Press Releases

Oxfam urges UN Security Council to inject new urgency into peace talks to end conflict in Yemen

25th January 2022

Oxfam today called on the UN Security Council to condemn the recent attacks in Yemen and inject new urgency into peace talks to end the seven-year conflict. The call follows airstrikes that have killed and injured hundreds of civilians in the last week and led to the suspension of humanitarian aid in parts of the country.   At the same time, people are struggling with spiraling prices for food, fuel, and basic essentials in what was already one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.  

Speaking from Sana’a,  Abdulwasea Mohammed, Oxfam’s Yemen Advocacy, Campaigns and Media Manager said:  

“People are really struggling. Last night we had more airstrikes. Everyone is frightened. Children are traumatized – we tell them don’t worry it’s all fine but they wake up to the sound of massive explosions just like we do. Each night we go to bed and just pray we wake up in the morning. 

“We’ve lived with war for nearly seven years but the last few days have been the worst and I’m worried about what the next hours will bring.  

“The violence must end immediately so families can feel safe in their homes, and humanitarian agencies can resume lifesaving work. But we need more than a ceasefire, as in the past these have not led to sustainable peace.  The UN Security Council needs to inject new urgency into talks to ensure an end to the conflict and all sides must agree to prioritize the lives of Yemenis above all else.”  

This latest escalation has ground some urgent humanitarian work to a halt. Oxfam has been temporarily forced to suspend work in several areas due to concerns for staff safety and the movement restrictions imposed by the authorities due to the increased violence.  Lack of fuel also threatens aid deliveries to vulnerable communities.  

Over the last few days, prices have spiraled due to the bombardment. Fuel has almost tripled in price, in turn driving up prices of essentials like food, water and medicines that are transported by trucks around the country. As over 80 percent of people in Sana’a rely on water delivered by truck, this price increase threatens a major public health emergency.  

In many places, fuel is not available, even on the unofficial markets.   Electricity supplies are restricted as local private power grid companies are struggling to buy the fuel needed to provide electric power. While necessities are pushed even further out of reach, the vital lifeline of remittance payments sent from family living abroad as well as domestic money transactions (hawalah system) was cut for days due to the lack of internet. The telecommunications outage left families struggling to make contact with loved ones, further adding to their trauma. 

Mohammed said: 

“In recent weeks, the UN Security Council has reacted strongly to violence against civilians in other countries emanating from Yemen, but not to widespread attacks taking place in Yemen. To fulfill its responsibility to uphold international peace and security, the Council must demonstrate the same concern for Yemenis as it does for others across the region and the world.”   

Since the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen - the UN-appointed body responsible for monitoring human rights abuses in Yemen - was disbanded in October last year there is no international monitoring of human rights violations. The Civilian Impact Monitoring Project reported that there was a 66 percent increase in civilians killed in the last three months of 2021 compared to the previous quarter. 

Since the start of the conflict in 2015 over four million people have been displaced inside Yemen, many multiple times as frontlines shift. There have been nearly 14,000 civilian casualties and over 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.    

ENDS

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Rich countries have received more vaccines in run-up to Christmas than African countries have all year

Published: 24th December 2021

  • The EU, UK and US have received more doses in the last six weeks than African countries have received all year.

  • Global rollout at speed of UK’s booster programme could vaccinate the world by February.

  • At current rates vaccine manufacturers will fail to deliver enough doses to fully vaccinate everyone in Africa by next Christmas.

More doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to the EU, the UK and the US in the six-week run up to Christmas than African countries have received all year, new analysis from the People’s Vaccine Alliance reveals today.

As COVID-19 clouds a second Christmas season in uncertainty and fear in many countries, campaigners warn that governments risk trapping the world in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions and even lockdowns, if low vaccination rates are allowed to persist in the global south.  

Low and middle-income countries must be allowed to manufacture vaccines themselves to end vaccine inequality and prevent variants from derailing future Christmases, campaigners warn.

