Press Releases


EU leaders should stop squabbling and overrule pharma monopolies to boost supply


24 March 2021

The EU Council meets tomorrow, Thursday 25 to discuss the European-wide scarcity of Covid-19 vaccines that is sparking a dispute between European countries and the UK. The People’s Vaccine Alliance, supported by world leaders and over 50 organisations worldwide, is campaigning to ensure that safe and effective vaccines are mass-produced for all people around the world as quickly as possible. It has spokespeople available for interview.

The spat between the EU and UK over vaccine shortages was predictable and avoidable. More lives are being put at risk with Covid-19 surging again across Europe. Depending upon just a handful of pharmaceutical companies to produce enough vaccines for the world was never going to work. Yet UK and EU leaders have failed to unlock the pharmaceutical monopolies which are artificially restricting supply and blocking other manufacturers from joining the effort. 

Last week the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said “all options are on the table” to secure more vaccine supplies, including waiving intellectual property rights. Recent polling in Ireland, France, Germany and Italy shows public support for their governments in overruling pharma monopolies to ensure that safe and effective vaccines are mass produced. 

Overriding intellectual property rules and insisting companies transfer the vaccine blueprints to the World Health Organisation, in order to unlock production capacity around the world, must be top of the EU agenda. Covid-19 is an unprecedented health emergency and not the time to put the profit interests of a few huge pharma corporations ahead of saving lives. As one Paraguayan-Irish woman living in Cork said in the Examiner today: “This is not about “aid”, it is about solidarity and valuing human life.”

This dispute between rich countries does nothing to tackle the underlying cause of vaccine scarcity which is delaying the end to this pandemic. Even the UK – well ahead in its vaccine roll out – faces huge economic damage as its trading partners go largely unvaccinated and the risk of more vaccine-tolerant mutations emerge. People across Europe are suffering and dying due to lack of supply – so too are millions of people in developing countries, most of which are yet to administer a single dose. The root of this problem is the same: too little supply because of pharmaceutical monopolies. Indeed, shortages in Europe and the UK now mean they are tapping into already scarce vaccine supplies meant for poorer countries from the Serum Institute in India. 

Instead of squabbling with each other, the EU and UK should support developing countries in over-riding big pharma’s monopoly control over the vaccines and unlocking more supplies for Europe and the world. They can do this by backing the TRIPs waiver at the WTO – which is supported by over a hundred countries - 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. 


Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive 
Anna Marriot, Oxfam Health Policy Manager 
Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, Global Health Expert and Senior Health Policy Advisor to The People Vaccine Alliance. 
Max Lawson, Oxfam Head of Inequality Policy. 
Jeroen Kwakkenbos, Oxfam Senior Aid Policy & Development Finance Advisor. 
Peter Kamalingan, Oxfam Pan Africa Programme Director.

Visit People's Vaccine Alliance: 

Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165 

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Yemen, six years of war

Yemen at tipping point: Increasing Covid cases amid renewed fighting and famine fears – Oxfam

  • Yemen’s aid programme remains more than 50 percent underfunded

24 March 2021

Evidence is mounting that a second wave of Covid-19 is already underway in Yemen, Oxfam warned today, with a 22-fold increase in recorded cases in recent weeks. It comes at a time of renewed fears that hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to flee to safety amid intense fighting in Marib governorate.

After six years of war, the UN has warned again that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has witnessed for decades.

In addition, the arrival of the rainy season - due in May - is expected to bring an increasing threat of cholera outbreaks, which combined with Covid will overwhelm a health system battered by years of war and economic collapse. Despite this huge level of need, Yemen’s aid programme remains more than 50 percent underfunded.

Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said: “Yemen is at a tipping point – millions of people are already teetering at the edge of a precipice, now Covid, cholera and an intensification of the conflict threatens to push them over.

“With little testing, we can’t quantify the true scale of the problem, but we do know that Covid is accelerating fast. I’m hearing daily of fresh tragedies – people who have died of Covid-like symptoms without receiving medical attention.”

