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Syria: Conflict is keeping civilians trapped in an endless winter

In late 2010, Ireland was gripped by the ‘big freeze’, a cold snap which wreaked havoc on our daily lives. It was an unusual weather event for the country, and left many people yearning – probably for the first time – for the typical damp Irish winter. Although the ‘big freeze’ came to an end within weeks, it appeared to delay the arrival of spring. By March 2011, snow still dusted the mountains and a bitter chill lingered in the air. The weather was cold but manageable. Life as we knew it was back to normal.

What we did not know, however, was that a huge storm was brewing in another part of the world. That same month, security forces in the southern Syrian city of Daraa fatally shot protestors demanding the release of political prisoners. The deaths sparked violent unrest that spread steadily across the country in the months that followed. The horrors that the people of Syria have suffered in the nine years since that first gun was fired are unimaginable. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions of families have been forced to flee. Hundreds of children have been maimed.

man sits on his destroyed home
Rafik's house in Hamourieh/Eastern Ghouta has been destroyed. Photo: Dania Kareh/Oxfam

Today, more than 6.5 million Syrians are living in abject poverty. A third of the population does not have enough food and 15.5 million people have no access to clean, running water. On average, every second person is unemployed, while desperation has forced children into child labour and early marriage. Almost 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance while close to 6 million people are displaced within their own country.

The conflict is also driving the world’s largest refugee crisis, with 5.6 million Syrians having fled to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. As they face into the ninth year of the conflict, those who have lost everything are slowly emerging from another harsh winter of snow, rain and freezing temperatures in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. There, huge numbers of refugees live in ‘informal settlements’ – makeshift wooden structures with little more than plastic sheeting to protect them from the bitter winter winds.

woman stands in her provisional shelter
Imm stands at the entrance of her shelter in the Bekaa Valley. Photo: Adrian Hartrick/Oxfam

Yet springtime will not bring any respite because the war in Syria is far from over. A five-hour drive north from the Bekaa Valley, across Syria’s northwest Idlib region, the UN now estimates that a staggering 900,000 people have fled renewed violence since December alone. Today, as shelling and violence intensifies, this number is rapidly approaching 1 million.

Oxfam is working in Syria, where we have reached more than 1.2 million people with aid including clean water, cash, essential clothing items, and support to help make a living and grow nutritious food. While this work is vital, we know that it will not end the suffering of the Syrian people.

The ‘big freeze’ of late 2010 and early 2011 brought dark skies and sub-zero temperatures to Ireland but the bitter chill eventually passed. As the Syrian conflict enters its ninth year, there is no end in sight for millions of people trapped in a seemingly endless winter – devoid of sunlight, hope and any sense of normality – from which, for now at least, there is no escape.

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Lorraine Keane and Oxfam bring a star-studded sustainable fashion fundraiser to Galway and Dublin

Fashion Relief 2020 to raise vital funds for communities affected by climate crisis

WHAT:                        FASHION RELIEF on tour in Galway and Dublin

WHEN & WHERE:     The Galmont Hotel and Spa, Lough Atalia Road, Galway on Sunday 1st March 2020 from 11.00am – 5.00pm 

       Hall 4, The RDS, Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2020 from 11.00am – 5.00pm 

 

Broadcaster Lorraine Keane and Oxfam Ireland, along with a host of Ireland’s favourite fashion and lifestyle personalities, are bringing FASHION RELIEF, Ireland’s biggest sustainable fashion fundraiser, back to Galway and Dublin this March.

The events will take place in Galway’s Galmont Hotel on Sunday 1st March and Dublin’s RDS on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2020, offering people a unique opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobe of their favourite style icon or brand, boutique or designer, all while raising crucial funds for Oxfam’s work worldwide.  

Now in its third year, FASHION RELIEF has raised over €200,000, with all profits supporting people affected by poverty and disaster, including communities at the sharp end of climate emergencies and conflict in places like Yemen, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

FASHION RELIEF in both Galway and Dublin opens at 11.00am and will showcase rail after rail of premium pre-loved clothes and accessories starting at just €5, with donations from the stars and the public as well as brand-new items from designers and retailers across the nation. 

A host of Irish designer items will be on sale from Fee G, Caroline Kilkenny, Deborah Veale, Umit Kutluk and Heidi Higgins. At each event, there will be a designer corner with pieces by all the high-end international fashion houses such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Roland Mouret, Chloe, Celine, Balenciaga, Chanel and so many more.  

