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“Before we feared dying of war, now we fear dying of hunger”: Ukraine crisis propelling hunger in Syria

15th March 2022

Eleven years after the Syrian conflict began, six in ten Syrians do not know where their next meal is coming from, said Oxfam today. It warned that reliance on imports from Russia means the current crisis in Europe could ripple into Syria, exacerbating food shortages and causing food prices to soar. In the last year, food prices in Syria have doubled.

Oxfam spoke to 300 Syrians in government-held areas of the country. Nearly 90 percent said they could only afford to eat bread, rice, and, occasionally, some vegetables. After ten years of conflict, the shockwaves of Covid-19, and the Lebanese banking crisis coupled with the Ukrainian crisis are having serious repercussions for the floundering economy, disrupting food and fuel imports and causing the Syrian pound to plummet at breakneck speed. 

Moutaz Adham, Country Director for Oxfam in Syria, said: “People have been pushed to the brink by a collapsing economy. Around Damascus, people queue for hours to get subsidized bread at state bakeries, while young children rifle through garbage trying to find scraps of food. Struggling to put food on the table means many families are turning to extreme ways to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals each day. Marrying off young daughters has become another negative coping strategy as it is one less mouth to feed. This is against a backdrop of 90 percent of Syrians living in poverty, unemployment rate at 60 percent and a monthly minimum wage in the public sector of approximately 26 US dollars.”  

He added: “Syria relies heavily on Russia for imports of wheat. The crisis in Ukraine has seen the Syrian government starting to ration food reserves, including wheat, sugar, oil, and rice amid fears of shortages and price surges, and this could be just the beginning.” 

Hala from Deir-ez-Zor told Oxfam: “It makes no sense for us to think about tomorrow, if we cannot even figure out what to put on our table today to feed our children.”  

Majed from Rural Damascus told Oxfam: “I work 13 hours a day to feed my children, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes I wish there is more than 24 hours a day, so I can do more work. I’m exhausted and don’t know how I will survive this harsh life with my family.”  

Moutaz Adham added: “An average income only covers half of basic expenses.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam has been working in Syria since 2013 to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. In the last year, Oxfam’s work reached 1.2 million people. We provide clean drinking water to people, emergency cash assistance, and soap, hygiene, and other materials. We help farmers get back to farming, and bakers back to baking. We run Covid-19 awareness raising campaigns.  Oxfam is calling on international donors to focus on funding early recovery and social protection while also keep focusing on emergency needs and responses, including hunger response activities to save lives now.
  • 12.4 million people in Syria are food insecure, child labor occurs in 84% of communities, and child marriage for adolescent girls in 71% of communities, according to the latest figures from the Humanitarian Needs Overview.
  • The price of the World Food Program (WFP) standard food basket (a group of essential food items) has increased by 97% in the past year.   
  • Last year, the Syrian government reportedly had to import 1.5 million tons of wheat, mainly from Russia.  
  • As part of its Emergency and Food Security response, Oxfam interviewed 300 beneficiaries in government held areas of Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor and Rural Damascus governorates, 100 beneficiaries in each governorate and found that 88 percent eat only bread, rice and occasionally vegetables. Additionally, 60 percent of people Oxfam spoke to say they earn less than what they need to cover their food needs. 10 percent said they rely only on bread and tea to survive. Since subsidized bread provides approximately 840 kcal per day, this amounts to only 40 percent of calories needed to survive (an average family of 5 can buy 12 bundles of subsidized bread, each consisting of 7 loaves, this leaves 2.4 loaves per person per day, having no more than 350 kcal). Strikingly, only 1.5 percent said they can afford to buy meat and only on rare occasions.    

130+ leading voices call for an end to vaccine monopolies after two years of the pandemic

H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania; Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Ban Ki-Moon; and Charlize Theron join plea for a People’s Vaccine.

