Press Releases

Irish humanitarian aid agencies appeal to UN Security Council to keep vital Syria – Türkiye (Turkey) border crossing open

Photo: Goal Global

July 5th 2022

Five Irish aid agencies (Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland, Concern, GOAL and World Vision Ireland) today called on the UN Security Council to vote to keep a vital border crossing between Syria and Türkiye (Turkey) open to allow for lifesaving aid to reach millions in need.

The agencies say the July 7th vote on the border crossing is critical for the lives and well-being of 4.1 million people trapped in northwest Syria, where humanitarian needs are at their highest since the conflict started 11 years ago.

Millions of Syrians are completely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, especially those who have been displaced by the conflict. 80% of those in need are women and children and over 3.2 million people are food insecure and need food assistance.

The UN Security Council, of which Ireland is currently a member, established a cross-border resolution in 2014 which allowed for four crossings for humanitarian aid delivery. Since 2020, this has been whittled down to one crossing which allows humanitarian aid to reach Syrians in need.  

Speaking on behalf of the five aid agencies, Mary Van Lieshout, Director of External Affairs, GOAL, said: “The priority must be the delivery of humanitarian aid to families who need it in the most direct and efficient way. Bab al-Hawa is now the sole border crossing point for humanitarian operations into Idleb and Aleppo in northwest Syria and it must be protected.

“If humanitarian organisations are unable to operate cross-border when humanitarian needs are rising rapidly there will be a disastrous deterioration in living conditions.

“We urge the UN Security Council to renew Resolution 2585 on cross-border aid to northwest Syria. Failure to renew the resolution will immediately disrupt lifesaving aid operations, plunging people in northwest Syria into even more appalling misery, threatening access to food, medical care, and shelter. This is a humanitarian and moral imperative,” continued Mary Van Lieshout.

Since the resolution came into effect in 2014, millions of Syrians have benefitted from UN-led cross-border assistance despite continued insecurity, conflict, and access constraints. In 2021, the cross-border humanitarian response enabled aid agencies to reach over 2.4 million people per month in the northwest. This provided food for 1.8 million people, nutrition assistance for 85,000 people, education support for 78,000 children, access to life-saving dignity kits for 250,000 women and girls and critical medical items and supplies to help people survive the cold winter months.

For further information, please see https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14954.doc.htm

To organise an interview, please contact Jane Curtin, Comms Manager, GOAL. Tel.: 087 938 0779

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

Humanitarian needs in northwest Syria

  • In northwest Syria, 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, which represents an increase from 3.4 million in 2021.
  • This population remains in areas that can only be reached with lifesaving assistance that is delivered cross-border.
  • 2.8 million of the Syrian population residing in the northwest are IDPs, and 1.7 million of them live in camps or informal settlements.
  • People living in camps often lack adequate shelter, infrastructure, protection, and basic services including water, sanitation, and healthcare.
  • Over 70% of the population are food insecure in northwest Syria (3.1 million out of 4.4 million people)
  • In northwest Syria, people are particularly impacted by the crisis in Ukraine because they are largely dependent on humanitarian food aid and imports from Turkey. Turkey imports 78% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia so any potential price increases or wheat shortages in Turkey are likely to affect Syria’s northwest.
  • The price of essential food items in northwest Syria has already increased up to 22% and 67% (varies by region) since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Humanitarian needs across Syria

  • 14.6 million people require help to meet their basic survival needs.
  • Over 12 million people are still acutely food insecure.
  • Up to 80% of those internally displaced are women and girls.
  • Over half of those in camps across Syria are under the age of 18 years.
  • 2021 saw the worst drought in 70 years, affecting access to drinking water, electricity generation and irrigation water for millions of Syrians.
  • The water crisis crippled the harvest in 2021, which is likely to exacerbate food security throughout 2022 and beyond.
  • Price increases on essentials including food, water, and transportation means that Syrians are not able to afford the basics they need and there are little or no adequate public services to support them.
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Reaction: WTO negotiations on patents for COVID-19 Vaccines in developing countries

Responding to news that governments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have agreed a deal on patents for COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland said:

“This is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs to ensure access to vaccines and treatments for everyone, everywhere. The EU, UK, US, and Switzerland blocked that text. This so-called compromise largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. And it tries to restrict even that limited right to countries which do not already have capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.

“The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful. The EU has blocked anything that resembles a meaningful intellectual property waiver. The UK and Switzerland have used negotiations to twist the knife and make any text even worse. And the US has sat silently in negotiations with red lines designed to limit the impact of any agreement. 

