Bombing in Syria

The indiscriminate bombing of the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta and neighbouring Damascus in recent days has shocked the world.

Dozens of children have been killed and homes destroyed in relentless airstrikes, and there is no end in sight to the conflict.

(Left) Children play games at an Oxfam hygiene promotion campaign at Dahyet Qudsaya shelter. Photo: Oxfam (Right) A group of children wash their hands as part of an Oxfam hygiene promotion campaign at Dahyet Qudsaya shelter in rural Damascus. Photo: Oxfam

Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, Oxfam has been working hard to help parents and children who have managed to flee the violence.

One of those children was 11-year-old Kareem. His family fled their home in eastern Ghouta, before the recent outbreak of violence, and went to rural Damascus in search of safety. Now they live in a shelter with more than 1,000 people who have also been displaced.

Kareem misses being a little boy and the friends he had before the conflict – which is now in its seventh year – turned his life upside down.

“I used to go to school every day and meet my beloved friends,” he said. “I miss playing with my friends on the way back from school, I miss my home, my belongings and I miss watching cartoons after finishing my homework."

Oxfam has been working in Kareem’s shelter, helping to prevent disease by promoting good hygiene practices. We also distributed hygiene kits to all of the children living there.

We are on the ground in Syria providing clean, safe drinking water and hygiene kits to children like Kareem, while we continue to provide water and sanitation to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

But the scale of this emergency is huge and we still urgently need your help.

Thank you.

Oxfam Ireland will lead on delivering global safeguarding reforms

Oxfam Ireland will play a leadership role across the global organisation in delivering a comprehensive action plan to strengthen the confederation’s safeguarding systems and enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

An urgent, independent review of Oxfam’s culture and practices led by leading women’s rights experts was announced today. It was confirmed yesterday by directors across the international confederation, including Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken and Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. 

The immediate measures include: 

  • A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, comprised of leading women’s rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world. 
  • The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
  • An immediate injection of additional money and resources into Oxfam’s safeguarding processes.
  • A commitment to build on the ongoing work to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feel safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.
  • Oxfam is also committing to publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to prevent witnesses being identified. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Today’s announcement of an external, independent and confederation-wide review underpins our shared commitment to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. 

“I am committed to playing a leadership role in facilitating this comprehensive action plan to root out any form of abuse. At home and overseas, we will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve and we are doubling the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect them. 

“I feel great responsibility in the trust our supporters across the island of Ireland put in us and am dedicated to rebuilding any trust lost. This review marks the beginning of change for Oxfam as an international organisation – Oxfam Ireland is 100% committed to playing our part and to working with others in government and across the sector to implement urgent reforms that enable us to do more and do better for the world’s poorest.”

The independent High-Level Commission will shape its own approach and its membership will be announced within a few days. Oxfam will provide the resources it needs to do its job effectively, across the confederation, including full access to records, staff as well as partners and communities supported by the organisation. As part of the Commission's work, it will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available. 

ENDS

Notes to Editor: 

  • Oxfam Ireland’s all-island polices to protect and support staff and volunteers include: 
  1. Safeguarding policy
  2. Anti-bullying and Harassment
  3. Disclosure of Malpractice in the Workplace/Whistle-blowing Policy
  4. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
  5. We also have robust recruitment processes which involve vetting, reference checks, probationary periods and adherence to Oxfam’s codes of practice and conduct, as required by the role. 
  • No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case in Haiti.
  • The case in Haiti did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money raised by Oxfam Ireland supporters was spent as planned on the response to the earthquake of 2010.
 
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An update for our valued supporters

A note from Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive

The stories of sexual misconduct unfolding in the media are appalling and they have personally rocked me and everyone at Oxfam Ireland. 

The behaviour of some staff employed by Oxfam Great Britain in Haiti in 2011 and in Chad in 2006 was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff. 

We want to make it very clear - we completely condemn any form of abuse against the people we work to protect and support. We feel deep shame in the behaviour of those who failed to uphold our values, values I know that you, our supporters, share. 

I feel great responsibility in the trust that you place in us and I know that this awful situation may have damaged that. We promise to continue to be open and transparent and rebuild any trust lost. We are also absolutely committed to ensuring that we continue to learn and improve as an organisation.  

No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in these cases and they did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money you helped to raise for Haiti was spent as planned on the relief response to the 2010 earthquake.

We have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct and will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve.

