Press Releases

Hospitals and Palestinians in Gaza brace for Coronavirus surge

  • Gaza hospitals brace for surging COVID-19 cases amidst bombing, and severe electricity shortages, warns Oxfam

Entry of fuel to Gaza has been restricted by Israel, forcing their single electricity plant to shut down, compounding the risk of infection for two million Palestinians, Oxfam warned today. Currently, people in Gaza have only three to four hours of electricity per day.

At the same time, the blockaded strip, now under complete lockdown, is experiencing continuous bombardment from Israeli forces and likely to see an exponential increase in virus transmission.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel said: “The gravity of the pandemic finally making its way into communities in Gaza cannot be underestimated. There are only 97 intensive care unit beds and ventilators in Gaza. The lack of fuel for back-up generators means hospitals aren’t able to effectively operate intensive care units and properly treat COVID-19 and other patients."

The first cases of COVID-19 outside of quarantine centres were announced earlier this week. Overcrowding in the sealed off coastal enclave, where 5,000 people live per square kilometre, makes physical distancing impossible and rapid transmission a certainty. This puts more people at risk, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

“People’s access to clean water has already dropped from about 80 litres to 20 litres a day. This will directly affect people’s ability to protect themselves from the virus. If no more fuel is allowed in, and with the power plant no longer operating, the supply of drinking water through desalination plants could be reduced by 80 percent - forcing people to choose between hygiene and food,” added Stevenson.

The lockdown is pushing more of Gaza’s already extremely vulnerable families into poverty. Families are running out of food, and with the electricity shortages, they can no longer store in refrigerators. With power cuts, private water vendors are also overwhelmed with demand at a time when hygiene is crucial to keep people from contracting the virus.

Oxfam is already responding to the pandemic in Gaza and assessing new needs. Their teams are providing clean water and sanitation to 270,000 people, as well as food-vouchers to help families have enough to eat. The lockdown has suspended some activities, putting more lives at risk.

Stevenson concluded: “Israeli authorities must allow fuel into Gaza so its sole electricity plant can power hospitals again so they can treat patients, and for families to access clean water to slow the spread of the virus."

ENDS

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Notes to the editor

As of Thursday 27th August, there were 40 confirmed cased of COVID-19 outside of quarantine centres in Gaza, including in the densely populated Maghazi refugee camp.

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Say yes to pre-loved with Oxfam’s Second Hand September challenge

  • Globally: 95 percent of textile waste each year could be reused or recycled  

  • Locally: Three in four Irish people donate unwanted items because it reduces textile waste 

More than three in four Irish people (76 percent) donate unwanted items to charity shops because it reduces the amount of clothes being binned, according to research carried out by Oxfam Ireland. With 13 million tonnes of textile waste produced globally each year - 95 percent of which can be reused or recycled – this statistic indicates a positive Irish response to a situation that is increasingly harming our planet.

225,000 tonnes of textiles are dumped in Ireland each year – some of which can take up to 200 years to decompose. Landfills are being fuelled by a global culture of throwaway fashion that is recognised as one of the biggest polluters in the world today, while also using up vast amounts of water in production processes; a vital and lifesaving natural resource denied to so many people.

Oxfam Ireland is proud to be a solution to throwaway fashion through its network of 42 shops across the island of Ireland, which accept and sell pre-loved clothes, shoes, accessories, handbags and more, diverting them from landfill. 

Today, Oxfam is asking people to join them through Second Hand September – a challenge to say yes to shopping second hand for the month of September. The aid agency, which supports communities across the world impacted by the climate crisis, is encouraging people to take on the personal challenge for 30 days and discover the joys of pre-loved shopping. 

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “Cheap production and plummeting prices means the clothes we buy often have a short lifespan, with more and more ending up in landfill sooner than they should. Our shops play a part by offering people a way to reduce the amount of items in Irish landfills as well as a way to reuse and extend the lifecycle of clothes and other items. 

“By donating and shopping in-store, the Irish public are not just protecting our environment, but are also supporting some of the most vulnerable communities worldwide, including those adversely affected by the climate crisis. People may not realise how much value and power their pre-loved donations and purchases hold. Every garment or item donated to, or bought in Oxfam raises vital funds to fight inequality and support our global mission to beat poverty.