Attendees will also enjoy a free fashion show and get fashion advice and styling tips from leading Irish stylists and social influencers on the day.  

Lorraine Keane is inviting the people of Galway and Dublin to join her there: “We are blown away by the success of FASHION RELIEF so far, including the incredible generosity we’ve experienced from the Irish public, our corporate and media partners, designers, boutiques and brands across the country.  

“And we’re so excited to bring FASHION RELIEF back to fashion-savvy shoppers in Galway and Dublin this year. Over the last few weeks, items have been pouring in from a host of amazing designers, retailers and the public, as well as of course, celebrities and influencers.  

“This year we have a particular focus on sustainability and we’re inviting people to join us on a journey to a more sustainable lifestyle, starting with the clothes we wear. We’re proud to be a solution to ‘throwaway fashion’ by reducing the amount of clothes and textiles that end up in landfill and giving pre-loved clothes a second lease of life. By shopping at FASHION RELIEF, you’re also helping to raise vital funds for people living in poverty worldwide, including those affected by the climate crisis.

“In December, I visited the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, home to almost one million Rohingya refugees who fled unimaginable violence in Myanmar. While safe from the conflict that took the lives of many of their loved ones, they now face new threats and challenges in their makeshift home.  

“I saw first-hand the devasting impact the climate crisis is having on people affected by poverty and disaster right now. Cox’s Bazar is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events like cyclones and monsoons - and when you live in a flimsy shelter made of tarpaulin and bamboo that is particularly catastrophic. The Oxfam staff in the camp told me how during storms and flash flooding, homes and even little children are at risk of being washed away.  

“The are many reasons to join me at FASHION RELIEF in Galway and Dublin but the most important is that we’ll be raising vital funds for Oxfam’s work in places like Bangladesh where they are providing life-saving support like shelter, food, water and safe sanitation. Get your ticket today.” 

All profits will support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty as well as saving lives when humanitarian disasters hit. 

Tickets for FASHION RELIEF in Galway and Dublin are available at www.fashionrelief.ie.  

For more information on tickets, or others ways to support, including organising a donation drive or volunteering on the day, email IRL-fashionrelief@oxfam.org or call 01 672 7662. 

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Interviews, images – including Lorraine Keane’s trip to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh – and more information available on request.  

Alice Dawson-Lyons on  alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org / +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

 

Notes to the Editor:

  • The first FASHION RELIEF was held in the RDS in Dublin on 13th May 2018
  • Oxfam’s work in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: 
  • Oxfam is providing life-saving essentials like food vouchers, safe water and sanitation (toilets, showers, soap, sanitary towels etc.) to help stop the spread of deadly disease and keep people healthy.  
  • They are also working to make sure women and girls feel safe in the camp by:
    • Installing solar-powered street lights around the camp and providing torches and portable solar lanterns so that refugees – especially women – feel safer leaving their shelters after dark  
    • Supplying fabric and vouchers so that refugees, especially women, can make or order clothes so they feel more comfortable going out in public
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Irish political parties fail to “think globally, act locally”

Today, Oxfam Ireland launched their 2020 General Election Scorecard with a call to the Irish public to keep people and the planet at the forefront of their votes on the 8th February.

The scorecard indicates that Irish political parties are not thinking beyond national concerns on a number of key global issues, including climate financing for countries most affected by climate change, tax justice, and gender inequality.

Oxfam Ireland’s Manifesto outlined seven key policy asks for the next Government:

  1. Faster and fairer climate action to meet Ireland’s commitments to address the climate emergency and support poorer countries to cope with climate change
  2. Invest in our care system to help address gender inequality
  3. Support a fundamental reform of the global corporate tax system
  4. Support sustainability through developing the circular economy
  5. Pass legislation to ensure that companies adhere to human rights principles
  6. Increase Ireland’s development aid budget to 0.7% of national income by 2025
  7. Protect those seeking refuge and keep their families together

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

“Ireland has a good track record on the international stage. However, many of the scores reflect a failure to see these global issues for what they are – crises that need to be addressed beyond national concerns. For example, it is disappointing that none of the party manifestos mention climate financing for poorer countries to cope with climate change.

