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Yemenis in Marib are running out of options

by Ruth James, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator - Middle East and North Africa

26th May 2021

143 displacement camps have sprung up in recent years around Marib. Each time there is an escalation in fighting, a new wave of people flee towards Marib and its surrounds, which now hosts over one million displaced people. Photo: Ruth James/Oxfam

“We are just waiting to die”

This is what Fatma* said when I met her in a displacement camp near Marib City, in Yemen. It was the third time she had been forced to flee since war broke out in Yemen six years ago. She arrived in this new camp just 27 days ago. Fatma was at a focus group discussion for displaced women led by Oxfam’s Senior Gender Officer for South Yemen, Reena Haitham.

143 such camps have sprung up in recent years around Marib. Each time there is an escalation in fighting, a new wave of people flee towards Marib and its surrounds, which now hosts over one million displaced people. More than 20,000 people have arrived in the last two months alone.

Why do they come?

Simply, they have nowhere else to go. Many have strong tribal links with people already living both in the city and the camps. Marib is Yemen’s oil and gas capital and all parties involved in this conflict have said publicly they will fight to the death for Marib.

This camp is in the heart of desert. It is battered by winds, floods and simmering heat. It is made up of makeshift shelters that people here say are not good enough even for their animals. The rainy season is just starting and Fatma says, “we will not be able to sleep soon because we will be in the water.”

When I say to the women it’s hot (it’s about 40 degrees), they laugh and say I should come back in two months. Then it will be really hot, they tell me.

This camp is in the heart of desert. It is battered by winds, floods and simmering heat. Its made up of makeshift shelters that people here say are not good enough even for their animals. Photo: Ruth James/Oxfam

In the last 27 days, they say they have received little support from anyone, except from a neighbouring IDP camp which has been there for a year. They rely on their neighbours for water, but there is hardly enough. Oxfam is planning to start providing assistance into this specific camp in the coming weeks.

Most of the women I speak to are widows. Their husbands have been killed either in the fighting, or when fleeing from the last IDP camp. They tell of shelling on civilian camps and say they do not feel safe. Gradually, they’re selling off their assets like livestock and jewellery in order to survive.  

Most are not educated and, even if they could get a job, culturally it is not accepted and employment could put their safety at risk.

There is not a single latrine in this settlement of around 450 people. Women go into the desert in groups at sundown to use the bathroom. There are snakes out there. One woman in the group lost her hand after she was bitten.  There are no menstrual hygiene materials so women either have to use dirty cloths, or nothing at all. They have no soap. They say their water is their most urgent need. Disease is widespread and there are no health clinics nearby.

Another woman, Hanan, showed me inside her shelter. It is 2.5m square. It sleeps her family of seven.

Violence continues unabated

Ramadan is supposed to be the peaceful month but conflict is intensifying in Marib by the day.

Recently workers for Oxfam’s local partner Benevolence Coalition for Humanitarian Relief (BCHR) were registering families in a camp to receive cash support. A missile landed about 100m away, injuring many and killing two women. Everyone in the camp was then moved to another, larger camp. This is the daily struggle people and humanitarian workers endure because of this unabated wretched war.

I spoke with Khadija, a mother of four, who fled after the missile landed in her camp. She told me that she had been forced to move three times already, and that over a year ago her husband disappeared in the fighting. She has no idea if he is alive or dead.

Khadija has no relatives to rely on for support. She says the cash Oxfam gave helped to buy food, nappies and formula for her baby.

I am neither on land nor in the sky, I don’t know if my husband is killed or still alive. I am I limbo.

What is Oxfam doing?

Oxfam and BCHR have provided life-saving cash to 1280 households in other camps and plan to start supporting the camp I visited soon. But this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what people in Marib need. It’s overwhelming. Their lives – and the work to support them – is further complicated by the fact that people have to keep moving as the conflict inches closer to them day-by-day.

We urgently need funding to provide for both those displaced and the communities that are hosting them, with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance to buy food and essential items such as soap, hygiene products, livelihood opportunities and access to basic services. The rainy season will start this month and their shelters will not be able to withstand the rain and wind. It is highly likely that cholera will increase.

