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The daily struggle to survive hunger

Millions of people wake up every day to a living nightmare – a devastating combination of conflict and drought has left them on the brink of starvation.

Across East Africa, some 20 million people – that’s more than three times the population of the island of Ireland – are facing severe hunger. In South Sudan alone, around 6 million people are living in extreme hunger due to a brutal civil war, which is now in its fourth year. The violence has forced 3.5 million people from their homes and has decimated food production. If the fighting doesn’t stop, the situation will only get worse.

Not knowing where your next meal is coming from must be a terrifying prospect for the men, women and children who live this nightmare every day. But Oxfam is there, providing life-saving clean water and food to those in desperate need.

In Somaliland, 30-year-old Faria and her young family found themselves in a dire situation. Their livestock of 600 goats and 40 camels was almost wiped out because of drought. With just 10 goats left, Faria, her husband and their six children moved to Karasharka refugee camp where they were given the water and food they urgently needed.

“We moved because of lack of food and water,” says Faria, who is seven months pregnant. “We used to live in the rural area and all our animals perished.

“We were starving and had no one to help… Oxfam came to our rescue. We received both food and water and started cooking.”

Faria with Abdi, one of her six children. Photo Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

Faria and her young family found themselves on the brink of starvation, but they survived. Sadly, there are millions of other young families across the world who continue to live this daily nightmare. The drought which has struck Somaliland is also the main driver of the hunger crises in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, while conflict has left an estimated 2.5 million people in Nigeria without enough food to eat. Elsewhere, violence has also been plaguing Yemen where as many as 17 million people are in desperate need of food.

Oxfam is on the ground, helping communities in hunger-ravaged countries, providing families with food, clean, safe drinking water and sanitation.

But to save lives, we need to do more – and we need to act fast.

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Dirty water – A killer claiming the lives of 1,000 children every day

For us, it’s as simple as turning on a tap. Yet for millions of people around the world, clean water is beyond their reach.

For them, there’s no sink to fill, no toilet to flush – and they are dying needlessly every day.

Across the globe, it’s estimated that almost 850 million people have no access to clean, safe drinking water, while 2.3 billion are living without basic sanitation. And almost 1,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea each day due to drinking contaminated water.

In countries like Niger, more than half of the population has no access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to often fatal waterborne diseases. But Oxfam is there, providing clean, safe water and sanitation to communities as well as health centres treating the sick.

Dirty water could have claimed the life of two-year-old Fati.

 

Binta Boukary and her two-year-old daughter Fati (Fatima) in Dadaga Village, Ouallum Province, Niger. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith
 
Fati’s mother Binta said: “She had terrible stomach pains, fever… I was so worried; I couldn’t even sleep at night.”

Her little girl was rushed to hospital, where she stayed for 10 days. Even after she was released, she had to attend her local health centre a number of times before she recovered completely.

“When she [Fati] was sick, we were given medicines, special food, Aquatabs [water purification tabs] and the hygiene kit, soap etc,” said Binta. “This stuff was not available before.

“Today my little girl is well! She’s eating well, and can even eat the same as everyone else, a little millet porridge, some fruit, everything she’s given!”

Binta has been trained in hygiene and nutrition, and now works as a community health leader for Oxfam so that she can help other sick children.

€4/£3 a month from you for a year could provide safe water to a community health centre like the one where Fati was treated. Or €15/£10 can provide 7 people with safe drinking water during an emergency.

Your support could save the lives of other children like Fati. Please give what you can.

Thank you.

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The top 4 questions you asked about the new Oxfam inequality report

Our new report about the state of inequality in the world reveals how our economy is delivering unimaginable rewards for those at the top, while tens of millions of people are still in poverty.

As soon as we published it, we started to receive lots of great comments and questions. Here are some of the most interesting questions we’ve been asked, and our answers to them.

  1. “Poverty is going down globally. People are living longer, healthier lives. Why should we care if a few people are also getting really rich?”

