Status report on Oxfam’s initiatives to combat COVID-19

In Lebanon, many Syrian refugees currently live in informal camps. An Oxfam employee in Saideh-Bekaa distributes disinfection kits to refugee families and discusses their specific needs.
Photo : Sahar Elbachir / Oxfam

In the Central African Republic, the pandemic has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis. We installed taps to help citizens struggling to access clean water. In this photo, Dieu-Merci fills several canisters before loading them onto his trolley and delivering them to his family.
Photo : Aurélie Godet / Oxfam

In Iraq, Oxfam distributed sanitary kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical staff in Mosul’s Al-Shifaa and Al-Salam hospitals. Prior to the pandemic, 1.4 million Iraqi citizens were already dependent on humanitarian aid. We also distributed food baskets to at-risk families.

In the Cox Bazar Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, Oxfam installed foot pedal-operated “touchless” sinks to prevent virus transmission.
Photo : Fabeha Monir / Oxfam

Through the support of our donors, we were able to respond rapidly at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. Our actions ensured that on one hand, vulnerable populations had everything they needed to effectively protect themselves against COVID-19. On the other hand, given the pandemic’s severe “side effects” (confinement, job losses, movement restrictions) on already-vulnerable populations, we worked to help these communities meet their most basic needs.

Protecting citizens from illness

When the pandemic struck, Oxfam worked tirelessly to identify the populations at highest risk of contracting coronavirus; specifically, those struggling to access clean drinking water, and those in high-density locations such as displaced persons or refugee camps.

We built wells and installed taps to ensure these populations have regular access to clean drinking water. We also distributed soap and launched awareness campaigns among targeted populations to promote good hygiene practices.

Huguette on the front lines in the fight against coronavirus

Over the past year, armed militias have displaced over 765,000 people in Burkina Faso. These citizens took refuge in cities and displaced persons camps, which resulted in overpopulation and a water shortage.

For these already-vulnerable populations, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic generated new hardships. Within this environment, Oxfam water engineer Huguette faced a massive challenge in raising awareness about good hand-washing practices, which are virtually impossible without soap or water. Fortunately, our members’ support enabled us to deliver hygiene kits and install water points for these populations. Prevention – whether against COVID-19 or other life-threatening diseases – is the best way to save lives.

Easing the pandemic’s “side effects” on vulnerable populations

By some estimates, the pandemic may drive half a billion people into poverty. Factors such as confinement, – which hampers access to food and agricultural seed – job losses, and healthcare-related costs can push vulnerable populations to the breaking point. Beyond delivering water and soap, it’s essential that we support the most vulnerable populations in feeding themselves and meeting their basic needs.

In addition to providing essential food items, we also made monetary transfers to certain communities. These transfers enabled us to access hard-to-reach areas and to stimulate local economies so communities can meet their basic needs with dignity and independence.

Moreover, protecting women and girls is a constant concern in all of our interventions. We made certain to address their specific needs, for example by offering support to women vulnerable to acts of violence.

Hampers that deliver food…. and security

In the Niwena district located in Mosul, Iraq, Oxfam distributed food hampers to high-risk families. The hampers also contained a telephone number to access a support hotline for female abuse victims, as the incidence of violence against women has unfortunately risen during the pandemic. Initiatives like these are taking place in every Oxfam program country in support of vulnerable women.