Press Releases

Oxfam using canoes to prevent people facing famine walking days through water to reach food – South Sudan

March 20th, 2017
  • Agency calls for urgent action for people in need ahead of rainy season

People facing famine in South Sudan are forced to walk through water for days in order to reach food and with the rainy season about to begin, it is a race against time to save lives, Oxfam warns.

The agency is urging members of the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal to support people in desperate need of food, including those in South Sudan.

With support from Irish Aid, Oxfam is using canoes and employing canoe operators to make sure vulnerable people can access food distributions and medical care without having to endure long journeys which risk their safety. In Nyal in Panyijar County, Unity State, Oxfam has helped almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable people living there access food in the past year alone. 

The annual rainy season, which starts in April/May, will cause flooding which means roads and airstrips will become impassable – making things even more difficult for isolated communities and the aid agencies trying to reach them.

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “The people sheltering in areas like Nyal are among the most desperate caught up in this devastating crisis – and the flooding caused by the rainy season will leave them even more at risk.

“After being forced to flee their homes in fear for their lives, they are now forced to travel on foot, sometimes walking through water – hungry and exhausted – for two or three days, to access the food they can’t live without. 

“Through Irish Aid funds, the Irish people have helped us provide canoes and employ local people to operate them so that we can make sure people do not have to choose between safety and life-saving aid. Instead they can access food distributions and medical care without trekking days to do so and are kept safe from attack.”

In South Sudan, urgent action is required to support 4.9 million people in desperate need of food and over 1.8 million displaced by fighting. Today, the Irish Government announced new funding of €11m to assist people affected by famine, drought and conflict in the Horn of Africa, with specific focus on South Sudan (as well as Sudan and Somalia).

Oxfam is distributing food to over 415,000 people in South Sudan as well as providing over 140,000 people with clean water and sanitation. 

Byrne continued: “Ultimately what the people of South Sudan need is an end to the conflict. Until then, we will continue to provide humanitarian aid and longer-term assistance – but we must be given support and safe access to communities in need. Hunger and impending rains present a deadly combination and we urgently need funds to reach more people before it’s too late. Lives depend on it.”

Oxfam is also helping people facing starvation in East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen. The agency is already helping over one million people in Yemen, over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and has begun a response to the drought in Somalia with immediate plans to reach a minimum of 10,000 people with clean water, sanitation and cash assistance for food. 

People can support Oxfam Ireland’s Hunger Crisis Appeal at: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger

ENDS

CONTACT: Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview, including Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, who recently travelled to Niger and has previously worked in South Sudan.

To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact:

Alice Dawson on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

SUGGESTED PHOTO CAPTIONS:

001 and 002: In Nyal, Panyijar County, South Sudan, Oxfam is using canoes to make sure vulnerable people who could not make it by themselves can access food distributions and medical care. Photo: Bruno Bierrenback Feder/Oxfam

Notes to the Editor:

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN SOUTH SUDAN

  • Providing water and sanitation to prevent cholera and diarrhoea
  • Working to position supplies ahead of the rainy season which makes it even more difficult for people to access aid
  • Providing canoes and travel vouchers for people to reach food distributions, as well as employing canoe operators
  •  Providing emergency food distributions and working with people to produce their own food and other income
  • Helping people to claim their rights, flee violence, find safety and access aid
  • So far we have helped over 600,000 people across the country and almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable in Panyijar County, Unity State, to where many people have fled from famine-hit areas

 

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN NIGERIA

  • Providing people with emergency food support, cash and vouchers
  • Providing clean water and better sanitation, including showers and toilets
  • Distributing food and cooking equipment, and kits to help people avoid disease
  • We have helped some 300,000 in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states since May 2014. We aim to help up to 500,000 this year

 

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN YEMEN

  • We have reached more than a million people since July 2015 with clean water, hygiene kits and other essentials
  • Given cash to more 205,000 people so families can buy food or livestock
  • 35,000 have taken part in our cash-for-work programs

 

