Press Releases

12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to Covid-19 by end of year, potentially more than the disease, warns Oxfam Ireland

“Poverty is another disease, it is as dangerous as this virus”

Millions of people in hunger on a planet that produces more than enough food for everyone

As many as 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself, warned Oxfam in a new briefing published today. The global observed daily mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day.

‘The Hunger Virus,’ reveals how 121 million more people could be pushed to the brink of starvation this year as a result of the social and economic fallout from the pandemic including through mass unemployment, disruption to food production and supplies, and declining aid.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “COVID-19 is the last straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, an escalating climate crisis, extreme inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers. Meanwhile, those at the top are continuing to make a profit: eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe - ten times more than the UN says is needed to stop people going hungry.”  

“We need to look at why so many people are going hungry and why so many more are at-risk of hunger. This report shines a light on a food system that has trapped millions of people in hunger on a planet that produces more than enough food for everyone.”

The Oxfam briefing reveals the world’s ten worst hunger hotspots, places such as Afghanistan, Venezuela and Yemen where the food crisis is most severe and getting worse as a result of the pandemic. It also highlights emerging epicentres of hunger – middle-income countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil – where millions of people who were barely managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic.

Clarken continued: “Hunger can also be a weapon of war, as warring parties destroy markets and warehouses, suspend food imports and cut transportation links to gain power. Countries like this are particularly vulnerable and these issues are exacerbated by depleted funding and humanitarian aid as a result of the pandemic.”

An Afghani woman told Oxfam: “Poverty is another disease, it is as dangerous as this virus and if people continue staying home this way, a lot of families could die because of hunger.”

Women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry despite the crucial role they play as food producers and workers. Women are already vulnerable because of systemic discrimination that sees them earn less and own fewer assets than men. They make up a large proportion of groups, such as informal workers, that have been hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, and have also borne the brunt of a dramatic increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness. 

Clarken concluded: “Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger.

“Governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN’s COVID-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, cancelling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and healthcare, and supporting the UN’s call for a global ceasefire. To end this hunger crisis, governments must also build fairer, more robust, and more sustainable food systems, that put the interests of food producers and workers before the profits of big food and agribusiness.”

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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 editor

  • The Hunger Virus: How the coronavirus is fuelling hunger in a hungry world is available here.
  • Stories, pictures, and video highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on hunger across the globe are available on request.
  • Spokespeople are available for interview.
  • The ten extreme hunger hotspots are: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Haiti.
  • Action needed: Provide emergency assistance to save lives now; Build fairer, more resilient and more sustainable food systems; Promote women’s participation and leadership; Cancel debts to allow developing countries to scale-up social protection; Support the UN’s call for a global ceasefire; Take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.

EXTREME HUNGER HOTSPOTS – Spotlight Yemen

Ravaged by more than five years of war, Yemen has the worst humanitarian and food security crisis worldwide. Two-thirds of the population – 20 million people – are hungry, and nearly 1.5 million families currently rely on food aid to survive. Within this bleak picture, women and children are the worst affected, with 1.4 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and over two million children suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition.

The ongoing conflict has decimated the country’s infrastructure, restricted food imports, led to mass unemployment and meant that health workers have not been paid since the start of the war. Meanwhile, locust swarms that have gone unchecked because of the war are adding to the problem and fuelling hunger in the country.

As of late June, Yemen had reported over 900 COVID-19 infections and over 250 deaths. However, with only half of the health system functioning and limited capacity to test for the virus, these figures are likely to be grave underestimates.

The impact of the pandemic on food security in Yemen is clearer. The slump in economic activity in wealthy Gulf states, brought on by lockdowns and low oil prices, has caused up to an 80 percent drop in remittances to Yemen in the first four months of 2020. The impact this decrease has had on poverty and food security is significant, as last year, remittances brought $3.8bn into Yemen, which equated to 13 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The closure of borders and supply routes in response to the pandemic has also severely disrupted supply chains in a country that imports 90 percent of its food. This has led to food shortages and price increases, especially for wheat flour and sugar. Food imports were down 43 percent in March and 39 percent in April compared with the same months in 2019.

