Press Releases

Over a third of world’s population have no ‘social protection’ to cope with Covid-19 economic crisis

  • Covid-19 – “united the world in fear but has divided it in response”  

New Oxfam research shows that over a third of the world’s population (2.7 billion people) have had no public money to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their new report, Shelter from the Storm, done in partnership with Development Pathways, reviewed government schemes - such as disability, unemployment, child, and elderly benefits - used to help people in 126 low and middle-income countries, finding none of them were adequate to meet people’s needs. 

Overall, the world has spent an additional $11.7 trillion this year to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Of this, $9.8 trillion (83 percent) was spent by 36 rich countries against just $42 billion (0.4 percent) by 59 low-income countries. 

Of additional funds – like Ireland’s PUP scheme - used specifically for social protection measures, of the countries analysed, richer nations spent a rate of $695 per person. In contrast, low-income and emerging countries have spent at a per capita rate of between $28 to as low as $4.  

To make matters worse, rich countries have only increased their aid to developing countries for social protection by $5.8 billion – the equivalent of less than five cents for every $100 raised to tackle Covid-19.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The coronavirus united the world in fear but has divided it in response. The pandemic sparked a laudable global effort that reached nearly two billion more people with social protection support over 2020 but, as of today, more people have been left behind entirely.”

The need for better social protection programs to help people is huge. Half a billion people are now under-employed or out of work, with twice as many women affected as men. Workers in low-income countries have suffered the most, losing 23 percent of their working hours. People are falling into debt, skipping meals, keeping children from school, and selling their assets. Remittance flows from migrant workers to families back home have collapsed, while global poverty and hunger are rocketing.

Clarken said that social protection is both a lifeline and a human right, and one of the most powerful and affordable investments to reduce inequality, vulnerability, poverty and need. 

Clarken continued: “The case for overseas aid, progressive taxation and international solidarity has never been stronger, precisely because of this desperate time in which we are living through.

“All this because inequality is a hard-wired design feature rather than design fault of our global economic system. Millions of desperate people see precious little relief ahead without urgent action.

“Oxfam has reached 11.3 million people through its Covid-19 response programming around the world, however, as much as civil society is mobilising together strongly, with local partners and community leadership to the fore, the scale of people’s need is overwhelming and growing”. 

“Our report illustrates stories like Sovann Vary’s, a single mother who borrowed $5,000 to buy a tuk-tuk when her job as a domestic cleaner ended. She is struggling to repay and is ineligible for the social insurance scheme set up by her Cambodian government. And Brenda Carolina who was similarly rejected from Guatemalan support as an informal garment worker – her family now depends upon sporadic food aid. We’re hearing hundreds of stories like Vary’s and Brenda’s, every day.

“There is still time for developing country governments to step up their support for people by increasing taxes on the richest to pay for decent universal social protection programs. As is there still time for rich nations to increase their aid and currency reserves, and cancel debts, to help poorer countries in their response.”

Oxfam is calling for a Global Fund for Social Protection to avert a huge increase in global inequality and poverty, as a keystone toward a more equal and resilient post-Covid economy. Governments should commit an additional two percent of their GDP into social protection programs and ensure minimum income security for children, the elderly, mothers, and people living with disability.

Clarken concluded: “An unprecedented investment is now required. One that bravely meets the crisis head on.”  



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 


Download the full report | Download the summary

The report finds:

  • 41 percent of the 126 countries studied had social protection schemes consisting of one-off payments, now long exhausted; only 13 percent had programs that lasted longer than six months. Eight out of 10 countries have not reached even half their citizens. 
  • Some countries like South Africa, the Philippines, Namibia and Bolivia were better prepared with near-universal social benefits in place prior to the pandemic. Oxfam says that most other countries could achieve this with better policies and more support. 
  • By 2030, Kenya and Indonesia, for example, could cut their poverty rate by 25 percent and 31 percent respectively by investing 1.7 percent of their GDP now into universal social protection schemes. 
  • Many developing countries have been able to mobilise non-financial help, like food aid, but this is often insufficient to make up the overall gap in formal social protection schemes.

