Press Releases

Oxfam ramps up efforts to tackle world’s worst cholera outbreak in Yemen

Aid agency ships 39 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment to war-ravaged country

Thursday 29th June 2017

Oxfam is dispatching 39 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment to Yemen as the aid agency urgently ramps up its efforts to tackle the world's worst cholera outbreak.

In just two months, Yemen’s cholera epidemic has spread to nearly every corner of the war ravaged country. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are suffering from the preventable illness and more than 1,300 people have died – a quarter of them children.

The aid convoy from Oxfam, worth over €400,000 (£360,000), includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands, hand washing water dispensers, water testing and purifications kits, oral rehydration sachets, insecticide sprayers, pipes and fittings – all vital in preventing the spread of the deadly disease.

It will be loaded from Oxfam’s emergency warehouse in the UK between 10am and 2pm on Thursday 29th June and will fly from London via Djibouti in Africa and then onto Yemen.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The war in Yemen has laid the country to waste, destroying schools, hospitals, homes and lives. It’s impossible to overstate the human cost – over 10,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured while countless men, women and children face death every day through the lethal combination of hunger and now cholera.

“As we ship 39 tonnes of aid to Yemen, we’re continuing to call for a massive aid effort and an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian workers can reach communities most in need. The UN is forecasting that the number of people affected by cholera will reach 300,000 by August – aid is vital to stopping this outbreak from spiralling out of control and to saving lives.”

The conflict has forced three million people from their homes and left nearly 19 million people – almost 70 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Shane Stevenson, incoming Oxfam Country Director in Yemen, said: “Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and its health service has been all but destroyed by two years of a brutal war. Efforts to beat cholera are being massively undermined by the war. That is why we are calling on all parties to the fighting to agree a ceasefire to allow health and aid workers to get on with the task of saving lives.”

Oxfam has reached more than one million people in eight governorates of Yemen since July 2015 with water and sanitation services, food vouchers, cash and other essentials. In response to the cholera outbreak, Oxfam has been coordinating with partners to deliver clean water and sanitation to affected communities.  

Oxfam Ireland is appealing for vital funds for their hunger crisis appeal to support people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger

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CONTACT

Shane Stevenson, incoming Country Director in Yemen is available for interview and will be  in Oxfam’s emergency warehouse from 10.30am – 11.30am on Thursday 29th June. For interviews, images or more information, please contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

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Uganda needs more help in world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis

Thursday 22nd June 2017

Uganda’s “open door” policy toward refugees – now being held up around the world as a gold standard – could quickly buckle and fail unless the international community respond in full to the country’s $673 million UN appeal.

International donors have pledged only $117 million so far to Uganda out of the $637 million needed for the county’s South Sudan refugee response. So far the $1.38 billion UN appeal for the wider region’s response to the world’s fast-growing refugee crisis – which includes Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – is only 15% funded.

Almost one million people have fled South Sudan for Uganda since December 2013. So far this year an average of 2,000 people have arrived each day. Uganda is now hosting more than 1.25 million refugees in total, a number which has doubled over the last year. The vast majority – 86% – are women and children who need specific support to keep them safe from rape, beatings, torture, hunger and abandonment.

Peter Kamalingin, Oxfam’s Country Director in Uganda, said: “Uganda hosts the third-largest population of refugees in the world and yet it is one of the most under-funded host nations. This is both highly unfair and highly unsustainable. Uganda must get the support it needs to continue its welcoming policies toward its neighbour.”

Uganda is hosting the first Refugee Solidarity Summit on 22nd and 23rd June. Oxfam is calling on the international community to provide funds, humanitarian aid and, crucially, to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in neighbouring countries. 

“Governments urgently need to invest in the Uganda response to ensure that refugees and their host communities are provided with shelter and protection among other urgent needs. Local humanitarian agencies here have a vital understanding of the context of the crisis, so they need to be supported to deal with the needs of refugees in timely and cost-effective ways,” Kamalingin said.

Uganda’s policies provide a basis for refugees to be able to access land, shelter and employment.

Kamalingin continued: “On paper, these policies are laudable and Uganda is rightly being praised – but it needs to be supported too. Host communities also need land, clean water, food and employment opportunities. Uganda is balancing people’s needs as best it can for the moment, but it won’t be able to sustain that over time without proper backing. Most importantly, it should not be lost to regional governments and the International community that the most urgent relief for a refugee is peace at home.”

Speaking on behalf of fifty national and local organisations who were consulted ahead of the summit, Paparu Lilian Obiale, Humanitarian Programme Manager at CEFORD, an Oxfam partner in the West Nile region, said: “Ugandan civil society hopes that the summit will not only raise the profile of refugees in Uganda but also bring much needed funding and encourage real discussion about the root causes of the displacement in the region. There needs to be genuine discussion about how we foster sustainable futures both for refugees and those in hosting communities." 