It is my priority to ensure that our staff, volunteers and the people we work for are safe and valued and we have several safeguarding policies in operation to prevent harassment and abuse, including a prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse policy. Staff and volunteers are encouraged to raise any concerns they may have without reprisal and we have a robust whistleblowing policy in place.  

I want to assure you that this incident does not represent Oxfam or what we stand for. The deplorable actions of a small number of people will not stop the vital work against poverty and injustice worldwide that you contribute to everyday.

Together, I am confident that we will overcome this challenge and we remain grateful for your commitment to our work on behalf of the world’s poorest people. 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support,

Jim Clarken
Chief Executive
Oxfam Ireland

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The daily struggle to survive hunger

Millions of people wake up every day to a living nightmare – a devastating combination of conflict and drought has left them on the brink of starvation.

Across East Africa, some 20 million people – that’s more than three times the population of the island of Ireland – are facing severe hunger. In South Sudan alone, around 6 million people are living in extreme hunger due to a brutal civil war, which is now in its fourth year. The violence has forced 3.5 million people from their homes and has decimated food production. If the fighting doesn’t stop, the situation will only get worse.

Not knowing where your next meal is coming from must be a terrifying prospect for the men, women and children who live this nightmare every day. But Oxfam is there, providing life-saving clean water and food to those in desperate need.

In Somaliland, 30-year-old Faria and her young family found themselves in a dire situation. Their livestock of 600 goats and 40 camels was almost wiped out because of drought. With just 10 goats left, Faria, her husband and their six children moved to Karasharka refugee camp where they were given the water and food they urgently needed.

“We moved because of lack of food and water,” says Faria, who is seven months pregnant. “We used to live in the rural area and all our animals perished.

“We were starving and had no one to help… Oxfam came to our rescue. We received both food and water and started cooking.”

Faria with Abdi, one of her six children. Photo Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

Faria and her young family found themselves on the brink of starvation, but they survived. Sadly, there are millions of other young families across the world who continue to live this daily nightmare. The drought which has struck Somaliland is also the main driver of the hunger crises in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, while conflict has left an estimated 2.5 million people in Nigeria without enough food to eat. Elsewhere, violence has also been plaguing Yemen where as many as 17 million people are in desperate need of food.

Oxfam is on the ground, helping communities in hunger-ravaged countries, providing families with food, clean, safe drinking water and sanitation.

But to save lives, we need to do more – and we need to act fast.

Donate now

Dirty water – A killer claiming the lives of 1,000 children every day

For us, it’s as simple as turning on a tap. Yet for millions of people around the world, clean water is beyond their reach.

For them, there’s no sink to fill, no toilet to flush – and they are dying needlessly every day.

Across the globe, it’s estimated that almost 850 million people have no access to clean, safe drinking water, while 2.3 billion are living without basic sanitation. And almost 1,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea each day due to drinking contaminated water.

In countries like Niger, more than half of the population has no access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to often fatal waterborne diseases. But Oxfam is there, providing clean, safe water and sanitation to communities as well as health centres treating the sick.

Dirty water could have claimed the life of two-year-old Fati.

 

Binta Boukary and her two-year-old daughter Fati (Fatima) in Dadaga Village, Ouallum Province, Niger. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith
 
Fati’s mother Binta said: “She had terrible stomach pains, fever… I was so worried; I couldn’t even sleep at night.”

Her little girl was rushed to hospital, where she stayed for 10 days. Even after she was released, she had to attend her local health centre a number of times before she recovered completely.

“When she [Fati] was sick, we were given medicines, special food, Aquatabs [water purification tabs] and the hygiene kit, soap etc,” said Binta. “This stuff was not available before.

“Today my little girl is well! She’s eating well, and can even eat the same as everyone else, a little millet porridge, some fruit, everything she’s given!”

Binta has been trained in hygiene and nutrition, and now works as a community health leader for Oxfam so that she can help other sick children.

€4/£3 a month from you for a year could provide safe water to a community health centre like the one where Fati was treated. Or €15/£10 can provide 7 people with safe drinking water during an emergency.

Your support could save the lives of other children like Fati. Please give what you can.

Thank you.

Donate now

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Rohingya Crisis

As the year draws to a close, the traumatic events of 2017 are still very raw for the Rohingya people. Hundreds and thousands of them have fled to Bangladesh since the summer, many wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Their journeys from Myanmar were laden with misery and terror. Refugees witnessed pain and suffering on a massive scale – nightmares they will relive for many years to come. They spoke of rape and sexual violence, of young children being maimed and abused. They fled landmines and bullets and saw their loved ones die in cold blood.

