COVID-19 Live Updates
Our Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
Oxfam’s Global Coronavirus Response Snapshot:
- In Bangladesh, we are reaching some of the most vulnerable communities with food, public health awareness-raising, hygiene kits and protective equipment.
- In Papua New Guinea, we are increasing our hygiene awareness work and scaling up delivery of clean water, soap and sanitation supplies. We are also sharing information with communities about the gender impacts of the pandemic.
- In Timor-Leste, a specially approved cargo plane has delivered hundreds of handwashing kits and public health information packs.
- In Iraq, our humanitarian staff and local partners are training health workers, distributing personal protective equipment and hygiene kits, and delivering thousands of public information brochures.
- In Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, we are working to reach 78,000 people with water, hygiene, and sanitation resources.
- In Vanuatu, we are working with our local partner organisations to identify locally-appropriate ways to share COVID-19 preparedness messages.
- In Pakistan, with local partners we are providing support by distributing hygiene kits and running a communications outreach campaign.
- In Indonesia, we’re distributing hygiene kits, developing public handwashing facilities, and providing clean water by restoring or protecting existing water sources.
How you can help Oxfam fight coronavirus:
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Follow our updates on Oxfam’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Providing communities with hygiene kits to fight the spread of COVID-19: Mali
Mali is one of the largest countries in West Africa, has been in crisis since pro-independence and terrorist groups took control of the country’s North in 2012 and 2013. Persistent insecurity since that time has led to widespread chronic food shortages, and hampered development and access to basic services.
Oxfam in Mali works with our partners to support communities to build resilience and generate sustainable income, press for good governance, and support communities to access basic social services.
As of 21st May, there are 931 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Restrictions are in place with schools closed – currently until 2nd June – and masks are compulsory in public spaces.
As part of Oxfam’s COVID-19 response in Mali, the team is working with our local partners to distribute hygiene kits to communities. The kits include essentials, such as soap and detergent, to help prevent the spread of the disease. Here are images of the team distributing hygiene kits to 130 families in Gao, in the east of the country.
‘Crisis on top of crisis’ as India and Bangladesh brace for Cyclone Amphan
Cyclone Amphan, the strongest ever cyclone recorded over the Bay of Bengal, is expected to hit north-east India and Bangladesh today, threatening millions of people in vulnerable communities already affected by Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdown.
Millions of people are being evacuated in India and 12,000 shelters have been prepared in Bangladesh to house nearly five million people in the expected path of the cyclone. Camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to almost a million Rohingya refugees, are also likely to be hit and are especially vulnerable given the cramped conditions and an increasing number of coronavirus cases.
In India, Cyclone Amphan is a crisis on top of a crisis. Many of the cyclone evacuation shelters in the cyclone’s path are already being used as coronavirus quarantine centres or housing migrants who have returned to their coastal communities because of lockdown.
Cyclone Amphan is also a major threat to the Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, and the millions of vulnerable Bangladeshis living in low-lying flood prone coastal areas.”
Without assistance, people will be at risk not only to water-borne and other infections rampant during inclement weather, but also coronavirus, with their immunity compromised. Between the two countries, there are nearly 130,000 Covid-19 reported cases, including an increasing number of cases in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Oxfam, working with partners, is preparing life-saving assistance including safety equipment, clean water, sanitation, food and shelter for people in the cyclone’s path. Our teams are helping evacuate people to cyclone shelters as well as distributing masks, providing handwashing facilities and helping disinfect cyclone shelters to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the low-lying coastal areas, Oxfam teams are also preparing desalination plants to provide safe drinking water because when the areas flood the salty water is undrinkable.
Flyers for life in Manilla: Philippines
Oxfam in the Philippines and our partners, IDEALS, worked with the local government of Quezon City in Manilla to produce and distribute1 million flyers. The flyers include important information aboutCOVID-19 and essential tips on how to cope with the enhanced community quarantine.
The flyers were included in the relief packs that were distributed in communities. Some will also be distributed in strategic, areas such as checkpoints, grocery stores and barangay (village) halls. These flyers contain life-saving information people need to protect themselves and others, including health-related information and important information on accessing social services and other government relief operations.
