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Keeping families together

Layla Mohammed* (39) and her family recently returned to their home in Bashir village in Iraq after two years on the move. The family were forced to leave everything behind when ISIS captured their village and fighting broke out.

In Iraq, Oxfam is helping families like Layla’s who have returned to their homes to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives through cash for work programmes and business grants.

We’ve installed water systems and toilets in camps for those forced to flee and distributed other vital supplies such as blankets and heaters. Oxfam has also helped run trauma centres in the eastern part of the besieged city of Mosul and we continue to support health centres with water and sanitation.

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Life was good before ISIS came. Layla and her husband had a two-storey house, livestock and a shop – they were able to provide for their children. Initially, they weren’t afraid of ISIS because Bashir was surrounded by police and military, and they thought they would be safe

When ISIS came, Layla’s husband was away working. He had told her to stay safe at home. She didn’t know what to do.

“[My husband] told me to stay but I saw people escaping…My eldest daughter understood what was going on and she was afraid. I was afraid because they were shooting and bombing so I took my children and went to Taza, the next town. My husband called me and told me that I did well to escape. I kept thinking it was the end of our lives and they would kill us.”

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

The battle for Bashir destroyed Layla’s home and over 100 of her friends and neighbours have never been seen again. Layla fled Taza shortly after arriving as ISIS were en route to claim it too. She lived in a mosque for seven months and then an empty school building for two months. Finally she settled with her family in a cattle shed in another village called Leylan.

“We stayed in the cattle stable for a year. The neighbours helped us and gave us food. We were strangers there but they helped us anyway. The stable was small…dirty and had scorpions. I could only think of my house in Bashir, which was clean.” 

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Layla was worried about her family and their future. She had decided not to send her son to the local school because she believed that they were going to return home any day. As a result, he missed out on a year of his education. Worse still, food was very scarce – and her children were starving. 

“We had nothing to feed the children, I only had sugar and water to give them. They were starving. When we were escaping from Taza I found a sack of bread someone had left for their cattle and I took it and gave it to the children to eat.”

Only one thing kept her going: “Every day that I was displaced I was living to come home.”

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

When Bashir was retaken, Layla told her husband that she wanted to go home. But when the family returned, they couldn’t go near the house because it was littered with mines. The army had to clear the site before she could start rebuilding her home – and her life.

The first time she saw her house, Layla cried for a long time. Then she set her mind to transforming a pile of rubble into a home: “I was waking my husband up at 5am every day and I lifted the concrete blocks myself. People respected me for it in the community…They said I am doing a lot to rebuild my own house. I am happy to be home because it’s my home; even if I only eat bread I am happy to be back. I never thought I would get to come back.”

Layla and her family, who feature in our virtual reality content from Iraq, got to experience a virtual reality trip to Tanzania for themselves when Oxfam brought the head set to their home in Bashir in Iraq. Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Last year, Oxfam launched the Right to Refuge campaign to put pressure on governments ahead of the first UN summit on refugees and migration. An incredible 32,000 people from across the island of Ireland joined us by signing our petition calling on the Irish and UK governments to do more to protect refugees and migrants.

The summit marked the start of a long process to agree a new global plan for refugees and migrants which will be announced in 2018. And while some progress has been made, it isn’t enough. What we urgently need now is action.

We are expanding our Right to Refuge campaign to call on governments to immediately do more to welcome and protect those seeking safety and to reunite families that have been torn apart as they flee from war, persecution or disaster. As part of this, we have developed a virtual reality environment where you can experience what life is like for Layla for yourself throughout this summer at various shopping centres, festivals and events throughout the island of Ireland. To find out more about our locations, please email info@oxfamireland.org.

Please take a moment to ask your government to protect the right to refuge.

*Name changed to protect identity

Somaliland: a day in the life of a dedicated, small-town doctor

Jama Abdi Abdile is a roving physician in a small village in Somaliland, who does not allow limited access to medication and inadequate facilities to hinder his patient care.

