Oxfam’s Ebola response – water, sanitation, hygiene and public education

Africa, Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 01 Nov 2014

Oxfam is on the ground in West Africa working to stop the spread of Ebola.

We have so far reached 429,000 people in Liberia and Sierra Leone through community health and water, sanitation and hygiene programs, and 2.3 million people through public communications to educate people on how to best protect themselves from catching the disease. We aim to have reached more than 3 million people in coming weeks.

We have 90 staff on the ground, with another 160 due to be deployed.

Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said it was disappointing to read the misleading article, ‘’Oxfam’s Ebola effort ‘more like left-leaning activism’’’ in today’s Australian (1 November).

The impression it sought to give could not be further from the truth.

The article said Oxfam Australia was not intending to send the funds raised from the Australian public to our affiliates in Africa for some weeks but did not include the clear explanation we had given the journalist – that in order to avoid large amounts of transaction fees, we send money from emergency appeals in large lump sums to our regional office rather than in dribs and drabs.

“In these types of emergencies, our programs on the ground spend money as they need to, knowing what is coming in from Oxfam appeals around the world,” Dr Szoke said.

The article also criticises us for our ‘activism’, citing gender justice work in Indonesia in the aftermath of the tsunami.

“We are completely unapologetic about the advocacy work that we do, especially on achieving rights for women,” Dr Szoke said.  “When women make up 70 per cent of people who live in extreme poverty, we know that work on gender inequality is critical in efforts to alleviate poverty.”

The article also notes our advocacy work on labour rights, climate change and corporate responsibility.

“We know that the causes of poverty are complex. Climate change is making it harder for farmers around the world to grow crops; businesses such as mining companies can bring benefits for communities in poor countries, but if business is done without a respect for the environment or people’s rights, the consequences can be devastating,” Dr Szoke said.

“So Oxfam needs to work at a number of levels in order to combat poverty around the world and improve the lives of the world’s poorest people – from on the ground development work and responding to crises, to trying to influence the policies – of business, of government – that have a negative impact on the world’s poorest people.

“Oxfam has recognised for some time that to achieve our mission to overcome poverty, suffering and injustice, we also need to advocate for the interests of the poor at dialogues, including at the global level, such as the upcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane.

“Meanwhile, the generosity of the Australian people is always outstanding, and their response to our call for tackling the Ebola outbreak has been immense, and we thank them for it.”

For further information please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801.