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Bringing your voice to the UN Summit on migration

Oxfam brought its global call to stand as one with people forced to flee their homes to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

From a sea of life jackets laid beneath the Brooklyn Bridge highlighting the sobering reality of this crisis, to meetings at UN Headquarters, we reminded world leaders that over a quarter of a million people worldwide have joined our movement to support people on the move.

Left: Hundreds of life jackets, collected from the beaches of Chios in Greece, lie on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the desperate plight of children and adults forced to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Photo: Darren Ornitz Photography; Right: Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken remind Ireland’s UN Ambassador David Donoghue (centre) that 250,000 people worldwide are standing as one with refugees. Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam

WATCH: Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Marissa Ryan reacts to the sea of life jackets at Brooklyn Bridge

We were there and made sure your voice continued to be heard

As Irish and UK Government leaders – including an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and UK Prime Minster Theresa May - addressed the very first UN Summit on Migration and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit, they did so knowing that over 25,000 people across the Republic of Ireland and almost 6,500 people from Northern Ireland (over 86,876 from the United Kingdom in total) were demanding they show strong leadership and take action to protect and uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Left: Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Right: Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

Some UN migration summit highlights

"Refugees are already taking action. We want world leaders to do the same" - Mohammed Badran

Mohammed Badran, a refugee from Syria and Oxfam partner, addressed the opening segment of the UN summit on migration, calling for world leaders to do more to protect and empower refugees everywhere. Mohammed is the Chair of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, a network of over 600 volunteers who work to give back to local communities.

“World leaders need to remember those who are relying on them – the people running for their lives from their homes, trying to keep their children calm as they set off on an inflatable dingy across the Mediterranean sea, or facing barbed wire and check points instead of compassion in their desperate search for safety.” -  Jim Clarken

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken attended the summits and highlighted our call to stand as one with people forced to flee live from New York.

“I cried my eyes out when I arrived in the UK, a refugee.” -  Winnie Byanyima

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima shared her experience of being a refugee from Uganda and called on world leaders to make sure these summits amount to more than a half-hearted beginning to help those millions of people forced to flee but are the start of real and lasting solutions. Read Winnie’s article here: 

More needs to be done and we are not giving up

Over 65 million displaced people were counting on the outcome of the summits – an unprecedented opportunity for a bold and fair deal to ensure their safety and dignity. While we welcomed world leaders’ calls for a more equal sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, we were disappointed that they failed to make tangible commitments on how they are going to affect real change for refugees and migrants.

We will continue to speak out and ensure that the Irish and UK Government play their part in responding to this global crisis. We will not allow these summits to amount to more meaningless talk but will continue to fight for the political commitments of the summits to be translated into action to ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move.

People from across the island of Ireland continue to show that refugees are welcome here by writing messages of solidarity at Oxfam’s Culture Night events in Dublin and Belfast the weekend before the summits in New York.

Help us to stand as one with children, women and men fleeing conflict, persecution, disaster and poverty.

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Apple tax ruling tip of the iceberg - EU governments must do more

The European Commission today ruled that Apple received €13 billion in illegal state aid from the Irish government.

This decision follows the investigations on illegal state aid between the Dutch government and Starbucks, the Luxembourg government and Fiat, and the Belgian government for its ‘excess profit’ tax scheme.

Reacting to the decision, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive at Oxfam Ireland, said: “Ireland has benefitted from multinational investment but all companies should operate here under rules which are fair and which do not benefit some companies over others. Deals that exempt companies from paying their legitimate share of tax mean the ordinary taxpayers have to foot the bill.

“Apple is one of the world’s most well-known companies and Irish consumers want their favourite brands to do the right thing and pay their fair share of tax. A nationwide survey commissioned by Oxfam earlier this year found that the vast majority (86%) of people believe that big companies are using tax loopholes to dodge paying their fair share of tax. 83% believe vital public services like schools and hospitals in Ireland and across the world are suffering as a result.

