Blog

As Syria conflict drags on, sustainable Oxfam project provides clean water in Salamiyah

One of every two Syrians has a story of displacement to tell. Half the population has been pushed by the relentless war out of their homes to safer, quieter locations. But for many of these people, safety doesn’t mean an end to their woes.

Before the war, Kousay*, 14, lived with his family in Rural Idlib. For the past three years, he has been staying with relatives in Salamiyah, in Rural Hama. “My father was a butcher. Now he is out of work. So I had to leave school and find a job,” said the young boy, who earns about $35 per month working in a car repair shop, and is the sole bread-winner of the family.

Salamiyah, located 33 kilometres south-east of the city of Hama, had a population of 150,000 before the conflict. With Syrians displaced from Homs, Rural Hama and other areas, the city now hosts three times that many people. East Salamiyah city gets its water from the Al-Qantara pumping station, which is situated in the west of the city, and is under control of armed groups.

Top-Left: Kousay*, 14, is one of the 35,000 residents in Salamiyah who have benefited from an Oxfam water treatment unit which was originally installed in June 2015.  Top-Right: After being displaced to Salamiyah with his family from Al-Hassakah in 2015, 12-year-old Marwanalso* benefited from the Oxfam water treatment unit. Bottom: In June 2015, Oxfam installed a water treatment unit to provide clean drinking water to an estimated 35,000 residents in Salamiyah - Rural Hama. In June 2017, Oxfam provided the local water establishment with equipment to maintain the unit. Photos: Dania Karah/Oxfam

This pumping station has been in a conflict area since 2013, and the water has been cut off frequently by parties controlling the area. According to the Salamiyah municipality, the water was deliberately cut off from the main source 24 times during the last eight months, forcing people to rely on water trucked to the area, as the only other source was a few boreholes containing unusable sulphurous water.

To alleviate water shortages, in June 2015 Oxfam installed a water treatment unit on one of the boreholes using a Reverse Osmosis system to provide safe drinking water for an estimated 35,000 residents in East Salamiyah, including almost a third who had been internally displaced. The Reverse Osmosis system removes the hydrogen sulphide gas, the bad smell and the solids from the water to produce clean drinking water to be pumped to the city's main water reservoir.

While the conflict raged on, it was important for this project to be sustainable, in order to guarantee the water flow. In June 2017 Oxfam provided the local water establishment with equipment such as spare parts, and pipes, to be able to maintain the unit. The main aim was to improve people’s access to safe and adequate drinking water. The system can operate up to 20 hours per day, providing 50,000 litres of water per hour depending on the available electricity and fuel.

With their limited income, Kousay’s family of five used to buy water from private water tanking at €3/£2 per 1M3 = 1,000 L once per week to avoid the undrinkable sulphurous water provided by local boreholes. Almost one-third of their monthly income went into this expense. ‘’When we came first to As-Salamiah, we only had hot water which has a distinct rotten egg smell, but since this unit start to operate the situation became better. [Now] drinking water reaches our house once a week,’’ said Kousay.

Marwan*,12, was displaced from Al-Hassakah when the Syrian government lost control of large areas of the city to ISIS in 2015 and now lives with his father, mother and four brothers and sisters in Rural Salamiyah. Their family is relatively lucky, as the father is still around and can support them. “We found a small house with no furniture in Salamiyah, and my father works in a nearby factory,” said Marwan.

At first, Marwan*’s family had to rely on trucked drinking water, which they needed to buy twice a week. Now, they can rely on the clean water provided by the Oxfam system.

*Names changed to protect identities

Statement by Oxfam Ireland and GOAL following conclusion of merger talks

Tuesday July 18th, 2017

GOAL and Oxfam Ireland have concluded joint talks to explore a possible merger and have decided not to proceed at this time.

They have instead agreed to begin to work more closely together on programmes and projects where they found significant areas of commonality.

