Press Releases

Thousands of Syrians out of reach of aid

Thousands of Syrians forced from their homes due to the recent fighting in Dar’a are unable to get the help they desperately need, Oxfam said today. 
 
Amid scorching summer temperatures, families need shelter, water, food and medical care but access for humanitarian agencies is limited and not enough assistance has been able to cross the border into Syria from Jordan. 
 
Recent clashes had seen the largest and fastest displacement of civilians since the Syria conflict began, with more than 330,000 people fleeing their homes during the two-week Syrian government offensive. 
 
A ceasefire agreed on Friday, between the Syrian government and local armed opposition groups, has provided a temporary halt to the violence, but there remains uncertainty over the future of Dar'a and how long the ceasefire will hold.  Many of those now returning home will find their houses have been destroyed while others don’t feel it is safe enough to return or are moving elsewhere. 
 
The Oxfam team in Dar’a reports that in many towns and villages, wells and other water supplies are not functioning, and back-up power systems are currently out of service. 
 
Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s Country Director in Syria, said: “Thousands of families have been displaced and their communities wrecked by recent fighting across Dar’a province. Their struggles will get worse unless they receive the water, food and medical care they urgently need.”   
 
There are also concerns for approximately 100 people from Dar’a who remain at the Jaber/Nasib crossing on the border with Jordan, the UN confirmed. Those 100 have joined tens of thousands of others already sheltering close to the border in need of protection and assistance. 
 
Many of those displaced, including Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, have expressed concerns about returning home, fearing insecurity, detention, conscription, and other potential threats to their safety. 
 
Nickie Monga, Oxfam’s Country Director in Jordan said: "Jordan is already bearing an immense burden in hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees but we urge it to once again provide a safe space for those fleeing the violence and continue to facilitate cross-border assistance. The international community too must play its part by providing more aid to Jordan and increased resettlement of Syrian refugees." 
 
Oxfam is calling on all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to work to stop the violence, which has led to civilian deaths and the destruction of medical facilities and schools in Dar’a. 
 
Oxfam is providing water and sanitation in an emergency shelter in Al-Sanamayn and has identified other areas in need of support across the Dar’a province.
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact: 
• ROI – Alice Dawson-Lyons on +353 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
• NI – Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 

Yemen: Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard, warns Oxfam

Food and water shortage – cholera threat – 80,000 forced to flee their homes
 
Conditions for over half a million people in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah are steadily deteriorating with food in short supply and seriously damaged water and sewage systems increasing the risk of cholera, Oxfam said today. 
 
Ahmed's family and other families were forced to flee their homes because of the conflict in Al-Hudaydah. Photo: Ameen Al-Ghaberi/Gabreeze Yemen
 
More than 80,000 people have fled their homes, despite a recent reduction in the intensity of the fighting, while preparations continue for a bloody onslaught. In the city troops are being deployed, trenches are being dug and barricades erected. From the air the city outskirts are being bombed and leaflets are being dropped calling for insurrection. 
 
Oxfam is calling on world leaders – including the UN Security Council, which will discuss the crisis today – not to allow Hodeidah to become a graveyard and to exert maximum diplomatic pressure on the warring parties to agree an immediate ceasefire and return to peace talks.
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The fate of 600,000 people hangs in the balance. Slowly but surely the city is being squeezed and the real fear is that this is merely a precursor to an onslaught that will lead to widespread loss of life. 
 
“Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard. There is still time to stop this destruction. The Irish and UK governments can play their part by continuing to press for international action to end the conflict. 
 
“One of our biggest fears is an outbreak of cholera. Hodeidah was a cholera hot spot last year and a repeat would be devastating for the people there. 
 
“The backers of this war – including those in Western capitals – need to stop fuelling the conflict and put maximum pressure on all sides of this war to agree an immediate ceasefire. Failure to act now will leave them culpable.” 
 
The city’s streets are empty and many shops, bakeries and markets have closed, according to Oxfam contacts in the city. People have been panic buying, while food is scarce. Essential items such as flour – the main staple – vegetable oil and cooking gas are in short supply. Prices have increased with a sack of rice up 350 per cent, wheat up 50 per cent and cooking oil up by 40 per cent. At the same time, many families’ incomes have been hit by the closure of dozens of factories and businesses. 
 
