Press Releases

Opportunity to ramp up production of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines worldwide opposed by EU, again

Media Reactive

World Trade Organisation members (who met today for a council on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) have just agreed that they will engage in a text-based process on waiving Intellectual Property rules on Covid-19 vaccines, test and treatments. This means a deal, which would see a temporarily suspension of Intellectual Property, is increasingly likely. However, Europe and key governments are continuing to oppose.

In response, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “This move to text-based negotiations is good news, because it means all WTO member states acknowledge that pharmaceutical monopolies are blocking access to life saving vaccines for millions of people and that this needs to be addressed.

“However, it is shameful that in the midst of a pandemic it has taken eight long painful months and 2.7 million deaths from Covid-19 for a handful of wealthy country government blockers to finally agree to enter formal text-based negotiations on this life saving proposal.

“Despite rising infections and the lack of vaccine stock in Africa and other regions of the world, the EU with support from Ireland continues to side with a handful of pharmaceutical corporations in protecting their monopolies against the needs of people around the world.  

“It’s unforgivable that while some are literally fighting for breath and countries continue to be overwhelmed by new waves of the virus, our political leaders continue to oppose what could be a vital breakthrough in ending this pandemic for everyone in rich and poor countries alike.  

“Ireland and the EU should now follow countries like the US and New Zealand and more than 100 developing countries and end their opposition to the TRIPS waiver. Instead, they must work together to deliver urgently needed vaccines to the world.  

“In April, Minister Simon Coveney made favourable comments about the need to ensure that the protection of vaccine patents and intellectual property rights don’t undermine efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally.   

“However, disappointingly, the Irish Government continues to oppose this important measure despite initial signals of support from senior Irish politicians. This is hugely regretful for the billions of unvaccinated people around the world because the reasons put forward by EU leaders to support their approach do not stand up to scrutiny, as we recently detailed in an op-ed.  

"We call on Ireland to end its support of the EU’s position and engage with fellow EU member states to reverse the EU's continued opposition to this essential intervention - that is supported by over 100 low-and middle-income countries.   

“They can do this by backing the TRIPs waiver at the WTO and by supporting the transfer of vaccine technology through the WHO’s Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). More manufacturers are coming forward by the day from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Senegal, Denmark and Canada with offers to make vaccines but are now blocked from doing so.   

“While this proposal should not be seen as a 'magic bullet' to solve global vaccine supply issues it will go a long way to bringing as much vaccine production capacity online as is possible.    

“This opportunity to speed up and scale up the production of Covid-19 vaccines will save lives and livelihoods the world over.

“Oxfam Ireland — along with a number of other NGOs, faith organisations, trade unions, and medical organisations —have proposed that a relevant Oireachtas committee undertake a detailed review of Ireland’s position on the TRIPS waiver as a matter of urgency. As we begin to see the benefits of reaching herd immunity through mass vaccination, our government should not be standing in the way of the world’s poorest citizens being afforded the same access to life-saving medicine.”     

END 

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:

The TRIPS waiver proposal was first presented to the WTO on October 2, 2020. Since then to June 8, 2021, there have been a recorded 2.67 million deaths from Covid-19 worldwide.

WTO delegates agreed an urgent timetable to move negotiations forward ahead of the next General Council meeting in July.

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Millions facing double disaster as second Covid wave overwhelms rural India

3 June 2021

The second wave of Covid-19 has left public healthcare in shambles, warned Oxfam India today, people have lost their lives due to lack of proper medical facilities and infrastructure. While the situation is getting a little under control in cities, it is still very grim in rural India.

Around 65 percent of the total population, which is approximately 1.3 billion, live in rural India where there are issues related to access to medical facilities, hospitals, doctors, technically trained staff and testing facilities. 

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said: “There was a time when we woke up every day to news of death of a friend, family, acquaintance. Villages were even worse off. With no access to health care and no testing, in some cases 20-25 people from a village died within days of each other. No one in India has remained untouched by this pandemic. And most of these lives could have been saved if there was proper, adequate, and affordable healthcare for all.