Jama Banner, a doctor in Somaliland

Jama Abdi Abdile, a doctor in Gawsawayne, Somaliland, makes do with what he can to treat his patients, many whom are suffering from malnutrition. Photo: Allan Gigichi/Oxfam

Small-town doctors have the unenviable task of making house calls at odd hours to treat patients with all sorts of maladies, often operating as one-person medical teams. It’s a tough job no matter where you live, but even more complicated when there are no clinical facilities for miles and your access to medication is limited. These are the conditions under which Jama Abdi Abdile, 43, a roving doctor in Gawsawayne, Somaliland, practises.

Somaliland is suffering from a massive food crisis, part of a humanitarian emergency that is touching nearly 30 million lives in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan. Across the Somaliland region, water levels have rapidly declined and widespread loss of livestock is devastating communities that depend upon them for milk, meat, and to earn a livelihood. 

Gawsawayne lacks a health centre and essential health services. Abdile is the only trained medical professional in his village, so his home doubles as his office. “This is a family home,” he says. “There is no dedicated health centre with all its facilities and separated care rooms.”

Mainly, he travels from house to house visiting patients and treating them with medications he has stockpiled in his home. Currently, there are 177 malnutrition cases, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, in his village. Every month, he reports, the number of cases has increased. In March, there were 84 people suffering from malnutrition in his town, mostly children.

“We have never been this busy,” he says. “There is constant pressure now and we have no transportation to go around and visit patients. There are so many difficulties, but I try to do what I can.”

The first week of April brought some relief. Oxfam began trucking clean water to households in the Sanaag region, including Gawsawayne. Now his village receives over 15,000 litres of water every day. The clean water has enabled Abdile to do his job more effectively.

Follow along as he walks us through a day in his life, gathering water, mixing medications, and visiting with patients.

Collecting clean water from Oxfam

Photo: Allan Gichicgi/Oxfam

Abdile collects clean water from an Oxfam-supplied water truck. Before Oxfam arrived, Abdile’s community sourced their water from a shallow spring that had grown filthy. An Oxfam Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) engineer called it the most contaminated water supply he has seen in 20 years of working for Oxfam.

Fighting dehyfration

Photo: Allan Gichicgi/Oxfam

Abdile mixes water with oral rehydration salts (ORS) syrup, which is used to fight dehydration.

“The Oxfam water has helped the whole community,” he says. “The health service takes a big chunk of this water. The mineral water we were using was from a faraway place and cost us a lot of money. It was difficult to mix with the syrup. The water provided by Oxfam is given to us free of charge. We are mixing up the ORS and everyone is drinking it.”

Providing life-saving medicine in Somaliland

Photo: Allan Gichicgi/Oxfam

Abdile sorts through the medications he stores at home. He notes that the water has made it easier for patients to swallow their medications. With villagers now drinking and cooking with clean water, he hopes that they are less likely to become ill.

Protecting the most vulnerable in Somaliland

Photo: Allan Gichicgi/Oxfam

Abdile checks on Zaymid Mohammad, 25. She is seven months pregnant with her ninth child and has been feeling tired and weak. The majority of Abdile’s patients are women and children. “Mothers and children are most vulnerable to diseases,” he says. “When people have immune deficiency, which is related to a lack of food and nutrition, they are vulnerable to all sorts of diseases.”

A devastating food crisis is threatening the lives of 30 million people across East Africa, Yemen and north-east Nigeria. We have already reached thousands of people with food, water, sanitation and support – but many more urgently need our help.

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Time is the most precious gift of all: Meet some of our inspiring volunteers

For over 50 years, Oxfam Ireland has had the pleasure of hosting countless generous and giving volunteers who put their heart and soul into contributing in a positive way to their local community, their local Oxfam and further afield. These volunteers give the most precious gift of all - their time, to give back to their community and to help organisations like Oxfam Ireland run smoothly and raise money to run life-saving programmes to help vulnerable people in poverty. The funds raised from our shops help to implement Oxfam initiatives such as providing clean water and sanitation in refugee camps and helping to protect and empower women farmers in Tanzania through our livelihoods programme. 

