Oxfam responding on multiple fronts to regional humanitarian crisis

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 04 Oct 2009

International aid agency Oxfam has activated an unprecedented region-wide humanitarian response following a week of devastation across Asia Pacific.

Oxfam staff and local partners are on the ground providing humanitarian aid to communities in the aftermath of the earthquake in Sumatra, the tsunami in Samoa and Typhoon Ketsana and Parma in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said, “In my 18 years with Oxfam, there have been bigger storms, greater tremors and grimmer death tolls, but never such a relentless succession of crises.

“As part of our disaster preparedness plans, Oxfam had emergency supplies already on hand in several of the affected areas to cover immediate needs, but the challenge now being faced is getting additional supplies through to the places that need it most,” Mr Hewett said.

“Consecutive days of humanitarian hammer blows is putting even greater pressure on the global aid system. That is why coordination with other aid agencies, and the respective governments and communities in each of the affected countries, is even more vital to avoid any duplication of resources and to ensure aid is being targeted to the people and areas in greatest need.

“It is also why we need the support of the Australian public to donate to our appeal and help us to respond, not just to the immediate needs of those affected, but also to helping these communities rebuild in the months and years ahead,” said Hewett.

Oxfam has acknowledged global expertise in the provision of water sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) in emergency situations which is essential in preventing the second round of deaths from communicable diseases.

Samoa Response Update

After rushing in a relief team to help deliver the most basic emergency supplies – drinking water, shoes, clothes, Fala Lilii (mats), sleeping bags and boxes of tinned fish – Oxfam is ramping up its response in Samoa.

Oxfam staff on the ground are co-leading on the priority issues of water and sanitation (WASH) for the coordinated international operation.

More expertise will join Oxfam’s team in the coming days, with a short-term focus on the provision of clean water, construction or repair of latrines, delivery of hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and public health awareness.

In addition, Oxfam will continue supporting its Samoan partner organisation, Women in Business Development (WIBDI), who are part of the livelihood early recovery effort being lead by the United Nations Development Program.

Oxfam is also monitoring the recovery effort in Tonga. The Red Cross at this point has not sought further assistance from other aid agencies.

Sumatra Response

Vital stocks of emergency aid have been dispatched to the quake zone in Sumatra, Indonesia, including two emergency water treatment units, with the capacity to supply clean drinking water to 26,000 people per day.

Two JCB heavy earth movers are en route from Java to help with clearance and hundreds of rolls of plastic sheeting for emergency shelter for those made homeless by the earthquake, is also being flown to the disaster zone.

An additional Oxfam aid team has arrived in Padang on the island of Sumatra this morning. They will join staff from local partner organisations who are distributing Oxfam’s pre-positioned emergency stocks, including 5,000 tarpaulin sheets for shelter, as well as 2,500 hygiene kits and clothes.

Cambodia Response

An early damage estimate from Typhoon Ketsana of more than 30,000 hectares of rice paddy and crops could be double, or even triple, as flood waters continue to rise. This could cause severe crop failure for Cambodia’s largely farming population.

Oxfam’s staff report that water levels have increased half a metre in Preah Vihear overnight, causing the already evacuated population to struggle even more. Up to 20,000 people are affected in Preah Vihear compared to just 100 families a week ago.

In addition to the already distributed stock, Oxfam made new purchases of non-food items including 4,000 water containers, 2,500 plastic sheets, 1,000 sarongs and scarves, 500 sleeping mats, 2,500 water filters and nearly 3,000 mosquito nets. These items are on their way to the affected areas, particularly hardest-hit Kampong Thom.

Philippines Response

Oxfam has local staff on the ground with additional teams flying in.  Currently helping 25,000 of the worst-affected families in the Philippines by providing clean water and emergency materials like blankets, soaps, cleaning equipment, clothes, and water containers.  Oxfam is also providing small cash grants and shelter at evacuation sites as part of its initial response.

Vietnam Response

Currently working closely with Government and other agencies to help build a clearer picture of the immediate and longer term needs. Initial work by Oxfam is focused on responding in Kon Tum in the central Highlands with water supplies, household items, hygiene promotion and livelihood support.

Laos Response

Oxfam has over 30 staff on the ground in Laos. Assessment teams are out in Kalum District of Sekong Province and Ta Oy District of Saravane province as part of a coordinated response with the Government (National Disaster Management Office) and other agencies. Oxfam’s initial relief work in Laos is also focusing on shelter, non-food related items such as cooking utensils, WASH, emergency food and livelihoods.

With such an unprecedented spread of demand on Oxfam’s humanitarian resources across the region, Oxfam Australia is calling on the public to respond generously to their appeal for funds to support Oxfam’s relief work in Indonesia, Samoa, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

To donate to Oxfam Australia’s Asia Pacific Disaster Appeal please visit www.oxfam.org.au or phone 1800 088 110.

For more information contact: John Lindsay, Media & External Relations Manager, Oxfam Australia on +61 425 701801, johnlindsay@oxfam.org.au