So far, our team in the Philippines has reached 9.4million people with risk communications via social media, flyers and community banners. The team have supported 84,000 people with water and sanitation services and have provided food assistance to 1,500 displaced people in Maguindanao.
The team will continue to work with partners to support vulnerable communities around the country. Over the coming weeks, there will be a particular focus on women with particular interventions including: supporting women in the informal economy, supporting access to sexual and reductive health, and working for improved gender-based violence referral systems.
Supporting communities with clean water in Bangui: Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic (CAR), COVID-19 represents a health crisis which is added to an already alarming humanitarian crisis. Following more than seven years of conflict, one in two people throughout CAR are in need of humanitarian assistance, and about 70% of health services are provided by humanitarian organizations. There are only three ventilators in the country, which has a population of more than 4.5million people.
Oxfam has been working in CAR since January 2014, providing emergency response and helping the victims of the conflict get back on their feet. In addition, we are supporting civil society organizations in their development, and we have a strong advocacy component to give a voice to the most vulnerable segments of the population in the defence of their rights.
In response to COVID-19, our team are working on hygiene promotion, including good hand washing practices. But it is impossible to stop the virus without access to clean water. So, our teams are also working with partners to set up 20 water points in the capital, Bangui. The water points will enable nearly 100,000 people to have access to clean water. In setting up the water points, our Public Health Engineers ensure that there’s a distance of at least one meter between each tap, to help prevent the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 arriving on top of multiple crises: Somalia
Somalia is currently facing multiple crises. With just around 1,170 confirmed cases on 13th May, COVID-19 is worsening a food security situation made challenging by years of ongoing conflict, prolonged drought and locust infestation.
Famine was averted in 2017, but the drought decimated livestock, the mainstay of the Somali economy. Rebuilding already fragile livelihoods remains challenging, while the Somali government faces a massive debt burden with limited state infrastructure.
Of a population of approximately 11 million people, 2.6 million people are displaced as a result of years of ongoing conflict, and a total of 5.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Over a third of Somalis do not have enough water to cover their daily needs, let alone more frequent preventative handwashing.
Health systems have limited resources and capacity to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19. Somalia has only 15 intensive care unit beds in the whole country, no COVID-19 testing facilities and fewer than 2 health care workers per 10.000 people. Humanitarian partners continue to fill critical gaps in healthcare services and the majority of internally displaced persons, depend on NGO-operated health care facilities.
At this stage, the Oxfam team in Somalia are continuing work to support communities to grow enough food in challenging conductions; to promote public health information, and support communities with facilities for hygiene and handwashing. Here’s a snapshot of that work:
- In the Northern part of the country, Oxfam is providing agricultural input containing drought resistant, early maturing maze which is locally produced to Locust affected communities.
- In the Southern part of the country, with partner KAALO we are providing hygiene kits and dispatched community health workers to engage the community and share COVID-19 prevention measurements and good hygiene practices.
Supporting 173,000 Sahrawi refugees at risk: Algeria
Since 1975, Algeria has hosted a large proportion of the Sahrawi population in refugee camps near the city of Tindouf, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid to sustain basic needs such as access to food, water, and shelter. The camps are situated in a particularly hostile environment, with temperatures reaching up to 55 degrees Celsius in July and August, frequent sandstorms, constant drought and rare but devastating torrential rains.
Now, the more than 170,000 Sahrawi living in the camps are bracing for COVID-19. Nine cases of the virus have already been confirmed in Tindouf province, with the new confirmed cases being very close to the camps.
Within the camps, health care centres are severely underequipped. There are no ventilators in any of the centres across the camps; centres are already experiencing a shortage of beds, medical supplies, protective equipment for medical staff, and hygiene products.
Many of the refugees have to live in very close quarters with each other, and there is a widespread prevalence of existing health conditions –including acute malnutrition, diabetes and anaemia. The risk of an outbreak is extremely high and could be devastating for the Sahrawi people.
Oxfam has been active in the camps since 1975. Over the years, our work has evolved from emergency aid to the multifaceted provision of humanitarian support, resilience and capacity building activities. Now, the Oxfam team is ramping up its programs to respond to the crisis and help slow the spread of the virus. Oxfam and partners are procuring protective equipment and hygiene items to meet the needs of the health facilities and clinics in the camps, as well as working to manufacture and install public handwashing units throughout the camps.
