A man waits to refill his medical oxygen cylinder for the Covid-19 coronavirus patient under home quarantine at a private refill centre in New Delhi on May 4, 2021.
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Oxfam responds to deadly COVID-19 wave in India, appeals to President Biden for vaccine scale up

By Oxfam

Spokespeople available to discuss the urgent needs, the humanitarian response underway, and the urgent need for equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the world’s attention turns to the deadly COVID-19 wave in India, Oxfam is urgently appealing for $4 million to fund its emergency response to the crisis, while also calling on President Biden to support the massive scaling-up of vaccine manufacturing so everyone, everywhere has access to the vaccines.

Oxfam India is working with local partner organizations and deploying teams to five of the worst-hit states in India where a second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the country. Teams have already started providing face masks, hand sanitizer and other protective equipment in parts of Maharashtra following a request from state health authorities. Distribution of PPE to 500 frontline health workers will begin in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the coming days.

“I do not know of a single family that has not seen at least one of its members infected. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day and many more deaths,” said Pankaj Anand, Humanitarian and Program Director. “The health infrastructure in India is bursting at the seams and there are widespread reports of shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies in large cities.”

Oxfam India is procuring oxygen tanks, beds, digital thermometers, and other medical equipment to help government hospitals where supplies are desperately low. Oxfam is also preparing to provide food rations and cash support to stranded migrant workers and other marginalized groups, and handwashing stations in public spaces.

“Our immediate priority is to supply hospitals and health workers with medical equipment and PPE so they can continue treating those who are sick. But to avoid a worse humanitarian disaster it is vital we stop the spread and so we are also preparing handwashing stations and awareness campaigns to help people stay safe,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India. “We are particularly concerned about migrant workers and other marginalized groups who may be stranded in the open and will be hit hardest by lockdowns and the economic shock. Oxfam India is preparing to provide food rations and cash assistance to help the most vulnerable people to survive the coming weeks.”

Oxfam has been calling on vaccine manufacturers, who are currently unable to produce the enough doses for the world, to suspend intellectual property rights, and share the technology with the World Health Organization’s C-TAP (COVID-19 technology access pool) program so that qualified producers can urgently scale up supply around the world. Given these companies have so far refused to do just this, Oxfam is calling on President Biden to support a proposal at the World Trade Organization sponsored by India and supported by more than 100 countries to temporarily waive intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to encourage generic manufacturing in their own markets. More than 170 former heads of state and Nobel laureates from around the world recently signed a public letter encouraging President Biden to support the TRIPS waiver proposal.

“We are at a crucial inflexion point in the fight against the Coronavirus, yet we remain essentially at the mercy of a handful of giant pharmaceutical corporations that have monopoly control over the life-saving technologies we all need,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s lead on vaccines. “The horrific situation in India is a warning to all of us that if we don’t move urgently to share the vaccine technology and scale up manufacturing so everyone, everywhere can have access to these lifesaving vaccines, we will never get the upper hand on COVID-19 anywhere.”

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam has opened a restricted fundraising appeal and is asking for urgent support. The fund can be found here.
  • Oxfam India will begin supplying PPE to 500 frontline health workers in five states in the coming days. It is also procuring oxygen tanks and masks, beds, digital thermometers and other medical equipment to help supply government hospitals, as well as 900 emergency food rations to support the most marginalized groups. Oxfam India and its partners are monitoring the situation in 16 states across India.
  • Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 last year, Oxfam India has been working with partner organizations to provide food, PPE, safety kits, cash assistance and livelihoods training across 15 states (Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana). Oxfam India is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalized groups including Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and women and girls.
  • The sudden disruption caused by lockdowns has had a severe impact on daily wage laborers, migrants and informal workers who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The sudden spike in cases COVID-19 in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi has resulted in many migrant workers becoming stranded in railway stations, bus terminals or at their places of work. Oxfam’s field teams report that these groups, who are often excluded from government support, need food and handwashing facilities to reduce their chances of becoming infected.
  • Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a movement of health, humanitarian and human rights organizations, past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists advocating that COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.
  • More information of each of the leading western vaccine producers: Oxford/ Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer/ BioNtech, Moderna/NIH and Novovax can be found in the following Oxfam Media Brief, Shot at Recovery.

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Press contact

For more information, contact:

Lauren Hartnett
Humanitarian Media Lead
New York, NY
Cell: (203) 247-3920
Email: [email protected]

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