Press Releases

Innocent civilians must be protected in Ukraine

Published: 1st March 2022

As a humanitarian organisation, Oxfam is horrified by the loss of life being witnessed, and gravely concerned by the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine.  We call for an immediate end to hostilities. The protection of life is of paramount importance.  It is vital that civilians everywhere are safeguarded and we stand in solidarity with all those affected by violence, wherever they may be.

The protection of civilians must be assured: respect for international law and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations are vital to preserve peace.  All Members of the United Nations must redouble their commitment to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” as the UN Charter requires.    

In any conflict it is always the most vulnerable people who are the worst affected. As conflict and its consequences ravage economies, it is people living in poverty, on both sides, who will lose their jobs and their access to services, and who will struggle most to cope with daily life. As ordinary men and women are pulled into a conflict they do not want, children and the elderly will be left without support.   

As of today, the UN estimates that 386,000 people have already fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and other surrounding countries. Without peace, these numbers will sharply increase as people are displaced both internally and outside of Ukraine’s borders.   

All people have the right to flee from conflict, and to seek asylum in safe countries. As countries bordering Ukraine receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers, Oxfam appeals to all governments to ensure that they find safe refuge. This must apply equally to all people fleeing conflict, whether from Ukraine, or to those in Yemen and Afghanistan and beyond. At moments where there is the greatest peril to human life, we must stand together in our common humanity, united in our pursuit of peace and human rights for all people.

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EU set to bin 25 million more vaccine doses than it has donated to Africa in 2022

February 16th 2022

The EU and Ireland have betrayed Africa by blocking proposals which would allow manufacturers on the continent to make their own COVID-19 vaccines while hoarding millions of doses set to expire at the end of the month, warns Oxfam.

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of African and European leaders at the AU-EU Summit, new analysis from Oxfam highlights how the EU will have to throw away 55 million doses of COVID vaccines by the end of February, significantly more than the 30 million doses they have donated to Africa so far in 2022. Ireland, who have not donated any vaccines to low-income countries so far this year, are throwing out hundreds of thousands of vaccines.

Despite the rhetoric of a special relationship with Africa, the EU – which is now the world’s biggest exporter of vaccines – has prioritised selling vaccines made on EU soil to rich nations and just eight per cent of its vaccine exports have gone to the African continent. The figures for Germany are even worse – just one per cent of vaccine exports from BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company behind the Pfizer vaccine, have gone to Africa.

At the same time, EU member states, including Ireland, have been a major blocker of proposals tabled by South Africa and India and supported by the African Union and over 100 countries for an intellectual property waiver which would allow the generic production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Leaked drafts of the summit declaration show a divide between the EU and the AU, with the AU insisting language on the waiver is included. Last summer, French President Emmanuel Macron - who is hosting the AU-EU summit - announced his support for the waiver but has done little since to challenge the EU’s stance on it.

Jim Clarken CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “The European Commission said at the beginning of the pandemic that the vaccine should be a global public good. Instead, they have ensured it is a private profit opportunity, raking in billions for Big Pharma and the EU, while almost 9 out of 10 people in Africa aren’t fully vaccinated, two years into this deadly pandemic. This is shameful.”

“It is estimated that almost 7,000 people in Africa have died per day as a result of COVID-19 in 2022, a quarter of a million since the beginning of the year. Due to very low vaccine supplies, just 11 per cent of people on the continent have received their first two COVID-19 vaccines to date.”

The EU has made much of plans to support the set-up of vaccine factories in Africa under the monopoly control of European pharmaceutical corporations – but this still wouldn’t give countries autonomy on vaccine supplies produced. BioNTech recently announced plans to produce 50 million vaccines in Africa once fully operational, however, this is less than their factory in Germany produces each month.

Clarken said: “It is shameful that Ireland continues to support the EU’s policy of blocking African producers from making their own doses of COVID-19 vaccines. If there truly is a common agenda between the Unions, then the EU would stop putting the interests of pharmaceutical companies, who have reaped billions from the pandemic, ahead of African lives.

