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As monsoon season looms, Oxfam staff in Cox’s Bazar must prepare for the worst

Monsoon season in Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar. Rohingya women make their way home in the monsoon rains. Photo: Maruf Hasan/Oxfam

Last year’s monsoon season in Bangladesh resulted in catastrophic floods which left one quarter of the country underwater. Almost 1.3 million homes were damaged, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and hundreds more died.

In the Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar, which are home to nearly one million people, more than 100,000 people were affected by the floods. Dozens were injured and 14 people died.

Damage following heavy rains at Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar. Photo: Mutasim Billah/Oxfam

Heavy monsoon rains can cause landslides and floods, resulting in latrines overflowing with filthy water. As this dirty water flows through the camps, it contaminates everything in its path – including sources of clean water. The result? The spread of deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

The threat of this year’s monsoon season combined with Covid-19 means that Oxfam staff have to be more prepared than ever. But given the crisis upon crisis that has befallen families living in Cox’s Bazar over the past year alone, they will have to plan for the unexpected.

Destruction in the Rohingya refugee camps following a devastating fire in March, which left thousands displaced and hundreds injured. It also destroyed homes and critical infrastructure. Photo: Mutasim Billah/Oxfam

Crisis upon crisis

After all, less than three months ago, a huge fire engulfed four of the refugee camps, separating children from their parents. The fire ripped through the camps at an unimaginable rate, turning 48,300 people’s homes to molten ash and soot.

Food, toilets and water stations were destroyed in the blaze – the same water stations that could help families protect themselves from Covid-19.

“At my age I hardly can go down to collect water. This is Allah’s blessing that Oxfam is giving us water. Now we have drinking water. Life is tough in the camp and now this virus is causing fear among all of us”. Photo: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam

Oxfam's response on the ground

As this summer’s monsoon season looms, our staff will be ready to provide hygiene kits to keep disease at bay. Each kit contains soap, a bucket with a secure lid to keep water clean, detergent, jugs for washing when there are no taps, and sanitary products for girls and women. These simple items are a matter of life and death for families in Cox’s Bazar.  

Our staff will also be preparing to build new water stations and toilets to keep countless children and their families safe from infection.

Families living in Cox’s Bazar have already survived three monsoons. With your support, we can and we will protect them from the elements once more.

What a perfect partnership! Lorraine Keane and Maïa Dunphy team up for Oxfam Bridal

16 June 2021

Want to find a beautiful wedding dress that doesn’t cost the earth? Then book yourself an appointment at Oxfam’s Bridal rooms in Dublin and Belfast.

At Oxfam Bridal, you’ll find wedding dresses for all tastes, whether you prefer vintage, designer or pre-loved. Many of the dresses have never been worn but are donated by bridal boutiques or designers, preventing them from going to landfill. So, if shopping on a budget, you could find your dream dress at a fraction of the cost.

You’ll also find some beautiful pre-loved dresses in the mix, like Maïa Dunphy’s stunning Jenny Packham dress, which she generously donated to Oxfam last year, or Lorraine Keane's beautiful lace detailed dress by Spanish designer Jesus Peiro, which she bought in San Sebastián.

And yesterday the pair donned their dresses once more time to encourage brides-to-be to book an appointment at Oxfam Bridal.

Lorraine Keane and Maïa Dunphy donated their wedding dresses to Oxfam

Lorraine, broadcaster and founder of Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland, said: “Your wedding day is a time to celebrate love, happiness and a future together. For many couples, incorporating some sustainable elements or charitable giving into their special day is becoming more popular. It's a great way to have a positive impact on the future of others while you celebrate your love and commitment to that special someone in your life.

“You also don’t have to spend a fortune to look a million dollars. By booking an appointment with Oxfam Bridal today, you can browse and try on a selection of beautiful brand new and pre-loved wedding dresses – including my own, which I just donated to Oxfam! From vintage to the occasional designer gown, Oxfam’s dedicated Bridal Rooms stock all styles and sizes – a selection of which are currently on display at the Frascati Centre in Blackrock – as well a range of bridal accessories and bridesmaids' dresses. And, the extra bonus is, by supporting Oxfam, your big day creates a brighter future for people living with the injustice of poverty.”

