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Yemen still starved of food and fuel despite month-long suspension of blockade

Ireland donated €4.8 million last year to world’s worst humanitarian crisis

18th January, 2018

Despite last month’s temporary lifting of the Saudi led-coalition blockade of Yemen’s northern ports, in the past three and a half weeks only 18 per cent of the country’s monthly fuel needs and just over half its monthly food needs have been imported through these ports, Oxfam said today.

These ports provide most of the goods the country needs to import with 80 per cent of all goods coming through Hodeida, one of the northern ports. Ninety per cent of the country’s food has to be imported. The arrival of much-needed new cranes in Hodeida is very welcome and crucial to speeding up supplies through the port. But the continued restrictions of vital supplies further endangers the 8.4 million people living on the brink of famine.

Last November, Irish Aid announced additional funding of €750,000 to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Fund. This brought Ireland’s total direct humanitarian support to Yemen to over €4.8 million for 2017, and almost €11.3m since the conflict began. In addition, last year, Ireland is the fifth largest donor to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, which has allocated USD $25.6m to Yemen.

Oxfam warned of a catastrophic deterioration in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak on record. The organization said that the lives of 22 million people in need of aid will continue to deteriorate if there is not a significant rise in the imports of the vital food, fuel and medicine. On the 19 January the blockade will have been lifted for a month and Oxfam is calling for all ports to remain open to the uninterrupted flow of commercial and humanitarian goods.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s CEO said; “The wanton disregard on all sides of this conflict for the lives of ordinary families struggling to cope after more than a 1,000 days of war is nothing short of an international scandal. This is a war waged with 21st century hi-tech weapons, but the tactic of starvation is from the Dark Ages. The international community must come together and take a stand against barbarism. Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said “There should be an immediate UN Security Council resolution calling for a full unrestricted opening of ports to commercial and humanitarian goods, an immediate ceasefire and redoubling efforts for peace talks.”

While the blockade has been temporarily lifted, 190,000 tonnes of food arrived at the main northern ports between 20 December and 15 January, compared with the estimated monthly food needs of 350,000 tonnes, according to the UN, shipping agencies and port authorities. Fuel imports over the same period were 97,000 tonnes compared with an estimated monthly fuel needs of 544,000 tonnes.

Fuel tankers and bulk cargo vessels of grain have docked but no container vessels have arrived, meaning that foods essential for survival, such as edible oil, have not entered the ports for some time.

Last month the price of imported cooking oil went up by 61 per cent in Al Baidha, 130 miles south east of the capital Sana’a. The price of wheat rose by 10 per cent across the country over the same period. Food prices have been rising since the conflict started. In Hodeida in the west of the country, the price of barley is three times higher than it was before the conflict, maize is up nearly 140 percent in Hadramout over the same period and the price of sorghum has doubled in Taiz.

Due to the fuel shortages and uncertainty of imports, one of Yemen’s major food companies has reduced its grain milling operations and another is struggling with milling and distributing food inside the country.

Companies face arbitrary restrictions by parties to the conflict when moving food around the country.

The food and fuel import crisis is exacerbated by a collapse in the country’s currency which has seen a dramatic drop in the exchange rate from 250 rials per US dollar to 500 in recent weeks. This will put more pressure on prices and hit the poorest and the families of the estimated 1.24 million civilian servants who have not received, or only occasionally received, a salary since August 2016.

Oxfam said that not only should the blockade be permanently lifted but there should also be an end to unnecessary restrictions on cargo ships coming into port. It called for an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms sales that have been fuelling the conflict and called on backers of the war to use their influence to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.

ENDS

Daniel English

086 3544954

Rohingya Crisis

As the year draws to a close, the traumatic events of 2017 are still very raw for the Rohingya people. Hundreds and thousands of them have fled to Bangladesh since the summer, many wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Their journeys from Myanmar were laden with misery and terror. Refugees witnessed pain and suffering on a massive scale – nightmares they will relive for many years to come. They spoke of rape and sexual violence, of young children being maimed and abused. They fled landmines and bullets and saw their loved ones die in cold blood.

By the end of November, the number of refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh had passed 836,000. Living in overcrowded camps with overflowing latrines and contaminated water, they face heavy rains and the 2018 cyclone season which threatens to wash away shelters and spread water-borne diseases.

Oxfam is on the ground providing safe drinking water, food and other essentials, and is ramping up its work before cyclone season hits.

In the meantime, the voices of those who have fled Myanmar are being heard – and their stories are harrowing.