“These vaccines were publicly funded and the recipes should be shared with the world to allow all qualified producers to make these vital shots.”

The EU have contributed €3 billion in funding to COVAX, the initiative designed to help developing countries to access vaccine doses, but the scheme has now run out of funds after failing to reach its target of vaccinating 20 per cent of people in poorer countries by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, Germany alone has received €3.2 billion back in tax revenue from BioNTech.

Clarken concluded: "Ireland and the EU claim they are promoting a ‘prosperous partnership of equals’ with the African Union and yet they are dumping more vaccine doses than they are donating to Africa, while continuing to block a waiver on vaccine patents which would enable African countries to produce our own vaccines. What's equal about that?

“This vaccine apartheid - perpetuated by the EU and Ireland - has a brutal human cost. Livelihoods continue to be destroyed, economies are being shattered and health workers pushed beyond the brink.

“It is encouraging that the African Union is standing up to the EU and asking for a reference to the TRIPS waiver to be included in the Summit's outcome document. We need the TRIPS waiver now and the EU and Ireland must stop standing in the way.”

Tough, urgent choices for African leaders as they launch “Year of Nutrition” to help millions of people facing hunger

February 3rd 2022

African Union leaders face one of their most important summits (Feb 5-6) in launching a “year of nutrition” amid worsening levels of hunger and malnutrition that are now threatening sustainable development across the entire continent.

One in five people (282m) is now under-nourished and 93 million in 36 African countries are suffering extreme levels of hunger. Women and children are hit hardest. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in three children under five is stunted by chronic undernutrition while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets.

The UN estimates that food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa are now 30-40% higher than the rest of the world, taking into account comparative levels of GDP per capita.

“The triple threat of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and conflict will require an extraordinary response from African leaders. Many countries have already taken important steps, increasing investment in healthcare, providing shock responsive social protection systems and empowering local, women-led, peacebuilding initiatives. However, such actions are still too few and far between,” said Oxfam’s Pan-African Program Director Peter Kamalingin.

“People are having to skip meals to feed their children, selling livestock and other assets, begging, pulling children out of school, or harvesting immature crops. Over three million people in Somalia have recently migrated, in large part because of hunger, while millions of households in pastoralist communities in Chad, Benin, Niger, Mali and Mauritania say they are having to sell more animals than they otherwise would to pay for more food”, said Kamalingin.

Historical injustices, inequality and wealth extraction have left generations of Africans poor and national economies indebted. Africa has stood last in line for Covid vaccines as the rich world hogged supplies. The continent has also been hit hardest by climate change and is already heating at a faster rate than the global average of 1.2 degrees.

“While the deck seems stacked against Africa, there is a lot more that African leaders can do to improve food security. Instead of allocating 15% of national budgets to the health sector and 10% to agriculture, military spending across Africa rose by over 5% in 2020. African’s leaders must prioritise food, trade and medicines over bullets, guns and bombs” said Kamalingin.

Twenty African countries are today facing insecurity and conflict including seven coups in the last year alone. In Ethiopia—the home of the AU—conflict has contributed to catastrophic levels of food insecurity in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions.

“AU leaders must make better, more effective use of all existing mechanisms they have to prevent and resolve conflicts,” said Kamalingin.

Here are how regions have been impacted:

  • The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of its most severe droughts in 40 years, following three back-to-back poor rainy seasons, and there are active conflicts across Ethiopia and Somalia. Nearly 15 million people are suffering from extreme hunger and severe water shortages.
  • In West Africa, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance could rise to 35.7 million during the lean season from June to August 2022.
  • In Southern Africa, communities in southern Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi are struggling to cope with the cumulative consequences of climatic shocks and COVID-19 economic shocks. Until the 2022 harvest begins in April, many countries, including Madagascar, will continue to rely on food assistance.