“The Government now must move to end these practices for once and for all, and reassure citizens that sweetheart tax deals with either companies or individuals are a thing of the past. They cannot be tolerated, especially when public services are in vital need of investment.

“So far, multinationals found by the European Commission to have benefitted from sweetheart deals only have to pay the taxes they were previously able to avoid and no additional fines are levied. The status quo clearly does not pose a sufficient deterrent whatsoever.

“Adequate measures to prevent such deals in the future must include public disclosure of where multinational companies generate profits and where they pay their taxes, giving governments and citizens the power to hold them to account.

“A proposal earlier this year by the European Commission obliging companies to publicly disclose more information about their tax arrangements is too weak – it will only apply to the biggest of companies and the information they need to provide is too limited. The European Parliament and Member States need to strengthen these requirements by making them apply to all large multinationals, and multinationals must be forced to publish tax information for all countries where they are present. “In addition, the establishment of a public centralised register of beneficial ownership would allow citizens here and in developing countries know who is really behind companies and trusts. Without the financial secrecy which has wreaked such havoc to the global economy, tax evasion and avoidance would be much more difficult.”

Make Tax Fair:

When big firms don’t pay the tax they should, governments lack funds for schools, hospitals and tackling poverty. Tax dodging hurts us all, but it affects poor people the most. Developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year, according to the OECD. The money lost is enough to end world hunger twice over. We want the government to ensure Irish law and tax practice does not help companies or individuals to avoid tax by requiring companies to say publicly where profits are made and tax is paid and increase international tax cooperation.

Video: Inequality in Malawi

(Subtitled so you can watch without audio.)

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Forced to flee Boko Haram and facing hunger – crisis in Nigeria and West Africa

Thousands of people are believed to have died due to hunger and malnutrition and experts say that more than 65,000 people are officially classified as suffering from famine in a desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, one of the poorest places on earth.

Those experiencing the most extreme form of hunger are in pockets of north east Nigeria, mainly in Borno state, only recently accessible to humanitarian agencies following protracted military action to secure areas formerly under the control of Boko Haram. They are part of a humanitarian crisis largely ignored by the international community which is also affecting people in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

 

Unless there is a rapid scale up in the provision of assistance, there will be many more deaths. Estimates suggest that as many as 67,000 children aged under 5 could die by the end of September in Nigeria’s Borno and Yobe states alone – that’s 184 every day – due to lack of nutritious food.

Oxfam is providing life-saving support in Nigeria, Niger and Chad to people who have been forced to flee their homes as well as the already impoverished communities in which they are taking shelter. We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to protect health and prevent the spread of disease. And we are also calling on donors and governments to act now to support humanitarian efforts.

BACKGROUND TO THE CRISIS

The present crisis across the Lake Chad basin began seven years ago as a result of the emergence of the group Boko Haram in Nigeria and military operations against it. Violence has escalated further in recent weeks exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. It has forced 2.7 million people to flee their homes, including 1.9 million Nigerians alone, and left over 9 million people in need of help.

Unable to grow or buy food, or access humanitarian aid, millions are going hungry. 3.8 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region as a whole face severe hunger. Over 20,000 people have been killed and thousands of girls and boys are thought to have been abducted. There have been alarming levels of sexual violence, violations of international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) and human rights law including the forced recruitment of civilians, even children, as combatants.

Fatima Mohammed* (35) from Nigeria’s Borno State is living among the Kabbar Maila host community. Boko Haram forced their way in to her home and cut her husband’s throat in front of her and her children. She is struggling and is not sure where her children’s next meal is coming from. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

AFRICA'S FASTEST GROWING DISPLACEMENT CRISIS

The Lake Chad Basin crisis now represents Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis and is the seventh largest internally displaced population in the world. The conflict has caused widespread destruction of vital but already limited infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, roads, markets and farmland.

Across the region, people are on the move trying to escape threats to their lives, liberty and other human rights in search of safety and protection. Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the violence. In 2015, around one in every 15 people who died throughout the world as a direct result of violent conflict died in Nigeria. Countless more are dying or face permanent disability as a result of hunger, disease and a lack of healthcare, the secondary impacts of war.