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CONTACT:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

Oxfam’s refugee response in Uganda: Oxfam’s response to the refugee crisis in Uganda, alongside partners, is currently reaching over 280,000 refugees across four districts providing life-saving assistance, clean water, sanitation hygiene including construction of pit latrines, sustainable livelihoods and integrating gender and protection work. Oxfam and partners are actively engaged in advocacy for sustainable approaches to the refugee response as well as peace building at local level, national, regional and international levels.

Over the last 4 years, Oxfam in Uganda invested in pilot humanitarian capacity building for over 15 local and national organisations across different parts of Uganda. Those partners, working closely with Oxfam are critical in delivering timely and quality humanitarian services to people in need including during the influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012/13 and the influx of South Sudanese refugees since December 2013 to date. 

South Sudan: famine pushed back but more people hungry than ever before

Wednesday, June 21st 2017

Despite efforts made to contain famine in South Sudan, the country remains firmly in a humanitarian crisis, with 6 million people severely hungry and in need of urgent assistance – the greatest number of people ever recorded in the country – according to new figures released today.

Responding to the IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) figures, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne said:

“Thanks to aid efforts, famine has been pushed back in most of Leer and Mayendit, but 45,000 people in these areas and in former Jonglei State are still facing famine-like conditions. There is no room for complacency: the food crisis continues to spread across the country and 6 million people, half the population of South Sudan, are still facing severe hunger and need immediate help.

Mr Byrne, who will be travelling to South Sudan later this week, added: “More than one million people in former Jonglei State are living in extreme hunger, having gone for months without enough food to eat. Oxfam is distributing emergency food in affected areas in a race against time to prevent the situation getting even worse.

“Aid is helping, but South Sudan's hungriest people have run out of ways to cope and still depend on food aid to survive. The coming rainy season means that delivering help to people will be harder. With the rains also come higher risks of cholera and other water borne disease epidemics. And the rains occur at the hungriest time of the year just before this year's crops are harvested.

“While immediate help to fight hunger is still needed now, what the people of South Sudan ultimately need is peace. Along with sending aid, the international community needs to redouble its efforts to bring all warring parties to the negotiating table and to peacefully end their differences.”

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and support people facing severe hunger in South Sudan as well as in Yemen, East Africa, and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger

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For further information or to arrange an interview with Oxfam Ireland’s Colm Byrne, contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) is a tool for improving food security analysis and decision-making. It is a standardised scale that integrates food security, nutrition and livelihood information into a clear statement about the nature and severity of food insecurity and implications for strategic response. The IPC was originally developed for use in Somalia by FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU). Since then, several national governments and international agencies have introduced it in different food security contexts and is now being used in over 25 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

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Oxfam Ireland urges Minister Flanagan to reverse restriction preventing refugees reuniting with family in Ireland

Move could help Ireland meet deadline to bring in 4,000 refugees by end of 2017

Criteria for family reunification was limited after pledge to take in more refugees

New UN refugee figures published today highlight massive scale of global crisis

Monday June 19th, 2017

Oxfam Ireland has called on the newly appointed Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to urgently reverse a restriction devised in 2015 – following the Government’s promise to take in 4,000 refugees – which is preventing people seeking refuge from reuniting with relatives here.

The call follows the publication today of new statistics by the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR which show the massive scale of the global refugee crisis. The total number of people forcibly displaced is now at 65.6 million – an increase of 300,000 on the previous year.

Oxfam said re-instating a wider criteria for family reunification which was ended in a 2015 Act could help the Irish Government to deliver on its commitment to bring 4,000 refugees to Ireland by the end of 2017 – a deadline less than six months away. So far less than a third (1,259 as of May 15th) have arrived under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme with over 2,700 people languishing in camps in Italy and Greece still to come.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “It’s quite contradictory for the Government to pledge to resettle 4,000 refugees and then to change the laws and prevent certain family members from seeking refuge here. This is like building a bridge from one side while at the same time taking away the foundation stones from the other.

“In his previous ministry in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Minister Flanagan witnessed first-hand the impact of widespread conflict and persecution on people who were forced to flee their homes. Now he must ensure that Ireland plays its role in providing them with safety.

“It’s time to right the wrongs and reverse this poor decision that’s tearing families apart. Children are wrenched from their grandparents, siblings divided and extended family networks weakened. Families are forced to continue living apart after being separated during often perilous journeys to find safety – this is heaping trauma upon trauma on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Restrictive policies and practices across Europe mean refugees can find themselves stuck indefinitely in camps in places like Greece and Italy, just a short flight away from the relatives they long to be with.”

Responding to the publication of the UN’s new refugee figures, Jim Clarken added: “The war in Syria continues into its sixth year, tens of millions are caught in an unprecedented hunger crisis in South Sudan, East Africa, Yemen and north-east Nigeria, while other deadly violence and natural disasters force people from their homes around the globe.

“These new numbers underscore that the global community must immediately offer stronger lifelines to people as they flee for their lives, and also work together to tackle the root causes.”

As Oxfam published a new report today which shows how migration policies across Europe are keeping families apart, Oxfam urged the Government to reverse a change in law made by the 2015 International Protection Act which significantly restricts the ability of refugees to reach family members living in Ireland.