“Ireland, represented at the talks by the EU, have continued to show inaction, which now must be seen as a huge moral failure. Furthermore, this inaction is a show of disregard towards the will of the Irish public, given that the majority of the Irish public, the Seanad, the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence are all in favour of a full TRIPS waiver and have called on the Irish Government to reverse their opposition.

“South Africa and India have led a twenty-month fight for the rights of developing countries to manufacture and access vaccines, tests, and treatments. It is disgraceful that rich countries have prevented the WTO from delivering a meaningful agreement on vaccines and have dodged their responsibility to take action on treatments while people die without them.

“There are some worrying new obligations in this text that could actually make it harder for countries to access vaccines in a pandemic. We hope that developing countries will now take bolder action to exercise their rights to override vaccine intellectual property rules and, if necessary, circumvent them to save lives.”

ENDS

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Alice Dawson Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | 0831981869

Notes to editors:

  • Spokespeople are available for interview, including in Geneva, where the WTO is hosting its 12th ministerial conference.
  • The trade related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) waiver would facilitate the local production of Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments in low and middle-income countries. The IP waiver was proposed in October 2020 and is supported by over 100 countries; however it is still being blocked by the EU, the UK, and Switzerland. The final text agreed is a watered down waiver of one small clause of the TRIPS agreement relating to exports of vaccines. It also contains new barriers that are not in the original TRIPS agreement text.
  • In June, the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment formally recommended that the Irish Government supports a TRIPS waiver in the context of COVID-19 vaccines and other measures to ensure equitable and safe distribution of vaccines. This recommendation followed the passage of a unanimous motion in the Seanad in December 2021 calling on the Government to support the TRIPS waiver.

800% increase in funding needed for extreme weather emergencies over last 20 years

Rich countries, corporates and individuals most responsible for climate crisis must foot the bill – new Oxfam report

07/06/22

The amount of money needed for UN humanitarian appeals involving extreme weather events like floods or drought is now eight times higher than 20 years ago — and donors are failing to keep up, reveals a new Oxfam brief today. Average annual extreme weather-related humanitarian funding appeals for 2000-2002 were at least $1.6 billion and rose to an average $15.5 billion in 2019-2021, an 819 percent increase.

Rich countries responsible for most of today’s climate change impacts have met only an estimated 54 percent of these appeals since 2017, leaving a shortfall of up to $33 billion. Rich and industrialised countries have contributed around 92 percent of excess historical emissions and 37 percent of current emissions, whereas Africa’s current emissions stand at just 4 percent.

The countries with the most recurring appeals against extreme weather crises — over 10 each — include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe. Across Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia more than 24.4 million people now face severe levels of hunger and food insecurity – together, those countries are responsible for just 0.1 percent of current global emissions.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Footing the Bill, Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland CEO, said: “The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change is putting more and more pressure on an already over-stretched and underfunded humanitarian system. And it is the people in poorer communities and low-income countries who are paying the heaviest costs. Destruction from these storms, droughts and floods is also increasing inequality; those most vulnerable are hardest hit and yet they lack the systems and funding that wealthier countries have to cope with the effects.

“Make no mistake, this is a disaster of our own making. Human activity has created a world 1.1˚C warmer than pre-industrial levels and more alarming still, we will overshoot the 1.5˚C safety threshold on current projections. If we do not heed the warnings now and cut emissions, our shameful inaction will have catastrophic consequences for humanity.”

The UN appeals focus on the most urgent humanitarian needs, but that barely scratches the surface of the real costs in loss and damage that climate change is now wreaking on countries’ economies. The economic cost of extreme weather events in 2021 alone was estimated to be $329 billion globally, the third highest year on record. This is nearly double the total aid given by rich nations to the developing world that year.

The costs of loss and damage to low- and middle-income countries — for instance, the money needed to rebuild homes and hospitals or provide shelter, food and emergency cash transfers after a cyclone — could reach between $290 billion and $580 billion a year by 2030. This does not account for the catastrophic loss of life, cultures and ways of living, and biodiversity.

Clarken continued: “For many of the countries hardest hit by climate change, it is a case of crisis on top of crisis, as they are already facing conflict, the economic fallout of COVID-19 and now the global food crisis further triggered by the war in Ukraine. They cannot be expected to foot the bill for climate-driven loss and damage that they are not responsible for. Rich countries, rich people and big corporations most responsible for causing climate change must pay for the harm they are causing.”

Rich industrialised nations have stymied loss and damage finance negotiations for years. At COP26 in Glasgow, they rejected developing countries’ calls for a new finance facility to address loss and damage and instead agreed to a three-year ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ to discuss future arrangements.

