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A world where 8 men own the same wealth as humanity’s poorer half

16/01/17

A new Oxfam report, An Economy for the 99%, published by Oxfam today shows that the inequality crisis is far bigger than previously thought – today just eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of humanity. This huge gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is trapping millions in poverty, fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.

The vast majority of people at the bottom half of the world’s population are very poor people who are struggling to get by. Approximately 70% of this group live in low income countries. One in four people live in India, while one in five is in sub-Saharan Africa. Just 1% are in North America and 8% in Europe.

It is true that in recent decades poorer countries have been growing faster than richer ones, and we are starting to see the gap between countries narrow. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in recent decades, an achievement of which the world should be proud. Yet one in nine people still go to bed hungry. Had inequality not increased over this period, 700 million more people, most of them women, would not be living in poverty today. The World Bank is clear that without redoubling their efforts to tackle inequality, world leaders will miss their global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. 

At the same time, inequality within nations has been rising in the majority of countries over the last 30 years and is having a hugely negative impact on many people’s lives. 

Meet Jane

Jane Muthoni she sells homemade bags, mats, jewellery, soap and tie-dyed material in one of Nairobi’s many informal settlements. The small amount of money she makes helps put food on the table and send her two children to school. But it’s hard for small stallholders like Jane to earn enough money, no matter how hard they work. Though they pay fees and taxes to trade, Jane says they don’t have the same rights and services as rich people. 

“We do not have very good roads,” says Jane. “We don’t have good houses. There is no proper drainage. When it is dark, there are no lights. It is very unfair because we are all Kenyans. We are entitled to equal rights, but there are those big people who do things I can’t because I don’t have money.

“The gap between poor and rich people in Kenya is sometimes very humiliating. To see that it is just a wall that defines these rich people from the lower class. You find that some of their children drive cars and when you are passing around the roads you get covered in dust, or if it is raining you are splashed with water.”

Above left: Jane Muthoni (front in striped top) with fellow members of Shining Mothers, a community based group teaching women  business skills. The group also ensures their voice is being heard by the local government.  Photo: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam. Above right: Jane describes her local area to Oxfam’s Joyce Kabue and points out poor public services in her community in Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

Jane is trying to change this situation. She has set up a community women’s group called the Shining Mothers, which is supported by one of Oxfam’s local partners. This group has regular ‘table banking’ meetings to teach business skills and help each other with their savings and loans. The Shining Mothers discuss issues which affect them in their community and raise these at public meetings, to ensure their voice is being heard by the local government.

At a recent meeting with the council, Jane and the Shining Mothers raised the issue of council fee collection and it was established that the council should only come twice a week. Empowered with this knowledge, the Shining Mothers have pushed back against the exploitative fees and have been able to continue saving for their business licence.

“That is the most enjoyable thing, empowering my community,” Jane added. “Because if a community is not empowered, we will live in poverty forever.”

While Jane struggles, Kenya’s economy is growing. The richest Kenyan’s net worth is over $700 million, yet 42% of the country’s 44 million people still live below the poverty line. Big corporations operating in Kenya pocket $1.1 billion a year in tax incentives. Yet small-scale traders like Jane face difficult application processes in order to access credit and loans. Many are forced to pay unlawful daily fees to the county government in order to operate yet there is no waste collection, infrastructure or even a decent water supply in the informal trading areas where they work.

Economic growth does not automatically translate into society-wide prosperity for people like Jane, unless appropriate policies are implemented by governments across the world.

The extreme levels of inequality documented in our new report are having major national and international consequences. From Brexit and the success of Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign, to the rise of populism around the globe and widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo. 

The last time the world experienced similar extreme levels of inequality was at the start of the 20th century, where we experienced 30 years of violent political upheaval and war as a result of inaction on inequality.

This report lays out a blueprint for what a more human global economy would look like, which includes greater cooperation between governments on tax dodging to generate the funds needed to invest in healthcare, education and job creation, and by dismantling the barriers to women’s economic progress such as access to education and the unfair burden of unpaid care work. (On current trends it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men).

Tax revenues are critical for funding the policies and services that can fight inequality including infrastructure, health and education. The use of tax havens and loopholes or the securing of preferential tax treatment doesn’t just reduce abstract balance sheets. Everyone else is forced to pick up the bill and the human cost is borne by the most vulnerable in society.

Take action on tax

In this respect Ireland needs to fulfil its commitments to reform and be part of a fair and just tax system at EU and international level. We need to tackle aggressive tax planning, to implement strong controlled foreign company rules to prevent profit-shifting and improve transparency by forcing multinational corporations to make public where they make profits and pay tax. Ireland needs to support a new generation of international tax reforms beyond what has been agreed at EU and OECD level to date, including the creation of a global tax body.

With Northern Ireland set to take control of corporation tax in 2018, the Stormont Executive must ensure any new proposed tax regime here is fair, open and transparent – and that it does not negatively impact on vulnerable people. Any reform of the corporate tax system must contain safeguards preventing corporations from taking advantage to avoid tax owed elsewhere. Otherwise there is a risk that Northern Ireland could be used as a tax haven. 

Finally, it is important to remember that inequality is not inevitable. Global inequality has been reversed before, and can be again. World leaders can rebalance economies with every budget passed and every rule of law or regulation written or dismantled. As per the name of our campaign against economic inequality, is time to ‘Even it Up’. 

Michael McCarthy Flynn is Oxfam Ireland’s Senior Research and Policy Coordinator 

Watch Jane's story

This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of Oxfam and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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A year in pictures: The impact you helped to achieve in 2016

2016 was surely a challenging but rewarding year.

The continuation of conflict across the Middle East and East Africa, the ever-changing face of our climate and volatile weather systems, the rising inequality which drives global poverty and of course, the escalating refugee crisis, are challenges which have undoubtedly caused much devastation and sorrow across the world. 

And with all the challenges that exist today, it can be easy to overlook what is being achieved. 

Over the last two decades, the world has seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history. 660 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. Average real incomes in developing countries have doubled, and life expectancy has increased by four years.

In the past 10 years, more than 50 million children have started school in sub-Saharan Africa.