It’s absolutely true – and absolutely brilliant – that extreme poverty has declined very significantly over the past 25 years. In fact, the number of people living in extreme poverty – which is defined as anyone living on less than $1.90 a day – has more than halved. However, that doesn’t mean we can now put our feet up, or even carry on along the same path that we’ve been going down.

Over this same time period, inequality has been increasing within most countries, and is now at dangerously high levels. There’s a great deal of evidence to show that extreme inequality leads to very negative social, political and economic impacts and stands in the way of the fight against poverty globally. The majority of extreme poverty is now in middle-income countries.

The rise of extreme economic inequality is also a serious blow to the fight against gender inequality. Women feel the impact of inequality, and are more likely to live in poverty than men.

  1. “Oxfam is a charity – why are you talking about politics?”

Ending poverty is Oxfam’s reason for being – but we know that we can’t achieve our goal unless we work with others to tackle the structural issues that push people into poverty and keep them trapped there. This means addressing really big challenges such as economic inequality, gender discrimination and climate change. And these problems are all fundamentally about power.

To understand their causes and to find solutions, we have to look at who has been making the big decisions, whose interests they have been acting in and whose voices have been excluded. In particular, women’s voices and the perspective of women need to be heard, and acted on. We also have to look at who has the responsibility and the ability to put things right – and very often that means challenging governments to make better decisions.

  1. “Oxfam keeps criticizing big companies. Are you anti-business?”

We’ve been asked this a few times over the years, but it simply isn’t true. Much of Oxfam’s work involves actively supporting and developing enterprises in communities around the world. We have productive partnerships with many companies, large and small.

What we are against is the kind of business model that maximizes profits by paying poverty wages, endangering workers, trashing the planet, or aggressively dodging tax. We are happy to be seen as anti those kinds of business.

We want to see companies showing that there is a different way of doing business – that profit is not the only thing that matters to them. We want to see governments regulating against bad business practices, and actively supporting more positive ones.

  1. “Oxfam talks as though the economic pie cannot grow, and so it’s just a question of sharing that pie out more equally. But that’s obviously not true. If the economy grows, there will be more for everyone. And billionaires are the real wealth creators, driving that economic growth, so why shouldn’t they be rewarded for that?”

Of course, economic growth can bring benefits with it – but at the moment, we see that those benefits are mostly going to those at the top. 82% of the wealth created in the world last year went to the top 1%. We need both governments and businesses to take action to ensure growth benefits everyone – and particularly those at the bottom, of which women make up the largest percentage. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work.

While inclusive economic growth is going to play a really important role in ending poverty in many countries, we also know that we have to tackle inequality at the same time, or we’ll destroy the planet that we all depend upon. With current levels of inequality, our global economy would need to grow 175 times bigger before everyone was able to earn $5 a day. That’s obviously completely unsustainable. We have to find a different and better route to shared prosperity.

We are asking people to help spread the word and to join the movement to fight inequality and beat poverty.

Watch how kids make things fair

How Kids Make Things Fair - 2 Min

“I can starve, but my children can’t” – The true cost of inequality

The figures are staggering. Eighty-two percent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to just one percent of the world’s population. In contrast, the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world didn’t make a penny more. 

Not only that, billionaire wealth grew by $762 billion – that’s enough money to stamp out extreme poverty seven times over. Last year also saw the biggest-ever increase in billionaires, with one person becoming a member of the super-rich club every two days. Moreover, nine out of 10 of these new billionaires were men. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, women provided $10 trillion in unpaid care to support the global economy.

But these are just numbers. The true cost of inequality is revealed through the testimonies of women like Lan. Her story shows the reality of a truly unjust global village, where a small minority controls the majority of the wealth.

Lan is 32 and a mother of two. Her husband can’t work due to illness so she is the family’s sole breadwinner. Her job in the garment industry in Dong Nai province, near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is both exhausting and insecure.  She works at least nine hours a day, six days a week, earning just $1 an hour, to make shoes for global fashion brands. Despite working on 1,200 pairs of shoes a day, she can’t afford to buy even one pair for her 12-year-old son.

