Press Releases

Yemen’s man-made catastrophe is forcing people to make stark live-or-die choices, warns new Oxfam report

Yemenis, already at tipping point after more than two years of war, are now being forced to choose between treating cholera and putting food on the table, said Oxfam in a new report published today, entitled Yemen: Catastrophic Cholera Crisis.

Sixty percent of the population in Yemen is in need of food, including 6.8 million people who are facing starvation. People who are then hit by cholera can only afford the costs of transportation, medicine and doctors’ fees by further reducing the amount of food they buy. Oxfam spoke to many families who have to rely on selling their personal belongings and going into debt in order to buy food and pay for cholera treatment. Seeking medical treatment is often the last resort, and many only do so when it is already too late.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said: “Each day that passes brings more suffering to the unbearable lives of the Yemeni people. The world is shamefully failing them. A new disaster after another is leading thousands of people to face stark live-or-die choices every day. What more needs to happen in Yemen for the international community to properly respond?”

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “This is no accidental disaster, it is a man-made catastrophe driven by national and international politics. The ongoing conflict has ruined Yemen’s economy, destroying people’s ability to make a living and devastating the health sector, which now is unable to properly respond to the cholera outbreak. Hunger, resulting directly from the effects of war, has made malnourished men, women and children even more vulnerable to the deadly disease.”

The war in Yemen has resulted in over 5,000 civilians being killed,  nearly half a million children becoming malnourished and now the world’s worst outbreak of cholera recorded in a single year, with a staggering half a million suspected cases since April 2017. Amidst this outbreak, which has affected all but one governorate in Yemen, nearly 2,000 people have died.

Oxfam’s report published describes how one family had to spend 15,000 Yemeni riyals (€50/£46), just to travel to the nearest cholera treatment centre – a fortune for many struggling families and that’s before doctors’ fees and medication.

Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 1.2 million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers, including 430,000 people as part of its cholera response.

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and support people facing famine in Yemen, as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger

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Contact:

Oxfam spokespeople in Ireland and in-country are available. To arrange an interview or request more information contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to Editors:

1.     Link to Oxfam’s report: Yemen: Catastrophic Cholera Crisis” 

2.     Photos and stories are available.

3.     The revised 2017 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan requires $2.3 billion to target 12 million people, but is only 39% funded as 15 August 2017. 

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Oxfam providing clean water and hygiene kits to survivors of Sierra Leone mud slide

·         Oxfam spokespeople on the ground available for interview

Flooding and mudslides have killed more than 300 and left an estimated 3,000 people homeless on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

Although affected residents are being relocated to accessible sites, it is thought that flooding in Freetown and elsewhere may make it difficult to reach others.

Oxfam is on the ground, providing clean water and hygiene kits to survivors. The aid agency initially plans to help almost 2,000 households amid concerns that continued heavy rains, overcrowding and inadequate water and sanitation systems will leave people extremely vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.  

Daniel Byrne, part of the Oxfam team that visited the worst affected areas, said: “We saw mass destruction – people were pulling bodies out with their bare hands. We didn’t see any survivors from the homes that had been submerged. Neighbours have been taking in people who have lost their homes. We spoke to one person who has taken 30 people into their home which has just three rooms.

“These are some of the poorest areas in Freetown. Water and sanitation in homes is at best very basic, but at worst non-existent. Overcrowding is a serious health risk and a potential breeding ground for the spread of disease.”

Oxfam’s Sierra Leone Country Director, Thynn Thynn Hlaing, said: “The disaster has left thousands of extremely poor people without a home. The city experiences floods every year but not on this scale. Oxfam is working with its partners in Freetown to help survivors and prevent any outbreaks of diseases."

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Oxfam spokespeople, including Oxfam’s Sierra Leone Country Director Thynn Thynn Hlaing and local staff member Daniel Byrne, are available for interview.

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

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

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Yemen cholera outbreak worst on record and numbers still rising, warns Oxfam

Massive aid effort and ceasefire needed as rainy season approaches

 

Friday 21st July 2017

The number of people with cholera in Yemen is now the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year since records began, Oxfam said today. At over 360,000 suspected cholera cases in just three months since the outbreak started, it is now already the largest number of cases in a year, topping the previous annual record of 340,311 in Haiti in 2011.