Children at the government-run Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. It is a camp established by displaced people themselves when they moved into empty unfinished buildings the government was building for government workers. There are also people living in makeshift shelters, especially those who have arrived more recently. Oxfam is providing water, latrines and sanitation in the camp. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

ZAHRA'S STORY

Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria. She and her husband were farmers and grew vegetables. She also collected firewood which she would sell and their children used to go to school.

Caption info: Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria, one of the worst affected regions. She was forced to flee her village during a Boko Haram attack which saw her husband killed. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

But three years ago Boko Haram attacked her village and killed her husband. Unable to bury his body, Zarah was forced to flee with her six children. The oldest child was 12, the rest were aged under 10. They spent one month in the forest. To survive they drank water from open sources such as streams. Often the water was dirty. For food they relied on leftovers from communities they passed along the way, as well as scavenging for food that had been thrown away. It took them one week of walking through the forest on foot to reach the Kabbar Maila host community in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where they now live.

Once in Maiduguri they asked around for people who came from their community. For two weeks they lived in a makeshift tent with 10 other internally displaced families and then through local community leaders she was able to find accommodation to rent with a local landlord. Zarah now lives with her children in a crowded room with a leaking roof. She pays her landlord with money her children bring back from begging but for the last three months she’s hasn’t had enough to cover the rent.

To feed the family, Zarah’s eldest daughter buys sachets of water from a vendor and hawks them on the streets. If her daughter is unable to make money from selling the water, the family goes hungry. When this happens she sends her daughter and some of her other children to beg for money. Zarah is unable to find work as people do not want to give jobs to someone her age as they are looking for younger people to do menial jobs. The family is barely able to eat two meals a day. Their meal usually consists of corn flour or maize and they are unable to afford vegetables or meat.

The local host community have opened their arms and have been very welcoming. They share the little they have but people are poor.

Her biggest need currently is food. When her children go hungry, it causes her pain. Zarah is unable to go back to her village and home because there is a lack of security there. She heard that people had gone back and had been killed. Her hope is to one day return home so that she and her children can grow food on their land and sustain themselves.

Zarah says: “I don’t like seeing my children go hungry, all I want is food. I am ready to go back home today if the government assures us on security, we can farm our food because we have our farms there.”

Read other stories and find more information in the new Oxfam report, Lake Chad’s Unseen Crisis.

A child outside a makeshift shelter at the Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria where 13,000 internally displaced families now live after fleeing their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Oxfam has supported over 250,000 people so far in Nigeria since we began responding to the crisis in May 2014 but we urgently need your support.

We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

An Oxfam water tank in the Kabbar Maila community which is hosting displaced people forced to flee their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

We work in Adamawa, Borno and Gombe states, providing people with emergency food support, clean water and better sanitation, including constructing showers and repairing toilets, and making sure people have areas to wash their hands. We have set up community protection groups for women to give them information about access to support facilities if they have suffered from sexual violence and exploitation. We are distributing food and cooking equipment, as well as providing seeds and tools to help traders and farmers get back on their feet.

In Niger, Oxfam has helped over 31,400 people since our emergency response began there in 2015. We are installing water systems to make sure people have clean water to drink, as well as distributing essential items such as cooking pots, buckets and water purifying tablets. Elsewhere in Niger there has been massive flooding, and in some regions where the lean season – the time when people are at the end of their food until the next harvest comes – there is desperate hunger.

Oxfam has recently started responding to the crisis in Chad, with the aim to reach over 30,000 people. We will distribute cash and tarpaulins for shelter and provide clean water to people to help prevent the spread of diseases.

Please support our West Africa crisis emergency response. 100% of your donation will go directly to this response.

You can also add your voice to our Right to Refuge campaign which is calling on the Irish and UK governments to ensure that everyone has the right to refuge when their safety and dignity is threatened.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

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Aleppo – voices from the ground

Cut off from supplies and heavily bombarded, the people of in the Syrian city of Aleppo have borne the brunt of the fighting and have suffered far too much and too long in this bloody conflict. 
 
