Blog

Climate and Economic Shocks Create Crisis in East Africa

Abdulahi in front of his homestead in the Puntland region of Somalia where he raises cattle. He says his livestock is heavily affected by the drought and lack of pasture, and he is worried about the future of his family. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

Oxfam is responding in four countries and urging more international assistance to help people facing severe hunger.

In the northern Somali state of Puntland, pervasive drought is endangering the lives of people and their livestock. “Within my lifetime, this is the worst drought I have ever experienced,” says Abdulahi Farah Isse, 27, who has lost nearly 40 of his 100 cows in the last few months. He says that it is not unusual for dry conditions in some years to kill livestock, “but it’s never been like this.”

“I am very much worried for this drought and the near future,” Isse says abut the hunger crisis in Puntland. “If these cattle all die, the people will be at risk. Our children need milk from the cows, which is a challenge now but we are trying to do our best so our people will survive.”

The problem people like Isse are facing in Puntland is not just a lack of rain, but a combination of prolonged climate-induced drought, conflict, the economic fallout from COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine that has caused a spike in grain prices across the world.

Ahmed, who works for Oxfam in Somalia, checks a completely empty water storage facility built by Oxfam & KAALO Aid & Development in Puntland. Lack of rain for nearly four years has dried up water resources across the region. Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

These factors are affecting people across Somalia, where 90 percent of the country is experiencing drought, as well as other parts of East Africa. One person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, according to estimates by Oxfam and Save the Children in a report highlighting the world’s repeated failure to stave off preventable disasters. The report, titled Dangerous Delays 2: The Cost of Inaction, published 10 years after famine in Somalia killed more than 260,000, says that nearly half a million people across parts of Somalia and Ethiopia are facing extreme hunger and famine-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering extreme hunger.

What Oxfam is doing to prevent extreme hunger

Oxfam is working with local organisations to reach more than two million people across four countries: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and in South Sudan, where five years of seasonal flooding has displaced 350,000 people.

In Somalia, Oxfam is working with local organisations, such as KAALO Aid and Development, to provide lifesaving water, sanitation, and health support. Together, we are drilling wells, distributing hygiene kits (to help protect communities from water-borne diseases), distributing cash, seeds, tools, and training farmers in small-scale greenhouse farming.

Oxfam is working with a network of organisations in northern Kenya’s arid zones. These organisations are providing cash to help people buy food and other essential items. So far we have distributed cash to 40,000 people. We are repairing wells and other water systems, and promoting good hygiene to help people prevent COVID-19 and other diseases in eight of the most hard-to-reach, and worst-affected, counties.

To respond to the severe drought in Ethiopia, Oxfam is scaling up our work in the southern Somali region to reach 180,000 people with support for small businesses, vaccination and veterinary treatment of livestock, agricultural support, and cash-for-work projects.

Oxfam’s work with partners in South Sudan is helping people in five states and aims to reach 383,000 people with safe water, resources for sanitation and hygiene, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and support for people to build their incomes, such as seeds, tools, and fishing kits.

Oxfam is also advocating for governments and others to respond to the immediate crisis with humanitarian assistance, while also investing in programs and services that fight inequality and help people improve their lives over the long term and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

“We must respond now, at scale, to avert further tragedy,” the Dangerous Delays 2 report concludes. “But we must also learn the lessons of the past decade to ensure that next time we act pre-emptively to avoid the crisis. As climate catastrophe threatens a future of increased crises, we dare not fail that promise again.”

“We used to have more than 150 goats, all of them but two have died because of the drought. Which is devastating…goats generate milk, meat, and money if we sell them.” Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam Novib

A Dangerous Delay

The climate crisis is devastating lives and livelihoods. And it is the people least responsible who are paying the heaviest price.

Across East Africa alone, millions of people are suffering severe hunger because of a deadly combination of conflict, extreme weather – flooding in some countries, drought in others — and the economic fallout of COVID-19. It’s time to act.

Queer Joy: What Is It? Why We Need More Of It?

