The Future is Equal

Archives for April 18, 2017

World Bank & IMF must recommit to combating climate change, inequality

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cannot allow political and economic shocks to hijack their ambitions to combat climate change and curb inequality, warned Oxfam.

In the wake of the growing wave of populist and nationalist sentiment, both the president of the World Bank and the managing director of the IMF have defended economic growth through international trade and pushed for new partnerships with the private sector.

Oxfam urges the Bank and the IMF to use these Spring Meetings to encourage sustainable, inclusive development through policies which tackle climate change, reduce inequality, and lift poor communities.

“Millions of lives are in danger of starvation; the world is feeling the effects of climate change; staggering wealth inequality is trapping people in poverty. The Bank and the IMF need to stand firm in the face of strong political winds and help the world find solutions to these huge challenges, “said Nadia Daar, the head of Oxfam International’s Washington office.

Oxfam is especially concerned over the looming and unprecedented threat of four famines, affecting about 30 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, is finishing a mission to Nigeria and South Sudan, and will be attending the Meetings later in the week to ask the international community for urgent help.

The severe food insecurity and malnutrition in Somalia is partly due to a severe drought worsened by climate change. On top of this, news reports indicate the Trump Administration could decide this week whether to remain a part of the Paris Agreement. The global community should not only defend the Agreement, but speed up its implementation.

“The world celebrated a remarkable moment of unity with the Paris Agreement; we need to build on it, not break it down. We’re counting on leaders at the Meetings to double down on climate action,” said Daar. 

Oxfam will also challenge and outline the risks of the Bank’s aggressive new emphasis on making development projects “commercially viable.”

“We’ve seen how poor families get left behind when the Bank turns to for-profit, low-fee schools,” said Daar. “Kim has to explain how the Bank will make sure their work with the private sector really helps communities, not just private investors.”

In past Meetings, IMF chief Christine Lagarde has spoken out against inequality and supported initiatives to crack down the abuse of tax havens by wealthy corporations and individuals.

“If the IMF wants to talk about growth, then it must also encourage big businesses and the rich to pay their fair share and discourage a global ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate tax,” said Daar. “Lagarde has to keep pushing for stronger international cooperation on taxes; otherwise, the world economy will remain hopelessly skewed in favor of a small handful of wealthy elites.”

Famine in South Sudan: communities at breaking point

In South Sudan, the violent and brutal war has put millions at risk. Women, men and children that fled their homes in search of safety are now finding a new threat – hunger. With harvests still months away, the famine already declared in parts of the country will spread across the rest of the country, unless we act now.

Majok at the WFP registration site in Nyal. He had to make a one and a half hour trek, helped by family members, from his home to Nyal to ensure he was physically present for the registration. Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam. 

When the rains begin in April or May, conditions will become even more difficult for the people in need and for the humanitarian groups trying to reach them. Flooding makes roads and airstrips impassable and can cause a rise in cholera and other water-borne diseases.

George* sits on his mother’s lap as health personnel takes his measurements to determine his nutrition level. There are 208 malnutrition cases in this hospital in Nyal, Unity State. These don’t include the many adults facing extreme hunger in the area.

Nearly 5 million people – 40 percent of the population – are facing extreme hunger. “We are seeing communities now at breaking point. In the swamps between the famine-affected areas and where Oxfam is working, we know that there are thousands of people going desperately hungry,” says Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Campaign Manager in South Sudan.

Panjiyar County, in southern Unity State, sits next to the frontline of some of the heaviest fighting we are seeing in South Sudan today. It is no coincidence that this frontline is also home to the 100,000 people who have been hit by deadly famine. Many have travelled for days on foot to reach generous host communities, who themselves are now sharing what little food they have with their neighbors waiting for that next food assistance in order to survive.

An elderly woman at the registration site in Nyal Catholic church, South Sudan. She came from Nyandong Payam with the help of family members. Photo: Bruno Bierrenbach Feder/Oxfam

So far, Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations have been able to help to keep famine from spreading with food distributions, clean water and other vital aid. So far, we have been distributing food to more than 415,000 people as well as providing more than 140,000 people clean water and sanitation services.