Since the end of July, when the fighting intensified in the city, there have been reports of attacks on schools and hospitals from the air and indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of civilian areas. Hundreds of people, including many children, have reportedly been killed. 
 
The city, which is divided in two parts (the West side of the city is under control of the government and the East side is under control of the opposition) has seen its main supply routes blocked by warring parties and thousands of civilians are cut off from food, water, and health care.
 
Since the encirclement of the eastern part of Aleppo by pro-government forces and its allies at the end of July, and the counter-attack by armed opposition groups, little to no aid has reached hundreds of thousands of people in need. The situation is harrowing, with the recent battles pushing already vulnerable people to the brink.
 

DAILY STRUGGLE 

 
“Just when you think the situation might improve, something new happens,” says Amjad*, a 33-year-old taxi driver who lives with his mother in West Aleppo. He spends most of his time driving around the city. 
 
“We got used to the destruction, the scene of people filling in jerry cans, and children carrying jerry cans heavier than them”.
 
Samah*, a 12-year-old girl, recently fled with her family from rural Aleppo, looking for safety and shelter in the city. Samah says: “I used to go to school, but now every day I go to collect water for my family. It’s easy to carry the jerry cans if they are empty, but it’s hard when they are filled with water.”
 
Faisal* (65) lives with his wife in their home in West Aleppo. Faisal has lived in his neighbourhood for more than 30 years, and never had to buy water.
 
He says: “I miss those days when we used to open the tap and get as much water as we wanted. The first thing you lose when you don’t have water is your dignity”. 
 
Faisal has two sons who left Syria. Instead of having water delivered to his home at a cost, Faisal walks two kilometres each day to fill half a jerry can. With his back pain and the distance, he can’t carry more than 10 litres of water.
 
“It is a daily struggle, but I have no other option. Our building is empty, all the neighbours left. I have to make this journey every day.”
 
Nada* (23) has three sons and lives with her relatives in East Aleppo. When her husband died in 2013, she wanted to reduce her expenses and she moved in with her relatives. Now five families share two rooms. 
 
“I am a desperate woman who took a desperate measure, but I had no choice,” says Nada. 
 
Amina* was also displaced inside East Aleppo, and moved with her daughter and two sons to her relatives’ house. 
 
Amina says: “I am tired. The only thing I have is the clothes I am wearing. Everything is expensive, cooking is a struggle, showering is a struggle. Everything is a struggle. There’s no electricity, I have no income, no skills and I can’t support my children and that’s frustrating. I can’t ask my poor relatives for support. We are all waiting for things to get better. We are waiting without hope.”
 
Dibeh* (27) has three children and lives with her family in a in a basement with two other families who have been displaced inside Aleppo. 
 
“I lost hope, and I feel that things will never improve,” says Dibeh. “I don’t have money and I lost everything. I can’t afford a jerry can. I would prefer to pay rent, buy milk and nappies for my two-year-old son. My husband is not working anymore and we have no income at all. We were filling water in old bottles and buckets. We are eating less and less food every day to save some money because things are getting worse.”
 
 
Children in West Aleppo fill jerry cans from a truck. Both sides of the divided city have been suffering from water cuts, since the fighting intensified at the end of July. Power cuts and damage to the infrastructure have meant that more than 1.6 million people have little to no access to the water system. Alternative solutions are local wells, and water trucking. All photos: Oxfam
 
 
Syrians who have been displaced by the fighting in Aleppo camp in a park in the Western side of the city, under government control. Thousands of civilians have taken shelter in parks, mosques, and schools on both sides of the city as the conflict rages on. Their humanitarian needs are increasing as food prices have increased, and access to healthcare and water is becoming more difficult. Photo: Oxfam
 

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN ALEPPO

 
Oxfam is helping to provide clean water across battle lines in eastern and western Aleppo as well as elsewhere in Syria. 
 
