Press Releases

Yemenis struggle to find bare essentials three years on from first Saudi airstrikes, warns Oxfam

Food price shock adds to war’s misery

People in Yemen are struggling to survive on dirty water and meagre portions of bread three years after a Saudi-led coalition carried out its first airstrike on the country in its war with the Houthis, Oxfam said today.

Families in remote areas of Amran governorate in the north west of the country told Oxfam they could only afford half a bag of wheat a month and had to walk three kilometres two or three times a day to fetch untreated water from a well. Several women told Oxfam they were struggling to make ends meet and had no money for clothes or other supplies after their husbands had been killed in the conflict.

Since the war started the cost of food has rocketed. Rice is up 131 per cent, beans 92 per cent, vegetable oil 86 per cent and flour for making bread up 54 per cent. Over the same period the number of people going hungry increased by 68 per cent to reach almost 18 million people.

Over 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes, more than 5,500 civilians have been killed and 2,000 more have died of cholera in a country where half of the health facilities are no longer functioning because of the conflict.

With 22 million people in need of aid across the country, Yemen is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak since records began, with over a million suspected cases.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland's Chief Executive, said: “Oxfam has been working in Yemen since 1983 and we have never seen a humanitarian crisis of this scale. Three years on from the eruption of this devastating conflict, the country is teetering on the brink of famine. Families are facing a daily struggle just to get hold of the bare essentials like food and water.

“We are stepping up our work in Yemen to tackle this humanitarian crisis. Since July 2015 we have reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen.

“We are providing water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers, including 430,000 people as part of our cholera response to prevent and contain the disease. We are trucking water and providing cash for people to buy food.

“Malnutrition can lower the body's immune system, and the lack of clean and safe drinking water and sanitation and a weakened health system allow diseases such as cholera to spread more easily. But the closure of sea and air ports has hampered efforts to get food, water, fuel and medicines to all those who need them.”

The appointment last month of Martin Griffiths as the new UN envoy to Yemen, and recent UN Security Council calls for moves towards a ceasefire and to ensure essential goods are given free passage, present an opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate efforts to achieve peace.

Mr Clarken added: “Three years of war is more than enough. Too many bombs have been dropped and shells fired, too many people have gone hungry, too many lives have been lost. All sides need to call time on this war. The appointment of a new UN envoy to Yemen is a chance to push for a ceasefire and put the country on the road to a lasting peace.

“Without an inclusive political settlement, the conflict will only continue to make life unbearable for the vast majority of the population.”

The public can support Oxfam Ireland's humanitarian response in Yemen online, by donating online via www.oxfamireland.org/hunger, by calling 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) or calling into your local Oxfam shop

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For interviews or more information, contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

Footage, photos and feature stories are available.

For updates, please follow @OxfamIreland.

Oxfam’s response in Yemen

Since July 2015 Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance and food vouchers, including 430,000 people as part of its cholera response.

Oxfam’s water and sanitation equipment includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands, hand washing water dispensers, water testing and purifications kits, oral rehydration sachets, insecticide sprayers, pipes and fittings.

Oxfam is repairing water supplies and carrying out disinfection of water storage and sources with chlorine, providing households with water purification equipment and distributing hygiene materials, constructing latrines and providing solid waste management facilities, training community volunteers to spread hygiene messages for cholera prevention and treatment, conducting public health campaigns, supplying oral rehydration sachets to ensure that people can quickly rehydrate when suffering from signs and symptoms of cholera.

Left: Three of Jameela's children sitting inside the house in the afternoon. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez Right: Mohammed* is a first-grade student. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreez.

Left & Right: Ahmed and his siblings in Al-Okasha IDP camp, Abs district, Hajjah governorate - Credit: Ahmed Al-Fadeel / Oxfam Yemen.

New report links family separation to anxiety and depression in refugees in Ireland

Refugees living in Ireland who were forced to leave their family members behind experience depression and anxiety, often not knowing where their loved ones are or if they are safe, said the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland in a report launched today.

The report – “A family belongs together” – highlights how being separated from family impedes integration into Irish society, with refugees unable to concentrate on things like improving their language skills, education or securing employment while worrying about the safety and whereabouts of their spouse, children, parents, siblings or other dependents.

The report contains first-person testimonies from nine refugees now living in Ireland after fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Sudan and West Africa.

One woman, forced to flee or face death, had to leave her children in the care of her best friend because she didn’t have enough money to take them with her. Upon arriving in Ireland without her family, she continued to suffer with depression and high blood pressure. She said: “I didn’t know where my children where, I was ill, I had depression, my blood pressure, I was always in hospital, I thought I was going to die, I didn’t know where my children where.”

The Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland are calling on the Irish Government to amend the International Protection Act 2015 to expand the definition of family to include adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight, including, parents, siblings, in-laws and any other dependent relative.