11 March 2022

More than 130 former world leaders, Nobel laureates, leading scientists, economists, humanitarians, faith leaders, business leaders, trade unionists, and celebrities are calling for urgent action to vaccinate low and middle-income countries and bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a letter coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The authoritative voices are uniting on the second anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a pandemic. They urge world leaders “to do what is necessary to end this crisis” and unite behind a People’s Vaccine, based on the principles of equity and solidarity; accessible to everyone, everywhere; and free from patents and profiteering.

They warn that “despite what some leaders in wealthy countries would like us to believe, the pandemic is not over”. But an end to COVID-19 is “within our grasp”, they say, if we give “everyone, everywhere access to safe and effective vaccines and other life-saving COVID-19 technologies”.

The letter’s signatories include H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, current President of Tanzania, and the former leaders of more than 40 countries; Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Charlize Theron, United Nations Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project; and EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. Two previous Presidents of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma and Victor Yuschenko, and former First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko have joined the plea for vaccine equity amid the conflict in their country.

Some of the world’s most senior women leaders, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected female head of state; Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi; Graça Machel, former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique and founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Helen Clarke,former Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, first female President of Latvia and Eastern Europe and Co-Chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre.

They join Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General and Honorary Member of Clubde Madrid, and the former leaders of institutions including the World Bank, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA), alongside the current leaders of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the UN Special Rapporteuron extreme poverty and human rights.

Condemning the approach of world leaders so far as “immoral, entirely self-defeating and also an ethical, economic and epidemiological failure”, they warn that leaving billions of people unvaccinated risks leading to dangerous new variants COVID-19.

Failure to vaccinate the world so far is down to “self-defeating nationalism, pharmaceutical monopolies and inequality”, the leaders say, which have led to the “avoidable” milestones of two years and an estimated twenty million deaths from COVID-19.

They criticise the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland for continuing “to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the redistribution and scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine, test and treatment manufacturing in the global south”.

India and South Africa first proposed an intellectual property waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020, which is supported by more than 100 countries. The United States announced its support for a waiver in May 2021, but British and European opposition led by the UK and Germany has prevented the WTO from reaching a consensus.

It comes as People’s Vaccine activists hold die-in sand rallies on nearly every continent, urging world leaders to end Big Pharma’s monopoly grip on COVID vaccines, tests and treatments needed to save lives and prevent the next variant.

Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, said: "Let us be clear: this pandemic is far from over in Africa and across the world. We are seeing, with each day, thousands of avoidable deaths. We are seeing women and girls being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, through lost educational opportunities, domestic violence, and economic hardship. We must recapture the spirit of solidarity to end the suffering and create a better future. That starts now with ending these callous pharmaceutical monopolies on Covid-19 vaccines, so Africa and the world can tackle this crisis and the next.”

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “Rich country leaders are protecting pharmaceutical monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics over the health and lives of billions of people. And we can only imagine how damaging a new profoundly lethal variant could be for everyone on the planet. That is why this is a historic test of multilateralism. It truly affects us all. And, if world leaders can’t rise to the challenge of vaccine equity, they diminish hope that they will rise to the existential challenge of tackling the climate crisis.”

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said: "The heartbreaking tragedy of our era is that the remarkable innovations of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments have been withheld from so many. Just as people today remember the terrible injustice with antiretrovirals for HIV, when 12 million lives, most of them in Africa, were needlessly lost while lifesaving medicines remained out of reach for the global South, our children will not forgive those who denied billions of people the chance of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. On the second anniversary of this pandemic, we make our plea to rich nations above all. Please, insist the vaccine recipes are shared. Please support developing countries to vaccinate everyone, everywhere. A people's vaccine.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, said: “As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Europe and the COVID tragedy continues to grip much ofthe world, global solidarity is more important than ever, and particularly with vulnerable nations.This is a moment to build trust, to forge needed partnerships for humanity between governments, business and civil society, and to attack the world’s biggest challenges. Ending vaccine apartheid is critical. Intellectual property rules must be lifted to boost manufacturing of vaccines and lifesaving patents and technology should be immediately shared.”

