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One woman leading the way for healthy mothers in Bangladesh's refugee camps

By AJM Zobaidur Rahman, Campaigns and Communications Officer, Oxfam in Bangladesh

Rajiah, sitting here in her home in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, is a community health volunteer who helps share health information with pregnant refugee women. Photo Credit: OXFAM

Rajiah, 46, fled violence near her home in Myanmar 6 months ago, with her younger daughter, who is 15 years old. She is now living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh with thousand other Rohingya. Rajiah is one of close to a million Rohingya people have fled violence in Myanmar to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. This unprecedented number of refugees, of whom more than half are children, has caused a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Left: Rajiah sharing health information with a pregnant woman in her home in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Right: Rajiah walking through the refugee camp to visit her pregnant neighbor in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo Credit: OXFAM

WOMEN HELPING WOMEN SURVIVE AND THRIVE

Rajiah has been surrounded by women throughout her life as the eldest of 10 sisters. She herself has 5 daughters, two of which are also in camps living as refugees in Bangladesh with their husbands, while the other two remain in Myanmar. Tragically, Rajiah’s husband disappeared when the violence broke out in Myanmar and Rajiah has no way of knowing where he is. Like so many women in the camp, Rajiah must head up her household alone.

Oxfam has come to know Rajiah as a leader when she was unanimously selected to represent her community during an Oxfam assessment of what their most pressing needs were. Rajiah is well educated and has been working with and for her community throughout her life. She told us that she delivered some 10,000 babies as a midwife in Myanmar.

Now, as a refugee in Bangladesh, she is making sure she puts her experience to good use and supports and provides information to the pregnant women in her community. Her name means “Hope” - a true reflection of her personality and life’s work.

Left: Rajiah and her younger daughter inside her house in the refugee camp. Right: Rajiah taking notes about International Women's Day. Photo Credit: OXFAM

RAJIAH BRINGS LEADERSHIP TO COX'S BAZAR

Rajiah was born in a relatively affluent family in Myanmar. Education was an important part of her childhood, and her family made sure all the girls had 8 years of schooling. Rajiah speaks particularly highly of her father, who she says was the greatest influence in her life.

Rajiah honed her leadership skills from a young age, starting at school as a class leader. Later, organizations who were working in her community, including the UN, selected Rajiah as one of their volunteers. She continued working as a health worker and played a major role in the vaccination process in her area, helping to prevent children dying needlessly from preventable illnesses.

Rajiah is outspoken and confident, a full believer in women’s role outside the household. That way, she says, women can get knowledge and they can advance – and then other women can also come forward simply by seeing these role models. She is very keen on working and further helping her community, especially the women in her community.

OXFAM IS THERE

Oxfam is planning to organize women’s groups in the camps and Rajiah is the ideal person to lead this process in her community. With her leadership skills, kind and warm personality, she will undoubtedly make great progress with the women in the community. Oxfam is also currently focusing on providing water and sanitation and adapting to better deal with the crowded conditions and sheer numbers of people. We are drilling wells and installing water points, toilets and showers. We’re also helping people stay healthy and hygienic by distributing soap and other essentials and working with community-based volunteers to emphasize the importance of clean water and good hygiene, especially as monsoon season approaches. So far, we have reached at least 185,000 people, and hope to reach more than 250,000 in the coming months.

Donate now to help those in refugees camps in Bangladesh

Yemenis struggle to find bare essentials three years on from first Saudi airstrikes, warns Oxfam

Food price shock adds to war’s misery

People in Yemen are struggling to survive on dirty water and meagre portions of bread three years after a Saudi-led coalition carried out its first airstrike on the country in its war with the Houthis, Oxfam said today.

Families in remote areas of Amran governorate in the north west of the country told Oxfam they could only afford half a bag of wheat a month and had to walk three kilometres two or three times a day to fetch untreated water from a well. Several women told Oxfam they were struggling to make ends meet and had no money for clothes or other supplies after their husbands had been killed in the conflict.

Since the war started the cost of food has rocketed. Rice is up 131 per cent, beans 92 per cent, vegetable oil 86 per cent and flour for making bread up 54 per cent. Over the same period the number of people going hungry increased by 68 per cent to reach almost 18 million people.