They are joined by the Civil Engagement Group of Senators who, in July 2017, introduced The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 to the Seanad. The Bill received cross-party support, despite opposition from the government and will go through the Fourth Stage in the Seanad today. If it progresses, it presents a real opportunity to change the legislation in support of refugee families.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “These harrowing stories of people escaping unimaginable suffering only to be met with more upon reaching a safety that separates them from the people that matter most, underpins what we already know – it’s time to right the wrong of the International Protection Act 2015 and keep families forced to flee together. We couldn’t rebuild our lives and learn to call a foreign country home without our partner, parents, children and those that depend on us by our sides – and neither can they.”

Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, said: “We know from years of experience working with refugees, the anxiety, fear and guilt that can overwhelm them knowing they are safe while their loved ones are still in danger. We also know the joy and sense of wholeness families feel when they are reunited - life can begin again. The current family reunification provisions in the International Protection Act force people to make impossible, unimaginable choices between some family members and others. We can fix this by restoring the family reunification laws that have served both us and our refugee communities well for almost two decades.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “Family reunification is a critically important piece of providing refuge to people. We have seen the peace that comes when people who depend on each other are reunited in safety. This is often the only way refugees can truly integrate and begin to think about learning a new language, going to a new school or getting a job. We must ensure our family reunification laws make this a reality for all refugee families in Ireland.”

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Notes to the Editor:

- Download the full report – “A family belongs together”: Refugees’ experiences of family reunification in Ireland

- Drawing from the experience of those most affected by the policy, the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland are calling on the Irish government to act now and support family reunification by:

  • Amending the International Protection Act 2015 to expand the definition of family to include young adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight, parents, siblings, in-laws and any other dependent relative. At the very least, the Minister of Justice’s discretionary power to reunite dependants should be reinstated as per the 1996 Refugee Act.
  • Introducing legal aid for people seeking refugee family reunion through increased funding to the Legal Aid Board by the Department of Justice.
  • Waiving the income requirements for those who have received international protection who apply for family reunification through non-EEA general administration mechanisms.
  • Amending the International Protection Act 2015 to include a statutory right of appeal for family reunification applications which have been refused at first instance. At present, the only legal recourse open to unsuccessful family reunification applicants is judicial review.

- This report is based on nine semi-structured interviews with Irish-based refugees, all of whom have experienced family separation or family reunification. It is complemented by an interview with a resettlement worker who has practical experience with the Irish asylum system. The interviewees with international protection status come from a range of countries and are all over the age of 18. Once the interviews were completed, they were transcribed and analysed, with key themes identified. To ensure protection and privacy, identities have been anonymised. Interviewees are distinguished by an interview letter and their country or region of origin. The gender breakdown of the interviewees with international protection is seven men and two women.

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Oxfam Ireland will lead on delivering global safeguarding reforms

Oxfam Ireland will play a leadership role across the global organisation in delivering a comprehensive action plan to strengthen the confederation’s safeguarding systems and enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

An urgent, independent review of Oxfam’s culture and practices led by leading women’s rights experts was announced today. It was confirmed yesterday by directors across the international confederation, including Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken and Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. 

The immediate measures include: 

  • A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, comprised of leading women’s rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world. 
  • The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
  • An immediate injection of additional money and resources into Oxfam’s safeguarding processes.
  • A commitment to build on the ongoing work to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feel safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.
  • Oxfam is also committing to publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to prevent witnesses being identified. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Today’s announcement of an external, independent and confederation-wide review underpins our shared commitment to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. 

“I am committed to playing a leadership role in facilitating this comprehensive action plan to root out any form of abuse. At home and overseas, we will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve and we are doubling the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect them. 

“I feel great responsibility in the trust our supporters across the island of Ireland put in us and am dedicated to rebuilding any trust lost. This review marks the beginning of change for Oxfam as an international organisation – Oxfam Ireland is 100% committed to playing our part and to working with others in government and across the sector to implement urgent reforms that enable us to do more and do better for the world’s poorest.”

The independent High-Level Commission will shape its own approach and its membership will be announced within a few days. Oxfam will provide the resources it needs to do its job effectively, across the confederation, including full access to records, staff as well as partners and communities supported by the organisation. As part of the Commission's work, it will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available. 

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Notes to Editor: 

  • Oxfam Ireland’s all-island polices to protect and support staff and volunteers include: 
  1. Safeguarding policy
  2. Anti-bullying and Harassment
  3. Disclosure of Malpractice in the Workplace/Whistle-blowing Policy
  4. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
  5. We also have robust recruitment processes which involve vetting, reference checks, probationary periods and adherence to Oxfam’s codes of practice and conduct, as required by the role. 
  • No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case in Haiti.
  • The case in Haiti did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money raised by Oxfam Ireland supporters was spent as planned on the response to the earthquake of 2010.
 