And, thanks to the amazing support of our donors, campaigners, volunteers and staff, Oxfam’s programmes this past year directly helped an incredible 22.2 million people around the world.

Because you were there to help people in crisis, we could be too. 

Every water pump you help install, every vegetable plot you help to dig, every child you send to school and every voice you’ve made heard has a powerful impact on people’s lives.

Below is just a small snapshot of some of our favourite images which show how your support helped Oxfam make an incredible difference during 2016. Take a moment to savour the achievements you’ve made possible – and know that, with your support, we did this together.

BEST FOOT FORWARD

A loan from an Oxfam-supported women’s saving group in Liberia’s Tappita district helped Beatrice Mabiam to start selling shoes again. It’s part of a scheme to help families get back on their feet after the Ebola crisis. Beatrice says: “I tell the Oxfam family thank you, big thank you, because you really empower women. Poverty is reducing so we really appreciate you.” Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

GREEN SHOOTS

Na and Sonphet Chantahun stand in a rice field in Vientiane, Laos. Over the past decade a paved road and electricity have improved life for their village’s 50 families. But alongside this welcome progress, climate change has brought unprecedented and unpredictable weather patterns, disrupting harvests. Sonphet says: “I am happy to be working with Oxfam to set up the Disaster Risk Reduction committee in the village. I use the speaker system that Oxfam provided to give early warnings when there is a flood, so that people can move their possessions. We grow adapted rice from the Phonsung Agricultural Development Centre [an Oxfam partner].” Photo: Tessa Bunney/Oxfam

BEE-GINNING A NEW CHAPTER

Augustina lives in Nandom, northern Ghana, one of the poorest parts of the country. Oxfam is helping farmers to survive and thrive, by trialling new farming methods and alternative income-generating activities like beekeeping. “As a mother, life was stressful. We couldn’t meet our needs. We couldn’t buy the items we needed to send our children to school, like books, pens and school uniforms. Now the story is different. I can save money. I am benefitting from the bee farming, agricultural activities and livestock farming.” Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Bangladeshi teenager Onima volunteers for an Oxfam partner organisation and is pictured here leading a hygiene promotion session for girls in Mymensingh. Having grown up in the slum, Onima was inspired to share her knowledge with others. “When I was younger, I attended sessions like these myself. That’s my inspiration. They taught me a lot and told me to share what I know.” Photo: Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

THE RIGHT TO REFUGE

2016 was a big year for our Right To Refuge campaign, which demanded safe refuge for all those forced to flee from their homes due to violence and conflict. Below, Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Underneath, Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

A CUT ABOVE

Qassim Daoud’s* barber shop was looted and his home destroyed when ISIS took over Husseini in Iraq in 2014. Support from Oxfam after the village was liberated has helped him to rebuild the business. “My barber shop is a small shop but I like it. I like everything in my shop; it’s my shop, the thing that provides me with an income so I love everything about it. Thank God that Oxfam came and helped me open my shop again.” Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam *Name changed to protect identity

DAD’S ARMY

Alex Simusokwe, pictured with his daughter Ethel, is one of the men taking part in Oxfam’s ‘I Care About Her’ project in Zambia which raises awareness about issues affecting women, like gender-based violence and early marriage. “My wife recently died and now I am looking after our daughter. It is because of my love for Ethel that I am taking part in this project.” Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

REAPING THE REWARDS

Kitabe Terfe from Ethiopia’s Oromia region inspects her onion crops. She is part of an Oxfam horticulture project. “To tell the truth my status in the community was very low,” Kitabe explains. “We were poor. Since we have joined the group it has become much better. With the loan we got we have become more productive and have learned new skills. We also have food. We are not scared now – we don't have food insecurity. The biggest thing I have learned is to be fearless, and I fear nothing now.” Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

BUILDING BACK STRONGER

One of the biggest challenges communities in Nepal faced after the devastating 2015 earthquake was access to clean drinking water. Residents young and old came together in Dhading (pictured) to build a 4km pipeline supported by an Oxfam ‘cash for work’ scheme, bringing safe water to 500 local people. Photo: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

BACK TO SCHOOL

Pupils at the Mersa school in Haiti – one of five benefitting from an Oxfam project to install toilets. Before children had to use unsafe public latrines or open spaces near the school, which posed a risk to their health and deterred many from attending lessons. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam

CHILD’S PLAY

A girl at the Dahyet Qudsaya shelter in Damascus, Syria, takes part in a game teaching children about the importance of hygiene. Other activities organised by Oxfam include competitions, singing, drawing and theatre sessions with their favourite cartoon characters. They give children in the shelter something positive and engaging to focus on, helping them to meet new friends as well as keeping them safe from illness. Photo: Oxfam

GAME-CHANGER 

Tani (4) and Ronny (5) play ball in Eton village, Vanuatu, that was hit in 2015 by Cyclone Pam, one of the worst ever seen in the Pacific. 250,000 people faced unprecedented devastation, with many losing their homes and seeing their crops completely destroyed. Oxfam repaired the water system and distributed food, water, hygiene kits, livelihoods kits, packs of seeds and cash vouchers. Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/Oxfam

SILENT NIGHT

Four-month-old Jalileh* was born en route from Afghanistan to Greece in the Iranian mountains, close to the Turkish border. Her father made the crib that she sleeps in with some metal, wires and a stitched blanket. Jalileh’s parents had to flee Afghanistan for their personal safety and the family are in the Filippiada camp in northwest Greece. Oxfam has provided toilets, showers and sinks to provide clean water. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam. *Name changed to protect identity

THANK YOU

None of the work we do could happen without your support. You helped save lives and rebuild livelihoods after natural disaster struck Nepal. You showed generosity and compassion to those affected by the fighting in Syria. You gave a voice to those affected by the migrant crisis and forced our governments to strengthen their responses. You pushed businesses and institutions to reform practices that reinforce inequality.

You shopped with us in our 46 shops throughout Ireland. You hosted your own events to raise awareness and funds. You donated to our fundraising efforts, including our Oxfam Unwrapped campaign. You supported our Even it Up campaign, to tackle the root causes of inequality.