 

ENDS

Notes for editors

  • The full letter and list of signatories is available here: https://bit.ly/3CuHlV1
  • A list of and contact details for protests, die-ins, and media stunts is available here: https://peoplesvaccine.org/take-action/end-covid-monopolies/
  • The letter puts five demands to world leaders:
    1. Urgently agree and implement a global roadmap to deliver the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people by mid-2022, and beyond this ensure sustained, timely and equitable access worldwide to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests and other medical technologies, including next generations effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines and medical technologies.
    2. Maximise the production of safe and effective vaccines and other COVID-19 products by suspending relevant intellectual property rules and ensuring the mandatory pooling of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies so that any nation can produce or buy sufficient and affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests.
    3. Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations.
    4. Make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests available to governments and institutions at a price as close to the true cost as possible, and provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere, and allocated according to need.
    5. Scale-up sustainable investment in public health systems to ensure that low and middle-income country governments have adequate resources to get shots into arms and save lives. These investments will pay dividends in the global economy and help restore economic and development gains which the global COVID-19 pandemic has partially reversed.
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Parts Of Somalia Hit By Severe, Climate-Fueled Drought

Photo: Dustin Barter/Oxfam

Nearly 90 percent of the country faces severe water shortages leaving 3.5 million people in extreme hunger after driest season in 40 years

Nearly 90 percent of Somalia is now in a severe drought, following three consecutive failed rainy seasons. Some areas are facing their driest season in 40 years. Nearly 3.5 million people are already acutely food insecure and millions more are now at risk of going hungry by the beginning of next year.

Climate projections show that the country is facing a fourth consecutive failed rainfall season. With no respite in sight, the chances for planting next season’s crops or finding grazing land for livestock is vanishing.

“Some have already experienced intense drought for more than a year and have had to watch their livestock, crops, and savings perish in front of their eyes,” says Oxfam’s Country Director in Somalia, Amjad Ali. “They urgently need lifesaving water, food, and cash.”

Many farmers and pastoralists have told Oxfam harrowing stories of how the drought has devastated their lives. Maryan Abdulaahi, a woman farmer living at the outskirt of Dudumaale village reports that they can no longer count on their traditional reservoirs, known as berkeds, for their water.

 

We did not receive rain for two seasons,” she says. “Our livestock and own lives are in danger. In Dudumaale we used to fetch water from berkeds, but all berkeds are empty right now. A drum of water costs $4, which we cannot afford.

Most natural water sources have dried up, pushing up the price of potable water. The price of a 200-litre water drum has jumped by as much as 172 per cent in some areas, according to a recent report by the Famine Early Warning System.

Persistent climate-fueled drought, compounded by ongoing conflict, locusts, and COVID-19, has fueled a humanitarian crisis in Somalia and will leave 7.7 million people – nearly half the population – in urgent need of assistance in 2022. This is a 30 per cent rise since 2021. Somalia already ranks highest in the world Global Hunger Index with over half its population suffering from extremely alarming levels of hunger and malnutrition.

Loss of water and livestock

Khadra Yusuf Saleban, a 48-year-old displaced woman now living in the Bali-Docol camp says, “I have many fears about [having no] water and food for my children and my parents. Our livestock is the backbone of our life. I lost it all in the last drought. Without water and food there will be death to our livestock and to our families, particularly children and elderly.”

Somalia is on the frontline of climate change and has experienced more than 30 climate-related hazards since 1990, including 12 droughts and 19 floods.

Oxfam and partners have already reached nearly 185,000 of the most vulnerable people across the country, with clean water and sanitation, food, and rehabilitation programs

As in the entire Horn of Africa area, droughts are becoming more recurrent and more severe due to climate change in Somalia. Credit: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam.

Aydrus Daar, executive director of Wajir South Development Association (WASDA), one of the local organizations Oxfam partners with, says the current situation is as bad as he has ever seen.

“I have been involved in droughts since 1991 and I have never seen a drought that has impacted people as badly as has this one. Many pastoralists have lost 100 percent of their livestock. This has never occurred in living history. Our biggest concern is an imminent famine.”