Prior the coronavirus pandemic, up to 4 billion people lacked social protection, according to ILO (World Social Protection Report 2017-19).

The World Bank estimates that 1.3 billion have been reached since with social assistance cash transfer coverage expansion. Source WB: U. Gentilini et al. (2020). Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19. About 2.7 billion people have consequently been left behind. 

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Climate-fuelled La Niña in East Africa will drive millions into hunger, warns Oxfam ahead of UN Climate Action Summit

  • Croplands the size of 56,000 Croke Park stadiums damaged by worst desert locust plague in half a century 
  • “I've never seen infestations like this before”  

Over 50 million people are in need of immediate food assistance in the Horn, East, and Central Africa, with numbers expected to rise as the region braces for harsh, climate fuelled La Niña conditions, Oxfam said today. The warning comes as world leaders prepare to meet for a virtual Climate Ambition Summit.  

From mid-December, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda are likely to suffer from below average rainfall because of a strong La Niña, which could push millions more people to hunger in 2021.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The forecasted dry season will be the last straw for many, devastating their remaining crops and cutting their lifeline of food and income.

“Farmers, who make up almost 80 percent of the region’s population, have already been hit hard by severe floods, the worst desert locust plague in half a century - both supercharged by the climate crisis - as well as the economic fallout of COVID-19 pandemic.”

The climate crisis is already causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East, and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events. 

On top of this heavy rains in locust breeding grounds, again exacerbated by the climate crisis, have led to the biggest swarms in 70 years - killing livestock and causing food shortage. Since January, locusts have caused $8.5 billion worth of damage across the region - 100,000 hectares of cropland in Somalia, an estimated 200,000 hectares in Ethiopia and about 70,000 hectares in Kenya – for context, combined these croplands are the size of more than 56,000 Croke Park stadiums.

The infestation in Ethiopia is feared to be the worst on record at a time of the “meher” harvest, a crop that contributes 80 percent of the country’s total harvest. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, swarms are expected to move south in Somalia and Ethiopia, reaching northern Kenya from mid-December stretching to January. A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre of farmland.

Noor Maalim Abdi, a Kenyan farmer, said: “We used to have three meals a day, but with the locusts and COVID-19, not anymore.  For now, we sell our animals to sustain our families but with the curfews and lockdown it’s not easy. Our movement is restricted.” 

Abdilaahi Wayrah, a Somali farmer who works with Oxfam, said: "The locusts destroyed our crops at the time we were expecting to harvest. I've never seen infestations like this before, and the saddest thing was that we couldn't do anything about it. Then COVID-19 came, and because of the lockdown, seed and pesticides prices went up. We could not afford to buy these necessary things. We don't have enough food at the moment, but we're trying to rebuild again.” 

Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzanian were responsible for less than 0.2 percent of the global carbon emissions between 1990-2015 while the top 10 most polluting countries, including US, China and Japan were responsible for 500 times more carbon in the same period.

Clarken added: “The incredible resilience of the most vulnerable people across the Horn, East, and Central Africa is being tested to breaking point by a combination of disasters that are not of their making.

“Urgent action is needed to provide the assistance desperately needed by millions of people. 

“At the UN Climate Summit, world leaders must commit to more ambitious action to cut carbon emissions and prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. Rich polluting industrial nations must also provide more climate finance for adaptation to help poor communities - and particularly farming communities - adapt to a changing climate. They should also commit to support vulnerable countries with new sources of international finance for loss and damage caused by more extreme and erratic weather.”

Oxfam and its partners are supporting more than 897,000 people in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, and Tanzania with food, clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and seeds. Oxfam has also reached 3.5 million people in September and 2.6 million in October with Covid-related support. 



