The Future is Equal

Archives for May 24, 2017

“I had never seen anything like this” – Oxfam staffer in South Sudan

A civil war broke out in the African nation of South Sudan at the end of 2013, and since then, almost one third of people have been forced to flee their homes. The brutal and ongoing violence has caused wide-spread hunger. Millions are without access to food, and 100,000 are in a state of famine.

Corrie Sissons, from England, is Oxfam’s Food Security Coordinator based in South Sudan.

She explains, in a Gloucestershire Live article, why money for humanitarian aid is so desperately needed.

“Having worked on quite a few humanitarian emergencies you try to prepare yourself, but I had never seen anything like this. I visited a makeshift camp in Bojani, a remote village on the edge of the famine zone, which is surrounded by swampland and the closest people could get to safety in an area plagued by fighting. The tragedy of the conflict in South Sudan is that it is man-made. Many vulnerable people, who are out of reach of life-saving assistance due to the conflict, are paying the ultimate price.

People in South Sudan have visibly been pushed to the brink, surviving on what they can find to eat in the swamps. As is so often in a crisis, women and children are the worst affected. Many had seen their homes destroyed and crops burnt by fighters, before enduring days of wading through inhospitable swamps in a desperate attempt to find food for their children.

My team and I saw a trickle of people arriving throughout the day, emerging from the swamp with their clothes in tatters, filthy and without their shoes, dragging whatever possessions they could carry in balls of tarpaulin. With nothing to eat or drink on their journey but swamp water, people were sick and exhausted and looking traumatised.

Most of the children we saw looked severely malnourished and had no energy or spark, none of the usual cheeky smiles and laughter you get from small children, even in the most extreme situations. Some elderly people had made it to the camp but were so weak they were lying down and not able to move or even speak.

There was literally nothing to eat. No-one knew where the closest place was to buy food or essential items. No-one felt safe trying to find a market or someone selling food. I looked into people’s makeshift shelters and there were no food supplies at all. We had brought some beans and cooking oil from Juba (South Sudan’s capital), and salt, whatever we could get on the plane we had chartered.

All that the women had to prepare were water lily roots. Even though these plants which have limited nutritional value, were giving some of the children diarrhoea – because their stomachs couldn’t digest them – there was a sense that it gave the women a way of coping with the crisis, a sense of community. The women were preparing the lily roots together; collecting the bulbs, peeling and grinding them so that they and their children had something to physically eat.

I hadn’t expected it to be so quiet. None of the children or babies seemed to be crying. Some of the mothers with small babies told me they were no longer able to breast-feed. I found it really difficult knowing that at the end of the day I would get a meal, that the life I lead means I will probably never have to experience not knowing where my next meal would come from. And I felt embarrassed that we live in world where many have plenty, whilst others are pushed to the extremes of existence and eating wild plants just to survive. I worried about the people who were too weak to leave their villages or those stranded in areas too remote or too dangerous for aid agencies to reach. The situation is far worse in areas north of where we were, but with limited access Oxfam and other the humanitarian agencies remain in fear famine could spread – and fast.

As an emergency, life-saving measure Oxfam has been using small aircraft to fly in food packages to tide people over until the next UN World Food Programme airdrop, as more and more people arrive in the area. We are using canoes to send food to people in more remote areas. We’re also looking at how we can work with traders in markets to provide the most vulnerable with cash or vouchers and support the local economy too.

If we want to stop the famine spreading further, we need to act fast and be able to access even more resources. There is no time to waste.”

With your help, we can reach more people and save more lives.

World faces unprecedented famine threat, G7 must take action

Group of Seven leaders meeting in Taormina, Sicily, this week should take the lead in fighting famine and immediately fund nearly half ($2.9 billion) of the UN’s urgent appeal to avoid catastrophic hunger and more deaths, urged Oxfam today. Without an immediate and sweeping response, this crisis will spiral out of control.

Further delay will cost more lives.

Deadly famine is already affecting 100,000 people in parts of South Sudan and threatens to extend to Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria. Widespread famine across all four countries is not yet inevitable, but G7 leaders need to act now with a massive injection of aid, backed with a forceful diplomatic push to bring an end to the long-standing conflicts that are driving this hunger crisis.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them. G7 leaders cannot walk away from Taormina without providing emergency funding and clear solutions to tackle the root causes: the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch.

“Our world of plenty today faces an unprecedented four famines. If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger.”

If each G7 government contributed its fair share to the UN’s appeal for $6.3 billion for all four countries, Oxfam estimates that this would raise almost half of the total required. These UN appeals are still only 30 percent funded across the four countries.

No G7 country has provided its fair share of funding for all four countries.

G7 commitments to food security and nutrition
In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, yet 30 million people across the four countries are now experiencing severe hunger – 10 million of whom are facing emergency and famine conditions. The number of people experiencing acute food insecurity is estimated to have risen by about 40 percent over the last two years. G7 leaders should uphold the commitments they have made on hunger and malnutrition and give more importance to crisis prevention and supporting smallholder farmers’ resilience in order to reduce needs over time.