Yemenis are running out of options, and unless the international community steps up support, many like Fatema and Khadija fear for their future.

Parties involved in this conflict must enforce a ceasefire now to save lives, and allow people to re-build.

Since July 2015, Oxfam has helped more than 3 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and food vouchers, as well as gender and protection services – our supporters are central to this response. To date, we have reached over 35,000 people in Marib with life-saving aid, and we aim to reach many more. However, the best way of helping the people of Yemen is by implementing an immediate ceasefire and finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

* Names have been changed

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EU agreement fails to deliver on expectations for real corporate tax transparency

Oxfam media reaction

1 June 2021

Today, EU negotiators struck an agreement on the public Country-by-Country Reporting proposal. The deal means companies with operations in the EU will be required to publish information on how much tax they pay in EU countries and non-EU countries that are on the EU’s black or grey list. Information on other non-EU countries will only be available on an aggregated global basis.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:  “This agreement falls short of expectations following the major breakthrough earlier this year when EU governments gave their first green light to tax transparency. The deal fails to force companies to provide real country-by-country reporting as it leaves over three-quarters of countries in the world off the list. Instead, EU legislators have granted multinational corporations plenty of opportunities to continue dodging taxes in secrecy by shifting their profits to tax havens outside the EU, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland. The deal also leaves poorer countries in the dark by failing to shine a light on the activities of multinationals in their countries.

“The EU legislators gave tax havens and tax-dodging companies a free pass during a time when tax revenues are vitally needed to boost the economy. Most of the world's real tax havens are not on the EU's blacklist and will not be reported on separately. We need everyone to pay their fair share of tax, not least multinational corporations, some of which recorded huge profits during the pandemic.

“The has EU failed to answer demands of citizens, investors, unions and civil society for real corporate tax transparency. Many corporations already do real public country-by-country reporting and the US has a deal on the table. This decision shows the EU is not in step with current global trends, instead it is lagging behind them.”

END 

Contact

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

Notes to editors:  

  • Today, in the third trialogue meeting the representatives from the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the Directive regarding “disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches”. The text must now go through formal approval by adoption in the European Parliament Committees (JURI and ECON), the European Parliament’s plenary, and in the Council. Most agreements reached in trialogue meetings are subsequently adopted without substantial amendments.  
  • The European Commission in 2016 sent a draft text to the European Parliament and Council in the wake of the Luxleaks scandal. The European Parliament passed the file to the Council in July 2017 and the Council agreed on a first compromise text in February 2021. Only the European Parliament’s proposal included disaggregated data at the global level.  

According to Oxfam, the compromise has the following serious weaknesses:  

  1. an obligation for companies to publicly report information on a country-by-country basis only for their operations in EU members states and countries included in the blacklist or greylist (for 2 consecutive years) of the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions;  
  2. a “corporate-get-out-clause” allowing a reporting exemption for “commercially sensitive information” for 5 years; and 
  3. a reporting requirement applied only to companies with an annual consolidated turnover above EUR 750 million. This will exclude 85 - 90 per cent of multinationals. 
  • Transparency for only the 27 EU member states and the 21 currently blacklisted or greylisted jurisdictions means keeping corporate secrecy for over 3 out of 4 of the world’s nearly 200 countries.  
  • 80 civil society organisations, trade unions and networks from across Europe in April, 63 trade unions and CSOs in May, investors representing US$5.6 trillion in assets and 133.000 citizens so far have called for a real public country by country reporting. This includes an obligation for companies to report their profit and tax paid in every country they operate in – not just EU countries and EU-listed tax havens. 
  • Oxfam has highlighted the weaknesses of the EU blacklist and greylist and how it fails to capture real tax havens. Not one of the world’s 15 worst tax havens are on the EU’s list.  
  • With the current compromise, people in low-income countries would not have access to information about multinational companies’ profit made or tax paid in their countries. Moreover, under the OECD system, most tax authorities in low-income countries, unlike in EU countries, do not have access to the confidential country-by-country reports.  
  • The U.S. Congress recently introduced legislation that would require full, public, and global country-by-country reporting. It passed the relevant committee in the House two weeks ago. 
  • The EU already requires public country-by-country reporting covering all countries inside and outside the EU for companies in the financial and extractives sectors. Since January 2021, some multinational companies have voluntarily adopted this reporting through the GRI tax standardOxfamTransparency Internationalresearchers and others have used this information to document and analyse the tax affairs of multinational companies. 
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Clearing the clutter or keen to volunteer? Look no further than your local Oxfam shop!