Hadfalla Saleh is a dentist and the head of the Sahrawi Medical Council in the Sahrawi refugee camps. He spoke with Oxfam recently about the current situation in the camps, and the impact of a possible outbreak. You can read that interview, below:
Life-saving work in rural Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the second-most populous countries in Africa, with over 96million people. It has recently had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and has made impressive strides in eliminating poverty over the last 10 years. Despite this progress, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world due to rapid population growth, consecutive climatic shocks, and a low social and economic starting base for human development.
Ethiopia had 162 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of 6th May.
Oxfam has been working with partners and communities in Ethiopia since the early 1970s to address the underlying causes of poverty and marginalization by focusing on developing sustainable livelihoods, providing water and sanitation, agriculture, climate research, gender, and humanitarian issues.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our country team are focusing on public health promotion and providing water and sanitation services. The team has worked with local partners in the Oromia and Somali regions through the existing ‘Empower Youth for Work’ project to develop innovative approaches to getting information to communities about the disease symptoms and prevention practices. For many of the rural communities being reached, this is their single source of information about the disease. The EYFW project supports youth groups that run a small business –including small shops. These groups are being given speakers and audio messages to play in their shops and supported with information to discuss with their customers. The team will also deliver public health messages in local languages through villages using speakers anchored to vehicles.
In addition to this important public health awareness work, the Oxfam in Ethiopia team, with support from UNICEF, have installed a ‘mini’ emergency surface water treatment plant in the Gambella region. This plant will supply water to a COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre which is providing services to residents and refugees and Gambella. The treatment plant will produce 44 meter-cubes of clean water per day.
Here are some images of the plant just after being installed:
The impact of COVID-19 on Gazan businesswomen: Occupied Palestinian Territories
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit almost every country on the planet. People living in the Gaza Strip are facing the crisis while already exhausted from having to find ways to navigate the paralysis of 13 years of blockade, recurrent escalations of violence and an atrophied economy.
The COVID-19 crisis and related emergency measures are greatly affecting women businesses and labourers in Gaza, many of whom are forced to work in the informal or ‘shadow’ economy, without suitable conditions or legal protection.
Oxfam worked with partners in Gaza to run a listening exercise with 32 women-run businesses to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on them. Read their findings below:
Supporting communities to prepare for an outbreak in Cox’s Bazaar: Bangladesh
Bangladesh has recorded just under 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. To date, there have been no recorded cases in the densely populated refugee camps of Cox’s Bazaar. With 40,000 people per square kilometre, poor infrastructure and high rates of malnutrition and diseases such as dysentery and cholera, the people living in Cox’s Bazaar are extremely vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19.
The Oxfam team in Bangladesh are working with households and communities in the camp to support them with handwashing facilities and public health information. Here’s Moury Rahman, our Senior PHP Officer with more on the work she and the team are doing:
The government of the Philippines has taken one of the strongest approaches to disease control in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with widespread strict lockdowns. As of 29th April, the country has 7,958 confirmed cases, including 530 deaths.
As is the case for many other countries and communities, one of the impacts of the strong control measures, is a sharp decrease for some communities in their ability to access food –due to restricted movement, inability to work and disruption in food supply chains.
To address this, Oxfam in the Philippines recently distributed food packs to 300 families living in evacuation areas, who are not just affected by the pandemic but also the decades-old armed conflict in Maguindanao.
This activity is part of Oxfam’s response to COVID-19 under the REACHMaguindanao project, which is being implemented by the United Youth of the PhilippinesWomen, Community Organizers Multiversity-CO Multiversity, IDEALS, Inc. and Oxfam with support from the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid-ECHO.
Getting access to information and handwashing kits to people in Oecusse: Timor-Leste
Maria lives in Oecusse, the enclave region of Timor-Leste. She is a widow, living with and supporting her 3 grandchildren.
Through the Australian Government funded Haforsaprogram, Oxfam is working with Maria and others in her village in a savings and loans group called Savings for Change. Maria is the president of her group and leads members to record their savings at each weekly meeting.