The escalation in hostilities around Marib, where a number of Covid cases have been reported recently, is one of a number of worrying developments as the war in Yemen enters its seventh year.  Renewed fighting around Taiz, Hajjah, Hudaydah and Aldhale’e which have seen multiple airstrikes and renewed tensions in Aden and have brought fresh misery to those cities.

Since February, more than 11,000 people in Marib have been displaced, with some entire camps forced to evacuate. Many have been displaced four or five times now as the frontlines of Yemen’s war continue to shift.

Siddiquey continued: “People in Marib are desperate, they face a stark choice between staying put and risking their families lives or fleeing into the desert where there is no water or food.

“I’m hearing terrible reports of children being killed, houses in residential districts being hit and people being forced to flee.”  

Oxfam said it was concerned that by forcing people to flee, the recent surge in fighting will speed the spread of the virus around the country.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: "Official figures on Covid in Yemen show a mortality rate of nearly 22 percent - one of the highest in the world. But with little testing and widespread reports of illness and deaths, the actual death toll is undoubtedly far higher. Yemen’s health system is estimated to be operating at half of its pre-war capacity despite the increasing needs.

"The people of Yemen are also facing the looming threat of cholera, while the UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, warned last week that the country is 'speeding towards a massive famine'.

"Earlier this month the UN held a donor pledging conference asking for $3.85 billion but received less than $1.7 billion - despite IPC projections that over 2.25 million Yemeni children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition this year alone. We, the international community, must do everything in our power to support the people of Yemen now, before further lives are needlessly lost.

Siddiquey, concluded: ““Even people who escape the missiles and bullets face a daily struggle to survive in the face of disease and destitution. Yemenis have suffered for six long years – it is time for the world to say, enough.

“This is a man-made conflict and these deaths are avoidable. With efforts from the UN Envoy and a recommitment to peace from the new US administration, the international community must seize this moment to collectively pressure all sides to end the suffering. Peace is possible if governments put lives ahead of politics.”



Caroline Reid | Communications Manager |

Notes for editors


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Brussels V Syria conference: Oxfam calls for the needs of the Syrian people to be put first

Oxfam media advisory

23 March 2021

Brussels V Syria conference: Oxfam calls for the needs of the Syrian people to be put first  

This Tuesday, 30 March, the international community will meet virtually for the Brussels V conference on Syria and the region to pledge funding and discuss the future of aid in the conflict-torn country.  

This month marks ten-years of the Syrian conflict. Although the fighting in Syria has decreased, Syrians are now struggling with a multifaceted crisis: repercussions of the prolonged conflict and coronavirus pandemic, deteriorating situation in neighbouring Lebanon, sanctions, a nosediving economy, and rising inflation. According to estimates: 

  • Over 80 percent of Syrians now live in poverty  
  • 1.1 million people need humanitarian aid to survive  
  • 12.4 million people now go to sleep hungry (almost 60 percent of the population) compared to 9.3 million people in early 2020  

Oxfam calls on the governments of Syria, host countries and donors in Brussels to put the needs of the Syrian people first. Access to both humanitarian aid, basic services and long-term development through employment and education is needed. Syrians must have the chance to stand on their own two feet.  

Yet, ongoing access restrictions in Syria, combined with limitations imposed by donor governments and the chilling effects of sanctions on the humanitarian response, make it extremely difficult for humanitarian organisations to provide the sustainable support that Syrians need. In Lebanon, humanitarian organisations also struggle to provide this support given the economic crisis and the security situation. Without investment into long-term development, Syrian's risk becoming dependent on aid.   

Oxfam is one of few organisations working inside the government-controlled regions in Syria to provide humanitarian assistance to people caught up in the conflict. Through working with partners, we have an extensive network to reach people in need in Syria and the regions. Oxfam and our partners will be speaking at the Day of Dialogue on 29 March 2021.  

Spokespeople in Brussels and the region are available for interviews, analysis and background information before, during and after the conference.  

Oxfam recently spoke to over 160 Syrian women to understand how their lives have changed since the start of the conflict. Overwhelmingly, their focus was solely on survival. Syrians must be able to dream for more. For now, as one woman replied “my hope is very simple. I don't want to deprive my children of their simplest wish. To go to bed with a full stomach”.



Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165

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European Peace Facility

BREAKING: EU leaders adopt 5 billion Euro fund to train and equip security forces and militaries worldwide that risk fuelling armed conflict

22 March 2021

Today, EU leaders adopted the European Peace Facility (EPF), a new fund that will allow the EU to train militaries around the world and equip them with lethal weapons. This is despite experts - including civil society - raising their concerns that the fund could worsen conflicts and contribute to human rights abuses in unstable regions.

This fund will replace several European foreign and defence policy funds such as the African Peace Facility which finances security assistance and other military operations in African countries including Somalia and the Sahel region. However, the EPF differs from its predecessors. Firstly, it is global in its mandate. Secondly – and crucially – it opens the door for the EU to fund ‘lethal equipment’ such as machine guns, pistols and ammunition. The EU is not allowed to spend its budget on weapons, so EU member states have circumvented the EU treaties prohibiting this by creating an off-budget fund. This marks a troubling change in EU foreign policy. 

The EPF will come into force in July of this year.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “This fund allows European countries to sell weapons to conflict-torn countries without robust controls. This flies in the face of the EU’s aim to preserve peace. In many of these countries, the black market for weapons is thriving and this move by the EU could make it easier for local militia and armed groups to get their hands on weapons, causing only more instability and suffering. 

"Instead of fuelling conflict, the EU needs to listen to people on the ground. In the Sahel, our local partners demand good governance, policies that work for all communities and a strong civil society.”

Sorley McCaughey, Head of Policy and Advocacy with Chrisitan Aid said: "This agreement is deeply concerning, more likely to worsen situations of conflict than meaningfully contribute to peace. Despite assurances from Government, EU foreign policy continues to shift towards a militarised, security-first approach and away from traditional strengths of diplomacy, conflict prevention and long-term peacebuilding.

"The EPF has been agreed at Brussels level with little or no real Dáil debate or scrutiny on its implications for Ireland. The Government argues it has secured important opt outs, but with very little detail or certainty on how they will work in practice. Ireland's hard won reputation as a neutral, impartial state could easily be jeopardised by the actions of other members of the facility. At the very least, a detailed analysis of how the Facility will contribute to human rights and peace and how Ireland's neutrality will be protected under the EPF should be presented to the Dáil, which must play an active role in monitoring the facility and holding it to account."


Caroline Reid | | 087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor

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Marking ten years since the outbreak of conflict in Syria

Remember Syria: Marking 10 years since conflict began in Syria, Concern, GOAL, Oxfam Ireland, Trócaire, and World Vision stand with Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, Dublin City Councillors, and locals in solidarity with the Syrian community, to remember the lives lost, and the people displaced and harmed during the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Media Statement, 12 March 2021

Marking ten years since the outbreak of conflict in Syria, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

Marking ten years since war broke out in Syria, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

“The news headlines may have faded, but as we mark a decade since conflict began in Syria, the humanitarian crisis continues to cause tremendous human suffering to people both inside and outside the country. We cannot let this be another forgotten crisis.

“Hundreds of thousands have died, more than 13 million people have fled their homes and essential infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and homes have been decimated. Lives remain on hold as people struggle to meet immediate needs amidst a deteriorating economy and remain fearful for the future with no end to the crisis in sight. 

“What is especially heart-breaking is the impact on children. For many, in their short lives they have known nothing but war, suffered grave violations and have had no access to education.

"Our colleagues in Syria also have grave concerns about the unfolding impact Covid-19 is having across the country. In the context of limited humanitarian access, a lack of funding for aid, destroyed health infrastructure, and declining health of a population who have suffered under 10 years of conflict, the pandemic poses a massive threat to vulnerable communities within Syria.

“Ireland, as a newly elected member of the UN Security Council, is playing an important role in efforts to resolve the crisis. But while both the Irish government and public have been consistently generous in their support of the aid effort and resettlement of Syrian people to Ireland, global humanitarian funding is not keeping pace with the increasing need.

“We ask people to remember Syria and ensure that even though the headlines have faded – our solidarity and support as an international community does not.”



Caroline Reid, Communications Manager | | 087 912 3165

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