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN SOMALIA

  • Launching a humanitarian response in Somaliland, with aim of reaching at least 10,000 people with clean water, sanitation and cash assistance for food
  • As the drought worsens in the next few months, we hope to secure enough funding to expand our response across the region 
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Oxfam launches urgent appeal for over 38 million people facing starvation and famine

  • Agency warns that hunger and deaths will rise if aid does not reach countries in need, including South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia
  • Famine likely to be declared in Yemen and Somalia in the coming months
  • In East Africa, 19 million people are on the brink of starvation due to conflict and drought

Wednesday 13 March 2017

Oxfam Ireland has launched an urgent public appeal in response to unprecedented levels of hunger and famine affecting more than 38 million people across six countries – more people than six times the entire population of the island of Ireland.

The agency has asked the public to help it raise €/£500,000 in the coming weeks so it can reach more people quickly in communities in South Sudan, Yemen, north-east Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Oxfam Ireland warned that hunger, starvation and deaths will increase exponentially without urgent action.
 
The UN announced today that levels of hunger have increased by 20% in Yemen since June 2016 and there are now over 17 million people in the country who are dangerously hungry - a massive humanitarian response is required to avert famine.
 
Famine has already been declared in South Sudan where 4.9 million people face starvation and is likely to be declared in Somalia in the coming months where almost three million are in desperate need of food. In north-east Nigeria at least 4.4 million people are in immediate of humanitarian assistance. 
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive said: “We are witnessing levels of hunger and famine right now that have not been seen for decades. War-ravaged South Sudan was the first country in the world to declare famine since 2011 but beyond its borders tens of millions of children, women and men are facing starvation and death in East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen.
 
“In East Africa alone drought and conflict has left 19 million people on the brink of starvation, in desperate need of food, water and medical treatment – many have already died. Behind that incomprehensible number are real people. People like Fadumo, a mother and farmer from the Somali region in Ethiopia who lost three of her children, triplets, to malnutrition when they were less than one month old. Meanwhile drought claimed the majority of her livestock and source of income, leaving her destitute.”
 
Oxfam is supporting communities facing famine and hunger by distributing emergency food supplies and cash or cash vouchers, and providing clean water and sanitation. Oxfam is already helping over one million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 300,000 in Nigeria, 255,000 people in the Southern Somali region of Ethiopia and plans to begin a response to the drought in Somalia.
 
Mr Clarken continued: “When famine is declared it suggests the international community has failed to organise and act in time. We must act now before levels of hunger rise and people exhaust their last efforts to feed their families.
 
“The international community must respond immediately and collectively to fulfil the UN’s urgent appeal for $4.4 billion – and commit to responding earlier to warning signs so that this never happens again. Meanwhile, aid agencies must be given more and better access to all people in need to prevent further suffering and needless loss of life.
 
“We’re also calling on people across the island of Ireland to help us raise vital funds quickly so that we can ramp up our response to this devastating food crisis. We are already on the ground in countries in East Africa and in Nigeria and Yemen but what concerns us now is the people we have yet to reach.”
 
People can support Oxfam Ireland Hunger Crisis Appeal at: https://www.oxfamireland.org/hunger
 
ENDS

CONTACT: Oxfam spokespeople, including from East Africa, Nigeria and Yemen, are available for interview. To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact:

Alice Dawson on 083 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to the Editor:

FOOD CRISIS IN NUMBERS:

SOUTH SUDAN 4.9 million people between “crisis” levels of hunger and famine

YEMEN 7-10m between “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger

SOMALIA Nearly 3m between “crisis” and “emergency” levels of hunger

NIGERIA At least 4.4m in northeast between “crisis” levels of hunger and famine

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN SOUTH SUDAN

· Providing water and sanitation to prevent cholera and diarrhoea

· Working to position supplies ahead of the rainy season which makes it even more difficult for people to access aid

· Providing travel vouchers for people to take canoes to reach food distributions

· Providing emergency food distributions and working with people to produce their own food and other income

· Helping people to claim their rights, flee violence, find safety and access aid