Razida* (35) carries her 10-month-old son Anisul* through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

“They burned my home and shot my husband dead,” said Razida* who spent six days walking to Bangladesh with her eight children. “The women and children ran away – we were safe, but the attackers surrounded the men and killed them so they couldn’t bring us anything. We had to even borrow money to cross the border.

"I left with all my children, I had to leave. How can I feel anything at all now? I’ve got shelter but no clean water and nowhere to shower. My children are sick and I am sick from worrying."

Fatima takes a rest in Dhokin Para school in Shah Puri Dwip after crossing over from Myanmar by boat two nights ago with her husband and young son. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

When Fatima’s house was burned down, she, her husband and their young son fled for their lives. Fatima was heavily pregnant when the family made their escape – but the lengthy journey was an ordeal for the expectant mother.

“Our house was burned down so we ran and we hid from village to village,” she explained. “I’m eight months pregnant and my feet are swollen. Yesterday when I arrived, I was in a bad condition. The locals fed me and gave me a wash.”

Elsewhere, others spoke of the horrific scenes they witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Setara* (47) with her daughter Nur*. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Setara (47), who made the journey with her parents and seven of her children, said: “We had to walk for three days without food. My girl was almost dying, I thought she would die on the way. We passed so many dead bodies on the way.”

“When I left I only had my children and the clothes on my back,” added Setara, who also revealed how her eldest son had been beaten and had disappeared.

These are the voices of just some of the Rohingya people who have had to flee unimaginable violence in recent months. This new year must offer these refugees a sense of security and hope for the future.

Please give what you can to help mothers like Razida*, Fatima* and Setara* and the families they will do anything to protect.

Thank you.

Greece intends to move 5000 people to mainland but thousands still trapped on islands

The Greek government has said that it intends to transfer 5,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland before the start of winter. Responding to the news, Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece, said:

“This is a very positive step that will save lives. People across Europe are asking for action and now it is imperative that people are moved quickly and in a safe and well-coordinated manner. Winter is just around the corner and thousands of people are still sharing unheated tents exposed to the bitter cold.

“Even if we could move all 5,000 people overnight, reception facilities on the islands will still be over capacity, unsafe and unsanitary."

“The Greek government and EU member states should now end their containment policy which has created a virtual ghetto at Europe's edge.”

Oxfam and 12 other human rights and humanitarian organizations launched a campaign on 1 December calling on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to immediately transfer 7,500 people to the mainland by 21 December and to end the containment policy that traps people on the Greek islands.

As of 1 December, reception facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos were almost 7,200 over capacity: 12,744 people in facilities with a capacity of just 5,576. Last winter, three men died on Lesbos in the six days between January 24 and 30. Although there is still no official statement on the cause of these deaths, they have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from makeshift heating devices in their tents. The Greek government has previously transferred around 2,000 people from Samos and Lesbos to the mainland since early November as an emergency measure.

Oxfam calls for a change of approach in the EU’s Migration Agenda, which sets Europe’s policies on migration. An Oxfam report, based on extensive field experience, highlights the danger, abuse and denial of basic rights that people face linked to the Migration Agenda’s policies. Oxfam has developed eight principles for a more humane and effective approach.

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First EU tax haven blacklist names 17 countries

Oxfam calls on Irish Government to tackle tax avoidance at home and globally
 
5th December 2017
 
EU finance ministers including Minister Paschal Donohoe have today adopted the first EU blacklist of tax havens. The list includes 17 mostly small countries. The EU has also published an additional grey list of countries that currently qualify as tax havens but have promised reforms.
 
The blacklisting process considered non-EU member states only. 
 
Reacting to the news, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “We welcome the EU’s commitment to addressing the damage done by tax havens and this first concrete step towards tackling tax avoidance. However, it is worrying to see that some of the most notorious tax havens got away on the grey list. 
 
“Placing countries on a grey list shouldn't just be a way of letting them off the hook, as has happened with other blacklisting efforts in the past. The EU has to make sure governments on the grey list follow up on their commitments, or else they must be blacklisted.
 
“It’s a sad irony that if the EU were to apply the criteria to its own member states, Ireland, along with three EU countries; Malta, the Netherlands and Luxembourg would be blacklisted too. While we welcome Minister Donohoe’s support for the blacklisting process, we continue to call for him and the Irish government to tackle tax avoidance at home as well as globally. 
 
Specifically, we need the government to be proactively engaged in tackling existing tax avoidance mechanisms which Ireland is inadvertently facilitating. 
 
