Press Releases

Vaccinating poorest half of humanity against coronavirus could cost less than four month’s big pharma profits, says Oxfam Ireland

Vaccinating 3.7 billion people - the poorest half of humanity - against coronavirus could cost less than the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies make in four months, Oxfam said today.

Oxfam is urging governments and pharmaceutical companies to guarantee that vaccines, tests, and treatments will be patent-free and equitably distributed to all nations and people, ahead of the World Health Assembly next week. Health ministers from 194 countries will attend the virtual meeting on Monday 18 May.

The Gates Foundation has estimated that the cost of procuring and delivering a safe and effective vaccine to the world’s poorest people is $25 billion. Last year the top ten pharmaceutical companies made $89 billion in profits – an average of just under $30 billion every four months.

Oxfam warned that rich countries and huge pharmaceutical companies – driven by national or private interests – could prevent or delay the vaccine from reaching vulnerable people, especially those living in developing countries.

The EU has proposed the voluntary pooling of patents for coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and tests in their draft resolution for the World Health Assembly. If made mandatory and worldwide, this would ensure that all countries could produce, or import low cost versions, of any available vaccines, treatments, and tests.

However, leaked documents reveal that the Trump administration is trying to delete references to pooled patents and insert strong language on respecting the patents of the pharmaceutical industry. This would give pharmaceutical companies exclusive rights to produce, and set prices for, any vaccines, treatments and tests they develop – even if taxpayer money has been used to fund their research and development.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Providing a vaccine to 3.7 billion people could cost less than what the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies make in four months. Anything less than guaranteeing that a vaccine is made available free of charge to all people is unacceptable – this is a global pandemic, which demands global responses and solidarity.  

“Vaccines, tests and treatments should be distributed according to need, not auctioned off to the highest bidder. We need safe, patent-free vaccines, treatments and tests that can be mass produced worldwide, and a clear and fair plan for how they will be distributed.

“Once vaccines or treatments are developed, there is also a high risk that rich and powerful governments will outbid poorer nations and force their way to the front of the queue, as they did in the scramble for other essential medical supplies such as personal protective equipment and oxygen.”

"Many poor countries are unable to access essential vaccines and medicines due to patent rules which give pharmaceutical companies monopoly rights and the power to set prices well above what they can afford.

“Delivering an affordable vaccine for everyone will require unprecedented global cooperation. Governments must rip up the rulebook and prioritise the health of people everywhere, over the patents and profits of pharmaceutical corporations. Governments must ensure that no one is left behind.”

Oxfam is proposing a four-point global plan that calls for:

  1. Mandatory sharing of all coronavirus related knowledge, data and intellectual property, and a commitment to make all public funding conditional on treatments or vaccines being made patent-free and accessible to all.
  2. A commitment to deliver additional global vaccine manufacturing and distribution capacity with funding from rich country governments. This means building factories in countries willing to share and investing now in the millions of additional health workers needed to deliver prevention, treatment, and care both now and in the future.
  3. A globally agreed, equitable distribution plan with a locked-in fairness formula so that supply is based on need, not ability to pay. Vaccines, treatments, and tests should be produced and supplied at the lowest cost possible to governments and agencies, ideally no more than $2 a dose for a vaccine, and provided free at the point of delivery to everyone that needs it.
  4. A commitment to fix the broken system for the research and development of new medicines. The current system puts pharmaceutical profit above the health of people across the world meaning many needed put unprofitable medicines never get developed, and those that do are too often priced out of reach for the poorest countries and people.



Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editor

A background briefing paper is available on request

The Gates Foundation estimated the cost of producing and distributing a vaccine and have confirmed that this cost relates to the production and distribution in low and lower middle income countries only.

The 2019 profits for the top ten pharmaceutical companies can be found here

The Gilead monopoly decision can be found here, future Gilead cost of remdesivir here and remdesivir potential cost per patient here

Oxfam believes that vaccines should ideally be produced and supplied for no more than $2 per dose. This is a reasonable challenge to set given that new complex vaccines for big killers like pneumonia are already available for this price.

Pneumonia is the biggest killer of children under the age of five, with 2,000 children dying every day. For over a decade, millions of children have not had access to patented pneumonia vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline due to its high cost. After years of campaigning by Médecins San Frontieres, both companies reduced their prices in 2016, but only for the very poorest countries, leaving millions of children still without access to their vaccine.