Today Maria is also being supported by the Australia Humanitarian Partnership’s COVID-19 response project. Oecusse is an enclave region of Timor-Leste, sharing a land border with Indonesia, and the population of faces a higher risk of COVID-19 being transmitted into their communities.
Oxfam is distributing over 14,300 easy to follow, pictorial posters on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to each of the 18 villages in Oecusse, including in Maria’s village. Working with local partners BIFANO and A-FFOS in Oecusse, Oxfam is working hard and fast to get this critical information to all households in Oecusse.
The simple act of washing hands is a powerful way to stop COVID-19being transmitted. But when families lack access to water in their homes, washing hands is a harder habit to maintain. As an older person, Maria is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. As a woman heading her household, she faces extra challenges in income and livelihoods. Now with Oxfam support, Maria has a simple, easy to manage handwashing kit at the front of her house. This gives Maria and her family the means to wash their hands every day. A simple act, the way to stop COVID-19 spreading.
Supporting communities with essential supplies and critical information in Hama: Syria
As with many other places around Syria struggling under the weight of 9years of war, the rural areas of Hama district have a population in flux. There are people who have fled to there from heavy fighting in nearby Idlib, as well as others who are returning to Hama after having fled from there to other areas.
For Syrians, the threat of an outbreak of COVID-19 comes in the context of a broken healthcare system, extremely poor infrastructure and limited supplies –both for health and hygiene and to meet peoples’ basic needs. As of 23rd April, Syria has 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3 deaths, though there are significant concerns about both the scale of testing and the accuracy of data.
The Oxfam team in Syria have recently completed the repair work on a water pumping station, which will increase access to clean water for around 100,000, many of whom have recently returned after being displaced due to fighting.
“One of the most important preventive measures against the spread of #COVID-19 is by maintaining simple health practices, using safe water and cleaning materials. But how this can be possible for displaced people or even returnees who are already disadvantaged in many ways due to a long-lasted war. The impact of the epidemic might exacerbate by the conditions in which they live, increasing their vulnerability in case of a mass spread of the virus.” Says Alia Shams, Oxfam in Syria’s public health promotion coordinator.
In rural Hama, the team have worked with our partners, Syrian Society for Social Development (SSD) to reach almost 16,000 people living in collective shelters with hygiene kits which include items such as soap, washing powder, toilet paper, shampoo, hygiene pads, towels, table tissues, and dishwashing liquid. The distribution also includes the delivery of blankets, anti-lice shampoo, water jars and baby diapers for each family. At the same time as distributing these materials, the team are also sharing critical information with people about COVID-19 symptoms, transmission and prevention.
Starting this week, Oxfam and SSSD will be distributing 12,000 hygiene kits across 12 communities in rural Damascus.
Oxfam is also working with a local media agency to develop a national public health information campaign.
Beyond Covid-19: could we create a more sustainable world?
If there’s one thing we can be certain of in these strange times, it’s that the world that emerges from this crisis will be different from the one we remember.
Pandemics have altered the course of human history – shaping politics, changing built environments, and bringing about new behaviours. They force us to reflect on our relationship to our environment and to each other. They may encourage us to reconnect with what truly matters. But above all, they hold up a mirror to human societies – exposing inequality and injustice, as well as strengths and human ingenuity.
So, will we emerge as a fairer, saner and more sustainable world? Or having set things up for an even bigger catastrophe on the near horizon? Beyond the urgent tasks of protecting health and life, this may be the single most important question of our time.
What will the world’s response to COVID-19 mean for the two defining and interconnected challenges of our age: climate change and global inequality?
To answer this, we’re going to break it down into three different areas: a look at how COVID-19 is unleashing public spending and the potential for a clean energy future; a look at how our incredible problem-solving abilities and quick action could be applied to the climate crisis; and how COVID-19 magnifies inequality.
Dual crises –Warding off an outbreak while dealing with a cyclone: Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands may be small in geographic size, but it faces the same challenges as many other developing nations. The majority of Solomon Islander communities live in widely-dispersed villages, with few opportunities to generate income. Poor infrastructure makes life more challenging, particularly when the country is also on the front line of the climate crisis, being hit by increasingly severe cyclones.
The Solomon Islands is currently tackling two concurrent crises: dealing with the impacts of Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold, while also warding off the possibility of an outbreak of COVID-19.