Between 11 November and 21 December 2021, the EU, UK and US have received 513 million doses of vaccines while countries in Africa received just 500 million throughout the whole of 2021. 

The UK government, facing a rapid surge in Omicron variant, has a target of administering one million booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines a day in response, equivalent to vaccinating 1.46 percent of the population every day. If every country was able to vaccinate at the same rate as the UK target, it would take just 68 days to deliver a first dose to everyone who needs one, leaving no one unvaccinated by the end of February 2022.

Just 8.6 percent of people in Africa have been fully vaccinated to date and at the current rate of delivery by vaccine manufacturers, it won’t be until April 2023 that everyone will receive their first dose. Recent research found that 78 percent of people in Africa are willing to get vaccinated, higher than in many rich countries.

G7 countries will have 1.4 billion surplus doses by March 2022, even after giving all adults a booster but are failing to deliver on donation pledges. The US has delivered just a quarter of the vaccines it promised to donate while the UK and Germany have delivered 15 percent and 14 percent respectively.

Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager, Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “Make no mistake rich country governments are to blame for the uncertainty and fear that is once again clouding Christmas. By blocking the real solutions to vaccine access in poorer countries they are prolonging the pandemic and all its suffering for every one of us. 

“Rich countries are banking on boosters to keep them safe from Omicron and future variants of COVIDd-19. But boosters can never be more than a temporary and inadequate firewall. Extinguishing the threat of variants and ending this pandemic requires vaccinating the world. And that means sharing vaccine recipes and letting developing countries manufacture jabs for themselves.”

Experts have raised concerns that low vaccine coverage in the global south created conditions where a variant like Omicron was likely to emerge. Nine months ago, a survey of leading epidemiologists warned that persistent low vaccine coverage in parts of the world increased the risk of vaccine resistant variants emerging within a year or less.  

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, said: “If we ever want to have a normal Christmas again, we need to vaccinate the world. But right now, the UK and EU are holding back international efforts to use and expand manufacturing and distribution capacity in low and middle-income countries. It’s reckless and risks trapping us in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions and even lockdowns.”

In October 2020, India and South Africa proposed a waiver of intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to allow low and middle-income countries to manufacture these life-saving tools. Despite most countries, including the United States, supporting a waiver, the UK, EU, and Switzerland have prevented progress.

Maaza Seyoum from the African Alliance said: “Leaders in the global north have so far chosen the obscene profits of pharmaceutical companies over the lives of people in Africa. But the Omicron variant shows that vaccine inequality is a threat to everyone, everywhere. Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz, and European leaders need to finally support an intellectual property waiver and let Africa and the global south unlock its capacity to manufacture and distribute vaccines. Otherwise, humanity will never beat the race against the next variant.”

Human Rights Watch and Médecins Sans Frontières identified over 100 manufacturers that could produce mRNA vaccines if intellectual property barriers were removed and pharmaceutical companies transferred the technology and knowhow needed.

Despite already making billions in profit, Pfizer and Moderna continue to refuse to share the new generation of vaccine technology with the WHO’s mRNA hub in South Africa. WHO scientists are now attempting to reverse engineer Moderna’s US-taxpayer-funded vaccine, a process that could take two years longer than if the company shared its vaccine recipe.

Every major vaccine provider has boycotted the WHO’s COVID-19 technology access pool (C-TAP), a technology transfer programme established in May 2020 to share the recipe and knowhow needed to manufacture coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments. 

In a video marking World Aids Day, Prince Harry called on governments to break vaccine monopolies, joining over 170 former world leaders and Nobel Laureates, the Pope and more than 13 million people in their support for the waiver.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Data on delivery from Airfinity, analysed by People’s Vaccine Alliance.

In total the EU and UK and US have received over 2 billion vaccine doses, including boosters, as well as first and second doses.

Our World in Data was used to calculate how many doses were needed to vaccinate people in Africa.

Over the last 40 days, African countries are receiving on average enough doses to fully vaccinate 3 million a day (fully vaccinates is 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson and 2 doses for all other vaccines). At this rate, it will take 438 days for everyone currently unvaccinated in Africa to be fully vaccinated. 