In March, drug manufacturer Gilead moved to extend the monopoly on a potential treatment for the virus, and only withdrew it after a public outcry. Gilead has now donated a significant portion of its current supply of remdesivir to the US government, but news reports suggest the company could make significant profits from subsequent production. Some Wall Street analysts expect Gilead to charge more than $4,000 per patient for the drug, even though the cost of remdesivir can be as low as $9 per patient.

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Efforts to forge a global ceasefire a “catastrophic failure”, says Oxfam Ireland

  • $1.9 trillion in military spending would have paid for UN COVID-19 appeal 280 times over

  • Despite moves to support global ceasefire, international arms sales continue

In its new report “Conflict in the time of Coronavirus”, Oxfam today showed that acts of aggression and fighting by parties across many conflict-torn countries continues unabated. This is compounded by a diplomatic failure at the UN Security Council, years of weak investment into peace-building efforts, and arms continuing to flow into conflict zones.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “As Ireland aspires to a seat on the UN Security Council, now is the time to show leadership in calling for peace. Support for a ceasefire now needs to move beyond rhetoric and into practice.

“There has been a catastrophic failure by the international community to forge a global ceasefire in order for countries in conflict – and the world at large – to stop the coronavirus spreading in some of the most fragile places on earth.

“We expect leadership from the Council as well the countries who say they support a ceasefire, but who nevertheless remain active participants in conflicts around the world, conducting military operations, selling arms and supporting third parties.

“In the last year alone, the international community topped $1.9 trillion in military spending. This would have paid for the UN’s coronavirus appeal 280 times over.”

On Friday 8 May, the US finally refused to vote on a UN resolution for a global ceasefire. Oxfam says that this was merely the latest of a litany of failures that are sustaining conflicts at a time when peace and international cooperation is needed.

Ongoing conflict jeopardises the health of entire communities. At the precise moment in history when the need for international cooperation has never been greater, two billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states are now at increased risk from this global pandemic. People who are already trapped in areas where health systems are crippled and hospitals bombed, or who have been forced to flee in their millions to overcrowded camps where conditions are a perfect breeding ground for the virus.

A Yemeni woman peace activist and Oxfam partner in Aden said: “I fear that the ceasefire will take place after the Covid-19 virus will spread, so what would be the benefit of peace to a land without a people?”

Gansonré Fatimata, in Kaya, Burkina Faso, said: “Since the onset of Covid-19, everything has been blocked. We can no longer go out, we can no longer regroup; we have stopped our small activities.  Life has become harder, I'm scared. There is a double fear, insecurity, and the virus itself. Before Covid-19, we struggled to find something to eat, now it’s worse”.

Some of the cases outlined in Oxfam’s report include:

  • In the Central African Republic, the UN has just announced suspension of its humanitarian response in the areas where armed groups have broken the ceasefire amid a surge of violence, in spite of the UN’s peace appeal, and 14 armed groups signing a peace agreement with the government on February 2019. 
  • In Myanmar, the army has rejected domestic and international calls for a comprehensive ceasefire as fighting in Rakhine state increased, with frequent airstrikes and shelling in populated areas. Across Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, often living in overcrowded shelters with extremely limited access to health care. Close to one million people are cut off from the internet when information about the virus is lifesaving.
  • Saudi Arabia announced a two-week unilateral ceasefire in Yemen from 9 April and later extended it a month but fighting continues by all sides in the conflict. Barely half of Yemen’s health facilities are still working and there have been over 100,000 suspected cases of cholera this year.
  • In Colombia, the rebel ELN have declared a ceasefire but other armed groups and the government has not. 
  • In Afghanistan, the intra-Afghan peace negotiations scheduled in March have been delayed and the Taliban is refusing a ceasefire without the government reciprocating.
  • In Burkina Faso, on-going violence means that people are often unable to access essentials such as water, healthcare, and food.  Restrictions put in place to prevent the transmission of the virus has made it even more of a challenge.
  • In South Sudan, some peace building funding has been paused by donors, who are prioritizing the coronavirus response above all else.

Clarken went on to say: “Decades of conflict have devastated the health systems and economies of war-torn countries, leaving two billion people vulnerable to diseases like the coronavirus. We all know that containing and managing this virus is hard enough when a country is at peace, so fuelling conflict on top of a pandemic is reprehensible.

“Arms exporting countries must stop feeding conflict and instead make every effort to pressure warring parties to agree to a global ceasefire and invest in peace efforts that can bring a meaningful end to conflict.”

Clarken concluded: “To citizens around the world – demand that your political leaders deliver on the global ceasefire, in solidarity with people across the world and for a more peaceful and sustainable future for us all.”