Alice Dawson-Lyons | | 083 198 1869

Notes to Editors  

  • Croke Park Stadium is 6.5 hectares in size - the combined affected croplands in Somalia (100,000 hectares), Ethiopia (200,000 hectares)  and Kenya (70,000 hectares) are an estimated 370,000 hectares.
  • The total cumulative emissions between 1990-2015 of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda taken together amounted to only 0.89GtCO2. The 10 top emitting countries US, China, Japan, Russia, India, Germany, UK, Italy, Canada, France together emitted about 468GtCO2 over the 25-year period. 
  • The top 10 emitting countries in terms of cumulative emissions 1990-2015 were: US, China, Japan, Russia, India, Germany, UK, Italy, Canada, France. Together they emitted about 468GtCO2 over the 25 years period. 
  • Download Oxfam’s carbon inequality report HERE 
  • La Niña refers to cooler than usual ocean temperatures in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, which occurs on average every 3 - 7 years. It usually affects temperatures, precipitation, and storm patterns in many parts of the world. In East Africa, La Niña results in drier than usual seasons. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) the current La Niña event could last until 2021 and is expected to be moderate to strong.  
  • The climate crisis is causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East, and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts. 
  • Source for agriculture population in East HERE Ethiopia is now the epicentre of the locust crisis. Swarms are moving both towards Somali region but also towards Eritrea and further north to eastern Sudan. If rains continue, we might have another generation developing with three generations breeding between now and April 2021 (FAO).  
  • The pandemic has been having a devastating impact on already fragile livelihoods and unstable economies in the region. Some of these impacts include reduced agricultural productivity, weak supply chains, increased cross border trade tensions, limited employment prospects. 
  • With just 1C of warming, the climate crisis is causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events. Without urgent action scientists predict at least 3C of warming by the end of the century


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Campaigners warn low-income countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against Covid-19 next year

  • Call for People’s Vaccine backed by former President, Mary Robinson 
  • Rich countries have hoarded enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over

An alliance of campaigning organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, and Global Justice Now, today warned that up to 70 low and lower middle-income countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against Covid-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough vaccines are produced globally.   

By contrast, wealthier nations have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations almost three times over by the end of 2021. Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising vaccines so far.  

The organisations, which are part of an alliance calling for a People’s Vaccine, used data collected by science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyse the deals done between countries and the eight leading vaccine candidates. They found that 67 low and lower middle-income countries risk being left behind as rich countries move towards their escape route from this pandemic. Five of the 67 – Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine - have reported nearly 1.5 million cases of Covid-19 between them.  

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said:  “No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket. But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19 for years to come.”   

Heidi Chow, from Global Justice Now, said: “All pharmaceutical corporations and research institutions working on a vaccine must share the science, technological know-how, and intellectual property behind their vaccine so enough safe and effective doses can be produced. Governments must also ensure the pharmaceutical industry puts people’s lives before profits.” 

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling on all pharmaceutical corporations working on Covid-19 vaccines to openly share their technology and intellectual property through the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), so that billions more doses can be manufactured and safe and effective vaccines can be available to all people, regardless of geography.  

The Alliance is also calling on governments to do everything in their power to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are made a global public good—free of charge to the public, fairly distributed and based on need.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said: “The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from Covid-19. Rich countries have clear human rights obligations not only to refrain from actions that could harm access to vaccines elsewhere, but also to cooperate and provide assistance to countries that need it. 

“By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations. Instead, by working with others to share knowledge and scale up supply, they could help bring an end to the global Covid-19 crisis.”

The vaccines developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have received more than $5 billion dollars of public funding, which the alliance said placed a responsibility on them to act in the global public interest. 

Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, from the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “Rich countries have enough doses to vaccinate everyone nearly three times over, whilst poor countries don’t even have enough to reach health workers and people at risk.  

“The current system, where pharmaceutical corporations use government funding for research, retain exclusive rights and keep their technology secret to boost profits, could cost many lives.” 

Lois Chingandu, Director of Frontline AIDS, said: “This pandemic is a global problem that requires a global solution. The global economy will continue to suffer so long as much of the world does not have access to a vaccine. 

“We need to put pharmaceutical industry profit aside during this unprecedented pandemic, both to save humanity and the economy.” 

Momentum is mounting for a People’s vaccine, which has already been backed by Covid survivors, health experts, activists, past and present world leaders, faith leaders and economists including: Mary Robinson, Joseph Stiglitz, Gordon Brown, Cyril Ramaphosa, Imran Khan, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Helen Clark, John Nkengasong and Thomas Piketty. 