Hodeidah Governorate is one of the worst affected areas of Yemen with a quarter of children suffering from malnutrition. Last year it was just one step away from famine, with nearly 800,000 suffering from severe hunger and the situation remains desperate. 
 
Water is in short supply. Parts of the city’s water supply and sewage system have been cut due to the digging of defensive positions. This raises the threat of cholera as people are forced to start using unprotected shallow wells or surface water. Hodeidah was hit hard by last year’s cholera outbreak which was the world’s largest since records began. 
 
At least 35,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the fighting around the southern outskirts of Hodeidah. They have settled in parts of the city further away from the fighting and many have sheltered in schools. Getting aid into the city is already challenging and will be increasingly difficult if fighting intensifies. 
 
Some 46,000 people have managed to flee the city but escape is perilous with the threat of bombing, fighting and landmines. The city’s poor cannot afford the high cost of leaving the city. It can cost 60,000 riyals (€200/£180) to take a family out of the city to the relative safety of the capital Sana’a. Even if they could afford the travel costs they would then have to pay at least 200,000 riyals (€685/£600) for rent and food a month. 
 
Oxfam is helping 10,000 people who have fled north of Hodeidah but helping those outside the city is also proving difficult due to the ongoing conflict. 
 
The port of Hodeidah is key to providing the bulk of all the food imported into the country and the majority of its medicines. If this vital life line is cut for a significant amount of time then the lives of more than 8 million people who are already on the verge of starvation will be further put in jeopardy. 
 
Oxfam has been in Yemen since 1983. Since 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen, providing water and sanitation services – including as part of a cholera response to prevent and contain the disease. Oxfam is also trucking water as well as providing cash assistance and food vouchers. 
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact: 
ROI – Alice Dawson-Lyons on +353 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
NI – Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Oxfam’s latest briefing document, The World Must Back Peace, Not War: Putting An End To Civilian Suffering In Yemen, is available here. 
 
Footage is available of a family forced to flee their home.
 

Yemen: Hodeidah cannot be allowed to become a graveyard

Ireland must amend restrictions on family reunification to contribute to a humane EU migration policy, says Oxfam

Internal rows at Brussels summit shape EU’s migration policy
 
28th June 2018
 
European leaders at the EU summit in Brussels have failed to agree on reforms to the common European asylum system. Instead, they try to respond to internal rows by reducing the space for asylum seekers even further, and want to offload their responsibilities to countries outside the EU. Oxfam argues that European agreements on migration are welcome, but they should not have a negative impact on the lives of refugees and migrants.
 
Reacting to the news, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken, said: “EU leaders’ migration plans should have addressed the flaws of our current asylum system and provide an effective and humane response to migration, not only respond to political problems at home.
 
“At a time when EU leadership on global issues is needed more than ever, European heads of state and government continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU. They also agree to create even more de facto detention centres, a measure that has evidentially failed with the so-called ‘hotspot’ in Greece and Italy. This approach to migration is a recipe for failure, and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.
 
“Well-managed migration and an effective asylum system go beyond disembarkation centres, and they are essential parts of a healthy European economy and culture.
 
This week, the Irish government committed to provide humanitarian assistance and support to 25 people who were stranded on the MV Lifeline. While we commend this leadership, we need to go beyond ad hoc responses and instead find lasting solutions for people seeking safety in Europe.
 
“One way that Ireland can contribute to a humane European response is by amending its current restrictive policy on refugee family reunification. Right now, Ireland’s rules keep many refugee families apart and make it almost impossible for them to be re-united. Children turned 18 are separated from their parents, grandparents from their grandchildren, and elder brothers and sisters from their younger siblings.
 
“Having passed all stages in the Seanad with cross-party support, the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 must now be brought before the Dáil as soon as possible so as to enact the urgent change that is needed for families in need of protection.”
 
ENDS
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews.
 
Contact information:
For interviews or more information, contact:
Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 
·         Research from Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and Irish Refugee Council has shown that the International Protection Act 2015 has had a devastating impact on individuals and on their ability to rebuild their lives as part of the community, by making it effectively impossible for anyone outside of the immediate family to be reunited in Ireland.
·         The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 seeks to amend the International Protection Act 2015, which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family. The Amendment would enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian. The Bill was first proposed by the Civil Engagement Group of Senators in July 2017 and completed the Final Stage in the Seanad in March 2018. Amending the legislation restores and strengthens the provisions of the 1996 Irish Refugee Act, and offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership by upholding fundamental rights.
 