“People outside the major cities do not have the same access to social media to reach out for help or raise awareness of what is happening. While a lack of testing, healthcare facilities and post-mortems, means large numbers of cases in rural communities are not being recorded.”

Oxfam India plans to strengthen the rural health ecosystem in some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities by providing the necessary tools, training and equipment needed by frontline health workers for early identification of cases and timely referral to health centres. 

While healthcare is the primary focus, Oxfam India is also reaching out to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food. In the long-run Oxfam will work towards providing livelihood support to informal sector workers and their families. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Apart from a healthcare calamity, India was already reeling under economic stress. The sporadic lockdowns and containment zones mean that once again that informal sector workers - from street vendors to domestic workers - are the worst hit. Latest report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that over 10 million Indians lost their jobs in the second Covid wave and around 97 percent of household incomes have fallen since the start of the pandemic last year. 

“Millions who slipped into poverty last year due to job losses are now facing another looming crisis, hunger. India already has the largest population facing food shortages in the world, with an estimated 189 million people in India already undernourished before the pandemic began.

“We have received an incredible response to our India appeal so far. From individual donations to corporate fundraisers – the support from the people and businesses across the island of Ireland has been so heartening and is having a direct and positive impact on the ground. It is fantastic to see such global solidarity in times of crisis. To help overcome the double disaster that Amitabh and his team are seeing right now in rural India, please support Oxfam’s India Crisis Appeal at www.oxfamireland.org, to provide much needed food and health care supplies to the people who need it most."

END

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Reid | Oxfam Ireland | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Savvy Soumya Misra | Oxfam India | savvy@oxfamindia.org    

Notes to the Editors:  

  • In the second wave, Oxfam India is working with the government and local administrations to deploy 7 Oxygen generation plants, 25 ventilators, 500 Oxygen concentrators, 3000 Oxygen cylinders (40-lts capacity), 11800 Oxygen nasal masks, 300 BiPAP machines, 1200 ICU beds, around 16000 diagnostic equipment of different types, and 19000 PPE kits. We are also aiming to provide one-month dry ration supply and community safety kits to 225,000 people.
  • Oxfam are reaching out to public healthcare institutions, district administrations and COVID Care Centres with medical equipment will also reach the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food, ration, and safety kits. 
  • Oxfam India also plans to train 35000 ASHA workers and provide them with medical kits for a larger community outreach to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour and also to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy.
  • Since March 2020, Oxfam India has been working in 16 states, reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable with medical supplies, food kits, cooked meals, safety and PPE kits, cash, and livelihood trainings.  
  • In the first month of Oxfam’s response to the second wave, they have provided support in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. While continuing to work in these states among the most marginalised and vulnerable communities, Oxfam India will also look at expanding to Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.  

About Oxfam India 

Oxfam India is a movement of people working to create a just and an equal India. We work to ensure that Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and women and girls have safe-violence free lives with freedom to speak their mind, equal opportunities to realize their rights, and a discrimination free future. 

During the last five years, Oxfam India has responded to more than 35 humanitarian disasters across the country and directly provided relief to nearly 1.5 million people. Oxfam India’s humanitarian response is guided by the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in disaster affected areas.

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EU agreement fails to deliver on expectations for real corporate tax transparency

Oxfam media reaction

1 June 2021

Today, EU negotiators struck an agreement on the public Country-by-Country Reporting proposal. The deal means companies with operations in the EU will be required to publish information on how much tax they pay in EU countries and non-EU countries that are on the EU’s black or grey list. Information on other non-EU countries will only be available on an aggregated global basis.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:  “This agreement falls short of expectations following the major breakthrough earlier this year when EU governments gave their first green light to tax transparency. The deal fails to force companies to provide real country-by-country reporting as it leaves over three-quarters of countries in the world off the list. Instead, EU legislators have granted multinational corporations plenty of opportunities to continue dodging taxes in secrecy by shifting their profits to tax havens outside the EU, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland. The deal also leaves poorer countries in the dark by failing to shine a light on the activities of multinationals in their countries.