The organisations’ Boards believe that the two organisations will continue to make a strong impact as independent entities in their work serving the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. A joint GOAL-Oxfam team spent five months exploring the possibility of bringing both organisations together, however due to the complexities of a full merger it was not possible to bring discussions to a successful conclusion at this time.

It was decided that the scale and diversity of both organisations’ work will be best served by operating as two distinct entities for now. 

GOAL General Manager Celine Fitzgerald said: “GOAL has, over the last five months, been hugely impressed by the shared commitment of Oxfam to supporting the world’s most vulnerable populations and our admiration and respect for the organisation has grown immeasurably. While we have not been able to conclude a merger agreement at this time, we plan to work together and continue a dialogue, sharing knowledge and resources to better serve the beneficiaries of both organisations.”

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “We have immense admiration for the work undertaken by GOAL, the people behind it and its robust governance systems. While both our organisations will remain separate, the goodwill and understanding we have developed will ensure a mutually supportive relationship and we look forward to working closely together in the future.”

ENDS

Contact:

Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org 

David Williams, GOAL, +353 87 419 7140, dwilliams@goal.ie 

Posted In:

Famine in South Sudan has ceased, but hunger has spread

Written by Corrie Sissons, Oxfam's Food Security and Emergency Livelihoods Coordinator in South Sudan

The recent declaration that famine in South Sudan has been halted was rightly celebrated.  Any steps towards ending the catastrophic humanitarian crisis facing South Sudan are welcome, as the war torn country marked its sixth birthday last Sunday (9th July 2017). 

However, dig deeper than the headlines and it becomes clear that hunger is actually getting worse almost everywhere in the country. How do we applaud the collective effort to end famine including the very generous public donations, yet simultaneously highlight that this does not herald a significant improvement in an ongoing food crisis? Life is more desperate now than ever for millions of people. 

Above: Top Left - Mothers in South Sudan fled their homes with their children to find safety. Photo: Corrie Sissons/Oxfam. Top-right & Bottom - Oxfam has been helping island and mainland communities to set up vegetable gardens both to boost their own diets and to build up their livelihoods. Photo: Tim Bierley/Oxfam

Famine is a technical description, declared if certain specific conditions are observed. But for individuals, hunger is hunger. Just because we call it something else it does not mean that people have enough to eat again or that help is no longer required. People are suffering however it is designated and we still have so much work to do. 

Although things have become less severe in those famine affected areas, the scale of the food crisis across other parts of South Sudan has exploded. Since the famine was declared in February, ongoing conflict and its consequences – people fleeing their homes, economic decline and poor harvests – have left one million more people facing severe food shortages. If predictions are correct, by the end of July 2017, half of the entire South Sudanese population will live without knowing how they can feed their families from one evening to the next. 

There are still approximately 45,000 people who live in what are described ‘famine-like conditions’ in South Sudan. This essentially means conditions are catastrophically bad but the data for the area they live in doesn’t match technical requirements for it to be called a famine. Forced to flee their homes and fields, people have also missed the planting season. Even when they stay, many are too afraid to tend to fields. So seeds do not grow and harvests are smaller and smaller each year that this situation continues. The conflict is not only robbing people of the food on their plates now, but also in the future.

For  example in the former Jonglei state, a recent upsurge in fighting has forced more than 200,000 people from their homes, disrupting lives and obstructing access to the aid when they need it the most. People are walking for days to flee the fighting, with only wild foods to eat along the way.  

Famine and the unacceptable levels of hunger are direct consequences of the decisions made by those with the power to stop the war. As South Sudan marks six years of independence, it is critical that life-saving assistance is combined with diplomatic efforts to bring warring parties back to the table to revive negotiations for peace. It is clear that only real and lasting peace can bring people back from the brink of starvation. Until that happens, we must continue giving vital aid to stop the situation getting even worse.

Right now Oxfam is there in South Sudan, urgently working to get live-saving aid like food and water to those in need, as well as hygiene supplies to stop the spread of deadly disease. It cannot be clearer to those on the ground: South Sudan is not having a moment of respite in its food crisis. Hunger is spiralling out of control. 