Contact Information

Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869


Notes to Editors

Full Report: Conflict in the Times of Coronavirus

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus:

o   The UK’s BAE systems flew a cargo plane to Saudi Arabia in late April.

o   Russia has advance orders for heavy tracked tanks which were tested in Syria.

o   France continues to fuel the war in Yemen by selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

o   Germany authorised the sale of a submarine to Egypt in April.

o   Last month Canada lifted its suspension on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

  • Oxfam is scaling up its programmes to help 14 million people in nearly 50 countries across the globe to fight the virus. Focusing on some of the hardest-hit conflict zones, including Yemen, DRC and Burkina Faso, Oxfam is providing hygiene and clean water, health awareness, support to hospitals as well as cash to families displaced by the conflict to buy food and basic necessities.
  • Flight tracking data shows a Bae Systems 737 cargo plane flew from that company’s factory at Warton in the UK to King Fahd airbase in Saudi Arabia via a UK military airbase in Akrotiri, Cyprus on 23 April. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of nations backing the internationally recognised government in Yemen in its war with the Houthis for over five years.
  • The Canadian government has renegotiated a controversial multibillion-dollar contract that will see an Ontario-based company sell light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
  • It’s been widely reported that the German government authorised the delivery of a range of military equipment by manufacturer Thyssen Krupp on 1 April, including a submarine to Egypt which has been involved in the naval blockade of Yemen as part of the Saudi coalition.
  • The Russian Minister of Industry and Trade said in mid-April that its T-14 tank had been tested in Syria.
  • The current UN appeal to respond to the Coronavirus is $6.7bn according to the UN.  Two billion people are living in conflict affected states according to UN Global Humanitarian Overview 2019.
  • France arms sales to the conflict in Yemen have not stopped
  • Oxfam’s life-saving assistance, including the country’s biggest water-distribution network outside of Bangui in the Central African Republic, could be halted due to the surge of violence and the UN stopping of operations.
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Global pandemic further exposes plight of precarious workers, says Oxfam Ireland

  • International Workers Day: Billions of workers face uncertain future

  • Global inequality must be tackled head-on in post-COVID-19 world

On International Worker’s Day, Oxfam Ireland are calling on governments worldwide to mobilise to levels never seen before to support poorer countries with their COVID-19 response and prevent global economic collapse.

COVID-19 lockdowns have had a huge impact on workers across the globe. 1.25 billion workers from sectors in decline such as restaurants and retail (which employ millions of often low paid and low skilled workers) and the 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy have been the worst hit.  As governments around the globe begin to lift restrictions, millions of poor and desperate workers are at increased risk of exploitation as they search for work.

Ahead of International Workers Day, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released its latest data on the labour market impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It reveals the devastating impact on workers in the informal economy and on hundreds of millions of businesses the world over - warning that “1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed”.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Across the world, millions of workers are being sent home as businesses close and supply lines dry up as a result of COVID-19. Informal work accounts for 90 per cent of employment in low-income countries - where women make up 92 per cent of workers in the informal sector and are far more likely not to have any employment rights or protections. The sad reality is, women are more at risk during this pandemic and this risk can be both physical and economic.

“Even in the richest countries, workers cannot afford to take time off. Taxi drivers, whether in Chicago or Kenya, have no choice but to go to work if they want to feed their families.

“Hotel cleaners, street sweepers, delivery drivers, waiters, retail assistants, agricultural workers and street sellers do not have the luxury of being able to work from home – and many informal workers now hold up our world.”

The ILO has called for urgent measures to support workers and businesses globally – with a focus on small businesses and people in the informal economy. There is an urgent need to protect the most vulnerable and ensure their rights are upheld.

Oxfam Ireland welcomes the ILO’s call for economic reactivation, which includes a job-rich approach, stronger employment policies and protections, and better resourced social protection systems – investment in universal services such as health and education is also vital to rebuild.

Oxfam’s recent report – Dignity not Destitution - calls for an ‘Emergency Rescue Package for All’, that meets the scale of the crisis, mobilising at least US$2.5 trillion dollars to tackle the pandemic. It prioritises helping people directly, including by providing cash grants to those who have lost their income and to bail out vulnerable small businesses. Debt cancellation for poorer countries will be critical in achieving an effective and sustainable recovery globally. This must be done in ways that radically reduce inequality and lay the foundations for a more human economy.

