As we move into 2015, Ben Phillips takes a month-by-month review of 2014 to see how Oxfam responded to different emergencies throughout the year.
2014 has been a challenging year. The Ebola crisis in West Africa has taken the whole sector into a near unprecedented emergency; in South Sudan conflict and the risk of famine continues; and the Middle East has faced multiple crises with the summer conflict in Gaza, increased displacement in Iraq and the ongoing plight of Syrians both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries. In addition, 2014 saw multiple extreme weather events including flooding in Pakistan and India, drought in Central America and another typhoon in the Philippines.
Below you can see what we did each month in response to crisis.
As the New Year breaks we are just declaring South Sudan a Category 2 emergency, while preparing a team to assess the situation in Central African Republic which is being called the ‘worst humanitarian disaster in the world‘. We are also already supporting 470,000 people in the Philippines, and running our ‘winterisation programme’ distributing warm clothing, blankets, stoves and fuel for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. On 27 January, the Bolivian Government declares a state of emergency following floods, and we start
helping partners prepare relief items.
The South Sudan crisis is becoming regional and we are supporting refugees in Uganda and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia we are also continuing to support Somali refugees who have been in Dolo Ado on the other side of the country since the famine in 2011/12. We join other agencies to warn of an impending food crisis in Mali – the result of poor harvests and armed conflict.
In 2014 we supported about 5.5 million people in crisis.
By mid-February we are trucking water to 20,000 people in Bangui, CAR, and begin a response to flooding in Zimbabwe (Masvingo province) following torrential rains.
We achieve a success in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – getting the first ever grant ($5 million) from the World Food Programme (WFP) – to give cash rather than food to people living in camps, to enable them to use local markets to buy their own food. Our team in Damascus has become established and we are trucking water to at least 500,000 people (including the residents of Yarmouk camp) although lack of access means we cannot verify numbers. The race against time to get equipment into place across South Sudan before the rainy season
gets going in earnest.
We fly four planeloads of equipment into South Sudan from the UK – the last before the rains hit. Food insecurity grows in parts of Haiti and we begin responding in a small way with food vouchers and cash for work. Otherwise our work generally continues across all the other emergencies listed above.
We launch our appeal for South Sudan in the UK, and begin work on a third refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia. By now we are giving food, cash, and vouchers to 117,000 people affected by hunger in Mali. We go to assess the situation in Ukraine (where we did not end up responding), and our team in Afghanistan helps 400 families made homeless after a mega landslide in Badakhshan buries a whole village. We also begin to give tangible support to people still suffering after last year’s hurricane in Mexico – food, water tanks, hygiene kits. By now we
have helped 730,000 people in the Philippines. And we report back from our work in two locations in Myanmar where people are affected by intercommunal violence. Oxfam GB give some money to Oxfam Italy to support people affected by flooding in Bosnia.
By now we have helped 261,000 people in South Sudan, including airdropping food into Jonglei which was cut off by rains. A fuel crisis in Yemen threatens our work, as well as the livelihoods of farmers. We keep up our support to homeless people in Mexico as heavy rains make things worse for them. An assessment team goes into North Iraq to look at the needs of homeless people; 500,000 people leave their homes in northern Pakistan to escape govt fighting; cholera begins spreading again in Haiti, and the first Ebola cases begin to be noticed in
South Sudan is three years old, but the conflict and the rains are making life really miserable. We continue our work in north Mali, trying to support 200,000 in the Gao region. The Pakistan Government gives us permission to work in the north, where we make plans to support 50,000 people with a public health package, while trucking in short-term emergency water supplies. We begin ‘recovery’ activities in the Philippines, helping people to rebuild their former, or alternative, livelihoods. We also start distributing leaflets in Sierra
Leone warning people about the risks of Ebola. The Israeli bombardment of Gaza begins, displacing 250,000 people, and our programme gets quickly underway to help 80,000 of these.
By mid-August we’ve reached 25,000 people in Juba with cholera prevention activities in addition to all the other work going on around South Sudan. Mark Goldring visits the camps which gives the situation some much-needed media coverage. Our programme manager in Erbil starts to plan work in Iraq through local organisations (distributing water bottles as a first activity). El Nino drought effects are starting to be reported across Central America and Colombia – we respond in Colombia while assessing/monitoring in Guatemala and Honduras.
A Disasters Emergency Committee appeal is launched for Gaza, where our programme reaches nearly 420,000 people largely through partners. We make the Ebola crisis a Category 2 emergency.
