake

 

6th August

Oxfam is providing clean drinking water and tarpaulin shelter sheets to 5,000 survivors as a devastating 7-Richter magnitude earthquake, the second within a week, hit Lombok Island in Indonesia earlier today.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency puts the death toll at 91 with over 200 injured. 600,000 people are affected in total, with up to 80% of the population displaced in four out of the five districts of Lombak (Northern, Western, Eastern and Central Lombak). Many are still reported buried due to landslides in the hills and the rubble of thousands of homes and buildings that have collapsed following the main earthquake and multiple aftershocks.

Over 20,000 people are in temporary shelters while thousands more are under open skies in need of drinking water, food, medical supplies, and clothes. Clean drinking water is scarce due to the extremely dry weather conditions leading up the disaster.

Following the first 6.5 magnitude earthquake last week, Oxfam had dispatched a mobile water treatment plant, 1,500 tarpaulins for shelter, and clothing material, and set up an emergency relief information centre to support the work of the local humanitarian partners. Oxfam will not intensify its aid delivery efforts immediately.

While all Oxfam and partner staff on Lombok are safe, many project sites had been hit hard by the quakes halting the regular operations. However, they continue to provide emergency aid to those affected by the latest quake.

ENDS

Oxfam has spokespeople available in Ireland and on the ground to discuss the humanitarian situation.

CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org

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

 

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Oxfam condemns attacks in Yemen, as horrific bombing kills civilians in Hodeidah fish market and hospital

3 August 2018

Oxfam has condemned yesterday’s horrific attacks on the fish market and hospital in the key port of Hodeidah in Yemen, which reports say killed at least 52 people and injured 101.

Oxfam is calling on all parties to the conflict to respect international law and protect civilians from harm, and is urging the UN Security Council to also condemn the attacks. 

The attack came as the UN Security Council met to discuss the situation in Yemen, during which the UN Special Envoy announced that parties would meet in Geneva in September.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “The UN Security Council needs to take firmer action, starting by urgently condemning this and all attacks, calling for an immediate ceasefire, and for all parties to ensure the free flow of vital goods through the port to where they are needed. The Irish and UK governments can also play their part by continuing to press for international action to end the conflict.

“This summit is a welcome step towards revitalising peace efforts. In the meantime, the violence, including the escalation in the city and governorate of Hodeidah, must be addressed.

“All parties to the conflict must protect civilians from the violence and end attacks like this horrific incident. Yemen is on the brink of starvation, the cholera season is under way and the war continues unabated. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye.

“Powerful members of the Security Council cannot sit on their hands and allow this to continue to get worse. It is time for the UN to condemn the attacks and put their full weight behind a renewed push for peace in Yemen. All parties to the conflict must take immediate steps to end fighting and come to the table for talks to achieve lasting peace without any further delay.”

Oxfam has been in Yemen since 1983 and is stepping up its work in Yemen to tackle the humanitarian crisis. Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 3 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers.

ENDS

Spokespeople are available in the region and in Ireland. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Hodeidah Governorate is one of the worst affected areas of Yemen with a quarter of children suffering from malnutrition. Last year it was just one step away from famine, with nearly 800,000 suffering from severe hunger and the situation remains desperate.

Oxfam is helping 10,000 people who have fled north of Hodeidah but helping those outside the city is also proving difficult due to the ongoing conflict. The port of Hodeidah is key to providing the bulk of all the food imported into the country and the majority of its medicines. If this vital life line is cut for a significant amount of time then the lives of more than 8 million people who are already on the verge of starvation will be further put in jeopardy. 

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