Our Oxfam volunteers are at the heart of our organisation and without their time, effort and selfless generosity, our organisation would not run as effectively as it does, providing essential aid to those who need it. 

Oxfam wants to highlight some of the volunteers who are part of our Oxfam family, striving to make the world a more just and fair place. Here are the faces of some of our volunteers, who have kindly shared their stories. We hope that you can see a little bit of yourself in each and every one of them.

Zahid, a volunteer at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, Dublin on coming full circle with Oxfam

Zahid has become part of the furniture at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, having given five years of hard work and dedication as a volunteer. Photo: Maria Gillan

Zahid, a student at the IBEC College in Temple Bar comes from Bangladesh and describes himself as a conscientious person. He previously worked with Oxfam, volunteering to help distribute life-saving emergency aid provided by Oxfam in Bangladesh after his country was affected by natural disasters.

Zahid says: “If a big flood happens then people lose their homes, they lose everything, they don’t have any money to buy food. They don’t have any place to stay so we help them by giving them shelter and by providing some food, or whatever else they need.”

Having previously worked with Oxfam in his home country, Zahid was motivated to continue working with the organisation when he first came to Dublin, and he has come full circle in terms of seeing how Oxfam provides life-saving aid to those in need. Zahid has now been working in the furniture shop on King’s Inn shop for 5 years from the first day the shop opened.

”I like talking and communicating with people and asking them about their lives. It’s like a daily routine for me. I like how every day is like a new start, different things happen every day.”

Zahid is not just a volunteer with Oxfam but volunteers with Saint Vincent de Paul too. “I love to have a chat with the local people, and ask about their daily routine,” he says. “It’s nice to see that you know all the Finglas local people and the customers at King’s Inn Street too. They really love me. They know which days I am working and if they don’t see me they keep asking, ‘Where is he, where is he?’” he laughs.

Zahid’s conscientious and generous spirit is not only seen by the customers in the shops that he meets daily but by his own friends and family too: “If any of my friends asks for help, if I’m able to do it, I just do it straight away. If I am able to do what you ask of me, then I can never say no, I can do it for you. I like to help others - you can say it’s a part of my character.”

Emmet James Driver: A volunteer campaigner on behalf of refugees

Emmet, volunteering on behalf of Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign at Longitude festival in Marlay Park. Photo: Maria Gillan

Emmet shared his story about how he became a volunteer campaigner with Oxfam Ireland and the importance of changing negative mind-sets surrounding refugees. 

Emmet’s campaigning role began when he was walking down the street one day and was approached by an Oxfam campaigner named Shazia who asked him to sign a petition. As he walked on by in a hurry, she called out: “It’s just a petition and it’s just about equality!” After hearing about the petition, he immediately signed up and when he received a follow up phone call to ask if he could become a regular supporter, he said: 

“Look, guys, I don’t have any money…but I’ve got lots of time. Do you want some time?”

When asked if he would be interested in supporting Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign, calling on the Irish Government to do more to protect and support refugees, Emmet replied: “Absolutely, yes I would”.

Emmet’s passion and commitment to campaigning on the refugee crisis comes from a personal story of his own:

“When I was in college I had a friend who was Palestinian who was seeking asylum here in Ireland, and he was seeking asylum for two and a half years and was denied. And then he was ordered to be deported. At that point I was so unbelievably angry because, as Irish people, we have travelled to every single corner of this planet over the last seven hundred years and every single place we went we were accepted and every single place we still go to now, people are proud to say ‘I have Irish blood’.