Worse still, she is separated from her son and her 15-month-old daughter who live 1,500km away in her home province of Thanh Hoa, where her parents look after them. Lan moved away to work so that her children could have a better future – but her low wages and the high cost of living means that she can’t afford for them to live with her full time. Organising regular visits home is almost impossible too because travel is expensive and Lan is rarely able to take annual leave.

Lan soothes her 15-month-old daughter Ha* in the small room she rents in Dong Nai province near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Ha*, who has been struggling in her mother’s absence, had to take a 34-hour bus ride with her grandmother to visit Lan. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Lan and her 12-year-old son Sang* play with a kitten at her parents’ house in Thanh Hoa province. It’s the first time she has seen her family in nine months. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

"It’s hard because my children cannot live with me,” says Lan. “I feel very sorry for my children. They always ask to come here, but I don't allow it. I cannot afford to raise them here. My son really wants to come live with me and study here. 

“They have to be left with relatives because I don’t have enough money to feed them and pick them up from school. I miss them as I’m far away. I want to be close to my children. 

“It’s hard to say goodbye to kids because they want me to stay. When I’m back at home, I think about my children and I do not want to leave them and go back here to work.”

 She adds:  “I can’t let my children starve or feel that they are not as good as other kids. Well, my kids are not equal to other children because we don’t have money. I can starve, but my children can’t.

 "In my future, I want to work close to home with a steady salary so I can be close to home, close to my children so I can care for them and they can be like their friends. I want to work the hours which have better pay, so I can have my children with me and I can raise them well with good educations. I want my children to be close to their parents so they can have a better life.”

Inequality is keeping people trapped in poverty, but together we can fight it. 

Please join our campaign to Even it Up. 

Thank you. 

*Names have been changed 

More than 80% of new global wealth goes to top 1% while poorest half get nothing, new Oxfam report reveals

Oxfam campaigners set up an ‘inequality restaurant’ in Belfast city centre

Eighty-two percent of wealth generated last year across the world went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half saw their wealth flatline, according to a new Oxfam report published today.

Reward Work, Not Wealth sets out how the very biggest gains were made by billionaires. Oxfam said it was unacceptable and unsustainable for our economies to continue to enable a super-rich minority to accumulate vast wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. It called for a rethink of legal and business models that prioritise shareholder returns over broader social impact.

As political and business elites gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Oxfam campaigners in Belfast city centre set up a mini restaurant – with unequal servings – to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one percent to enjoy the lion’s share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity miss out.

“In the 12 months to March 2017, billionaires’ fortunes grew by a staggering £585 billion [$762 billion] – enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.”

Oxfam has previously identified the role of tax dodging in driving inequality. This year its report highlights how the excessive corporate influence on policy-making, erosion of workers’ rights and relentless drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to investors all contribute to a widening gap between the super-rich and the rest.

Billionaire wealth rose by an average of 13 percent a year between 2006 and 2015 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers. It takes just four days for a CEO of one of the world’s five biggest fashion retailers to earn as much as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime.

Women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-secure forms of work. At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the global gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men. Oxfam has heard from women in Vietnamese garment factories whose low wages force them to live apart from their children, women in the US poultry industry who wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks, and women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of being fired.

Clarken added: “The world has made huge strides forward in ending poverty but progress could be even faster if we did more to break down the barriers that are holding back the world’s poorest people. For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against. If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we – and they – should be willing to pay.

“Leaders should ensure that wealthy individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance, and invest this into essential services like schools and hospitals, and creating jobs for young people.”

A new survey of 70,000 people in ten countries, including the UK, demonstrates huge support for action to tackle inequality. Nearly two-thirds of people – 72 percent in the UK – say they want their government to urgently address the income gap between rich and poor in their country. In the UK, when asked what a typical British CEO earned in comparison to an unskilled worker, people guessed 33 times as much. When asked what the ideal ratio should be, they said 7:1. In some sectors the reality can be very different. FTSE 100 bosses, for example, earn on average 120 times more than the average employee.

