"We fled from our home... there were so many bodies on the streets."

Wafaa and her family in the half build house they now call home. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
"We fled from our home; there were so many dead bodies on the streets." Wafaa (name changed to protect identity) sits on the floor in one of three rooms in a small, half-built house her brother rents for their families in Kahlo Bazini, in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Conditions in the house are basic at best, some of the walls aren't yet finished and until Oxfam intervened they had no facilities to wash, no toilet, and no clean water.
"Our living situation is difficult, but we make things work; my brother works cleaning shops so that he can earn money to provide food for us. My children and I all depend on my brother. He goes to clean the shops and then brings home vegetables, things like tomatoes, and shares them between my children and his. We have lived in this same situation for a while," explains Wafaa.
Before arriving in Kirkuk, Wafaa and her family moved several times trying to escape ISIS as they took control of large areas of Iraq in 2014. "When we first left out home, we went to my brother's house in Al Eshaqi. We were there for three days and then attacks, bombing and killings started in the streets, so we left to go to my sister's house; she lived far away from the places that had been captured by ISIS. We didn't stay there very long though, about 27 days, and then the fighting started there as well. There were airstrikes, missiles and bombs everywhere."
At one point Wafaa and her family were forced to live in an empty school building: 'The school had no appliances; there was no water, toilets or place to wash; the water we were using came directly from the river, it was dirty and polluted. It gave us a lot of infections and allergic reactions. No one came to check if we were okay and the fighting continued to reach us again.
"Then my son got ill; he fell on the ground and his face swelled up. My son is only six years old. I had to tell my family that I couldn't stay there any longer." But the area was surrounded from both sides.
Wafaa Derwesh* (name changed), 39, was displaced with her family when ISIS took control of her village. She now lives in a small village near Kirkuk called Khalo Bazini. Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Oxfam
The school where Wafaa and her family were staying was isolated and very far from any roads, "It was like we had escaped to a small empty island far away", Wafaa explains. "There was no water and no electricity. And then ISIS struck. Three ISIS fighters who were carrying guns and firing passed by us; we were so scared we ran away again.
"When ISIS came, there were a lot of other families at the school; many of them left the school with us to escape ISIS. They put their black flag above the school; the same school that had been like a home to us." As Wafaa sits in the dark room of the house she and her family now call home she tells the story of how they escaped from ISIS.
"We left the school at around 4.00am and we reached the army controlled area at 12.00pm. ISIS had destroyed all the bridges. It was a cold winter, we had no clothes with us and we were trying to escape from ISIS. We were in bad situation, but there were other families and relatives who couldn't leave because ISIS had already taken control of the area and taken them under siege."
Not all of her family had been so fortunate. "My sister was still living at the school. She didn't have a car, and random bombing and air strikes had already begun between the army and ISIS. She was alone in the middle of their battle. She called my mom and told her the battle had begun and that she was about to give birth to her baby.