Your donations and time are needed more than ever.

On Monday 17 May, Oxfam shops across the Island of Ireland opened their doors for business. Since then, their top priority has been new volunteers and of course, your pre-loved donations.

Caroline Reid, Communications Manager with Oxfam Ireland, says: “We are calling on people to bag up their donations of pre-loved clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac. We also have a number of specialised shops including Oxfam Books, Oxfam Furniture and Oxfam Bridal, so people can donate anything from a bookshelf to a wedding dress.

“The reality is, after more than two months of closure – your donations are needed more than ever. Our shops play a vital role in raising much-needed funds for our work globally – they are central to ensuring we can continue to protect and support some of the most vulnerable communities in the world."

Volunteers play a vital role in Oxfam’s work globally, while also providing a solution to throwaway fashion by saving items from ending up in landfills here at home. By giving a little of their time and creativity, each one makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world, while helping our planet a little along the way.

Caroline added: “I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time at our shops to make an application through our online portal - people can give as little or as much time as they like, and we provide full training. Beyond day-to-day retail duties there are a variety of activities that people can help with from visual merchandising (for anyone with a creative flare for designing window displays) to social media (crafting engaging posts for digital channels).

It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff, volunteers, and supporters that Oxfam Ireland can work towards building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.
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I don't think there is anyone in India who has not lost a friend, a family member or an acquaintance.

Cheena Kapoor is a Delhi-based photographer and member of the Women Photograph network.  Her photography work explores gender and mental health issues. She has been covering the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.

The situation in India right now is, I don't have a word for it. It's really sad. It's shocking. 

We are left on our own and everything from arranging a hospital bed to securing two injections has been very difficult. Those who can afford it are reaching out to black market where items are sold at 20 times, 30 times of what it usually costs, and they are able to procure it. But for people who cannot afford to pay that much, they are left on their own.

No government services are working. No helpline numbers are working. There's no help at all. The previous night we spent the entire night trying to look for a hospital bed for a cousin we had people on the ground, my other cousins, they kept trying visiting different hospitals. They were refused a bed at six hospitals and finally, we were able to move him to a very small nursing home. Today he was told that he needs injections and now the struggle has started again – since this morning, we've been dialling up people to get hold of these injections... We've called multiple hospitals and have still not been able to procure them.

We are anxious all the time. My heart has been racing the last three days and now we are so anxious for our parents. We are in a small town – I had come here on an assignment and myself and my husband got stuck here because both of us tested positive. Both of our parents are in Delhi and they are by themselves so we are really anxious and we just keep talking to them, keep giving them instructions, not to step out. I am ordering groceries for them here online because they cannot – they do not know how to order their groceries online. All these are small, small struggles, but we keep doing it.

I don't think there is anyone in India right now who has not lost a friend, a family member, or at least an acquaintance. We are all hearing of deaths every morning we wake up and we get to know at least two or three deaths. That's been hard.

I am part of some journalist groups, some health groups and these health reporters and I, we have some leads from hospitals. So, we are running helplines and have made social media accounts. We are posting all these leads so people can take advantage of the offers. If you get to know that there is an oxygen cylinder available, somewhere in the city, we'll post it on our social media so that people can go and procure it.

Dr Ratnesh Kunwar is sprayed with sanitiser after finishing his rounds in the world's largest makeshift Covid hospital in Delhi

People who have access to internet are able to get some help but people in the slums, the underprivileged, they have nowhere to go. They can't even go to the hospitals because everything is super expensive right now. There are no ambulances available.

