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Famine in South Sudan has ceased, but hunger has spread

Written by Corrie Sissons, Oxfam's Food Security and Emergency Livelihoods Coordinator in South Sudan

The recent declaration that famine in South Sudan has been halted was rightly celebrated.  Any steps towards ending the catastrophic humanitarian crisis facing South Sudan are welcome, as the war torn country marked its sixth birthday last Sunday (9th July 2017). 

However, dig deeper than the headlines and it becomes clear that hunger is actually getting worse almost everywhere in the country. How do we applaud the collective effort to end famine including the very generous public donations, yet simultaneously highlight that this does not herald a significant improvement in an ongoing food crisis? Life is more desperate now than ever for millions of people. 

Above: Top Left - Mothers in South Sudan fled their homes with their children to find safety. Photo: Corrie Sissons/Oxfam. Top-right & Bottom - Oxfam has been helping island and mainland communities to set up vegetable gardens both to boost their own diets and to build up their livelihoods. Photo: Tim Bierley/Oxfam

Famine is a technical description, declared if certain specific conditions are observed. But for individuals, hunger is hunger. Just because we call it something else it does not mean that people have enough to eat again or that help is no longer required. People are suffering however it is designated and we still have so much work to do. 

Although things have become less severe in those famine affected areas, the scale of the food crisis across other parts of South Sudan has exploded. Since the famine was declared in February, ongoing conflict and its consequences – people fleeing their homes, economic decline and poor harvests – have left one million more people facing severe food shortages. If predictions are correct, by the end of July 2017, half of the entire South Sudanese population will live without knowing how they can feed their families from one evening to the next. 

There are still approximately 45,000 people who live in what are described ‘famine-like conditions’ in South Sudan. This essentially means conditions are catastrophically bad but the data for the area they live in doesn’t match technical requirements for it to be called a famine. Forced to flee their homes and fields, people have also missed the planting season. Even when they stay, many are too afraid to tend to fields. So seeds do not grow and harvests are smaller and smaller each year that this situation continues. The conflict is not only robbing people of the food on their plates now, but also in the future.

For  example in the former Jonglei state, a recent upsurge in fighting has forced more than 200,000 people from their homes, disrupting lives and obstructing access to the aid when they need it the most. People are walking for days to flee the fighting, with only wild foods to eat along the way.  

Famine and the unacceptable levels of hunger are direct consequences of the decisions made by those with the power to stop the war. As South Sudan marks six years of independence, it is critical that life-saving assistance is combined with diplomatic efforts to bring warring parties back to the table to revive negotiations for peace. It is clear that only real and lasting peace can bring people back from the brink of starvation. Until that happens, we must continue giving vital aid to stop the situation getting even worse.

Right now Oxfam is there in South Sudan, urgently working to get live-saving aid like food and water to those in need, as well as hygiene supplies to stop the spread of deadly disease. It cannot be clearer to those on the ground: South Sudan is not having a moment of respite in its food crisis. Hunger is spiralling out of control. 

Corrie Sissons is Oxfam's Food Security and Emergency Livelihoods Coordinator in South Sudan

 

Coldplay in Dublin: stand in solidarity with refugees

Rock band Coldplay arrive in Dublin this weekend to play Saturday’s massive gig in Croke Park as part of their latest tour – and Oxfam Ireland will be there too…

The members of Coldplay have been among Oxfam's most high profile and vocal supporters of the last decade. The band have used their worldwide success to help Oxfam campaign in over 50 countries. As they set off on their Head Full of Dreams world tour, Coldplay again invited Oxfam to join them, including Saturday’s gig in Dublin.

So we’ll be there in Croke Park, asking Coldplay fans to join together in solidarity with some of the most vulnerable people on the planet – those people displaced by conflict and disaster.

Because people that have been forced to flee often have a head full of dreams too, but for different reasons. They often leave with little more than the clothes on their backs, but they carry with them hopes for a better future for themselves and their families, safe from terrifying natural disasters, extreme hardship and brutal wars.