TC Harold swept through the country and its Pacific neighbours at the start of April, with devastating effects. While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands to date, the country is not well set up to deal with an outbreak of the pandemic –even before the damage caused by TC Harold.
The Oxfam team in the Solomon Islands is working very closely with local partners and authorities to respond to both TC Harold and COVID-19.
In response to TC Harold, the team have provided support to the Guadalcanal Provincial emergency operation centre to manage the assessment for TC Harold –getting a sense of where and what kind of support is most needed for impacted communities. The team are also distributing kits with essential household items.
On COVID-19, the most immediate needs are around increasing community understanding of contagion prevention and control, as well as supporting access to clean water, sanitation systems and soap.
Oxfam and our partners have run information sessions in different communities and also distribute collapsible water containers and soaps.
With partners, we’ve also set up numerous billboards, handed over more than 8,000 information leaflets, done radio spots, and worked with youth filmmakers, OMS Films, and Dreamcast Theatre to create video messages on COVID-19 awareness. Here is the first film in what will be a series of five with important public health information.
Responding with food, information and protective equipment: Bangladesh
Bangladesh recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on 8th March. Since then, the outbreak has spread across 38 of the 64 districts in the country. As of 20th April, there are 2,436 confirmed cases around the country, included 91 recorded deaths. Amid the lockdown, it is estimated that extreme poverty in Bangladesh has risen by 60 per cent, with 14 per cent of low-income people not having any food at home.
With the lockdown currently extended to 25 April, if people do not receive support to access food, there is a real risk that they will become vulnerable to infection as they leave their homes in search of food and work.
Despite the very difficult situation across the country, the Oxfamin Bangladesh team is working with government, our partner organizations and communities to coordinate and respond.
Working with local and national partner organisations, Oxfam in Bangladeshis delivery initial phases of response across 7 districts, covering both rural and urban areas. The initial response is focusing on reaching some of the most vulnerable communities with food, public health awareness-raising, and hygiene and protective equipment kits. In addition, Oxfam is continuing our critical water and sanitation support to some of the camps of displaced Rohingya peoples in Cox’s Bazaar.
In the Barguna district of southern Bangladesh, Oxfam’s partner JAGO NARIare working with the newly formed Coastal Youth Network to disseminate public health information through leaflets and radio shows, and cars that blast the messages out of loudspeakers. They’ve been going door to door distributing face masks and leaflets and hygiene kits. Oxfam will help them step up their public health awareness campaign in hopes of reaching 35,000 people.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Oxfamteamin Bangladesh will continue and expand on this work. The team is particularly looking to develop new work to support fisherfolk, agricultural labourers and women in water-stressed communities impacted by COVID-19.
Supporting communities around Harare under lockdown: Zimbabwe
To date, Zimbabwe is one of the countries with the lowest recorded case of COVID-19, with 25 confirmed cases, including 3 deaths, as at 21st April. However, there are fears that many infections may be going undetected due to limited testing.
Zimbabwe is under lockdown, currently until early May. The government has committed to scaling up the testing program and has also called for support from civil society to assist with emergency food distributions and water and sanitation facilities.
The Oxfam team in Zimbabwe has responded to that call or support. The team are particularly focusing efforts in the densely populated suburbs of the capital, Harare, as well as in several surrounding regions, where communities under lockdown are vulnerable to both food and water scarcity.
Our team are delivering to Oxfam’s core strengths: public health information -including a radio jingle that’s been playing over the last 3 weeks; water and sanitation –including with water trucking, distributing soap and setting up handwashing stations.
Here’s an update on some of that work from our colleague Tavonga Chikwaya:
The team have also worked with smallholder farmers to understand and highlight their concerns about the disruption of agricultural markets and supply chains for their products caused by the lockdown, particularly following multiple years of drought. You can read more about that, including hearing directly from some of those farmers, here.
Supporting migrant workers stranded under lockdown: India
Like so many others, India is a country under lockdown, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since 24th March, the entirety of India’s 1.3billion people have been required to stay at home.
