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Syria: As winter draws in, we count the cost of the war

We all get a bit preoccupied with numbers and statistics at this time of year – in the coming weeks, newspapers and talk-show hosts will dissect the average household Christmas spend, some of us will already be counting the days between our final pay packet of 2019 and the first of the New Year, and others will start thinking about their mounting winter heating bills.

In Syria, meanwhile, where winter is also bearing down on communities, people are counting the cost of a brutal eight-year war which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Winters in Syria can be harsh when temperatures plummet and snow and freezing rain strikes. Syrians are very vulnerable to these weather extremes – after all, more than 11.5 million of them – around half of the population – need humanitarian aid, while 6.2 million people have had to flee their homes within Syria, many several times. 

Young refugee
Hassan is among the many children who have had to flee. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

The Syrian conflict is also driving the world’s largest refugee crisis – 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country to seek refuge in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordon, where they are also facing another winter of freezing temperatures. Many are living in flimsy shelters and don’t even have enough clothes to keep them warm.

Harsh winter in refugee camp
Winter is harsh in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley refugee camp. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Refugees face other challenges in their host countries too, where four out of 10 Syrian families don’t have enough food to eat. Just 3 percent of Syrian refugees have been resettled by rich countries, far short of the UN target on 10 percent.

Meanwhile, four out of five Syrians still living Syria are living in poverty, with more than 6.5 million in abject poverty. On average, every second Syrian is unemployed and poverty has forced children into extreme survival measures – such as child labour, early marriage and recruitment into the fighting – to help their families make ends meet. A third of the population don’t have enough to eat and 15.5 million people need clean, running water.

How You Can Help

Please help us provide Winter Survival Boxes which could contain thermal blankets, food vouchers, jerry cans, tarpaulin to insulate their shelter – simple, yet life-saving items.

As the nights start to get colder and more unbearable for Syrian refugees, your gift can’t come soon enough and will help support our emergency responses in places like Syria and where needed the most.

Poorest people get less than one cent per day to protect themselves from impacts of climate crisis

Leaders must heed climate strikes and give vulnerable people the tools to survive.

Cyclone survivors walk through floods
Survivors of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique face water and electricity shortages while at risk of waterbourne diseases carried in contaminated flood water. Photo: Sergio Zimba/Oxfam

People living in the poorest countries receive less than one cent per day – to protect themselves from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, Oxfam estimates in a new report. People are facing mounting human and financial costs from climate-related disasters they did least to create.

Climate adaptation pledges from wealthier nations are overstated and notoriously opaque.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s Executive Director, said: 'Wealthy governments are failing to live up to their promise to help poor nations adapt to the climate crisis. The poorest and most indebted nations on earth have done the least to cause this crisis but are being left to foot the bill. To avoid a downward spiral of ever more frequent humanitarian crises we need more funds for adaptation in the hands of the poorest communities. This should be genuine assistance – not loans that need to be paid back.'

In the last year, the drought in the Horn of Africa has left more than 15 million people needing humanitarian aid. Repeated cyclones have left 2.6 million people in need of assistance. Substantial levels of climate finance provided on an annual basis would allow countries to reduce the impact of climate shocks by, for example, diversifying crops, conserving water or investing in better weather monitoring systems.

High levels of debt in countries like Somalia and Mozambique further exacerbate the impacts of climate shocks by squeezing the resources available for them to become more resilient to future climate shocks and to develop in a low-carbon way. Somalia’s debt stands at 75 per cent of its GDP and any climate finance provided in the form of loans risks pushing them deeper into debt. Oxfam estimates that around two-thirds of climate finance is provided in the form of loans that need to be repaid.

Oxfam is calling on wealthier nations to make ambitious emissions reductions and ensure more climate finance is directed towards adaptation in the least developed countries. This should include meeting their 2020 climate finance commitment and doubling their pledges to the Green Climate Fund compared with the previous round.

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At Oxfam, we have Christmas shopping all wrapped-up

With the Christmas rush fast approaching, the thoughts of shopping can leave our enthusiasm at a standstill. After all, at this time of the year, hitting the shops can feel more like a combat sport than a festive experience!

But shop with Oxfam and you could have your Christmas shopping wrapped-up with the click of a mouse. All you have to do is consider giving something different this year with the help of our Unwrapped gift range.

So, what is Unwrapped?

Each gift in the Oxfam Unwrapped range represents four funds and plays an important part in helping people affected by poverty to build a brighter future. Your gift will go where it’s needed most and begin to make an immediate difference. Each community we work with has different needs, so we ensure families living in severe poverty have a say in finding the best solution for them and we work with them to make that solution a reality.

