Every week, people throughout the UK dump 11 million items of clothing in landfill. Fast fashion and a culture that encourages disposable clothing is placing an ever increasing amount of pressure on both the planet and its people. This month there is something you can do to help. By joining Second Hand September and making the pledge not to purchase new clothing for thirty days you will be helping the planet take a respite from unsustainable consumer driven pollution.
If you want to participate on social media, post your second-hand clothing on Twitter and Instagram using #SecondHandSeptember, tag @Oxfam GB and become eligible for the weekly prize draw. Any post that is tagged and hashtagged will be automatically entered into a prize draw, where a winner is randomly selected every Friday during the month of September. The draw opened the first week of the month and ends at 10 AM on Friday 27 September.
You don’t just get a single chance to win the prize, multiple entries do count, so you should share any pre-owned purchase throughout the entire month and give yourself as many chances to win. Winners will be contacted on their preferred social media platform. By taking the 30-day pledge Oxfam will provide fashion facts and tips for second hand shopping which will make the challenge simple. By saying yes to pre-owned clothing taken from landfill you give them a longer life and by shopping at Oxfam, every purchase helps Oxfam to help people beat poverty.
A group of 18 humanitarian organisations has warned that urgent action is necessary after a series of armed attacks in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. The civilians need help and are trapped in an area that lies between the Ugandan border and a part of the DRC currently being terrorized by armed militia and is close to the Ebola outbreak that has resulted in the deaths of more than 950 people.
The attacks took place in Beni territory North Kivu and according to local health officials more than 60,000 people have had to flee. Thousands have sought shelter at a primary school close to the border with Uganda. The only water they have available to drink comes from a river and the school has very few toilets which means the threat of disease is extremely high. Because no food is being provided for many people who sought shelter the only way to feed themselves is to return to their villages where they feel unsafe.
Oxfam very worried
An Oxfam spokesperson in the DRC says the agency is extremely worried by a situation where people afraid to return home are being forced to live in cramped unsanitary conditions and where the risk of contracting Ebola is high. The people need food and sanitation urgently as well as clean water and access to health services. The humanitarian agencies say that the continuing violence in the region makes reaching people very difficult so aid is not being delivered from within DRC and authorities in Uganda are preparing for a deluge of new refugees.
Refugees not being allowed to cross the border
In Uganda the refugees may have better access to basic services including healthcare plus they will also receive the protection they need. However, many have expressed their concerns about reports that suggest people are not being allowed to cross the border into Uganda at least sixteen official crossings. As a result, some of those that fled the violence are left with no choice but return back to their homes where they at risk of further attacks.
Ebola risk compounded
Some have chosen to cross illegally through the forests along the border. This is not good because it compounds the risk of Ebola being spread because people are not being screened as they would have done had they crossed at official border check posts. Aid workers say both governments need to partner with humanitarian agencies to ensure the protection of displaced people and deliver the help they so desperately need.
Prepare to cope with new influx
The government of Uganda and UNHCR are preparing to receive those that have been displaced and the 18 organisations are urging authorities in DRC are able to cross freely and safely into Uganda. The organisations also want the UNHCR, authorities in both DRC and Uganda and international donors to cooperate and pool resources to make sure people get the help they need as quickly as possible. All stakeholders need to ensure they are prepared to cope an influx of new refugees.
Oxfam is concerned that there could be a resurgence in the world’s worst outbreak of cholera with aid agencies unable to reach approximately 40,000 people believed to be affected by the disease. Conflict and constraints placed on agencies seeking access such as check points and permits that warring parties have imposed have made it next to impossible to reach areas that have been affected. The arrival of the rainy season will mean the disease will spread as a result of flooding and contaminated water.
Worst outbreak on human history
During the final couple of weeks of March roughly 2,500 cases of cholera were being reported daily up from about 1,000 in the previous month. That is a 1,000 per cent increase from the same time period in the previous year. Since the outbreak began three years ago, more than 3,000 people have died. When the cholera epidemic reached its height a year later, 7,000 new cases were being reported daily and the outbreak was described by the WHO as the worst in human history.
Oxfam’s representative in Yemen says the people of the country have already endured the outbreak of this disease set against the back drop of a four-year-old conflict and the collapse of Yemen’s economy. Oxfam says this disease shouldn’t spread throughout the country again and continue to cause more unnecessary deaths. The organisation says the international community should ensure that agencies get safe and unfettered access to deliver humanitarian aid to people throughout the country.
Aid agencies cannot reach people
So far this year an estimated 195,000 people are believed to have contracted cholera and of them, 38,000 are in locations that aid agencies have difficulties reaching. Oxfam has been forced to relocate one of its provincial offices after the fighting reached the outskirts of the city it was located in. The office was being used to deliver clean water and money to buy food for more than half a million people living in the surrounding districts.