Parts of Somalia are still recovering from a famine in 2011. Oxfam’s Somalia Director Amjad Ali says the country may face a similar emergency, and that humanitarian groups lack the funding to avoid a repeat of the 2011 crisis.

“In the 2011 drought crisis an estimated 50,000–100,000 people lost their lives,” Ali says. “Despite the warnings, the international humanitarian system did too little too late. We must make sure that history does not repeat itself. We must act now. More than a third of the humanitarian appeal for Somalia this year is unfunded,” he said.

To help prevent a worsening catastrophe, Oxfam and partners aim to double the number of people reached, providing the most vulnerable in South Central Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland with lifesaving water, food, and cash in the next six months. Oxfam also aims to help communities rebuild their lives and adapt to expected climate disasters.

Responding to crises in the greater Horn region

Oxfam is also helping people in neighboring Ethiopia, providing water to people displaced by fighting and seeking shelter in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, as well as displaced people in Amhara and Afar regions, where the conflict has spread in recent months. In these areas, Oxfam and our partners are providing water and sanitation and hygiene items like soap to help people prevent diseases. Oxfam and our partners have so far helped 85,000 people and intend to reach 400,000, while advocating for a ceasefire, access for humanitarian groups so they can assist civilians affected by the conflict, and a peace agreement. This humanitarian response is in addition to Oxfam’s longstanding work across Ethiopia focused on developing sustainable livelihoods, water and sanitation, agriculture, climate research, and gender programs.

In South Sudan, Oxfam is working with local partners to help people displaced by flooding in recent months. Heavy rains and flooding have affected 760,000 people since May. Oxfam is assisting people with cash, clean water and well repairs, and is urgently raising funds so it can reach more than 30,000 people, building on its existing programs in safer water and sanitation, hygiene promotion, and livelihood support for farmers and livestock herders. Additional aid will come in the form of shelter assistance, hygiene items like soap to prevent disease, and seeds, tools, and fishing gear to help people produce their own food.

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Ukraine Crisis Appeal – can you help today?

Photo: PETER LAZAR/AFP via Getty Images

Saturday 5th March 2022

One of the most devastating things about the conflict in Ukraine is the impact it’s having on innocent civilians - the loss of life, the families torn apart, the livelihoods and homes destroyed.

Almost a million people have fled in recent days and many more have had to leave their homes to escape the fighting. Critical infrastructure such as health facilities, water supplies and schools have been damaged or destroyed. Huge numbers of refugees are arriving into Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and other neighbouring countries with only what they can carry. In many places there are long waits to cross borders and scant facilities waiting for them on the other side, with temperatures dropping below freezing overnight.

People are facing unimaginable suffering.

We must act now to minimise the devastation caused by this growing crisis.

It’s currently estimated that the Ukraine conflict could result in four million refugees. Since 2015, with the help of our supporters, we have been working to help hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving on European shores, fleeing violence, persecution and war – and we are getting ready to continue that work in light of this crisis. Whether you arrive by sea or walk across the border from your home country, the needs remain the same – safety, refuge, essentials like food and water.

Right now, we are assessing the urgent needs on the ground in neighbouring countries to Ukraine and are scaling up our campaigning work to help those forced to flee to find safe passage and refuge.

We campaign to tackle the discriminations, bureaucratic frustrations, the barriers and the burden of suffering that face people being displaced from their homes and countries –refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, the internally displaced – not only in Europe but all over the world, including in the Horn of Africa, in Bangladesh, in Yemen and Syria and beyond.

We will continue to call for diplomatic efforts to be redoubled to achieve an immediate end to hostilities in Ukraine in order to avoid further suffering, displacement, and death. In our humanitarian work around the world, Oxfam witnesses first-hand how people who are forced to the margins of society are always among the worst affected in conflicts. Women are disproportionately affected by disasters. Typically shouldering most of the load as caregivers, they provide for children, elders, and the disabled in settings that may lack adequate food, water, shelter, and security.