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors: 

  • All figures are based on the fact two doses are required apart from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which is a single dose vaccine. 
  • The Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of global and national organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a ‘People’s Vaccine’. The call for a People’s Vaccine is backed by past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists. For more information visit: 
  • The 67 countries are: Afghanistan, Angola, Algeria, Benin, Bhutan, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, The Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kenya, Kiribati, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu, West Bank and Gaza, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe. 
  • The Pfizer /BioNTech vaccine has already received approval in the UK and vaccinations are beginning this week. It is likely to receive approval from other countries including the US within days. Two further potential vaccines, from Moderna and Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca  are expected to submit or are awaiting regulatory approval. The Russian vaccine, Sputnik, has announced positive trial results and four other candidates are in phase three clinical trials.  
  • So far, all of Moderna’s doses and 96 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech’s have been acquired by rich countries. In welcome contrast Oxford/AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 64 percent of their doses to people in developing nations. Yet despite their actions to scale up supply they can still only reach 18 percent of the world’s population next year at most.  Oxford/AstraZeneca deals have also mostly been made with some of the big developing countries like China and India, while the majority of developing countries have not done deals and have to share the COVAX pool of vaccines between them.This demonstrates that one company alone cannot hope to supply the whole world, and that only open sharing of technology between vaccine producers can make this possible. 
  • The figures have been calculated by analysing data from Airfinity for November 2020. The statistic ‘nine out of 10 people missing out on vaccines in 67 countries’ is based on the fact that 30 low income countries and 37 lower-middle income countries currently will only have access to any vaccine through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC). The 67 countries do not include middle income countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam, who have also made their own bilateral deals. So far, the COVAX AMC has managed to secure 700 million doses from the leading vaccine candidates, to be distributed between the 92 countries that have signed up.  The figure was reached by dividing 700 million doses by the population of the 92 countries (3.6 billion), then dividing that by two, as two doses are required by the vaccines already secured by COVAX AMC to vaccinate each individual. Details  of the COVAX AMC can be found here: 
  • Calculations of proportion of doses for rich and poor nations were based on analysing data on supply deals gathered by Airfinity. We examined the vaccine candidates that are in phase three trials that have done significant supply deals with countries across the world, cross-checking with original sources. There are currently eight of these: Astra Zeneca/Oxford, Novovax, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi/GSK, Pfizer/BioNTech, Gamaleya/Sputnik, Moderna and Sinovac.   
  • According to data from Johns Hopkins, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine have had over 1.46m cases between them: 
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Oxfam Ireland on locals to “support people and planet” as shops prepare to reopen for business

  • Go green this Christmas with Oxfam’s sustainable gifts

  • Power people this Christmas with Oxfam’s handmade gifts

  • Oxfam’s Christmas gift range: Something for young and old alike 

30 November

This week, Oxfam Ireland shops around the country will reopen for business after six weeks of closure due to Covid-19. Like many other local businesses, this was the second time they had to close their doors this year – to protect staff, volunteers, and customers and play their part in Ireland’s response measures to save lives. 

As they reopen their doors, Shop Mangers are encouraging people to give something precious this Christmas - a gift that supports both people and planet - buy picking up an ethical and sustainable present in-store. 

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: "We are calling people to shop with purpose this year by visiting their local Oxfam shop and browsing our wide range of gifts that support both people and planet - from Unwrapped alternative gift cards to the beautifully unique ‘Sourced by Oxfam’ items. Each gift makes a lasting impact by supporting small traders the world over while helping to raise vital funds for Oxfam’s global work to beat poverty.”

Available online and in-store, there are new additions in Oxfam’s Unwrapped gift cards for 2020. The new range includes the Congratulations on your New Kid card (€15) that supports communities who depend on healthy animals for their livelihood as well as the Happy BEE-day card (€20), which provide brighter futures by helping parents earn enough to cover essentials like school fees. Or perhaps you’d prefer to give a Get Well Soon card (€5) that also helps give families who have lost everything access to clean water and decent sanitation to stop the spread of deadly diseases. 

