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Over a quarter of a billion more people could fall into extreme poverty this year

Rising global food prices alone could push 65 million more people into extreme poverty, Oxfam estimates

Over a quarter of a billion more people could fall into extreme levels of poverty in 2022, a new brief from Oxfam reveals today. This is as a result of COVID-19, rising global inequality and food price increases supercharged by the war in Ukraine. 

“First Crisis, Then Catastrophe”, published ahead of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington DC, shows that 860 million people could be living in extreme poverty — on less than €1.75 ($1.90) a day — by the end of this year. This is mirrored in global hunger: the number of people without enough to eat could reach 827 million in 2022.

The World Bank had projected COVID-19 and worsening inequality would add 198 million people to those facing extreme poverty during 2022, reversing two decades of progress. Based on research by the World Bank, Oxfam now estimates that rising global food prices alone will push 65 million more people into extreme poverty, bringing the total to 263 million more this year — equivalent to the populations of the UK, France, Germany and Spain combined.

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Without immediate collective action, we could be witnessing the most profound collapse of humanity into extreme poverty and suffering in memory. The triple threat of COVID-19, rising inequality and skyrocketing food prices is having a devasting impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

“As many people now struggle to cope with sharp cost-of-living increases, having to choose between eating or heating or medical bills, the likelihood of mass starvation faces millions of people already locked in severe levels of hunger and poverty across East Africa, the Sahel, Yemen and Syria. One woman from Akobo in South Sudan, told us, “This is just too much. I am tired of living”.

The brief notes that a wave of governments is nearing a debt default and being forced to slash public spending to pay creditors and import food and fuel. The world’s poorest countries are due to pay $43 billion in debt repayments in 2022, which could otherwise cover the costs of their food imports. Global food prices hit an all-time high in February, surpassing the peak crisis of 2011. Oil and gas giants are reporting record-breaking profits, with similar trends expected to play out in the food and beverage sector. 

People in poverty are being hit harder by these shocks. Rising food costs account for 17 percent of consumer spending in wealthy countries, but as much as 40 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even within rich economies, inflation is super-charging inequality: in the US, the poorest 20 percent of families are spending 27 percent of their incomes on food, while the richest 20 percent spend only 7 percent.

In Ireland, we are witnessing the effects of these price shocks not only in people’s protests against fuel prices, but in a wider cost of living crisis that Social Justice Ireland has characterised as forcing people to make “unavoidable trade‐offs” in Reasonable Living Expenses (RLEs).

For most workers around the world, real-term wages continue to stagnate or even fall. The effects of COVID-19 have widened existing gender inequalities too — after suffering greater pandemic-related job losses, women are struggling to get back to work. In 2021, there were 13 million fewer women in employment compared to 2019, while men’s employment has already recovered to 2019 levels.

The report also shows that entire countries are being forced deeper into poverty. COVID-19 has stretched all governments’ coffers but the economic challenges facing developing countries are greater, having been denied equitable access to vaccines and now being forced into austerity measures.

Despite COVID-19 costs piling up and billionaire wealth rising more since COVID-19 than in the previous 14 years combined, governments — with few exceptions — have failed to increase taxes on the richest. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries.

In Ireland, Oxfam has proposed an even more modest wealth tax to the Commission on Taxation and Welfare, at rates of 1.5% and 2% levied only on net wealth held above EUR 4.3 million, which could bring in revenues of over €4 billion.

Clarken said: “We reject any notion that governments do not have the money or means to lift all people out of poverty and hunger and ensure their health and welfare. We only see the absence of economic imagination and political will to actually do so.

“Now more than ever, with such scale of human suffering and inequality laid bare and deepened by multiple global crises, that lack of will is inexcusable. The G20, World Bank and IMF must immediately cancel debts and increase aid to poorer countries, and together act to protect ordinary people from an avoidable catastrophe. The world is watching”.

Oxfam is calling for urgent action to tackle the extreme inequality crisis threatening to undermine the progress made in tackling poverty during the last quarter of a century:

  • Introduce a fair and sustainable rate of wealth tax in Ireland to fund the recovery from this economic crisis and a just transition to carbon neutrality. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ that has brought in around $2.4 billion to pay for pandemic recovery.
  • End crisis profiteering by introducing excess profit taxes to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020.

