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Emergencies headlines: Middle East North Africa

Here you can find previous headlines from the Middle East and North Africa. These headlines give updates from our work, and areas of concern, of the whole Oxfam confederation. For further information on any of Oxfam's emergency response programmes around the world please contact the Humanitarian HelpDesk in the first instance.

05 December, 2018

Yemen: The latest official figures measuring hunger levels estimate about a quarter of a million people are suffering famine conditions, but nearly 10 million more (one third of the total population) are at 'IPC 4' - the pre-famine stage - at which chronically malnourished people can succumb easily to even mild illnesses. Oxfam is working in sites across the country to help prevent famine being reached, providing safe, clean water and giving cash, while supporting people's livelihoods. We have expanded our assistance to people fleeing the port of Hudaydah by laying on additional water trucks to sites in neighbouring Hajjah, and building sanitation facilities for them. Our official request to open an office in Hudaydah governorate is still pending.

Syria: In an article specially written for World Toilet Day recently, Oxfam staff talk to Syrians about the dangers associated with going to the loo in a war zone. Its headline is: 'In Syria when nature calls you have to listen carefully and run!'. Providing safe sanitation for people displaced by conflict in Syria is a priority for Oxfam.

16 November, 2018

Gaza: The blockade of Gaza has crippled the economy over the last 11 years - GDP is down by 50% and electricity is rationed to 4 hours per day. The effect on the water supply has been catastrophic because of the limitations on when it can be pumped or treated, and overuse of wells has depleted the groundwater and caused seawater to move into the aquifer, making it increasingly unfit for drinking. We are starting work to introduce solar energy as an alternative to cable electricity, because of its potential to power the treatment plants. This will hopefully go some way to improving the quality of the water for Gaza's inhabitants, although it's early days.

24 October, 2018

Afghanistan: 2017/18 was the fifth consecutive year of poor rainfall, which compromised last year's main planting season for wheat (October-February). Estimates say the 2018 wheat harvest will be the lowest since at least 2011, and that 1.4 million people will require emergency food assistance. Oxfam's team has been giving cash and goods-in-kind, improving and increasing water supply systems, sanitation facilities, and helping run hygiene promotion sessions. We have supported 75,000 people so far.

26 September, 2018

Syria: In July this year Oxfam became the first agency to give cash instead of in-kind goods in Syria. Results from this pilot project - carried out in a collective shelter - show that money was overwhelmingly spent on food, as well as clothes and shoes, medicines, and debt repayment. It has raised a good deal of interest with other agencies in giving cash, and we will be doing more to promote cash as a way not only to meet people's basic needs but to help them prevent further deterioration of their livelihoods.

12 September, 2018

Syria: Over the course of Syria's seven-year war, the UN has described Idlib as a "dumping ground for fighters and civilians". Its population has doubled to three million as people fled violence elsewhere, putting considerable strain on resources like water, accommodation, and healthcare. But the imminent assault on the city could force many hundreds of thousands to flee once again; Oxfam has teams in Aleppo and Northern Hama which border Idlib, and we are preparing to respond immediately to meet the needs of people who come in these directions. With many people likely to be living in shelters, Oxfam is prepared to provide clean, water; toilets, and essential hygiene items along with blankets and clothes.

22 August, 2018

Yemen: Oxfam teams in camps near Hudaydah have been redoubling their efforts to provide additional water supplies for people leaving the city fleeing attacks. Our once astronomical budget for water trucking has been successfully reduced by increasing the number of solar energy projects which pump water - Oxfam has about 70 of these, and is now supporting local manufacture of desalination technology to see how successful it can be at making the brackish water drinkable.

4 July, 2018

Jordan: Our team in Za'atari camp has been working with Syrian refugees to pilot the SuperAdobe building technique using "sandbag architecture" to create a beautiful community centre. SuperAdobe is a temporary construction technique using cheap locally available materials. It is easy to learn about and construct, has lower environmental impact, and provides higher quality living conditions to the existing caravans that people have been living in. The UN is recommending SuperAdobe as the number one shelter solution for Za'atari camp and Oxfam has been shortlisted for a grant to scale up the technique in Za'atari.

Syria: The South of the country has been the focus of the latest army offensive, with the provinces of Dar'a and Quneitra under attack. Oxfam is helping about 400 families who we have access to, who are temporarily housed in a shelter in Jbab. So far we have installed additional toilets, water storage tanks to cater for up to 2,500 people, and given additional equipment and tools to the Dar'a local water authority to boost their capacity in case of any surge in needs.

13 June, 2018

Yemen: The battle for the port of Hudaydah (also spelled Hodeidah) has begun, as Government forces start their planned attempt to take it back from the rebels. The port is home to about 600,000 people and is the main route in for all aid goods such as food and fuel. Humanitarian agencies, including Oxfam, have been warning of a potential catastrophe if it becomes a war zone. The water situation could be especially worrying because the ground water is saline and the city's population depends on purchased water for drinking. There are fuel stocks in the city for about a month, and the World Food Programme is pre-positioning additional fuel, food, and hygiene items. Insecurity currently prevents us from sending staff into Hudaydah but we will do so whenever we can, and we are making preparations to support people who leave. The fear is that this battle could be prolonged, and with it the misery of a besieged population.

Syria: In May the Government took control of large territories in central Syria including the areas around Damascus. It also retook territories around Homs in the North, which has improved the possibility of humanitarian organisations being able to access the city from the capital. Our public health teams have been training technicians from Local Water Establishments on pump maintenance, while continuing to do a considerable amount of public health awareness training about conditions such as hepatitis, 'flu, diarrhoea, dental health, lice, and scabies. Our food security teams have signed an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture for the first pilot cash-for-work project. We are the only INGO doing it to date.