We provided a third of Gaza’s population with water and food during the summer conflict
By now we have supported 100,000 South Sudanese refugees in the camps in Gambella Ethiopia with our water treatment plant. Back inside South Sudan, harvests come in and ‘famine’ is not declared, although it remains a grim probability for 2015. We get brilliant feedback over outstanding work in Gaza, by communities, partners, authorities and donors. In Sierra Leone we begin a health promotion campaign using posters and jingles to help prevent the spread of Ebola. The monsoon rains come to Bangladesh and Pakistan – we start responding in Pakistan to
47,000 people. In Yemen we do a rapid cash distribution to people made homeless by fighting around Amran, and warn the Friends of Yemen donor conference in New York that a massive extra effort is needed to pull Yemen onto a path to a better future. Our drought response in Colombia is helping 33,000 people.
Seemingly endless efforts to get South Sudan covered by media are only sporadically successful – the rains end, and conflict heats up again. Meanwhile Ebola marches up the agenda with the UN’s 60-day deadline – it becomes Oxfam’s top priority with an overarching ‘Prevention is better than Cure’ message. In Iraq we have funded water trucking services, provided water storage facilities, and fuel to water treatment plants in several locations, and are thinking about how we expand to Baghdad. The situation in DRC suddenly gets
worse again with new attacks/massacres. Ditto in Syria, where ISIS forces are making matters even worse for Syrians inside the country. Based on population figures, we estimate that water systems built or repaired by Oxfam are providing over 1 million people in Syria with clean water (although this number cannot yet be verified).
Staff and equipment pour into Liberia and Sierra Leone for our Category 1 Ebola response. We start to reach newly displaced people in pockets of North Kivu (DRC) where we can get access, and distribute contingency supplies to people made homeless by rain and landslides in Haiti. We build up the core team in Iraq to increase our programme size, and plan a winterisation programme for people living in roofless, ruined houses.
Oxfam has played a key role in Ebola prevention
We start responding to serious flooding in Gaza city, and increase our policy work on the Syria crisis as WFP says it can no longer afford to feed people. We join others calling for more support to WFP, and the organisation does receive enough funds to continue feeding people through December. A year after Typhoon Haiyan, Oxfam teams begin responding in three new areas after Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines – although its impact is much less damaging thanks partly to mass evacuations. Our work in the Ebola crisis tops 1 million
Despite a stretched humanitarian system, in 2014 Oxfam, our partners and especially the affected communities achieved a lot. Thanks to you all for helping this to happen.
- Read blogs and download papers on the issue of Ebola
- Oxfam’s paper From Crisis to Catastrophe: South Sudan’s man-made crisis- and how the world must act now to prevent catastrophe in 2015
Pictures used on this page
Top photo: Public health conditions in Gaza reached crisis point following the summer bombardment. Credit: Iyad al Baba/Oxfam
- January: Chanley and her father, in their newly repaired boat in the Philippines. We ran a programme to repair boats so restore people’s fishing livelihoods. Credit: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam
- February: A baby sleeps in one of the tents provided in camps for those displaced by the conflict in South Sudan. Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam
- March: Children smile for the camera in DRC. Credit: Andrew Davies/Oxfam
- April: Women gather to collect water from an Oxfam water point in South Sudan. Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam
- May: A woman carries a sack of food in the Malakal refugee camp, South Sudan. Credit: Simon Rawles/Oxfam
- June: An aerial view of Malakal refugee camp, South Sudan Credit: Simon Rawles/Oxfam
- July: Fishing families living in the path of typhoon Haiyan lost boats, nets, and tools. Oxfam established boat repair stations and employed over 2000 people to participate in the process of boat rebuilding and repairs under the supervision of a fibreglass boat expert and skilled carpenter. Photo: Simon Roberts/Oxfam
- August: A young girl drinks water from an Oxfam tap stand in Gaza. Credit: Iyad Al-Baba/Oxfam
- September: Esther washes her hands in Tengbeh Town, Sierra Leone, with the help of Alima an Oxfam Community Health Worker. Credit: Will Wintercross/Oxfam
- October: Agnes is a Community Health Volunteer who are the first line of defence in the battle against Ebola in Liberia. She used to get involved in efforts to deal with violence against women but now six days a week she does Ebola prevention visiting 20 homes a day. Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
- November: Community Health Volunteers in Monrovia, Liberia, helping to stop the spread of Ebola. Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
- December: Oxfam quarantine kits are put together for people living in quarantined areas of Sierra Leone. Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
Author: Benjamin Phillips
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.