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Thousands of Syrians out of reach of aid

Thousands of Syrians forced from their homes due to the recent fighting in Dar’a are unable to get the help they desperately need, Oxfam said today. 
 
Amid scorching summer temperatures, families need shelter, water, food and medical care but access for humanitarian agencies is limited and not enough assistance has been able to cross the border into Syria from Jordan. 
 
Recent clashes had seen the largest and fastest displacement of civilians since the Syria conflict began, with more than 330,000 people fleeing their homes during the two-week Syrian government offensive. 
 
A ceasefire agreed on Friday, between the Syrian government and local armed opposition groups, has provided a temporary halt to the violence, but there remains uncertainty over the future of Dar'a and how long the ceasefire will hold.  Many of those now returning home will find their houses have been destroyed while others don’t feel it is safe enough to return or are moving elsewhere. 
 
The Oxfam team in Dar’a reports that in many towns and villages, wells and other water supplies are not functioning, and back-up power systems are currently out of service. 
 
Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s Country Director in Syria, said: “Thousands of families have been displaced and their communities wrecked by recent fighting across Dar’a province. Their struggles will get worse unless they receive the water, food and medical care they urgently need.”   
 
There are also concerns for approximately 100 people from Dar’a who remain at the Jaber/Nasib crossing on the border with Jordan, the UN confirmed. Those 100 have joined tens of thousands of others already sheltering close to the border in need of protection and assistance. 
 
Many of those displaced, including Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, have expressed concerns about returning home, fearing insecurity, detention, conscription, and other potential threats to their safety. 
 
Nickie Monga, Oxfam’s Country Director in Jordan said: "Jordan is already bearing an immense burden in hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees but we urge it to once again provide a safe space for those fleeing the violence and continue to facilitate cross-border assistance. The international community too must play its part by providing more aid to Jordan and increased resettlement of Syrian refugees." 
 
Oxfam is calling on all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to work to stop the violence, which has led to civilian deaths and the destruction of medical facilities and schools in Dar’a. 
 
Oxfam is providing water and sanitation in an emergency shelter in Al-Sanamayn and has identified other areas in need of support across the Dar’a province.
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact: 
• ROI – Alice Dawson-Lyons on +353 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
• NI – Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 

Yemen: Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard, warns Oxfam

Food and water shortage – cholera threat – 80,000 forced to flee their homes
 
Conditions for over half a million people in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah are steadily deteriorating with food in short supply and seriously damaged water and sewage systems increasing the risk of cholera, Oxfam said today. 
 
Ahmed's family and other families were forced to flee their homes because of the conflict in Al-Hudaydah. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreeze Yemen
 
More than 80,000 people have fled their homes, despite a recent reduction in the intensity of the fighting, while preparations continue for a bloody onslaught. In the city troops are being deployed, trenches are being dug and barricades erected. From the air the city outskirts are being bombed and leaflets are being dropped calling for insurrection. 
 
Oxfam is calling on world leaders – including the UN Security Council, which will discuss the crisis today – not to allow Hodeidah to become a graveyard and to exert maximum diplomatic pressure on the warring parties to agree an immediate ceasefire and return to peace talks.
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The fate of 600,000 people hangs in the balance. Slowly but surely the city is being squeezed and the real fear is that this is merely a precursor to an onslaught that will lead to widespread loss of life. 
 
“Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard. There is still time to stop this destruction. The Irish and UK governments can play their part by continuing to press for international action to end the conflict. 
 
“One of our biggest fears is an outbreak of cholera. Hodeidah was a cholera hot spot last year and a repeat would be devastating for the people there. 
 
“The backers of this war – including those in Western capitals – need to stop fuelling the conflict and put maximum pressure on all sides of this war to agree an immediate ceasefire. Failure to act now will leave them culpable.” 
 