65.6 million people have fled conflict and persecution in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Yemen. This is the highest figure since the Second World War. The greater number of them are displaced within their own countries, rather than refugees crossing international borders. Almost 20 million more have fled environmental disaster.

Across the world, displaced people are facing incredible odds. For example, in Syria, 11 million people have been forced to abandon their homes, and millions more are in desperate need of help. After six years of violence, many are in need of medical treatment and other support.

MARIAM’S STORY

This includes people like Mariam Bazerbashi. When continuing violence made her home in Damascus too dangerous, Mariam travelled for seven days to Presevo in Serbia with her children.

Mariam, 29, in Preševo, Serbia after escaping from the conflict in Damascus with her two sons Ali*, 7, and Abbas*, 4. Ali suffer from muscular dystrophy and can’t walk. Mariam’s husband is still in Syria. (*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identity.) Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam.

“I’m here with my children alone. My husband is still in Syria. My son has a muscular disease and can’t walk. I’ve carried him all the way from Syria but today I was given a wheelchair for him.”

But it doesn't have to be this way. We have been providing support to more than 6.7 million people in conflict-affected countries in the past year. We are working on the ground in countries like Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen to help displaced families with immediate basic needs such as clean water, shelter, food and work – but we need to uphold our commitment to welcome and protect refugees and immigrants here too.

As well as working to give practical support to people forced to flee, we have been campaigning for changes in the law here, to help displaced people in Ireland and the UK.

Strict rules are forcing refugee families to live apart, trapping them in different countries to their loved ones and making it harder for them to be brought together. These rules target vulnerable people who are seeking safety after fleeing unfathomable violence and loss. We're calling on global leaders – including the Irish and UK governments – to do more to ensure that people forced to flee can do so safely and legally and to reunite families torn apart.

We can't turn our backs on families who have fled violence and persecution. Together, with your support, we'll keep pushing until refugees get the protection and support they need.

By taking our Right to Refuge: Keep Families Together action, you’ll be helping us put public pressure on our governments to do more to help people find safe and legal routes to escape from war and persecution, and help families torn apart be united and find safety together.

That is why Oxfam is asking Coldplay fans in Croke Park and beyond to stand together in solidarity and support of those fleeing to safety. Together we’ll show that they are not alone, and make sure world leaders know that we won’t stand by while people suffer. We will stand as one.

SolidaritY

So far 30,000 Coldplay fans have joined us by signing up and wearing their Stand As One Coldplay tour wristband to show their support to those in Syria and all over the world who are fleeing conflict.

Chris Martin and Coldplay at Glastonbury. Photos: Coldplay/R42

Whether you’re at the Coldplay concert in Dublin (be sure to come find us and say hello!) or reading this from your front room, you can be part of our global movement. Take a stand with Oxfam by joining our call to action here.

And if you’d like to hear more about what’s happening on the day at Croke Park, follow @OxfamIreland, using any or all of the hashtags #ColdplayDublin, #StandAsOne and #RighttoRefuge.

To read more about Coldplay’s past work and support for Oxfam, visit https://www.oxfam.org/en/ambassadors/coldplay

 

New one-of-a-kind accessories shop will do a world of good

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

An accessories and jewellery shop with a difference has opened in Dublin 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 Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin 2, 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 – 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 €3. This is exciting news for 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 €16 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 visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/six-4good

ENDS

CONTACT: For images, more information or to arrange an interview with an Oxfam spokesperson, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO THE EDITOR:

  • Oxfam and Beeline have been working together since 2005. Beeline donates new stock to Oxfam for sale in Oxfam shops across the island of Ireland which helps raise vital funds for the charity’s work worldwide.