Together we are changing lives for the better every day. Because we won’t live with poverty.

On behalf of Oxfam, Happy New Year!

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Tax battles: Home truths on tax

If you were asked to picture a typical tax haven, you would probably start thinking of an exotic island with palm trees and golden sandy beaches. And yes, the stereotype is partly true. Bermuda, Barbados and the Bahamas certainly fit that bill. 
 
So far, so typically tropical. But some other tax havens are closer to home than you might think.
 
That’s because a new Oxfam report – entitled ‘Tax Battles’ – found Ireland ranked 6th in a new league table of the world’s worst corporate tax havens which help big companies avoid paying their fair share of tax.
 
And it’s costing governments the world over billions that could pay for health, education and tackling poverty. 
 

TAX BATTLES

 
Ireland’s score was based on its lack of effective rules to prevent corporate tax dodging and because it facilitates large-scale corporate tax avoidance through profit-shifting and aggressive tax planning structures. 
 
Loopholes and so-called sweetheart deals – like the tax arrangements enjoyed by Apple, which enabled the global tech giant at one point to pay a 0.005 percent corporate tax rate – mean big firms can dodge tax here and in poor countries, where that cash is needed to pay for roads, doctors and schools. 
 
The full list of the world’s worst tax havens, in order of significance are: (1) Bermuda, (2) the Cayman Islands, (3) the Netherlands, (4) Switzerland, (5) Singapore, (6) Ireland, (7) Luxembourg, (8) Curaçao, (9) Hong Kong, (10) Cyprus, (11) Bahamas, (12) Jersey, (13) Barbados, (14) Mauritius and (15) the British Virgin Islands. The UK does not feature on the list, but four territories that the United Kingdom is ultimately responsible for do appear: the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands.
 

AGGRESSIVE POLICIES

 
The 15 countries earned their place on the ‘world’s worst’ list because they have adopted an aggressive set of policies which are helping big firms to minimise their tax bills, leaving those who can least afford it to pick up the tab. 
 
Oxfam researchers compiled the ‘world’s worst’ list by assessing the extent to which countries employ the most damaging tax policies, such as zero corporate tax rates, the provision of unfair and unproductive tax incentives, and a lack of cooperation with international processes against tax avoidance (including measures to increase financial transparency). 
 
Through loopholes, secrecy and driving unfair tax competition, tax havens are undermining the ability of poor countries to collect the cash they need to pay for health and education, vital to lifting people out of poverty. 
 
People here don’t want it to be this way – 82% told us earlier this year the Irish government should be tackling tax dodging and champion fair taxation. Ireland should take immediate action to curb corporate tax havens and their role in harmful tax competition by agreeing international tax haven criteria and a clear public list of where the tax havens are. Strong measures including sanctions should be adopted to limit profit shifting.
 
And people in Northern Ireland want the UK government to prioritise ending tax avoidance, with 89% telling us last month they are concerned when big firms don’t pay their fair share of tax, ordinary people pay the price. 
 

HOW TAX DODGING IMPACTS PEOPLE

 
This tax dodging is affecting ordinary tax payers like you and Kyohairewe, a coffee producer in Uganda. 
 
Kyohairewe pays her taxes – but tax dodging by big companies means there is not enough money for essential services and infrastructure spending in the country. Roads are in such bad condition that Kyohairewe struggles to bring her produce to her customers in the market, restricting her chances of earning a livelihood.
 
If people such as Kyohairewe (pictured below) have to pay a fair rate of tax, why shouldn’t wealthy big businesses and multi-national companies do the same? 
 
 
Above: Kyohairewe, a coffee producer in Uganda, pays her taxes – but tax dodging by big companies means the roads are such bad condition that she struggles to bring her produce to her customers. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
 
The UN estimates that tax dodging by multinationals costs poor countries at least $100 billion (approx. €92bn/£79bn) every year, with devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people. This money could ensure that the 124 million children currently not in school get an education and provide healthcare that could save the lives of six million children a year. Corporate tax revenue is doubly important as a proportion of total tax revenue in poor countries as in rich ones.
 

EVEN IT UP

 
That’s why your support for our Even It Up campaign is so important. We need to press governments and companies to make tax fair and transparent, so we can see what’s really going on. We need to close loopholes and make sure Ireland and the UK improve their tax policies and practices here, and support global plans to make tax fair. 
 
We need an end to the era of tax havens.
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Slowly starved to death: escalating crisis in Yemen

Deadly clashes and air strikes in Yemen have forced millions of people to flee their homes and killed and injured thousands.

Now Yemen is being slowly starved to death. Children and parents are at risk of catastrophic hunger and the country is just a few months away from running out of food.

A recent harrowing report from Yemen by the BBC’s Fergal Keane has shone a spotlight on the crisis in this part of the world.

The situation 

Bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East increasing when fighting escalated in March 2015.

A 20 month-long war, waged between a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf countries and the Government of Yemen against the Houthis, has brought the country’s economy to near collapse. 

Half of the population – 14.4 million people – require help with food. 21.1 million people are in need of life-saving aid, over 80% of the population.

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate with fuel shortages, rising food prices and a severe lack of basic services making daily survival a painful struggle for millions.

Oxfam is there. Our Country Director in Yemen, Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, says: “People desperately need food and water, medicine and health services, they need aid that can reach them – ultimately they need the conflict to end so they can rebuild their lives. All those fuelling Yemen's tragedy need to stop being arms brokers and start becoming peace brokers. The international community must redouble its efforts to help bring this crisis to a peaceful resolution.”

Ferdose

Ferdose (40) fled her home in Taiz when her house was burnt in the war and she had nowhere to go.

“Local residents hosted us in a room in one of the houses. My husband lost his job. For about a year now, we have been depending on the aid provided by local residents and Oxfam,” she explains. Oxfam provided Ferdose with a hygiene kit, as well as food vouchers every month so she can buy food in the local market.