As the international community scales up efforts to meet people’s most urgent needs in Europe, we cannot overlook ongoing humanitarian crises affecting millions of people elsewhere.

We need the help of our supporters now more than ever as we respond to this unfolding crisis in Europe while continuing to stand with those affected by conflict and disaster across the world. Right now, we are working to scale up our response in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan where a catastrophic drought is fuelling conflict and forcing countless families to flee.

Thank you for standing with us.

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Oxfam reaction to the IPCC’s Working Group II report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

Responding to the publication of the IPCC’s Working Group II report assessing climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, Oxfam’s Climate Policy Lead Nafkote Dabi said:

"This catalogue of pain, loss and suffering must be a wake-up call to everyone. The poorest who have done the least to contribute to climate change are suffering the most and we have a moral responsibility to help those communities adapt.

“Inequality is at the heart of today’s climate crisis —in the little over 100 days since COP26, the richest 1 percent of the world’s population have emitted much more carbon than the population of Africa does in an entire year. The super-rich are racing through the planet’s small remaining carbon budget for limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Clearly the time has come to claw back their outsized wealth, power and consumption through wealth taxes or bans on carbon-hungry luxury goods like private jets and mega yachts.

"People living in the most affected countries do not need this report to tell them that the climate has changed. The highest price is already being paid by the cattle farmer in Somalia whose entire herd has died from thirst. By the mother sheltering in a school gym in the Philippines because her home was swept away just before Christmas.

"Regardless of how quickly governments and corporations cut carbon emissions, some warming is already baked-in from our past behavior. It’s shortsighted —and too late—to focus almost exclusively on mitigation. Billions of people need early warning systems, access to renewable energy and improved crop production now, not after we bring emissions under control.

"Only a fourth of all climate finance to vulnerable countries is for adaptation. The recent agreement at COP26 to double adaptation finance to $40 billion by 2025 will help, but it’s nowhere near enough. The UN estimates that developing countries need $70 billion every year to adapt, and those costs are not falling. Rich countries are overwhelmingly responsible for the climate crisis and must do more to support the poorest communities whose citizens struggle to meet their daily needs let alone prepare for the future.

"The other clear message from this report is that we are all in the driving seat. Our foot is on the accelerator and every squeeze produces more harmful gases and higher temperatures. Every ton of carbon we avoid increases the chances of a livable planet —there is a huge difference between 1.5°C and 1.6°C of heating.

"We must adapt, and we must ensure the planet remains adaptable. Because runaway global heating will only lead to events that we cannot build back from —deaths, submerged homes, unfarmable wastelands, and mass migrations of desperate people."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Photos of Somalia’s Jubaland drought are available for download.

Since COP26, the world’s richest 1 percent (79 million people) have emitted an estimated 1.7 billion tons in carbon emissions. This is more than the continent of Africa emits in an entire year, home to almost 1.4 billion people. According to the Global Carbon Project, Africa’s consumption emissions for 2019 (latest year available) were 1.03 billion tons(1.03 billion tons divided by 365 x 107 = 294 million tons emitted by Africa in 107 days). Calculations were made using Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Confronting Carbon Inequality report.

Recent data from Oxfam shows that the wealthiest 1 percent of humanity are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50 percent, and that by 2030, their carbon footprints are in fact set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

According to Boat International, the superyacht industry has largely shrugged off the COVID-19 pandemic to record a third year of consistent order book growth. The 2022 Global Order Book records 1,024 projects in build or on order, a rise of 24.7 percent on last year’s 821.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), developed countries provided only around $80 billion in climate finance in 2019. While the UN Secretary-General, Oxfam and others have called for half the money to be spent on adaptation, only about a quarter of total climate finance goes to adaptation.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that annual adaptation costs in developing countries are expected to reach $140 to $300 billion in 2030 and $280 to $500 billion in 2050.

The UNFCCC estimates Somalia could need $48.5 billion to adapt to climate change between now and 2030. Somalia’s GDP is less than $7 billion (2020)

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