Oxfam marks 75 years of mobilising against poverty

Oxfam marks 75 years of mobilising against poverty

Oxfam is marking its 75th anniversary of mobilising against poverty and injustice – including a return to its Greek origins.

Oxfam was set up as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief on 5 October 1942, calling for the Allied blockade in World War II to be relaxed to allow vital food and aid to reach starving people in Greece and elsewhere in Europe.

Since then, Oxfam has played its part in the successes achieved in international development, which have seen half a billion people lifted out of extreme poverty in the last two decades. In last year alone Oxfam helped more than 22 million people worldwide.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Since being established 75 years ago, Oxfam has grown into a global confederation of 20 affiliates, working in over 90 countries across the world to end poverty and suffering. It has been a remarkable three quarters of a century’s worth of work, providing practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive.

“Of course, there have been considerable challenges during that time, due to conflict, violence and natural disaster – challenges which remain to this day. We have responded to numerous humanitarian crises such as famines in East Africa, conflict in Kampuchea, Darfur and Democratic Republic of Congo, the Asian tsunami and recent earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal – to name but a few.

“As well as our emergency responses and long-term development work, we have campaigned to tackle the roots causes of poverty, inequality and injustice, so that the voices of the poor influence the local and global decisions that affect them.

"Sadly Oxfam’s history has come full circle and we are working once again where it all began – in Greece, where thousands of families fleeing violence, persecution and poverty are currently stuck in limbo in makeshift tents. Since October 2015, Oxfam has helped over 100,000 people forced to flee their homes with clean water, sanitation, shelter, food, hygiene kits, and safe spaces for vulnerable women and children.

“Just last week we continued our Greek connection by launching the Museum Without a Home exhibition at the Ulster University in Belfast. The exhibition showcased real items donated by the Greek people to refugees arriving there, demonstrating their solidarity with vulnerable people fleeing their homes in search of safety and dignity.

Oxfam can trace its history in Ireland back to the mid-1950s, with one of the earliest records being an article in the Belfast Telegraph about clothing collections for “famine relief” from May 30th, 1957. In the 1960s support for Oxfam really started to grow across the island of Ireland, especially with the introduction of a chain of shops. Then in 1998 Oxfam Ireland became an independent organisation, affiliated within the wider confederation of Oxfam International.

Clarken added: “Oxfam has been supported by people across the island of Ireland for over 60 years, and people here have made invaluable contributions to our work worldwide, playing a significant role in making Oxfam what it is today. Whether it is by volunteering, donating stock or shopping with us in one of our shops; by signing one of our petitions calling for changes in the rules that keep people poor; helping a street collection for our East Africa famine response; or by undertaking a community event such as the Trailtrekker challenge or organising an Oxjam music event as a fundraiser – our supporters throughout Ireland have helped deliver real change to the lives of people affected by poverty.

“We won’t live with poverty – and it’s clear our staff, volunteers and supporters won’t either. We couldn’t do our vital work without them or the support of the public across Ireland. So on behalf of all those many people whose lives have been saved or improved through our work I would like to say a huge thank you.”

We need your help now more than ever. Oxfam is urgently appealing for people to donate to its Saving Lives fund to support those suffering across the world. Let’s bring hope to even more people. Please give what you can today.

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