Illustration: Henrick Dulin/Oxfam

June is widely marked worldwide as a Pride month - a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community and commemoration of their struggle for equal rights and justice. We say “widely” and not “universally” because although LGBTQI+ people live in every country and are part of different religious, ethnic and cultural communities, their existence and equal rights are not universally recognised. In a world experiencing wars, famines and other crises, it’s easy to not keep in mind things that propel justice and equality.

As a global movement fighting for an equal and just world for everyone, Oxfam celebrates Pride month to express gratitude to our LGBTQI+ partner organisations and activists for contributing to social progress, human rights and equality. This year we’ve teamed up with artists, LGBTQI+ activists and their allies to celebrate queer joy.

Here’s our take on what queer joy is and why we need more of it.

Queer Joy is a Positive Feeling

Queer joy is an idea everyone can understand, even if you’re not an LGBTQI+ person. You may have experienced queer joy while eating a cake at a same-sex wedding, when our same-sex friends celebrate an anniversary, or when your company hires a transgender colleague. Queer joy is even more critical for LGBTQI+ people. It sustains the fight for being recognised as equals before the law and in the eyes of society. It is even more precious for LGBTQI+ people in contexts where progress on gender justice is minimal.

Queer joy is a positive feeling we get from encountering signs of progress in gender equality and gender diversity.

Queer Joy is Powerful

Research proves that a robust feminist movement is the most powerful factor for progress in eliminating gender-based violence and moving closer toward gender equality.

LGBTQI+ movements are a significant and integral part of it.

Queer activism and scholarship help expand our understanding of gender and sexuality and champion the messages of diversity, acceptance and inclusion in our societies. As of 2022, marriage between same-sex couples is legally performed and recognised in 30 countries - Chile and Switzerland are the most recent additions. It is inspiring and empowering to see LGBTQI+ rights recognised as inalienable human rights by more states. That’s how we’ll win!

Queer Joy is Empowering

Queer joy helps sustain the struggle for social justice. Dealing with issues like gender-based violence and conversion therapy and constantly facing backlash and hate is exhausting. Pride Month gives us a welcome break to balance the fight with a well-deserved celebration. And the experience of Queer joy is not only felt during Pride. The LGBTIQ+ community supports its members 365 days a year. It’s now up to our governments and us to support the LGBTQI+ community in creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation.

 

Queer Joy is Bittersweet

Despite the progress made in recent decades across the globe, we are still miles away from full gender equality. LGBTQI+ people are disproportionately affected by every crisis that hits the world – from climate emergencies to wars. They experience adverse effects of the “ignored pandemic” of gender-based violence and the social and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queer joy is bittersweet: even amidst the celebration, we never forget those who fall victim to these crises due to their gender identity and expression or sexual orientation.

Queer Joy is Resilient

Sometimes the progress feels like two steps back and one step forward. However, LGBTQI+ activism continues to result in positive change. The message of gender equality is winning the hearts and minds of people worldwide. Strong people uplift queer joy despite the struggle. They take that step forward, no matter how small.

Queer Joy is for Everyone

Everyone has a role in bringing together a just and equal world for all. Together with different teams, campaigns and partners working on advancing gender justice, we’ve developed a Queer Joy Manifesto to express how such a world may look like for LGBTQI+ people. We hope that this vision will inspire more people – queer or not, to join hands in bringing it one step closer every day.

Happy Pride Month, and may queer joy be with you!

Posted In:

Ukraine Refugee Crisis Our Response

Registration centre in an old Tesco building. Oxfam staff present to discuss the needs. Photo: Tineke Dhaese/Oxfam

The war in Ukraine is threatening the lives and livelihoods of civilians and forcing millions to flee. Homes have been destroyed or are unsafe to live in. Families are being separated and people injured and killed. Heavy fighting, shelling and air strikes across Ukraine have had devastating consequences for its citizens. 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.