Corrie Sissons is Oxfam's Food Security and Emergency Livelihoods Coordinator in South Sudan

 

Coldplay in Dublin: stand in solidarity with refugees

Rock band Coldplay arrive in Dublin this weekend to play Saturday’s massive gig in Croke Park as part of their latest tour – and Oxfam Ireland will be there too…

The members of Coldplay have been among Oxfam's most high profile and vocal supporters of the last decade. The band have used their worldwide success to help Oxfam campaign in over 50 countries. As they set off on their Head Full of Dreams world tour, Coldplay again invited Oxfam to join them, including Saturday’s gig in Dublin.

So we’ll be there in Croke Park, asking Coldplay fans to join together in solidarity with some of the most vulnerable people on the planet – those people displaced by conflict and disaster.

Because people that have been forced to flee often have a head full of dreams too, but for different reasons. They often leave with little more than the clothes on their backs, but they carry with them hopes for a better future for themselves and their families, safe from terrifying natural disasters, extreme hardship and brutal wars.

65.6 million people have fled conflict and persecution in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Yemen. This is the highest figure since the Second World War. The greater number of them are displaced within their own countries, rather than refugees crossing international borders. Almost 20 million more have fled environmental disaster.

Across the world, displaced people are facing incredible odds. For example, in Syria, 11 million people have been forced to abandon their homes, and millions more are in desperate need of help. After six years of violence, many are in need of medical treatment and other support.

MARIAM’S STORY

This includes people like Mariam Bazerbashi. When continuing violence made her home in Damascus too dangerous, Mariam travelled for seven days to Presevo in Serbia with her children.

Mariam, 29, in Preševo, Serbia after escaping from the conflict in Damascus with her two sons Ali*, 7, and Abbas*, 4. Ali suffer from muscular dystrophy and can’t walk. Mariam’s husband is still in Syria. (*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identity.) Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam.

“I’m here with my children alone. My husband is still in Syria. My son has a muscular disease and can’t walk. I’ve carried him all the way from Syria but today I was given a wheelchair for him.”

But it doesn't have to be this way. We have been providing support to more than 6.7 million people in conflict-affected countries in the past year. We are working on the ground in countries like Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen to help displaced families with immediate basic needs such as clean water, shelter, food and work – but we need to uphold our commitment to welcome and protect refugees and immigrants here too.

As well as working to give practical support to people forced to flee, we have been campaigning for changes in the law here, to help displaced people in Ireland and the UK.

Strict rules are forcing refugee families to live apart, trapping them in different countries to their loved ones and making it harder for them to be brought together. These rules target vulnerable people who are seeking safety after fleeing unfathomable violence and loss. We're calling on global leaders – including the Irish and UK governments – to do more to ensure that people forced to flee can do so safely and legally and to reunite families torn apart.

We can't turn our backs on families who have fled violence and persecution. Together, with your support, we'll keep pushing until refugees get the protection and support they need.

By taking our Right to Refuge: Keep Families Together action, you’ll be helping us put public pressure on our governments to do more to help people find safe and legal routes to escape from war and persecution, and help families torn apart be united and find safety together.

That is why Oxfam is asking Coldplay fans in Croke Park and beyond to stand together in solidarity and support of those fleeing to safety. Together we’ll show that they are not alone, and make sure world leaders know that we won’t stand by while people suffer. We will stand as one.

SolidaritY

So far 30,000 Coldplay fans have joined us by signing up and wearing their Stand As One Coldplay tour wristband to show their support to those in Syria and all over the world who are fleeing conflict.

Chris Martin and Coldplay at Glastonbury. Photos: Coldplay/R42

Whether you’re at the Coldplay concert in Dublin (be sure to come find us and say hello!) or reading this from your front room, you can be part of our global movement. Take a stand with Oxfam by joining our call to action here.

And if you’d like to hear more about what’s happening on the day at Croke Park, follow @OxfamIreland, using any or all of the hashtags #ColdplayDublin, #StandAsOne and #RighttoRefuge.