Clarken concluded: “The choices being made now and in the coming months will have profound implications for our collective future. They can lay the foundations for a more equal and sustainable world, or they can accelerate and perpetuate the inequalities and injustices this crisis has made all the more evident. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, it’s vital we choose the former.”


Caroline Reid |  | +353 (0) 87 912 3165
Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to the Editor:

• Jim Clarken is available for interview

• Download: Dignity not Destitution report

Case Study

Workers rights: How Dhaka’s Garment Workers are some of the hardest hit

83 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports are ready-made garments, accounting for five per cent of the global garment trade - and with an available, young, and cheap workforce Bangladesh is an attractive and competitive option for large western fashion brands.

“Brands and buyers are getting richer while we live in a cycle of poverty and our lives are stagnant. I hope things get better in the future…”

~ Labonie Akter lives in a Dhaka slum with her sister. Her husband is a rickshaw puller and lives in their original village with her son. Her son was four when she left and he is now 10.

83 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports are ready-made garments, accounting for five per cent of the global garment trade - and with an available, young, and cheap workforce Bangladesh is an attractive and competitive option for large western fashion brands.

There is an estimated four million garment workers in Bangladesh - 80% of whom are women. Nine in 10 people working in this industry live in poverty earning an average salary of €24 a week or €4 a day, with some earning as little as €3 a day.

Much like other capital cities across the world, rents are high. Workers tend to share their living space – often a single room - with up to five other people. As COVID-19 infiltrates our towns and cities, this type of cohabitation now poses new challenges in containing spread and maintaining physical distance.

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the global garment supply chains, resulting in over one million garment workers being fired or furloughed in Bangladesh. All parties are feeling the impact of Covid-19, however not all parties are equal. Factories operate on paper-thin margins and have far less access to capital than their customers, and workers very rarely earn enough to accumulate any savings. Due to order cancellation or postponement by big brands, workers have been told to return home with no money.

“Death from Coronavirus is a maybe, but death from not earning is certain”.

It is worth noting that three of the richest men in the fashion industry are worth over 100 billion dollars while the women at the bottom of the supply chain are paid a pittance.

Oxfam have a Living Wage campaign for women’s economic empowerment. Working with partners, including the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity and the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies, they work for decent employment, safe workplaces, a living wage and social protection. Most workers earn 8,300 Taka (€90) per year, but need 16,000 Taka for a living wage - which would cover basic needs such as food, health care, education, clothing and transport.

International pressure is helping and the government set up a special task force on wages. However, big brands should use their influence to ensure collective bargaining is respected and should invest a portion of their profits in improving the industry. Currently, two per cent of the retail price of a typical garment goes to the women who make them - less than one per cent of the production cost would do the right thing if brands absorbed it. We want brands to commit to a living wage and publish a timetable for a transparent supply chain. Big brands have a responsibility for ensuring workers rights.


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Oxfam spokespeople are available for comment or interview on the following topics:

COVID-19 and its impact on the world’s poorest

Oxfam and partners are on the ground in more than 65 countries, monitoring, preparing for and responding to the deadly threat of COVID-19 among the millions of vulnerable people we work with.

Without adequate health and hygiene infrastructure, the coronavirus has the potential to devastate developing countries and would be catastrophic for people living in cramped and overcrowded refugee camps, in the middle of ongoing conflict or through extreme weather events like drought or cyclones.

Oxfam’s expertise is in water, sanitation, and hygiene programmes as well as public health promotion – is critical to stop the spread of deadly disease and keep communities safe and healthy. We are working closely with local partners organisations to deliver clean water and safe sanitation (i.e. toilets and showers) to at risk communities, alongside other essential aid and healthcare equipment.  

Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh:

The sprawling refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh is the largest in the world, home to almost one million Rohingya refugees and severely overcrowded with 40,000 people per square kilometre. Our staff on the ground are now preparing for a monsoon season which has the potential to decimate already inadequate water and sanitation facilities, while washing dirty and dangerous water through the camp, latrines and homes.

Malnutrition and diseases like dysentery, cholera and typhoid are already rampant in Cox’s Bazar, undermining the health of these communities. There is also very limited access to basic health services, let alone more specialised care.

The UN consider communities and refugees in Cox’s Bazar among the most at risk globally in this pandemic. There are currently 3,382 cases of COVID-19 in Bangladesh.


More than half of the population of Yemen do not have enough to eat, which is feeding chronic malnutrition rates and disease. Communities are in the grips of a cholera outbreak – with more than 56,000 suspected cases recorded in the first seven weeks of this year alone.