· So far we have helped over 600,000 people across the country and almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable in Panyijar County, Unity State, to where many people have fled from famine-hit areas

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN NIGERIA

· Providing people with emergency food support, cash and vouchers

· Providing clean water and better sanitation, including showers and toilets

· Distributing food and cooking equipment, and kits to help people avoid disease

· We have helped some 300,000 in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states since May 2014. We aim to help up to 500,000 this year

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN YEMEN

· We have reached more than a million people since July 2015 with clean water, hygiene kits and other essentials

· Given cash to more 205,000 people so families can buy food or livestock

· 35,000 have taken part in our cash-for-work programs

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN SOMALIA

· Launching a humanitarian response in Somaliland, with aim of reaching at least 10,000 people with clean water, sanitation and cash assistance for food

· As the drought worsens in the next few months, we hope to secure enough funding to expand our response across the region

 

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Oxfam: Six years on and no escape for Syrians seeking safety

'Doors slammed in their faces' as countries enact more hostile policies

6th Syria anniversary coincides with lifting by EU on suspension on return of refugees to Greece

Monday 13 March 2017

Ahead of the six year anniversary on Wednesday [March 15th] since the demonstrations that triggered the descent into a brutal civil war, Oxfam has warned that millions of Syrians are bearing the brunt of increasingly restrictive policies around the world and inside Syria to stop them reaching safety.

13.5 million men, women and children are in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance in Syria. Nearly 700,000 are trapped in besieged areas, where it is either impossible or extremely difficult to provide humanitarian aid. Amongst the most vulnerable are the approximately 78,000 people trapped along Syria’s sealed borders with Jordan, the hundreds of thousands more prevented from entering Turkey, and over 640,000 people struggling to survive under military sieges in Syria, imposed by the Government of Syria and its allies, armed opposition groups and ISIS.

Over half of the country’s population has fled: 4.9 million people have sought refuge in the region and beyond, and 6.3 million people are internally displaced, in most cases multiple times. To date, Oxfam has helped more than two million people across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to access humanitarian assistance like clean water, cash and legal aid.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The crisis is now entering its seventh year, with all sides to the conflict targeting civilians and deliberately cutting off people’s access to vital services such as water, food, medical supplies and electricity.

“Syria is not a safe country for refugees to return to yet a new international consensus is emerging to stop Syrians fleeing violence, rather than stopping the violence that is causing them to flee. The result is civilians in the firing line and under crippling military siege, vulnerable refugees left with no resettlement options, and attempts to return Syrians to a conflict zone.”

Those who have fled Syria are seeing doors slammed in their faces as rich countries across the world enact policies hostile towards refugees. Since the end of January 2017, the United States, European Union member states, including the United Kingdom, have changed, suspended or cancelled policies that could have seen tens of thousands of refugees offered a safe haven.

US President Donald Trump recently issued a new Executive Order that completely halts the country’s refugee resettlement programme for 120 days. This unprecedented action poses a real threat to the lives of Syrians and other refugees who, given the multiple, overlapping and time-sensitive medical and security screenings imposed by the process, effectively have only a two month window to travel before checks begin to expire.

Mr Clarken said: “This new US Executive Order is yet another attempt to slam the door on thousands of vulnerable refugees who desperately need help. The drastically shrinking options for refugees makes it all the more important for the Irish and UK governments to play their part. Ireland can do so by speeding up the resettlement process, expanding the humanitarian visa programme, and increasing options for family reunification for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

On the anniversary of the first Syria protests on Wednesday (15 March), the EU will lift a suspension on the return of refugees to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, meaning refugees who enter into Greece after this date and travel across Europe are at risk of being returned to Greece to process their asylum claims. This is despite the European Commission’s own admission that their policies are putting the Greek asylum system under massive strain and leaving people in appalling conditions.

The date also coincides with one year on from the EU-Turkey deal, which has caused huge suffering to many people – including many Syrians – who are trying to enter Europe to reach safety and the chance of a better life. The EU-Turkey deal has left many people in overcrowded and appalling conditions on Greek islands, as Europe attempts to return people to Turkey to avoid having to process asylum claims on its shores.