Continued fighting, despite the UN calling for a global ceasefire, has also hampered humanitarian access, with aid reaching only 13.5 million people in early 2020, compared with 15.2 million in 2019. As well as this, humanitarian aid, already in decline before the crisis, is severely stretched. The USA cut $73m of its aid to Yemen in March 2020, and a donor pledging conference held in June raised only $1.35bn to support the country’s COVID-19 response, well below the target of $2.4bn.

Oxfam is rehabilitating the water supply to one of the main hospitals in Aden, providing cash assistance to families affected by flooding in the south of the country, and training community health volunteers to provide information about COVID-19 and the importance of hygiene and hand washing.

  • The WFP estimates that the number of people in crisis level hunger − defined as IPC level 3 or above – will increase by approximately 121 million this year as a result of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. The estimated daily mortality rate for IPC level 3 and above is 0.5−1 per 10,000 people, equating to 6,050−12,100 deaths per day due to hunger as a result of the pandemic before the end of 2020. The global observed daily mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day and has ranged from approximately 5,000 to 7,000 deaths per day in the months since then according to data from John Hopkins University. While there can be no certainty about future projections, if there is no significant departure from these observed trends during the rest of the year, and if the WFP estimates for increasing numbers of people experiencing crisis level hunger hold, then it is likely that daily deaths from hunger as a result of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic will be higher than those from the disease before the end of 2020. It is important to note that there is some overlap between these numbers given that some deaths due to COVID-19 could be linked to malnutrition.
  • Oxfam gathered information on dividend payments of eight of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies up to the beginning of July 2020, using a mixture of company, NASDAQ, and Bloomberg websites. Numbers are rounded to the nearest million: Coca-Cola ($3,522m), Danone ($1,348m), General Mills ($594m), Kellogg ($391m),  Mondelez ($408m), Nestlé ($8,248m for entire year), PepsiCo ($2,749m) and Unilever (estimated $1,180m). Many of these companies are pursuing efforts to address COVID-19 and/or global hunger.
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Your local Oxfam shop needs you: All-island call for volunteers

  • Are charity shops your thing? Then why not volunteer in your local Oxfam Ireland shop!

  • Oxfam Shops Across the Island of Ireland seek volunteers


Oxfam Ireland have launched an all island call for volunteers to help their network of shops “bounce back” after the COVID-19 lockdown, which resulted in them closing their doors for the first time in over 60 years.

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland said: “Our teams are thankfully back doing what they do best and our shops are now open after months of closure. Sadly, not all of our volunteers are in a position to return to the shops at the moment, this, coupled with the incredibly generous volume of donations dropped off to shops already, means we are currently in desperate need of people power.

“I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time to pop into their local Oxfam shop and let the manager know - people can give as little or as much time as they like. Oxfam shops are a hive of activity with lots of opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and of course, have plenty of fun along the way.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of our network of shops and by giving a little of their time and creativity, each person makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world.

“It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our amazing volunteers that Oxfam can change lives and work toward building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.”

At the start of April, Oxfam shops, along with countless other businesses in Ireland, made the difficult decision to close – to protect staff, volunteers and customers – and to play its part in Ireland’s response to COVID-19.

Oxfam Ireland’s network of shops play a vital role in supporting their work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes. The loss of income during this period dealt a massive blow to the capacity of Oxfam and their global mission to beat poverty and fight inequality.

To find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop visit: https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/oxfam-shops

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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

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New asylum system in Greece designed to deport, not protect, warns Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam

Oxfam Ireland call on Irish Government to honour commitment made on unaccompanied minors

A briefing paper released by the Greek Council of Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam today, reveals how the newly reformed Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection. The joint report, Diminished, Derogated, Denied, shows that people who have fled violence and persecution have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and how the new reforms make it possible to expose people to abuse and exploitation – including the detention of particularly vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe Migration Campaign Manager, said: “Greece’s new law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution. The European Union is complicit in this abuse, because for years it has been using Greece as a test ground for new migration policies. We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform.