Above: 40-year-old Ferdose fled Taiz when her house was burnt in the war and she had nowhere to go. Our team provided Ferdose with a hygiene kit, as well as food vouchers every month so she can buy food in the local market. Photo: Moayed Al-Shaybani/Oxfam

What Oxfam is doing

We are delivering clean water to people in the north and south of the country and have reached more than 913,000 people with water, food vouchers, hygiene kits and other essential aid. Our aim is to reach 1.2 million people with the help of our supporters.

Help so far has included:

  • Cash payments to 106,000 people to help families displaced by the conflict to buy food.
  • Clean water and sanitation services for 435,500 people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, by trucking drinking water and repairing water systems and latrines. We are also providing equipment to enable urban water authorities to pump water to an additional 820,000 people in Aden and Al Hawtah.
  • Supporting more than 11,000 families with livestock treatment and supporting more than 14,000 people with cash for work.

We are calling on the Saudi-led coalition to lift shipping restrictions to allow food and other vital imports to increase, and urging all parties in the conflict to allow food to move freely around the country and agree a meaningful ceasefire and restart peace talks.

How you can help

Please help Yemen – give what you can and get clean drinking water to people who urgently need it.

 

* All names have been changed to protect identities.

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92% public support in Northern Ireland for an end to corporate tax dodging

Let’s be honest – a tropical tax haven island looks a bit out of place in Belfast.

The reason why we brought palm trees and deckchairs to the heart of the city was to highlight new research showing the kind of scenario people want to avoid as a result of any change to Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate.
 

 
The new research, commissioned by Oxfam and undertaken by Millward Brown Ulster, found:
 

• 92% of people in NI say governments should ensure big firms pay tax in poor countries which need more revenue to tackle poverty;

• 89% are concerned that when big companies and wealthy individuals use tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of tax, ordinary people pay the price because of the impact on public services;

• 87% say that ending this tax avoidance should be a priority for Theresa May’s government;

• 88% of those polled say the public have a right to know where big companies are making profits and paying tax;

• 80% say the gap between the richest and the rest of society is rising and making Northern Ireland a more unequal place

Help us make tax fair in Northern Ireland and across the UK - tell Prime Minister Theresa May to tackle tax dodging.

With Northern Ireland set to take control of corporation tax in 2018, it’s clear from this survey that there is overwhelming public support to ensure any new proposed tax regime here is fair, open and transparent – and that it does not negatively impact on vulnerable people.

Any reform of the corporate tax system needs to contain safeguards preventing companies from taking advantage to avoid tax owed elsewhere – otherwise there is a risk that Northern Ireland could be used as a tax haven.

What we mean by safeguards includes making multinational companies publish tax information for all countries where they are present. In addition, we want to see the establishment of a public centralised register of beneficial ownership that would allow citizens here and in developing countries to know who is really behind companies and trusts.

What’s needed is an economic policy that will bring jobs, prosperity and stability to the province, without being at the expense of essential public services in Northern Ireland or in poor countries.

The Stormont Executive has an opportunity to create a best in class tax system that reflects genuine economic activity and works for the people of Northern Ireland, not against them. This should take into consideration the local and global dimensions of tax avoidance and its impact.

The impact of tax dodging can seem like an abstract thing but it has a very real human cost. An estimated $100bn (approximately £79bn) is lost to developing countries every year because of tax dodging by multinationals. Every school that is not built, every medicine that is not bought for lack of government funds due to tax dodging affects thousands of men, women and children across the world.

Our Make Tax Fair campaign highlights that tax dodging is starving developing countries of the money needed for education, healthcare and tackling poverty.

 

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Andrew Trimble meets refugees in Tanzania: ‘They’re focusing on making each day count’

Just over a week after returning home from the Ireland rugby tour in South Africa in the summer I found myself heading back to the same continent but for very different reasons.
 
Most of the people on the flight to Tanzania were heading there to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on safari. I was travelling with Oxfam Ireland to meet people affected by a crisis that’s totally off the world’s radar.
 
In the past year, over 130,000 people have fled their homes in Burundi because of unrest and crossed into neighbouring Tanzania.
 
It was my first time in this kind of situation and naturally you feel a bit self conscious – a rugby player walking around a refugee camp.
 
You’re aware of how you stand out. The people in the camp were very welcoming, but probably wondering who this bloke was and why he was having his photo taken beside the water pumps and the sanitation facilities!
 
 
Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at an Oxfam water treatment tank supported by Irish Aid at the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
Travelling through the camp, you’re very aware that everybody you see – the adults, the children, even the volunteers working with Oxfam – are refugees.
 
We heard stories of husbands and wives who got separated on the journey to safety, or ended up in different camps hours from each other and unable to reunite.
 
The two camps we visited – Nyarugusu and Nduta in the north west of Tanzania - were different to how I expected. Dry season means red dust was everywhere – and it’s still on my shoes some time later back home in Belfast.
 
There are rows and rows of tents, but there is also shade and vegetation thanks to the trees. Some people have started to plant vegetables near their tents. The trees offer important protection from the sun for the children who study at the camp’s outdoor school.
 
Others are in school buildings and we visited one where the kids seemed to be enjoying school a lot more than I used to! They were full of smiles. You got the sense that going to school was at least providing them with some normality; something familiar, even if just for a few hours each day. Their teachers are also refugees, trying to keep going; knowing that educating these children is key to their future.
 
 
Children enjoying a lesson on rugby by Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble with Irakoze* and Zebunissa* during a rugby lesson by Andrew at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
With a few rugby balls brought from home, I tried to show them what rugby had to offer. It was a fun afternoon, and one brave girl put up her hand to volunteer to try to tackle me. You could almost forget that these children have witnessed harrowing things. In that moment the kids are like any other group of children – laughing, smiling and simply wanting to play.
 
But children have to grow up quickly here, like the five-year-old girl I saw carrying her baby brother, or the boy – no more than a year and a half – fetching water by himself. And that’s when it struck me, he’s the same age as my wee fella Jack, just out picking up water from the tap by himself. That’s the contrast.
 
This time last year the picture of the body of the Syrian child, Alan Kurdi who was aged three, washed up on a beach in Turkey was something that stuck with anybody who saw it. I became a father myself shortly before that so the impact was increased.
 