"One of my sister's neighbours was her midwife at the birth. It all happened during these air strikes and bombings. We were having a very cold and rainy spell and my sister was giving birth to her new child. She had been complaining about the pain in her stomach but there was no doctor, no food, and no medicine, and no car for her to get to them."
Even though ISIS had surrounded the area, Wafaa and her brothers went back to the school to try and fetch their sister. They wanted to get her the medical help she so badly needed. "She was on the dirty ground that had been polluted and her stomach was too swollen, I can't describe it, we couldn't do anything for her; we were helpless and powerless. It was very difficult to see her like that; she was my sister."
Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
Wafaa managed to get her sister out of the school but she died soon after that. 'That's how I last saw her; it was very tragic; we all suffered and felt sad about losing her. We had become displaced in one way, and her daughters who are very young became displaced in a different way.' After her sister died, Wafaa took in her nieces and now provides for them as well as her own children.
There are currently over 3.2 million people displaced in Iraq, and even after their village or town has been recaptured from ISIS, families like Wafaa's aren't able to go home due to the level of destruction, number of mines left behind and the slow vetting process that ensues. "Our area was liberated a long time ago," Wafaa explains, "but they won't allow us to return because there are mines that have been planted, explosive devices and bombs in our farms and houses. Behind our home ISIS planted many bombs and explosive devices.
"I'm not afraid of anything. I'm waiting for the checkpoint at Balad to open and then I'll return to my house. My home was small but nice, and I was living happily in it. We left because ISIS attacked us; missiles were falling everywhere and my children were crying. It was a difficult situation and it was hard on my children. I couldn't make them understand that we had left because of the bombing and the battle between the army and ISIS. My children were afraid of ISIS.
"My young children are always saying that they miss their games and our house. They ask me when will we go back? All the displaced people here want to return to our homes because we are exhausted."
On Friday October 7th Irish Aid delivered 80 tonnes of aid to Iraq for Oxfam to distribute to vulnerable people fleeing the conflict in Mosul and beyond. Items being sent include blankets, jerry cans, cooking sets, water tanks, tarpaulins and shelter kits.
Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he is gravely concerned up to 1.5 million people in the city of Mosul have been living under siege for more than two years, with a further 1 million in surrounding areas currently under ISIS control.
Oxfam has been working in 50 villages and towns across Diyala and Kirkuk governorates in northern Iraq since 2014. We are providing safe water in camps and in communities where people who have fled the fighting are sheltering, and enabling people to earn a living so that they can support their families. We have also been helping families as they return home once it is safe to do so.
We are now scaling up our response in the Mosul Corridor, operating in Salah Al-Din and Ninewa governorates. Oxfam is also working in the key strategic area of Qayyarat, which is 80km south of Mosul and sandwiched between ISIS-controlled territories. We are providing clear water and sanitation and essential items like blankets and hygiene kits.
Oxfam works across Iraq including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
As military operations begin to retake the city of Mosul and surrounding areas from ISIS, we are expecting to help 60,000 people.
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The horrors in Aleppo continue to mount