“In Ireland, I believe we have a sort of genetic memory of the hardships of our past. What’s frustrating is that we are not taking in as many refugees as we can, and when we do take people in, we put them into a completely inadequate situation which is Direct Provision. Then when it comes to people seeking asylum, there’s a massive long list of people and they are not allowed to work and they’re not allowed to do anything while they are seeking asylum and then they can still be denied and then deported.”

Emmet strongly believes that due to our own personal history of emigration on this island we have a responsibility to help those in need, bringing to mind a famous quote displayed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”.

“That is what Ireland should be, because we did just that. We did it for years, even centuries, Irish people travelling abroad and we owe it to the world to offer that back. We should take people in, give them a home and be friendly to them, and welcome them into our society and into our culture as well. Anytime, I see that not happening, I get very, very passionate and I get very, very angry. Which is why, when I heard about the Right to Refuge campaign I said yes. We have to do more, to lobby our governments to provide refugees with a safe place to call home, and that’s what this campaign is about and this is what volunteering is about.”

Emmet remarks that one of the most rewarding parts of his role is when you change someone’s mind-set or when people realise the importance of the work that volunteers do:

“You’ll thank a person for signing the petition and they’ll look you in the eye and they’ll say, “No, thank YOU - you are the one doing the work.

“I find that every single person out there has the ability within them to understand the issues we’re talking about, they just have to relate it back to something they are familiar with, back to something that they can understand. And then it suddenly dawns on them that these refugees aren’t these foreign figures, they are human beings and we should give them a place to live and feel safe.”

Alex Clyde, a volunteer in Oxfam’s Belfast office on embracing opportunities

Alex is pictured at Oxfam’s office in Belfast where she volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant. Photo: Maria Gillan

Alex volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant, working in Oxfam’s office in Belfast. She first became interested in volunteering with Oxfam while pursuing her Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Magee University in Derry and wanted to gain work experience in the charity sector:

“Finding work in the charity sector is not easy. But I became interested in working with Oxfam as Oxfam create campaigns, not just to raise money but to actually do something to create real change to benefit those that need it. Oxfam provided me with the chance to gain work experience for a full year and I was interested in getting experience in events management and the campaigns and advocacy side of Oxfam’s work.

“I got to organise events like Culture Night, getting people involved in events, sorting out insurance matters, alongside communications work. I learned loads, it’s hectic but it’s so much fun.”

Alongside her work with Oxfam, Alex volunteers with local charities that benefit refugees, and stresses the importance of welcoming refugees into our communities:

“I believe reintegration for refugees into communities is so important and so I also do work with other organisations who deal with this. Refugees only survive on about £30 a week here, with full families living on that little per week. 

“I’ve sat down with refugees and heard their stories, some of them can be heart-breaking and make you realise the little things we take for granted. Something as simple as a guy that I was talking to from Sri Lanka whose child wanted to go swimming and he finds it hard because he can’t send his child to the swimming pool. This is because they barely have enough to feed themselves, let alone afford those activities.”

Having worked with organisations that deal directly with refugees, Alex has had first-hand accounts of refugees’ individual experiences since leaving their home countries and settling into their new home in Northern Ireland:

“I think that doing the simple things with people, like taking them out for a coffee, the little things, really welcome them into the country. They are going to settle into a really different culture so it’s so important for us to welcome them as best as we can. Going to events are great to let them know you are there but they really need the day to day interaction, asking how they are doing and so on.”

Outside of her role at Oxfam, Alex’s work and research involves dealing with the mental health issues refugees experience, especially in relation to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and living in conflict:

“Imagine fleeing conflict and dealing with the trauma of it, then moving to another country and feeling like an outcast, it can be so damaging for them. Volunteering or having a job enables you to make friends, to get to know people, have a real purpose and create a real identity. So I think working in a volunteer capacity can be great for refugees too.”