The Act narrowed the eligibility criteria which means refugees living here who want to bring family members to safety in Ireland through the asylum process can only apply for spouses and children or siblings under the age of 18. Those aged 18 and over are separated from parents and younger siblings, grandparents are separated from grandchildren and children travelling alone cannot reach extended family members settled in Ireland.

The previous 1996 Refugee Act granted a discretionary power to the Minister for the Justice which allowed for a wider definition of the family, i.e. any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on them or suffering from a mental or physical disability that means they cannot fully care for themselves.

Oxfam is calling on the Irish government to amend the 2015 International Protection Act 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. The agency says that at the very least the Minister’s discretionary power should be reinstated as per the 1996 Refugee Act.

Jim Clarken added: “Changing the rules on family reunification not only offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership in upholding fundamental human rights and share responsibility for the global refugee crisis, but could also help to meet our existing obligations.”

While Ireland struggles to meet its pledge, Lebanon, a country half the size of Munster, currently hosts 1.2 million refugees from Syria. In Uganda, up to 3,000 refugees from South Sudan are arriving each day.

Oxfam’s new report Dear Family: How European Migration Policies are Keeping Families Apart, details the situation of refugee families in Europe, with a particular focus on Greece. It details the testimony of refugees and migrants who are desperately seeking to be reunited with their loved ones and shows how a narrow definition of ‘family’ in EU member states, including Ireland’s legislation alongside bureaucratic challenges, keep families apart.

As of May 2017, 35% of people benefiting from Oxfam’s legal aid programmes in Lesbos and Epirus were trying to reunite with family members in Europe. Several cases were reported to Oxfam in Greece of pregnant women who were transferred to other refugee camps, or even the mainland, while their partner was forced to stay behind in Moria, a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, because they had no paperwork proving their relationship.

The report finds that many people in Greece, separated from loved ones in another EU member state, are becoming increasingly desperate. Most have been stranded in Greece for over a year, trying to navigate the asylum system and family reunification procedures, and often contemplating using smugglers in their attempt to move on.

Oxfam has been providing support to more than 6.7 million people in conflict-affected countries in the past year.

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Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107 or sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org

Oxfam Ireland’s press releases are available at www.oxfamireland.org/press and follow @Media_OxfamIRL on Twitter for breaking news, spokesperson information and other updates

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Cholera killing one person almost every hour in Yemen

08/06/2017

Oxfam calls for massive aid effort and immediate ceasefire.

Yemen is in the grip of a runaway cholera epidemic that is killing one person almost every hour and if not contained will threaten the lives of thousands of people in the coming months, Oxfam warned today. The aid agency is calling for an urgent, largescale aid effort and an immediate ceasefire in Yemen to allow health and aid workers to tackle the outbreak. 

According to the World Health Organisation, in the five weeks between 27 April and 3 June 2017, 676 people died of cholera and over 86,000 were suspected of having the disease. Last week the rate jumped to 2,777 suspected cases a day from 2,529 a day during the previous week. Given Yemen’s neglected medical reporting system and the widespread nature of the epidemic, these official figures are likely to be under reporting the full scale of the crisis. 

In the coming months there could be up to 150,000 cases of cholera, with some predictions as high as 300,000 cases. 

The cholera crisis comes on top of two years of brutal war which has decimated the health, water and sanitation systems, severely restricted the essential imports the country is dependent upon and left millions of people one step away from famine. 

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “Yemen is on the edge of an abyss. Two years of war has plunged the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, leaving it facing devastating famine. Now it is at the mercy of a deadly and rapidly spreading cholera epidemic. 

“Cholera is simple to prevent and treat but while the fighting continues, that task is made difficult and at times impossible. Lives hang in the balance - a massive aid effort is needed now. Those backing this war in Western and Middle Eastern capitals need to put pressure on all parties to the fighting to agree an immediate ceasefire to allow public health and aid workers to get to work saving lives.”

Oxfam said that the outbreak is set to be one of the worst this century if there is not a massive and immediate effort to bring it under control. It is calling on rich countries and international agencies to generously deliver on promises of $1.2bn of aid they made last month.

Money, essential supplies and technical support are needed to strengthen Yemen's embattled health, water and sanitation services. Health workers and water engineers have not been paid for months while hospitals, health centres, public water systems have been destroyed and starved of key items, such as medical supplies, chlorine and fuel. Even basic supplies such as intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and soap are urgently needed to enable an effective, speedy response - some of which will have to be flown into the country. Communities also need to be supported with their efforts to prevent the disease spreading and quickly treat people showing the first signs of infection. 

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and support people facing famine in Yemen, as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger  

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CONTACT: For interviews or more information, contact:

ROI: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org  

NI: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to Editors: 

Stats on cholera outbreak: http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-cholera-outbreak-dg-echo-who-ech...

Cholera is easily prevented with simple and affordable efforts at home and in the community, such as disinfection of water with chlorine, safe collection and storage of water, washing hands with soap, and understanding the myths, behaviours associated with cholera. When people suspect they have the symptoms they can drink a mix salt and sugar to rehydrate them while they make their way to the medical centre. 

 

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