The fighting continues
The fighting continues across multiple fronts throughout the country including three governates where the majority of the deaths associated with the disease have been reported. The conflict and restricted access means 14 million people in Yemen face the prospect of famine with more than half of all children in the country aged between six months and five years chronically malnourished. In Yemen, less than half of the health care facilities are functional and many people cannot afford to pay for treatment Oxfam and its partners on the ground are working hard to prevent the spread of cholera in the three governates where the disease in most widespread.
Oxfam and its partner the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are urging donors and governments to give more money to provide assistance to Syrians trying to recover from eight years of civil war and who are trying to rebuild their lives. Both agencies have also urged the Syrian Government to allow humanitarian organisations into the country and help everyone that is need. This comes against the backdrop of the civil war entering its eighth year.
Conflicting starting to subside
Whilst the conflict in most parts of Syria has started to subside or ended, there are still 11.7 million people who depend on humanitarian aid with almost two thirds living in government-controlled areas. Many schools and homes have been obliterated, entire neighbourhood have no access to sanitation or clean running water and people are unable to provide for their families. More than 80 per cent of the population now live below the poverty line and over two million children are not in school according to UN statistics.
Money is urgently needed
Despite the scale of the problems faced by the people of Syria, governments and donors do not seem to want to fund projects they think will be contributing towards rebuilding Syria, especially in parts of the country controlled by the government. This means millions of Syrians depend on aid and many of those will be in that position for quite some time to come. A spokesperson for Oxfam, says money is urgently needed to help the millions of Syrians that have had to bear the brunt of brutal and bitter civil war recover. These people aren’t seeking handouts, they want a helping a hand to become self-reliant and rebuild their lives.
Syrian government preventing delivery of aid
The Syrian Government has not made it easy to deliver a helping hand. It has placed many restrictions on access and directly engaging with communities in need. The approvals process is both complex and opaque which makes it very hard for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to the millions of people in need across the country. A spokesperson for DRC says the needs of the people of Syria should be at the forefront of the response.
Without help people will continue to suffer
Donors should be willing to fund a humanitarian response that covers all parts of Syria so that ordinary people can rebuild their lives with dignity. Simply because control of an area now belongs to the government doesn’t mean people in those areas no longer need help. In order for the people of Syria to recover from all the devastation, money is needed for essential services such as healthcare, education and water. Humanitarian agencies need to have access to deliver these services and without the support ordinary Syrians will continue to suffer well into the future.
Oxfam says that war, rising food prices and plunging incomes in Yemen is increasingly resulting in people being forced into desperate measures to avoid starvation. The crisis in Yemen has put nearly ten million people on the brink of famine. Since the conflict began to escalate in 2015 food prices have skyrocketed whilst household incomes have plunged making basic food items too expensive for many people in the country. One family even resorted to marrying off their three-year-old daughter just to buy food.
Children’s lives are being devastated
Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen Mushin Siddiquey says as the conflict has dragged on people have are becoming more desperate as hunger reaches desperate levels. He adds that people are being made to take steps that could devastate the lives of their children for decades to come. All of this is the direct consequence of a man-made humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war. Oxfam says the international community needs to step up and do everything possible to end the conflict and ensure people have access to food water and medicine.
Families unable to feed themselves properly
The conflict has forced many families to seek refuge in isolated areas where there is no basic infrastructure, water or health centres. Many set themselves up in small tents or mud houses which provide very little protection from the environment. They also have little or no income which means many families cannot afford to feed themselves properly and end up having to skip meals or subsist on bread and tea or begging.
Tentative steps towards peace
Families in Yemen can be as large as 15 people and tend to include the aged who require special care and medication which makes already unbearably high living expenses even more costly. Recently the internationally recognised government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels reached an agreement for an initial phase of withdrawal from the critical port city of Hudaydah after peace talks were held in Sweden. The agreement took time to reach and so far, it is not obvious what, if any, impact it will have.
The conflict needs to end
Mr Siddiquey says international donors need to ensure that there is enough money to deliver vital food, water and medicine so that the basic needs of people are met. However, the only thing that can stop the descent down the spiral which is forcing families to take desperate measures is an end to the conflict. Everyone involved in the conflict including those that are backing the participants financially need to make a commitment to a nationwide ceasefire and take the necessary steps towards forging a lasting peace.
Three leading NGO’s have declared that the most important priorities for the almost 1 million Rohingya refugees still holed up at the largest refugee camp in the world for almost a year-and-a-half needs to be education and income generating opportunities. Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision joined forces to urge donors to focus on these efforts as the United Nations announced a new funding plan to deal with the crisis.