While rich countries have cut bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies to secure dose, poorer countries have depended on Covax, the multilateral mechanism for equitably distributing COVID-19 vaccines, which has repeatedly cut delivery forecasts, as well as a trickle of donations from wealthy countries which are often close to their expiry dates.

Numbers of doses donated by rich countries.

Pharmaceutical monopolies will net Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna $34 billion this year in pre-tax profits.
 

As fighting intensifies thousands displaced by Yemen conflict could be forced to flee again, Oxfam warns

December 16th 2021

A recent increase in fighting across Yemen has forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes in the last three months, prompting Oxfam to warn that further mass displacements are imminent. Over 120 civilians have been killed in the last two months with people facing danger from airstrikes, missile and shell fire, landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Fighting has increased in recent weeks, particularly in resource rich Marib governorate where fierce clashes are concentrated to the south and west of Marib city around the Balaq mountains. Since September, 46,000 people have fled to Marib city or the Al Wadi district to the east, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Local authorities in Yemen have put the number at over 96,000.

Marib City had a population of 41,000 people only seven years ago but now hosts over one million people who have sought a safer place to live. Marib governorate is home to between one and two million displaced people.

Oxfam Yemen’s country director Muhsin Siddiquey said:
“There is fighting on all frontlines around Marib - previously it was only in certain areas. We are worried that we will not be able to reach some displaced people because they are so close to active frontlines. We are constantly trying to support more people in Marib but we need to be able to help them safely. We’ve already had to move our cash distributions as frontlines shift. Our team keep witnessing shelling in populated areas every week.”

As well as trying to flee the fighting, displaced people are dying in the harsh winter conditions. Local media have reported that an elderly lady and a young baby died at the weekend.

Many people have been forced to flee several times and Oxfam is concerned that they have nowhere left to run. Land to the east of Marib is dry and with scarce resources.

Salem* and his family had to live in caves and drink pond water when they were first displaced. They fled to two different camps before eventually reaching Alswidan camp on the outskirts of Marib. Each time, he and his family would leave everything behind and walk for hours to reach their next safe location. He said:

“People in the camp are always afraid of military actions that could hit them anytime. We all live in anxiety. I can’t even leave the camp for a short time. I live with fear about my family and my family sleep and wake up frightened.”

Marib is not the only area affected by the recent increase in violence. Civilians have suffered losses in attacks carried out by different warring parties across the country. In October, fierce fighting near Al-Abdiyah severely restricted humanitarian access and access to hospitals, leading to concerns that situation may be repeated in Marib.

During nearly seven years of conflict, over four million people have been forced from their homes and there have been over 18,500 direct civilian casualties. Over two-thirds of Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

The UN Human Rights Council voted to end the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, the body responsible for monitoring human rights in Yemen, in early October. All parties in Yemen’s protracted conflict have been responsible for civilian casualties.

Siddiquey said:
“Humanitarian Law clearly states that civilian areas must not be targeted in any conflict. Yet civilians continue to be killed and homes and other civilian infrastructure continue to be destroyed. This crisis is getting worse, as is daily life for Yemeni civilians caught in the crossfire. The international community must urgently negotiate a lasting peace.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Salem* (name changed to protect identity)

Displacement information from IOM:https://www.iom.int/sitreps/yemen-marib-response-flash-update-20-27-november-2021" target="_blank and https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/20211025_RDT_Weekly%20Update-%2017-%2023%20Oct%202021.pdf

Death of elderly lady and young baby

Civilian casualties taken from figures compiled by https://civilianimpactmonitoring.org/ and Yemen Data project : https://mailchi.mp/99878f9c6934/december2021-yemen-data-project-update-6531620?e=33bbd0634b

Oxfam press release: Reaction to today’s decision by the UN Human Rights Council to withdraw the mandate to the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen 7 October 2021

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Leading medics and scientists request meeting with Taoiseach on TRIPS waiver in relation to Omicron fears

Over 400 leading doctors and scientists have issued a letter to An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, requesting a meeting regarding vaccine inequity and the Omicron variant. A small representation from the Doctors for Vaccine Equity group, who are part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland, and the Irish Society of Immunology presented the letter to the Taoiseach’s office today (09.12.2021).