6 June, 2018

Afghanistan: Since last September the country has been experiencing higher average temperatures and very low rainfall, which has depleted water tables and reduced the snowmelt that feeds rivers. As a result, Afghanistan will suffer a drought this year with over 2 million people affected by food shortages. This is adding to problems already caused by conflict (which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people) and large numbers of ex-refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran. While official drought estimates are inconclusive at the moment, our staff and partners are reporting heavy reductions in the price of livestock, and a very poor outlook for both staple and cash crops in the coming months. Oxfam is currently focusing our efforts in Daikundi province where there are hardly any other NGOs, in addition to ongoing support in Kunduz and Nangarhar provinces to communities returning or affected by conflict.

2 May, 2018

Syria: During the long-lasting siege of East Aleppo, Oxfam installed a large generator at Suleiman al-Halabi - the city's main water pumping station. This allowed trapped people to continue to get clean drinking water rather than relying on contaminated water sources. A recent visit by Damascus-based staff confirmed it is still in use and keeping enough clean water flowing for more than a million residents in Aleppo city. Large areas of the city are rubble, but as well as hardware we are managing to run public health promotion sessions in schools with volunteer trainers. An interesting power shift is taking place across the country as women take on more and more jobs that were once reserved for men; while it presents a real opportunity for long-term change in gender relations in Syria, it also presents new risks of assault for women who are now 'out' in the working environment.

11 April, 2018

Syria: An estimated 150,000 people have now been displaced by the offensive in Eastern Ghouta, with most heading to rural Damascus and into 'collective shelters'. Oxfam's conducted assessments in two of these sites, Adra and Harjellah, and has been providing a water and sanitation response. So far our team's installed water tanks, tap stands, shower units and latrines, connecting the latter to the local sewage network to help prevent the spread of disease. 7000 hygiene kits have also been distributed.

Elsewhere, Turkish military operations against Kurdish militia in Afrin, in the north of the country, has forced 180,000 people from their homes, with many seeking refuge in schools and abandoned buildings. Our work here is again water focussed where we're working to bring wells back into use to supply clean water to the shelters and host community. We've also installed a new pipeline to connect the network and are repairing a pumping station to ensure a functioning network.

21 March, 2018

Iraq: Oxfam has been supporting people in and around the city of Mosul, developing a particular focus on people with special needs. These may be physical or emotional - disabled by the war, or with long-term health conditions that are going untreated, or with PTSD and other symptoms of trauma. There are very few specialised services available, but using what we learned from camps in Jordan our teams have been visiting individual households to listen to people and discuss their needs. We are now significant suppliers of disabled toilets/commodes and hygiene items like disinfectant and diapers in two districts of Mosul plus several camps and villages. We can also refer people to other services where we know they are available, for psychosocial or medical support, or help with disabilities such as access to wheelchairs etc.

14 March, 2018

Syria: It's hard to imagine how the situation inside Syria could get much worse, as we mark the 7th anniversary of conflict. Last week the BBC described it as 'a mini world war'. 150,000 have just fled Afrin - many now sheltering in collective centres and mosques, others camped in countryside to the north. Some might be able to go to empty homes. Our team in Aleppo travelled with the Syrian Red Crescent to make a rapid assessment of needs, and between us we will deliver several thousand hygiene kits, and install sanitation facilities and water tanks with taps. About 44,000 people left the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, and quick observations have identified the need for immediate clean water supplies, toilet facilities, and food. See the Crisis in Syria page for materials produced to mark the 7th anniversary of the crisis.  

28 February, 2018

Syria:Conditions in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus are quite appalling. The district is effectively under siege and daily bombardment. The agreed 'humanitarian pause' of five hours a day is not long enough to get aid in, and news reports say that so far almost no one has left. Oxfam has thousands of hygiene kits ready to put onto aid convoys once they are able to get in. Our Country Director in Damascus describes living in the city as a 'terrifying experience' because of the bombardment of the suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Read his blog post Syria: Civilians in urgent need as violence escalates in Ghouta.

Elsewhere our water work continues - given the numbers of families relying on private wells or water trucks for their supplies, we are working with students in 49 schools around rural Damascus to promote the importance of water conservation. The students have discussed the importance of water in their lives, the causes of water pollution, and the easiest way to sterilize water at home, and learnt a song to help them remember the most effective way to wash their hands.

22 November, 2017

Syria: Our water, sanitation, and health promotion work continues in several different parts of Syria. We broadcast a radio campaign about handwashing across the country that is estimated to have reached over one million people, and staff were "able to ascertain a notable and significant change in handwashing practices' in its aftermath. Our work focuses predominantly on maintaining large water treatment and sewage systems and supplying hardware such as pumps and generators, working with local authorities to keep services running.

15 November, 2017

Iran/Iraq earthquake: The earthquake that hit the border area between these two countries was a powerful one. Damage was greater on the Iranian side - Oxfam doesn't have an existing presence in Iran (we did mount a short-term response after the earthquake that devastated the city of Bam in 2003, but that has been our only programme in Iran to date), and the Government has not asked for international assistance. We do have a team on the Iraq side, and we assessed the situation within a couple of days of the disaster. The affected region is remote and not highly populated; we will be organising some cash distributions in support of the relief effort of others.

08 November, 2017

Yemen: In an alarming new development, the Saudi regime has shut off all routes into Yemen, by road, air, and sea. Yemenis depend on imports for 90% of their basics (food, fuel, medicines) and the UN has warned that Yemen faces the world's largest famine in decades "with millions of victims" if aid deliveries are not resumed. Supplies still exist in the country so we haven't seen the full implications of such a move yet, but Oxfam staff are moving minimally to conserve fuel. Next week there is a meeting of five foreign ministries in London to discuss it, and we are lobbying hard in advance of that.

Read Humanitarian agencies condemn the closure of Yemen's air, sea and land ports for more information. 