How Unwrapped Works

Our amazing gift range means that there’s something for everybody – from a Goat for Christmas (€35/£32) to the WEE Gift of a toilet (€15/£13) for communities living in extreme poverty.

Or you could splash out by spending your liquid assets on Safe Water for a Family (€25/£23) to help save lives and help families thrive. With this gift, we can help set up or maintain a safe water supply for those who really need it!

The gift of Safe Water for a Family is vital for people like Amina in Ethiopia, who saw her livestock wiped out in 2017 due to drought and the lives of her children hang in the balance following a severe outbreak of cholera.

Woman carrying water back to her shelter
Amina carrying water back to her shelter. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The 50-year-old farmer and her family had to leave their home in search of water so they could survive. Now they are being supported by Oxfam, which is providing water and food to communities in the area.

What your gift means

Oxfam Christmas

How to Buy

Once you’ve selected your Unwrapped gifts, there are several ways you can buy:

1. Online here

2. Via email at irl-unwrapped@oxfam.org

3. Call our office at 1850 30 40 55. We’re open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

4. Or simply drop into your local Oxfam shop. There, you can select your gift cards of choice and even pick up some other impactful Christmas gifts!

Everything You Need to Know to Leave a Legacy

“Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”

Happy Family

Why?

Making a will can give you a comfortable peace of mind knowing that you can look after your loved ones, friends or your favourite charities, ensuring that your wishes are respected. Oxfam is a global movement of people who will not live with poverty. Across the world, we give people the support they need to turn their lives around, stand on their own two feet, care for their children and build a future free from poverty. Last year, we helped to support 19.5 million people in 90 countries.

15-year-old Grace* from Malawi used to have to walk two hours each way every day just to get to her classroom. The walk used to make her vulnerable to harassment from young boys and the worry of this used to influence Grace*’s concentration and performance in class. Since receiving a bicycle from Oxfam, Grace* can now speed past the boys who used to bother her, and spend less time travelling to school and more time learning. This impact in Grace*’s life was made possible by gifts from amazing supporters like you.

Young Grace on her new Oxfam bicycle. Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam
Grace* on her new Oxfam bicycle. Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

How?

It’s easier than you think! First, work out what you've got. Start by sitting down with a nice hot cup of tea and write down everything you own – including savings, possessions, property – and their approximate value. Then, note down the names of relatives and friends – people you want to include in your will.

Match up the two lists and you’ll be ready to make an appointment with your solicitor or use our FREE online will-writing service.

Our Promise to You

Leaving a gift in your will to Oxfam Ireland is one of the best ways to support our work. In return, we promise you that:

  • Your legacy will help change lives. Every euro/pound you give will be stretched as far as possible. We will invest your gift efficiently and cost effectively, so it has the most impact.
  • Your privacy is paramount. We respect your privacy and will look after your gift to us with sensitivity, care and confidentiality.
  • We know that the decision is yours alone and that circumstances can change. You may, of course, change your mind about your gift to Oxfam at any time in the future.
  • We are discreet. You don’t have to tell us if you intend to leave a gift to Oxfam, but if you do, it will help us to plan future work and allow us to thank you.

We are always here. If there is anything you want to know about your gift to us, or the communities you are helping to thrive, please get in touch.

Thank You

With the help of supporters like you, we’ve been able to transform countless lives over the past six decades. In the last 20 years alone, over 660 million people have risen out of poverty; yet still one third of the world continues to live below the poverty line. But we know we can improve that statistic. Let’s make a world without poverty with the help of your legacy!

For more information, visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/donate/legacy.

*Name changed to protect identity

Your Essential Guide for a Sustainable Christmas

As we approach the end of 2019, let’s look forward to a more thoughtful, more sustainable Christmas. It might just help usher in a better new year for more people around the world.

Water, food, trees, and zero waste wrapping paper

With Christmas just a few weeks away, you might be wondering if you’ve got the energy for the festive season.

But if one thing can keep us going, it’s that this year has seen powerful climate action like never before – and that’s crucial for the poorest people of the world who are paying the biggest price for the climate crisis.

We believe everyone can join together to build a greener, more sustainable future for all of us. The people of Garu, a district in northern Ghana, show that it’s possible.

There are typically only two seasons in Garu – the dry season and the rainy season. Climate change has meant that, over the years, the dry seasons have become drier and the rainy seasons have become more unpredictable. It has led to bad harvests and rising hunger – with families sometimes surviving on just one bowl of maize a day.

But now, green, lush fields of crops are growing thanks to new farming techniques, solar-powered water systems, and community-run savings and loans schemes that fund tools, ploughing cattle, and fertilisers.