The city’s streets are empty and many shops, bakeries and markets have closed, according to Oxfam contacts in the city. People have been panic buying, while food is scarce. Essential items such as flour – the main staple – vegetable oil and cooking gas are in short supply. Prices have increased with a sack of rice up 350 per cent, wheat up 50 per cent and cooking oil up by 40 per cent. At the same time, many families’ incomes have been hit by the closure of dozens of factories and businesses. 
 
Hodeidah Governorate is one of the worst affected areas of Yemen with a quarter of children suffering from malnutrition. Last year it was just one step away from famine, with nearly 800,000 suffering from severe hunger and the situation remains desperate. 
 
Water is in short supply. Parts of the city’s water supply and sewage system have been cut due to the digging of defensive positions. This raises the threat of cholera as people are forced to start using unprotected shallow wells or surface water. Hodeidah was hit hard by last year’s cholera outbreak which was the world’s largest since records began. 
 
At least 35,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the fighting around the southern outskirts of Hodeidah. They have settled in parts of the city further away from the fighting and many have sheltered in schools. Getting aid into the city is already challenging and will be increasingly difficult if fighting intensifies. 
 
Some 46,000 people have managed to flee the city but escape is perilous with the threat of bombing, fighting and landmines. The city’s poor cannot afford the high cost of leaving the city. It can cost 60,000 riyals (€200/£180) to take a family out of the city to the relative safety of the capital Sana’a. Even if they could afford the travel costs they would then have to pay at least 200,000 riyals (€685/£600) for rent and food a month. 
 
Oxfam is helping 10,000 people who have fled north of Hodeidah but helping those outside the city is also proving difficult due to the ongoing conflict. 
 
The port of Hodeidah is key to providing the bulk of all the food imported into the country and the majority of its medicines. If this vital life line is cut for a significant amount of time then the lives of more than 8 million people who are already on the verge of starvation will be further put in jeopardy. 
 
Oxfam has been in Yemen since 1983. Since 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen, providing water and sanitation services – including as part of a cholera response to prevent and contain the disease. Oxfam is also trucking water as well as providing cash assistance and food vouchers. 
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact: 
ROI – Alice Dawson-Lyons on +353 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
NI – Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Oxfam’s latest briefing document, The World Must Back Peace, Not War: Putting An End To Civilian Suffering In Yemen, is available here. 
 
Footage is available of a family forced to flee their home.
 

Yemen: Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard

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Ireland must amend restrictions on family reunification to contribute to a humane EU migration policy, says Oxfam

Internal rows at Brussels summit shape EU’s migration policy
 
28th June 2018
 
European leaders at the EU summit in Brussels have failed to agree on reforms to the common European asylum system. Instead, they try to respond to internal rows by reducing the space for asylum seekers even further, and want to offload their responsibilities to countries outside the EU. Oxfam argues that European agreements on migration are welcome, but they should not have a negative impact on the lives of refugees and migrants.
 
Reacting to the news, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken, said: “EU leaders’ migration plans should have addressed the flaws of our current asylum system and provide an effective and humane response to migration, not only respond to political problems at home.
 
“At a time when EU leadership on global issues is needed more than ever, European heads of state and government continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU. They also agree to create even more de facto detention centres, a measure that has evidentially failed with the so-called ‘hotspot’ in Greece and Italy. This approach to migration is a recipe for failure, and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.
 
“Well-managed migration and an effective asylum system go beyond disembarkation centres, and they are essential parts of a healthy European economy and culture.
 
This week, the Irish government committed to provide humanitarian assistance and support to 25 people who were stranded on the MV Lifeline. While we commend this leadership, we need to go beyond ad hoc responses and instead find lasting solutions for people seeking safety in Europe.
 
“One way that Ireland can contribute to a humane European response is by amending its current restrictive policy on refugee family reunification. Right now, Ireland’s rules keep many refugee families apart and make it almost impossible for them to be re-united. Children turned 18 are separated from their parents, grandparents from their grandchildren, and elder brothers and sisters from their younger siblings.
 
