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First confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Moria refugee camp Lesbos, Greece

Oxfam Ireland call on Irish government to honour commitment on unaccompanied minors as COVID-19 hits Moria refugee camp

  • Urgent EU action needed to prevent catastrophic spread of COVID-19 in Moria refugee camp, say Oxfam and GCR

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The arrival of COVID-19 in the EU ‘hotspot’ refugee camp of Moria is a disaster for the people who are stranded there. ‘Social distancing’ and recommended hygiene practices to reduce risk are impossible – there are nearly 12,000 people trapped in a camp build for less than 3000 people. There are not enough toilets, showers, or access to water. Without immediate and drastic intervention, this will turn into a devastating health crisis that could cause the deaths of hundreds of already weakened people.

“Ireland is one of 12 EU member states who pledged to relocate unaccompanied children trapped on the Greek islands and we welcome this commitment. The Irish government pledged to relocate 36 children and to date have relocated eight. With the news of COVID-19 reaching Moria, we urge the Irish government to continue to honour their commitment as a matter of urgency and bring the remaining children to safety as soon as possible. ”

Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, refugee law expert at the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), said: “Nearly six months into the pandemic, the emergency plan designed by Greece is still far from sufficient to properly protect people seeking asylum, staff in the refugee camps, and the wider population on the Greek islands. It almost exclusively focuses on restricting the movement of people, rather than adequate prevention and response.

“Instead of protecting people, Greek authorities have fined health clinics in the camp and closed down necessary accommodation sites on the mainland.

“To save lives, authorities should not wait for a mass outbreak of the coronavirus to rescue people seeking asylum from the overcrowded island camps. Instead, everyone in of Moria should be tested for the coronavirus, and positive cases should be isolated immediately in proper facilities. The Greek government and its EU partners need to take immediate action and transfer everyone out of the ‘hotspot’ to suitable accommodation on the Greek mainland and in other EU member states."

ENDS

Contact 

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

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

Notes to editors:

  • Spokespeople are available for interviews in English, Greek and Dutch.
  • A Somalian 40-year old man, a recognised refugee, is the first case of COVID-19 in the EU ‘hotspot’ camp of Moria. He was feeling unwell yesterday evening and was transferred by ambulance to the local hospital, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • The Greek government has developed a 3-step emergency plan for its refugee camps. Step 1 – already activated for all Greek island camps – is to isolate the camp and restrict movement. Once the first cases are confirmed, step 2 is to quarantine the camp, ban NGOs from entering and set up ‘health stations’ for up to 30 people; this step has been activated in several other refugee camps so far. The final step, in the event of a massive outbreak, entails separating people who are infected from those who are not. The plan is largely reactive rather than preventive. Also, many details on how exactly it will be implemented are left unclear: where will people brought in case of an evacuation, how will this happen and who will carry out the evacuation?
  • At the end of August, in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, close to 12,000 people – nearly half of them children (40%) – were crammed into a space built for fewer than 3,000 people. There are up to 160 people using the same dirty toilet and over 500 people per every shower. In some parts of the camp, 325 people share one tap and there is no soap. 15 to 20 people can live in a single shipping container, or in tents or makeshift shelters.
  • Earlier this year, several EU member states including Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal agreed to relocate a total of 1,600 unaccompanied children from the Aegean refugee camps. Since the beginning of this initiative, 229 children have been relocated to six EU countries, most recently to France and Finland, but months after the pledge by member states, hundreds of children are still waiting in the camps.
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Hospitals and Palestinians in Gaza brace for Coronavirus surge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

Contact

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

Notes to the editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

Contact 

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

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

NOTES TO EDITORS: 

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