By the end of November, the number of refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh had passed 836,000. Living in overcrowded camps with overflowing latrines and contaminated water, they face heavy rains and the 2018 cyclone season which threatens to wash away shelters and spread water-borne diseases.

Oxfam is on the ground providing safe drinking water, food and other essentials, and is ramping up its work before cyclone season hits.

In the meantime, the voices of those who have fled Myanmar are being heard – and their stories are harrowing.

Razida* (35) carries her 10-month-old son Anisul* through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

“They burned my home and shot my husband dead,” said Razida* who spent six days walking to Bangladesh with her eight children. “The women and children ran away – we were safe, but the attackers surrounded the men and killed them so they couldn’t bring us anything. We had to even borrow money to cross the border.

"I left with all my children, I had to leave. How can I feel anything at all now? I’ve got shelter but no clean water and nowhere to shower. My children are sick and I am sick from worrying."

Fatima takes a rest in Dhokin Para school in Shah Puri Dwip after crossing over from Myanmar by boat two nights ago with her husband and young son. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

When Fatima’s house was burned down, she, her husband and their young son fled for their lives. Fatima was heavily pregnant when the family made their escape – but the lengthy journey was an ordeal for the expectant mother.

“Our house was burned down so we ran and we hid from village to village,” she explained. “I’m eight months pregnant and my feet are swollen. Yesterday when I arrived, I was in a bad condition. The locals fed me and gave me a wash.”

Elsewhere, others spoke of the horrific scenes they witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Setara* (47) with her daughter Nur*. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Setara (47), who made the journey with her parents and seven of her children, said: “We had to walk for three days without food. My girl was almost dying, I thought she would die on the way. We passed so many dead bodies on the way.”

“When I left I only had my children and the clothes on my back,” added Setara, who also revealed how her eldest son had been beaten and had disappeared.

These are the voices of just some of the Rohingya people who have had to flee unimaginable violence in recent months. This new year must offer these refugees a sense of security and hope for the future.

Please give what you can to help mothers like Razida*, Fatima* and Setara* and the families they will do anything to protect.

Thank you.

The World’s Rainy Day Fund

Right now, across the world, millions of people are in desperate need due to a deadly combination of conflict and drought. It seems unimaginable that it could happen in 2017 – but one in nine people don’t have enough food to eat. 

We are there. We are currently on the ground helping people facing starvation in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. 

Photo: Ilvy Njiokiktjien/Oxfam

These twins – a boy and a girl – were born in Zimbabwe, which last year experienced its worst drought in 35 years. Their mother Judy (36) fears for their future but is holding onto hope. Along with our partners in southern Africa we are working to ensure everyone has access to nutritious food and sustainable food sources – and we’re providing water and sanitation to people affected by the drought too. 

We want to make sure that families like Judy’s always have enough to eat and clean water to drink because these essentials aren’t just for some people, they’re for everyone. 

Our World’s Rainy Day Fund helps brighten the outlook for people in poverty. 

One jar of paracetamol for 24,000 people - it just doesn't add up

I recently returned from a trip to Malawi, my second visit to the country with Oxfam Ireland. Like citizens everywhere, Malawians have a right to good healthcare. Sadly, this isn’t the case. An unfair tax system means that the nation’s medical facilities are overburdened – and even though Malawi has some of the best health policies in the world, ill-managed public funds means they can’t be put into practice.
 
(Top-Left) Maria Gilasiano with her baby daughter outside Phimbi Health Centre. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Top-Right)  Liness Pensulo and her baby daughter. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Bottom-Left) Disability Committee member Peter Simoni. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Bottom-Right) Clockwise from left: James Afuwa, Medical Assistant for Phimbi Health Centre; Niamh Ní Ruairc of Oxfam Ireland; Bettie Chumbu, DCT Project Officer; Alex Chiphathi , Monitor of Phimbi Radio Listening Club; Asima Stambuli, Ward Councillor for Utale Ward, and Zione Mayaya, DCT Project Coordinator. Photo: Mathias Kafunda 
 
During my trip I visited Phimbi Health Centre in Phimbi, Balaka South. It was originally built to serve a population of 10,000 but now facilitates at least 24,000. When I visited, there was just one container of paracetamol in the drugs cabinet. I was also shown the maternity ward’s four beds – that’s four beds for 200 births every month. And while the staff do their best, they too are struggling due to a lack of resources. A shortage of manpower doesn’t help – the centre should have 60 staff members but poor funding has seen that number cut to 30.
 