03 November, 2017

Jordan - Za'atari - camp or city?: We've worked in Za'atari camp for almost five years now, and Oxfam has built up a lot of goodwill with the people living there. One of our biggest contributions has been to design a camp-wide water and sanitation network which supplies individual households, the first such design for a refugee camp anywhere in the world. Za'atari is of course more than a refugee camp. It is a small city of 80,000 people, with inhabitants who won't be going back home in the foreseeable future. And as such, we need to think about our own future in the camp, about how to help communities become more involved in its running. Meanwhile, we were excited this week to see a tangible example from the recycling work we've been doing in the camp supporting people to address the huge amounts of waste building up into recycled products for sale. One fifth of Za'atari's waste is now diverted from landfills into income-generating activities for enterprising Syrians. For more information, read the blog Turning waste into work in Za'atari refugee camp.

Iraq - helping people help themselves: Want to know what a day distributing cash in a response is like? Our team in Iraq have written an account from Mosul about just that, including the important and challenging role played by volunteers. Visit A day with Oxfam's cash team.

Yemen - still hard:  While the rate of new cases has stabilised recently, the cholera crisis goes on. Some estimates suggest that the total number of confirmed cases will reach the 1 million mark during December. We've been distributing cholera kits and hygiene materials through community organisations, as well as ensuring people have the correct guidance on how to reduce the risks of getting cholera.

Our teams continue to work in extremely difficult situations - particularly around Taiz where we've seen a number of targeted abductions of INGO staff recently. But it has presented an opportunity to work through local organisations, who know the local people better and can reach areas we can't. Our contribution is to help them build their organisational structures and capabilities, which will be of much longer term value to society than if we provide everything ourselves. It's heartening to hear that Oxfam is considered as leading the way in supporting local organisations in Yemen. Read Building local humanitarian capacity in Yemen

20 October, 2017

Syria: In war-torn Aleppo, many homes have been destroyed and don't have access to clean water anymore. The task of fetching water from the nearest well often falls to children. Oxfam has installed more than 1,300 tanks for families in the city (Syria's second largest) to improve access to clean water AND give children more time to do other things. Watch our video on Facebook.

30 August, 2017

Syria: As Kurdish forces make efforts to retake Raqqa, thousands of people are leaving the city. For the 25,000 or so people left inside, reported shortages of food, clean water, and medicines will be making life very difficult, although access from the outside is impossible so conditions cannot be verified. The 270,000 people who have got out are spread across at least 50 sites. Oxfam teams have been verifying needs in several of these, and assessing the possibility of us working on water and sanitation. A key partner for us would be the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

18 August, 2017

Yemen: More than 500,000 people have been infected with cholera since the epidemic broke out. In response, our Head of Advocacy, Katy Wright, said:

"Yemen's catastrophic cholera crisis is rewriting the miserable history of this disease. Our common humanity tells us that this massive crisis demands a massive response.

"This is no accidental disaster, it is a man-made disaster driven by national and international politics. All those fighting and backing this war need to stop fuelling the madness and instead come to the peace table for the sake of ordinary families in Yemen. Too many people have died, too many have lost everything they owned, too many have seen their futures put on hold."

11 August, 2017

Yemen: Mohamed Farah Adam, Oxfam Yemen's Programme Manager in Khamer, Amran, has written a really powerful blog about how we're helping a village battle hunger. Read Helping a Yemeni village fight hunger.

Iraq: Our Public Health Promotion Team Leader Jeffrey Silverman recently spoke to BBC World News about Oxfam's projects and activities in Hamam Al Alil camp near Mosul. Oxfam is providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and is looking to assist with the rehabilitation of the main water processing plants outside of Mosul. Accessing some camps in the west of the city remains a challenge though with pockets of fighting ongoing.

Following their push to retake Mosul, the Iraqi government forces now seem poised to begin operations to recapture the towns of Tal Afar and Hawija. The UN's warned that this could lead to several hundred thousand more civilians fleeing their homes. Our teams in the country are keeping a close eye on the situation there.

04 August, 2017

Jordan: Actor and Oxfam Ambassador Emily Robinson recently visited the Za'atari refugee camp. Home to around 80,000 Syrians, it's now Jordan's fourth largest city in terms of population. She met with 17-year-old Rania who talked about her hopes for the future. A resulting article and video featured in Teen Vogue. Read '17-year-old Refugee Crisis Survivor Describes Life in Jordan's Za'atari Camp'.

28 July, 2017

Yemen: The number of people with cholera in Yemen is now the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year since records began. And there's a real possibility the reported figures aren't revealing the true scale of the crisis.

Our teams in the country continue to work with local water authorities to improve water supplies, chlorinate water storage, and promote public health messages to help reduce the risk of spreading. Oxfam's also been calling for an immediate ceasefire to enable a nationwide cholera campaign.

Our Humanitarian Director, Nigel Timmins, visited recently. Read his blog Yemen cholera worst on record - numbers rising.

14 July, 2017

Iraq: "There are 300,000 displaced people in camps around Mosul with the fight against ISIS far from over." This was Oxfam's Country Director in Iraq, Andres Gonzalez, speaking after the announcement by the Iraqi Security Forces earlier this week that they'd retaken the city. Andres was talking to Australian television about the dire humanitarian situation - watch the video

30 June, 2017

Yemen: As we scale up our response to the ongoing cholera epidemic, this week we're sending 39 tonnes of aid equipment bound for Yemen from our warehouse in Bicester. The consignment includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands and hand washing water dispensers, as well as water testing and purifications kits and oral rehydration sachets. It's estimated that more than 200,000 people are currently suffering with from cholera in Yemen. Some predict that this figure may rise to 300,000 by August.

You can keep up to date with our work by following @OxfamYemen on Twitter.

23 June, 2017

Yemen: The cholera outbreak is now in its 7th week, and continues to spread at an alarming pace with over 150,000 suspected cases to date since the start of April. The outbreak has spread to a majority of districts in the country, but urban centres are the areas of highest transmission.