Lockdown is hard for everyone, but it presents particular challenges for the millions of migrant workers who weren’t able to reach home and are now stranded in some of India’s largest cities – particularly in the major cities Delhi and Mumbai, and in Kerala state. In many cases, these people do not have food, water or any safety equipment, and they are a long way from their families.
Oxfam India is prioritising support to stranded migrant workers as part of their response to the pandemic in India. Oxfam’s response will primarily focus on ensuring that some of the most vulnerable people have food, supporting frontline workers and community members with safety equipment and materials, and promoting public health awareness.
To date, our team in India has:
- Provided just under 4,000 hot cooked meals to migrant and construction workers and people experiencing homelessness in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Maharashtra
- Supported just over 7,000 households with dry food rations in Maharashtra, Delhi, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha.
- Provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to frontline health workers, police stations and administrative offices in Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Haryana, Bihar.
- Reached 4.45million people with public health information about COVID-19 prevention, using various communications methods -including mobile vans and miking from temples.
Delivering essential supplies to combat COVID-19: Kirkuk, Iraq
To date, COVID-19 is spreading more slowly in Iraq than in other countries, despite the proximity to Iran. As of 11th April, there are 1,279 confirmed cases, including 70 deaths. A curfew is in place throughout Federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, along with commercial flights ban within the country.
A few weeks ago, we told you about some of what our teams in Iraq were doing as part of the early phases of our COVID-19 response. Here’s an update on that work in Kirkuk Governorate, in the north of the country, which has a higher number of confirmed cases that most other parts of the country.
Over the last few weeks, the team have focused on training health workers, distributing essential supplies – including personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene kits – and providing 18,000 public information brochures to the Kirkuk Department of Health.
In the coming weeks, the Oxfam team in Kirkuk will be distributing emergency kits with important non-food items to households, upgrading water and sanitation systems at health facilities, and continuing training and awareness-raising activities.
A devastating blow: COVID-19 in Yemen
Late last week, the news that our team in Yemen has been dreading arrived – the first case confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country.
After years of brutal war, over 17 million people have no access to clean water. For millions of Yemenis who are living in crowded camps and shelters, social distancing and frequent handwashing are extremely difficult. Only half of Yemen’s health centres are functioning, and there are widespread shortages of medicine, equipment and medical staff.
The spread of coronavirus just as an aid to parts of the country is reduced could be catastrophic for millions of people already living on the brink.
COVID-19 inside the ‘world’s largest open-air prison’: Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territories
The Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, with two million people on approximately 360sq kilometres.
The population of Gaza has been subject to a 13 year-long Israeli blockade that has restricted the import of essential good and materials to support public health infrastructure. There are only 70 intensive care beds and 62 ventilators available for the two million Palestinians who live in Gaza. Restrictions on the movement of medical workers means they have not been able to take part in training opportunities or exchange medical knowledge and skills.
The risk of transmission is unavoidably high and, with this extremely limited capacity to provide the required care, the result could be unimaginably devastating for the people of Gaza.
On March 21st, the first two cases of Covid-19 were detected in the Gaza Strip. By 5th April, there were 12 confirmed cases.
Here’s our colleague, Leila Barhoum, talking with Sky News on 1 April:
For many years, Oxfam has worked to maintain and repair the water distribution network in Gaza. Our team are continuing this work, including finalising the maintenance of more than a dozen public water taps in vulnerable areas. The team also moved quickly to provide hot meals to some of those quarantined.
In addition, Oxfam is supporting the control and treatment of infection in the Gaza Strip by providing “COVID-19 Quarantine Centres” with essential supplies – like disposable equipment to treat respiratory distress, hygiene kits and folding beds. These centres will support an estimated 4,000 vulnerable men, women, girls and boys.
Here’s what we know from Ebola: In public health crises, community engagement is key
As a humanitarian agency specialising in water, sanitation and hygiene, Oxfam has experience responding to numerous disease outbreaks.
2014 saw the world’s largest outbreak of Ebola, in West Africa. Oxfam was already operating in the region and we rapidly scaled up our work to reach over 1.3 million people.
Through this response, we learned – and re-learned – some important lessons about what successful responses to public health crises looks like. Here’s a great summary of the top 10 of those lessons.
The main one? Inclusive and appropriate community engagement is absolutely essential.