Broadcaster and writer Maïa, who recently donated her wedding dress, said: "After wearing my dress during lockdown, to raise a smile and funds for a charity close to my heart, I realised there's no point in keeping my gorgeous Jenny Packham wedding dress locked away in a bag forever. I'm never going to wear it again and feared one day I'll take it down for a peek to find a moth hole in it!

After seeing a call out from Lorraine for donations I decided to donate it, hoping that someone else will get as much joy as I did out of wearing something so special. I would encourage other people out there to consider the same. You can give your wedding dress a second life – and contribute to another Bride’s special day – while also helping vulnerable communities the world over by donating your wedding dress to Oxfam's Bridal Rooms.
Photos: Brian McEvoy

Oxfam Bridal are located on George’s Street, Dublin, and at Belfast’s CastleCourt Shopping Centre. Over the coming weeks, you can also check out a selection of Oxfam's wedding dresses at the Frascati Shopping centre in Blackrock, where you’ll find fabulous outfits for amazing prices at Lorraine's Fashion Relief pop-up shop.

Book your appointment for Oxfam Bridal at George’s Street or CastleCourt today!

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Be part of something amazing - join Oxfam Ireland's dynamic board

Oxfam is a global movement of people working together to beat poverty for good. Supported across the island of Ireland for more than 60 years, we save lives and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. When it comes to working with communities to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive, we combine innovation and practicality to ensure they succeed. And we amplify the voices of people whose lives are most impacted by conflict, climate change, poverty and inequality to influence the local and global decisions that affect them.

Our multifaceted approach to tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice is reflected in the make-up of our talented Board of Trustees. This diverse, skilled group of individuals is responsible for overseeing the direction of the organisation and includes senior leaders from the private, public and voluntary sectors across the island of Ireland. They bring a wide range of experience, knowledge and expertise to Oxfam, further enhancing the work we do.

We are currently looking for new members to join our board and support our work as we launch our new, exciting ten year strategic framework. Service is voluntary and involves attending at least five board meetings a year as well as participating in strategic sub-committees. Each member serves a three-year term which can be renewed once.

In return, Oxfam Ireland offers our board members the life-changing opportunity to be part of our development, humanitarian and influencing work, and make a lasting difference to the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

For more information on our organisation, please see our year in review: oxfamireland.org/yearinreview

Please send a note of interest and details of relevant experience to the CEO, Oxfam Ireland:Oxfam Ireland,

2nd Floor Portview House, Thorncastle St, Ringsend, Dublin 4

or

Oxfam Ireland, Elizabeth House, Suite 1, 116 – 118 Holywood Road, Belfast, BT4 1NY;

irl-ceo@oxfam.org

Closing date: Friday June 25th 2021 at 12 noon.

Diversity and inclusion are core values of Oxfam Ireland and we expect our board to be representative of the diversity on the island of Ireland.

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From Bangladesh to Vietnam, the global south has the capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccines

10 June 2021

“There’s no point in giving somebody a recipe if they don’t have the kitchen or the cooking skills or the ingredients.”

These were the words of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last month as he claimed that very few countries in the global south had the infrastructural know-how or materials to make Covid-19 vaccines.

This is simply not true.

Companies in Bangladesh and Pakistan are among a group of firms that have unsuccessfully tried to obtain the rights to increase production of Covid-19 vaccines. In fact, Knowledge Ecology International has identified at least 144 manufacturing facilities in 35 countries that could potentially be used to manufacture these vaccines – if we had an open system with distributed manufacturing and technology transfer, and intellectual property (IP) was waived.

Furthermore, there are already manufacturers making safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and medicines in Brazil, India and South Africa.

Photo: Nataliya Vaitkevich

The EU, among others, have been stalling negotiations on the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since October 2020, when a proposal was first put forward by South Africa and India.

While the EU continues to oppose the TRIPS waiver at the WTO, today the European Parliament supported an amendment calling for Europe to support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Waiving IP is not the only step, but it is essential. Producing a vaccine is a complex process and requires access to IP, but also direct transfer of technology, knowledge, and – in some cases – materials.

