Press Releases

Threat of four famines in 2017 “a catastrophic betrayal of our common humanity”

Oxfam calls for immediate humanitarian and political action


Friday 24 February 2017 

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, Oxfam has said. 

The aid agency is calling on the international community including Ireland to take immediate action to help as many as 20 million people now at risk of starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. 


After months of early warnings, famine was declared this week 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. Both Yemen and Somalia stand on the brink. The primary driver of these crises is conflict, though in Somalia it is drought. 

Donor countries have failed to adequately support efforts to resolve these conflicts and, in Yemen, are actually fuelling the conflict through arms sales. There is now urgent humanitarian need, as well as a moral obligation, to meet the $4.4 billion needed for the aid response for these crises at the required scale.

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Famine does not arrive suddenly or unexpectedly. It comes after months of procrastination and ignored warnings. It is a slow agonising process, driven by callous national politics and international indifference. It is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity. 

“The response by many donors to ever bigger UN appeals for humanitarian funding have fallen well below what is required and short-changed the aid effort to save people’s lives. Without urgent action by the international community, these crises will only deepen in the coming months. This cannot continue. Governments need to act now to fully fund the aid effort and Ireland, with our own experience of famine, is uniquely positioned to lead an urgent call to action at UN and EU levels. 


“The famine already gripping parts of South Sudan will spread across the country if not more is done. Famine may be imminent in Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria but it is not yet inevitable. If we act 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. As a hunger crisis unfolds, malnutrition and mortality rates rise exponentially, rather than steadily. Without an urgent injection of financial support, an already stretched international humanitarian system will not be able to cope and many more people will die.”


Oxfam is calling for the rapid and increased release of humanitarian funding to save lives and prevent these crises exacerbating further. It also urging 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.


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. 

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 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 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.   

Oxfam is already helping over a million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 200,000 in Nigeria and an assessment mission has just returned from northern Somalia where it plans to begin a response to the drought. 

Oxfam Ireland has a hunger crisis appeal at www.oxfamireland.org/hunger 

ENDS


Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, 083 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org

Oxfam warns of a race against time, as famine declared in parts of South Sudan

20 Febuary 2017

As the UN and the government of South Sudan have today declared famine in parts of the war-torn country, Oxfam is warning that time is running out.

This is the UN’s first confirmation of famine anywhere in the world since 2011.

Unity State is the region most affected by severe food shortages – caused by ongoing conflict and economic turmoil – with more than 100,000 people facing starvation. Reports suggest that more than 40% of South Sudan is in urgent need of food, while more than a million people throughout the country could be on the brink of famine.

Oxfam has been working there for over 30 years and is currently distributing emergency food supplies; delivering clean water to prevent the spread of disease; and providing livelihoods support. In the past year alone, Oxfam has helped over 600,000 people across the country with food and water distributions, and assisted almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable in Panyijar county, Unity State.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who has lived and worked in the region, said: “This is a man-made tragedy, and we are running out of time to avoid it getting worse. 

“In over 30 years working in the affected areas, Oxfam has never witnessed such dire need. Vulnerable people, out of reach of life-saving assistance due to the conflict, are paying the ultimate price. People have been pushed to the brink of surviving on what they can find to eat in swamps. As so often in a crisis, women and children being the worst affected. We need an end to the fighting so that we can get food to those that urgently need it and provide them with support to rebuild their shattered lives”. 

“In 2011 after the famine that hit Somalia the world said never again. The declaration of famine in South Sudan reflects the collective failure to heed the countless warnings of an ever-worsening situation”. 

ENDS 

For further information or to arrange an interview: 

Phillip Graham – T: 00 44 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR 

About South Sudan

Following decades of fighting, South Sudan formally became an independent state in July 2011. There was high expectation for growth and many believed they would not see another conflict in the country they fought so hard and so long for. Sadly, war erupted in Juba in mid-December 2013 and quickly transformed into a national, political and ethnic crisis. 

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced. Of these 830,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The crisis has made it hard for people to plant crops, disrupted livelihoods and markets and forced host and displaced communities to share the little they do have, leaving one in three people severely food insecure.

Oxfam has been assisting populations in South Sudan since the 1980s providing food security and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. 

Spokespeople 

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview now, both in the region and in Ireland:

Emma Jane Drew, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Programme Manager, based in Juba, South Sudan 

Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne has visited Oxfam programmes in South Sudan numerous times and is available for interview in Dublin.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who lived and worked in the region, is available for interview in Dublin.