  • Cancel all debt payments for developing countries that need urgent help now. Cancelling debt would free up more than $30 billion in vital funds in 2022 alone for 33 countries already in or at high risk of debt distress.

  • Boost aid and pay for Ukrainian assistance and the costs of hosting refugees with new funding, rather than shift aid funds earmarked for other crises in poorer countries.

  • Reallocate at least $100 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDR), without burdening countries with new debt or imposing austerity measures. The G20 promised to deliver $100 billion in recycled SDRs but only $36 billion has been committed to date. A new SDR issuance should also be considered and distributed based on needs rather than countries’ quota shares at the IMF.

  • Act to protect people from rising food prices, and create a Global Fund for Social Protection to help the poorest countries provide essential income security for their populations, and maintain these services in times of severe crisis.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 83 198 1869

Notes to editors

Download Oxfam’s briefing “First Crisis, Then Catastrophe”.

Download Oxfam Ireland’s submission to the Commission on Welfare and Taxation.

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Oxfam warns of preferential EU refugee response and calls on Irish Government to ensure equal treatment for all

Friday 1st April 2022

Today, Oxfam Ireland warned that a preferential refugee response is developing across the EU, where some are met with solidarity and others with hostility. The aid agency is calling on the Irish Government to ensure that all refugees arriving in the EU and Ireland receive equal treatment in accordance with European and international law.  

The call comes after EU Home Affairs and Justice Ministers, including Minister for Justice  Helen McEntee met on Monday and issued a 10-Point Plan on stronger European coordination on welcoming people fleeing the war against Ukraine.

Oxfam welcomed the progressive steps included in the plan and are calling on the EU to extend its provisions to everyone seeking refuge in the EU.  

They are calling on the Irish Government to ensure an equal right to refuge for all by:  

  1. Providing sanctuary and protection for all those fleeing Ukraine without discrimination, and 

  2. Preventing a preferential EU refugee response where some are met with solidarity and others with hostility.  

Oxfam is advocating that additional steps need to be taken to ensure all those fleeing the violence in Ukraine can obtain refuge in the EU without discrimination. This follows reports that non-Ukrainian nationals, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East, are being pushed back at the border in what the UN has described as “racialised denial of entry”. Meanwhile, other vulnerable groups, like people with a disability, need extra supports to ensure they can avail of the protection they are entitled to. Oxfam recommends ensuring there are human rights monitors at Ukraine-EU borders so that all possible measures are taken to make sure all individuals can cross and seek refuge safely. They are also urging the Government to arrange direct travel routes to EU member states (including Ireland) free of cost so that people can flee quickly and safely, limiting the risk from trafficking, exploitation and abuse. 

Beyond Ukraine, Oxfam warns that refugees across Europe continue to suffer as a result of inhumane and illegal policies and practice. They are advocating for an end of pushbacks, which are illegal, on all EU borders and a permanent relocation mechanism for all refugees in the EU as well as an improvement of conditions in camps and reception centres, among other asks.  

The aid agency has launched an online petition calling on people across Ireland to sign it and demonstrate the public’s desire for the Government to take these actions.   

Commenting today, Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “We are heartened to see the unprecedented open arms response to those fleeing Ukraine in Ireland and across Europe as a result of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country. Such a response shows the best of us and should serve as a blueprint for how we welcome and protect all people fleeing similar situations no matter where they come from. 

“Unfortunately, this is simply not the case at the moment. We have worked with refugees in Europe since 2015, people fleeing conflict, persecution and war, arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their children in their arms. For many, they were not met with solidarity – instead they suffered trauma on top of trauma, including violent pushbacks at EU borders, being denied their right to seek asylum for no good reason and left to languish in inadequate conditions in camps. The stark reality is thousands of people seeking refuge from conflicts around the world continue to die trying to cross into the EU. In 2021, nearly 3,500 people died attempting to enter the EU through land and sea borders. 

“There is a serious danger that we are developing a preferential refugee response across Europe, a two-tier system that differentiates based on which conflict you are fleeing or where you are coming from. This is not who we are – as Irish or European citizens – and it  must end. 