Over a small sink in the maternity ward a sign which reads ‘Sambani mmanja pano’ translates as ‘Wash your hands’. But there is no water, no drinkable water, at least. A borehole outside the centre was dug between two septic tanks. As you can imagine, that water isn’t safe to drink. Although the health centre doesn’t use the water, people living in the local community do – leaving them exposed to a whole host of diseases. Those who want clean water have to travel 2km to collect it. That means that women, despite being exhausted and still suffering the pain of childbirth, have to make a 4km-round trip on foot just to clean themselves.
 
Another lifeline pulled from the centre due to a lack of resources is an ambulance. Its vehicle was taken by the district hospital – which too was hit by underfunding – and was never replaced. These days, if the health centre can’t deal with a patient’s condition, the ambulance must be called from the District Hospital of Balaka, a two-and-a-half hour drive away. This has led to women giving birth – sometimes unaided – in the back of an ambulance as they are transferred to hospital.
 
I met one woman who found herself in that situation. Maria Gilasiano gave birth in the back of an ambulance as it made its way to the district hospital. She was being transferred due to complications during labour and ended up delivering her baby herself during the journey. Also in the ambulance at the time was Peter Simoni, a member of the local Disability Committee. Amid the chaos of the birth, Maria and Peter’s bloods got mixed – and while it was not a danger to life, it shows that a lack of resources can pose serious hygiene risks. 
 
Of course, these are risks that Peter knows all too well. There is no wheelchair ramp at the health centre so when he visits, he is forced to crawl on his hands and knees to get into the building – and the toilets, thereby exposing him to potentially dangerous bacteria and germs.
 
Those living in the community also face drugs shortages. Liness Pensulo, another woman I spoke to, couldn’t get malaria tablets for her young son as they weren’t available at the health centre at the time. Instead, she had to travel to a private chemist where she had to pay significantly more. Worse still, she didn’t get proper instructions on how to administer the drugs to her child. The potential consequences of incorrect dosages can be fatal. 
 
Every day, across the world, lives are put at risk due to unfair tax systems. In Malawi, Oxfam Ireland is working with our partner Development Communications Trust (DCT) to help marginalised communities get access to the healthcare they deserve.
 
Niamh Ní Ruairc is Programme Quality Officer with Oxfam Ireland
 

Hope in a year of unprecedented disaster

This year has been one of unprecedented disasters. From drought to famine, hurricanes to war, the global news cycle has been dominated by heart-breaking stories of people caught up in unimaginable situations.
 
But in the midst of all this, our life-saving and life-changing work is providing hope thanks to the ongoing generosity of our supporters and the Irish government. 
 
Right now, we’re providing clean water, sanitation and shelter to thousands of Rohingya people who have fled to Bangladesh. Over 400,000 people have crossed the border from Myanmar in the last four weeks, doubling the number of people seeking refuge in the south east of the country. 
 
Homeless and hungry, people are arriving physically and emotionally traumatised, in desperate need of essentials like water and food and a place to lay their heads. Women, children, older people and those with disabilities are especially vulnerable. And the situation is even more desperate due to recent heavy rains in Bangladesh, with some of the settlements on hillsides and roads at risk from mudslides. 
 
(Top) Dilenia Florimón together with her daughter in the middle of what remained of her house, two days after Hurricane Irma struck the community of Boba in the province of María Trinidad Sánchez, Dominican Republic. Photo: Fran Afonso / Oxfam. (Bottom-left) Litter along the beach of Corniers Plage near Cap Haitien, the morning after Hurricane Irma hit. Photo: Jean Bernard Simmonet. (Bottom-right) A powerful wave crashes into the already-flooded Vevado district of Havana during Hurricane Irma. Photo: Erislandys Igarza / Oxfam.
 
Elsewhere, in the Caribbean, the clean-up after Hurricane Irma – one of the most powerful storms in a decade – was hampered by the onslaught of Hurricane Maria, which followed when many of the islands were still reeling from Irma. The devastation wreaked by Irma claimed the lives of 38 people across the Caribbean islands, with ten deaths in Cuba alone. The islands’ tourism, energy and agricultural sectors have been severely impacted, with the northern coast and the eastern and central regions bearing the brunt. 
 
