The Future is Equal

Archives for September 8, 2017

Hurricane Irma: ferocious storm wreaks havoc across Caribbean

The strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic has caused widespread damage in the already vulnerable islands of the Caribbean, with as many as three million people expected to be affected by the disaster in Haiti alone.

Oxfam staff on the ground in Haiti have reported damage to water and sanitation facilities across the country, increasing the risk of the spread of diseases like cholera.

The Haitian government has prepared 793 temporary shelters across seven departments and, together with Oxfam and other agencies, is trying to move as many people as possible away from the coast.

Oxfam’s team is assisting with the evacuation in Cap Haitien – Haiti’s second largest city, with a population of 280,000 – as people in coastal areas flee inland to schools and public buildings in preparation for the worst of Hurricane Irma today and tomorrow.

Oxfam spokesperson Tania Escamilla said although the mood was calm, the potential for destruction was concerning with so many people still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Matthew.

“I get the sense that people here are used to hurricanes and no one seems frantically scared, but I’ve heard from many that some areas of the country haven’t even fully recovered from Hurricane Matthew last year – and now they’re facing this,” Escamilla said.

“We fear that half-a-million people could be affected even in the best-case scenario – or as many as 3 million in the worst”.

The Oxfam team in Cap Haitien is already preparing to mount emergency repairs to water and sanitation facilities, under the DINEPA division of the Ministry of Public Works. “My engineering and humanitarian colleagues tell me that although cholera cases are considered low and ‘under control’, the disease remains their biggest concern should the storm wreck infrastructure,” she said.

Escamilla said Cap Haitien has a combination of well-established houses with slums in some areas including in the coast. “The damage that could likely happen from the winds and storm surge would be devastating for a large part of this city and surrounding towns.”

“While many are moving, there are quite a few people however who have decided not to evacuate but to stay put instead, fearing to lose their belongings and home,” she said last night.

Oxfam New Zealand humanitarian manager Clive Phillips said Haiti’s geography and environment – and poverty – made people extremely vulnerable to further devastation from flooding and landslides. “This is a region that is very susceptible to disasters like this, but the scale of Irma cannot be understated. Alongside the high levels of poverty in the country, the potential for catastrophe in this already vulnerable region is high.

“Oxfam will be keeping a close eye on the situation and we are ready to respond with emergency aid immediately after the storm passes.”

In Haiti, Oxfam has moved emergency aid into five locations across the country, three of which are in northern areas that will be the most exposed to the hurricane’s impact. Already four teams, made up of five or more specialists in emergencies, have been mobilised in Cap-Haitien, Ouanaminthe, Anse-Rouge and Gonaives. Oxfam also has nine cholera response teams now prepared to deploy.

Oxfam teams in Dominican Republic and Cuba are also preparing to respond. Oxfam has worked in the Caribbean region for over 30 years and has expert teams in providing safe water and carrying out sanitation and hygiene work for those people most vulnerable after an emergency strikes.

Donations to Oxfam’s Hurricane Irma appeal can be made online at or by calling 0800 600 700.

Oxfam responds to urgent needs of people fleeing Myanmar conflict to Bangladesh

Oxfam is deeply concerned about the plight of more than 160,000 civilians who have crossed the border into Bangladesh, and countless others caught up in the conflict in Rakhine State, Myanmar resulting in a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Lan Mercado, Oxfam in Asia Regional Director, said:

“Every day, thousands of people are taking the dangerous journey across the border, and due to access restrictions in northern Rakhine, it is unknown how many more are missing or trapped. Women, children, older people and persons with disabilities are among those taking shelter in the two South-Eastern districts of Cox’s Bazaar and the Bandarban.

They are facing extreme difficulties with many living without protection and under open skies. They have little or no access to clean drinking water, food supplies, sanitation facilities, and other basic needs.

A significant number were wounded while crossing the border, are physically and emotionally traumatized, and are in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

In Myanmar, humanitarian operations in Rakhine State have been severely disrupted through administrative restrictions, security constraints, and heightened tensions. While ongoing humanitarian operations for displaced people in Central Rakhine are now resuming, humanitarian access for people affected by conflict in northern Rakhine is severely restricted.

In Bangladesh, Oxfam has started to respond to the immediate needs of the people fleeing conflict by working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  We are providing containers for clean drinking water, portable toilets and sanitation facilities, plastic sheets, and other essential Non-Food Items (NFIs).

“Oxfam calls on all authorities to guarantee humanitarian access to all civilians and ensure their protection from ongoing conflict. There is an urgent need to scale up humanitarian assistance for the people. We recognize the efforts of the Bangladesh government in providing access for the people fleeing the conflict in Myanmar and responding to the urgent humanitarians needs.  We urge the Bangladesh government to extend free and unimpeded access to all humanitarian agencies willing and able to deliver essential life-saving assistance to Cox’ Bazaar and Bandarban districts,” said Mercado.

In Myanmar, Oxfam is ready to provide life-saving relief to people, and we call on the authorities to guarantee the safety and security of humanitarian workers and for an immediate cessation of violence and conflict. Oxfam also underlines that special attention must be paid to the needs of women and girls. The protection, privacy, health, and hygiene needs of women, girls and nursing mothers must be met and measures must be taken to prevent any form of sexual or gender based violence.