Oxfam is responding across 4 of the most affected governorates (Hajjah, Hodeidah, Amran and Taiz) where we're already working, providing cholera prevention and control activities. An example of these include: cholera awareness messages delivered by community health volunteers; disinfection of water supplies and water storage facilities/containers; support to health facilities (including Cholera treatment centres) through provision of water and sanitation facilities; support and participation in environmental clean-up campaigns.

We're currently bolstering staffing and supply and logistics in the country to meet the additional demands of the cholera outbreak.

16 June, 2017

Yemen: On top of the existing conflict and food crisis, Yemen's now facing a cholera epidemic of unprecedented scale. There are 135,000 suspected cases with 82% of areas affected. More than 8 million people lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

Oxfam has been training health workers to support water authorities in water chlorination as well as supplying oral rehydration sachets to treat mild and moderate cases of diarrhoea. We also continue to improve access to water alongside running health promotion campaigns. Some predict cholera cases may rise to 300,000 in the next 6 weeks.

12 June, 2017

Yemen: The cholera crisis in the country is escalating. Since late April there've been more than 82,000 reported cases, and in the last week alone we've seen almost 2,800 new cases each day - many more than anyone had anticipated. 19 of the 23 provinces have been affected. To date we've reached more than 100,000 people with our response, including chlorination of water and the distribution of hygiene materials to help stop the spread of the epidemic. In Abbs we're also providing 8,000 litres of water a day to the Cholera Treatment Centre. Working against the backdrop of increased shelling, and the challenges this brings, we've called upon all parties to agree to a 'cholera ceasefire'.

You can keep up to date with our work by following @OxfamYemen

31 May, 2017

Yemen: Conditions in Yemen remain dire, with 7 million people in severe need of food security assistance. While there is food available in the country, over half of the population is without an income. We're providing livelihood protection grants to allow people - through buying such things like livestock and petty trade items - to create, and sustain, their own income. We're looking to reach 450k people in the next year across our response. You can keep up to date with our work via our Oxfam Yemen Facebook group.

19 May, 2017

Iraq: In the areas around Mosul we just handed over our work in Hassansham and Jeddah camps (where we set up the water networks and trained community health volunteers) to local organisations to run, which has freed up capacity to work elsewhere. We are now setting up the water supplies for a new camp being set up at Hammam-al.Alil, to take in people fleeing West Mosul as government forces move in to complete their attack on ISIS in the city. We are also distributing basic items to Mosul residents who are camped at the city airport. The evacuation of Mosul is still expected to result in high numbers leaving, but we anticipate most people are likely to want to return home as soon as they can.

A recent staff visitor to our ongoing programme South of the Mosul response reported the following from Jalawla, a small town in Diyala. "We first went there in March 2016 after the town had just been retaken from ISIS by Kurdish and Iraqi forces and was almost deserted. Oxfam started renovating the water supply, running cash for work programmes for people as they returned, re-roofing the market and providing financial support to market traders who needed assistance to get their businesses back up and running. This week what was previously a ghost town is now where people throng to do their shopping from miles around. There was hustle and bustle, deals were being struck, lots of sweet tea was being drunk, there were traffic jams and the organised chaos that you would expect of such a place. The mayor was profuse in his thanks as he told us how Oxfam's interventions were key to Jalawla's rejuvenation. The Oxfam Iraq team is now seeking to replicate this experience in multiple towns and villages across Diyala, Kirkuk and eventually Mosul. Enabling children to return home, bringing communities back together and helping families begin the long and painful process of reconstructing their lives after terrible trauma."

05 May, 2017

Syria: We continue to increase the supply of water to villages hosting additional homeless people in areas surrounding Damascus, rehabilitating wells and installing tapstands. In Aleppo staff are planning to repair a large treatment unit damaged by airstrikes which should benefit up to one million people in the city, and supplying items including water storage containers, hygiene kits, and sanitary pads to displaced communities.

Iraq (Mosul response): Nearly 350,000 people have so far fled Mosul, and as the Government launches its assault on the west of the city we expect another exodus. Oxfam has so far reached 270,000 people, many in camps, others more randomly based in outlying districts, and some still inside Mosul. We are at the forefront of keeping the water flowing and latrines functioning in camps, while making regular household visits to support people with hygiene items (eg soap, detergent, and water containers) and information about other services available to them. Outside camps we provide water trucking services and repairs to existing water treatment plants. Cash grants have, among other things, been used to help individuals access hospitals for surgery.

07 April, 2017

Syria: At the beginning of the year nearly 2 million people in Aleppo were left without drinking water because the main source located at the Euphrates River was under ISIS control. The Syrian army took control of the water plant on the river in early March, but frequent power cuts, low pressure of pumped water, damage to the network, and lack of household water storage tanks have continued to constrain water supply, and people rely in large part on a number of wells situated at varying distances. Since December 2016 Oxfam has been helping repair several of these wells, while distributing thousands of family hygiene kits (with soap, washing powder, shampoo, and sanitary pads), blankets, jerry cans, water bottles, buckets, and floor mats, and installed several communal latrines.

Yemen: Over the last year our programme in Yemen has been huge, supporting one million people with access to water and over 200,000 people with cash. An innovative and cost-effective means of supplying water has been through the use of solar panels which we are installing at all programme sites and which minimise the need for expensive fuel. And we have been steadily increasing the number of local organisations we work through - from 3 to 9 over the past year - whose understanding of local matters is vital to responding effectively. We also manage a network of 800 volunteers who can access the hard-to-reach areas that we might not. We remain very concerned about longer term food supplies - while markets do still function, we are not confident that the port at Hodeidah

31 March, 2017

Syria: Five million Syrians are now known to have left Syria in the six years since the start of the conflict. And as these are calculations of people who have left officially, the true numbers are likely to be much higher. Oxfam and three Syrian organisations are asking once again for the international community to recommit support to Syrians forced to flee. Our programme inside Syria continues to provide predominantly clean water supplies with some public health activities where allowed. While we can't always be sure how many people are benefitting from our activities, estimates of the population sizes in towns where we are keeping the taps on suggest we could be supporting well over two million people.

