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Lockdown Three: Your local Oxfam shop needs you

The saying goes, third time’s a charm…but lets face it, there is little charming about the third wave of Covid-19 currently hitting the island of Ireland or the lockdown measures we all must respect to in order to save lives and support our already stretched health workers.

Last year, for the first time in over 60 years, we closed our shops across the island of Ireland to do our part in stopping the spread of Covid-19. As we entered the New Year we also entered our third lockdown, and like so many other local traders, we closed our doors.

Our shops play an invaluable role in raising much-needed funds for Oxfam’s work worldwide – they help ensure we can continue to protect and support some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

However, they’re not just vital to Oxfam’s mission to end the injustice of poverty, each one is community hub that has served and been supported by you for decades.

With our shops closed, we need your support now more than ever.

At this time of continued unprecedented challenges for all of us, our mission remains the same – to let you, our supporters, know how you can help communities facing extreme poverty and disaster. Life-saving work that is only possible because of your support.

We believe that sharing the stories and experiences of the communities Oxfam work with is even more important now as our teams monitor and respond to the threat of Covid-19 in the countries in which Oxfam works. Beyond the immediate threat of the disease itself, countless people are struggling to survive the economic fallout from the pandemic.

 

 “This virus will starve us before it makes us sick.”

~ Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver in Nairobi

We’re urgently appealing for your help and want to share some ways that you can continue to support your local Oxfam shop, even if its doors are closed.

We still want the things you don’t!

  1. Drop your donations off today at one of our textile or book banks.
  2. Save your donations and drop them in when we’re back up and running – for all of us, hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.
  3. Any Christmas gifts lying about that you know you won’t use - keep them for us too! One person’s junk is another’s treasure.

You can still help us continue to raise vital funds:

  1. Donate - make a one-off donation or setup a monthly one if you can.
  2. Set up a Facebook fundraiser in solidarity with your local Oxfam shop – and help continue its crucial fundraising work! Couch to 5k? Squat challenge? Anyone?

Make meaningful (and kinda invaluable) resolutions this year:

  1. Pop an email to your nearest Oxfam shop now to express your interest in volunteering with us when we reopen. Donating a little of your time and expertise to our team will have a bigger impact than you might think.
  2. Make a pledge to buy more secondhand clothes and accessories this year by shopping at your local Oxfam. Good for your pocket (and wardrobe!), good for people, and good for our planet <3
  3. Sending a card? Why not choose one from our Unwrapped alternative gift range and send hope along with your greeting.

Yemen Appeal

Our shops also play a central role in publicising our emergency appeals. Right now, we are raising funds to support the people of Yemen. As we battle Covid-19, many Yemeni families are on the brink of famine. Two thirds of the population rely on food aid to survive and the country is also grappling with the largest cholera outbreak on record. Our gravest concern is the widespread destruction of health and sanitation facilities which are vital to halt the spread of deadly diseases such as Covid-19.

 

"I appeal to the world to have mercy on the children of Yemen and stop this war. We are very tired of living in war for years, we lost everything beautiful in our lives, even the simple hope of peace.’’

~ Ibtisam Sageer Al Razehi, 35-year-old teacher and mother of three

Thank you

Our shops have been a part of local communities as far back as 1956. That is 64 years of providing you with affordable and sustainable clothing, books, furniture and more.

Thank you for all of the ways you’ve supported us over those 64 years from donating and shopping to volunteering your time and talent.

From North to South, East to West and everyone in-between, we hope you will stand with us now and understand why we are asking for your continued support.

We hope to see you in-store once again soon. Until then, stay safe.

Oxfam Shop Teams

As 2020 draws to a close...

Members of the Oxfam-supported Culamuk Coffee Micro-station in Nebbi District, Uganda. Photo: Kieron Crawley/Oxfam

... a great big THANK YOU to all of our supporters!

The past 12 months has been a year of unprecedented challenges. From the pandemic to climate change, and from ongoing conflicts to the erosion of democracy, 2020 has been – at times – truly overwhelming.

Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people have died from the virus; millions have lost jobs and livelihoods. The situation among the world’s most vulnerable people has been made even more precarious by the pandemic: Covid-19 particularly threatens the lives of those living in cramped refugee camps, with nothing but some tarpaulin separating them from their neighbours.

But throughout it all, your generosity and support meant that we could keep working and doing what we do. Over the past 12 months, Oxfam reached more than 19 million people around the world with clean, safe drinking water, food, shelter and life-saving hygiene products and information.

Oxfam Ireland alone reached almost eight million people across 10 countries – providing them with humanitarian assistance, training to start their own businesses and advice on how to advocate for themselves.

Despite the many challenges, we continued to support the world’s poorest people to lift themselves out of poverty.