Clarken added: “Many leaders say they’re worried about the corrosive effect of inequality but their tough talk too often fades away at the first resistance. Some companies and wealthy individuals are taking steps towards fairer ways of doing business but too many others use their power to protect their own interests. To really transform our economies, we need to look again at the business models and laws that prioritise shareholder returns above wider social benefit.”

Tax avoidance by businesses and wealthy individuals is estimated to cost developing countries and poor regions $170 billion a year – money that could be used to fight poverty and provide public services. In the UK, Oxfam is urging the government to help fight tax dodging by using its upcoming Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to ensure that Britain’s overseas territories publish the owners of companies incorporated on their shores. The Paradise Papers revealed the key role that UK-linked tax havens such as Bermuda play in facilitating global tax avoidance.

ENDS

SUGGESTED CAPTION: Table for one percent... Ahead of this week’s meeting of the world’s elite in Davos, Oxfam campaigners on inequality set up a mini restaurant in Belfast city centre to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor. Eighty-two percent of new global wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half saw no increase, according to a new Oxfam report. Photo by Press Eye/Darren Kidd.

More photos available for media use via: https://oxfam.box.com/v/BelfastPhotoStuntDavos2018

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact:

Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

Inequality in numbers:

·         In 2017 it took just three days for the UK’s top bosses to make more money than the typical UK full-time worker will earn all year, according to The High Pay Centre.

·         In Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.

·         Eighty-two percent of new wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half’s share of wealth flatlined.

·         Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire created every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide.

·         The increase in billionaires’ wealth in the year up to last March was enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.

·         In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13% a year – almost six times faster.

·         By the end of the 4-day Davos meeting, billionaires’ fortunes could swell by an estimated $8 billion. This is enough money to lift 66 million people out of poverty for the year.

·         A CEO of one of the world’s five biggest global fashion retailers earns as much in four days as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime

·         At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.

·         Cracking down on tax avoidance by wealthy corporations and individuals could save developing countries and the world’s poorest regions an estimated $170 billion a year – money desperately needed for schools and hospitals.  

The embargoed report and methodology are available for download. https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/eosi27xj7nxuyywysr06d734ct1xyuev

Table showing distribution of new global wealth: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15NMFNjFFWQCyimLPK_V3eAF0stTVn3md/view

Case study footage and photos available: Lan, a worker in a Vietnam factory supplying global fashion brands, sews 1200 pairs of trainers a day for around $1 [74p] an hour. https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=34775&k=ae837a41d2

Reward Work, Not Wealth will be published online. The report includes case studies of workers around the world interviewed by Oxfam about their pay and conditions.

See the report and methodology note for more information about Oxfam’s statistics.

·         Calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2017. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2017.

·         The real increase in global wealth between July 2016 and June 2017 was $9.2 trillion [£7.3 trn], of which $7.6 trillion [£6 trn] (82 percent) went to the top one percent of the population and the remainder to the rest of the top 20 percent.

·         The top five largest publicly listed apparel retailers (excluding department stores) by sales are listed on the 2017 Forbes Global 2000 list of The World’s Biggest Public Companies.

·         Oxfam uses World Bank data to calculate how much it would cost to raise the income of everyone living in extreme poverty to above $1.90 a day. This is only one measure - ending poverty will require a range of actions.

·         RIWI and YouGov conducted the online survey of 70,000 people in ten countries: India, Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Morocco, Netherlands and Denmark. In the UK 3,016 adults were surveyed online and the sample size for the control group was 1,004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between October and November 2017. The figures are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

The High Pay Centre has calculated ratios for UK CEO to worker average wages.

The UN estimates that tax avoidance by businesses costs developing countries $100bn a year. Economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world’s poorest regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America – lose $70bn in annual revenue due to wealthy individuals’ use of tax havens.

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill is expected to reach Report Stage in the House of Commons in March. Oxfam is urging the government to accept an amendment that would ensure Britain’s overseas territories publish public registers of beneficial ownership of companies.

The sterling conversion of $762bn to £585bn was calculated based on the average FX rate GBP:USD between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017.

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