Woman with child and water

These communities are living inspirations to celebrate Christmas a little differently this year.  Last Christmas, the average Christmas spend by an Irish household rose 3 percent to a staggering estimated €2,690 (1). As an estimated 62 percent of people in Ireland have already started their Christmas shopping (2) – imagine the potentially massive amount of waste that will come from unwanted items, plastic and paper packaging, fast fashion, air travel and more.

With more thought and less waste, small actions like choosing Fairtrade and sustainable food, buying ethically sourced and second-hand gifts or cutting down on waste and making the most of leftovers can all make a big difference, and your local Oxfam shop is a great place to start.

However you do Christmas this year, we hope you’ll celebrate with us. Do it a little differently, and let’s welcome a brighter new year for everyone.

We’ve made a different type of Christmas to-do list to help you get started...

1. The (good) food shop

Fairtrade swaps

Swapping your usual chocolates, teas, coffees and sugar for Fairtrade options is a really easy way to help farmers affected by climate change earn a fair and decent living. Not only that – you can find some amazing luxury Fairtrade treats that make fabulous presents.

Our shops have a whole range of Fairtrade festive food that’ll go down deliciously well with the family.

Sustainable chocolates

Seasons eatings

If you’re a Christmas dinner traditionalist, you’re already on to a climate-friendly winner – because sprouts, parsnips, and carrots are all in season and can be locally grown. So, well done you!

If you dread the usual suspects, have no fear – squash, kale, beetroot and cabbage are all in season for December as well.

Delicious sustainable vegetables

2. Festive Christmas trees

Buying your tree

Overall, real trees are climate-friendly because they do a good job of capturing carbon from the atmosphere while they’re growing.

To make sure yours has been grown sustainably, look out for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) label. If you can buy a small pot-grown tree, or one with a root ball, you might even be able to replant it for next year. If you can, buying one locally grown will further reduce your carbon footprint.

If you’ve already got an artificial tree, pack it away carefully after every Christmas to reduce wear and tear – that way, you can reuse it year after year.

Ecofriendly trees

Choosing decorations

Our Sourced by Oxfam range includes some beautiful tree decorations handmade from sustainable materials. Our tree garland, made from recycled sari material by our amazing Fairtrade partners Sasha, can be found in our shops.

Fairtrade Christmas gifts

3. Gift shopping (with a difference)

Secondhand

Secondhand might not be your first thought when it comes to gift giving – but it can turn up some beautiful gift ideas. And if you took part in SecondHand September, it’s a wonderful way to continue both your support and the movement.

Look out for special and first edition hardback books, rare and classic vinyl, pre-loved homeware, and vintage fashion accessories among other items that’ll delight loved ones on Christmas morning.

Brand new

Buying brand new can also help people and planet when you choose gifts from small businesses and artisans who put a huge amount of care into making their product. In our Sourced by Oxfam range, you will find some absolute gems – including gorgeous jewellery made by Lima Lima, who uses recycled or locally sourced materials wherever possible.

Sustainable jewelry

Completely different

If you want to go totally off-grid in your gift giving, why not give your loved ones goats, chickens, or sweet, sweet honey? These are all legitimately great gift ideas that you can find in our amazing range of Unwrapped gifts. Our most carbon-fighting gift No Planet B (£18/€20) will put a huge smile on many faces and help beat global poverty in ways you might not have thought.

In our online shop, your sustainable Christmas can go even further when you purchase the e-card version of any Unwrapped gift. This easy online option won’t increase your carbon footprint at all!

4. Partywear that cares

Every year, people in Ireland spend an incredible amount on new partywear for the festive season and a lot of it gets forgotten as the new year begins. It’s a worrying trend that can lead to tonnes of seasonal fashion ending up in landfill.

Thankfully, you have an earth-friendly alternative near you! Every year in the run-up to Christmas, Oxfam shops go big on second-hand partywear, bringing out their very best festive sparkle to hang on the rails. So find a shop near you and treat yourself to a browse ahead of your Christmas parties.

Secondhand partywear

5. Wrapping the presents (in the best eco-friendly way)

Fabric

Fabric knot wrapping is a gorgeous, zero-waste way to wrap your gifts. Inspired by furoshiki, the Japanese tradition which uses origami-like techniques, knot wrapping can be done with scarves, handkerchiefs, and cuts of fabric. Your local Oxfam shop will have plenty of second-hand options if you need to stock up.

Paper

When it comes to wrapping your gifts with paper, we stock some lovely recycled and craft-based options that are responsibly sourced.

Revive and reuse old paper by finishing with parcel string and sprigs of holly or rosemary, or block printing with patterned wooden stamps for a festive feel.

On the whole, glitter and foil stamped wrapping paper isn’t recyclable – but you can extend its life by reusing any you have to make decorations, envelopes, and more.

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