Ahead of 56th sessions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) in Germany, which includes the first ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ on loss and damage since COP26, Oxfam urges:

  • Rich country governments to pledge bilateral finance to address loss and damage, in addition to existing climate finance and ODA commitments.
  • All governments to agree to establish and fund a finance facility for loss and damage at COP27, with annual contributions based on responsibility for causing climate change and capacity to pay.
  • All governments to agree to make loss and damage a core element of the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan.

Download Oxfam’s brief Footing the Bill here.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

Notes to editors

  • Photos and video from Burkina Faso and Guatemala are available for download.
  • The countries with the most recurring appeals linked to extreme weather (Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Sudan and Zimbabwe) account for 1.4 percent of global emissions.
  • According to Aon, the total economic cost of extreme weather events in 2021 is estimated at $329 billion globally, the third highest year on record, behind 2017 and 2005.
  • Rich nations provided $178.9 billion in official development assistance (ODA) in 2021. This is equivalent to 0.33 percent of donors’ combined gross national income (GNI) and still below the UN target of 0.7% ODA to GNI.
  • According to estimations by Markandya and González-Eguino, the estimated costs of loss and damage by 2030 range from $290 billion to $580 billion, and according to Climate Analytics from $400 to $431 billion.
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Pandemic saw billionaire bonanza while millions face cost of living crisis

Billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion dollars every two days

Ahead of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Oxfam calls for an end to crisis profiteering

Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP, up from 4.4 percent in 2000.

While billionaire wealth soars, it is expected that over a quarter of a million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022, according to a new briefing from Oxfam, Profiting from Pain. The briefing comes as the World Economic Forum — the exclusive get-together of the global elite in Davos — takes place face-to-face for the first time since COVID-19.

Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland said: “Billionaires arriving in Davos have seen an incredible surge in their fortunes. Simply put, the pandemic followed by the steep increases in food and energy prices have been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on ending extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.”

The wealth of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by a massive €15.55 billion since the start of the pandemic, a 44 percent increase bringing it to €51 billion, while latest figures show that 691,587 people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation, of which 204,710 are children.

Globally, 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours. While this year, it is expected that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19. The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.

In Ireland, five of the biggest Irish food companies have had a total profit rise of €174 million in just one year - in the last year of recorded profits. Meanwhile five of the best-known Irish energy companies had combined yearly profits rise of €280 million. Yearly inflation for energy products in Ireland is 43.6 percent. While food inflation in Ireland is currently at 3.5% in consumer price figures, wholesale prices are likely to push figures higher in the near future.

From Sri Lanka to Sudan, record-high global food prices are sparking social and political upheaval. 60 percent of low-income countries are on the brink of debt distress. While inflation is rising everywhere, price hikes are particularly devastating for low-wage workers whose health and livelihoods were already most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly women, racialised and marginalised people. People in poorer countries spend more than twice as much of their income on food than those in rich countries.

Clarken continued: “It is unconscionable that some are profiteering from the pandemic and its aftermath while others are trying to choose between paying their energy bills or going hungry. Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions. The super-rich have rigged the global system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatisation and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments.

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills.”

“Government leaders in Davos face a choice: act as proxies for the billionaire class who plunder their economies or take bold steps to act in the interests of their great majorities.”

Oxfam recommends that governments, including Ireland’s, urgently:

  • Introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ and is now considering introducing a windfall tax on energy profits as well as a tax on undeclared assets held overseas to repay IMF debt.
  • End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020. A windfall tax on energy companies in Ireland alone is estimated to raise €60 million.
  • Introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, as well as the outsized carbon emissions of the super-rich. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries. Oxfam has estimated that a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue. A 1.5% wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7 billion.
  • Governments like Ireland should support the development of a Global Assets Registry to address extreme wealth that is held by oligarchs, from Russia and beyond, in financial centres including the IFSC.

Download “Profiting from Pain” here.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

  • Download the methodology document outlining how Oxfam calculated the statistics in the brief here.
  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available.
  • Figures on the very richest in society come from the Forbes billionaire list, including for Ireland.
  • Irish statistics on deprivation is taken from the CSO – Central Statistics Office
  • Figures on Irish food and energy companies are taken from The Irish Times Top 1000 Guide to Irish Business, which uses CRO data, in the Energy and Food Sections respectively.
  • The five largest energy companies globally referenced are BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Exxon and Chevron
  • The five biggest Irish food companies referenced are Kerry Group, Glanbia, Musgrave, Ornua and Moy Park.
  • The five best-known Irish energy companies referenced are ESB, Energia, Bord Gais, SSE Airtricity and Energia Power.
  • All amounts expressed in US dollars have been adjusted for inflation using the US consumer price index.
  • The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 (€1.75) per day.
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Ten years since we said “never again”, East Africa facing catastrophic hunger

Oxfam calls for radical action as number of people facing extreme hunger across East Africa more than doubles since last year

The number of people experiencing extreme hunger across East Africa in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled since last year – from over 10 million to more than 23 million today. In a report published today (18.05.22), Oxfam and Save the Children highlighted the world’s repeated failure to stave off preventable disasters and called on world leaders to take urgent action to save lives.