Conflict and famine
In addition to funding the UN appeal, G7 leaders should press for immediate ceasefires and inclusive peace processes, as well as for safe access to places where aid agencies are having trouble reaching people in need. Conflict has driven millions of people from their homes and communities, cutting them off from their fields, jobs, food, and markets.

In Yemen, countries including G7 members continue to supply weapons, munitions, military equipment, technology, or logistical and financial support for military action that is in contravention of the rules of war. In South Sudan, three years of conflict have displaced more than 3.5 million people – including 2 million children. Somalia also remains an active conflict where access is limited by Al Shabaab, as well as other parties involved in the conflict. Nigeria’s conflict has spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon forcing 2.6 million people to flee and leaving nearly 11 million people in need of emergency aid.

Famine and hunger are the glaring symptoms of larger challenges that include climate, migration and inequality which must all be tackled together if progress is to be made.

Climate change is not a distant future threat: it is helping fuel a humanitarian disaster in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa.  There could be no stronger call to G7 leaders to take action on climate change than suffering on this scale. The G7 members must make it clear that they are committed to implementing the Paris Agreement. It is vital that the summit produces a clear and strong outcome on climate change action – no excuses.

When G7 leaders have chosen a symbolic place to meet in Sicily – Europe’s coast, where thousands of people have died trying to reach safety and security – it is reprehensible that they are set to overlook the suffering of refugees and migrants on their doorstep, and ignore the challenge of migration and forced displacement. Rich countries should lean into this challenge, exercise positive global leadership and compassion, and agree to concrete steps that protect the dignity and rights of people on the move.

When one in 10 people go to bed hungry every night, famine represents one extreme end of the inequality spectrum and is in itself the result of the instability which inequality helps to drive. Oxfam is calling on G7 leaders to commit to the developing a fully fledged action plan to tackle growing inequality, in line with their commitment to the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

Notes to editors

1. Download Oxfam’s latest policy report on what governments need to do to avert the threat of global famine:

2. Oxfam will be attending at the G7 summit with spokespeople for interview on the ‘four famines’, inequality, climate and migration in English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Chichewa/Nyanja and Tumbuka.

3. Oxfam will be presenting a number of stunts over the period of the summit on the themes of the 4 famines, climate and migration. The first will take place on the morning of Thursday 25 May and will be on the subject of the four famines, taking place near the International Media Centre in Giardini Naxos. Contact us for further details.

4. Oxfam can offer journalists the opportunity to visit some of our programs supporting migrants in Sicily. Contact us for further details.

5. The UN ‘four famines’ appeal was originally launched for a total of $5.6 billion  and was later revised up to $6.3 billion after the Somalia response plan was updated in earlier this month

6. There has been a rise of 40 percent in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity over the last two years according to FEWSNET:

7. Oxfam’s fair share analysis: Oxfam calculates its fair share analysis by comparing data from the UN’s Financial Tracking System (FTS) and information received from G7 members with their national income. No G7 country has provided its fair share of funding for all four nations facing famine. (The FTS website may not have been updated with recent pledges.)

According to UN figures, as of May 18, only 30 percent of the $6.3 billion needed has been received. Country by country, this means that Nigeria is only 21 percent funded; Somalia, 33 percent; South Sudan, 42 percent; and Yemen, 21 percent.

G7 leaders must commit to fund their fair share for each country, while pressing other donors to do their part, in order to prevent more people from dying of hunger. These contributions alone would mean $492 million for Nigeria, $703 million for Somalia, $764 million for South Sudan, and $964 million for Yemen.

G7 must also commit to increase aid for longer term solutions that build resilience and improve food security and nutrition, in order to prevent further crises from escalating into disasters.

Only one G7 leader (UK) has provided its fair share for Yemen, two (UK and Canada) for South Sudan, two (UK and Germany) for Somalia and two (Canada and Germany) for Nigeria.

The United States Congress commitment of $990m to address famine in the four countries is welcomed, but this must be urgently translated into aid on the ground if the impact of famines is to be reduced.

View or download Oxfam’s fair share analysis here:

8. About 30 million people are are experiencing alarming levels of hunger in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – 10 million of them are facing emergency and famine conditions. (10 million people are at IPC4 and 5, and a further 20 million people are at IPC3.)

• South Sudan: 4.9 million people dangerously hungry (IPC Phases 3-5, including 100,000 already in famine)
• Yemen: 17 million people dangerously hungry (IPC Phases 3-4)
• Somalia: 3.2 million people dangerously hungry in Somalia (IPC Phases 3-4)
• Nigeria: 4.7 million people dangerously hungry in northeast Nigeria (IPC Phases 3-5)

9. Climate change is helping to fuel a humanitarian disaster in East Africa where 13 million people are dangerously hungry and Somalia is on the brink of famine:

10. Oxfam is responding directly and with local organizations across the affected countries delivering food and other essential aid including cash so that people can buy from local markets. It is striving to ensure people have clean water to be used for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation and to fight waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. We are also helping vulnerable communities, focusing especially on women, to stay safe and access aid in these unstable circumstances.