The UK government announced in February that it would cease to accept unaccompanied refugee children from Europe under an amendment to its immigration law passed last year.

Inside Syria, civilians in besieged areas are under a tightening grip. Like in Aleppo at the end of last year, when territory is taken by the Syrian government and their allies, civilians are given the choice of evacuation – often to unsafe areas and where they face threats en route – or to remain in the area and accept rule by the Syrian government, with considerable risks for those who the government perceives as being part of the opposition. Civilian humanitarian workers who have helped their communities in the last years of war are often particularly at risk of reprisal.

Mr Clarken said: “The international community must listen to all those affected by the crisis – including those forced to flee across borders and those within Syria, as well as the local humanitarian organisations that have helped them through this tragedy. Until there is a sustainable peace in Syria, all members of the international community have a duty to offer a safe haven to those fleeing the violence and repression.”

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Oxfam has Syria emergency response spokespeople available for interview on the ground in the region, including staff in Lebanon and Jordan.

For interviews or more information, please contact

Belfast: Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Dublin: Alice Dawson on 083 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Notes to the Editor:

·         Oxfam is providing clean water to conflict affected populations in Syria through the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, water trucking and repairing of wells. It is working in Lebanon and Jordan to bring Syrian refugees clean drinking water, cash and relief supplies. Oxfam also helps families get the information they need about their rights and connects them to special services such as legal aid, as well as implementing programmes in sanitation and livelihoods. It has so far helped more than two million people across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. 

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Oxfam Ireland calls for financial and diplomatic action to meet unprecedented humanitarian needs and prevent catastrophic loss of life

‘To see people in famine in 2017 is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity’

‘Without urgent financial support, already stretched humanitarian system will be unable to cope and many more people will die’

Saturday March 11th 2017

Oxfam Ireland has called for immediate and urgent action to respond to what the UN’s Stephen O’Brien has described as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

The UN’s humanitarian chief has warned that more than 20 million people across South Sudan, Yemen, north east Nigeria and Somalia face starvation and famine.

Oxfam recently warned that the world stands on the brink of an unprecedented four famines in 2017 due to a catastrophic failure of the global community to uphold its obligations to the most vulnerable of people. 



The aid agency is already helping over a million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 200,000 in Nigeria and plans to begin a response to the drought in Somalia. Oxfam Ireland is appealing for members of the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Yemen is on the brink of famine after nearly two years of devastating conflict. After months of early warnings, famine was declared last month in parts of South Sudan. In northern Nigeria it is likely that some 400,000 people living in areas cut off from aid are already suffering famine. The primary driver of these crises is conflict, though in Somalia it is drought. 

“To see people in famine in 2017 is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity. When famine strikes, it is not a sudden phenomenon. Going hungry is a slow and agonising process. It comes when warnings go ignored. We must learn from failures in the past to respond with sufficient speed. UN appeals for humanitarian funding have grown ever bigger yet the response has not matched the need. There is now a urgent humanitarian imperative to meet the $4.4 billion needed for the aid response for these crises at the required scale.



“If the international community acts collectively now with a massive injection of aid, backed with diplomatic clout driven by the imperative to save lives, we can prevent a catastrophic loss of life. Without financial support, an already stretched international humanitarian system will not be able to cope and many more people will die.

“There is an urgent need for increased diplomatic efforts to convene ceasefires, enable safe passage by those fleeing insecurity and secure access by aid agencies to those in need of assistance.”

People can donate to Oxfam Ireland’s hunger crisis appeal at www.oxfamireland.org/hunger  

ENDS

 

Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107

Notes to editors:

In South Sudan, 100,000 people are facing starvation now and a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine in Unity State. 



In Yemen, over 7 million people are just one step away from famine, and an extra 10 million people are severely hungry. This is the largest hunger emergency in the world. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is reporting that wheat stocks for the country will run out in April.