Oxfam is making available goods such as family hygiene kits, jerry cans, water tanks, water filters, chlorine tablets, and water testing kits for planned UN convoys out of Damascus and we hope that the proposed 48 hour ceasefire will allow delivery into Aleppo. 
 
A generator intended to ensure that water is pumped to the city, even when power supplies are cut off, has only been able to operate irregularly due to fuel shortages and engineers have been unable to carry out essential repairs to the water infrastructure due to the fighting. 
 
We have people on the ground in Aleppo who are trying to assess and meet the needs of water infrastructure and of water, sanitation and hygiene needs for displaced people – but until there is a cessation of fighting in the area, insecurity and lack of access make that very difficult. 
 

CEASEFIRE

 
While a proposed 48 hour ceasefire in Aleppo is welcome, it must not be a one-off. A fully-fledged sustained ceasefire in the conflict is necessary to get desperately-needed humanitarian aid into all areas of Aleppo; to deal with the scale of the suffering, devastation and destruction in the city; to ensure that essential repairs to the water and power supplies can be carried out; and to ensure the protection of civilians. 
 
Such a ceasefire is needed not just in Aleppo but also across all of Syria. Somehow, the conflict needs to be de-escalated by all parties and there must be an end to indiscriminate attacks or deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
 
* All names have been changed to protect identities.
 

Facebook Live chat with Oxfam's Syria Crisis Response Manager

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World Humanitarian Day: The people behind emergency responses

"World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder of the need to act to alleviate the suffering. It is also an occasion to honour the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the frontlines of crises. I pay tribute to these dedicated women and men who brave danger to help others at far greater risk." — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

On this World Humanitarian Day, we recognise the people who work tirelessly to deliver crucial humanitarian support to families and communities around the world. Each year more than 30 million people flee their homes as a result of conflict and natural disaster and over 500,000 people are killed in war. Oxfam is currently working in emergencies in over 30 countries. Some are in the public eye; some are forgotten and out of the spotlight. Thanks to the continued dedication of humanitarian workers such as those featured below, we’re able to respond to wherever we’re needed.

Sara Zehl (29) from Germany volunteers as a team leader with Oxfam, managing the distribution in the Kara Tepe camp on the island of Lesvos.

Speaking about her decision to come to Greece, Sara says: “I was at home literally sat on the couch watching the news. And I just wanted to come over and help, both the people arriving and the Greek population too, to support everyone. So I left my job working in hotel management and flew over. I have been here for six months now and whilst it is hard seeing families in this situation, I am passionate about helping and trying to make a difference."

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland's Humanitarian Manager, is pictured here during a monitoring visit to Malakal, South Sudan. This region was the first place where Colm was deployed as a humanitarian worker and so when the opportunity arose to return with Oxfam, Colm says he “couldn’t say no”.

Colm’s motivation to engage in humanitarian work stems from a moment many will remember - the 1984 famine in East Africa which inspired Band Aid and subsequently Live Aid.  Speaking about how his perspective on aid work has changed over time, Colm says: “I’ve learnt that being a humanitarian is broader than I originally thought. It’s not just about people on the front line. There are lots of ways of being a humanitarian – whether you’re an urban planner creating safe spaces for people to live or local fundraiser who generates vital income.” 

Marianna Kapelle is a member of Oxfam's gender and protection team in the Filippiada camp, Epirus Region, northwest Greece. Speaking about her work, Marianna says: “As a Protection Officer with Oxfam I spend most of my time in the camps, talking with the refugees mostly in Arabic, which is my passion and helps people to share their thoughts and feel more comfortable. Part of my role is to provide as much information as possible so people are able to make the best choices for themselves and their families. I am so grateful to be able to support people who are so resilient and brave, despite everything they have been through. Everyone has so much hope still and open-hearted smiles. This is something that inspires me every day."

Vincent Malasador was part of Oxfam’s rapid assessment team that responded in the immediate aftermath to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. Vincent’s dedication to the cause is clear when he describes a typical work day: “We would wake up very early, take our lunch at sundown and take our sleep hours past midnight; this was the life we had to live so that we could provide the support that the struggling communities needed to survive.”

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