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Oxfam's work with refugees around the world

18th Jun 2015

Burundian refugees disembark from the boat and are transported on buses to Lake Tanganyika Stadium before being moved to Nyarugusu camp. Credit: Oxfam/Bill Marwa

Refugees are ordinary people living through extraordinary times, experiencing hardship and suffering. Oxfam and other agencies are supporting refugees and IDPs according to need, including those that appear to be 'forgotten' by the world's media. In the run up to World Refugee Day on 20 June here's an overview.

Burundi crisis

Over the last few weeks 96, 000 people have fled from conflict and political unrest in Burundi into Tanzania. Oxfam is working in Kagunga and Nyarugusu refugee camps with local partner TWESA to provide enough clean water for all, as well as building more toilets and carrying out hygiene education among the refugee community to reduce the risk of the spread of disease. Cholera has been confirmed in both locations, so educating people about how the disease is transmitted, and how to avoid this, is critical.

In the DRC where others have fled, we have completed our assessments of technical needs and have begun chlorinating and trucking water, and mobilising community health workers. We are monitoring the fast-changing political situation in Burundi, which could have a huge impact on people both in the country and across the region if it becomes a major conflict.

South Sudan crisis

In December 2013 fighting broke out across South Sudan. Since then more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced and over 500,000 have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Since conflict started, access to food and livelihoods has severely deteriorated and we are now seeing one of the world's worst food crises in South Sudan. According to the latest figures, there will be 4.6 million people severely food insecure by July.

Oxfam has a dedicated team working across South Sudan to rebuild livelihoods, provide humanitarian assistance and promote active citizenship. We focus on providing clean water, public health and livelihoods support, and work with partners on peace building and governance issues. We are currently supporting over 830,000 people in South Sudan, 480,000 with humanitarian assistance and 350,000 with long term development and support.

So far we have helped over 100,000 South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia and 145,000 in Uganda. In both countries Oxfam has been providing clean water and sanitation facilities to refugees and promoting safe hygiene practices. In Uganda, we have distributed fuel-efficient stoves, farming tools, and vegetable seedlings, and provided short-term employment to help boost people's incomes.

Oxfam is calling for international partners and regional governments to step up their diplomatic efforts and apply all necessary pressure on conflict parties to stop the violence immediately and agree an inclusive peaceful resolution. We're also calling for donor countries to contribute a fair share to the UN appeal, which is severely underfunded, and for aid money to be swiftly released.

Syria crisis

More than 200,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the Syrian conflict and over six million people have fled their homes since the conflict in Syria began five years ago. Syria's neighbours are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees. Lebanon now has the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide with more than one million people making up approximately 25 percent of the population.

Oxfam has reached more than one million people affected by the crisis in Syria, including nearly half a million refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, where we have provided clean drinking water or cash and relief supplies, such as blankets and stoves and vouchers for hygiene supplies. We are helping families get the information they need about their legal and human rights and connecting them to medical, legal and support services.

We have built shower and toilet blocks in refugee camps, informal settlements and on deserted routes used by people fleeing Syria and have installed or repaired toilets in communities hosting refugees. Piped water schemes are being developed for Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp and in host communities in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.We are also providing clean water to Syrians inside their country through rehabilitation of infrastructure, water trucking and repairing of wells.

Oxfam has been campaigning and advocating for a sustainable and inclusive political solution since the beginning of the conflict. We continue to ask for an immediate cease-fire and call for all parties to the conflict to stop any arms transfers and guarantee humanitarian access. 

Sahrawi refugees

The Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara fled from conflict into Algeria in 1975. Oxfam has been delivering humanitarian aid to Sahrawi refugees and raising Sahrawi voices at a global level since 1975. We recently published a briefing paper on the situation: 40 Years of Exile: Have the Sahrawi refugees been abandoned by the international community?

Our humanitarian programme (financed by the European Union) is currently focused on ensuring refugees have access to fresh food. We also work in partnership with AFAPREDESA (the Association of the Families of Sahrawi Prisoners and Disappeared) which is working to get the conflict recognised at international level, investing in training and helping young Sahrawis to understand their rights. Oxfam is calling for a fair, sustainable political solution to the crisis.

Oxfam's approach

Oxfam makes no distinction in the way we work with both refugees and internally displaced people, ensuring their needs are met and their rights to live in safety without violence or coercion are upheld. We are currently also supporting IDPs in Yemen, Nepal, the Central African Republic, Mali, the PhilippinesVanuatu and Iraq, among other countries.

In the financial year 2014//15 Oxfam supported some 8 million people in 39 emergencies. This is a major achievement but as the number of refugees and displaced persons in 2015 is almost 60 million, the highest level ever recorded, the scale of global need remains a huge challenge for Oxfam, the humanitarian agencies, governments and the international community.

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Photo: Burundian refugees disembark from the boat and are transported on buses to Lake Tanganyika Stadium before being moved to Nyarugusu camp. Credit: Oxfam/Bill Marwa