To get an ambulance you have to dial up people, they'll give you some preferences and they'll give you 10 contact numbers, only one of those will work and that ambulance driver will charge a lot. Somebody paid around £200 to go only four kilometres. People in the slums have even stopped trying. 

Everything from getting the disease to people who are dying – everything is difficult. Even getting them cremated is difficult because there is a two day wait at the cremation grounds. They are full and acquiring wood for cremation is difficult. People are just telling the family members to arrange it yourself.

People are now running around for cremation wood. Recently Delhi ran out of cremation wood and the government has ordered the forest department to cut down trees. Delhi is already is the most polluted city in the world and they are now cutting down trees because we do not have enough electric electrical crematoriums. I read that there's a place in Delhi where they cremate dogs and pets. I think that's also being used for humans now.

That's the condition we are in right now. and the worst part is your support system isn’t there. Right now, everyone is fighting their own battle, your support system has collapsed.

The ICU of the Delhi hospital which is run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation

When I photographed in the hospitals, I visited for four days at a stretch. This was in November, and we were seeing a huge spike in Delhi because that was the festival season and even during that time, all the hospitals had run out of beds. That was a huge spike, it was overwhelming.

It was difficult seeing people in the ICU and because we also shot photos of the reception area, we would see doctors or healthcare workers refusing families because they were running out of beds. We saw all that happening. We would see patients dying and families crying and it was overwhelming. 

It stayed with me. Patients who were on their own for weeks and their families couldn't visit them and they had all lost all hope. When you talk to these patients, you feel their pain, so it hasn't been very easy covering Covid.

There's not a single person in the country who has not been affected directly or indirectly, not just Covid, but non-Covid care has completely come to a halt. India has the highest number of TB patients, cancer patients.

Everything is on hold. We have seen a threefold increase in still births because of malnutrition, because the government ran these nutritional programmes and all of those had come to a stop and so women in rural areas were not getting their nutrition.

The nutritional profile of the country has gone down. All of this put together, I think we are in a very bad situation. Even if this current wave slows, we are at least a decade behind where we were in terms of our healthcare goals and otherwise, so it is right now a very bad situation.

Photos: Cheena Kapoor

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Cashing in on the pandemic... Covid vaccine monopoly creates nine new billionaires

20 May 2021

There’s no doubt about it – the pandemic has been a massive windfall for Big Pharma’s top executives.

At least nine people have become billionaires since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the huge profits generated by pharmaceutical companies which have monopolies on vaccine production, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has revealed.

These nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate people in low-income countries 1.3 times.

Despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population, these countries have received just 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines because of the massive shortfall in available doses.

In addition, eight existing billionaires, who have extensive portfolios in the Covid-19 vaccine pharma corporations, have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.

A nurse in a PPE kit attends to patients recovering from coronavirus at the Commonwealth Games facility for Covid patients in New Delhi, India, a country devastated by Covid-19. Photo: RoannaRahman/Oxfam

The People’s Vaccine Alliance made the announcement ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit which takes place tomorrow, 21 May.

Key members of the G20, including the UK and Germany, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending monopoly control of vaccine production. They are even doing so as Covid-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance – whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, analysed Forbes Rich List data to highlight the massive wealth being generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were largely public funded.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe.

These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity. We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world.

Earlier this month, the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily break up these monopolies and lift the patents on Covid-19 vaccines. This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and in recent days countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has the Pope and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Despite this, other rich nations, including the UK and Germany, are still blocking the proposal, putting the interest of pharmaceutical companies over what’s best for the world. Italy, which is hosting tomorrow’s G20 Global Health Summit, is continuing to sit on the fence on the issue, as are Canada and France.

The nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3bn)
  2. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4bn)
  3. Timothy Springer, immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
  4. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9bn)
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8bn)
  6. Robert Langer, scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6bn)
  7. Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3bn)
  8. Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2bn)
  9. Mao Huinhua, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1bn)
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