In Nigeria, over 5 million people are in food crisis, and this is projected to reach 5.7 million by June 2017. There is a strong likelihood that at least 400,000 people could already be experiencing famine-like conditions and that this could rise to up to 800,000 over the course of 2017 if humanitarian assistance cannot be delivered.

In Somalia, 2.9 million people face acute food security ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ levels. This could tip into famine if the April-June rains fail, their ability to buy food declines and people do not receive humanitarian support.

 

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A time for action, not words: more than 160 NGOs call on EU to lead by values in migration response

8 March 2017 

EU leaders must live up to their commitment to European values in responding to migration and stop copying xenophobic populist trends, 162 NGOs have said today in a joint statement.

The organisations – including Oxfam and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland – are calling for strong leadership in actions, not just in words, which upholds the ideals of equality, liberty and human rights that have been the founding principles of the European Union for 60 years.

The statement comes ahead of this week’s meeting of the European Council in Brussels and follows months of decisions by EU leaders aimed at shutting migration routes across the Mediterranean at any cost, including backing an Italian deal with Libya which will see the EU taking part in and financing migration control in Libya.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “It is time for EU leaders to go beyond their repeated rhetoric of respect for human rights and dignity and actually deliver on their commitments to defend and protect men, women and children on the move.

“In our work with refugees and migrants in Greece, Italy and the Balkans, as well as beyond Europe’s shores, we see the terrible impact that European migration policies are having on the lives of people forced to flee. Closing borders and stopping people from reaching Europe – these decisions have life and death consequences. Europe is perfectly capable of hosting more refugees and migrants and treating them with dignity and respect for human rights – all that is needed is the political will and courage to do so.”

Edel McGinley from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, said: “Europe’s focus on border closures and push backs stands in stark contrast to the widespread solidarity shown by ordinary Europeans towards people fleeing war, persecution, danger and extreme poverty. In Ireland, we’ve witnessed communities welcoming refugees and migrants with warmth and generosity, opening up their homes and lives to help. EU governments must not undermine this solidarity but match it proactively with courage and determination to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.”

According to the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition who welcomed this joint letter, governments are failing to uphold their obligations under international and European law and are instead doing their utmost to keep people in need out of Europe and out of sight through migration deals with countries like Turkey, Libya and other states in Africa. European authorities are also pushing to expedite asylum procedures in order to facilitate the deportation of asylum seekers. As a result, many people are unable to submit their asylum applications in a fair and effective manner, or access adequate legal assistance.

Mr Clarken said: “Desperate people seeking safety from wars and persecution are forced to take dangerous journeys across Europe, often at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers. EU member states must make a drastic U-turn and deliver sustainable, long-term migration policies that guarantee respect for people’s rights rather than pushing them into danger. These policies include expanding safe and regular pathways to Europe. The Irish Government must play its part by expanding the humanitarian visa programme and increasing options for family reunification so that some of the world’s most vulnerable people have access to safe and regular routes to Europe.”

To read the joint letter to EU leaders in full, click here.

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Spokespeople from Oxfam Ireland and other organisations are available for interview. To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

·          Read the full letter to EU leaders, listing all 162 organisations that signed it.

·          This action is supported by the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition  Refugee and Migrant Coalition: ActionAid Ireland; Community Work Ireland; Christian Aid; Comhlámh; Crosscare; Conference of the Religious of Ireland; Cultúr Migrants Centre; Dóchas; Doras Luimní; ENAR Ireland; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Missionary Union; Irish Refugee Council; Jesuit Refugee Service; Mercy International Association; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; Mayo Intercultural Action ; Nasc  Ireland; National Women’s Council of Ireland ; Oxfam Ireland; Trócaire ; World Vision Ireland

·          A deal with Libya, struck by Italy and which received backing by EU member states in February in the Malta declaration, exposes people to suffering and death.

·          In October 2016, Oxfam published a media briefing paper “Causing suffering and problems - Europe’s approach to migration”, detailing the various failures of the EU’s migration response.

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