“The climate emergency is one of the most pressing issues threatening our planet’s survival – it doesn’t discriminate, but it is hitting countries least responsible hardest. Communities we work with are losing their homes and livelihoods everyday through gradual, insidious climate changes that also bring extreme weather events, resulting in more floods and droughts, human displacement, and inevitably, climate refugees

"The corporate world has a huge impact on our planets sustainability. Right now, every decision made can affect vulnerable people and ecosystems. Our disposable consumerism, particularly of fashion items and textiles, is massively impacting our environment. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter after the oil industry – developing a circular economy is essential in tackling this, alongside education and awareness raising about the costs of throwaway fashion – on both our planet and the people working to meet the demands of the fast fashion industry

"In addition, it is impossible to develop long-term solutions to global poverty and inequality while the current scale of global corporate tax avoidance continues to drain financial resources both here at home and from low-income countries - resources which should be used to invest in essential services that could lift people out of poverty, such as health and education, and climate resilience strategies.

“All of these inequalities perpetuate and deepen poverty and suffering and stand in the way of people - particularly women and girls – from being able to progress and enjoy their basic rights. As our Time to Care report showed last week, Irish women are no exception to global gender inequality with gross underinvestment in our care systems – so it is encouraging to see more positive scores in relation to Ireland’s care economy.”

Clarken concluded:

“The general election offers opportunity. A new government can position Ireland as a political leader on key global issues dominating headlines and political discourse the world over. Tackling inequalities that cut across gender, our climate emergency and global tax systems, and sustainability as a planet, requires strong leadership and long-term action plans. Most importantly, it requires solidarity with the people and communities at the sharp end of the stark imbalances at play globally. “There is an onus on us all, to start thinking globally, while acting locally.”

ENDS

Contact Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165
Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

*Notes to Editor Our scorecard is based on a traffic light system: Green for Strong | Red for Weak

Further details about our Scorecard: Know their score: Where the parties stand on GE2020 issues

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World’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa, new Oxfam report reveals

The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all 325 million women in Africa, Oxfam revealed today ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos. A new report illustrates how inequality continues to be at crisis levels with wealth valued over work and the contribution of women under-rewarded.

The report – entitled Time to Care – sets out how the global economy fails to adequately reward those who carry out care work, a situation which exacerbates the gap between rich and poor. Extreme inequality is trapping millions of people in poverty around the world – although estimates of the wealth of the world’s poorest have been revised upwards this year, half the world’s population continue to live on less than £4.20-a-day (€5.00/$5.50) and women in particular get a raw deal.

Across the world, women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, such as looking after children and the elderly, which amounts to a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year – more than three times the size of the global tech industry.

Women, especially those living in poverty, do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. 42 per cent of women are outside the paid workforce because of unpaid care responsibilities compared to just six per cent of men. Countless more are paid poverty wages for care work.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “When 22 men have more wealth than all the women in Africa combined, it’s clear that our economy is sexist.

“One way that our upside-down economic system deepens inequality is by chronically undervaluing care work – usually done by women, who are often left little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and are therefore trapped in poverty.

“If world leaders meeting this week are serious about reducing poverty and inequality, they urgently need to invest in care and other public services that make life easier for those with care responsibilities, and tackle discrimination holding back women and girls.”

Oxfam’s report highlights how care work is radically under-valued and taken for granted by governments and business. It is often treated as non-work, with spending on care viewed as a cost rather than an investment, leading to care being rendered invisible in measures of economic progress and policy agendas.

The pressure on carers, both unpaid and paid, is set to grow in the coming decade as the global population grows and ages. An estimated 2.3 billion people will be in need of care by 2030, an increase of 200 million since 2015.

The report also looks at governments’ role in fueling the inequality crisis, massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and corporations and underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload.

Investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare and public healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life. Oxfam research has shown that providing access to an improved water source could save African women significant time, for example in parts of Zimbabwe up to four hours of work a day, or two months a year.

Oxfam is urging governments to create fairer fiscal systems and crack down on tax loopholes to raise the revenue needed to invest in national care systems and public services that meet everyone’s needs, without relying on unpaid and underpaid work by women.

Getting the richest one per cent to pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years could raise enough money to create 117 million jobs, including 79 million in education, health and social care which would help close the current care gap.

ENDS

For a copy of the full report, summary, methodology or to arrange an interview, please contact Phillip Graham at phillip.graham@oxfam.orgor +44 (0) 7841 102535.