More than a year ago, the World Health Organisation created the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, and invited vaccine producers to collaborate to meet the enormous global need for Covid vaccines, an approach recently supported by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs. So far, however, vaccine-makers have refused to engage with C-TAP.

Witnessing this reluctance originally prompted South Africa and India to propose the TRIPS waiver, which is now supported by over 100 countries. They are seeking more forceful legal measures to gain access to IP related to life-saving technologies. After all, the global pandemic is far from over.

Almost 100,000 people are dying of this virus every week in countries without sufficient access to the vaccine. Just 0.2 percent of the vaccines distributed so far have gone to low-income countries.

To win the race against Covid-19 and its new variants, the whole world needs to be vaccinated.

That is why we, along with a number of other organisations, have proposed that a relevant Oireachtas committee undertake an urgent detailed review of Ireland’s position on the TRIPS waiver.

As Ireland and the EU begins to see the benefits of mass vaccination, we cannot stand in the way of the world’s poorest being given the same access to life-saving medicine.

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Oxfam Ireland welcomes European Parliament’s vote to suspend vaccine patents

Media reaction

10 June 2021

Today, the European Parliament supported an amendment calling for Europe to support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

In reaction to this vote, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said:

“This vote sends a strong signal that Europeans stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the world in the fight against the pandemic. European governments, including our own, and the European Commission must stop spouting red-herring arguments and instead follow suit by backing the proposal on the table at the World Trade Organisation. Other qualified producers must be given the know-how and technology to make more vaccines so everyone can access them. 

"We have seen what happens when big pharma only cares about their profits – more deaths and more suffering. They should not be allowed to decide who gets to live or die, especially against the backdrop of emerging variants and countries overwhelmed by new Covid surges. The EU has helped the big pharma billionaires long enough, now we need to help the billions of people who remain at risk. It is time to break the vaccine monopolies and put people before profit.”

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors: 

  • The European Parliament voted today on a resolution on the TRIPS waiver – this vote, while symbolic.  
  • Currently, the EU’s proposal at the WTO table is to end export bans, ramp up the production of vaccine manufacturers and remove the red tape around vaccine production. Oxfam believes:  
  1. Export bans: we support removing export bans wherever possible but getting rid of them does not solve the inequitable distribution of existing vaccines.  
  2. Voluntary licensing agreements: These do nothing to shift us away from the current industry-controlled model where just a handful of powerful corporations retain control over global vaccine supplies and continue to prioritise profitable deals with richer countries leaving poorer countries at the back of the queue. Any voluntary licensing should be done through the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool to maximise vaccine production by qualified manufacturers around the world rather than those handpicked by big pharma.  
  3. COVAX: This mechanism aims to vaccinate 20 - 27% of the population in eligible countries by the end of this year. It is dangerously off-track having only delivered a third of the planned doses. COVAX remains over-dependent on just one supplier from India which due to the rapid spread of the virus in India will not provide any further doses to COVAX until the end of the year. These failings only increase the urgency to ramp up manufacturing around the world which will increase competition lowering vaccine prices.  
  • The TRIPs waiver was tabled by South Africa and India in October 2020 to boost vaccine supplies and other Covid-19 health technologies globally. Recently, the US joined over 100 other countries and backed this waiver for the vaccines.  
  • Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a movement advocating that Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge. 
  • The call for a TRIPs waiver is supported by nearly 400 MEPs and MPs, 175 Nobel laureates and former Heads of State and Governments, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), scientists, trade unions, NGOs and the general public. 
  • Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s successful mRNA vaccines are set to become two of the three bestselling pharmaceutical products in the world. The companies are projecting revenues of $33.5 billion in 2021 from their vaccines. Their vaccines are also the most expensive, ranging from $13.50 to $74 per course, with both firms looking to increase prices. In an investor call, Pfizer cited between $150 and $170 a dose as the typical price it receives for vaccines. This is despite a study from the Imperial College in London showing that the cost of production of new mRNA vaccines could be between 60 cents and $2 a dose.  
  • Vaccine production has created 9 new billionaires. Meanwhile, current vaccination rates mean low-income countries will be waiting 57 years for their entire population to be vaccinated.  
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