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Tsunami Report Documents Oxfam's Biggest Aid Effort

By Coco McCabe

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Oxfam helped more than one million people in the first three months after the tsunami and has raised more than $250 million to support its aid effort, which is the largest in the organization’s history, according to the first quarterly report on its response being published today.

Oxfam began rescue and relief efforts immediately after the Dec. 26 tsunami, and currently supports rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in seven countries. The agency’s assistance ranges from providing hygiene kits to survivors in the immediate aftermath of the disaster in Indonesia to supporting the reconstruction of homes in Sri Lanka and replacing the boats of Indian fisherfolk.

“For once, the scale of the response reflects the scale of the disaster,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “What we have been able to accomplish so far has only been possible thanks to the unprecedented generosity of ordinary people around the world,”

The quarterly report also includes Oxfam’s five-year spending strategy to finance the largest humanitarian effort in its history. Oxfam’s tsunami fund will spend $250 million over the next five years on “reconstruction plus” across seven tsunami-affected countries.

“Our long-term reconstruction program aims to give people the chance of building something better than the poverty that existed before the tsunami,” said Offenheiser.

Oxfam International has set up a specific tsunami fund to coordinate program work and to ensure accountability to the public, who can see how funds are being used.

At the end of March, Oxfam International had spent more than $26.6 million across India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Burma, Somalia, and Thailand. Almost 95 percent of Oxfam International’s tsunami fund will be spent directly on Oxfam’s humanitarian programs, which have saved thousands of lives and are already helping more than a million people fulfill their basic needs, get back to work, and rebuild their communities. This year, Oxfam plans to spend $80 million.

“We’ve published our full figures today so that the public who donated so generously know that their money is saving and rebuilding lives,” said Offenheiser. “This is our biggest aid effort ever and we want people to know we are accountable both to the donors and to the beneficiaries.”

Although the reconstruction phase will take time, Oxfam is making significant progress. In Sri Lanka, for example, Oxfam International is already assisting 430,000 people and has spent $9.8 million providing life-saving water and sanitation services as well as programs that are helping people get back to work and rebuild their communities. More than 22,600 men and women have benefited from Oxfam’s cash-for-work and livelihood programs, and 400 children have received the materials they need to return to school.

In Indonesia, Oxfam International has already reached 139,000 people. Community-led cash-for-work programs have paid almost 30,000 men and women for clearing villages and draining seawater from agricultural lands, planting mangrove seedlings, and building community houses. Oxfam is already helping 520,000 people across south India and has spent $5 million of its five-year budget helping people recover from the tsunami.  

“Despite the grief and loss this disaster has caused,” Offenheiser said, “reconstruction can provide opportunities to alleviate poverty and restore dignity. It’s important, psychologically, for families to be able to plan and look to the future. Oxfam's shelter and livelihood programs are helping families recover by involving them in key decisions about their future.”
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