17 March, 2017

Yemen: "Our daily reality remains bleak. Every morning, I face the uncertainty as I step out to go to work that I will return that evening, or if I do, that I will still find my home and family alive." One of our Programme Managers has written this account of how Yemenis are "scraping by" through the war in Yemen.

03 March, 2017

Yemen: As millions of people in war-torn Yemen continue to endure disastrous conditions, fighting in the port town of Hodeida is restricting aid agencies from getting much-needed food into the country. If the port closes, there will likely be a rapid and considerable deterioration in a country that is already teetering on the brink of famine. As it is, this is already an emergency of huge proportions, and Oxfam is planning to further increase our response as severe food insecurity looks set to worsen.

24 February, 2017

Iraq: The Iraq government-led offensive to retake the west part of Mosul stepped up this week and with the city's airport now retaken, we're expecting fighting to spread into densely populated areas soon. Having been under siege conditions for the past few months, with very little getting in our out of the city, civilians are likely to be in need of urgent help. The latest fighting in villages around Mosul has resulted in a steady trickle of people being displaced, but many more will come in the next few weeks and months. As previously reported, we've positioned ourselves well in areas where most of those who flee will travel. Some of those who fled eastern Mosul in the previous offensive have tried to return but in reality this part of the city is now quite unsafe. Sporadic ISIS attacks continue and there have been reports of banditry. This is just the beginning of what is likely to be an extremely difficult and protracted crisis.

17 February, 2017

Iraq: Over 163,000 people have been displaced since the Mosul offensive started in October. The majority are living in the camps around Qayyarah - which is south of Mosul along the river Tigris - and Hassan Sham, to the east of the city. Oxfam is continuing to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene assistance to two public health centres and a mobile trauma centre in eastern Mosul, both of which support civilian casualties close to the front line. Following reports of displaced families arriving at one of the Qayarrah camps without enough to eat, an Oxfam team recently moved rapidly to provide basic food rations which will support over 700 families for the first three days of displacement. Our engineers are also rehabilitating and upgrading eight water treatment plants in villages around Mosul.

There continues to be a great deal of concern for the well-being of civilians trapped in western Mosul and with military operations aiming retake the western part of the city likely to start soon, camps and emergency sites are being prepared to shelter those who flee. Around 750,000 people are in the west part of the city and we're expecting at least 250,000 people to flee when the next operation starts. Oxfam has positioned itself strategically in order to be able to respond to the needs of those fleeing towards the south when the battle begins.

10 February, 2017

Syria: In the past couple of months, ceasefire agreements have largely been held in some of the most contested areas in Syria. This has enabled us to work with a little more freedom, with one significant result being that we have installed another water generator in Aleppo (we also brought one to the city last November). It's another huge piece of machinery and has the potential to help provide water to over a million people. At the same time, we're continuing to provide more basic - but nonetheless essential - items like hygiene kits to communities in some of the worst-hit parts of the city.

20 January, 2017

Syria: Since December 22, millions of residents in Damascus and its surrounding areas have been cut off from the main water supply. With more than 5 million people without running water, the situation in Damascus is potentially disastrous. The lack of water could lead to deadly diseases, especially among the most vulnerable such as children, the elderly and pregnant women. Oxfam has provided the Damascus water authority with water tanks, taps and other materials to help them maintain at least a minimum supply of clean drinking water.

11 January, 2017

Syria: Over 110,000 people displaced from formerly besieged neighbourhoods in Aleppo have been moved into a variety of transitional shelter areas. Oxfam is one of a few agencies supplying prefabricated toilet blocks, and we have procured thousands of family hygiene kits and water bottles/small water tanks for distribution by local organisations. The pumping station we supplied with equipment has received some damage and isn't working at full capacity, but we have been able to visit and assess what repairs need to be made. We've also been checking our water purification units placed along the river, to see how they're being used and if it would be better to move any of them to different locations where newly homeless people have gathered.

We are also working in and around Damascus where a large part of the water supply has been cut off from the north. Our engineers are trying to increase the capacity of other sources to compensate for the loss, which amounts to about 80% of the regular supply to the area.

16 December, 2016

Syria: As you will have seen, the situation in Aleppo has been changing rapidly. It's very welcome news that an evacuation is underway, although progress is slow and the ceasefire and evacuation plans remain precariously balanced - with somewhere between 30 and 50 thousand more people stuck in opposition-held east Aleppo, this evacuation could be going on for some time. Those people remain under siege in terrible conditions, with very limited access to food, water and fuel for heating in temperatures that will be below freezing tonight;  there is a great deal of fear about what could happen to them, if they are not evacuated across to other opposition held areas. Aid access remains highly constrained, particularly for INGOs. Oxfam have staff on the ground in Aleppo and a stock of hygiene kits, blankets, jerrycans etc both on the ground and on the road to Aleppo - but progress in getting it out to displaced people is frustratingly slow as the staff struggle to get government permissions to move to areas where the displaced are moving to. On the 13th Dec, an Oxfam convoy of goods from Damascus stock headed off for Aleppo, with a further delivery planned in the next few days bringing packs of baby diapers, sanitary napkins, and blankets. No clean water is available across much of the city, largely due to damage to power generation capacity through conflict. Oxfam engineers continue to do their best to maintain parts of the water system that we have installed.