Though there are signs that the increase in numbers is slowing, the country’s rainy season from July to September will increase the risk of the disease spreading further. It is feared that the total number of people infected could eventually rise to over 600,000, which would make it one of the largest outbreaks since records began in 1949.

Almost 2,000 people in Yemen have died from suspected cholera since late April this year and many more are now at risk, weakened by hunger, disease and the ongoing war.

Health, water and sanitation systems have been bombed to the point of collapse leaving over 15 million people without adequate access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation. Millions more are hungry and need help in getting a decent meal.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Cholera has spread unchecked in a country already on its knees after two years of war and which is teetering on the brink of famine. For many people, weakened by war and hunger, cholera is the knockout blow.

“This is a massive crisis needing a massive response – if anything the numbers we have are likely to underestimate the scale of the crisis. So far funding from the international community to pay for the aid effort has been lacklustre at best, less than half is what is needed.

“Cholera is easy to treat and simple to prevent. We need a massive well-coordinated effort to get clean water and decent sanitation to people and simple things like soap to keep them safe from disease. We need an end to country entry restrictions of supplies and people so that we can get on with the job.

“The war has left millions without the means to earn a living and forced three million people to flee their homes. It has precipitated a crisis which has left seven million people on the brink of starvation. And the war has destroyed or damaged more than half the country’s health facilities. All this is crippling efforts to tackle the cholera crisis.”

Waste is piling up on the streets and in the settlements of displaced people because sanitation services, severely damaged by the two year war, cannot cope. Aid agencies tackling the cholera crisis are in danger of being overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the world's major arms exporters – which include the UK and US – are making more money from arming the Saudi-led coalition force than they are spending on Yemen’s humanitarian appeal. In 2016, Saudi Arabia spent nearly $3 billion on arms from the world’s major arms exporters. As of this month, many of those same governments had given just $620 million toward the $2.1 billion UN appeal for Yemen.

Oxfam is calling for an immediate cease-fire to enable a nationwide cholera campaign to tackle the disease unhindered by fighting and allow people to get their lives back together. It is calling for the opening of ports and Sanaa airport to allow a massive injection of aid and for the UN and aid agencies’ appeal to be fully funded.

Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 1.2 million people across Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers. Oxfam is stepping up its efforts to tackle the cholera outbreak, sending 39 tonnes of vital water and sanitation equipment in late June.

Oxfam Ireland is also appealing to the public for vital funds for its hunger crisis response to support people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger

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CONTACT

For interviews, images or more information, please contact:

ROI: Alice Dawson on 083 1981 869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

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

NOTES TO EDITORS:

New video footage available on request.

Figures of previous cholera outbreaks taken from the World Health Organisation’s Global Health Observatory data repository

http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.175?lang=en

From 27 April to 18 July 2017, 362,545 suspected cholera cases and 1,817 deaths (CFR: 0.5%) have been reported in 91.3% (21/23) of Yemen governorates, and 88% (293/333) of the districts. YEMEN: Cholera Outbreak Daily epidemiology update 19 July 2017 WHO

http://www.emro.who.int/yem/yemeninfocus/situation-reports.html

The largest outbreak since modern records began was in Haiti where the total number of cholera cases reached 754,373 between 2010 and 2015. 

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Statement by Oxfam Ireland and GOAL following conclusion of merger talks

Tuesday July 18th, 2017

GOAL and Oxfam Ireland have concluded joint talks to explore a possible merger and have decided not to proceed at this time.

They have instead agreed to begin to work more closely together on programmes and projects where they found significant areas of commonality.

The organisations’ Boards believe that the two organisations will continue to make a strong impact as independent entities in their work serving the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. A joint GOAL-Oxfam team spent five months exploring the possibility of bringing both organisations together, however due to the complexities of a full merger it was not possible to bring discussions to a successful conclusion at this time.

It was decided that the scale and diversity of both organisations’ work will be best served by operating as two distinct entities for now. 

GOAL General Manager Celine Fitzgerald said: “GOAL has, over the last five months, been hugely impressed by the shared commitment of Oxfam to supporting the world’s most vulnerable populations and our admiration and respect for the organisation has grown immeasurably. While we have not been able to conclude a merger agreement at this time, we plan to work together and continue a dialogue, sharing knowledge and resources to better serve the beneficiaries of both organisations.”