“We are calling on all in Government to use all channels in the EU to end this unfair and harmful stance and support equal treatment of all who are forced to claim their rights to protection under international law. And we’re asking people in Ireland to join us in this call by signing our petition.”  

Oxfam’s Equal Right to Refuge petition can be found here.  

Oxfam’s full policy brief - Equal Right to Refuge – can be found here.  

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to Editors:

Full asks to the Irish Government under the Equal Right to Refuge campaign:

Oxfam Ireland calls on the Irish Government to ensure:

  1. Equal access to seek international protection for all fleeing Ukraine.
    1. No discrimination at the borders.
    2. Inclusive of persons with disabilities.
    3. EU institutions and member states coordinate and facilitate safe and orderly transfers to EU member states.
  2. The EU and Member States uphold their commitment to receive and protect refugees and displaced people from all countries and regions seeking protection in the EU without discrimination, including those arriving in other Member States and border areas, fleeing from other crises across the world.
    1. Stop practices and policies that are illegal under international law
      - Pushbacks
      - Denying the right to claim asylum
    2. Improve conditions in camps at hotspots so that they meet basic reception standards and avoid the use of de facto detention.
    3. Promote mandatory responsibility-sharing through a permanent relocation mechanism.
    4. Re-start Search and Rescue at EU’s borders and stop criminalising NGOs and others who help people stranded.
    5. Maintain resettlement pledges.
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Global food prices skyrocket due to Ukraine conflict, threatening millions already facing extreme hunger

Oxfam urges international community to respond to hunger crisis in East Africa before it’s too late

 

Tuesday 22 March 2022

 

Over 161 million people across 42 countries are currently suffering from acute hunger. Across East Africa alone, 21 million people are facing severe levels of hunger due to conflict, flooding, crop pests and a devastating two-year drought, unprecedented in 40 years. This number is set to rise to as many as 28 million if the March rains fail.

 

Today, Oxfam urged the international community to respond with a massive, “no regrets” mobilisation of humanitarian aid to prevent destitution across East Africa. With the unfolding crisis in Ukraine taking their attention, the aid agency warned that there is a real danger the international community will not respond adequately until it’s too late.

 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding catastrophe. Even if the rains do arrive this month, full recovery after two years of drought will be near impossible unless there is urgent action by the international community today.

 

“While we respond to the escalating crisis in Ukraine, we must also respond to its wider repercussions on the global food system which will reverberate worldwide, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people hardest and fastest. Rising food prices are a hammer blow to millions of people who are already suffering multiple crises and make the huge shortfall in aid potentially lethal.

 

“Ireland must act unilaterally and at UN and EU levels to ensure that the negative impact on supply, trade and price of food due to the Ukrainian conflict will not affect those already experiencing or most vulnerable to food shortages throughout the world, including across East Africa.”

 

Covid-related hikes in global food and commodity prices were already undermining the options available to heavily indebted African governments to resolve the mass hunger facing their people. However, the crisis in Ukraine will have catastrophic new consequences as it already pushes up food and commodity prices beyond what East African governments can afford.

 

Countries in East Africa import up to 90% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. As disruptions begin to affect the global trade in grains, oil, transport and fertiliser, food prices are beginning to skyrocket. They hit an all-time high last week. In Somalia, the prices for staple grains were more than double those of the previous year.

In 2010-11, similar spikes in food prices pushed 44 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty, and indications are that the food-price inflation happening now will be even worse.

 

Nyadang Martha, from Akobo in South Sudan, told Oxfam: “All the 40 years of my life, I have never seen anything like what is happening here in Akobo. For the past four years, it is either flood, drought, famine, violence, or COVID-19. This is just too much. I am tired of living. If it continues like this, I doubt if my girls will become full adults.”

 

Despite alarming need, the humanitarian response is woefully underfunded. Only 3% of the total $6bn UN 2022 humanitarian appeal for Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, has been funded to date. Kenya has only secured 11% of its UN flash appeal to date.

 

Idris Akhdar from Wajir County, North Eastern Kenya, said: “Our team have met desperate people. People who are hungry, who are thirsty, and who are about to lose hope. In the last few days, I have seen across the region - Somali region in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya - the same hunger and destitution all over. We appeal to the international community to help.” (Idris is part of WASDA, a Kenyan organisation partnering with Oxfam for over 20 years.)