More recently we’ve been shocked by the photo of an injured five-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. It shows you the level of desperation for people coming from countries where they just need to get out of there.
 
We visited a children’s centre, a place where kids can come and play in safety. They were putting on a play about going to the toilet, as part of an Oxfam project to teach children about staying safe and healthy. It was very funny but with a serious message – diseases like cholera are a real threat in crowded camps so the children need to learn about washing their hands.
 
Their parents welcomed us into the humble tents they call home. They smiled too, but there was a sadness there too.
 
I try to picture what it would be like to leave my house and run for my life, and what I would need to do to keep my family safe.
 
 
Burundian refugees Belange Mugisha* with her one-year-old son Remy Habonimana and husband Habonimana Christophe* meet Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble outside the tent they now call home in the Nduta camp in Tanzania. Asked why they fled Burundi, Habonimana* says: “I was hunted.” The life they had hoped for has not come to pass and it seems like everything is on hold. “Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Yet despite the challenges, they are trying to make the most of their situation. Habonimana* is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while Belange* has a job in one of the camp’s schools.” Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
One of the refugees I met was Habonimana Christophe*. He’s 31 like me, and is also married and the proud dad of a one-year-old boy called Remy Habonimana. He showed us inside his tent. He opened up to me about his journey from Burundi and why he had to leave. “I was hunted,” he told me.
 
This is actually his second time living the in the Nduta camp. He arrived here as a child in 1993 with his family and lived there until 2008. Habonimana found himself back in the Nduta camp this time with his wife and child in November 2015.
 
“This is the first time for my wife to be a refugee,” he says. “It wasn’t easy for her.”
 
Habonimana is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones, volunteering his time. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while his wife has a job in one of the camp’s schools.
 
Both Habonimana and his wife have diplomas in language studies. He was planning on graduating with a degree at university in Burundi before life changed so radically. 
 
The life he hoped for has not come to pass. Everything is on hold.
 
“Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Inside his tent are his certificates.
 
“Whenever I chat with relatives and friends that are in other countries and in universities, I feel bad as my life has already bust as I have my certificate that allows me to go to university. But I will live here for the rest of my life.”
 
Yet he’s focusing on making each day count – and I am in awe of how he and his wife have managed – coming here under pressure and raising a child.
 
That spirit and determination to keep going despite the odds was something I felt throughout the camp.
 
I met a group of men and women who had been tailors in Burundi. They got together in the camp with the idea of starting a business together. Oxfam provided them with machinery, equipment and a building.
 
 
Rugby player and Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble tries on a handmade jacket which fits his shoulders but not quite his arms during a visit to a tailors’ workshop set up by Burundian refugees with the support of Oxfam at the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Mary Mndeme/Oxfam
 
With the old school Singer sowing machines and fabrics in almost every colour under the sun, they were so passionate about their work. The tailors told me that they are hoping lights can be installed in their workshop so as they can work even longer hours.
 
They hadn’t heard of rugby – but they all knew about football. One of the tailors asked if I was wealthy like David Beckham, perhaps hoping I might be in the market for a wardrobe like his!
 
Listening to how people’s lives changed so utterly because of the war made me think about the choices ahead of me when the time comes to retire from rugby. I’m so fortunate to have options. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be stuck on pause, with no idea of if or when your life will begin again.
 
I’m well used to training for the physical strength and stamina needed for rugby, but that’s surpassed by the mental fortitude and resilience shown by the people I met –people just like you and me, but thrown into an extraordinary situation, not of their own making.
 
People with hopes and dreams just like ours, looking for safety and security for their families and kids, a job, a home, a future.
 
It also made me think about our responsibilities towards helping refugees. The one greeting I heard over and over again wherever we went was ‘karibu’, which means welcome. This attitude towards welcoming strangers helps explain why Tanzania has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing Burundi.
 
It’s incredible to think that this developing country, where there is still widespread poverty, has opened its doors to refugees.
 
This is despite the challenges it faces. During the long journey on dirt roads, I saw children walk barefoot, women walking for miles to fetch water and men pushing bicycles up hills laden with heavy loads. Despite this, Tanzania has welcomed refugees for decades – many of the people I met were actually refugees twice over.
 
You hear it time and again, but it’s truly an eye-opening experience to do a trip like this. When you come back home, you think about everything you take for granted. Simple things, like being able to turn on a tap to get clean water or have electricity and heat at the flick of a switch. Also the freedom to move about, to have a home, to work and to be with your loved ones.
 
The work I saw by Oxfam is genuinely saving and changing lives. It is a strange feeling to be temporarily planted into a world so alien; to have strangers who have lost everything smile at you and tell their life story, and young children whose futures are so uncertain put on an incredible performance of song and dance to welcome us visitors from Oxfam Ireland.
 
But perhaps the strangest feeling of all was to stand in a place of such sadness and find myself so inspired.
 
Andrew Trimble is an Oxfam Ireland ambassador.  

 

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"We fled from our home... there were so many bodies on the streets."

 
Wafaa and her family in the half build house they now call home. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
 
"We fled from our home; there were so many dead bodies on the streets." Wafaa (name changed to protect identity) sits on the floor in one of three rooms in a small, half-built house her brother rents for their families in Kahlo Bazini, in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Conditions in the house are basic at best, some of the walls aren't yet finished and until Oxfam intervened they had no facilities to wash, no toilet, and no clean water.
 
"Our living situation is difficult, but we make things work; my brother works cleaning shops so that he can earn money to provide food for us. My children and I all depend on my brother. He goes to clean the shops and then brings home vegetables, things like tomatoes, and shares them between my children and his. We have lived in this same situation for a while," explains Wafaa.
 
Before arriving in Kirkuk, Wafaa and her family moved several times trying to escape ISIS as they took control of large areas of Iraq in 2014. "When we first left out home, we went to my brother's house in Al Eshaqi. We were there for three days and then attacks, bombing and killings started in the streets, so we left to go to my sister's house; she lived far away from the places that had been captured by ISIS. We didn't stay there very long though, about 27 days, and then the fighting started there as well. There were airstrikes, missiles and bombs everywhere."
 