 

Oxfam Ireland and GOAL explore merger

Tuesday 14th February, 2017

Oxfam Ireland is entering formal discussions with GOAL on a potential merger that, if successful, will see the organisations coming together under the name Oxfam GOAL to create a global development agency headquartered and rooted in Ireland, delivering a broad programme combining humanitarian and development work with evidence-based advocacy and campaigns.

The announcement follows approval from the boards of both organisations to explore the possibility of a merger which both parties believe could achieve stronger results, save more lives and support more people to lift themselves out of poverty.

GOAL and Oxfam Ireland believe a successful merger would result in greater impact for people in poverty and crisis and increase effectiveness. Coming together will increase the scale and scope of the organisations’ humanitarian and development programmes around the world and strengthen their voice as advocates for the communities they support.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “We are very excited by the prospect of a successful merger. GOAL’s action-oriented approach and first responder ethos is core to their DNA and has saved millions of lives. Oxfam’s approach of practical action and people-led response, challenging the structures and systems that keep people locked in poverty, has led to real change across the world. Bringing our organisations together will increase our scale, which means we can deliver greater impact for people in poverty and in crisis. We believe it will create new energy and dynamism through sharing programmatic, geographic and other synergies.”

Commenting on the proposed merger, GOAL General Manager, Celine Fitzgerald said: “In looking to its future, GOAL has assessed the merits of continuing as a standalone entity or achieving a step change in scale and impact in the delivery of humanitarian support and advocacy.  A merger with Oxfam would create a strong organisation in Ireland with a true global reach, saving and changing the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet for the better.  Accordingly, both parties have now engaged in a formal process to assess the practicalities and impacts of a merged entity.”

GOAL and Oxfam already share key areas of focus and work in many of the same countries.

Both organisations have long-standing operations in Ireland – Oxfam since the 1950s, while GOAL celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Following a successful merger, the new organisation will remain part of the global Oxfam confederation, which currently has 19 affiliates and works in over 90 countries.

Pending the outcome of formal discussions both organisations will continue to deliver their respective aid programmes whilst also assessing how to combine the best of both organisations to increase the overall reach and impact of resources and programmes. 

“As we begin a robust due diligence exercise and examine the possibility of a merger over the coming weeks, I’d like to assure our donors and supporters that we will continue with our life-saving and life-changing work as normal. Any partnership with GOAL will retain and respect both of our unique heritages to create a better organisation rooted in the Irish tradition of social justice,” Mr Clarken added.

ENDS

Contact:

Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org
David Williams, GOAL, +353 87 419 7140, dwilliams@goal.ie

Notes to editors:

About Oxfam: The global Oxfam confederation has 19 affiliate members and works in over 90 countries. Oxfam was founded in 1942 to campaign for food supplies to be sent through an allied naval blockade to starving people in Greece during the Second World War.

Present in Ireland since the 1950s, Oxfam Ireland is a secular organisation with offices in Dublin and Belfast and shops across the island, supported by over 2,000 volunteers and 136 staff.

As well as being a world leader in the delivery of emergency relief, Oxfam implements long-term development programmes in vulnerable communities. Oxfam also campaigns on global issues that keep people poor or hit poor people hardest, like inequality and discrimination against women and to demand better health and education services for all.

There are 19 member organisations of the Oxfam International confederation. They are based in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

About GOAL: GOAL is an international humanitarian agency dedicated to the alleviation of suffering amongst the poorest of the poor. It was founded in 1977.

GOAL has almost 3,000 staff working across 17 countries. In the year ending December 2015, GOAL’s total income exceeded €209m, while total expenditure was €201 million.

Since its inception, GOAL has sent almost 3,000 international staff to work in the developing world, alongside many thousands of local staff. It has spent in excess of €1 billion on the delivery of aid to the poor in more than 50 countries.

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EU leaders abandon core values in migration deal with Libya

Friday 3 February 2017 

Today EU leaders dealt a further blow to the rights of refugees and migrants by agreeing a deal that outsources migration to Libya, a country marred in conflict and which has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister Theresa May were among the EU heads of state and government meeting in Malta today to discuss migration and other issues. 

The new agreement between Italy and Libya will see Italy and the EU take part in and finance migration control in Libya, including support for refugee and migrant reception centres in Libya, returns from Libya to countries of origin and border control.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The primary aim of this deal is to prevent refugees and migrants reaching Europe with no regard for safeguarding their right to safety and dignity.

“EU leaders say they are committed to human rights and international law but Italy has struck a dodgy deal with Libya which undermines these principles. The fact that all EU governments have welcomed the Libya deal shows their hypocrisy, particularly because it makes no attempt to increase Libya’s commitments to people’s rights whilst shutting off the route to Europe.