 

Oxfam is working with local partners to redouble its support for those impacted by the East African hunger crisis, aiming to reach over 1.5 million people most in need, including many displaced, with life-saving water, cash, shelter and sanitation facilities.

 

Clarken continued: “The people of East Africa cannot wait. The hunger crisis is worsening by the day. Oxfam is calling on all donors to urgently fill the UN humanitarian appeal funding gap and to get funds as quickly as possible to local humanitarian organisations. Ireland and other EU member states should increase their allocations to the underfunded US$327million World Food Programme appeal, which aims to support around 4.5 million people affected by drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with life-saving aid. We must act decisively in our trade and agriculture policies to stabilise food prices and protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from further food price shocks. And we especially call upon the governments from grain exporting countries to do all they can to find suitable alternatives to the imminent disruption in the supply chain from Ukraine.

 

“This is not a time for apathy, distraction or delay – it is a time to act and we must act now.”

 

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

 

Notes to the editors:   

STATS ON THE EAST AFRICA HUNGER CRISIS:

  • Over 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been displaced in search of water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022. Millions of others had to flee their farmlands and homes by conflicts especially around Ethiopia – where 9.4m people now need urgent humanitarian aid.
  • The region has suffered from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years and flash flooding that have affected nearly a million people in South Sudan.
  • Kenya has suffered a 70 percent drop in crop production and has declared a national disaster with 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. Nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.
  • Ethiopia is facing its highest level of food insecurity since 2016, in Somali region alone 3.5m people experience critical water and food shortage. Almost a million livestock animals have died, leaving pastoralists who entirely depend on herding for survival with nothing. Women tell us heart-breaking stories about having to skip meals so that they can feed their children.
  • More than 671,000 people have recently migrated away from their homes in Somalia because nearly 90% of the country is in severe drought. This will likely leave almost half of Somali children under five acutely malnourished.
  • In South Sudan, an estimated 8.3 million people will face severe food insecurity this lean season (May-July) as climatic and economic shocks intensify.

OXFAM RESPONSE IN EAST AFRICA:

  •  In South Sudan: Oxfam has provided support to over 400,000 people and aims to reach and additional 240,000 people with safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and promotion, cash grants for families to buy food and other essentials, and livelihood support like seeds, tools, fishing kits.
  • In Somalia, Oxfam aims to reach 420,000 people this year with lifesaving water, sanitation and health support, including drilling boreholes in water insecure areas, distributing hygiene kits, providing materials to help protect communities from water borne diseases, and distributing cash, seeds tools, and training farmers in small scale greenhouse farming. Oxfam will also support livestock treatment and vaccination campaigns together with the Ministry of Livestock, train community protection volunteers on gender-based violence issues, and distribute solar lamps to protect women and girls at night. To date we have reached over 260,000 people.
  • In Kenya, Oxfam is currently supporting 40,000 people and planning to expand the support to approximately 240,000 people with cash transfers for food and other essential items and water, sanitation and hygiene activities such as repairing water points and boreholes to provide access to clean, safe water and hygiene promotion campaigns.
  • In Ethiopia, Oxfam has supported 170,000 people in Northern Ethiopia with lifesaving clean water, food, and cash assistance, particularly in conflict affected areas in South Tigray, Central Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Oxfam aims to reach an additional 750,000 women, men and children in Northern Ethiopia with emergency food packages, livelihoods assistance, clean water, sanitation and hygiene kits and protection until March 2023. Together with our partners, we are also scaling up response in the Somali Region to respond to the effects of the drought.
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“Before we feared dying of war, now we fear dying of hunger”: Ukraine crisis propelling hunger in Syria

15th March 2022

Eleven years after the Syrian conflict began, six in ten Syrians do not know where their next meal is coming from, said Oxfam today. It warned that reliance on imports from Russia means the current crisis in Europe could ripple into Syria, exacerbating food shortages and causing food prices to soar. In the last year, food prices in Syria have doubled.