A child watches as a military jet flies over the ruins of the Al Mashad neighbourhood in Aleppo. In neighbourhoods on the frontline where people still live, there is little or no water or electrical energy supply. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
As battles rage in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the situation is dire – and becoming increasingly intolerable for residents caught up in the ongoing conflict.
250,000 people are trapped in rebel-held East Aleppo with no access to aid and facing constant attacks from the air. The bombardment of hospitals, schools and civilian areas is appalling. There are daily reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. Food and fuel are scarce and expensive, leaving many vulnerable to the risk of water-borne diseases. 
Oxfam has supplied and installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station, which can supply enough water for a million people in Aleppo. Photo: Oxfam
Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, helping to provide clean water across battle lines in Aleppo, as well as elsewhere in the country. 
Oxfam has installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi water pumping station, which supplies most of Aleppo, to power the station when the national grid is down. Oxfam has also equipped three wells in West Aleppo to produce around 500,000 litres per day and installed eight water purification units – though four of them are currently being repaired after sustaining damage – on the Qweik river to also produce 500,000 litres. 
Oxfam also has desperately-needed 3,500 hygiene kits ready to be distributed in East Aleppo, but with the continued fighting the convoy cannot currently access the opposition held part of the city.
Oxfam is also working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, providing clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and vouchers for hygiene supplies. 
People still inside East Aleppo have been revealing how the horrors continue to mount. Residents of Aleppo are reporting the use of ‘bunker busting bombs’, which create large craters in the ground, making even underground shelter unsafe. 
People on both sides of the city, opposition-held East Aleppo and government-controlled West Aleppo, are now relying on water from wells or delivered by trucks, which are unreliable and sometimes contaminated sources.
Speaking to Oxfam, an East Aleppo resident, Basma* (35), said: “The water network is damaged in some areas, to the point where you can see [bomb] craters filled with water. We are still managing to get water through different means, from local wells. But it’s not safe to go out in the street”.
Nassim* (65), another resident of East Aleppo said: “One of my children went missing five days ago. I spend my day looking for him. Food is scarce. Fetching water from the local wells is another daily challenge, as going out is dangerous and the water quality is an issue. You can’t be sure if the water is safe or contaminated”.
Walid* (35), from West Aleppo, said: “Queuing to get water is a time consuming struggle, and buying water is becoming expensive. You need to pay more to get water first from truckers. Winter is coming and we have no electricity, and fuel is not available. The situation is becoming unbearable. If it remains like this, I will leave Aleppo with my family.”
Tayseer* (40), in East Aleppo, said: “We stored bread before this crisis. We have nothing but bread now. You can’t find any shops open. People are sharing their food supplies with each other. We no longer have spices, so we are just boiling the grains that we have. I’m not concerned about myself or my wife, just about my children.”
Nahla* (25) recently fled from East to West Aleppo: “I can’t send my kids to school. And we have no running water, we depend on water trucking. I have no money and no income. Prices are very high in the market. Others in the community have helped me with bread and a bit of food. I can work in cleaning or sewing but I don’t know where to start to look for a job. I don’t know what to do or what will happen tomorrow.” 
22-year-old Sham* in East Aleppo: “I don’t have enough food to feed my two brothers and two sisters. Even if we have money, there is no food in the market to buy. We are afraid of sending them to school after the recent attacks. No place is safe now. We don’t know what to do, we feel trapped in our basement.”
Souad* (55) lives in a public park in West Aleppo: “I fled East Aleppo with my grandson. His father stayed in East Aleppo. We are unable to reach him. We just want to hear his voice to make sure he is okay. I have no income and everything is expensive. We are relying on people to help us and on aid workers to provide water and other necessary services. We lost our dignity during this crisis. All I want is to go back home, take care of my garden, and have my grandchildren around me.”
Mariam (64) saw her world fall apart when her only son, a father of four, was shot last year in East Aleppo. 
Mariam, her daughter-in-law and the children – three boys, aged 11 and twins of 8, and a 4-year-old girl – moved from place to place, driven by the continuous fighting in Aleppo, until they ended up in a small room, with mouldy walls, and inappropriate sanitation.
“I lost my beloved son. My four grandchildren became orphans at a very young age. My heart is broken. I have never felt as weak as I do now. Our only breadwinner left us and now the burden of being ‘the man of the house’ has been placed on the shoulders of my 11-year-old grandson. Finding food and drinking water is a difficult task.” 
One of Mariam’s neighbours, who has several water tanks, has been providing water to the family. As for food, they rely on help from other people and some charities. Food prices in East Aleppo have shot up, especially since the area was besieged by government forces. For example, one kilogramme of sugar costs 3,000 Syrian pounds compared to 350 in Damascus.
“I was able to plant some plants in the backyard. When we run out of food, we boil some roots to curb our hunger. As for the water, my grandson has to go fetch it, though it is so dangerous for him to go out.
“I used to think that losing my child was my biggest tragedy, but seeing my four grandchildren and their mother feeling thirsty and hungry is definitely worse.”
Oxfam is calling for an immediate and complete ceasefire in Aleppo. At the very least, a pause in the fighting is necessary to deliver food, water, and medical help, as well as evacuate the sick and wounded, and assess damages.
Hospitals have recently been hit by airstrikes. Oxfam is urging all warring parties to ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and civilians and civilian buildings, including schools, hospitals, homes, and water services, are not targeted to advance military and political objectives. 
All parties should refrain from using basic services such as water as a weapon of war. 
* All names have been changed to protect identities.