09 December, 2016

Syria: After government forces took East Aleppo 60,000 people fled south and west. Staff visited some of the collective shelters in former industrial premises in the Jibreen district of West Aleppo, and they are seeking access to other areas where people have fled to. We are beginning to distribute family hygiene kits from our stocks in Aleppo, and are repositioning stocks of additional kits with jerry cans, small water tanks, and buckets from Damascus to Aleppo. We are also procuring items including plastic sheeting (to cover windows in buildings where people are staying), prefabricated toilets, larger water tanks, and blankets, with a view to trying to get them in ourselves or add them to other convoys going in.

02 December, 2016

Syria: An estimated 50,000 people from east Aleppo have been displaced due to intense and ongoing fighting. Newly displaced people fleeing eastern Aleppo combined with people displaced by violence earlier this year has pushed the number of internally displaced now residing in western Aleppo city to an estimated 400,000. UN inter-agency teams are planning to go to locations that have been taken by the Government to assess the situation, including verification of any remaining residents. The Syrian Red Crescent and national NGOs are providing assistance from contingency stocks, and Oxfam has 3,500 family hygiene kits in stock in West Aleppo ready to distribute as further needs arise. The Suleiman al Halibi water pumping station (where Oxfam installed 2 large generators) is now in Government hands and is reportedly undamaged.

The 4 Oxfam staff in W Aleppo are seeking access to the new collective shelters in Jibreen. We are procuring small water bottles which can be distributed to people on the move, and we are contracting commercial providers to install our stocks of pit latrine kits in locations with new displacements. We are also procuring additional family hygiene kits in Damascus to send to Aleppo in the coming days.

11 November, 2016

Yemen: The situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate and there are now more than 14 million people who don't have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. Despite the fact that ports are often under siege, some food is getting into the country, but it's very expensive. Coupled with the destruction the war has wrought on people's livelihoods, this is making buying enough food to live on extremely difficult. We're striving to meet needs, and Oxfam has been giving out food vouchers and cash to help people top up their food baskets.

5 November, 2016

Iraq: We're expecting 200,000 people to flee Mosul in the coming week, as troops enter the city in the continued push to liberate it from the grip of ISIS. In the past couple of weeks, 80 towns around Mosul have been retaken and around 20,000 people have been displaced. Meanwhile, oil fields blaze as ISIS sets light to the land it has lost during its retreat into the city, and whole villages are left empty. It's a bleak picture. We'll be working in two camps to make sure people arriving there have the basic necessities, especially drinking water, and we're also going to be active in host communities as people begin to return to their villages. Local traders are starting to re-emerge with produce to sell and we're aiming to build relationships with these people in order to help them rebuild their livelihoods. We're also aiming to do some work to make sure water infrastructure is running. Deciding which villages to work in is far from simple, because many are strewn with unexploded incendiary devices. With fighting only set to increase, the worst is yet to come.

28 October, 2016

Yemen: Cholera has broken out in 8 governorates (out of 20 in the country).  Facilities for screening are not good enough to get good official figures for the numbers, but the generally poor conditions people live in mean the risks of a disease like cholera spreading widely are high.  We are trying to do more of what we are doing already in Taiz - disinfecting water storage tanks, and hosting the Taiz Cholera Task Force with local authorities and community groups.  In Aden our local health promoters are running Hygiene Clubs in several schools, and were very busy over Global Handwashing Day paying particular attention to the risks of cholera.

Western Sahara/Algeria: The Western Sahara conflict has been going on since 1975 between the Moroccans and the Polisario Front - a national liberation movement. In one of our longest running programmes, Oxfam has been supporting people displaced by this conflict for 40 years this year. Communities are living in isolated camps in Algeria, largely dependent on external support, and recently they were hit by severe flooding that destroyed many homes and facilities. We were the first agency to respond to this, distributing food supplies in the form of dates and eggs, and we are working with inhabitants to set up a cooperative brick-making organisation that is learning to improve the way houses are built to withstand future heavy rains. The team is interested in investigating more innovative market approaches to helping the communities take on more sustainable activities.

14 October, 2016

Iraq: As reported last week, we're expecting the coalition forces to launch an attack on Mosul very soon, with armed forces are currently around 40km south of the city. We have made every effort to prepare for the a huge exodus of people: key staff are in place, we've boosted our stocks with huge truckloads of equipment including jerry cans, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, solar lamps, and tarpaulins, and from our base in Qayyarah we should be well placed to receive those in urgent need of humanitarian relief.

Yemen: Since the suspension of peace talks in August, the situation continues to deteriorate, with all sides in this conflict responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. Twenty-one million people have no access to safe water or sanitation; 14.1 million people don't have enough food to meet their daily needs and 1.5 million children face life-threatening levels of malnutrition. We are one of the few agencies responding at scale in Yemen. So far we have reached more than 900,000 people with water and sanitation, food vouchers and other essential aid. Following flash floods in Amran, Oxfam provided family hygiene kits and one-off cash distributions to help some of the most vulnerable households meet their immediate food needs. We've also been mobilising community members to join in a mass cleaning up campaign which saw 500 tons of solid waste collected and disposed of and 30 cleaning workers benefit as part of a cash for work scheme. Water system rehabilitation continues in communities and schools and we're reaching thousands of people with daily water trucking. There have recently been some new cases of cholera in Sana'a and in parts of Taiz to which Oxfam is planning a quick response.

07 October, 2016

Syria: (From Oxfam online) More than 1.5 million people in Aleppo have been without running water for five days, as battles rage around key water infrastructure and power to pumping stations is cut. Residents on both sides of the city, opposition-held East Aleppo and government-controlled West Aleppo, are relying on water from wells or delivered by trucks, which are unreliable and sometimes contaminated sources. The two pumping stations Suleiman al-Halabi, which supplies most of the city, and Bab al-Nairab have been shut for several days. Bab al-Nairab was previously damaged in an airstrike carried out by Syrian or Russian air forces, while fighting is ongoing in and around Suleiman al-Halabi where Oxfam has installed a generator to power the station when the national grid is down. Read the full article: More than 1.5 million people without running water in Aleppo for five days.