The EU’s list was established following a screening and a dialogue conducted during 2017 with a large number of third country jurisdictions. Those that appear on the list failed to take meaningful action to address deficiencies identified and did not engage in a meaningful dialogue on the basis of the EU’s criteria. Work on the list started in July 2016 within the Council's working group responsible for implementing an EU code of conduct on business taxation, in coordination with its high-level working party for taxation.
 
Last week, Oxfam published the report ‘Blacklist or whitewash?’, showing what a robust blacklist of tax havens would look like if the EU were to objectively apply its own criteria and not bow to political pressures. Oxfam concluded that at least 35 non-EU countries should be included in the EU tax haven blacklist. In addition, four EU member states fail the EU’s own criteria: Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta. 
 
ENDS
 
Daniel English
Oxfam Ireland
086 3544954
 
Photos and TV-quality video footage of today illustrating a tax haven in Brussels are available and can be used by the media for free.
 
An interactive map shows the 39 countries listed in the report and explains why they should have been blacklisted by the EU.
 
The EU committed to a blacklist process in the wake of scandals like the Panama Papers and Lux Leaks that showed how tax havens let the companies and the super-rich get away with billions in unpaid taxes. The EU blacklist is based on three criteria: transparency, fair taxation, and participation in international fora on tax.
 
The EU’s blacklisting negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, and countries participating in the talks have refused to answer questions. The process has been in the hands of one of Brussels’ most secretive working bodies, the so-called Code of Conduct Group, which insists on its work being confidential.
·         86% of European are in favour of “tougher rules on tax avoidance and tax havens”, while 8% are “against the idea” according to the Standard Eurobarometer, published in July 2017.
·         Tax dodging costs developing countries $170 billion a year: $70 billion through tax dodging by super-rich individuals and $100 billion through corporate tax dodging. $100 billion could provide an education for 124 million children and pay for healthcare services that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children annually.  There are 124 million children out of school. The annual domestic financing gap to achieve universal education in low and low middle-income countries is $39 billion per year. $32 billion would fund the key healthcare to prevent the deaths of 6 million children each year.
 
Following the Paradise Papers scandal, Oxfam released a 5-point plan outlining steps governments should take to prevent further scandals on a global scale. This includes establishing a global blacklist of tax havens that naming countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands that have been key players in the Paradise Papers scandal.

 

Oxfam's new one-of-a-kind accessories shop will do a world of good

Oxfam Ireland’s unique fashion collaboration with SIX opens in Belfast 

An accessories and jewellery shop with a difference has opened in Belfast city centre – and will help Oxfam Ireland to raise vital funds for people in crisis and poverty across the world.

The new SIX 4 GOOD store, now open for business in CastleCourt Shopping Centre, sells a wide range of brand-new fashion accessories and jewellery for women, men and children, including hair accessories, sunglasses, bags, purses, mobile phone accessories and homewares.

All the new items for sale in the store have been generously donated by European brand SIX free of charge to Oxfam Ireland, with profits going to support the charity’s work worldwide in emergency response, long-term development and campaigning, including projects with women and girls.

This opening of the SIX 4 GOOD store – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland – is part of an ongoing corporate partnership with SIX, a brand of the Beeline fashion group, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of jewellery and accessories.

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “Opening a shop which exclusively sells brand-new items from a single brand is an innovative departure for us and we’re delighted to be working with our long-standing partner Beeline on this unique collaboration.

“SIX 4 GOOD offers great value on a fantastic range, selling at discounted prices with items like rings, bracelets and earrings starting at just £2 and handbags from £7. This is exciting news for Northern Ireland’s bargain-hunting fashionistas and shoppers who like to look good and give back.”

Ulrich Beckmann, Founder and CEO of Beeline GmbH, said: “We want to give back part of our success to the community. This project is of particular importance for us and we are looking forward to continuing our successful cooperation with Oxfam Ireland to provide help for people in poverty worldwide.”

Mr. McIlwaine added: “Thanks to the generous donations by SIX, we are able to raise vital funds for our work worldwide, saving lives in emergencies like the current hunger crisis in countries like South Sudan, helping people build better lives through long-term development work and speaking out on the issues that keep people poor, like discrimination against women.

“For example, the handbag you buy in SIX 4 GOOD for £13 could provide 50 bars of soap for 50 Syrian families displaced by conflict, helping hygiene and preventing the spread of deadly diseases. Grabbing a bargain feels great but supporting families fleeing conflict or trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty feels even better.”

For more information visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/six-4good-castlecourt

 

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