Hurricane Matthew hits hard in Haiti, Oxfam responds

Food, shelter and clean water are urgently needed in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which swept through the country on 4th October, destroying homes and infrastructure and killing hundreds of people. The United Nations has estimated more than 2.1 million people are affected, with 750,000 in urgent need of assistance. Vast areas have been flooded and thousands of families have been left homeless – many were still trying to recover from the destruction of the earthquake which hit in 2010. 
At least 800 people were killed in the worst hit areas of Haiti and the greatest fear is that the possible spread of cholera and other diseases, along with food shortages due to the loss of crops, will cause more deaths than the actual hurricane over the next days and weeks.
It is feared that cholera, diarrhea and other diseases will increase after Hurricane Matthew, especially among children. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
Oxfam teams are responding to local people most in need in Haiti. Our teams have started to assess urgent needs and distribute aid, including clean water, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and construction material such as temporary roofing materials to help people repair their homes in some of the worst-affected towns. 
We are sending three tonnes of water-purifying equipment and moving rapidly to ensure hygiene and sanitation are restored to prevent outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and other water-borne diseases in Saint Louis du Sud, Miche, Les Cayes and Cavaillon. We are also repairing or installing clean water supplies.
We are also calling on the international community to help people cope with the widespread loss of harvests. While there is an immediate need for safe water and shelter, the main issue after this type of shock is the impact on the livelihoods of vulnerable people. 
Jean Claude Fignole, Oxfam’s programme director in Haiti, said: “What is most urgent now is to provide safe water to prevent disease, as well as food and essential supplies. In the longer term we fear a jump in cholera, and malnutrition due to crop loss.”
In coordination with local authorities, Oxfam has begun distributing hygiene kits to people affected by Hurricane Matthew in order to prevent cholera and other diseases. Oxfam is also installing water tanks and distributing tarpaulins to temporarily cover the damaged roofs of houses. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
Some 60,000 Haitians live in camps in the capital following the 2010 earthquake which killed at least 230,000 people. Many of them have lost their few belongings due to the hurricane. 
In Haiti’s most devastated areas more than 80 percent of the population relied on self-sufficiency farming. With their crops destroyed and farm animals killed by the hurricane, many people are now going hungry and cannot afford to buy replacement seeds or farming tools. 
Senita Terbil (26) now lives in a precarious shelter with her husband Samuel and their two children, after her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam 
Senita Terbil is a mother of two from the village of Castambie in the Sud department of Haiti. Her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane and she lives now in a precarious shelter built by her husband. Senita told Oxfam: “Everything is lost. All our animals are dead. We have nothing to feed the children. We have no means to plant again; we have no seeds or tools. We have nothing, no food or money, even my sister who is injured cannot go to hospital."
Louis Joelle, who lives outside the city of Les Cayes, said: “We expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water. We need drinkable water and food, we don’t have anything, everything is destroyed. We need water, food, seeds, and shelter”.
37-year-old Bernadette Julien lives in Camp Perrin, in the Southern Department, in southwest Haiti and is eight months pregnant. The family is taking refuge with other neighbours in a makeshift shelter in municipal offices. Her husband lives from selling what they grow in the garden and animal breeding, but everything has gone because of the hurricane. “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed. I have no food to give to my children,” said Bernadette.
In Haiti’s capital Port au Prince, many people have also suffered the consequences of Hurricane Matthew, but to a lesser extent. 
Marcele Duby, who lives in the Truitier neighbourhood of Port au Prince, said to Oxfam: "If it had occurred in the middle of the night I would have lost my children. But it was broad daylight, and so I could save them. The water in the house was up to my waist. I was afraid because if the water had risen a little more we couldn't have done anything." 
Jimmy Leys, a resident of Ti-Ayiti, said: "Children are going to fall sick because flooding causes epidemics. Some pregnant women are already ill. Diarrhoea and malaria are diseases well known here." 
Bernadette Julien (37) is eight months pregnant and is sheltering with her family in municipal offices in southwest Haiti: “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed.” Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
Lost harvests and continued flooding make those most affected vulnerable to a food and health crisis that needs to be prevented. 
Help Oxfam respond to emergencies like Hurricane Matthew.
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Bringing your voice to the UN Summit on migration

Oxfam brought its global call to stand as one with people forced to flee their homes to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

From a sea of life jackets laid beneath the Brooklyn Bridge highlighting the sobering reality of this crisis, to meetings at UN Headquarters, we reminded world leaders that over a quarter of a million people worldwide have joined our movement to support people on the move.

Left: Hundreds of life jackets, collected from the beaches of Chios in Greece, lie on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the desperate plight of children and adults forced to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Photo: Darren Ornitz Photography; Right: Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken remind Ireland’s UN Ambassador David Donoghue (centre) that 250,000 people worldwide are standing as one with refugees. Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam

WATCH: Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Marissa Ryan reacts to the sea of life jackets at Brooklyn Bridge

We were there and made sure your voice continued to be heard

As Irish and UK Government leaders – including an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and UK Prime Minster Theresa May - addressed the very first UN Summit on Migration and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit, they did so knowing that over 25,000 people across the Republic of Ireland and almost 6,500 people from Northern Ireland (over 86,876 from the United Kingdom in total) were demanding they show strong leadership and take action to protect and uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Left: Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Right: Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

Some UN migration summit highlights

"Refugees are already taking action. We want world leaders to do the same" - Mohammed Badran

Mohammed Badran, a refugee from Syria and Oxfam partner, addressed the opening segment of the UN summit on migration, calling for world leaders to do more to protect and empower refugees everywhere. Mohammed is the Chair of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, a network of over 600 volunteers who work to give back to local communities.