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

  • Full report available on request.
  • The report, methodology document explaining how Oxfam calculated the figures, and the data set is available on request.
  • The combined wealth figure of the 22 richest men in the world takes the wealth of the richest male billionaires from the Forbes’ 2019 Billionaires List and compares to the total wealth of all African women aged 20 and over, in line with Credit Suisse's dataset. The calculation is for all women, rich and poor, not just the poorest 50 per cent.
  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data. In 2018, Oxfam calculated that 26 people had the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. In 2019 this figure is 162. The difference in numbers is mainly due to improved Credit Suisse estimates which suggest that wealth held by the bottom 50 per cent is higher than previously thought. Using these new estimates, the revised figure for last year is therefore not 26 but 155. Billionaire wealth also fell in the period covered by Oxfam’s calculations but has since significantly recovered, Bloomberg have just shown how 500 people last year got over a trillion dollars richer. While estimates of overall wealth and the wealth share of the bottom 50 per cent fluctuate from one year to the next, the overall picture of incredible levels of wealth inequality remains shockingly high
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hosting the UK African Investment Summit in London today (Monday, 20 January 2020). Oxfam is calling for meaningful engagement during and after the summit with African and UK civil society, particularly women’s rights organisations, as such inputs are vital in designing investment that would create good quality, well paid jobs for women. It’s vital that companies investing in the region pay their fair share of taxes and not use tax havens as a conduit for their African investments, so that African governments can invest in services and national care systems which reduce the unpaid care burden for women.
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US-Iran conflict restricting aid work in Iraq - Oxfam

Oxfam’s humanitarian work in Iraq is restricted due to heightened security concerns, road checkpoints and travel difficulties, following Iranian missile attacks on US military bases in Iraq overnight in retaliation for the US killing of the Iranian General Suleimani.

Oxfam Iraq Country Director Andres Gonzalez Rodriguez said: “We have had to suspend work in three locations where we were delivering cash aid to people in need of help. If we have to continue the suspension for a few weeks more, 100,000 of the most vulnerable people will be affected.

“Oxfam is one of the few international agencies working in hard-to-reach areas affected by the latest conflict. As far as possible, we will try to keep our humanitarian work going with our partners around the country. However, we have had to relocate some staff and we are keeping all our staff, partners and work under close observation due to the heightened security concerns.”

Oxfam runs 26 humanitarian and development programmes in five governorates in Iraq, specialising in water and sanitation, emergency food, cash and gender programmes and protection work. Oxfam and its partners reach over a million people in Iraq with this aid.

Oxfam has closed its offices, including in Irbil, and asked staff to work from their homes and avoid travel.

Gonzalez Rodriguez added: “The Oxfam office in Irbil is just three kilometres away from where the missile hit the airport. Staff heard the rockets overhead and some saw the impact. Staff in our Ramadi office saw the missile passing over Ramadi city before it hit the Ain al-Asad military base.

“All parties to this conflict are obliged to work hard to de-escalate the crisis and to build peace in order to spare the Middle East region further humanitarian suffering. People who have already suffered decades of war and deprivation will bear the brunt of further conflict and cannot endure another blow. The impacts of another regional conflict on tens of millions of civilians in the Middle East and beyond will be catastrophic and push an over-burdened humanitarian system to breaking point.”

In the Middle East and North Africa over 18 million people have already been forced from their homes due to violence and persecution – over a quarter of all the displaced people in the world. Iran hosts nearly a million refugees from Afghanistan – a war which began nearly two decades ago and shows little sign of abating.

Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America Humanitarian Policy Lead said: “We urge the US, Iran and all parties across the region to show restraint, to respect humanitarian law and allow unfettered humanitarian access to those in need, regardless of perceived affiliations. Now is the time for cooler heads to prevail and the work of de-escalation to begin.

“International law imposes a clear obligation on states to protect the lives and safety of civilians. The international community must speak up boldly in defence of these fundamental principles and remind our leaders that it is their responsibility to prevent further human suffering. We hope that in these tense days, leaders recognise that saving lives is more important than saving face.”

ENDS

CONTACT:

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview.

For interviews or for more information, please contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

Note to editor:

• Oxfam supports 1,042,086 persons of the most vulnerable people living in Iraq, working together with 13 local partner organisations to provide cash and income generation support as well as water, sanitation and protection services. We also work with partners on Women’s Rights, Water rehabilitation, Protection, and Advocacy.

• Oxfam has 26 programmes in five governorates: Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Anbar, and Salahaddin governorates.

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