Oxfam staff Pedro Marial Rock takes the fingerprint signatures of Nyabiey (left) and Nyakonga (right) to verify they are receiving food at a distribution in Nyal on March 20, 2017. Photo: Lauren Hartnett/Oxfam

In Nyal, Panyijar County, some of the most vulnerable people from surrounding islands arrive exhausted after hours on Oxfam canoes. They are here to register for a World Food Programme food distribution. We are using these canoes and paying canoe operators to make sure that those who are unable to pay are not left out.

Marissa and her family fled from famine and conflict-hit Mayendit, where all of their food had been burnt and their home burnt down. They brought what they still had to Nyal, pulling their possessions along the swamps in large tarpaulins. They’re now hoping to register for a food drop. Photo: Dorothy Sang/Oxfam

Besides providing clean water and toilets on some of the islands closest to Nyal, we are also helping both its island and mainland communities to set up vegetable gardens both to boost their own diets and to build up their livelihoods. “What concerns us most are the people we have yet to reach. The fighting means no one is able to work on the remote islands, and we are only able to send canoes up the river to help the people when we can ensure the safety of our staff,” says Sang.

You can help

The people of South Sudan are doing all they can to help themselves. Where the newly displaced have arrived, families are generously offering what little they have. But this is not enough. We need to get more food, clean water and other vital support to the most vulnerable people.

We are calling for more funding to help reach people before it’s too late. You can help save lives.


Winnie Byanyima: this starvation in Africa is an affront to humanity

Oxfam International’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima is visiting Nigeria, where millions have been displaced by conflict and are desperately hungry. She writes of what she has seen so far.

We’re all shaken by the fact that our world stands on the brink of 4 famines. It is unprecedented in modern times. It should never have been allowed to happen. The UN says nearly 20 million people are at risk of starvation.
This week, Nigel Timmins and I have joined Oxfam staff and partners in northeast Nigeria. We are visiting people and the work we do in and around Maiduguri, and travelling to Gwoza and Pulka (towns that have been badly affected by the conflict, with much of Gwoza totally destroyed by Boko Haram; Pulka is still receiving people being displaced by the conflict for the first time).
Communities here have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they seek safety, food, clean water and more amid the ongoing conflict between Boko Haram and the government.
Thousands of people are thought to have died already. Many of them are young children.
As an African: it pains me to see this happening on our continent. I feel great sadness, but also anger and humiliation.
As Nigel said: “These are human-made crises. They’re not inevitable. There is no reason, and no excuse in today’s world, for a mother to sleep outdoors on the ground with her children, with little food or water and fearing for their lives. This should not happen”.
Governments must act. We need an injection of aid, backed by diplomatic courage to tackle the causes of these crises. State, national and international political leadership is needed now to address the immediate crisis and bring an end to the conflict.
Oxfam is doing what we can – delivering on the front-lines to those in need and pushing decision makers to act. This is a journey Nigel and I wish we had never had to make – but we are so glad we have come here to see this crisis first-hand and meet these brave people. We will do our utmost to share what we have seen, and push decision-makers to avert catastrophic loss of life.
And we must tell you: in these past few days, in the midst of such suffering, we’ve had cause for hope.
We’ve seen communities sharing what little they have with others in greater need. We’ve spoken with strong women who are stepping up as leaders in their communities. We’ve been greeted with warmth and gratitude by people who have been through so much, and have so little.
Political leaders can still – and must – avert catastrophic loss of life. We need an immediate and sweeping response. Governments must end this betrayal of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Day 1

Winnie, Nigel and the team visited Oxfam’s programs in and around Maidaguri, in northeast Nigeria. Oxfam is responding to the crisis there by providing access to food through distributions and cash for people to use in local markets, clean water and sanitation and helping people to keep themselves safe. During the visit, they met with senior State Government leadership, including the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government and the State Attorney General. They discussed key issues including the stark number of people at risk of starvation in the state, improving coordination between the humanitarian community and the state government, government funding and leadership in the response and secondary displacement.

They also visited Kushari, an area of Maiduguri, which is in Northeast Nigeria, where local families and those who have arrived in town fleeing violence live together and share what little they have. They heard examples of host families giving those in greater need their clothes, food and more to help support them. This generosity in the face of one’s own dire need is an inspiring common theme across this hunger crisis, which comes from the tradition and culture of community that has always been so strong in this region and the rest of Africa. Oxfam rehabilitated two boreholes in Kushari, giving both local and displaced families access to safe and clean water.

Photos: Tom Saater/Oxfam.