Having worked with many local organisations, Alex knows the value of volunteering:

“With volunteering, I really feel like I’m giving back. I mean, we’re really lucky. I really recognise this, especially as a woman. I can go to school to get a full education, I can wear trousers, I can drive a car. There’s just so many things that we can do that others can’t. I have so much going for me that I feel it’s important to provide other people with that opportunity and I would definitely encourage more people to volunteer. I think that all graduates of Social Science should be made to take a year out and do something like volunteer, (such as with Oxfam!), or helping out in a foreign country. It really gives you a different perspective on the world and makes you more open-minded.”

Family matters: Chloe and Johnnie Chu, volunteers at Oxfam Books in Dublin

Siblings Chloe and Johnnie pose in front of the wide range of books available in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street shop in Dublin. Photo: Maria Gillan

Chloe and Johnnie from Dublin are brother and sister and have been dedicated volunteers in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street for a number of years. Johnnie was the first member of his family to volunteer his time with Oxfam and after seeing how much her brother enjoyed his time there, Chloe started volunteering for a few hours once a week, to give something back: 

“A normal work shift is about four hours,” says Chloe. “But I always wish it could be longer because it is amazing to see so many people of all ages take an interest in books and helping charity.” 

Chloe and Johnnie both love books and love meeting the interesting customers who visit the shop, as well as immersing themselves in the extensive range of unique books that can be found there. 

Chloe and Johnnie aren’t the only members of the Chu family who selflessly give their time to volunteer with Oxfam. When Chloe’s older sister moved to England she also volunteered with Oxfam over there too.

“There is a running joke in the family that our younger sister is going to start working here too,” laughs Johnnie. “That would make it four members of the family who volunteer with Oxfam!”

Chloe adds: “The main reason why I volunteer is because I love the idea that I am helping someone and that makes me really happy. And with every book donated or sold, that means I’ve done a successful job and we’ve all made a joint effort to help people in need – and that is what’s important.”

50 years of commitment: Kay Rogers, former Oxfam Ireland Board member and volunteer in the Belfast office

Kay stands beside a picture displaying Oxfam’s message of ‘Hope’, a message that Oxfam’s programmes strive to provide to people in need. Photo: Maria Gillan 

If there’s one lady who can be given a badge for dedication and long-term support for Oxfam’s work, it’s Kay Rogers. Kay has been an irreplaceable volunteer with Oxfam for almost 50 years and is a prime example of someone who displays real selflessness and commitment to helping those less fortunate. She is also responsible for helping to develop Oxfam’s first presence in Northern Ireland and has served in countless ways: as a volunteer Board member, a shop volunteer, an office intern, a spokesperson and a fundraiser.  

One of the best experiences that Kay has had was a trip to Tanzania to see the work that Oxfam does there and the impact it was having on the lives of people living in poverty:

“I was lucky enough to go on a week-long trip to Tanzania with Oxfam, where we visited many types of projects with small farmers. For example, we visited Kiwokukie, which was a women’s organisation that was founded by women in response to the HIV and AIDS crisis at that time. We also visited a small-scale farmer’s organisation too, where I got to see the positive impact that Oxfam initiatives have had first-hand. And it’s extraordinary, you know, for me, being an old luddite who rages against technology, to see how actually providing small-scale farmers with a mobile phone meant that they could find out the price of produce that day so they knew whether or not it was worth their while hauling their produce on a bicycle into the market or if they were going to be ripped off by traders. So if they knew they were going to get a decent price, it was worth their while going.

“I could see the benefits of these simple things first-hand. I could see progress. I saw the impact our work truly has.”

In the 50 years that Kay has been involved in Oxfam, she has seen it grow and evolve, alongside raising her family and working as a nurse in her community: “A few years ago, I was thinking of giving up as I had other important commitments and a friend of mine said to me, you’ll never do that because Oxfam runs through your veins.”

Kay understand the importance of volunteers and that’s why she has enjoyed the work she has done lately in the office which is about recognition and awards for volunteers, many of whom have been working in Oxfam shops for 20 or more years. 