“While Greece has a sovereign right to manage its borders, it must protect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The EU and Greece have made a political choice to jeopardise the lives and futures of people it has a responsibility to protect.”

This situation is further aggravated by the inhumane living conditions in Greece’s refugee camps where people are now at risk of a devastating health crisis should COVID-19 hit. Moria camp, for example, is currently at six times its capacity and people have insufficient access to basic healthcare, clean toilets or handwashing facilities, while overcrowding makes social distancing - critical to prevent COVID-19 spreading - next to impossible.

Testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees expose the harrowing living conditions for people seeking asylum in Moria camp. Rawan*, from Afghanistan, came to Greece with her two children to seek safety in Europe. A single mother, and also a survivor of gender-based violence, Rawan was forced to live for six months in a tent, in the overspill area of the Moria camp, where basic facilities such as toilets are not always accessible.

Rawan, from Afghanistan said: “The situation in Moria was scary. During the pandemic, everybody was afraid that if the virus gets to us, then they will dig a mass grave to bury us. They only gave us two masks and soap. But how are we supposed to wash our hands without water? In the food line, it was so packed, we couldn’t keep a distance. We were not protected.”

The reformed asylum law effectively bars people who don’t have legal support from appealing a negative asylum decision. Deadlines have been shortened drastically and, in many cases, expire before people are even informed that their application for asylum was refused. People seeking asylum are only able to submit an appeal through a lawyer – but, on Lesbos, there is only one state-sponsored lawyer. The asylum system also makes it extremely difficult for people seeking asylum to have the authorities properly review the reasons why they have fled conflict or persecution in their home countries.

Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, advocacy officer at GCR said: “When the Greek authorities refuse an asylum application, it does not necessarily mean people are not in need of international protection. It is often a consequence of the accelerated asylum procedure applied in the context of border procedures. Short deadlines increase the possibility of errors. In addition, people don’t have the time or a suitable environment that allows them to prepare for the asylum interview, in which they have to speak about the horrors from which they have fled.

“This puts people’s lives at risk.

“The Greek government must restore a fair asylum system, which fully respects human rights. The European Commission must review Greece’s asylum practices and assess their compliance with EU law.”

Oxfam and GCR call on the Greek government and the EU to immediately review the new Greek asylum law and give everyone seeking asylum in Greece access to a fair and effective asylum procedure. They also call on EU member states to honour the principle of solidarity underlying the very fabric of the EU, and share responsibility with Greece in protecting people fleeing persecution.

In March, Ireland joined a coalition of willing EU member states who agreed to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied refugee children being held on the Greek Islands. Several countries have already relocated children to their respective states. Ireland, by fulfilling this commitment, can demonstrate an important first step to responsibility sharing and an immediate show of solidarity in these challenging and unprecedented times. The unaccompanied minors on the Greek Islands, children alone in the world, are in need of a safe place now more than ever.

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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:

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

  • Spokespeople are available in Athens, Lesbos and Brussels for interview
  • Full report: Diminished, Derogated, Denied
  • The Greek government also illegally suspended asylum applications for the month of March.
  • While the authorities sometimes decide within days on the asylum requests of people who arrived in 2020, those who have arrived in 2019 have to wait for months or even years for their first interview to take place. During this period, most are not allowed to leave the inhuman EU-sponsored camps on the Greek islands.
  • The Greek authorities are required to offer legal support to people seeking asylum in the appeals stage. This is to ensure that any mistakes in the first instance can be corrected and people entitled to international protection are not returned to potentially dangerous places. However, state-funded lawyers is very limited and in 2019, only 33% of appeals benefited from the state-funded legal support scheme. The majority of people are directed to NGO-funded lawyers, but NGOs have limited capacity and the restricted movement in the camps also prevents people from easily finding a lawyer at an NGO.
  • The European Commission will soon release a new Migration and Asylum Pact, which will lay out the direction for the EU and member states to reform the EU asylum system and the bloc’s migration policies. The new Pact will most likely suggest to use more development aid to curb migration, and it risks perpetuating the humanitarian catastrophe that has been unfolding in Greece over the past years.
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Media Reactive: UNHCR Global Trends Report - Forced Displacement 2019

  • UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, published its annual Global Trends report today showing an increase in the number of forcibly displaced people in the world.
  • By the end of 2019, an unprecedented 79.5 million were displaced – the highest number the UNHCR has ever seen and an increase of almost 9 million since the end of 2018.

Responding to the report, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

“It’s deeply concerning that the number of forcibly displaced people has increased for the eighth year in a row to yet another record level.

“The starkest figure released by far is the high percentage of children, who make up 40 per cent of the total number of forcibly displaced people in 2019.

“In addition to the violence, persecution and hardship that people are fleeing, many are now also facing the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic in overcrowded camps without enough clean water or access to health care, alongside additional climate related threats.

“Many people are also stranded at shut borders, or denied asylum because of the pandemic. It’s important that measures to curb the spread of the disease don’t make it harder for people who are forced to flee their homes.

“With the vast majority of the world’s refugees in developing countries, often struggling themselves with hunger and weak infrastructure, it’s time for the international community to step up and fully recognise asylum as fundamental right, invest in peacebuilding and support the call for a global ceasefire.

“UNHCR’s report coincides with Ireland’s successful tenure to the UN Security Council yesterday. Ireland, through its diplomatic representation, now has a window of opportunity - a platform and space among nations with extraordinary power - to be a global voice for peace, and a vocal advocate for the rights of communities affected by conflict.

“This is more important now than ever, with the UNHCR citing one of the two main reasons for the significant increase in people on the move is new displacement - particularly in Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel, Yemen and Syria – all engulfed in protracted conflict, with the latter now in its tenth year of conflict and accounting for a sixth of the world’s total of forcibly displaced people.

“Ireland’s position on the UN Security Council is an opportunity to positively affect the lives of millions of people living under the threat of violence and instability due to conflict."

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

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Broadcaster Lorraine Keane and Oxfam announce Fashion Relief TV with Axonista

  • Weekly online show broadcast straight from Lorraine Keane’s home to yours

  • Viewers can shop sustainably and raise vital funds for Oxfam’s COVID-19 response

Broadcaster Lorraine Keane and Oxfam Ireland are excited to announce a new partnership with interactive video technology company Axonista that will bring the hugely successful Fashion Relief event online. After the fashion fundraiser’s Dublin event was postponed due to COVID-19, Keane and Axonista developed an innovative solution that will bring the rails and catwalk of Fashion Relief into living rooms all over Ireland through Fashion Relief TV, a 30 minute programme aired from Keane’s home every Friday at 7.00pm. The show will also allow viewers to click and buy what they see, raising vital funds for Oxfam’s work worldwide, including their COVID-19 response in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Launching on Friday 12th June 2020, Fashion Relief TV is an always on platform so viewers can watch back and shop at any time. Each Friday at 7.00pm on fashionrelief.ie, Fashion Relief TV will update with new hand-picked clothes, accessories and shoes which can be purchased and posted directly to viewers.

Lorraine Keane said: “It was such a disappointment to have to postpone the rest of our Fashion Relief 2020 events after so much preparation, not to mention the overwhelming amount of designer and premium items we’d been donated.

“So, we are delighted to be partnering with the team at Axonista to bring Fashion Relief online – even though you can’t come to us, we can now bring Fashion Relief straight to you! With Axonista, we’ll be bringing you a fashion programme with a twist! As expected, we’ll be showcasing beautiful pre-loved and brand new pieces from the wardrobes of some of Ireland’s most fashionable women as well as from designers and boutiques all over Ireland, but you’ll also be able to click on the items you love and buy them as the platform works as an online shopping channel too.