Iraq: The big push to retake Mosul is expected to happen very soon, and the camps we're working in are already receiving streams of people, as towns and villages in the region along the river Tigris are released from ISIS control. Many of those arriving are badly in need of medical help, food and water. The camps are often places of transit, where people stop for a short time before continuing back to their home towns. These onward journeys are not simple though. The threat of unexploded devices makes travelling back home a risky journey, and returnees (especially men) must go through processing centres to check for sympathies with ISIS. Oxfam is monitoring the situation and we're planning advocacy work to secure the presence of independent organisations in these processing centres. We're providing hygiene and dignity kits and trucking water in to meet people's basic needs as we continue identifying the needs of the most vulnerable. 

Afghanistan: Afghanistan has been in the throes of war for 15 years now, and attacks by the Taliban and other opposition groups have increased dramatically this year. The number of people displaced by conflict is ever-rising and even the most conservative estimates predict that 400,000 people will have been forced away from their homes by the end of the year. The situation in Afghanistan is forcing many to move repeatedly, registering in one place, before travelling on to another as fighting spreads. What's happening in Afghanistan hits the news less frequently than other crises in the region, but of the refugees fleeing to Europe, the second largest number of these are from Afghanistan (after Syria). Oxfam has been running programmes in Afghanistan for a long time, focussing on longer term development goals, like peace building. In the next few days, we're going to start providing agricultural inputs to help people sustain their livelihood and stop them from having to sell off their own assets.

23 September, 2016

Aleppo: The attack on the aid convoy as it attempted to deliver supplies to Aleppo was widely condemned. Andy Baker, who leads our Syria Crisis Response, made the following public statement:

"There is absolutely no excuse for the shocking attack yesterday on an aid convoy in rural Aleppo. The aid workers on the convoy were delivering much needed help to thousands of people and Oxfam is appalled and outraged that many of them lost their lives doing so. With the Syrian military announcing the ceasefire over and an escalation in violence across the country, there is the real risk that Syria will fall even further into the abyss. Russia and the US must immediately rein in their allies on the ground, provide effective guarantees for aid workers to deliver assistance in safety and demand accountability for this attack. Now that the UN has announced the suspension of all aid convoys, hundreds of thousands of Syrians in desperate need of help are forced to sit and wait. This situation is intolerable."

While Oxfam had none of our own goods on the convoy, we do have 9,000 hygiene kits that were ready to go.  It is now unlikely that we'll be able to get these into Aleppo any time soon. As a reminder, we do have national staff in Aleppo keeping the clean water pumping and urgently developing alternatives to centralised water stations in case these go down.


: Oxfam staff went live online (via the Facebook group Oxfam in the Middle East) to talk about our work in Yemen. We remain one of very few agencies working in a country where 12.5 million people are in urgent need of help.  We are supporting 900,000 of these, but millions are receiving nothing at all. People fleeing their homes in a hurry take what they see as essential items such as a blanket and a mobile phone, but thousands leave behind their ID documents, which leads to all sorts of problems trying to access assistance. Almost every household has taken in others who fled fighting, and meagre rations are stretched to go round. We have written a briefing paper, Picking up the Pieces, which explains what Yemenis are facing and what needs to be done to stop it - not least, pointing out that influential western governments should be assisting a peace process, rather than stoking the conflict by selling arms. The report was presented at this week's UN General Assembly.

16 September, 2016

Iraq: The long anticipated battle for Mosul is now predicted to happen during October.  Agencies estimate that about 1 million people could be displaced by it, or whom maybe 700,000 will require support. Oxfam teams have done extensive scoping of infrastructure and facilities in surrounding villages, and contributing to preparations by drilling borewells, improving sanitation systems, procuring basic items such as blankets, soap, and sanitary goods. We are planning several field kitchens so people will be able to receive one hot meal a day. All our plans need to be kept flexible to help us adapt our response to what actually happens.

26 August, 2016

Syria: Andy Baker (our manager for the Syria programme) made a live broadcast about the humanitarian situation in Aleppo and what Oxfam is doing about it. The 30-minute recording is available through Facebook:

Conditions in the city, particularly in the East, are quite awful, with nothing getting in or out. The whole city relies on a single electricity and water network which is located in the East; the electricity is damaged, and the water is staying on largely because of an Oxfam-supplied generator ('the size of a truck') with fuel from the UN, which allows each household to get water once every 10 days or so. We have also worked to link various wells to the water network, and built purification plants along the river so people in urgent need can get clean water from there. Oxfam is calling for an urgent pause in fighting to allow aid in, and we have large quantities of basic emergency items already loaded onto trucks for whenever we get permission to take them in. We've also got a second generator waiting at a port nearby, although whether we can install it or not will depend on the length of the pause in fighting.

Yemen: Oxfam has hit out at the British Government's position on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, as accusations continue that civilians have been deliberately targeted as Yemen's conflict continues. WatchOxfam on the UK's Channel 4 news. Our programme continues despite huge constraints in some places; as one of the team put it: "you know things are bad when Aden becomes the safest place to work in".

12 August, 2016

Syria: As fighting in Aleppo escalates, the electricity station that pumps water to some areas of the city was damaged and is no longer working.  The generators that Oxfam installed in the city a few months ago are fuel-powered and could be providing essential back-up - our site engineers cannot currently access them, but we believe these generators are currently powering the water supply for now.  The World Food Programme is trying to find a safe route to get supplies through, and we have 7,000 hygiene kits ready to put on any convoy going. We also have 20 large water tanks (each one between 70-90,000 litre capacity) to go on further convoys if these become possible.