Over 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes, more than 5,500 civilians have been killed and 2,000 more have died of cholera in a country where half of the health facilities are no longer functioning because of the conflict.

With 22 million people in need of aid across the country, Yemen is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak since records began, with over a million suspected cases.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland's Chief Executive, said: “Oxfam has been working in Yemen since 1983 and we have never seen a humanitarian crisis of this scale. Three years on from the eruption of this devastating conflict, the country is teetering on the brink of famine. Families are facing a daily struggle just to get hold of the bare essentials like food and water.

“We are stepping up our work in Yemen to tackle this humanitarian crisis. Since July 2015 we have reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen.

“We are providing water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers, including 430,000 people as part of our cholera response to prevent and contain the disease. We are trucking water and providing cash for people to buy food.

“Malnutrition can lower the body's immune system, and the lack of clean and safe drinking water and sanitation and a weakened health system allow diseases such as cholera to spread more easily. But the closure of sea and air ports has hampered efforts to get food, water, fuel and medicines to all those who need them.”

The appointment last month of Martin Griffiths as the new UN envoy to Yemen, and recent UN Security Council calls for moves towards a ceasefire and to ensure essential goods are given free passage, present an opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate efforts to achieve peace.

Mr Clarken added: “Three years of war is more than enough. Too many bombs have been dropped and shells fired, too many people have gone hungry, too many lives have been lost. All sides need to call time on this war. The appointment of a new UN envoy to Yemen is a chance to push for a ceasefire and put the country on the road to a lasting peace.

“Without an inclusive political settlement, the conflict will only continue to make life unbearable for the vast majority of the population.”

The public can support Oxfam Ireland's humanitarian response in Yemen online, by donating online via www.oxfamireland.org/hunger, by calling 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or calling into your local Oxfam shop

ENDS

For interviews or more information, contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

Footage, photos and feature stories are available.

For updates, please follow @OxfamIreland.

Oxfam’s response in Yemen

Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers, including 430,000 people as part of its cholera response.

Oxfam’s water and sanitation equipment includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands, hand washing water dispensers, water testing and purifications kits, oral rehydration sachets, insecticide sprayers, pipes and fittings.

Oxfam is repairing water supplies and carrying out disinfection of water storage and sources with chlorine, providing households with water purification equipment and distributing hygiene materials, constructing latrines and providing solid waste management facilities, training community volunteers to spread hygiene messages for cholera prevention and treatment, conducting public health campaigns, supplying oral rehydration sachets to ensure that people can quickly rehydrate when suffering from signs and symptoms of cholera.

Left: Three of Jameela's children sitting inside the house in the afternoon. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez Right: Mohammed* is a first-grade student. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez.

Left & Right: Ahmed and his siblings in Al-Okasha IDP camp, Abs district, Hajjah governorate - Credit: Ahmed Al-Fadeel / Oxfam Yemen.

Water is Life

To mark the third anniversary of the devastating conflict in Yemen, we conclude our three-part blog by Ibrahim Alwazir, Oxfam’s Social Media Officer in Yemen.

Part 3: Clean water, cholera treatment and hygiene practices

Left: Three of Jameela's children sitting inside the house in the afternoon. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez Right: Mohammed* is a first-grade student. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez.

Yemen is the site of the world’s largest cholera outbreak since records began. In less than a year, there have been over a million of suspected cases and more than 2,000 people were killed by the disease.

During the peak of the cholera outbreak, Ahmed’s village was one of the most affected in Habor Zulaimat district in Amran governorate. Almost all of Ahmed’s family were vomiting and were suffering from diarrhoea. He took them to the hospital, and they received Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) and felt better on the same day. However, Ahmed’s son Ali, who was 13, got infected like the others but by the time they reached the hospital he was already dead.

Ahmed’s wife used to travel six times a day through the rough road to bring water, whenever the donkey was available and awake. But the collected water was unclean.

“The water was unclean, we felt disgusted drinking it. It collects dirt from the mountains around us before it gets here, and animals are also drinking from it and sometimes urinate in it, not to mention that all women from nearby villages wash their clothes in it. It was really disgusting,” said Ahmed.