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “We have immense admiration for the work undertaken by GOAL, the people behind it and its robust governance systems. While both our organisations will remain separate, the goodwill and understanding we have developed will ensure a mutually supportive relationship and we look forward to working closely together in the future.”

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Contact:

Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org 

David Williams, GOAL, +353 87 419 7140, dwilliams@goal.ie 

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Bill to reunite refugee families passes in the Seanad

Wednesday 19th July 2017

A Private Members’ Bill to enable more refugee families living in Ireland to be reunited with their dependent loved ones has passed the second stage in Seanad Éireann tonight.

The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 was proposed by members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation.

While opposed by Fine Gael, the Bill had cross-party support from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and a group of Independent Senators and passed with 24 votes to 17.

The Bill will now return to the Seanad for committee stage in the Autumn before proceeding to the Dáil. If passed in the Dáil, the Bill will amend the International Protection Act 2015 which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family and enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian.

Speaking after the vote passed the second stage, Senator Colette Kelleher said: "It is great that the bill has passed the second stage. We will take on board the comments made by the Minister and other Senators. Most importantly, we will make sure that this important piece of legislation works for refugees and their families."

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Press release from Monday 17th July 2017:

Seanad Group introduces bill to reunite refugee families 

Proposed amendment seeks to restore original definition of family provided in 1996 Act

On Wednesday (19th July) members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan will propose a Private Members’ Bill in Seanad Éireann to enable more refugee families to be reunited in Ireland.  

The bill 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.

This has a devastating impact on the lives of refugees and people seeking protection as it separates children aged 18 and over from their parents and grandparents, divides siblings and destroys extended family networks.

Members of the Civil Engagement Group worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on developing the legislation which would enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian.

All three organisations have seen first-hand the additional trauma and anxiety caused when people fleeing conflict and disaster are separated from their loved ones, a vital source of solace and support in times of anguish and uncertainty. 

The 2015 Act changed Ireland’s family reunification policy by removing the category of dependents which existed under the Irish Refugee Act 1996. 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.

Under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme the Government promised to welcome 4,000 refugees to Ireland by the end of 2017 – less than a third have arrived so far.

Speaking in advance of the bill’s introduction, Senator Colette Kelleher said:

“We are seeking to restore the old definition, which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of family. The International Protection Act 2015 was brought in in a hurry and may be having unintended consequences. It’s a timely moment to take stock and to reconsider the required rules for effective family reunifications.”

Frances Black, Independent Senator for the Industrial and Commercial Panel, said:

“This bill is about treating the small number of refugees who arrive in Ireland with compassion and understanding. These people have lost so much and are attempting to build a new life here – the best way to do that is with your family beside you.”

Alice-Mary Higgins, Independent Senator for National University of Ireland, said:

“This bill facilitates a more humane approach to family reunification, one consistent with the full understanding of family seen in other areas of public policy. I also believe most citizens want to see Ireland stepping up to its international responsibilities by responding in a compassionate and constructive way to the international crises which have forced so many to flee their homes. Further reform of our flawed asylum system is certainly needed, but this Bill is a step in the right direction’.

The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 will be proposed by members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Grace O'Sullivan, Lynn Ruane and John Dolan, during their private members time on Wednesday 19th July. The bill will be debated in the Seanad from 17:00 to 19:00 and will be streamed live on Oireachtas TV.

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CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Oxfam Ireland: Alice Dawson, Communications Coordinator: +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Senator Kelleher’s Office: Pádraig Rice, Assistant to Senator Colette Kelleher: +(01) 6183642 / +353 (0) 85 748 7378 / Padraig.Rice@Oireachtas.ie

LINKS:

A copy of the bill can be viewed here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=36718&&CatID=59 or https://www.oxfamireland.org/sites/default/files/upload/pdfs/seanad-bill.pdf

An explanatory memo for the bill can be viewed here.

Link to Oireachtas TV: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/watchlisten/watchlive/seanadeireann/

Notes to the Editor:

·         As of May 2017, 1,259 people have arrived under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme with over 2,700 people still to come.

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