To read more about Coldplay’s past work and support for Oxfam, visit https://www.oxfam.org/en/ambassadors/coldplay

 

New one-of-a-kind accessories shop will do a world of good

Oxfam Ireland’s unique fashion collaboration with SIX opens in Dublin

An accessories and jewellery shop with a difference has opened in Dublin city centre – and will help Oxfam Ireland to raise vital funds for people in crisis and poverty across the world.

The new SIX 4 GOOD store, now open for business in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin 2, sells a wide range of brand-new fashion accessories and jewellery for women, men and children, including hair accessories, sunglasses, bags, purses, mobile phone accessories and homewares.

All the new items for sale in the store have been generously donated by European brand SIX free of charge to Oxfam Ireland, with profits going to support the charity’s work worldwide in emergency response, long-term development and campaigning, including projects with women and girls.

This opening of the SIX 4 GOOD store – the first of its kind – is part of an ongoing corporate partnership with SIX, a brand of the Beeline fashion group, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of jewellery and accessories.

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “Opening a shop which exclusively sells brand-new items from a single brand is an innovative departure for us and we’re delighted to be working with our long-standing partner Beeline on this unique collaboration.

“SIX 4 GOOD offers great value on a fantastic range, selling at discounted prices with items like rings, bracelets and earrings starting at just €3. This is exciting news for Ireland’s bargain-hunting fashionistas and shoppers who like to look good and give back.”

Ulrich Beckmann, Founder and CEO of Beeline GmbH, said: “We want to give back part of our success to the community. This project is of particular importance for us and we are looking forward to continuing our successful cooperation with Oxfam Ireland to provide help for people in poverty worldwide.”

Mr. McIlwaine added: “Thanks to the generous donations by SIX, we are able to raise vital funds for our work worldwide, saving lives in emergencies like the current hunger crisis in countries like South Sudan, helping people build better lives through long-term development work and speaking out on the issues that keep people poor, like discrimination against women.

“For example, the handbag you buy in SIX 4 GOOD for €16 could provide 50 bars of soap for 50 Syrian families displaced by conflict, helping hygiene and preventing the spread of deadly diseases. Grabbing a bargain feels great but supporting families fleeing conflict or trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty feels even better.”

For more visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/six-4good

ENDS

CONTACT: For images, more information or to arrange an interview with an Oxfam spokesperson, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO THE EDITOR:

  • Oxfam and Beeline have been working together since 2005. Beeline donates new stock to Oxfam for sale in Oxfam shops across the island of Ireland which helps raise vital funds for the charity’s work worldwide.

About Oxfam Ireland

  • Oxfam Ireland has shops across Ireland, north and south, selling everything from clothes, jewellery, and homewares to books, music and other donated goods. These include the specialist shops, Oxfam Books, Oxfam Bridal and Oxfam Home.
  • Oxfam Ireland is a member of Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 organisations working together in more than 90 countries as part of a global network of people and organisations working for change by mobilising the power of people against poverty.
  • Oxfam has been supported by people across the island of Ireland, north and south, for over 50 years. We have over 2,000 volunteers, 140 staff and 45 shops throughout the island.
  • For more information about Oxfam, visit www.oxfamireland.org

About SIX/Beeline

  • SIX is a brand owned by the Beeline group, one of Europe's leading suppliers for accessories and jewellery. Founded in 1990, Beeline now operates in 20,500 sales areas – including 264 owned stores – across 53 countries and employs 4,600 people.
  • SIX is the urban fashion accessory and jewellery brand from Beeline which was launched in 1998 and now has 166 stores and 1,700 concession stores throughout Europe.
  • Beeline donates a percentage of profit every year to social institutions. Previous examples include: HIV therapy in Africa and projects in the millennium village Gandhiji Songha in India. Oxfam Ireland is one of its Corporate Social Responsibility partners.
  • For more information about SIX and Beeline, visit www.beeline-group.com
Posted In:

Pages