Efforts to beat cholera are massively undermined by the war, which has decimated the country’s health, water, and sanitation systems. Medical supplies are in chronically short supply and only 50 per cent of health centres are functioning. There are severe shortages of medicines, equipment, and staff. Around 17 million people – more than half the population – have no access to clean water. Oxfam is providing clean water, sanitation, and food in Yemen, alongside other essential aid.

The first case of COVID-19 in Yemen was confirmed on 10th April 2020.

Gaza Strip:

In Gaza, there are more than 5,000 people per square kilometre and fewer than 70 Intensive Care Unit beds and 62 ventilators for a population of two million. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Good public health as a strategy to counter the spread of infectious disease has already been undermined by the Israeli blockade.

Oxfam Ireland’s COVID-19 response, supported by Irish Aid, is now underway. The process of procuring and delivering supplies is in motion and Oxfam teams are deploying preventative measures to protect the lives of the near two million Gazans trapped in the Strip.

12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Gaza as of 22nd April 2020.

COVID-19 and inequality – Oxfam’s Dignity not Destitution report

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out developing countries. Oxfam’s new report Dignity Not Destitution presents fresh analysis which suggests between six and eight per cent of the global population could be forced into poverty as governments shut down entire economies to manage the spread of the virus. This could set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some places such as Africa.

We’re calling for an ‘Emergency Rescue Package for All’ which would enable poor countries to provide cash grants to those who have lost their income and to bail out vulnerable small businesses. It would be paid for through a variety of measures including:

  • The immediate cancellation of US$1 trillion worth of developing country debt payments in 2020.  
  • The creation of at least US$1 trillion in new international reserves, known as Special Drawing Rights, to dramatically increase the funds available to countries.

Read the full press release and report.

Sustainable fashion

The impact of COVID-19 on garment workers in Bangladesh

Bangladesh accounts for 5 per cent of global garment production with four million people working in textile factories. The majority of those people (80 per cent) are women, 9 of 10 of whom live in poverty and struggle to survive, earning approximately €3-€4 per 60-hour day.

Due to COVID-19, more than one million garment workers in Bangladesh have been fired or temporarily laid off because of big brands cancelling orders or failing to pay for order cancellations. 80 per cent of dismissed workers were sent home without severance while 72 per cent of temporarily laid off workers were sent home without pay.

Oxfam works with female garment workers in Bangladesh to call for a living wage and decent working conditions. We’re continuing to call on brands to ensure the safety and protection of garment workers during the COVID-19 crisis and to transform the fragile foundation on which the fashion industry is built.

Support your local Oxfam shop – even if it’s closed!

As people across the country use lockdown as a chance to declutter their wardrobes, drawers, bookcases and beyond, it might be tempting to dump the boxes and bags piling up as a result – but we’re calling on people to save their unwanted items and donate them to their local Oxfam shop as soon as we-reopen our doors. That way we are reducing the amount of clothes and textiles that will end up in landfill and helping to save the planet and its people.

Our shops are proud to be part of the solution to ‘throwaway fashion’ but they also play an invaluable role in raising much-needed funds for our work worldwide, something more important now than ever.



To arrange a comment or interview or for more information or images etc., please contact:

Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165
Alice Dawson-Lyons | | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

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Half a billion people could be pushed into poverty by coronavirus, warns Oxfam

Crisis could set the fight against poverty back by up to 30 years

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out developing countries, said Oxfam today. The agency is calling on world leaders to agree an ‘Economic Rescue Package for All’ to keep poor countries and poor communities afloat, ahead of key meetings of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G20 Finance Ministers’ next week.

Oxfam’s new report Dignity Not Destitution presents fresh analysis conducted by researchers at King’s College London and the Australian National University which suggests between six and eight per cent of the global population could be forced into poverty as governments shut down entire economies to manage the spread of the virus. This could set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some places such as Africa. Over half the global population could be living in poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic.

An ‘Emergency Rescue Package for All’ would enable poor countries to provide cash grants to those who have lost their income and to bail out vulnerable small businesses. It would be paid for through a variety of measures including:

  • The immediate cancellation of US$1 trillion worth of developing country debt payments in 2020. Cancelling Ghana’s external debt payments in 2020 would enable the government to give a cash grant of $20 dollars a month to each of the country’s 16 million children, elderly and people with a disability for a period of six months.
  • The creation of at least US$1 trillion in new international reserves, known as Special Drawing Rights, to dramatically increase the funds available to countries. This would give the Ethiopian government access to an additional $630 million – enough to increase their health spending by 45 percent.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “We know that if left unchecked, without rapid, decisive and collective action, this virus could have taken as many as 40 million lives. And while we struggle to cope with the widespread loss of life and human suffering it is causing, at Oxfam, we’re urgently calling for similar decisive and collective action to prevent a global economic fallout that would devastate and threaten the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“One man – Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver and father of three from Nairobi, Kenya, who has not had a fare since the lockdown – told us that “this virus will starve us before it makes us sick”. And his is not the only family facing this terrifying reality – for poor people in poor countries who are already struggling to survive there are almost no safety nets to stop them falling into further poverty and destitution.