“Throughout September, we’re calling on people to say yes to second hand for 30 days. Our shop teams are ready to help people start, or indeed continue, their journey to a more sustainable lifestyle, starting with the clothes they buy. People can find out where their nearest Oxfam shop is, as well as lots of second hand shopping tips and inspiration throughout the month by visiting our website – www.oxfamireland.org/shs.“ 

To learn more about Oxfam’s Second Hand September challenge, visit: www.oxfamireland.org/shs

ENDS

Contact 

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

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

NOTES TO EDITORS: 

  • Spokespeople are available for interview and graphics and images are available on request
  • The research was commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by Empathy Research in 2019. The full methodology and research data is available on request. 
  • Oxfam works across many areas of fashion: collaborating with big brands to recycle and reuse stock; joining forces with fashion houses to improve conditions in their supply chains; fighting to improve garment workers’ rights; and campaigning on climate change. 
  • Across its programmes, Oxfam is tackling the impact of the climate crisis. They work with communities to prepare for unpredictable weather and disasters as a result of climate change and are there to help when the worst does happen, from drought to floods and earthquakes. 
  • Oxfam has 42 shops across the island of Ireland. To find the nearest Oxfam shop, visit www.oxfamireland.org/shops 
  • 95 percent of global textile waste could be reused or recycled each year. Source: https://theprettyplaneteer.com/fashion-industry-waste
  • Irish people dump 225,000 tonnes of clothing every year. Source: http://re-dress.ie/when-fashion-is-finished-garment-end-of-life-solutions/
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One air raid every ten days on hospitals, clinics, wells and water tanks in Yemen

  • COVID-19 isolation centres reportedly hit in March and April

  • Yemen’s vital infrastructure in the cross hairs of war 

Medical and water infrastructure in Yemen has been hit during air raids almost 200 times since the conflict escalated more than five years ago, Oxfam said today, as the country continues to battle its outbreak of COVID-19.

The Oxfam analysis of information on airstrikes collected by the Yemen Data Project, revealed that this is equivalent to one air raid every ten days during the conflict - affecting essential services such as hospitals, clinics, ambulances, water drills, tanks and trucks.  

Arms exporting countries have continued to profit from the sale of billions of dollars-worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners throughout the course of the war in Yemen, which is now in its fifth year; despite knowing that some of these arms could be used in violation of international humanitarian law. The conflict escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition backed the internationally recognised government against the Houthis

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Half a decade of war has decimated Yemen’s medical facilities, with only half fully functional. While other life-saving and vital infrastructure like water tanks and wells have also been caught in the cross hairs of this seemingly endless conflict. The United Nations estimates that 20.5 million people – over four times the population of Ireland – need help to get clean water at a time when that basic human right has never been more essential due to COVID-19. This pandemic has created a catastrophic triple threat for the people of Yemen already facing sever hunger and cholera. Our colleagues in Yemen warned last month that thousands of people could be dying from undetected cases of cholera because COVID-19 has overwhelmed the country’s remaining health facilities. 

“Ireland has previously shown support for the cause of justice and accountability in Yemen, calling for the international community to respond, including by working together to bring an immediate end to the conflict that is destroying so many lives and crippling the country’s economy and infrastructure. That call is all the more urgent as hospitals, clinics, water tanks and wells continue to damaged and demolished, all while the number of people in desperate need remains shamefully high and ever-growing.”  

Yemen reported its first case of COVID-19 in April. As of 17th August, 1,869 cases and 530 deaths have been confirmed but it’s thought the true number of people affected is much higher than this. 

Since the confirmation of cases of COVID-19 in Yemen in April, Oxfam has refocused its work to respond to the pandemic - working on rehabilitating the water supply to one of the main hospitals in Aden, distributing hygiene kits for the most vulnerable households, and trucking in clean water to camps for people who have had to flee their homes. Across Yemen, Oxfam are training community health volunteers to spread the word about the virus and the importance of hygiene and hand washing. 

Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Lives aren’t just lost when the bombs fall, but also, during the weeks, months or years it takes for hospitals and wells to be rebuilt. 

“The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Yemen’s suffering which is being fuelled by international arms sales.”

ENDS

Contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

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

Notes to the Editor

The Yemen Data Project recorded 86 air raids on medical facilities and 107 on water tanks, trucks, drills and dams between 26March 2015 and 30 June 2020.

The Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), which collects reports of all incidents of armed violence with a direct civilian impact, has recorded 115 occasions when medical or water facilities have been hit in the last two and a half years. This includes airstrikes, shelling and small arms fire. 102 civilians died and 185 were injured in these incidents.

CIMP recorded 115 incidents involving medical or water infrastructure between 1 January 2018 and 31 July 2020.

CIMP received reports of airstrikes on three quarantine centres – one in Saleef district of Hudaydah governorate in late March and two in Al Maljim district of Bayda governorate in early April. 

So much damage has been done to civilian infrastructure, rebuilding it is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars. The UNDP has cited a 2016 damage and needs assessment which estimated the cost of damage to physical infrastructure in Yemen to be between US $4–US $5 billion, including US $79–US $97 million to water, sanitation and hygiene. 

The UNDP report into the economic cost of the war is available here.  

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Oxfam prepares response to Beirut blast

Oxfam is working with local partners to assess how it can help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the Beirut explosion.

Oxfam is extremely concerned about the ability of communities in Beirut, and the rest of Lebanon, to recover from the latest crisis. Even before the blast, Lebanon was at breaking point, with people struggling to cope with multiple, complex crises of economic collapse and a global pandemic. The scale and magnitude of the disaster means hundreds of thousands of people now need immediate aid including food, shelter, water, fuel, protection, as well as support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods well into the future.