“So-called ‘irregular migrants’ arriving in Italy have told Oxfam about the horrific abuses they faced in Libya, a place they call ‘hell’. The agreement with Libya deals a serious blow to core EU values and exposes desperate people to suffering and even death by forcing them to seek more dangerous routes to safety.”

ENDS

For more information or interviews, please contact:

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

Belfast: Phillip Graham on 028 9089 5959 / 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington
  • On Thursday, the Italian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya. It commits Italian and EU funding for migration management.
  •  In their Malta declaration, EU heads of state and government state “the EU welcomes and is ready to support Italy in its implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding”.
  • The memorandum does not include any obligations for Libya to increase its commitment to international law and human rights. It only refers to "international obligations and human rights agreements to which the two countries are parties". Libya is not even signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
  • The Italian commitment to provide support to regional authorities in Libya is only linked to the presence of irregular migrants, rather than being delivered based on the actual needs of people.
  • Security measures and support to border construction and control is linked to irregular migration, with no apparent safeguards for human rights.
  • Oxfam has laid out guiding principles for EU cooperation with Libya that puts the rights, the safety and the dignity of people at the forefront.
  • Oxfam is working with migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Their testimonies are documented in the report ‘Hotspots – Rights denied’ (pages 31-34).
  • According to data from the Italian Ministry of Interior, 39% of people that arrived in Italy in 2016 were granted international protection. 
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Oxfam: EU-Libya migration plans shine a spotlight on EU leaders’ hypocrisy

  • EU member states must protect human rights in migration talks with Libya
  • Oxfam joins US lawsuit opposing President Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants

Thursday 2 February, 2017

Oxfam has said that EU leaders denouncing US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigrants highlights their own hypocrisy in the face of Europe’s flawed migration response.

At an informal EU meeting in Malta on Friday, February 3, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other EU heads of state and government will discuss closer cooperation with Libya on managing migration. 

The talks could see Libya receive aid in return for strengthened border control and surveillance to stem the flow of refugees and migrants coming to Europe. Oxfam described this as a deliberate outsourcing of migration control to a country mired in conflict where migrants are at great risk of abuse and even death. Such a move would mean EU leaders would again fail in their responsibility to uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive’s Jim Clarken said: “EU leaders cannot speak out against President Trump’s discriminatory and unjust Executive Order and then make a deal with Libya which also threatens the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants. 

“I have met young people who have experienced horrific abuses in Libya and are now living in safety in Oxfam-supported centres in Sicily. People who have managed to escape have told us about beatings, burnings, starvation and exploitation.

“In their haste, European leaders are throwing money at authorities in war-torn Libya without the necessary checks and balances. 

“A deal that aims to above all else stop migrants from entering Europe is dangerous and runs contrary to Europe’s core values – shutting down borders does not stop desperate people searching for safety but forces them to seek more dangerous and exploitative routes. EU member states must put the rights, safety and dignity of people at the forefront of any plans to cooperate more closely with Libya.”

As leaders meet on Friday to discuss how to manage migration from Libya and other African states, Oxfam is calling for EU heads of state and government to manage migration with full respect for human rights and concern for the safety of people. Governments must protect migrants, grant international protection to refugees and promote safe and regular channels for migration, it said. 

Oxfam is calling for an EU migration management plan that: 
• Delivers development aid for the sole purpose of poverty reduction. Under no circumstances should development aid be used to restrict mobility, as this may even work counter to the aim of reducing poverty. 
• Ensures cooperation on border control is contingent upon demonstrated respect for human rights, mobility principles, and the rights of asylum-seekers. 
• Includes credible monitoring schemes to ensure the implementation is in line with international law. If this is not possible, no deal should be agreed. 

Beyond Europe, Oxfam has joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order. The suit claims that the order violates federal law and calls on it to be declared unconstitutional. As a global organisation working in five of the countries - Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - affected by Trump’s actions, as well as other conflict-affected countries, the order could jeopardise the charity’s ability to address some of the worst humanitarian crises around the globe.

In Ireland, Oxfam has urged the Government to step up its intake of refugees and help fill the void left by the recent actions of the US government. Oxfam is calling on leaders to increase the number of refugees resettled through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, including some of those now denied a safe haven in the US. 

Oxfam is also calling for increased opportunities for family reunification in Ireland and for the Government to expand the Syria Humanitarian Admissions Programme to allow those fleeing persecution from other war-torn states such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central African Republic to be granted refuge here.

People can support Oxfam Ireland by joining their ‘Right to Refuge’ petition: https://www.oxfamireland.org/getinvolved/righttorefuge   

ENDS

For more information or interviews, please contact Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors: 
• Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington

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