“Having passed all stages in the Seanad with cross-party support, the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 must now be brought before the Dáil as soon as possible so as to enact the urgent change that is needed for families in need of protection.”
 
ENDS
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews.
 
Contact information:
For interviews or more information, contact:
Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 
·         Research from Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and Irish Refugee Council has shown that the International Protection Act 2015 has had a devastating impact on individuals and on their ability to rebuild their lives as part of the community, by making it effectively impossible for anyone outside of the immediate family to be reunited in Ireland.
·         The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 seeks to amend the International Protection Act 2015, which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family. The Amendment would enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian. The Bill was first proposed by the Civil Engagement Group of Senators in July 2017 and completed the Final Stage in the Seanad in March 2018. Amending the legislation restores and strengthens the provisions of the 1996 Irish Refugee Act, and offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership by upholding fundamental rights.
 
 
 

16 books that will change your perspective about poverty

 

Just a few of the books we're currently reading. Photo: Oxfam 

Here are some of our favorite fiction and non-fiction books that illustrate the injustice of poverty and remind us why it's so important to fight to help people overcome the odds. Together, we can beat poverty. 

Non-fiction 

1.  "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity" by Katherine Boo     

 Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in Mumbai, one of the twenty-first century’s great, but unequal cities. In this book, based on three years of reporting, global change and inequality are made human.

2.  "King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa" by Adam Hochschild

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million—all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.  "King Leopold’s Ghost" is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust.

3. "Development as Freedom Paperback" by Amartya Sen

Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world’s entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities. In the new global economy, where, despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers—perhaps even the majority of people—he concludes, it is still possible to practically and optimistically regain a sense of social accountability. 

4. "How Change Happens" by Duncan Green

Human society is full of would-be “change agents,” a restless mix of campaigners, lobbyists, and officials, both individuals and organizations, set on transforming the world. They want to improve public services, reform laws and regulations, guarantee human rights, get a fairer deal for those on the sharp end, achieve greater recognition for any number of issues, or simply be treated with respect.

This book bridges the gap between academia and practice, bringing together the best research from a range of academic disciplines and the evolving practical understanding of activists to explore the topic of social and political change. Drawing on many first-hand examples from Oxfam, as well as the author’s insights from studying and working on international development, it tests ideas on how change happens and offers the latest thinking on what works to achieve progressive change.

5. "Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea" by Robert D. Kaplan

Reporting from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea, Kaplan examines the factors behind the famine that ravaged the region in the 1980s, exploring the ethnic, religious, and class conflicts that are crucial for understanding the region today. He offers a new foreword and afterword that show how the nations have developed since the famine, and why this region will only grow more important to the United States. 

6. "Freedom From Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That’s Winning the Fight Against Poverty" by Ian Smillie

BRAC, arguably the world’s largest, most diverse and most successful NGO, is little known outside Bangladesh, where it formed in 1972. BRAC's success and the spread of its work in health, education, social enterprise development, and microfinance dwarfs any other private, government or non-profit enterprise in its impact on tens of thousands of communities in Asia and Africa. “Freedom From Want” traces BRAC s evolution from a small relief operation indistinguishable from hundreds of others, into what is undoubtedly the largest and most variegated social experiment in the developing world. BRAC's story shows how social enterprise can trump corruption and how purpose, innovation, and clear thinking can overcome the most entrenched injustices that society can offer. It is a story that ranges from distant villages in Bangladesh to New York s financial district on 9/11, from war-torn Afghanistan to the vast plains of East Africa and the ruins of Southern Sudan.

7. "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. 

8. "The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks is part of the DNA of modern medicine, and yet her name had been lost to history until Rebecca Skloot embarked on a journey to learn more about the woman behind the HeLa cell. Her investigation leads her to uncover how Johns Hopkins Hospital exploited Lacks' cells while keeping her family in the dark. Though her cells have brought others millions of dollars of profit, members of her family continue to live in poverty. Through her interviews with Lacks' family and the scientists involved with making a business out of HeLa, Skloot finally brings justice to Lacks' legacy. 