05 August, 2016

Iraq:  Last week Oxfam was preparing for the expected assault on Mosul, and the decision has now been made to start providing help to those already displaced from the areas around the city. For now, we will be working to provide water to displaced people hosted in communities around Mosul.

Yemen:  Channel 4 News reported this week on Yemen's 'forgotten war'. Mark Goldring was interviewed, condemning Britain's sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which has been bombing Yemen 'indiscriminately.' You can watch the part of the report here: Yemen's forgotten war: the horror of hunger

29 July, 2016

Iraq: As heavy fighting continues in key strategic towns in northern Iraq, the team in country are preparing for the aftermath of an assault by Iraqi-led forces on Mosul, which is currently under the control of ISIS. The city is estimated to be home to around one million people, with a further 800,000 living in the surrounding towns and villages, so the humanitarian need could be very large.

Complicating things is the fact that there is no clear agreement on where those fleeing the city will be settled. Deep suspicion between religious, political and ethnic groups means there is likely to be resistance, both from those fleeing Mosul and from potential host, to the resettling of those displaced by conflict in some areas. Booby traps and mines laid on the planes that those escaping will have to cross will make resettlement more dangerous still.

Clearly, the situation is a volatile one and our preparation will need to allow for flexible programmes that meet diverse challenges ahead. The programme will likely be very broad, covering the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of those fleeing Mosul, as well as providing them with food, livelihoods support and safety.

Syria: The huge 2000kva generator which Oxfam installed in Aleppo last year is still pulling its substantial weight. Most recently, it was called upon to power a water station in Suleiman al-Halabi region while its usual power source was being rehabilitated, crucially preventing an interruption in water supply

15 July, 2016

Yemen: John Ging, Director of the Operational Division at OCHA (part of the United Nations) has stated: "Oxfam does, indeed, speak truth to power. The team in Yemen is the most credible among all of the civil society organizations - they are on the front lines, professional, powerful and brave. They don't just call for action or change, but have the research and the facts to back up their claims and justify their demands. That is why everyone listens to Oxfam. I have tremendous respect for your Yemen team." 

Jordan: Our staff have been trialling a revolutionary new way of gathering feedback from beneficiaries using a mobile phone app. The benefits are that staff can use the app during routine conversation with beneficiaries, and thus capture anecdotes they might otherwise not have recorded. Details of the feedback can be referred directly to technical teams based elsewhere, who can ensure the comments are replied to or otherwise addressed. We've used it so far in Za'atari camp to collect comments on the quality and standards of the public health services we are providing, and we are considering using it in Lebanon and Iraq.  As far as we know this method of gathering feedback has never been used by anyone before. Read a short summary of the project: Capturing informal feedback in humanitarian situations for more responsive and accountable programming.

08 July, 2016

Gaza: As the holy month draws to a close, the team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel has published a story on Ramadan in Gaza. We are working in partnership with the World Food Programme to provide food assistance through electronic vouchers for 71,000 people, as well as supporting farmers and food processing enterprises through economic development projects. Read Enliven hope over the holy month of Ramadan in Gaza.

01 July, 2016

Yemen: Mark Goldring, OGB's CEO, visited Yemen last week. Do read the article, where he reflects on the conditions in the country and Oxfam's work: A letter from Yemen.

17 June, 2016

Yemen: Oxfam has been asked by Unicef to assess water supplies and access in the capital Sana'a. There are other engineering firms which could do this, but our particular way of involving communities and taking account of their opinions and behaviours is known to be especially effective.

3 June, 2016

Jordan: Watch a nice little film showing the value Syrian children in Za'atari camp get from watching puppet shows staged to communicate health messages to them in an amusing way.  An Oxfam staff member is the puppeteer, and the puppet stand looks suspiciously like half a water tank....

20 May, 2016

Syria: We recently managed to make a gender assessment of communities in rural Damascus and Hama governorate. The findings showed evidence of changing traditional gender roles, with women becoming bread-winners and taking responsibilities that were traditionally reserved for men. The inability of some men to meet basic household needs is worsening tensions within some families. The imperative to procure water as the most basic need of all can take up to 75% of people's incomes which has a knock-on effect on the health, education and future opportunities of children. Children themselves are becoming de-motivated and uninterested in education as they witness older people not working. Other coping mechanisms include: early marriages and sending daughters abroad; men working extra hours to meet basic family needs; and, family members migrating to urban centres for safety and economic reasons.

The recent fighting in Aleppo has damaged several generators at city water points. We don't have direct access to Aleppo although we have provided much of the equipment that keeps the water flowing - we are currently trying to find out whether Oxfam-supplied generators have been affected. In rural Damascus, work continues to equip 4 water supply pumping stations, and distribute hygiene kits to families in 5 collective centres containing, at their request, additional washing powder, household bleach, and shampoo.

Jordan: The huge water and sanitation network we are building in Za'atari camp is on track; construction for part of the water network is complete, and all communal sanitation/bathing facilities are scheduled to be decommissioned by the end of May to be replaced by a household wastewater network.

22 April, 2016

Syria: A round-up of our work inside Syria shows us to be working in 10 of the 14 governorates, covering populations everywhere except the eastern areas of the country. A year or so ago we expanded our activities from just technical water supply work to being allowed to employ local people to do hygiene promotion in schools.  Now, we are taking preliminary steps to get agreement from the Government to help support people's livelihoods as well - early days, but a positive step forward.  Although our ability to travel around Syria remains limited, the size of the populations we are working with suggests we could be supporting up to 2.8 million people.

Yemen: We have so far reached about 800,000 people across northern Yemen. For several months we have wanted to go back into Aden where our national staff have been continuing to improve water supplies by supporting local water companies.  It is impossible to travel to Aden from elsewhere in Yemen, but we can go in via Djibouti.

For more information, see stories and images from Taiz, a province of the country where the frontline of the conflict runs, showing the devastating effects of the conflict.