“G20 Finance Ministers, the IMF and World Bank must give developing countries an immediate cash injection to help them bail out poor and vulnerable communities. They must cancel all developing country debt payments for 2020 and encourage other creditors to do the same, and issue at least US$1 trillion of Special Drawing Rights.”

Existing inequalities dictate the economic impact of this crisis. The poorest workers in rich and poor nations are less likely to be in formal employment, enjoy labour protections such as sick pay, or be able to work from home. Globally, just one out of every five unemployed people have access to unemployment benefits. Two billion people work in the informal sector with no access to sick pay —the majority in poor countries where 90 percent of jobs are informal compared to just 18 percent in rich nations.

Women are on the front line of the coronavirus response and are likely to be hardest hit financially. Women make up 70 per cent of health workers globally and provide 75 percent of unpaid care, looking after children, the sick and the elderly. Women are also more likely to be employed in poorly paid precarious jobs that are most at risk. More than one million Bangladeshi garment workers – 80 per cent of whom are women– have already been laid off or sent home without pay after orders from western clothing brands were cancelled or suspended.

Many wealthy nations have introduced multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus packages to support business and workers, but most developing nations lack the financial firepower to follow suit. The UN estimates that nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost.

Emergency solidarity taxes, such as a tax on extraordinary profits or the very wealthiest individuals, could mobilise additional resources. Delivering the $2.5 trillion the UN estimates is needed to support developing countries through the pandemic would also require an additional $500 billion in overseas aid. This includes $160 billion which Oxfam estimates is needed to boost poor countries’ public health systems and $2 billion for the UN humanitarian fund.

“Governments must learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis where bailouts for banks and corporations were paid for by ordinary people as jobs were lost, wages flatlined and essential services such as healthcare cut to the bone. Economic stimulus packages must support ordinary workers and small businesses, and bail outs for big corporations must be conditional on action to build fairer, more sustainable economies,” added Clarken.

The full embargoed report – Dignity Not Destitution: An Economic Rescue Package for All – available upon request.



CONTACT: Spokespeople available. For interviews or more information, contact:

Caroline Reid | | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons || +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

  • Report embargoed until 00:01 GMT on Thursday 9th April 2020
  • Researchers at King’s College London and the Australian National University carried out this analysis at Oxfam’s suggestion. The results will be published in the Oxfam report Dignity not Destitution on Thursday 9th April. A more detailed working paper will also be published on Thursday 9th April by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research.
  • The World Bank and IMF 2020 Spring meetings will take place virtually from 17-19 April. G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors will meet virtually on 15 April.
  • In 2018 there were 3.4 billion people living on less than $5.5 per day according to the World Bank. Researchers used mathematical models to predict how many more people would fall below World Bank poverty lines of $1.90, $3.20 and $5.50 a day based on a 5, 10 and 20 percent drop in income. A 20 percent drop in income would mean an estimated 547.6 million more people living on less than $5.50 a day. Taking the range of estimates into account researchers predict a 6 - 8 percent rise in poverty compared to 2018 levels.
  • News outlets are reporting over 1 million garment workers in Bangladesh have lost their jobs as a result of orders being cancelled or suspended. The percentage of women working in the Garment industry in Bangladesh is from the World Bank.
  • Figures for Ghana from Diloá Jacob Bailey Athias of Development Pathways, based on UNDESA population figures.
  • Figures for Ethiopia from Development Finance International
  • Oxfam is scaling up its cash transfer programming and food assistance in vulnerable communities across the globe —from poor urban settlements in Bangladesh to rural indigenous communities in Guatemala. Oxfam has been a leader in cash transfer programming for more than 20 years; in Yemen, we provide cash to families displaced by the conflict to buy food; in Colombia, we provide cash to Venezuelan migrants on the move; and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faced the world's second largest Ebola epidemic in history, we distribute cash and vouchers to allow the most vulnerable households to buy food and basic necessities.
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