We’ve adopted these lessons into our core water, sanitation and public health practice across all of our program work. And we’re applying them right now in our work to fight the spread of COVID-19 with some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Up and away – delivering essential supplies & information to remote communities: Timor-Leste
Oecusse is an enclave Timor-Leste that is surrounded by Indonesia. With a population of 68,000 people, Oecusse has no ferry or commercial flights to mainland Timor-Leste. With limited access to supplies and support, the people in Oecusse are vulnerable to COVID transmission.
Oxfam has worked in Oecusse for 20 years, and we won’t let the communities there down now.
A few days ago, a specially approved cargo delivery took place with Oxfam resources and using a Mission Aviation Fellowship plane. This delivery included 500 kgs of handwashing kits, soaps and posters and will get COVID info packs to 14,350 households and handwashing kits to 1500 families.
Supporting women facing violence under lockdown: Jordan
In Australia, and around the world, there is growing recognition of the increased risk of family and intimate partner violence as a result of movement restrictions and heightened levels of stress.
The situation is no different in Jordan, where Oxfam works with the Jordanian Women’s Union (JWU) to support vulnerable women in crisis.
In the first instalment of an Oxfam in Jordan blog series about ‘Life Under Lockdown’, we hear from JWU’s General Manager, Nadia Shamroukh, about how the organisation is working hard to continue supporting Jordanian women through this crisis.
Staying safe in Mukuru: Kenya
Earlier this week, we told you that Oxfam was working with our partners – the Mukuru Youth Initiative (MuYI) and others to spread public health messages on COVID-19 through music, murals and more. Well, we’re happy to share the music video with you – developed by Oxfam and MuYI with the Kenyan Ministry o Health. Enjoy! And spread the message to #StaySafe!
Spreading the work on social media in Zaatari camp: Jordan
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home to around 80,000 Syrians who were forced to flee war in Syria. The camp is now Jordan’s largest fourth-largest city and has significant infrastructure challenges. This situation makes the looming threat of possible COVID-19 outbreaks a major concern.
In response, Oxfam has already started hygiene and hand-washing awareness for 2,000 children and aims to reach 78,000 people with water, hygiene, and sanitation resources. We’ve also been using social media and WhatsApp to spread public health messages.
A message from our Chief Executive
An up-close and personal message from her home – Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Lyn Morgain discusses Oxfam’s response to the Corona Virus pandemic sweeping the globe.
From everyone at Oxfam Australia, we thank you for your ongoing support and generosity, especially in these stressful times.
Working together to respond: The Philippines
In a crisis, coordination is critical. Our team in the Philippines, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, know this very well. They are working closely with partners organisations and other groups to coordinate and deliver responses. Here’s a glimpse of what’s happening:
· With our partner organisation, People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN), we convened a virtual forum bringing together a diverse group of public, private, and community stakeholders to discuss how to address the emerging humanitarian crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
· In Maguindanao, our partner organisation, UnYPhil-Women has organised the recording of COVID-19 information and hygiene promotion that will be played daily in Mosques during prayer time throughout the day. Local radio stations have also started playing the information.
Today, we pass the grim milestone of 1 million confirmed cases as part of this coronavirus pandemic. Tackling this pandemic is going to take single-minded determination and global solidarity. If no-one is safe until everyone is safe, then we must act now to make that so.
Oxfam is already gearing up its entire humanitarian aid delivery system to help the most marginalized and people living in poverty as they face the rising tide of infections ahead. We are working around the clock with our local partners in more than 60 countries to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance, to try to curb the spread of the virus.
And we will keep doing that, with your help.
If you’re in a position to contribute, please make a donation today to help us in this fight. Anything you can afford right now will make a difference.
Our borders are closed but we can’t close hearts to those beyond them
Lyn Morgain, Oxfam Australia’s CE, has been in self-isolating after returning from Bangladesh a few weeks ago. Fresh from seeing the realities of Cox’s Bazaar, the work’s largest refugee camp, she’s written about the importance of protecting those at greatest risk. Read more here.