For that, we thank you!

The very best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and the New Year from all of us here at Oxfam Ireland.

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The message we’re delivering? It’s time to Make Amazon Pay

Amazon is one of the most powerful corporations in the world and is headed by the richest person on the planet – CEO Jeff Bezos. At Oxfam, we’ve been focused on ensuring that companies like Amazon take their human rights obligations seriously for some time now. That is why we made the decision to join over 200 million activists and workers in a new coalition called Make Amazon Pay – to stand in solidarity with allies and workers in their call on the company to address workers’ rights, tax and climate justice.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to make $200 billion in personal wealth. Meanwhile, the company’s warehouse workers risked their lives everyday as essential workers. In addition, as Amazon’s corporate empire rapidly grows, so too has its carbon footprint, which is now larger than two thirds of all countries in the world (!) and is feeding into climate breakdown.

Despite Amazon’s success, instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow, the corporation starves them of tax revenue by tax dodging. In 2019, Amazon paid just 1.2 percent tax in the US, where its headquarters are based, up from zero percent the two previous years. Yes, you heard that right – zero percent.

Amazon is not alone in these bad practices but it sits at the heart of a failed system that drives inequality and climate breakdown. The pandemic has exposed how it places profits ahead of workers, society and our planet. Basically, it takes a lot but gives little back – so it’s time to Make Amazon Pay. This is why organisations like Oxfam have joined workers, activists, and citizens from across the globe to Make Amazon Pay.

Pay its workers fairly.

Pay for its impact on the environment.

Pay its taxes.

What do we want?

  • Amazon must provide paid sick leave, hazard pay, and premium pay for peak time hours to all their warehouse and retail workers. More than ever before, the Covid-19 pandemic reveals how essential it is that all workers can stay home when they’re sick or need to care for others. Essential workers should be compensated for the risk they undertake to keep our food supply available.
  • Amazon must talk to their workers to develop the best solutions. Supermarket and warehouse workers know the realities of their workplaces better than company headquarters. They know what will work and what won’t. Amazon should immediately engage with workers, unions and worker advocates in all jobs, from cashiers to the warehouse staff, to hear their concerns and jointly develop the best solutions to support them. Placing an hourly worker on Amazon’s board would ensure that workers’ voices are heard at the highest level of the company.
  • Amazon must ensure workers’ rights throughout its supply chains globally by actively promoting worker voice and representation, and giving its workers the freedom to unionise.
  • In line with its existing commitment, Amazon must follow through on a transparent and robust human rights due diligence process where at least one human rights impact assessment is completed and published in 2021.
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Over a third of world’s population have no ‘social protection’ to cope with Covid-19 economic crisis

  • Covid-19 – “united the world in fear but has divided it in response”  

New Oxfam research shows that over a third of the world’s population (2.7 billion people) have had no public money to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their new report, Shelter from the Storm, done in partnership with Development Pathways, reviewed government schemes - such as disability, unemployment, child, and elderly benefits - used to help people in 126 low and middle-income countries, finding none of them were adequate to meet people’s needs. 

Overall, the world has spent an additional $11.7 trillion this year to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Of this, $9.8 trillion (83 percent) was spent by 36 rich countries against just $42 billion (0.4 percent) by 59 low-income countries. 

Of additional funds – like Ireland’s PUP scheme - used specifically for social protection measures, of the countries analysed, richer nations spent a rate of $695 per person. In contrast, low-income and emerging countries have spent at a per capita rate of between $28 to as low as $4.  

To make matters worse, rich countries have only increased their aid to developing countries for social protection by $5.8 billion – the equivalent of less than five cents for every $100 raised to tackle Covid-19.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The coronavirus united the world in fear but has divided it in response. The pandemic sparked a laudable global effort that reached nearly two billion more people with social protection support over 2020 but, as of today, more people have been left behind entirely.”

The need for better social protection programs to help people is huge. Half a billion people are now under-employed or out of work, with twice as many women affected as men. Workers in low-income countries have suffered the most, losing 23 percent of their working hours. People are falling into debt, skipping meals, keeping children from school, and selling their assets. Remittance flows from migrant workers to families back home have collapsed, while global poverty and hunger are rocketing.

Clarken said that social protection is both a lifeline and a human right, and one of the most powerful and affordable investments to reduce inequality, vulnerability, poverty and need. 

Clarken continued: “The case for overseas aid, progressive taxation and international solidarity has never been stronger, precisely because of this desperate time in which we are living through.

“All this because inequality is a hard-wired design feature rather than design fault of our global economic system. Millions of desperate people see precious little relief ahead without urgent action.