At one point Wafaa and her family were forced to live in an empty school building: 'The school had no appliances; there was no water, toilets or place to wash; the water we were using came directly from the river, it was dirty and polluted. It gave us a lot of infections and allergic reactions. No one came to check if we were okay and the fighting continued to reach us again.
 
"Then my son got ill; he fell on the ground and his face swelled up. My son is only six years old. I had to tell my family that I couldn't stay there any longer." But the area was surrounded from both sides.
 
 
Wafaa Derwesh* (name changed), 39, was displaced with her family when ISIS took control of her village. She now lives in a small village near Kirkuk called Khalo Bazini. Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Oxfam
 
The school where Wafaa and her family were staying was isolated and very far from any roads, "It was like we had escaped to a small empty island far away", Wafaa explains. "There was no water and no electricity. And then ISIS struck. Three ISIS fighters who were carrying guns and firing passed by us; we were so scared we ran away again.
 
"When ISIS came, there were a lot of other families at the school; many of them left the school with us to escape ISIS. They put their black flag above the school; the same school that had been like a home to us." As Wafaa sits in the dark room of the house she and her family now call home she tells the story of how they escaped from ISIS.
 
"We left the school at around 4.00am and we reached the army controlled area at 12.00pm. ISIS had destroyed all the bridges. It was a cold winter, we had no clothes with us and we were trying to escape from ISIS. We were in bad situation, but there were other families and relatives who couldn't leave because ISIS had already taken control of the area and taken them under siege."
 
Not all of her family had been so fortunate. "My sister was still living at the school. She didn't have a car, and random bombing and air strikes had already begun between the army and ISIS. She was alone in the middle of their battle. She called my mom and told her the battle had begun and that she was about to give birth to her baby.
 
"One of my sister's neighbours was her midwife at the birth. It all happened during these air strikes and bombings. We were having a very cold and rainy spell and my sister was giving birth to her new child. She had been complaining about the pain in her stomach but there was no doctor, no food, and no medicine, and no car for her to get to them."
 
Even though ISIS had surrounded the area, Wafaa and her brothers went back to the school to try and fetch their sister. They wanted to get her the medical help she so badly needed. "She was on the dirty ground that had been polluted and her stomach was too swollen, I can't describe it, we couldn't do anything for her; we were helpless and powerless. It was very difficult to see her like that; she was my sister."
 
 
Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
 
Wafaa managed to get her sister out of the school but she died soon after that. 'That's how I last saw her; it was very tragic; we all suffered and felt sad about losing her. We had become displaced in one way, and her daughters who are very young became displaced in a different way.' After her sister died, Wafaa took in her nieces and now provides for them as well as her own children.
 
There are currently over 3.2 million people displaced in Iraq, and even after their village or town has been recaptured from ISIS, families like Wafaa's aren't able to go home due to the level of destruction, number of mines left behind and the slow vetting process that ensues. "Our area was liberated a long time ago," Wafaa explains, "but they won't allow us to return because there are mines that have been planted, explosive devices and bombs in our farms and houses. Behind our home ISIS planted many bombs and explosive devices.
 
"I'm not afraid of anything. I'm waiting for the checkpoint at Balad to open and then I'll return to my house. My home was small but nice, and I was living happily in it. We left because ISIS attacked us; missiles were falling everywhere and my children were crying. It was a difficult situation and it was hard on my children. I couldn't make them understand that we had left because of the bombing and the battle between the army and ISIS. My children were afraid of ISIS.
 
"My young children are always saying that they miss their games and our house. They ask me when will we go back? All the displaced people here want to return to our homes because we are exhausted."
 
WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN IRAQ
 
On Friday October 7th Irish Aid delivered 80 tonnes of aid to Iraq for Oxfam to distribute to vulnerable people fleeing the conflict in Mosul and beyond. Items being sent include blankets, jerry cans, cooking sets, water tanks, tarpaulins and shelter kits.
 
 
Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he is gravely concerned up to 1.5 million people in the city of Mosul have been living under siege for more than two years, with a further 1 million in surrounding areas currently under ISIS control.
 
Oxfam has been working in 50 villages and towns across Diyala and Kirkuk governorates in northern Iraq since 2014. We are providing safe water in camps and in communities where people who have fled the fighting are sheltering, and enabling people to earn a living so that they can support their families. We have also been helping families as they return home once it is safe to do so.
 
We are now scaling up our response in the Mosul Corridor, operating in Salah Al-Din and Ninewa governorates. Oxfam is also working in the key strategic area of Qayyarat, which is 80km south of Mosul and sandwiched between ISIS-controlled territories. We are providing clear water and sanitation and essential items like blankets and hygiene kits.
 
Oxfam works across Iraq including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
 
As military operations begin to retake the city of Mosul and surrounding areas from ISIS, we are expecting to help 60,000 people.
 
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The horrors in Aleppo continue to mount

Published Oct 14 2016

 
A child watches as a military jet flies over the ruins of the Al Mashad neighbourhood in Aleppo. In neighbourhoods on the frontline where people still live, there is little or no water or electrical energy supply. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
 
As battles rage in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the situation is dire – and becoming increasingly intolerable for residents caught up in the ongoing conflict.
 
250,000 people are trapped in rebel-held East Aleppo with no access to aid and facing constant attacks from the air. The bombardment of hospitals, schools and civilian areas is appalling. There are daily reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. Food and fuel are scarce and expensive, leaving many vulnerable to the risk of water-borne diseases. 
 
WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN ALEPPO
 
 
Oxfam has supplied and installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station, which can supply enough water for a million people in Aleppo. Photo: Oxfam
 
Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, helping to provide clean water across battle lines in Aleppo, as well as elsewhere in the country. 
 
Oxfam has installed a generator in the Suleiman al-Halabi water pumping station, which supplies most of Aleppo, to power the station when the national grid is down. Oxfam has also equipped three wells in West Aleppo to produce around 500,000 litres per day and installed eight water purification units – though four of them are currently being repaired after sustaining damage – on the Qweik river to also produce 500,000 litres. 
 