This group of doctors and scientists is calling on the Government to work towards temporarily suspending patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments in order to increase their  production and thereby , increase access in low- and middle-income countries. Signatories include Professor Kingston Mills, Professor Sam McConkey, Professor Cliona Ni Cheallaigh and Professor Luke O’Neill.

Speaking at the handover of the letter today, Dr Christine Kelly, founding member of Doctors for Vaccine Equity and an Infectious Diseases SpR and Honorary Clinical Fellow at UCD, said:

“Viral mutations occur when viruses replicate, meaning that the more virus is circulating in a population, the higher the risk of new mutations. Leaving large populations unvaccinated is increasing the risk of new variants, like we are seeing now with Omicron.”

Echoing Dr Kelly, Professor Cliona O’Farrelly, PhD, Professor of Comparative Immunology TCD, said: “It is becoming increasingly urgent to address the issue of vaccine inequity which is making sure these variants are a constant threat. This is why we are seeking a meeting with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD as a matter of urgency to ensure Ireland is working to support the TRIPS waiver which would allow greater access to vaccine technologies across the globe.

“Vaccine inequity is having a profound impact not just on people living in low-income countries who have little or no access to vaccines and vaccine technologies but is effecting everyone on the planet. Variants like Omicron will continue to threaten all health systems including our own here in Ireland, as we struggle to deal with increasing case numbers and our hospitals become too overwhelmed by Covid to cope with other sick patients.

“Vaccine inequity is a human rights issue, we have a moral obligation. We have the knowledge and strategies available to protect the lives of millions of people in low-income countries, particularly in the continent of Africa.

“We are urging the Government to adopt a global viewpoint in our handling of the pandemic – only though working to facilitate equitable access to vaccines will we be able to effectively bring the pandemic under control.”

Oxfam Ireland online Christmas shop now open

  • Oxfam's online Christmas shop is back this year!

  • Go green and power people this Christmas with Oxfam’s online gift range 

  • Check out our amazing gift range of the latest Tech and gadgets

Oxfam Ireland have officially relaunched their online Christmas shop calling on people to do something precious this Christmas by giving gifts that support both people and planet. 

The charity is calling on the public to shop with purpose this year by visiting their new online pop-up shop to browse their wide range of gifts. Each gift makes a lasting impact by supporting small traders the world over and helping to raise vital funds for Oxfam’s global work to beat poverty.

This year we also have an incredible range of the latest tech and gadgets available from our Christmas shop

The Sourced by Oxfam range contains an abundance of festive food, gifts and eco-products 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 in this year’s gift range include Zaytoun's Extra Virgin Olive Oil (€28). This Fairtrade 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. 

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “This Christmas, we’re asking people to give something different by shopping more sustainably on our new online shop. 

“Everything in our range of gifts is guaranteed to last longer than your festive bottle of wine or foodie hamper 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 lives in Rwanda, Tanzania and beyond, 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.

“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.”

In addition to their online shop, Oxfam also offer their Unwrapped gift collection. With Unwrapped, you are guaranteed to find the perfect card – be it for a winter birthday or wedding, or a quick hello or season’s greetings - in support a cause you or your recipient care about, such as climate change or access to education. People can add a personal message to their gift card either online (e-card) or by hand (Oxfam post you out your Unwrapped card). 

McIlwaine concluded: “Why not commit to give something different as one of your gifts this year? Whether that’s your workplace Kris Kringle or family stocking fillers, Oxfam’s online shop and Unwrapped gift range has you covered.” 

Visit the new Oxfam online shop via https://shop.oxfamireland.org/

To see Oxfam’s full range of Unwrapped gifts, visit oxfamireland.org/unwrapped

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