In all, around two million Cubans had to leave their homes and 50,000 seek refuge at evacuation centres. Many people, whose livelihoods have been disrupted, have since returned to their homes to find them destroyed. Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where Oxfam is on the ground, were also badly hit by flooding and high winds. 
 
(Left) Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers remove rubble and debris from a flattened building in search of survivors after a powerful quake in Mexico City.Photo: Alfredo strella/AFP/Getty Images. (Right) At least 230 people total have been killed across the region, and rescue crews continue to search for survivors. Photo: Karl Byrnison/Oxfam México
 
Tragically, this appalling humanitarian disaster was quickly followed by another when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City and the neighbouring state of Morelos. This was the second earthquake to hit the country in less than two weeks. Over 230 men, women and children have been killed, hundreds more have been injured and buildings, including hospitals and schools, have been reduced to rubble.
 
(Left) Mother-of-four Tahrir (25) holds her baby in Padding, in Jonglei, South Sudan. Tahrir, who lives with her husband, mother-in-law and children, used to have a farm and cattle. Then the war started and her cows were stolen. She says: “I can’t buy food. Now we survive on what we find in the wild.” Photo: Albert González Farran/Oxfam. (Right) These mothers and children are part of a large group of refugees who fled violence in their villages in recent months. More than 2.6 million people in Nigeria, including 1.5 million children, fled their homes for safety. Now they find themselves facing new dangers such as hunger and malnutrition. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam.
 
These terrible crises are quite rightly dominating the headlines. However, a disaster of epic proportions continues to unfold in the background. Across northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, 30 million people are facing starvation. The primary driver of these hunger crises is conflict, although in Somalia it is drought. In February, famine was declared in South Sudan and while it has since been halted, people are still living on the brink. 
 
So far 2017 has brought terrible pain to many people. But we are there to help in this time of need. Oxfam is on the ground in all of the countries mentioned above as well as in countless more. 
 
When emergency strikes, we’re there, assessing the damage and providing what’s needed most. Whether it’s clean water and toilets to prevent the spread of deadly diseases or other essentials like food, shelter or information, we make sure people hit by disaster are safe, protected and have dignity. 
 
We couldn’t do this without you and we need your help now more than ever. Let’s bring hope to even more people.
 
Please give what you can, today:
 
 
Thank you. 
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Helping a Yemeni village fight hunger

Yemen is on the brink of famine after two years of devastating conflict. So far thousands of people have been killed and over 3 million forced to flee their homes. More than half of the country is without enough to eat. We are delivering emergency aid but we urgently need your help to do more.

We drive west through steep rocky terrain, dotted with ancient mountain-top fortresses studded with tall circular towers of rough-hewn stone. Rural Yemen is serene, isolated and medieval. We are heading from Oxfam’s emergency humanitarian office in Khamer, in the northern tribal heartland of Amran governorate, to Othman village on its western edge. 

Othman’s 200 families are battling hunger, like many others across Yemen.

Othman village, in Yemen’s Amran district, where 200 families are fighting hunger. Credit: Mohammed Farah Adam/Oxfam

A perilous drive

The drive is nerve-wracking. Our driver Abdullah says pointedly he has been driving for 10 years around these hairpin turns and vertical cliff-face drops. I think he’s noticed how scared I am.
We wave to some men and women working the tiny cultivated terraces, and to curious child shepherds moving goats and sheep through the sun-baked mountains. 
 
We lose mobile phone reception and modern-day communication. After one and a half hours of a perilous ride over 27 kilometres, we descend into a valley dotted with fields of sorghum (a type of cereal), and to a hamlet of scattered stone dwellings in the cliffs high above the valley floor. 
 
This is Othman village.

Food is scarce

Othman’s people eke out life in stricken conditions. Food is mostly home-made bread and a boiled wild plant known locally as Cissus or Hallas. We’re here to measure how Oxfam’s cash assistance project of €81/£76 per month for each extremely poor family has helped put food on their tables and avert starvation.
 
Boiled, the wild plant Cissus – or Hallas as it is locally known – is the main food along with home-made bread that people eat in Osman village. Credit: Mohammed Farah Adam/Oxfam
 
There were 80 severely malnourished children in Othman. Oxfam set up cash assistance projects around the Khamer district, with other agencies, to buttress their battle against starvation. The children got health treatment from our partners, while Oxfam gave cash to the most desperate of the families here. We also ran a programme to raise their awareness about malnutrition and good hygiene. 