“Oxfam has reached 11.3 million people through its Covid-19 response programming around the world, however, as much as civil society is mobilising together strongly, with local partners and community leadership to the fore, the scale of people’s need is overwhelming and growing”. 

“Our report illustrates stories like Sovann Vary’s, a single mother who borrowed $5,000 to buy a tuk-tuk when her job as a domestic cleaner ended. She is struggling to repay and is ineligible for the social insurance scheme set up by her Cambodian government. And Brenda Carolina who was similarly rejected from Guatemalan support as an informal garment worker – her family now depends upon sporadic food aid. We’re hearing hundreds of stories like Vary’s and Brenda’s, every day.

“There is still time for developing country governments to step up their support for people by increasing taxes on the richest to pay for decent universal social protection programs. As is there still time for rich nations to increase their aid and currency reserves, and cancel debts, to help poorer countries in their response.”

Oxfam is calling for a Global Fund for Social Protection to avert a huge increase in global inequality and poverty, as a keystone toward a more equal and resilient post-Covid economy. Governments should commit an additional two percent of their GDP into social protection programs and ensure minimum income security for children, the elderly, mothers, and people living with disability.

Clarken concluded: “An unprecedented investment is now required. One that bravely meets the crisis head on.”  

END

CONTACT

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Download the full report | Download the summary

The report finds:

  • 41 percent of the 126 countries studied had social protection schemes consisting of one-off payments, now long exhausted; only 13 percent had programs that lasted longer than six months. Eight out of 10 countries have not reached even half their citizens. 
  • Some countries like South Africa, the Philippines, Namibia and Bolivia were better prepared with near-universal social benefits in place prior to the pandemic. Oxfam says that most other countries could achieve this with better policies and more support. 
  • By 2030, Kenya and Indonesia, for example, could cut their poverty rate by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively by investing 1.7 percent of their GDP now into universal social protection schemes. 
  • Many developing countries have been able to mobilise non-financial help, like food aid, but this is often insufficient to make up the overall gap in formal social protection schemes.

Prior the coronavirus pandemic, up to 4 billion people lacked social protection, according to ILO (World Social Protection Report 2017-19).


The World Bank estimates that 1.3 billion have been reached since with social assistance cash transfer coverage expansion. Source WB: U. Gentilini et al. (2020). Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19. About 2.7 billion people have consequently been left behind. 

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COVID-19 and hunger, a lethal threat facing the people of Yemen this winter

The pandemic has turned some of us into armchair statisticians. Those of us who, every evening, frantically check Twitter or turn on the news to hear the infection rates – and on the bad days, the number of fatalities. We monitor the rise in cases across the world, obsess over spikes and waves, and wish it would all end so life would go back to normal.

But for the people of Yemen, life was far from normal even before COVID-19. For more than five years, the country has been in the grip of war and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Four out of every five Yemenis need some kind of humanitarian assistance, and almost four million people have been displaced by the fighting and airstrikes. Almost 20 million, or two thirds of the population, have to rely on food aid to survive, while Yemen is also experiencing the largest cholera outbreak on record. Now families in Yemen face another threat – COVID-19.

The damage caused by airstrikes in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Photo: Bassam Al-Thulaya/Oxfam

And that’s not all. Widespread destruction of the country’s health services and water infrastructure mean that the people of Yemen are at serious risk if they contract the virus. Yet the United Nations’ response plan to get clean water, food and medical care to the most vulnerable is only 44 percent funded this year.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions, made worse by the fact that other members of the G20 have exported more than US$17billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it became involved in the conflict in Yemen in 2015. Those same members have only given a third of that amount in aid to people caught up in the crisis.

“Having suffered years of death, displacement and disease, the people of Yemen need these powerful members of the international community to bring all parties to the conflict together to agree to an immediate countrywide ceasefire and return to negotiations committed to achieving a lasting peace. “Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent. The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people.”

- Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director

Ibtisam and two of her children in their damaged home. Photo: Radhyah Mohammed/Oxfam

Among those affected by the war is Ibtisam Sageer Al Razehi, a 35-year-old former teacher and mother of three. She lives with her young children in the remains of the family house in Sa’ada city which was damaged by missiles and artillery fire. Her husband was killed by an airstrike in 2015.

“I lost my husband, my children lost their father, we lost the breadwinner and because of war I also lost my salary as our last hope for living,

“Humanitarian aid has decreased a lot; now we receive food every two months instead of every month. I appeal to the world to have mercy on the children of Yemen and stop this war. We are very tired of living in war for years, we lost everything beautiful in our lives, even the simple hope of peace.’’

- Ibtisam

The people of Yemen have already suffered so much. Without your help, many of them risk starving this winter or, weakened by hunger, could succumb to COVID-19.

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