Oxfam spoke to 300 Syrians in government-held areas of the country. Nearly 90 percent said they could only afford to eat bread, rice, and, occasionally, some vegetables. After ten years of conflict, the shockwaves of Covid-19, and the Lebanese banking crisis coupled with the Ukrainian crisis are having serious repercussions for the floundering economy, disrupting food and fuel imports and causing the Syrian pound to plummet at breakneck speed. 

Moutaz Adham, Country Director for Oxfam in Syria, said: “People have been pushed to the brink by a collapsing economy. Around Damascus, people queue for hours to get subsidized bread at state bakeries, while young children rifle through garbage trying to find scraps of food. Struggling to put food on the table means many families are turning to extreme ways to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals each day. Marrying off young daughters has become another negative coping strategy as it is one less mouth to feed. This is against a backdrop of 90 percent of Syrians living in poverty, unemployment rate at 60 percent and a monthly minimum wage in the public sector of approximately 26 US dollars.”  

He added: “Syria relies heavily on Russia for imports of wheat. The crisis in Ukraine has seen the Syrian government starting to ration food reserves, including wheat, sugar, oil, and rice amid fears of shortages and price surges, and this could be just the beginning.” 

Hala from Deir-ez-Zor told Oxfam: “It makes no sense for us to think about tomorrow, if we cannot even figure out what to put on our table today to feed our children.”  

Majed from Rural Damascus told Oxfam: “I work 13 hours a day to feed my children, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes I wish there is more than 24 hours a day, so I can do more work. I’m exhausted and don’t know how I will survive this harsh life with my family.”  

Moutaz Adham added: “An average income only covers half of basic expenses.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam has been working in Syria since 2013 to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. In the last year, Oxfam’s work reached 1.2 million people. We provide clean drinking water to people, emergency cash assistance, and soap, hygiene, and other materials. We help farmers get back to farming, and bakers back to baking. We run Covid-19 awareness raising campaigns.  Oxfam is calling on international donors to focus on funding early recovery and social protection while also keep focusing on emergency needs and responses, including hunger response activities to save lives now.
  • 12.4 million people in Syria are food insecure, child labor occurs in 84% of communities, and child marriage for adolescent girls in 71% of communities, according to the latest figures from the Humanitarian Needs Overview.
  • The price of the World Food Program (WFP) standard food basket (a group of essential food items) has increased by 97% in the past year.   
  • Last year, the Syrian government reportedly had to import 1.5 million tons of wheat, mainly from Russia.  
  • As part of its Emergency and Food Security response, Oxfam interviewed 300 beneficiaries in government held areas of Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor and Rural Damascus governorates, 100 beneficiaries in each governorate and found that 88 percent eat only bread, rice and occasionally vegetables. Additionally, 60 percent of people Oxfam spoke to say they earn less than what they need to cover their food needs. 10 percent said they rely only on bread and tea to survive. Since subsidized bread provides approximately 840 kcal per day, this amounts to only 40 percent of calories needed to survive (an average family of 5 can buy 12 bundles of subsidized bread, each consisting of 7 loaves, this leaves 2.4 loaves per person per day, having no more than 350 kcal). Strikingly, only 1.5 percent said they can afford to buy meat and only on rare occasions.    

130+ leading voices call for an end to vaccine monopolies after two years of the pandemic

H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania; Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Ban Ki-Moon; and Charlize Theron join plea for a People’s Vaccine.

11 March 2022

More than 130 former world leaders, Nobel laureates, leading scientists, economists, humanitarians, faith leaders, business leaders, trade unionists, and celebrities are calling for urgent action to vaccinate low and middle-income countries and bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a letter coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The authoritative voices are uniting on the second anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a pandemic. They urge world leaders “to do what is necessary to end this crisis” and unite behind a People’s Vaccine, based on the principles of equity and solidarity; accessible to everyone, everywhere; and free from patents and profiteering.

They warn that “despite what some leaders in wealthy countries would like us to believe, the pandemic is not over”. But an end to COVID-19 is “within our grasp”, they say, if we give “everyone, everywhere access to safe and effective vaccines and other life-saving COVID-19 technologies”.

The letter’s signatories include H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, current President of Tanzania, and the former leaders of more than 40 countries; Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Charlize Theron, United Nations Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project; and EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. Two previous Presidents of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma and Victor Yuschenko, and former First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko have joined the plea for vaccine equity amid the conflict in their country.