Oxfam also has desperately-needed 3,500 hygiene kits ready to be distributed in East Aleppo, but with the continued fighting the convoy cannot currently access the opposition held part of the city.
 
Oxfam is also working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, providing clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and vouchers for hygiene supplies. 
 
VOICES ON THE GROUND 
 
People still inside East Aleppo have been revealing how the horrors continue to mount. Residents of Aleppo are reporting the use of ‘bunker busting bombs’, which create large craters in the ground, making even underground shelter unsafe. 
 
People on both sides of the city, opposition-held East Aleppo and government-controlled West Aleppo, are now relying on water from wells or delivered by trucks, which are unreliable and sometimes contaminated sources.
 
Speaking to Oxfam, an East Aleppo resident, Basma* (35), said: “The water network is damaged in some areas, to the point where you can see [bomb] craters filled with water. We are still managing to get water through different means, from local wells. But it’s not safe to go out in the street”.
 
Nassim* (65), another resident of East Aleppo said: “One of my children went missing five days ago. I spend my day looking for him. Food is scarce. Fetching water from the local wells is another daily challenge, as going out is dangerous and the water quality is an issue. You can’t be sure if the water is safe or contaminated”.
 
 
“UNBEARABLE” 
 
Walid* (35), from West Aleppo, said: “Queuing to get water is a time consuming struggle, and buying water is becoming expensive. You need to pay more to get water first from truckers. Winter is coming and we have no electricity, and fuel is not available. The situation is becoming unbearable. If it remains like this, I will leave Aleppo with my family.”
 
Tayseer* (40), in East Aleppo, said: “We stored bread before this crisis. We have nothing but bread now. You can’t find any shops open. People are sharing their food supplies with each other. We no longer have spices, so we are just boiling the grains that we have. I’m not concerned about myself or my wife, just about my children.”
 
Nahla* (25) recently fled from East to West Aleppo: “I can’t send my kids to school. And we have no running water, we depend on water trucking. I have no money and no income. Prices are very high in the market. Others in the community have helped me with bread and a bit of food. I can work in cleaning or sewing but I don’t know where to start to look for a job. I don’t know what to do or what will happen tomorrow.” 
 
22-year-old Sham* in East Aleppo: “I don’t have enough food to feed my two brothers and two sisters. Even if we have money, there is no food in the market to buy. We are afraid of sending them to school after the recent attacks. No place is safe now. We don’t know what to do, we feel trapped in our basement.”
 
Souad* (55) lives in a public park in West Aleppo: “I fled East Aleppo with my grandson. His father stayed in East Aleppo. We are unable to reach him. We just want to hear his voice to make sure he is okay. I have no income and everything is expensive. We are relying on people to help us and on aid workers to provide water and other necessary services. We lost our dignity during this crisis. All I want is to go back home, take care of my garden, and have my grandchildren around me.”
 
MARIAM’S STORY 
 
Mariam (64) saw her world fall apart when her only son, a father of four, was shot last year in East Aleppo. 
 
Mariam, her daughter-in-law and the children – three boys, aged 11 and twins of 8, and a 4-year-old girl – moved from place to place, driven by the continuous fighting in Aleppo, until they ended up in a small room, with mouldy walls, and inappropriate sanitation.
 
“I lost my beloved son. My four grandchildren became orphans at a very young age. My heart is broken. I have never felt as weak as I do now. Our only breadwinner left us and now the burden of being ‘the man of the house’ has been placed on the shoulders of my 11-year-old grandson. Finding food and drinking water is a difficult task.” 
 
One of Mariam’s neighbours, who has several water tanks, has been providing water to the family. As for food, they rely on help from other people and some charities. Food prices in East Aleppo have shot up, especially since the area was besieged by government forces. For example, one kilogramme of sugar costs 3,000 Syrian pounds compared to 350 in Damascus.
 
“I was able to plant some plants in the backyard. When we run out of food, we boil some roots to curb our hunger. As for the water, my grandson has to go fetch it, though it is so dangerous for him to go out.
 
“I used to think that losing my child was my biggest tragedy, but seeing my four grandchildren and their mother feeling thirsty and hungry is definitely worse.”
 
WATER AS A WEAPON OF WAR 
 
Oxfam is calling for an immediate and complete ceasefire in Aleppo. At the very least, a pause in the fighting is necessary to deliver food, water, and medical help, as well as evacuate the sick and wounded, and assess damages.
 
Hospitals have recently been hit by airstrikes. Oxfam is urging all warring parties to ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and civilians and civilian buildings, including schools, hospitals, homes, and water services, are not targeted to advance military and political objectives. 
 
All parties should refrain from using basic services such as water as a weapon of war. 
 
HOW YOU CAN HELP
 
 
* All names have been changed to protect identities.
 
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Hurricane Matthew hits hard in Haiti, Oxfam responds

 
Food, shelter and clean water are urgently needed in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which swept through the country on 4th October, destroying homes and infrastructure and killing hundreds of people. The United Nations has estimated more than 2.1 million people are affected, with 750,000 in urgent need of assistance. Vast areas have been flooded and thousands of families have been left homeless – many were still trying to recover from the destruction of the earthquake which hit in 2010. 
 
At least 800 people were killed in the worst hit areas of Haiti and the greatest fear is that the possible spread of cholera and other diseases, along with food shortages due to the loss of crops, will cause more deaths than the actual hurricane over the next days and weeks.
 
 
It is feared that cholera, diarrhea and other diseases will increase after Hurricane Matthew, especially among children. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
HOW OXFAM IS RESPONDING ON THE GROUND 
 
Oxfam teams are responding to local people most in need in Haiti. Our teams have started to assess urgent needs and distribute aid, including clean water, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and construction material such as temporary roofing materials to help people repair their homes in some of the worst-affected towns. 
 
We are sending three tonnes of water-purifying equipment and moving rapidly to ensure hygiene and sanitation are restored to prevent outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and other water-borne diseases in Saint Louis du Sud, Miche, Les Cayes and Cavaillon. We are also repairing or installing clean water supplies.
 