Delivery of hygiene and sanitation items at Ukraine House. Photo: Tineke Dhaese/Oxfam

Oxfam is supporting the humanitarian system both in Ukraine, and specifically in Poland, Moldova and Romania to reach between 10-25% of affected people –up to 800,000 or more if possible –with what they need.

We are channelling our support, expertise and funding through local organisations –those who are working directly with the refugees themselves –helping them to expand their own capacities and impact.

Oxfam will ensure that this collective response is guided by humanitarian principlesof humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality, and by using a feminist approachthat prioritises ways that prevent risks to women and girls and is informed always by gendered analysis.

Together with our partners, we are also advocating for more political and economic support, both internationally and nationally, to refugees so they are able to realise their rights, in safety and dignity.

Two disabled toilets in Medyka. Photo: Tineke Dhaese/Oxfam

Oxfam Response

Michelle Farrington, Hygiene and Sanitation Promotion in Poland discusses Oxfam’s Response. At the moment Oxfam is providing basic water and sanitation facilities and hygiene items that people can take while traveling on to their final destinations.

Michelle Farrington, Oxfam Hygiene & Sanitation Promotion - Ukraine Refugee Crisis Our Response

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

Protection

Ola Perczynska, Protection Coordinator in Poland discussing Oxfam’s response. Ola is originally from Poland but has a long experience as a humanitarian in conflicts and crisis around the world.

Ola Perczynska, Protection Coordinator with Oxfam - Ukraine Refugee Crisis Our Response

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

WASH

At a refugee centre in the border area of Korczowa in Poland. A shopping centre is being used to accommodate incoming Ukrainian refugees.

Angus Mc Bride, Wash Coordinator discusses Oxfam's response of installing shower facilities and hand washing stations to meet the health and hygiene needs at this centre.

Angus Mc Bride, Oxfam Wash Coordinator - Ukraine Refugee Crisis Our Response

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

Work with Oxfam Partner

Oxfam is channeling around 44% of its funding response via national partners in Poland, Romania and Moldova; a further 18% via international partners in Ukraine itself; 30% on its own humanitarian aid, equipment, technical and operational response; and 9% on a Program Management Team that sets, and is accountable for, strategy, policy, management and administration of the entire response.

Lilya Kalinowska Volunteer Coordinator at Ukrainian House - Oxfam

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

Lilya Kalinowska Volunteer Coordinator at Ukrainian House talks about working with Oxfam and the start of this partnership. Oxfam is meeting the immediate hygiene needs and plans to develop this to provide more longer term logistical, sanitation and protection supports.

Thank you to all who have supported our work. In Poland, Oxfam have already reached more than 225,000 people. We are concentrating on protection, water and sanitation, and food and economic security. We are providing cash and basic sanitation facilities for families in need of urgent assistance.

Equal Right To Refuge Campaign

Oxfam has worked on migration and displacement within Europe since 2015. With our partner organisations we have assisted more than 280,000 people in Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Balkans. Together we have provided them with legal aid, protection, water and sanitation activities, and distributed food and non-food items such as blankets and clothes. But not all refugees are being treated equally.

Equal Right To Refuge - Oxfam Ireland

Unfortunately you need to accept cookies to view Youtube videos. Change your consent

Millions of people have cross Ukraine’s border into neighbouring countries seeking safety and refuge. Wherever you come from, your right to seek safety and find refuge is the same. At the end of last year, the number of people forced to flee in search of refuge exceeded 84 million globally. At any border in Europe –Ukraine or beyond – we cannot have a system that treats people differently for any reason, including where they come from.

Pandemic saw billionaire bonanza while millions face cost of living crisis

Billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion dollars every two days

Ahead of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Oxfam calls for an end to crisis profiteering

Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP, up from 4.4 percent in 2000.

While billionaire wealth soars, it is expected that over a quarter of a million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022, according to a new briefing from Oxfam, Profiting from Pain. The briefing comes as the World Economic Forum — the exclusive get-together of the global elite in Davos — takes place face-to-face for the first time since COVID-19.

Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland said: “Billionaires arriving in Davos have seen an incredible surge in their fortunes. Simply put, the pandemic followed by the steep increases in food and energy prices have been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on ending extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.”

The wealth of Ireland’s nine billionaires has increased by a massive €15.55 billion since the start of the pandemic, a 44 percent increase bringing it to €51 billion, while latest figures show that 691,587 people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation, of which 204,710 are children.

Globally, 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours. While this year, it is expected that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19. The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days. Five of the largest energy companies are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.

In Ireland, five of the biggest Irish food companies have had a total profit rise of €174 million in just one year - in the last year of recorded profits. Meanwhile five of the best-known Irish energy companies had combined yearly profits rise of €280 million. Yearly inflation for energy products in Ireland is 43.6 percent. While food inflation in Ireland is currently at 3.5% in consumer price figures, wholesale prices are likely to push figures higher in the near future.

From Sri Lanka to Sudan, record-high global food prices are sparking social and political upheaval. 60 percent of low-income countries are on the brink of debt distress. While inflation is rising everywhere, price hikes are particularly devastating for low-wage workers whose health and livelihoods were already most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly women, racialised and marginalised people. People in poorer countries spend more than twice as much of their income on food than those in rich countries.

Clarken continued: “It is unconscionable that some are profiteering from the pandemic and its aftermath while others are trying to choose between paying their energy bills or going hungry. Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions. The super-rich have rigged the global system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatisation and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments.

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills.”

“Government leaders in Davos face a choice: act as proxies for the billionaire class who plunder their economies or take bold steps to act in the interests of their great majorities.”

Oxfam recommends that governments, including Ireland’s, urgently:

  • Introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ and is now considering introducing a windfall tax on energy profits as well as a tax on undeclared assets held overseas to repay IMF debt.
  • End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020. A windfall tax on energy companies in Ireland alone is estimated to raise €60 million.
  • Introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, as well as the outsized carbon emissions of the super-rich. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries. Oxfam has estimated that a 1.5% wealth tax on Irish millionaires owning above €4 million could raise €4 billion in tax revenue. A 1.5% wealth tax on Irish billionaires alone could raise a little over €0.7 billion.
  • Governments like Ireland should support the development of a Global Assets Registry to address extreme wealth that is held by oligarchs, from Russia and beyond, in financial centres including the IFSC.

Download “Profiting from Pain” here.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

  • Download the methodology document outlining how Oxfam calculated the statistics in the brief here.
  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available.
  • Figures on the very richest in society come from the Forbes billionaire list, including for Ireland.
  • Irish statistics on deprivation is taken from the CSO – Central Statistics Office
  • Figures on Irish food and energy companies are taken from The Irish Times Top 1000 Guide to Irish Business, which uses CRO data, in the Energy and Food Sections respectively.
  • The five largest energy companies globally referenced are BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Exxon and Chevron
  • The five biggest Irish food companies referenced are Kerry Group, Glanbia, Musgrave, Ornua and Moy Park.
  • The five best-known Irish energy companies referenced are ESB, Energia, Bord Gais, SSE Airtricity and Energia Power.
  • All amounts expressed in US dollars have been adjusted for inflation using the US consumer price index.
  • The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 (€1.75) per day.
Posted In:

Ten years since we said “never again”, East Africa facing catastrophic hunger

Oxfam calls for radical action as number of people facing extreme hunger across East Africa more than doubles since last year

The number of people experiencing extreme hunger across East Africa in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled since last year – from over 10 million to more than 23 million today. In a report published today (18.05.22), Oxfam and Save the Children highlighted the world’s repeated failure to stave off preventable disasters and called on world leaders to take urgent action to save lives.

Dangerous Delays 2: The Cost of Inaction details how more than a decade since the delayed response to the 2011 famine that killed more than 260,000 people in Somalia – half of them children under five - the world is once again failing to avert catastrophic hunger in East Africa. Today, nearly half a million people across parts of Somalia and Ethiopia are facing famine-like conditions. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are suffering extreme hunger. United Nations predictions suggest that 350,000 Somali children may die by the summer if governments and donors do not tackle this hunger crisis immediately.