Bachir Ayoub, Oxfam Lebanon’s Policy Lead, said this ‘crisis on crises’ creates huge challenges for people in Lebanon for years to come:

“Lebanon was already struggling to cope. The economy has been in a tailspin, the local currency has lost approximately 80 percent of its value, and the last month has seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases with hospitals already under pressure.

“People whose homes have been damaged or completely destroyed will not be able to access their money to start to repair or rebuild, and essential items like wheat and medicine will soon be scarce, as the Port of Beirut, the major storage and supply point, has been obliterated. A massive effort will be required to recover.

“The devastation in Beirut is unimaginable, and the road to recovery will be long and hard. Like all of Beirut, Oxfam staff have been affected. Some have had homes completely destroyed, others have sustained injuries. Thankfully, all are safe. We stand in solidarity with all have been affected as we work together to rebuild.”

ENDS

CONTACT:

Spokespeople available on request. For interviews or more information, please contact:
Alice Dawson-Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

NOTES TO EDITORS
  • Oxfam has been working in Lebanon since 1993 providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and promoting economic development, good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through work with local partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalised women and men.
  • Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: 1 out of every 4 people. In response to the Syria crisis, Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation, and emergency cash assistance for refugees and poor Lebanese, helping refugees with legal protection issues, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, South Lebanon, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings.
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Ireland must address large-scale corporate tax avoidance despite Apple ruling

Oxfam media reaction

Wednesday 15th July 2020

Today, Oxfam Ireland called on the Irish Government to urgently address continued and extreme corporate tax avoidance. Oxfam’s call is in response to the General Court of the European Union’s ruling this morning that the European Commission was incorrect in its decision that €13 billion in unpaid taxes by Apple constituted illegal state aid from the Irish government. The General Court ruling relates to an appeal by Apple and Ireland against a 2016 EU decision that required the US company to pay Ireland 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes.

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Oxfam Ireland’s Senior Policy and Research Coordinator said: “Despite this ruling there is no disputing the fact that Apple received significant tax reductions through tax rulings made by the Irish tax authorities.

“The Apple case highlights the extreme nature of corporate tax avoidance facilitated by Ireland, for which there is clear and growing evidence outside of the Apple case alone. A recent Oxfam review of the EU Tax Haven List showed that royalty payments sent out of Ireland amounted to more than are sent out of the rest of the EU combined, making Ireland the world’s number one royalties’ provider. High levels of these payments, far above normal economic activity, indicate that a jurisdiction is facilitating tax avoidance. In addition, the 2020 European Commission Semester Report on Ireland found that Ireland’s tax rules are used by companies ‘that engage in aggressive tax planning’.

“These repeated cases of tax avoidance point to the need for more fundamental tax reforms at EU and global level. These include a digital service tax, a minimum effective tax rate, effective measures against tax havens and new rules that require companies to disclose where they generate their profits and where they pay their taxes, for each country they operate in. This would give governments and civil society the ability to hold companies to account.

“In the wake of COVID-19 and the devastating economic fallout already being felt, governments must not continue to spurn the chance to raise vital revenue in corporate tax income for the benefit of their citizens. Corporate tax avoidance costs governments hundreds of billions of euros every year – money that could be used to deliver essential services, such as health and child care, which are even more critical in the wake of the global pandemic.

“The billions raised through corporate tax has the potential to benefit all citizens of Ireland at a time when need has never been greater, while clear and transparent tax systems would go someway towards restoring people’s frayed trust in a global tax system that favours large multinationals.”

ENDS

CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

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

Notes to editors:

  • The European Commission’s investigation into Apple’s tax deal with Ireland shows that, since the early 1990s, Apple has received significant tax reductions through tax rulings issued by the Irish tax authorities. According to the Commission, Apple’s subsidiaries in Ireland in some years paid as little as 0.005 percent of their annual profit in taxes. The Commission ruled in 2016 that Ireland had granted Apple an unfair advantage over other companies through its tax deals with two Apple subsidiaries, and it ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euro in so far unpaid taxes. Ireland and Apple challenged the decision in court.
  • According to the European Commission, tax rulings may involve state aid within the meaning of EU rules if they are used to provide selective advantages to a specific company or group of companies. Tax rulings are used in particular to confirm transfer pricing arrangements. Transfer pricing refers to the prices charged for commercial transactions between various parts of the same group of companies, in particular prices set for goods sold or services provided by one subsidiary of a corporate group to another subsidiary of the same group. Transfer pricing influences the allocation of taxable profit between subsidiaries of a group located in different countries.
  • Today (Wednesday 15 July 2020) the EU plans to launch a Action Plan for fair and simple taxation to support Europe’s strategy for the coronavirus recovery, a communication on tax good governance in the EU and beyond, and a proposal to revise EU rules on automatic exchange of tax information.
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