International community needs to be generous
In their statement the NGO’s urged the international community to be generous in financing the 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis. The three agencies were united in their support for the almost $1 billion the UN is trying to raise for almost 1.25 million people affected by the crisis including refugees and host community members. The NGO’s want both donors and the Bangladeshi government to ensure that aid is focused on helping host communities and refugees to live more safely whilst delivering food, clean water and shelter.
Education is a human right
What this means in practice is investments must be made in educating children and young people so they learn the skills necessary to build a prosperous future in Myanmar when they are able to safely return. A World Vision spokesperson says education should not be considered a luxury but should be seen as a human right. She adds that refugee parents and their children say their top priority is education but unfortunately there is a massive gap for children and adolescents.
Children should not be denied their right to an education
The camps serve as home to an estimated 700,000 young people aged between 3 to 24 with almost a quarter million from the host community that lack access to education. Refugee children are the worst affected with only 4 per cent having access to any sort of education of vocational training. Aid workers say that Rohingya refugee children have already had their rights abused after being forced to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh under horrific conditions. These children should not also be denied their right to receive an education and the least the rest of the world can do is make sure they do not face further disadvantages.
Creating opportunities to learn and earn
Not having access to education or the ability to earn an income makes Rohingya refugees entirely dependent on aid which means they are extremely vulnerable to being exploited with children being the worst affected. An Oxfam’s Bangladesh Country Director Dipankar Datta says female refugee children as they hit puberty face immense problems getting an education. Rohingya women are also unable to find employment making it difficult for single mothers to support their children. Mr Datta adds that donors and the Bangladeshi government must focus on creating opportunities for women and girls to learn and earn as well as protect them from abuse and exploitation so that they have a better future.
The world’s wealth is growing increasingly concentrated according to the latest Oxfam report which shows that world’s 26 wealthiest individuals control the same assets as 3.8 billion people who form the poorest half of the Earth’s population. Oxfam releases its annual wealth check every year to coincide with the Davos and according to the charity last year was yet another one where the rich grew richer whilst the poor became poorer.
Problems in the fight against poverty
The NGO says growing inequality is posing problems in the fight against poverty. Oxfam claims that a 1 per cent wealth tax levied on the super-rich would raise £325 billion every year. To put that into context, that is enough money to provide education for every child currently not in school and deliver healthcare that would prevent as many as 3 million deaths. The report claims that the wealth of the world’s 2,2200 billionaires grew by a combined $900 billion last year or by $2.5 billion per day.
The rich getting richer whilst the poor get poorer
Oxfam reckons that whilst the poorest half of the world saw their wealth fall by 11 per cent last year, the richest saw their wealth increase by 12 per cent. In 2017 43 billionaires had the same wealth as the world’s poorest half, and that number fell to 26 last year. In the 10 years since the global financial crisis, the number of billionaires has doubled and a new billionaire emerged once every two days between 2017 and 2018. 1 per cent of Jeff Bezos $112 billion fortune is equal to the entire Ethiopian health budget, a country with a population of 105 million. After accounting for VAT the poorest 10 per cent of Britons have a higher effective tax rate compared to the richest (49 per cent compared with 34%).
Everyone should get a fair shot
Matthew Spencer a spokesperson for Oxfam says whilst the greatest achievement of the last few decades has been the dramatic fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty, growing inequality jeopardises any future progress. Wealth is increasingly becoming concentrated amongst an elite whilst millions are struggling to get by. Mr Spencer says it does not have to be this way because there is more than enough wealth to give every one a fair shot at life.
Fairer tax policy and better public services
Oxfam thinks that Governments need to raise taxes from wealthy individuals and companies and make sure that the money is spent on providing high quality public services that have the effect of transforming and saving people’s lives. According to the report by failing to invest enough in public services, governments were in effect making inequality worse. The NGO says that governments need to provide universal public services and fund it by dealing with tax avoidance and making sure tax policy is fair.
Oxfam GB will be certainly be hopeful that a difficult 2018 is firmly behind it with the appointment of Danny Sriskandarajah as its next chief executive. A few months ago, Oxfam GB announced that it would be appointing as CEO Mr Sriskandarajah who previously served as Secretary General and Chief Executive of Civicus which is a South African based global alliance of civil society organisations. Mr Sriskandarajah will be succeeding Mark Goldring who last year announced he would be stepping down from his role at the charity.
Strong non-profit background
Mr Sriskandarajah who is based in London has a strong background in the non-profit sector having worked at Civicus since 2013 and previously having served as Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Prior to that Mr Sriskandarajah was a director of the Commonwealth Foundation and also worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Mr Sriskandarajah is originally from Sri Lanka, but was raised in Australia and PNG before moving to the United Kingdom in 1998.