Jane Meriwas, Director of Samburu Women Trust in Kenya, said: “The situation is devastating. Both human beings and livestock are at risk of dying, already children, pregnant mothers and elderly in some parts of Marsabit and Samburu Counties in Kenya are being reported as dying. If urgent intervention is not provided now, we are likely to witness even more death.”

Oxfam is urging Ireland to continue to show leadership in calling for an immediate and radical mobilisation of international aid to prevent further destitution as well as to continue to use our membership on the UN Security Council to highlight the links between conflict and hunger and the need to address its catastrophic impacts. In addition to conflict, the report identifies a number of causes to the hunger crisis including Covid-19, the climate crisis and inflationary and market pressures accelerated by the conflict in Ukraine.

Supported by the Jameel Observatory, Dangerous Delay 2 examines the changes in the humanitarian aid system since 2011. It finds that despite an improved response to the 2017 East Africa drought when widespread famine was averted, the national and global responses have largely remained too slow and too limited to prevent a repeat today.

Leadership at international level is vital as entrenched bureaucracies and self-serving political choices continue to curtail a unified global response, despite improved warning systems and efforts by local NGOs. Urgent appeals are woefully underfunded, as other crises, including the war in Ukraine, are worsening the region’s escalating hunger crisis. 

Commenting on the crisis, Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Let us be clear, starvation is a political failure. The world does not lack food or money, it lacks political courage and will. More than a decade ago when famine devastated lives and livelihoods across Somalia, we said never again. And yet, despite repeated warnings for two years, governments and the international community are acting too late and with too little to prevent catastrophic hunger across East Africa.

“It may be tempting to view the reasons for this crisis – a deadly combination of extreme weather, conflict and the economic fallout of COVID-19 -  as one-off events, but all of these events demonstrate the deep fragility of the food and economic systems that millions of people rely on to survive.  As the climate crisis unfolds, shocks from extreme weather and related factors – including the interplay between climate and conflict – will increase further. Ireland has already played a vital role at the UN Security Council in highlighting the interplay between conflict, climate and hunger and this is now more important than ever. Conflict is violently spurring the hunger crisis, continuing to limit the ability of the most vulnerable to access their farms, their pastures and to travel safely to markets or access life-saving humanitarian assistance.

“Meanwhile, climate change has made the La Niña-induced drought in the Horn of Africa more severe and prolonged, now the worst in 40 years. The drought has eroded economic reserves, herd size, and human health and is a major factor behind the alarming numbers of people without enough to eat each day. This is horribly unfair when the region is one of the least responsible for the climate crisis, emitting collectively 0.1% of global carbon emissions.”

Just two percent ($93.1 million) of the current $4.4bn UN appeal for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has formally been funded to date. In 2017, those same countries had received $1.9 billion in emergency funding. Although donors promised $1.4 bn of aid last month, only $378 million of that was new money.

Oxfam and Save the Children are calling for urgent action to tackle this funding gap alongside a number of key asks, including:

  • To help save lives now, Western leaders and the G7 must immediately inject money to meet the $4.4 billion UN appeal for Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, and ensure the funding is flexible enough to be used where it is most needed.
  • Donors must guarantee that at least 25 per cent of funds go to local responders at the heart of response.
  • National governments must prioritise lives over politics, by acknowledging and acting on early warnings. They should be quicker to declare national emergencies, shift national resources to those most in need, and invest in response to climate related shocks.
  • Rich polluting nations must pay East Africa for its climate loss and damage. They must also cancel 2021-2022 debts for those countries, in order to free up resources to support people to mitigate and adapt to climate shocks.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Download the latest “Dangerous Delay 2: The Cost of Inaction.” report published 18 May 2022. 
  • A Dangerous Delay: The cost of late response to early warnings in the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa report published in 2012 can be found here.
Posted In:

Pages