Some of the world’s most senior women leaders, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected female head of state; Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi; Graça Machel, former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique and founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Helen Clarke,former Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, first female President of Latvia and Eastern Europe and Co-Chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre.

They join Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General and Honorary Member of Clubde Madrid, and the former leaders of institutions including the World Bank, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA), alongside the current leaders of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the UN Special Rapporteuron extreme poverty and human rights.

Condemning the approach of world leaders so far as “immoral, entirely self-defeating and also an ethical, economic and epidemiological failure”, they warn that leaving billions of people unvaccinated risks leading to dangerous new variants COVID-19.

Failure to vaccinate the world so far is down to “self-defeating nationalism, pharmaceutical monopolies and inequality”, the leaders say, which have led to the “avoidable” milestones of two years and an estimated twenty million deaths from COVID-19.

They criticise the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland for continuing “to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the redistribution and scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine, test and treatment manufacturing in the global south”.

India and South Africa first proposed an intellectual property waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020, which is supported by more than 100 countries. The United States announced its support for a waiver in May 2021, but British and European opposition led by the UK and Germany has prevented the WTO from reaching a consensus.

It comes as People’s Vaccine activists hold die-in sand rallies on nearly every continent, urging world leaders to end Big Pharma’s monopoly grip on COVID vaccines, tests and treatments needed to save lives and prevent the next variant.

Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, said: "Let us be clear: this pandemic is far from over in Africa and across the world. We are seeing, with each day, thousands of avoidable deaths. We are seeing women and girls being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, through lost educational opportunities, domestic violence, and economic hardship. We must recapture the spirit of solidarity to end the suffering and create a better future. That starts now with ending these callous pharmaceutical monopolies on Covid-19 vaccines, so Africa and the world can tackle this crisis and the next.”

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “Rich country leaders are protecting pharmaceutical monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics over the health and lives of billions of people. And we can only imagine how damaging a new profoundly lethal variant could be for everyone on the planet. That is why this is a historic test of multilateralism. It truly affects us all. And, if world leaders can’t rise to the challenge of vaccine equity, they diminish hope that they will rise to the existential challenge of tackling the climate crisis.”

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said: "The heartbreaking tragedy of our era is that the remarkable innovations of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments have been withheld from so many. Just as people today remember the terrible injustice with antiretrovirals for HIV, when 12 million lives, most of them in Africa, were needlessly lost while lifesaving medicines remained out of reach for the global South, our children will not forgive those who denied billions of people the chance of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. On the second anniversary of this pandemic, we make our plea to rich nations above all. Please, insist the vaccine recipes are shared. Please support developing countries to vaccinate everyone, everywhere. A people's vaccine.”

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, said: “As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Europe and the COVID tragedy continues to grip much ofthe world, global solidarity is more important than ever, and particularly with vulnerable nations.This is a moment to build trust, to forge needed partnerships for humanity between governments, business and civil society, and to attack the world’s biggest challenges. Ending vaccine apartheid is critical. Intellectual property rules must be lifted to boost manufacturing of vaccines and lifesaving patents and technology should be immediately shared.”

 

ENDS

Notes for editors

  • The full letter and list of signatories is available here: https://bit.ly/3CuHlV1
  • A list of and contact details for protests, die-ins, and media stunts is available here: https://peoplesvaccine.org/take-action/end-covid-monopolies/
  • The letter puts five demands to world leaders:
    1. Urgently agree and implement a global roadmap to deliver the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people by mid-2022, and beyond this ensure sustained, timely and equitable access worldwide to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests and other medical technologies, including next generations effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines and medical technologies.
    2. Maximise the production of safe and effective vaccines and other COVID-19 products by suspending relevant intellectual property rules and ensuring the mandatory pooling of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies so that any nation can produce or buy sufficient and affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests.
    3. Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations.
    4. Make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests available to governments and institutions at a price as close to the true cost as possible, and provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere, and allocated according to need.
    5. Scale-up sustainable investment in public health systems to ensure that low and middle-income country governments have adequate resources to get shots into arms and save lives. These investments will pay dividends in the global economy and help restore economic and development gains which the global COVID-19 pandemic has partially reversed.
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