Dangerous Delays 2: The Cost of Inaction details how more than a decade since the delayed response to the 2011 famine that killed more than 260,000 people in Somalia – half of them children under five - the world is once again failing to avert catastrophic hunger in East Africa. Today, nearly half a million people across parts of Somalia and Ethiopia are facing famine-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering extreme hunger. United Nations predictions suggest that 350,000 Somali children may die by the summer if governments and donors do not tackle this hunger crisis immediately.

Jane Meriwas, Director of Samburu Women Trust in Kenya, said: “The situation is devastating. Both human beings and livestock are at risk of dying, already children, pregnant mothers and elderly in some parts of Marsabit and Samburu Counties in Kenya are being reported as dying. If urgent intervention is not provided now, we are likely to witness even more death.”

Oxfam is urging Ireland to continue to show leadership in calling for an immediate and radical mobilisation of international aid to prevent further destitution as well as to continue to use our membership on the UN Security Council to highlight the links between conflict and hunger and the need to address its catastrophic impacts. In addition to conflict, the report identifies a number of causes to the hunger crisis including Covid-19, the climate crisis and inflationary and market pressures accelerated by the conflict in Ukraine.

Supported by the Jameel Observatory, Dangerous Delay 2 examines the changes in the humanitarian aid system since 2011. It finds that despite an improved response to the 2017 East Africa drought when widespread famine was averted, the national and global responses have largely remained too slow and too limited to prevent a repeat today.

Leadership at international level is vital as entrenched bureaucracies and self-serving political choices continue to curtail a unified global response, despite improved warning systems and efforts by local NGOs. Urgent appeals are woefully underfunded, as other crises, including the war in Ukraine, are worsening the region’s escalating hunger crisis. 

Commenting on the crisis, Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Let us be clear, starvation is a political failure. The world does not lack food or money, it lacks political courage and will. More than a decade ago when famine devastated lives and livelihoods across Somalia, we said never again. And yet, despite repeated warnings for two years, governments and the international community are acting too late and with too little to prevent catastrophic hunger across East Africa.

“It may be tempting to view the reasons for this crisis – a deadly combination of extreme weather, conflict and the economic fallout of COVID-19 -  as one-off events, but all of these events demonstrate the deep fragility of the food and economic systems that millions of people rely on to survive.  As the climate crisis unfolds, shocks from extreme weather and related factors – including the interplay between climate and conflict – will increase further. Ireland has already played a vital role at the UN Security Council in highlighting the interplay between conflict, climate and hunger and this is now more important than ever. Conflict is violently spurring the hunger crisis, continuing to limit the ability of the most vulnerable to access their farms, their pastures and to travel safely to markets or access life-saving humanitarian assistance.

“Meanwhile, climate change has made the La Niña-induced drought in the Horn of Africa more severe and prolonged, now the worst in 40 years. The drought has eroded economic reserves, herd size, and human health and is a major factor behind the alarming numbers of people without enough to eat each day. This is horribly unfair when the region is one of the least responsible for the climate crisis, emitting collectively 0.1% of global carbon emissions.”

Just two percent ($93.1 million) of the current $4.4bn UN appeal for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has formally been funded to date. In 2017, those same countries had received $1.9 billion in emergency funding. Although donors promised $1.4 bn of aid last month, only $378 million of that was new money.

Oxfam and Save the Children are calling for urgent action to tackle this funding gap alongside a number of key asks, including:

  • To help save lives now, Western leaders and the G7 must immediately inject money to meet the $4.4 billion UN appeal for Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, and ensure the funding is flexible enough to be used where it is most needed.
  • Donors must guarantee that at least 25 per cent of funds go to local responders at the heart of response.
  • National governments must prioritise lives over politics, by acknowledging and acting on early warnings. They should be quicker to declare national emergencies, shift national resources to those most in need, and invest in response to climate related shocks.
  • Rich polluting nations must pay East Africa for its climate loss and damage. They must also cancel 2021-2022 debts for those countries, in order to free up resources to support people to mitigate and adapt to climate shocks.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Download the latest “Dangerous Delay 2: The Cost of Inaction.” report published 18 May 2022. 
  • A Dangerous Delay: The cost of late response to early warnings in the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa report published in 2012 can be found here.
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