“The EU legislators gave tax havens and tax-dodging companies a free pass during a time when tax revenues are vitally needed to boost the economy. Most of the world's real tax havens are not on the EU's blacklist and will not be reported on separately. We need everyone to pay their fair share of tax, not least multinational corporations, some of which recorded huge profits during the pandemic.

“The has EU failed to answer demands of citizens, investors, unions and civil society for real corporate tax transparency. Many corporations already do real public country-by-country reporting and the US has a deal on the table. This decision shows the EU is not in step with current global trends, instead it is lagging behind them.”

END 

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:  

  • Today, in the third trialogue meeting the representatives from the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the Directive regarding “disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches”. The text must now go through formal approval by adoption in the European Parliament Committees (JURI and ECON), the European Parliament’s plenary, and in the Council. Most agreements reached in trialogue meetings are subsequently adopted without substantial amendments.  
  • The European Commission in 2016 sent a draft text to the European Parliament and Council in the wake of the Luxleaks scandal. The European Parliament passed the file to the Council in July 2017 and the Council agreed on a first compromise text in February 2021. Only the European Parliament’s proposal included disaggregated data at the global level.  

According to Oxfam, the compromise has the following serious weaknesses:  

  1. an obligation for companies to publicly report information on a country-by-country basis only for their operations in EU members states and countries included in the blacklist or greylist (for 2 consecutive years) of the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions;  
  2. a “corporate-get-out-clause” allowing a reporting exemption for “commercially sensitive information” for 5 years; and 
  3. a reporting requirement applied only to companies with an annual consolidated turnover above EUR 750 million. This will exclude 85 - 90 per cent of multinationals. 
  • Transparency for only the 27 EU member states and the 21 currently blacklisted or greylisted jurisdictions means keeping corporate secrecy for over 3 out of 4 of the world’s nearly 200 countries.  
  • 80 civil society organisations, trade unions and networks from across Europe in April, 63 trade unions and CSOs in May, investors representing US$5.6 trillion in assets and 133.000 citizens so far have called for a real public country by country reporting. This includes an obligation for companies to report their profit and tax paid in every country they operate in – not just EU countries and EU-listed tax havens. 
  • Oxfam has highlighted the weaknesses of the EU blacklist and greylist and how it fails to capture real tax havens. Not one of the world’s 15 worst tax havens are on the EU’s list.  
  • With the current compromise, people in low-income countries would not have access to information about multinational companies’ profit made or tax paid in their countries. Moreover, under the OECD system, most tax authorities in low-income countries, unlike in EU countries, do not have access to the confidential country-by-country reports.  
  • The U.S. Congress recently introduced legislation that would require full, public, and global country-by-country reporting. It passed the relevant committee in the House two weeks ago. 
  • The EU already requires public country-by-country reporting covering all countries inside and outside the EU for companies in the financial and extractives sectors. Since January 2021, some multinational companies have voluntarily adopted this reporting through the GRI tax standardOxfamTransparency Internationalresearchers and others have used this information to document and analyse the tax affairs of multinational companies. 
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After the bombing, Gaza struggles to restart power, water, hospitals, markets and fishing for its 2.1m people

400,000 people now without regular water supply

400,000 people in Gaza do not have access to regular water supply after 11 days of bombardment devastated electricity and water services and severely impacted the three main desalination plants in Gaza city, Oxfam warned today.

Oxfam Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, Shane Stevenson, said: “Every one of the 2.1 million people living in the Gaza Strip has been affected by Israel’s bombing that took 248 lives, destroyed or damaged 258 buildings containing nearly 1,042 homes and commercial offices, and devastated vital public services.”