 
 

Oxfam ready to respond to the catastrophic attack on Yemen’s Hodeidah port

Hodeida port is key to imports of food, fuel, medicine for humanitarian aid
 
Oxfam and partners are preparing for the potentially devastating aftermath of the attack on Yemen’s Hodeidah port as the military offensive threatens more lives already hanging in the balance. 
 
The aid agency has been working in Yemen for over 35 years and responded to the escalation of the present crisis in 2015 with the support of Irish Aid.  
 
With more than 22 million people reliant on humanitarian aid and more than 8 million people one step away from famine, Oxfam and other organisations have long warned of the humanitarian fallout of such an attack. Hodeida is a key port on the Red Sea in Yemen through which up to 80% of the country’s food and 50% of its fuel flow as well as critical medicines
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The failure to stop the attack on Hodeidah port is a death sentence for the millions of Yemeni people already in desperate need of food, water and humanitarian assistance."
 
“At its worst, the UN warns that this attack will leave 250,000 dead – the equivalent of the entire population of County Galway – and hundreds of thousands more in need. For people who have already had the lifelines of food, fuel and medicine blocked for years, this attack on Hodeida means only one thing – more death, more destruction and more needless suffering. "
 
“Since 2015, we have reached more that 2.8 million people across Yemen with life-saving supplies, including water, sanitation, food and cash assistance – and we’ll work to reach even more as the fallout of the attack on Hodeidah port becomes clear. "
 
“It’s vital that the hundreds of thousands of people affected by this violence are able to access life-saving support. We’re calling for the Irish government and world leaders to take action to urge all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to protect civilians and avoid hindering humanitarian access, a critical obligation under international humanitarian law.”
 
Oxfam has been in Yemen since 1983. Since 2015, Oxfam has reached more than 2.8 million people in nine governorates of Yemen, providing water and sanitation services – including as part of a cholera response to prevent and contain the disease. Oxfam is also trucking water as well as providing cash assistance and food vouchers. 
 
ENDS
 
Oxfam spokespeople available for interview in the region and in Dublin.
 
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons, +353 83 198 1869, alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Oxfam is calling for the parties to the conflict in Yemen to: 
immediately cease violence to prevent further humanitarian suffering, including loss of life and risk of famine;
avoid undermining opportunity for the resolution of the conflict through dialogue rather than military means;
ensure dialogue for conflict resolution is inclusive of diversity of Yemeni population and includes voice and meaningful participation of women in keeping with UN resolutions on women, peace and security;
protect and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and protection in Yemen without risk to aid personnel delivering it or the civilian population in accessing it.
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Oxfam: Hodeida offensive must be stopped to save lives and the chance for peace

The UN and NGOs received warnings over the weekend for staff to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday ahead of the offensive, affirming the humanitarian community’s worst fears for Yemen. The UN peace envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has already said that this attack would “take peace off the table in a single stroke,” and the UN has cited the worst case scenario: 250,000 dead, with hundreds of thousands more affected. 
 
Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director Muhsin Siddiquey said, “It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach.  To avert catastrophe, we call on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to call for de-escalation and restraint, and to exert pressure and take action to ensure the parties keep Hodeida and Saleef ports open and uphold their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.” 
 
The people of Yemen have already had the lifelines of food, fuel and medicine blocked for years, but the offensive on Hodeida will massively escalate this humanitarian crisis while millions already are on the brink of famine. Oxfam is hearing from local NGOs that there has been a dramatic increase in families forced to leave their homes in the last couple of days. Truck drivers are too frightened to enter Hodeida to move vital food and supplies, and businesses are closing, leaving civilians in the war path without basic supplies. The fact that this attack would happen during Ramadan makes it even more difficult for families to prepare.
 
Siddiquey said, “Even with these warnings, this assault and escalation of the conflict is not a foregone conclusion – there is time for all parties to navigate a path to peace and save countless lives, and the international community must continue to stand up for this peace and the lives of the Yemeni people.”

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