After two people died in the village, including Ahmed’s son, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a Cholera Treatment Centre in the village in order to prevent more deaths. Oxfam targeted the village with awareness campaigns, hygiene kits including ORS and chlorine sachets to clean water, in addition to a water network powered by solar energy, pumping water from a covered well that Oxfam had dug, into a tank connected to a water distribution point.

The villagers are now more comfortable as they no longer have to travel for long distances to fetch water, while enjoying clean and safe water. The village also has now zero cholera cases and the community is more aware of best hygiene practices and how to prevent cholera and other related diseases.

Cash assistance

Jameela Ahmed Hadi Al-Lawtha'I is a widow living in a small room in Khamer district of Amran governorate with seven children (three daughters and two boys). She needs food, water and clothes. Jameela's husband died about seven years ago and cash assistance provided by Oxfam is her sole source of income. Their sole source of water is a well that is located about 30-minutes' walk away from the village. Her sons bring water in the morning and at noon. The soaring prices of food items means that sometimes they sleep hungry.

Ibrahim Alwazir interviewing a community health volunteer in Al-Shanitifah Village, Haour Zulaimat district, Amran governorate. Photo: Wadee Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam Yemen

One of the world's gravest humanitarian crises

More than 14,600 civilians have been killed or injured during three years of devastating conflict in Yemen and over 2,200 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly. Over three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting. The country is on the brink of famine and 75 percent of Yemen’s population need emergency aid.

Oxfam is there

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners in Yemen. Help includes: clean water and sanitation services, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, by trucking drinking water, repairing water systems and latrines; Supporting families with cash payments to buy food in the local market or livestock, and cash for work programmes, so they get a possible source of income.

Yet over 22 million people are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance. We are delivering emergency aid but we urgently need your help to do more.

Make a donation to support our work

Water is Life

Posted In:

Stop the war in Yemen

In a camp for people forced to flee their homes due to the war in Abs district, Hajjah governorate, Ahmed lives with his younger brother and three sisters. He is only 14 but has a thousand reasons to end this inhuman war. His father was diagnosed with cancer, his house was bombed and his sheep, the family's main source of income, died. Thankfully the family survived and moved out to this camp in Abs.

Left & Right: Ahmed and his siblings in Al-Okasha IDP camp, Abs district, Hajjah governorate - Credit: Ahmed Al-Fadeel / Oxfam Yemen.

The story doesn't end here, even though I wish it did. That would have been considered a happy ending compared to what actually happened. Earlier this year, and after seven months of suffering, Ahmed's father died, leaving his family behind to face poverty alone.

Days without food

Shortly after his father’s death, Ahmed was awakened by his sisters crying around their mother's body. Ahmed rushed into the room just to realize his mother had died. After burying her, they all moved to live with their uncle, who later sent them back to the camp because he couldn't afford to take care of them along with his own large family.

Ahmed suffers from asthma and works to provide food and clothes for his siblings. He tries to work with any opportunity he can find, people give him whatever they call, sometimes a few dollars, most of the time nothing. His sister also collects firewood that he sells on the market in exchange for food. It happens that they spend days without food.

Famine threatens

Famine is threatening eight million people across Yemen, and much of the country’s basic infrastructure has been bombed, including hospitals, schools, water-sources, factories, markets, bridges and ports.

Civil workers haven't been paid their salaries for over a year now, and the UN appeal for Yemen hasn't been fully funded for the third consecutive year, while vital life-saving ports are blocked for more than what people could afford.

Today in 2018, millions of people in Yemen are neglected and suffering, slowly battling starvation and disease. Our people have been bombed, killed, injured, scared, displaced, starved, blocked, sickened, and denied basic rights for nearly three years now.

All of this has happened in front of the very nations that promised to protect human rights. It has happened under the watch of the United Nations and, painfully, many international NGOs who are here with us, struggling on a daily basis to provide help, either because we’re denied access to local districts or because of the blockade of Yemen’s vital life-saving ports.

Left: A displaced woman in Taiz governorate. Zeyad Ghanem / Oxfam Yemen

Oxfam is there

Through Oxfam, we have seen ugly truths that the world is silent about. We have seen death in people's eyes, bodies too hungry to live and malnourished small children suffering from cholera. We don't need to tell you what else we saw, because history is full of examples of war tragedies, some of which are still happening here in Yemen. More than 5,500 civilians have died in this war and over 2,000 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly.