“World leaders need to remember those who are relying on them – the people running for their lives from their homes, trying to keep their children calm as they set off on an inflatable dingy across the Mediterranean sea, or facing barbed wire and check points instead of compassion in their desperate search for safety.” -  Jim Clarken

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken attended the summits and highlighted our call to stand as one with people forced to flee live from New York.

“I cried my eyes out when I arrived in the UK, a refugee.” -  Winnie Byanyima

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima shared her experience of being a refugee from Uganda and called on world leaders to make sure these summits amount to more than a half-hearted beginning to help those millions of people forced to flee but are the start of real and lasting solutions. Read Winnie’s article here: 

More needs to be done and we are not giving up

Over 65 million displaced people were counting on the outcome of the summits – an unprecedented opportunity for a bold and fair deal to ensure their safety and dignity. While we welcomed world leaders’ calls for a more equal sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, we were disappointed that they failed to make tangible commitments on how they are going to affect real change for refugees and migrants.

We will continue to speak out and ensure that the Irish and UK Government play their part in responding to this global crisis. We will not allow these summits to amount to more meaningless talk but will continue to fight for the political commitments of the summits to be translated into action to ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move.

People from across the island of Ireland continue to show that refugees are welcome here by writing messages of solidarity at Oxfam’s Culture Night events in Dublin and Belfast the weekend before the summits in New York.

Help us to stand as one with children, women and men fleeing conflict, persecution, disaster and poverty.

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Apple tax ruling tip of the iceberg - EU governments must do more

The European Commission today ruled that Apple received €13 billion in illegal state aid from the Irish government.

This decision follows the investigations on illegal state aid between the Dutch government and Starbucks, the Luxembourg government and Fiat, and the Belgian government for its ‘excess profit’ tax scheme.

Reacting to the decision, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive at Oxfam Ireland, said: “Ireland has benefitted from multinational investment but all companies should operate here under rules which are fair and which do not benefit some companies over others. Deals that exempt companies from paying their legitimate share of tax mean the ordinary taxpayers have to foot the bill.

“Apple is one of the world’s most well-known companies and Irish consumers want their favourite brands to do the right thing and pay their fair share of tax. A nationwide survey commissioned by Oxfam earlier this year found that the vast majority (86%) of people believe that big companies are using tax loopholes to dodge paying their fair share of tax. 83% believe vital public services like schools and hospitals in Ireland and across the world are suffering as a result.

“The Government now must move to end these practices for once and for all, and reassure citizens that sweetheart tax deals with either companies or individuals are a thing of the past. They cannot be tolerated, especially when public services are in vital need of investment.

“So far, multinationals found by the European Commission to have benefitted from sweetheart deals only have to pay the taxes they were previously able to avoid and no additional fines are levied. The status quo clearly does not pose a sufficient deterrent whatsoever.

“Adequate measures to prevent such deals in the future must include public disclosure of where multinational companies generate profits and where they pay their taxes, giving governments and citizens the power to hold them to account.

“A proposal earlier this year by the European Commission obliging companies to publicly disclose more information about their tax arrangements is too weak – it will only apply to the biggest of companies and the information they need to provide is too limited. The European Parliament and Member States need to strengthen these requirements by making them apply to all large multinationals, and multinationals must be forced to publish tax information for all countries where they are present. “In addition, the establishment of a public centralised register of beneficial ownership would allow citizens here and in developing countries know who is really behind companies and trusts. Without the financial secrecy which has wreaked such havoc to the global economy, tax evasion and avoidance would be much more difficult.”

Make Tax Fair:

When big firms don’t pay the tax they should, governments lack funds for schools, hospitals and tackling poverty. Tax dodging hurts us all, but it affects poor people the most. Developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year, according to the OECD. The money lost is enough to end world hunger twice over. We want the government to ensure Irish law and tax practice does not help companies or individuals to avoid tax by requiring companies to say publicly where profits are made and tax is paid and increase international tax cooperation.

Video: Inequality in Malawi

(Subtitled so you can watch without audio.)

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