Oxfam chairperson Caroline Thomson says Mr Sriskandarajah is the correct person to lead Oxfam as it seeks to change and renew itself because he both a brilliant strategic thinker and has a track record of delivery. Ms Thomson adds that Mr Sriskandarajah has a solid understanding of the challenges faced by the entire sector including gender justice. Ms Thomson describes Mr Sriskandarajah as one of the next generation of leaders who has both a global reputation of original thought and the ability to inspire the people who work with him.
Will deliver solutions
Most importantly Ms Thomson says that it is believed that Mr Sriskandarajah is willing to ask all the hard questions necessary and has the ability to work well with colleagues across the entire federation of Oxfam to deliver solutions. A spokesperson for Oxfam did not say how much the organisation would pay Mr Sriskandarajah but did say it would be less than what was paid to Mr Goldring. Last year the charity earned £472.2 million during the financial year of 2017-2018 and employs 5,000 full time staff members as well as tens of thousands of volunteers.
Oxfam reckons that the four biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world are dodging an estimated £3 billion pounds in taxes. The aid agency says that such behaviour deprives governments in both the developed and the developing world of an important source of revenue that could be used for poverty reduction programmes and the provision of public healthcare. The poorest countries suffer the most from tax avoidance because they tend to rely more on corporate tax to finance government spending than they do on income tax.
An Oxfam spokesperson said it was not acceptable for big pharma to deprive governments of billions in tax revenue that could be used to alleviate poverty and provide healthcare. The irony is that these companies develop life-saving treatments for profit whilst depriving governments of revenue that could be used to save people’s lives. Given the amount of money that governments pay big pharma companies for their medicines, the least that can be expected is that these companies pay their fair share in tax.
Companies should pay their fair share
The analysis by Oxfam suggests that the four biggest pharmaceutical companies who manufacture vaccines and household brands are moving their profits from countries where they operate and transferring them to tax havens. The report also highlights how the industry in general lobbies governments, shaping policy that sets the price of medicines extremely high. Prices are so high that more often than not products are simply not affordable for public providers of healthcare or for patients.
R&D model needs to be overhauled
Oxfam says there is a necessity for the research and development model for new medicines to be completely overhauled so that drug discovery is determined by the needs of the public instead of profits. This is not the first time the pharmaceutical industry has been criticised. Recently the Health Secretary accused the manufacturer of a drug used to treat cystic fibrosis of ripping off tax payers and profiting off the back of the NHS. Whilst these companies do make medicines that can transform lives their behaviour may well end up preventing people from receiving the treatment they desperately need.
Tax avoidance is one reason for growing inequality
Tax avoidance is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry. It is taking place all over the world and is one of the driving factors behind growing income inequality. The United Kingdom has shown much needed leadership in tackling the problem of global tax avoidance and has passed legislation that forces global corporations operating in the country to publish details of all their activities in every country they operate in. The policy has yet to be implemented and Oxfam is urging the government to do so sooner rather than later.
Oxfam has hired and trained 119 staff members who will investigate incidents related to the agencies safeguarding efforts around the world as it steps up efforts to improve. Oxfam unveiled a ten-point action plan towards the early part of the year and has increased funding for safeguarding by more than threefold to close to £2 million. Oxfam has also set up a new Independent Commission which is tasked with reviewing the agencies culture and practices.
Response to scandal
Oxfam has launched the new measures in response to the scandal some of its former employees were involved in Haiti whilst working for the aid agency. Those employees have since been fired and starting from October the agency will report data twice a year on all safeguarding cases that have been completed in the previous half year for all organisations that are part of the Oxfam confederation.
Background checks and training
In the United Kingdom all shop managers as well as supervisors paid or unpaid will have to undergo background checks. Some members of the HR teams in the trading unit have also received training which will give them the skills to investigate allegations of safeguarding in Oxfam shops. By the end of the financial year it is anticipated that more than 960 shop staff will have undergone online safeguarding training. The Independent Commission’s first report will be published by May next year and will list a number of recommendations to improve Oxfam’s approach to safeguarding.
The aid agency is also providing training to more than 10,000 employees globally and has introduced more stringent background checks before hiring new staff. There is also a whistle blowing hotline that is managed independently and will be available in five languages that all employees have been encouraged to make use of in complete confidence.
Learning from mistakes
Mark Goldring Oxfam’s UK chief says he is determined that the organisation learns from its mistakes and does everything it can to ensure staff and people are protected. He adds that the measures taken will improve Oxfam’s ability to prevent and investigate any unacceptable behaviour no matter where it takes place. Oxfam is acutely aware there is more to do, including making sure that everyone who is employed or volunteers feels empowered to challenge behaviour they believe is not acceptable.