Around 100,000 Palestinians were displaced by the bombing and are attempting to return home. Even if their homes are still standing, life for them will not be normal.”  

“Gaza is largely dependent upon fuel for its electricity, including to pump clean water from wells into homes. With the disruption in the supply causing a shortage of fuel, hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza will soon have no access to basic hygiene,” Stevenson said

“Electricity cuts and the destruction of office buildings have forced many small businesses to come to a halt. Israel's authorities have stopped the bombing but are now restricting fuel deliveries. They have also closed most of the Gaza fishing zone, meaning nearly 3600 fishermen have now lost their daily income and food.”

“Water is doubly important, during this critical phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, to help people limit the spread of Covid-19. Six hospitals and 11 clinics have also been damaged including the only Covid-19 laboratory in Gaza,” he said.

Gaza and the West Bank have already seen more than 330,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 3,700 people have died due to the virus.

Even before the recent hostilities, the average daily consumption of water was just 88 litres per capita – far below the global minimum requirement of 100 litres. Amal, a mother in Northern Gaza told Oxfam: “We [now] only get four hours of electricity a day, and we don't have a schedule for it. Water might be available for one hour, but we won't have electricity to pump the water to the roof tank. We stay up all night looking for water to fill plastic buckets.”

Oxfam is already working with partners to provide people with immediate lifesaving clean water, hygiene kits and cash to help people buy food and their essentials, and to restore destroyed water systems. The agency aims to reach an additional 282,000 people and needs $3 million to ramp up its humanitarian assistance in Gaza. 

“Meeting people’s immediate humanitarian needs is critical now. But Gaza cannot rebuild without addressing the root causes of the conflict. The cycle of war means any humanitarian effort now could be lost again tomorrow. The international community must ensure concrete political action to bring an end to the occupation and the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip,” Stevenson added.

END

For interviews, please contact:

Joanne O’Connor | irl-media@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

 

Notes to editors 

  • The World Health Organisation has set the minimum requirement for daily per capita water consumption at 100 litres. This amount should cover basic domestic needs such as drinking, bathing, cooking, and washing. In Gaza, average daily per capita consumption is only 88 litres; in Israel, by comparison, it is more than 200. 
  • Figures on impacted hospitals were reported in OCHA Flash Report #9, May 19
  • The Covid lab has now resumed working as per OCHA Flash Report # 11 on May 21st
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Oxfam Reaction to the ceasefire in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

21 May 2021

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said: “Finally, for the first of 12 consecutive nights, two million Palestinians in Gaza, including hundreds of thousands of traumatised children, can rest rather than lie awake in fear as bombs fly over their homes.  And civilians across Israel will be spared the threat of rocket attacks. 

“But this is not a solution. This ceasefire will not change the occupation and denial of human rights which Palestinians are subjected to daily. This inhumane and brutal status quo has to stop, once and for all.

“Oxfam calls on the parties to strictly observe this ceasefire, and for the international community to hold Israel and armed factions in Gaza accountable for any and all violations committed during and preceding this escalation of violence. There must be a just and sustainable peace for all Israelis and Palestinians. Alleged war crimes committed in each round of violence must be investigated and prosecuted.”

Stevenson added: “This must be the last time Palestinians in Gaza are forced to again undertake the slow and painful process of rebuilding their destroyed homes, lives and livelihoods. Humanitarian aid that has been denied from entering Gaza until now must be allowed to enter immediately so that Oxfam and other aid organisations can understand the sheer scale of the needs and reach people who desperately need support to survive.

“Humanitarian agencies like Oxfam have been supported by international governments and donors to work with Palestinians to rebuild after each round of violence, only to watch the results of these collective efforts destroyed time and again. The cycle of war followed by pledges of humanitarian aid can only be broken with concrete and meaningful political action by the international community to bring an end to the brutal, prolonged occupation, including a suffocating siege on the Gaza Strip.” 

ENDS 

For interviews, please contact:

Joanne O’Connor | joanne.oconnor@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

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