“Volunteers give a gift of time and I think that just summarises it. They give the gift of their time and in return for that they need to have recognition, they need to have people say thank you. Volunteering is an opportunity to give something back to your community and you get something in return also – a new batch of friends, something positive to keep you busy, while also raising money for projects in the developing world.”

Philip O’Brien, a volunteer at Oxfam Portlaoise, on the importance of giving back

Philip, sits by the till in Oxfam’s shop in Portlaoise, where he serves customers each day. Photo: Maria Gillan

Philip was a mechanical engineer by trade, working for almost 40 years. However finding out he had cancer changed his outlook on life: “After getting over the cancer, my attitude became more positive. And it was my positive attitude that helped me get through it. I learned not to take life so seriously, and I now appreciate life so much more. I need to have a laugh so working here is great for me - we have great fun.”

“I enjoy meeting people and giving back to society. And after nearly dying, it made me realise to live for the moment and want to give back in some way. Going from working all my life to not working was a big adjustment, especially for my brain to handle.

“I don’t take life for granted in any way anymore. I’ve learned not to jump into situations too quickly and rush myself. Laughter is the best medicine. I’m a messer, I love to have the craic with people who come in to the shop.”

Volunteering with Oxfam has helped Philip to remain positive and make a difference in his community:

“I intend to work at the Oxfam Portlaoise shop for as long as possible,” he says. “Volunteering is positive for your mental state and a great way to pass the time while helping those who need it.”

Oxfam has many exciting opportunities for people who would like to make a difference and join a global movement of people who won’t live with poverty. If you would like to volunteer or find out more information on volunteering, click here.

Maria Gillan, author of this post, volunteered her time and talent to Oxfam Ireland to collate these stories as part of her university studies. We’re grateful for the energy and enthusiasm she gave to highlighting the names, faces and stories of some of our wonderful volunteers.

 

 

 

 

Cholera killing one person almost every hour in Yemen

08/06/2017

Oxfam calls for massive aid effort and immediate ceasefire.

Yemen is in the grip of a runaway cholera epidemic that is killing one person almost every hour and if not contained will threaten the lives of thousands of people in the coming months, Oxfam warned today. The aid agency is calling for an urgent, largescale aid effort and an immediate ceasefire in Yemen to allow health and aid workers to tackle the outbreak. 

According to the World Health Organisation, in the five weeks between 27 April and 3 June 2017, 676 people died of cholera and over 86,000 were suspected of having the disease. Last week the rate jumped to 2,777 suspected cases a day from 2,529 a day during the previous week. Given Yemen’s neglected medical reporting system and the widespread nature of the epidemic, these official figures are likely to be under reporting the full scale of the crisis. 

In the coming months there could be up to 150,000 cases of cholera, with some predictions as high as 300,000 cases. 

The cholera crisis comes on top of two years of brutal war which has decimated the health, water and sanitation systems, severely restricted the essential imports the country is dependent upon and left millions of people one step away from famine. 

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “Yemen is on the edge of an abyss. Two years of war has plunged the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, leaving it facing devastating famine. Now it is at the mercy of a deadly and rapidly spreading cholera epidemic. 

“Cholera is simple to prevent and treat but while the fighting continues, that task is made difficult and at times impossible. Lives hang in the balance - a massive aid effort is needed now. Those backing this war in Western and Middle Eastern capitals need to put pressure on all parties to the fighting to agree an immediate ceasefire to allow public health and aid workers to get to work saving lives.”

Oxfam said that the outbreak is set to be one of the worst this century if there is not a massive and immediate effort to bring it under control. It is calling on rich countries and international agencies to generously deliver on promises of $1.2bn of aid they made last month.