Fiction

9. "Girls Burn Brighter" by Shobha Rao

Following the interweaving narratives of two young women from a poor loom-working village in Southern India who are forced into unimaginable circumstances as the eldest daughters in their families, Rao tackles some of the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. Through it all, Poornima and Savita refuse to let the fires inside of them (hope for a brighter future) burn out.  

10. "We Need New Names" by NoViolet Bulawayo

Our heroine Darling is only 10 years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen before the school closed before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.

11. "What Is the What" by Dave Eggers

Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety—for a time. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with government soldiers, janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation—and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium,  and is resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.

12. "Nervous Conditions" by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her relationship with her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the circumscribed lives of the women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes at a price. 

13. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss, and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

14. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave

This novel explores the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers—one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London—who are linked through their experiences of a horrifying event.

15. "The Glass Palace" by Amitav Ghosh

Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. 

16. "The Rent Collector" by Camron Wright

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money—a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past.

16 Books to Better Understand Poverty

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The world has turned its back on South Sudan

Oxfam has been working in South Sudan for over 30 years. Since 2017, we have been responding to a deepening emergency, reaching over 500,000 people across South Sudan with life-saving aid. We also implement long-term development projects to advance gender justice and support people to build resilient livelihoods to help beat poverty now and into the future. In this blog, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, Jim Clarken, reflects on his recent trip there.

South Sudan - A Country in Crisis

South Sudan is a country in crisis – a country on the brink of what could well become the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Yet tragically, for the people of this young nation, their ongoing plight has failed to make the headlines.

For more than four years, the people of South Sudan have been caught up in a brutal civil war. The violence has had a devastating impact on the country’s citizens, millions of whom are suffering from extreme hunger as a result.

More than 4 million people have fled their homes since war broke out in December 2013. And last year alone, some 700,000 people fled South Sudan to neighbouring countries – that means that in 2017, more than one person fled the country every minute.

When I visited South Sudan earlier this month, I met many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing conflict. I spoke to women grieving for their dead children, families who have had to flee their homes and farmers forced to abandon their land – ordinary people, who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves caught up in the crisis.

Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken speaks with local fisherman in Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

People can no longer protect themselves and their families from the destabilising impact of war. There are battles on every front. Inflation rates are so high that the price of even basic foodstuffs is beyond the reach of families. Meanwhile, farmers who have had no choice but to leave their land are missing out on harvests – leaving the country’s food stocks at dangerously low levels.

In February of last year, famine was declared in two counties – Leer and Mayendit. At that time, 100,000 people were facing famine, and one million more were on the brink. A strong humanitarian response has undoubtedly kept famine at bay but the need for aid is more urgent than ever. In fact, an estimated 1.6 million more people are now more at risk than when famine was declared in 2017. And while the United Nations World Food Programme has been carrying out food drops in South Sudan, the supplies aren’t enough for the population which finds itself in a race against time.

During my visit I travelled to the islands around Nyal in Unity State, which have seen a large influx of people fleeing the violence. There I met many people who have been displaced and are now in a dire situation. Many arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, joining countless others with shared experiences. It had taken one group of women I spoke to seven days to reach safety. Having endured the harrowing and terrifying journey, they finally got the chance to grieve the children they had lost along the way.

With the support of Irish Aid, Oxfam Ireland is on the ground in Nyal, providing canoes to bring the sick and vulnerable from the islands to access life-saving aid and health care. We have also set up community gardens in the region, which enable people to grow their own food, or sell it to earn an income. And our protection teams are working with girls and women to ensure their safety in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Villagers of RAFONE island gather to meet Oxfam staff and discuss the progress they’ve made since receiving aid. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

Yet, despite our best efforts, the humanitarian situation remains dire – and it’s getting worse by the day. With other stories dominating the global headlines, I fear that South Sudan will be forgotten.

There is an onus on all of us to make sure the plight of this young nation is no longer ignored.

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