Press Releases

Oxfam Reactive: Minister Simon Coveney’s comments on vaccine inequality

27 April 2021

In response to Minister Simon Coveney’s comments on vaccine inequality, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

"We welcome Minister Coveney’s comments about the need to ensure that protection of vaccine patents and intellectual property rights don’t undermine efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally. We echo the Minister’s call for vaccine makers to share manufacturing know how and capacity more widely around the world. The proposal for a TRIPS waiver at the WTO is a suitable mechanism to help achieve this.

"On Friday, the EU has an opportunity to ensure intellectual property rights are not protected above human life. We call on Ireland to end its support of the EU’s position and engage with fellow member states to reverse the EU's continued opposition to this essential intervention - that is supported by over 100 low-and middle-income countries.

"This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership on the world stage in the interest of the world’s most vulnerable people. Ireland should, with other EU countries, follow Belgium’s example who just this week came out in support of the TRIPS waiver.

"Leaving low-income countries, some of which are the hardest hit by resurging waves of the virus, dependant on handouts and leftovers will not remedy the pandemic. We have the tools to overcome Covid-19 – now let's share them. This is after all a global health emergency."



Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165


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Irish politicians across political spectrum call on EU to support TRIPS Waiver

  • Over 300 MEPs and MPs Join Chorus of Voices Calling for a TRIPS Waiver at the WTO
  • TRIPS waiver - powerful and effective way governments can demonstrate commitment to global cooperation

27 April 2021

Ahead of the next TRIPS Council meeting at the WTO this Friday, Irish politicians from nearly every political party, including Independents and Senators, have signed a joint appeal, alongside hundreds of MEPs and members of national Parliaments across the EU, expressing their unequivocal support for the TRIPS waiver.

Their call joins 175 Nobel laureates and former Heads of State and Governments, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists, trade unions, NGOs and the general public as the European Commission and Member States, including Ireland, continue to oppose the patent waiver, which would help increase global production and availability of Covid-19 vaccines and related equipment globally.

Closer to home, organisations campaigning for a People’s Vaccine have sent letters to the Committee on EU Affairs and the Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment asking them to review Ireland’s support of the EU’s opposition to the TRIPS waiver. A letter will also be sent to Minister Coveney this week to ask the Irish Government to implement the recommendations of the report of the Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence on the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Momentum behind the call for support of the TRIPS waiver is growing significantly. It is fantastic to see so many of our own politicians now publicly adding their names in support of this life saving measure that could move us towards vaccine equity.

“Just last week, in response to queries from Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Deputy Robert Troy, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said that there is ‘an important opportunity for Ireland to be a leader in ensuring the safe and equitable distribution of vaccines to all’.

“And he is correct. Supporting the TRIPS waiver would be among the most powerful and effective available ways for governments to demonstrate their commitment to global cooperation and increase global access to vaccines.

“We call on Ireland to end its opposition to the TRIPS waiver and work to persuade their EU colleagues to support this proposal from over 100 countries at the WTO meeting this Friday.

"Reports from India this week indicate that they are losing one life every four minutes as the country grapples under a new wave of the virus. These are the types of headlines we can avoid moving forward – but only if there is a united response to ending the pandemic. 

“If the situation remains unchanged, the interests and profits of the few will determine the fate of the many.

“It is not too late for Ireland, or the European Commission and EU governments, to change course and finally listen to leading experts, elected representatives and the people who hold the most power – their voting public."



Caroline Reid |

Notes to the Editor

This press release is the result of a coordinated effort led by Health Action International (HAI) and is endorsed by a further group of 24 European and International civil society organisations:

  • Irish politicians who signed the appeal: John Brady (SF), Matt Carthy (SF), Joan Collins (IND), Gerard P Craughwell (IND), David Cullinane (SF), Mairéad Farrell (SF), Gary Gannon (SD), Seán Haughey (FF), Alice-Mary Higgins (IND), Neasa Hourigan (GP), Vincent P. Martin (GP), Paul Murphy (PBP), Cian O'Callaghan (SD), Marc Ó Cathasaigh (GP). 
  • For supporting quotes from MEPs and endorsing organisations, see here
  • The joint appeal (signed by 388 MPs and MEPs) can be found here.
  • For questions and further information about the joint appeal, please contact Jaume Vidal ( and Alex Lawrence (
  • In October 2020, South Africa and India submitted a proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to temporarily waive certain intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until widespread vaccination is in place globally. Since then, and despite the growing support for the initiative, the discussions have not gone beyond the exchange of clarifications and additional explanations. This is due to the opposition of a handful of countries, most notably the EU and its Member States, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, among others. 
  • It is evident that there are insufficient vaccine doses because of limited manufacturing capabilities and other challenges to the supply chain. Traditional voluntary mechanisms will not and cannot deliver the scale-up of production and technology transfer needed to respond to this challenge. Initiatives like the COVAX facility depend heavily on pledges and commitments that have yet to materialise, and in any case would be insufficient to provide the level of coverage needed to bring a timely end to the pandemic. As the Director General of the World Health Organisation has said, we face the risk of a “catastrophic moral failure”.


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And we’re back – Oxfam Ireland launch volunteer appeal ahead of Northern Ireland shops reopening

  • Bag up you pre-loved items for donation – Oxfam Ireland  
  • Support people and planet by shopping at Oxfam  

26 April

This Friday, 30th April, Oxfam shops across Northern Ireland will reopen for business (and donations!) but the top priority for the organisation is new volunteers to lend a hand in their network of shops across Northern Ireland.  

Volunteers play a vital role in Oxfam’s work globally, while also providing a solution to throwaway fashion by saving items from ending up in landfills here at home. By giving a little of their time and creativity, each one makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world, while helping our planet along the way.

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland, said: "As our shop teams swing back into action in preparation for their long-awaited reopening, we have launched an appeal across Northern Ireland for volunteers to join our teams. 

“I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time to make an application through our online portal - people can give as little or as much time as they like, and we provide full training. Oxfam shops are a hive of activity with plenty of opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and of course, have lots of fun.” 

At the end of December, Oxfam shops in Northern Ireland, along with many other local businesses closed their doors for the third time since the pandemic was declared – to their protect staff, volunteers, donors and customers and play their part in Northern Ireland’s response to Covid-19.

Anderson continued: “The loss of income during this period dealt a blow as the income our shops generate is central to supporting Oxfam's global work to beat poverty and fight inequality. However, we have amazing supporters who have helped us bounce back after each lockdown by shopping and donating to their local Oxfam shop, and we expect this time to be no different. 

“Our shop Managers are in store from Friday, 23 April, and will be accepting donations from members of the public.  We would also ask people to work with us as we reopen, to ensure everyone has a safe and positive experience when visiting our shops.

"We're really looking forward to seeing all of our staff and volunteers in store again, doing what they do best, and we're so excited to welcome our customers and donors back.

"It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff, volunteers, and supporters that Oxfam can change lives and work toward building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.”

Apply to volunteer with your local Oxfam shop here:

Find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop here:



Caroline Reid | +353 87 912 3165 |

Notes to the Editor

Safety measures Oxfam Ireland Shops will be taking:

  • All shops have a suite of PPE: sneeze screens in front of the tills, social distancing measures and messaging throughout the shop and a sanitation station at the entrance. 
  • Staff and volunteers will wear masks and they will have an infrared thermometer in each shop to ensure regular check-ups - as well plenty of handwashing - throughout the day. 
  • We do expect a surge in donations and have put guidelines and processes in place to manage this eventuality.  
  • As part of the overall ‘Covid Compliant Reopening Plan’ which focuses on the Health & Safety of our Staff, Volunteers, Customers and Donors we will be following the up to date government guidelines regarding the quarantining of donations 
  • All shops have had a risk assessment carried out and all staff and volunteers will be taken through Covid-19 Compliant Health & Safety training before they start their shift. 
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Hundreds of NGOS call on governments to increase aid to prevent global hunger crisis

  • UN warning of “famines of biblical proportions” goes unheeded with only five percent of food security appeal funded

20 April 2021

Today, more than 200 NGOs published an open letter calling on all governments to urgently increase aid to prevent over 34 million people from being pushed to the brink of starvation this year. 