 

Farmers and pastoralists have been particularly hit by food insecurity. Droughts on the continent have decimated thousands of hectares of crops and depleted livestock, often a primary source of income. COVID-19 restrictions have caused delays in the trade of critical agricultural inputs like fertiliser.

Jean-Paul Ndopoye, president of the Union des Riziculteurs de Paoua (URP) in the Central African Republic told Oxfam: "Our major problem is the sale of farm products. With the security crisis and the calamitous state of the roads, we can no longer travel to sell these products in neighboring towns and countries such as Chad. Our wish is to be connected to profitable marketing channels to sell all these products.”

Achta Bintou, who was displaced from her home and now lives in the Amma site in Lake Chad told Oxfam: "Today, the crisis has completely changed our lives. We had to move from Boma to the Amma site where we live in a makeshift shelter that barely hides the sun. Our water is not drinkable and we cannot get enough to eat. Imagine your diet dropping from three meals a day to one.”

Ahead of the Africa Union Summit, Oxfam calls upon African leaders to:

  • Meet the targets laid out in the 2014 Malabo Declaration to halve poverty and end hunger by 2025 by increasing agricultural investment to at least 10% of government budgets; encouraging women and youth in agricultural businesses and boosting intra-African agricultural trade.
  • Develop national agricultural investment plans that are gender-sensitive and climate-proof, which seek primarily to support small-scale farmers in non-cash crop sectors.
  • Commit to non-violent conflict resolution and enforce the African Peace and Security mechanisms that prevent and resolve conflict. They should ensure that international humanitarian law is respected in conflicts and condemn human rights violations and bring perpetrators to account.
  • Ensure that safe humanitarian access is granted to those most in need.
  • Adopt the draft Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security and encourage member states to sign and ratify it, in order to ensure universal access to adequate food and nutrition and to address vulnerability and inequality.
  • Ensure national humanitarian organizations at the forefront of addressing the hunger crisis, are at heart and centre of the political effort to resolve it.
  • Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic injustices, and collectively investing in partnerships that secure long-term health for Africans, including allocating 15% of annual budgets to health as per the Abuja declaration.
  • Redouble Africa’s political voice to urge heavy carbon emitters, like China and the United States, to reduce their emissions, pay for the loss and damage that the climate crisis is causing in Africa, and to support Africa in mitigating the impact of climate change.

    ENDS

Notes to the editor

  • Oxfam has reached nearly 12 million of the most vulnerable across 22 countries in Africa with lifesaving support including clean water, food, and cash. In addition, together with our local partners, we work on gender, climate, and income generation programs to help people rebuild their lives, demand for their rights and cope with the devastating impact of climate change.
  • The number of people unable to afford a healthy diet in Africa is 1 billion, or one third of the global figure. Source: FAO et al., “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021” report.
  • FAO figures on the prevalence of undernourishment in Africa (including N. Africa) = 21% in 2020, up from 17% in 2015. That translates to 282 million people, up from 200 million in 2015. Ibid.
  • Figures of “nearly one out of five Africans experienced hunger in 2020 – more than double the proportion of any other region” from Policy Brief: Africa and Food Security. United Nations, Office of the Special Adviser on Africa October 2021
  • Figures on extreme coping mechanisms are from WFP food security analysis monitoring survey. Data is collected on a rolling basis. For more details on the methodology kindly check the Hunger Map.
  • Figures of sub-Saharan women being anaemic and children under five being stunted is from the Global Report on Nutrition 2021.
  • The number of African countries facing conflict based on figures from Uppsala Data Conflict Program and International Crisis Group reports.
  • State of Climate in Africa https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/climate/wmo-statement-state-of-global-climate/Africa
  • Data on arms sending and conflict in Africa from SIPRI trends in World Military Expenditure 2020
  • Food price figures from OECD report. Also, in the 20 Sub-Saharan African countries for which there is monthly price data, food prices were up 11% in October 2021 as compared to a year earlier.
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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.
 

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