No teachers for the schools

At Othman school, a frail old man whirls black prayer beads through his fingers, leaning against the wall of a classroom. The school rooms are now only used for community meetings. There are no teachers in Othman. 
 
The village announcer shouts out over the loudspeaker: “Oxfam is here to monitor the conditions of the malnourished children.” Curious folk join us. Parents have dressed their children, who before had been on the brink of death, in their very best clothes. They seem well on the mend. Over the four-month duration of our cash assistance project in Othman we’ve reduced malnutrition by 62%.
 
Though pale, these children are no longer on the verge of starvation.

You’ve saved our lives

Nine-month-old Mohamed Amin, the youngest of five siblings and still tiny, is cradled by his father. He has certainly been saved from an early unnecessary death, by a small assistance.
 
Crammed into a classroom, we ask about Oxfam’s work. How many times do you eat a day? How is the baby’s condition? What do you do for a living? And so on.
 
Rabee Qassem holds his young daughter while worrying for her future. He's one of thousands that used to receive Oxfam's cash assistance in Amran governorate. Credit: Mohammed Farah Adam/Oxfam
 
Children smirk at my Arabic as their parents take turn in answering. Others nod along.
 
“Your assistance saves our lives,” says Rabee Qassem, holding his young daughter.

The effects of war

Many of these villagers used to work on small farm plots along the valley but their incomes were so meagre they could no longer afford their essential needs when the price of basic commodities skyrocketed due to the conflict and the de-facto blockade of Yemen.  
 
Since the war exploded open in March 2015, more than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed and 17 million people – 60 percent of the population – do not now have enough to eat. More than 7 million of them are a step away from famine. 
 
As they were here in Othman. 

Hope for peace

I ask the mother of 10-month-old Marwan about her hopes. She takes a deep breath, a moment of silence as she gathers her thoughts, and tears well up. “Peace! My only hope is peace,” she says. Others nod. 
 
At the end of our meeting, I had to announce the news. “We have run out of money to continue the cash assistance.” 
 
Their banter dies down to silence. “But why? Our situation is still miserable,” Mohamed Amin’s father says. 
 
“The cash assistance project was funded by donors for only a specific period of time, which has come to an end. We are still looking for more donor funds but we haven’t secured any yet,” I explain. “We know your situation and we are doing our best.” 
 
“Thank you. God will help,” says the old man with the beads.
 
An Oxfam water distribution point. Photo: Moayed Al.Shaibani/Oxfam
 
It is a wretched time. Our programme was funded for four-months and – although this was made clear at the start – the people of Othman are dismayed now and afraid. It’s my job to start winding-down this part of our work now that we only have a month left of funding toward it. 
 
We hoped to maintain it. We tried. It saved their lives. But the cruel truth is that earlier this year, the big aid donors made the tough decision to triage their money only to governorates that were at “level 4” emergency status – that is, one level below famine. 
 
Although still itself in an emergency situation as a village, Othman is part of a governorate – Amran – that is classified overall as “level 3”. Therefore, there are other governorates which are, overall, in worse straits. 
 
Othman no longer makes the cut. 
 
This is exactly what we mean when we say Yemen is an “overwhelming” crisis. Our unconditional cash transfer projects are immediate life-savers; last year Oxfam ran cash transfer projects worth nearly €3.3 million/£3 million, to more than 7,100 families in Yemen (the Othman project cost about €27k/£25k, by way of example). 
 
But these are typically short-term and irregular projects, and with the constant funding pressure we’re forced to keep tightening our criteria of people we can help to only the most desperate.

Stand with Yemen

Over the last two years, Oxfam has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 130,000 people in the most dire humanitarian needs in Khamer and in three other neighbouring districts. We enable vulnerable communities to access water through the rehabilitation of rural and urban water networks. 
 
We’ve invested in rain-water harvesting, repaired water networks, and provided fuel, sanitation services, solid waste management and hygiene promotion. We’ve given out winter clothes to families living in open displacement camps, helping their children to survive freezing weather. 
 
With heavy hearts, we leave Othman and its children and their parents.
 
Oxfam is still running a cholera response project there, including distributing hygiene kits, but our cash assistance work in Othman is done – at least for now – decided for us, because there are “worse” priorities elsewhere.
 
I hope Othman’s people survive. I hope they can eventually thrive. I hope that donors can find more funding and expand the humanitarian work to the scale it needs to be, including back into the pockets of desperation like Othman. 
 
I hope Yemen can achieve peace. 

What you can do now

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