Meanwhile in-store, the Sourced by Oxfam range contains an abundance of festive food, gifts and homeware that are made with care, protect the planet, and help the women and men who produce them to earn a decent living – providing them with a way to lift themselves out of poverty. Present ideas new to this year’s gift range include more Fairtrade food choices like the Zambian Honey Gift Set (€17), colourful Handmade Embroidered Wash Bags (€11) and lots of notebooks, decorations and homeware like Brass Photo Holder Sets (€6) to keep those special memories safe.

Oxfam shops also have a range of great educational books for children and young people including the ABC of Kindness (€8) and Plastic Planet (€9), and fun Moomin Calendars (€11) to start making plans for 2021. And, for that someone in your life who is notoriously hard to buy for? Pick up a pair of cosy Thermal Socks (€8) (or Novelty Socks (€3) if that’s their thing) and a Matchbox Game or Puzzle (€6)! 

McIlwaine concluded: “Every year we give and receive presents that we don’t necessarily need or want. This Christmas, we’re asking people to give something different by shopping more sustainably with us.

“Everything in our wide range of gifts is guaranteed to last much, much longer than the festive season, as all of them contribute to our mission to beat poverty for good by raising vital funds for our work across the world. 

“From supporting development projects that transform communities, to saving lives through emergency responses in places like Yemen – where millions of people already on the brink of famine now face a deadly winter freeze – your gift will make a difference for people most in need and help to protect our shared planet.”

Commit to #GiveSomethingDifferent as one of your gifts this year by dropping into your local Oxfam shop.

Oxfam Ireland are aiming to have all of their shops in the Republic of Ireland back open for business this week - but ask people to contact their local shop to confirm opening hours.

To find the Oxfam shop nearest to you, visit

To see Oxfam’s full range of Unwrapped gifts, visit

To browse Oxfam’s online Christmas shop, visit 



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165 

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869   


  • Last year alone, the generosity of people shopping at Oxfam, especially at Christmas time, raised enough money to fund life-changing projects that positively impacted the lives of 7.9 million people across 10 countries – including supporting women to develop businesses and earn an income, getting safe, clean water to people in desperate need, and helping communities prepare for extreme weather events.
  • For example, Zaytoun's Fairtrade Extra Virgin Olive Oil is sourced from family-owned olive groves in Palestine. Zaytoun is an award-winning social enterprise where 100 percent of profits are reinvested into furthering their mission of supporting Palestinian farmers by paying a fair price - enabling them to fund community projects and invest in farming tools. 
  • Each of the Unwrapped gifts represent one of four funds – Livelihoods, Saving Lives, Water for All, or Investing in Futures – and all money raised through the sale of Unwrapped cards/e-cards will go toward the relevant fund and help Oxfam's work worldwide. For more information on Unwrapped
  • Selection of images free for use:
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“Let’s talk about #FirstWorldProblems…” – Oxfam Ireland

  • New Oxfam campaign highlights how we’re #OneWorld and all part of solutions to global issues

Oxfam Ireland is calling on people to talk about #FirstWorldProblems, tapping into the often-trending topic to start a new conversation around the issues facing us as a global community.  

The charity’s #FirstWorldProblems campaign launched today with the release of a short online video suggesting there aren’t actually any first world problems, just one world facing global issues that affect us all.

Using the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems is a good reminder that we’re all aware there are bigger – and much less trivial – problems facing people around the world.

But it can suggest that those problems are removed from our lives here in Ireland when in reality, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve never been more aware of how connected we are.

Oxfam Ireland’s #FirstWorldProblems campaign aims to highlight how the biggest problems facing our global community – from poverty and inequality to discrimination, conflict and climate change – are shared, but so to are the solutions.

It also aims to show how the people of Ireland are part of those solutions every day, including through their contribution to Ireland’s overseas development programme, Irish Aid where they contribute a small portion of their taxes to support development and humanitarian work carried out by organisations like Oxfam Ireland.

People can watch the full #FirstWorldProblems video and find out more about the campaign at


CONTACT: For interviews or more information, please contact:

Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

Notes to the Editor:

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