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Oxfam Ireland statement on safeguarding

We completely condemn any form of abuse against the people we work to protect and support. We have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct and will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve.

The behaviour of some staff employed by Oxfam Great Britain in Haiti in 2011 and Chad in 2006 was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff. 

It is our absolute priority to ensure that our staff and volunteers in our offices, shops and overseas programmes are safe and valued in their workplace.

We have several safeguarding policies in operation to prevent harassment and abuse, including a prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse policy. Staff are encouraged to raise any concerns they may have without reprisal and we have a robust whistleblowing policy in place.

We have recently completed consultation with Volunteer Now as part of the development and implementation of a robust Safeguarding Policy to include both children/young people and Adults at Risk. This is designed to support and protect both staff and volunteers.  It includes training for designated safeguarding roles, which are already in place in the organisation. 

We also remain committed to earning and maintaining the trust of our supporters. 

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Notes to Editor: 

  • Oxfam Ireland’s all-island polices to protect and support staff and volunteers include: 
  1. Safeguarding policy
  2. Anti-bullying and Harassment
  3. Disclosure of Malpractice in the Workplace/Whistle-blowing Policy
  4. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
  5. We also have robust recruitment processes which involve vetting, reference checks, probationary periods and adherence to Oxfam’s codes of practice and conduct, as required by the role. 
  • No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case in Haiti.
  • The case did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money raised by Oxfam Ireland supporters was spent as planned on the response to the earthquake of 2010.
 
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As elite gather at Davos, Oxfam reports biggest ever global increase in billionaires

·         Richest 1% bagged 82% of wealth created last year – poorest half of humanity got nothing

·         Two new Irish billionaires created with combined wealth of €34.2bn

·         Ireland has role to play in tackling obscene global inequality

Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire created every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to a new Oxfam report released today.

During this period of “billionaire boom”, 82% of the wealth generated went to the richest 1% of the global population, as the combined wealth of billionaires increased by $762bn. This is enough to end extreme poverty seven times over.

Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10are men.5

Billionaires also saw huge increase in their wealth. This increase was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all of the growth in global wealth in the last year went to the top 1%, whereas the bottom 50% saw no increase at all. 6, one more every two days. Billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762bn in 12 months

. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all Ireland also contributed to the upsurge in billionaires. Two more Irish people joined this exclusive club in 2017, bring the total number to eight, with a combined wealth of €34.2bn.

‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ reveals how the global economy enables a wealthy few to accumulate vast fortunes while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay. The report is being launched as political and business elites gather this week for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The report also finds that;

·         In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13% year – almost six times faster.

·         The richest 1% continue to own more wealth than the whole of the rest of humanity.

·         It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime.

·         It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector in 2016.

Oxfam’s report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to shareholders.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

Women workers often find themselves at the bottom of the heap. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, 9 out of 10 billionaires are men.

Clarken continued: “Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality. Women in Vietnamese garment factories who work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time. Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks. Women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs.”

Oxfam is calling for governments to ensure our economies work for everyone and not just the fortunate few by:

  • Limiting returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensuring all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life.
  • Ensuring that Governments set concrete, time bound targets and action plans to reduce inequality: In Ireland’s case this would mean implementing commitments made in the Programme for Government, whereby the Government committed to ‘develop the process of budget proofing as a means of advancing equality.’
  • Ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increasing spending on public services such as healthcare and education. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.

On Ireland’s role, Jim Clarken said; “The Irish Government is not helpless in the face of technological change and market forces. A major contributor to this obscene inequality is the widespread use of tax dodging by large corporations and the super-rich.

“Recently, our own country’s tax arrangements have been implicated as facilitating some of these nefarious practices. So now is the opportune time for the Irish Government to show their support for international tax reforms.

“Ireland must also step up and play a central role in driving change in the way global economies work. We need to use our influence and support initiatives which mean that everyone, not just elites, enjoy the fruits of international trade.”

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Notes to editors

·         ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ and a methodology document that outlines how Oxfam arrived at the key statistics in the report, is available for download: https://oxfam.box.com/s/eosi27xj7nxuyywysr06d734ct1xyuev

·         Broadcast quality footage and photographs available featuring Lan, who works in a garment factory in Vietnam, supplying many global fashion brands. Long hours and poverty pay mean Lan has not been able to get home to see her son for 9 months.   https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=34775&k=ae837a41d2

·         New data from Credit Suisse reveals that 42 people now own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity. This figure cannot be compared to figures from previous years - including the 2016/17 statistic that eight men owned the same wealth as half the world - because it is based on an updated and expanded data set published by Credit Suisse in November 2017.  When Oxfam recalculated last year’s figures using the latest data we found that 61 people owned the same wealth as half the world in 2016 – and not eight.

·         Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2017.  The wealth of billionaires was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

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