“By bagging a bargain from Fashion Relief, you’ll also be shopping more sustainably, helping to divert pre-loved and end of line clothes from landfill, doing your bit for people and planet. What’s not to love?”

Claire McHugh, CEO of Axonista said: "We were delighted to bring our interactive video technology to the aid of Fashion Relief. We’ve learned a lot about shoppable video through our work with global brands like QVC and the Home Shopping Network. This campaign is truly remarkable, both for its inherent sustainability and meaningful impact on communities ravaged by climate change, who need our support now more than ever."

Fashion Relief is part of Oxfam’s solution to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items and reduce the amount of clothes that end up in landfill as well as shopping second-hand to give pre-loved clothes a longer life. Fashion Relief works with retailers, supporting them to donate their end of line or excess stock to us instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

Keane continued: “As part of Fashion Relief, I’ve travelled to Ethiopia, Somaliland and more recently Bangladesh to see first-hand how the profits raised help some of the poorest and most at risk people through Oxfam’s work – people made even more vulnerable because of the deadly threat of COVID-19. 

“In Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, I met families who live alongside almost one million other Rohingya refugees who fled unimaginable violence in Myanmar. Since then, they have faced the double threat of COVID-19 in an overcrowded and woefully inadequate camp where social distancing is impossible alongside monsoon season and the strongest ever recorded cyclone in Bengal Bay.

“When you support Fashion Relief, you’re helping to raise vital funds for people in dire need in Cox’s Bazar and across the world - funds that are needed more now than ever before.”

Fashion Relief Friday launches on Friday 12th June 2020 at 7.00pm on www.fashionrelief.ie. After that, simply log on any time throughout the week to browse and buy. Every Friday at 7.00pm a new show with new content will be aired so you can bag yourself a bargain from the comfort of your own home.

To find out more, visit www.fashionrelief.ie

ENDS

CONTACT: Lorraine Keane (Fashion Relief with Oxfam) and Claire McHugh (Axonista) are available for interview.

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

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

Notes the editor:

"Doortrait" images of Lorraine Keane, Rosanna Davison, Maia Dunphy, Mary Kennedy and Yvonne Melinn are free for use and can be accessed here: https://oxfam.box.com/s/d9vdyhmgmpncq5cnhbgou48iivgee2xc

Suggested Photo Caption:

Broadcaster Lorraine Keane and stars Rosanna Davison, Mary Kennedy, Maia Dunphy and Yvonne Melinn of YStyleIreland took to their doorsteps to announce Fashion Relief TV in partnership with Axonista - a 30 minute programme broadcast straight from Keane's home to yours which allows you to shop while watch and raise funds for Oxfam Ireland. For more, visit: fashionrelief.ie

About Fashion Relief: Fashion Relief is a fundraiser extraordinaire that offers people the unique opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobe of their style icon or beloved brand, boutique or designer. It started in May 2018 and has since rolled out annual events in Dublin, Cork and Galway. All profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes.

About Oxfam Ireland: Oxfam is a global movement of people who won’t live with the injustice of poverty. Together they save lives and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. They help people build better lives for themselves. They speak out on the big issues that keep people poor, like inequality and discrimination against women. And they won’t stop until every person on the planet can live without poverty. Oxfam Ireland is one of 20 Oxfams working in over 90 countries worldwide.

For more, visit oxfamireland.org

About Axonista: Axonista is the award-winning team behind Ediflo, an enterprise-level video technology platform that enables media companies and brands to build interactive video applications across all screens. Based in Dublin and New York, and employing a team of 30, this interactive video technology company helps their customers to tell stories in entirely new ways.

Axonista’s technology powers some of the world’s most popular video streaming apps. Customers include QVC, Virgin Media, The Home Shopping Network, VideoElephant, WaterBear and the Irish Film Institute. Over a ten year history, Axonista has won numerous awards for its ground-breaking work in video, and was recently named one of the 250 most significant Irish Corporations invested in the US.

For more information visit axonista.com

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