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners. Yet over 22 million people are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

World leaders are silent

And still, while the situation keeps on deteriorating, the war is being fueled by arm sales that kill my people. World leaders silently continue to watch what many call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and Yemen is facing a world-class humanitarian despair.

World leaders and the United Nations are failing humanity once again. We are disappointed and so are 29 million other Yemenis.

I desperately wish to see the war end and no more children to suffer like Ahmed. There are far too many families like Ahmed's.

Ibrahim Yahia Alwazir, Social Media Officer and Ahmed Al-Fadeel, Field Media Assistant

A generation being deprived of education

Continuing with the second of a three part blog by Ibrahim Alwazir, Oxfam’s Social Media Officer in Yemen.

Part 2: A generation being deprived of education

Ahmed Saleh is 39 years old, is a father of 10 and lives in Al-Shanitifah village in Amran governorate. He works as a farmer during the rainy season in summer – he grows millet – and as a porter outside the village during the rest of the year. Despite the work, he is barely earning enough to feed his big family. He never had the opportunity to provide clean water to his family, because he was never able to afford the clean water from the water trucks that usually cost him 12,000 YER, which is more than what he makes.

In the village, men gather every morning outside their small houses to discuss rumours of available jobs, unavailable cash and the disappearing hope that they will have something for their families to eat by noon.

Left: Abdullah*, a fourth-grade student in Khamer district of Amran governorate, holds his notebooks. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez. Right: Wadi Akhraf -Water source, in Habor Zulaimat, Amran governorate Wadea Al-Mekhlafi / Oxfam Yemen.

In these villages, men only have two main job opportunities: either farm or perform hard-labour tasks such as construction or carrying goods. Many lack proper education or vocational training, making it hard for them to perform other jobs or better serve their communities.

Farming usually is seasonal and that is due to the lack of agricultural training, research and funding, as many farmers are unaware of the best practices to enhance their crops or to make use of the land all year long. There is also no storage capacity for the crops to be sold during the entire year. Most fruits and vegetables are available only during certain seasons, while their prices change based on supply and demand throughout the year.

I remember the beauty of many farms we had passed by and it seems that Yemenis pay as much attention to their farms as they do to their children and houses. One can see that the farms are neat, well-built and have enough supplies of water and fertilizers that nourish plants and satisfy viewers' eyes. No matter how isolated the farms were, water is regularly delivered to them through pipes or water-trucks to the extent that plants started to believe they are growing somewhere near the equator.

Yemenis are known to be the first to build agricultural terraces over mountains, to make use of rain to water the lands. They unfortunately never managed to come up with an idea to make water continuously available to their houses and save their wives and children the troubles of fetching water from faraway and sometimes dangerous locations.

For thousands of children in Yemen, walking every day with heavy jerrycans filled with water is more common than attending school. Some rural communities in Yemen do not see school as mandatory or necessary for children as they sometimes believe that men don't need an education to work and women don't need schooling to get married and have children. Many cannot afford either the fees or the supplies needed to attend school.

If the school is nearby and there are no chores to be done, then children can go but only until sixth grade, when they will then be old enough to help their families inside or outside the house. Girls help their mothers with house chores and take care of younger siblings, while boys help their fathers with farming, livestock or just hang around with their friends when their parents are busy.

The war has strongly exacerbated this situation – schools have been bombed, destroyed or occupied, and an entire generation is now being deprived of education.

One of the world's gravest humanitarian crises.

More than 14,600 civilians have been killed or injured during three years of devastating conflict in Yemen and over 2,200 others have died of cholera, mostly children and the elderly. Over three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting. The country is on the brink of famine and is also now suffering the largest ever outbreak of cholera since records began, as nearly 1 million cases have been reported. 22 million people in Yemen are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance, the greatest number in any country in the world.

Oxfam is there

Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, with the help of our local partners in Yemen. Help includes water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers.

We are delivering emergency aid but we urgently need your help to do more.

Make a donation to support our work

 

*Name changed to protect identity

Water is Life

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