Creative partnerships to deliver life-saving information: Kenya
Oxfam has long experience of responding to disease outbreaks – including as part of Ebola outbreak. A key lesson learned from our Ebola response is that it’s absolutely essential to engage with people and communities, and providing accurate information. Meaningful and active community participation are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in all communities and countries. This is even more important in places where people live extremely closely, without stable housing and basic services. Places such as the Mukuru informal settlement – or slum – in Kenya.
That’s why Oxfam is working with our partner – the Mukuru Youth Initiative (MuYI) to develop COVID-19 awareness campaigns. These will be focused on information about the transmission of COVID-19 – and how to prevent it, what symptoms look like, and on myth-busting.
We’ll work with MuYI and others, including local influencers, to produce a song and video, street murals and engagements across community radio. Check back for updates on the song and street murals!
Supporting public health with information and sanitation services: Iraq
In Iraq, Oxfam works with our partners to build the resilience of conflict-affected communities in two key ways: repairing and improving water, sanitation and hygiene systems; and supporting with emergency food security. Both of these areas of work become even more important in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
With increasing numbers of cases confirmed in Iraq, the Oxfam team are working around the country to support the response to the outbreak. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve done so far in two of the five governorates where we work:
· In Diyala, we received a request for support improvements at a hospital in Jawala that services a catchment of around 50,000. We’ve repaired the water system and improved the sanitation facilities – including installing new handwashing points, new water taps and improving the ventilation.
· In Kirkuk, we have installed 14 billboards and 59 banners in public places with information about handwashing in Arabic, Kurdish, Turkman and Chado-Assyrian languages.
Promoting hygiene and handwashing in the world’s largest refugee camp
Cox’s Bazaar hosts the world’s largest refugee camp – with over 850,000 Rohingya refugees living in cramped and makeshift conditions. These communities are extremely vulnerable to a potential outbreak of COVID-19.
Despite the difficult situation in the camps, Oxfam is working with our local partners on preventive hygiene measures and messaging.
Key elements of our work include:
Over recent days and weeks, working with our partners, we’ve conducted training for 317 community leaders on COVID-19, held community information sessions on virus prevention, and visited over 690 households with specific information and support on their hygiene practices.
We’ve also installed 20 new handwashing stations in the camps, and widely distributed soap and detergents.
We’re also continuing to work with our local partners, other agencies and local authorities to prepare for the outbreak that we fear may occur.
Supporting the world’s most vulnerable communities in a pandemic
As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues, Oxfam is concerned about the impact it could have on the most vulnerable communities in poorer countries across the world.
Oxfam has substantial expertise in public health work and experience in disease outbreaks, including Zika and Ebola. We are currently working with our local partners, in more than 65 countries to respond to COVID-19.
We’re already helping people to minimize the risk of infection by providing them with accurate information and advice in local languages. Our teams are increasing the delivery of soap, sanitation services including handwashing facilities, and clean water especially to people in higher-risk environments such as refugee camps or crowded urban areas.
Here’s a snapshot of what our teams are currently doing in some of those 65+ counties:
· Our Bangladesh team is coordinating with other stakeholders in Rohingya refugee camps; training staff and volunteers to commence soap distribution and community engagement.
· In Myanmar and Bangladesh, Oxfam teams have introduced COVID-19 prevention information into ongoing programs
· In Rwanda, DRC, South Sudan and Kenya, teams have started awareness activities and are planning for a potential cash distribution in informal settings.
· Oxfam staff in Syria have done some specific messaging in schools and are now working on doing mass awareness campaigns using posters/leaflets.
· In Lebanon, Oxfam staff have distributed soaps in camps and through volunteers are undertaking COVID-19 awareness-raising activities.
As a humanitarian organisation it is imperative at Oxfam that we also step up and respond quickly to the increased needs of vulnerable communities, many of whom will be struggling to access clean water, food, hygiene products and healthcare.
Now more than ever as this crisis unfolds, we need to unite. We need get past our differences, and we need to ensure the people who need our vital support are not left forgotten.
As a global community we are in this — and we can get through this — together.
How to wash your hands properly
Statement: Unite to protect the most vulnerable
Protecting the most vulnerable people and communities and taking care of one another must underpin our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said today.
How you can help Oxfam fight coronavirus.
Oxfam is on the ground helping the most vulnerable communities in the most water-poor countries, but we need your support. Please donate today to support our vital, life-saving work.