A year on since the UN warned of “famines of biblical proportions”, rich donors have funded just five percent of the UN’s $7.8 billion food security appeal for 2021, while globally, world food prices reached a seven-year high in February of this year.

At the end of 2020, the UN estimated that 270 million people were either at high risk of, or already facing, acute levels of hunger. While 174 million people in 58 countries have reached that level already and are at risk of dying from malnutrition or lack of food, and this figure is only likely to rise in coming months if nothing is done immediately.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “While both the Irish government and public have been consistently generous in their support of aid efforts, global funding is not keeping pace with the increasing need - even with extreme hunger crises looming for millions more people across the world.

"Conflict is the biggest driver of global hunger, which is also exacerbated by climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic."

From Yemen, to Afghanistan, South Sudan and Northern Nigeria, conflicts and violence are forcing millions to the brink of starvation, with many people living in conflict zones sharing horrifying stories of hunger and the impact on food supplies.

Fayda from Lahj governorate in Yemen says: “When humanitarian workers came to my hut, they thought I had food because smoke was coming from my kitchen. But I was not cooking food for my children – instead, I could only give them hot water and herbs, after which they went to sleep hungry.”

Nearly two out of every five families in Yemen buy food and medicines using debt, according to Oxfam research, which revealed that Yemeni families are trapped in a cycle of informal debt, living precariously and reliant on good will as they lurch from one month to the next.  

Amb. Ahmed Shehu, Regional Coordinator for the Civil Society Network of Lake Chad Basin said: “The situation here is really dire. Seventy percent of people in this region are farmers but they can’t access their land because of violence, so they can’t produce food. These farmers have been providing food for thousands for years – now they have become beggars themselves. Food production is lost, so jobs are lost, so income is lost, so people cannot buy the food. Then, we as aid workers cannot safely even get to people to help them.” 

Clarken Concluded: "Ireland, as a recently elected member of the UN Security Council, now has an important role in promoting respect of international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in time of armed conflict.  

"At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic the UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire to address the pandemic but too few leaders have sought to implement it.

“Together, we must now push global leaders to support durable and sustainable solutions to conflict, and open pathways for humanitarians to access communities in conflict zones to save lives.”



Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor


Oxfam International Executive Director, Gabriela Bucher said:  

“The richest countries are slashing their food aid even as millions of people go hungry; this is an extraordinary political failure. They must urgently reverse these decisions. And we must confront the fundamental drivers of starvation – global hunger is not about lack of food, but a lack of equality.”  

David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee, said:  

“The worsening rate of global hunger is horrifying to witness. Every day we are seeing the human cost of hunger play out in the countries where we work. World leaders must act now to prevent unprecedented levels of suffering, through increased funding and diplomatic efforts to end conflict and improve humanitarian access.” 
CARE International Secretary General, Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro said:  

“Whether Yemen, Syria or the DRC, funding to respond to the hunger crisis is not materializing. Yet trillions are invested in rescue packages for corporates all over the world. Donors must step up. It is not a matter of affordability; it is a matter of political will. CARE’s evidence base tells us that for every dollar women earn, 80 cents go back into the family, compared with 30 cents of every dollar men earn. Gender inequality is a key predictor of the occurrence and recurrence of armed conflict. If we fail to grasp this simple fact, we will fail to prevent or effectively counter famine. 

Save the Children’s CEO, Inger Ashing said:  

"We have warned donors over and over again – their inaction is leading to death and despair among children, as we see in countries across the globe every single day. A pledging conference for Yemen in early March did not even raise half of the funds needed, and that country is at a tipping point. It’s painful, because governments have the money. That thousands of children will be dying of hunger and disease in 2021 is a political choice – unless governments radically choose to help save the lives of children.”  

The Danish Refugee Council Secretary General, Charlotte Slente said:  

“Among the growing number of refugees and displaced persons, lack of access to food severely worsens an already critical situation. DRC calls on all governments to act now to prevent global hunger from adding further destitution to the world’s most vulnerable groups of people.”

World Vision International President & CEO, Andrew Morley said:  

“Let me be direct: there is no place or excuse for famine in the 21st century. The fact we have reached this point shows there has been a clear and catastrophic moral failure by the international community. A generation of girls and boys needs us to bring hope, supporting and empowering them to reach their full potential. Children of the world are looking to us to act.” 

Interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide,Tufail Hussain, said: 

“Cutting aid in the middle of a pandemic is morally abhorrent and risks rolling back decades of development. Failure to act now will cast a shadow over generations to come, as malnutrition affects young children’s cognitive and physical development for the rest of their lives. The world must not wait for famine to be declared before helping people who are starving right now. We are calling for global solidarity to end hunger and stand with the world’s poorest people.”

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said:  

“We are witnessing a devastating global hunger crisis, which will hit girls and women the hardest. In countries like South Sudan, we are already hearing reports of hunger-related deaths and families going entire days without food. Others are making heartbreaking choices, marrying their daughters early or saving what little food they have for working members of the household. It is critical that world leaders step up and provide more funding for humanitarian assistance – otherwise, we risk millions of avoidable deaths.” 

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EU must urgently reconsider opposition to TRIPS waiver - Mary Robinson

  •  Former President Mary Robinson and Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire call on President Biden to waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines 

16 April 2021

Today, former Irish President and UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson called on EU’s leaders “to put the collective right to safety for all ahead of everything else - and come together to end this pandemic”. Robinson’s comments come after news that US President Joe Biden is considering supporting a patent waiver of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines at the international level. 

The waiver of intellectual property rules, known as the TRIPS waiver, would allow for a scale up in manufacturing globally, overcoming artificial supply constraints while helping to reduce further distribution crises.  

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The continuance of monopoly control by a small number of vaccine makers, and the resulting global vaccine inequality, is leaving millions of lives hanging in the balance by putting corporate profit before people. 

 “Oxfam fully support Mary Robinson’s call for EU leaders to urgently reconsider their opposition to the TRIPS waiver - and offer their full support . By doing this, the European Union will not only save millions of peoples’ lives, but also mitigate the risk to our economies and the current backslide in workplace gender equality.” 

Earlier this week, the former Irish President added her name to an open letter to Biden. The letter was sent to the White House as news spread about the pausing of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine – which will severely hinder vaccine roll out plans across the world, including in Ireland.  

Alongside Robinson, Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and more than 150 former heads of state and Nobel laureates, called on President Biden to support the TRIPS waiver and pursue a people’s vaccine to end the pandemic.  

While there have been some welcome steps to increase the supply of vaccines to poor countries, including from Ireland, they remain insufficient when compared to the scale of the Covid-19 threat. 

In February, Oxfam Ireland, along with a number of organisations, networks and health professionals wrote an open letter to Micheál Martin, urgently requesting Ireland’s support for this temporary emergency waiver, which is currently supported by more than 100 nations. 

Clarken concluded: “To control the virus, the simple reality is, enough vaccines need to be produced in different geographies, priced affordably, and allocated globally. Low-income countries should not be forced to wait for vaccines to trickle down to them.

 “Ireland has a well-deserved reputation of supporting the human rights of the world’s poorest people. At this critical moment in history, we should reaffirm our values and leadership on the world stage by, as the letter to Biden states, choosing ‘to put the collective right to safety for all ahead of the commercial monopolies of the few’. 

 “Covid-19 is a public health crisis, and as such demands a global solution. It is time to break from old ways, and pave new ones that we can all have an equal footing on."



Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165 

Editor's Notes 

  • See Mary Robinson's op-ed in the UK Times here.
  • The full letter to President Biden and list of signatories can be found here

The letter specifically asks President Biden to support a proposal from the South African and Indian governments at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive intellectual property rules related to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. At the current pace of vaccine production, most poor nations will be left waiting until at least 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation.

The leaders also called for the intellectual property waiver to be accompanied by the open sharing of vaccine know-how and technology, and by coordinated and strategic global investment in research, development, and manufacturing capacity, especially in developing countries, underscoring that threats to public health are global and require global solidarity-based solutions.       

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister; François Hollande, former French president; Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the USSR. 

The letter, which was coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 organisations including Oxfam, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now and Avaaz, warned that at the current global immunisation rate, it was likely that only 10 percent of people in the majority of poor countries will be vaccinated in the next year.  

  • The open letter sent to Micheál Martin in February by an Irish Coalition can be found here.  



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