We are also calling on the international community to help people cope with the widespread loss of harvests. While there is an immediate need for safe water and shelter, the main issue after this type of shock is the impact on the livelihoods of vulnerable people. 
 
Jean Claude Fignole, Oxfam’s programme director in Haiti, said: “What is most urgent now is to provide safe water to prevent disease, as well as food and essential supplies. In the longer term we fear a jump in cholera, and malnutrition due to crop loss.”
 
 
In coordination with local authorities, Oxfam has begun distributing hygiene kits to people affected by Hurricane Matthew in order to prevent cholera and other diseases. Oxfam is also installing water tanks and distributing tarpaulins to temporarily cover the damaged roofs of houses. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
“EVERYTHING IS LOST”
 
Some 60,000 Haitians live in camps in the capital following the 2010 earthquake which killed at least 230,000 people. Many of them have lost their few belongings due to the hurricane. 
 
In Haiti’s most devastated areas more than 80 percent of the population relied on self-sufficiency farming. With their crops destroyed and farm animals killed by the hurricane, many people are now going hungry and cannot afford to buy replacement seeds or farming tools. 
 
 
Senita Terbil (26) now lives in a precarious shelter with her husband Samuel and their two children, after her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane. Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam 
 
Senita Terbil is a mother of two from the village of Castambie in the Sud department of Haiti. Her house was completely destroyed by the hurricane and she lives now in a precarious shelter built by her husband. Senita told Oxfam: “Everything is lost. All our animals are dead. We have nothing to feed the children. We have no means to plant again; we have no seeds or tools. We have nothing, no food or money, even my sister who is injured cannot go to hospital."
 
Louis Joelle, who lives outside the city of Les Cayes, said: “We expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water. We need drinkable water and food, we don’t have anything, everything is destroyed. We need water, food, seeds, and shelter”.
 
37-year-old Bernadette Julien lives in Camp Perrin, in the Southern Department, in southwest Haiti and is eight months pregnant. The family is taking refuge with other neighbours in a makeshift shelter in municipal offices. Her husband lives from selling what they grow in the garden and animal breeding, but everything has gone because of the hurricane. “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed. I have no food to give to my children,” said Bernadette.
 
In Haiti’s capital Port au Prince, many people have also suffered the consequences of Hurricane Matthew, but to a lesser extent. 
 
Marcele Duby, who lives in the Truitier neighbourhood of Port au Prince, said to Oxfam: "If it had occurred in the middle of the night I would have lost my children. But it was broad daylight, and so I could save them. The water in the house was up to my waist. I was afraid because if the water had risen a little more we couldn't have done anything." 
 
Jimmy Leys, a resident of Ti-Ayiti, said: "Children are going to fall sick because flooding causes epidemics. Some pregnant women are already ill. Diarrhoea and malaria are diseases well known here." 
 
 
Bernadette Julien (37) is eight months pregnant and is sheltering with her family in municipal offices in southwest Haiti: “I only have my children and the clothes I'm wearing. The house is completely destroyed.” Photo: Fran Afonso/Oxfam
 
HOW YOU CAN HELP
 
Lost harvests and continued flooding make those most affected vulnerable to a food and health crisis that needs to be prevented. 
 
Help Oxfam respond to emergencies like Hurricane Matthew.
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Bringing your voice to the UN Summit on migration

Oxfam brought its global call to stand as one with people forced to flee their homes to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

From a sea of life jackets laid beneath the Brooklyn Bridge highlighting the sobering reality of this crisis, to meetings at UN Headquarters, we reminded world leaders that over a quarter of a million people worldwide have joined our movement to support people on the move.

Left: Hundreds of life jackets, collected from the beaches of Chios in Greece, lie on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the desperate plight of children and adults forced to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Photo: Darren Ornitz Photography; Right: Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken remind Ireland’s UN Ambassador David Donoghue (centre) that 250,000 people worldwide are standing as one with refugees. Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam

WATCH: Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Marissa Ryan reacts to the sea of life jackets at Brooklyn Bridge

We were there and made sure your voice continued to be heard

As Irish and UK Government leaders – including an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and UK Prime Minster Theresa May - addressed the very first UN Summit on Migration and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit, they did so knowing that over 25,000 people across the Republic of Ireland and almost 6,500 people from Northern Ireland (over 86,876 from the United Kingdom in total) were demanding they show strong leadership and take action to protect and uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Left: Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Right: Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

Some UN migration summit highlights

"Refugees are already taking action. We want world leaders to do the same" - Mohammed Badran

Mohammed Badran, a refugee from Syria and Oxfam partner, addressed the opening segment of the UN summit on migration, calling for world leaders to do more to protect and empower refugees everywhere. Mohammed is the Chair of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, a network of over 600 volunteers who work to give back to local communities.

“World leaders need to remember those who are relying on them – the people running for their lives from their homes, trying to keep their children calm as they set off on an inflatable dingy across the Mediterranean sea, or facing barbed wire and check points instead of compassion in their desperate search for safety.” -  Jim Clarken

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken attended the summits and highlighted our call to stand as one with people forced to flee live from New York.

“I cried my eyes out when I arrived in the UK, a refugee.” -  Winnie Byanyima

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima shared her experience of being a refugee from Uganda and called on world leaders to make sure these summits amount to more than a half-hearted beginning to help those millions of people forced to flee but are the start of real and lasting solutions. Read Winnie’s article here: 

More needs to be done and we are not giving up

Over 65 million displaced people were counting on the outcome of the summits – an unprecedented opportunity for a bold and fair deal to ensure their safety and dignity. While we welcomed world leaders’ calls for a more equal sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, we were disappointed that they failed to make tangible commitments on how they are going to affect real change for refugees and migrants.

We will continue to speak out and ensure that the Irish and UK Government play their part in responding to this global crisis. We will not allow these summits to amount to more meaningless talk but will continue to fight for the political commitments of the summits to be translated into action to ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move.

People from across the island of Ireland continue to show that refugees are welcome here by writing messages of solidarity at Oxfam’s Culture Night events in Dublin and Belfast the weekend before the summits in New York.

Help us to stand as one with children, women and men fleeing conflict, persecution, disaster and poverty.

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