Money, essential supplies and technical support are needed to strengthen Yemen's embattled health, water and sanitation services. Health workers and water engineers have not been paid for months while hospitals, health centres, public water systems have been destroyed and starved of key items, such as medical supplies, chlorine and fuel. Even basic supplies such as intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and soap are urgently needed to enable an effective, speedy response - some of which will have to be flown into the country. Communities also need to be supported with their efforts to prevent the disease spreading and quickly treat people showing the first signs of infection. 

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and support people facing famine in Yemen, as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger  

ENDS

CONTACT: For interviews or more information, contact:

ROI: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org  

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

Notes to Editors: 

Stats on cholera outbreak: http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-cholera-outbreak-dg-echo-who-ech...

Cholera is easily prevented with simple and affordable efforts at home and in the community, such as disinfection of water with chlorine, safe collection and storage of water, washing hands with soap, and understanding the myths, behaviours associated with cholera. When people suspect they have the symptoms they can drink a mix salt and sugar to rehydrate them while they make their way to the medical centre. 

 

The face of famine and hunger: ‘I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs’

At a site for displaced people in Pulka, northeast Nigeria, families arrive daily seeking safety, shelter, food, and clean water. 

Numbers tell only part of the story. Behind the statistics lies the anguish of parents struggling to keep their families alive.

Across Africa and in parts of the southern Arabian Peninsula a massive hunger crisis is threatening the lives of 30 million people. Some of them in an area of South Sudan are already enduring famine conditions.

Photo: Tom Saater/Oxfam

The scale of this disaster is shocking. But numbers have a way of numbing us. They can be too massive to personalise—until you listen to the stark words of a father unable to earn enough to feed his family or hear the anguish of a mother too hungry herself to produce milk for her newborn. With stories, statistics hit home.

In the photo essay below, you’ll meet some of the people struggling to survive the conflicts, drought, and terrible hunger crisis those events have triggered.

Fekri

Photo: Omar Algunaid/Oxfam

Fekri, 40, pictured here with an Oxfam-supplied hygiene kit, is a father of four living in Al-Jalilah, Yemen. “Life is difficult these days,” he says. “We cannot afford all the essential items. More than half of our money is spent on water.” 

Ahmed and Dolah

Photo: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam

Ahmed, 45, and Dolah, 40, live in Khamer City, Yemen, with their eight children. Their sole source of income is Ahmed’s cobbling, but most days, he returns from the market empty-handed. Dolah goes begging at the market, hoping to collect some money or bread for the children, but she’s usually faced with verbal harassment. They hope that the war will end soon so that their children can sleep safely, free of hunger. 

Majok

Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder

Majok is waiting to register for a World Food Programme distribution later in the month. He is one of hundreds of people moving from the islands to the mainland in Nyal, South Sudan, in search of food and safety. Younger family members had to help carry him during the one-and-a-half-hour trek through the swamps to make sure he was physically present for registration. 

Deqa

Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

Eighteen days before this photo of Deqa was taken in Somaliland in northern Somalia, she gave birth to her sixth child, a son who has been experiencing stomach troubles. At the moment, Daqa, who is 26, is on her own: Her husband is away tending to a goat and the single camel they have left from their herd of 200. “We eat once a day—only rice,” she said. It’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of her growing children. “I give them tea and water to fill their stomachs,” Deqa added.

Adan

Photo:Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam

“Water is our main worry,” said Adan, a 58-year-old herder who has resettled in the Garadag district of Somaliland in northern Somalia with his five children. The family has moved many times in the past six months in a constant search for water. “We came here because we wanted to be closer to a water point, but the women have just got back and the water they collected is so hard and salty that we cannot even use it to dissolve milk powder. We cannot give milk to our children,” he said.

Yana

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

When Boko Haram attacked her village in Nigeria during a wedding—taking the bride and other women—Yana, 27, fled with her four children. She now lives in the Kawar Mali ward in Maidiguiri, once the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency before the army expelled the group. Today, thousands of people displaced by the violence have found refuge in the area.

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