About Oxfam Ireland

  • Oxfam Ireland has shops across Ireland, north and south, selling everything from clothes, jewellery, and homewares to books, music and other donated goods. These include the specialist shops, Oxfam Books, Oxfam Bridal and Oxfam Home.
  • Oxfam Ireland is a member of Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 organisations working together in more than 90 countries as part of a global network of people and organisations working for change by mobilising the power of people against poverty.
  • Oxfam has been supported by people across the island of Ireland, north and south, for over 50 years. We have over 2,000 volunteers, 140 staff and 45 shops throughout the island.
  • For more information about Oxfam, visit www.oxfamireland.org

About SIX/Beeline

  • SIX is a brand owned by the Beeline group, one of Europe's leading suppliers for accessories and jewellery. Founded in 1990, Beeline now operates in 20,500 sales areas – including 264 owned stores – across 53 countries and employs 4,600 people.
  • SIX is the urban fashion accessory and jewellery brand from Beeline which was launched in 1998 and now has 166 stores and 1,700 concession stores throughout Europe.
  • Beeline donates a percentage of profit every year to social institutions. Previous examples include: HIV therapy in Africa and projects in the millennium village Gandhiji Songha in India. Oxfam Ireland is one of its Corporate Social Responsibility partners.
  • For more information about SIX and Beeline, visit www.beeline-group.com
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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

ENDS

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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Art before ISIS

Little hands wrapped tightly around brushes, a small group of children paint scenes of greenery, homes and villages born from their memories of a time before ISIS. 

The excited chatter rises above the sound of pop music playing from a small stereo just outside the door. The children show each other their masterpieces and adult artists who have joined the group mentor and guide them to create their visions on paper.

A young girl from Hassansham camp enjoys Oxfam's painting workshop. Photo:TommyTrenchard/Oxfam

Sura, one of Oxfam’s public health promotion officers, sits with some of the youngest children. She shows them how to hold the paint brushes and urges them on as they slowly draw the shaky outlines of their pictures. It’s the last day of April and the children painting on canvases are in Hassansham camp – home to nearly 10,000 people who have fled the violence in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Today Sura is helping run a fun painting workshop in Oxfam’s community centre in the camp. She is encouraging the children to paint positive scenes of their lives now, or their homes as they remember them, helping them pick bright colours to fill in the crooked lines.

“It’s really important to give the children a chance to have fun and do activities like painting together,” she explains. “Most of them have lived in Mosul under ISIS control for over two years and haven’t had a chance to do anything fun for a long time.”

Sura, Oxfam's Public Health Promotion Officer, helps some of the younger girls paint. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Around the room, a few adults use easels to paint and sketch more elaborate scenes. Garbi Eunice (51), from Yarmouk, west Mosul, lives in Hassansham and volunteers with Oxfam. His symbolic picture of Mosul shows his home and the local mosque. “I drew a woman to represent Iraq – her hair is the flag,” he says, as he points to a picture pinned to the wall. “Her clothes are the hills and the river and her necklace is a map of the country. Her hands are clutching the rockets and keeping my city safe.”

Garbi’s drawing depicts Mosul and the Kurdistan region. It was important for him to show a united Iraq: “I drew birds to represent peace and I didn’t draw any clouds because they represent war; I want the skies to be clear.”

Sura says that it’s important for people to have a space where they can do positive and creative things, such as painting and drawing. “Now that they have left the bombing and the war they can start to think about nice things again,” she adds as she looks at the children working on their pictures. “These children are having a lovely day being here together having fun and that’s important for their well-being.”

A boy shows a picture he painted of his hometown, Hamdannia, which he remembers fondly. It shows the surrounding river and mountains. His hometown suffered extreme destruction at the hands of ISIS, and most families are yet to return. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Oxfam started working in Hassansham after the camp opened in October 2016, supplying residents with water, blankets and other essential items. We also set up a casual work scheme as well as a protection programme. In May this year, we handed over most of our projects to a government agency before our staff moved to the Hamam Alil camp to work with new families from west Mosul. The painting workshop was one of a number of activities held by our teams to say goodbye to the camp volunteers and families. Our protection team will continue to work in Hassansham for the next nine months.

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