4 ways you made an impact with Oxfam in 2018

The past year has brought innumerable challenges to the ongoing fight against poverty, including wars, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Just as dangerous are emerging isolationism and declining support for international cooperation that undermine the struggle against poverty. But Oxfam is delivering humanitarian aid in emergencies and working closely with our partners in our ongoing programs to fight against the injustices that keep people in poverty. Your help in this work has proven crucial. Here are a few examples of what you made possible.

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1. Strong local leaders save lives in disasters

What’s the best response when disaster strikes? At Oxfam, we’re challenging the traditional approach of rushing in with emergency supplies by supporting local teams and organizations—responders who understand the situation on the ground and who work tirelessly to help their communities.

Oxfam rarely responds to humanitarian emergencies in the US and other wealthy countries. But when Hurricane Maria hammered Puerto Rico in September 2017 and the federal government’s response faltered, we stepped in.

With your support, we helped low-income people gain access to critical resources like clean drinking water. We trained organizations and community leaders on how to test rural water supplies, and we funded a partner to provide 10,000 elderly people with clean water by distributing water filters to homes for the elderly. We helped found an alliance that is repairing and strengthening rural community water systems that were damaged by the hurricane—outfitting them with solar panels wherever possible.

To address the urgent need to repair homes, our legal aid partner has hosted more than 125 clinics to help homeowners file claims and appeals with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To improve the security of women and children in areas that lacked electricity, we helped provide more than 35,000 people with solar lights. To build resilience, we funded a solar energy partner to install panels in hard-hit communities in the central mountains. And our advocacy team helped Puerto Rican leaders meet with FEMA, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and congressional leaders to inform and influence legislation to provide adequate recovery funds, and to address critical issues surrounding property titles. We’ll continue much of this work in the next year.

From planning to completion, Oxfam’s partnerships with effective Puerto Rican organizations have made our joint projects successful and cost-efficient, and they have reinforced our approach to emergency response: build on the strengths that are there.

Video: Oxfam distributes water filters in Puerto Rico


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All too often, poor communities lack resources to respond to disasters and to rebuild. We support local efforts to help communities prepare and respond to disasters.

We believe all people deserve to live safely, and we support local efforts to help communities prepare and respond to disasters.

2. Following the oil money in Ghana

Poverty is about more than a lack of resources. It’s about an unequal distribution of power and information. When communities know what money should be available to them and have the freedom to speak their minds, they can make decisions about how to use resources to provide essential services. In Ghana, an oil boom is funneling funds into the government’s budget, and Oxfam’s partner is ensuring that the money is used to fight poverty.

In the arid northeastern corner of Ghana, past the White Volta River, the government built a crescent-shaped concrete dam that holds back a million square yards of water. Cattle drink the water and eat green grass at its edge, as a pipe sends water to 75 2.4-acre plots cultivated by 75 families.

Several of these families gather to speak with Alhassan Idrissu, head of the program department at the Oxfam-supported African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). He tells the farmers that his team has learned from Ghana’s finance ministry that money from the sale of Ghana’s offshore oil paid for the dam.

“They tell us how oil money is being spent, and we go check,” he tells the group. “We want to know if this is benefiting the community, especially women. We want to know if there are problems. Does this [project] reduce poverty?”

In this case, the irrigation system is working, and farmers say they are growing rice and vegetables year-round. But not all of Ghana’s oil money is as well spent. Idrissu and his team, operating with a grant from Oxfam, have also discovered irrigation systems and other projects funded with oil revenues that are not finished.

ACEP created an “Oil Money TV” YouTube channel (oilmoneytv.org) to document these projects—part of Oxfam’s efforts to help civil society organizations like ACEP monitor resource revenues paid to the government to see how these monies are deployed in the budget and if they are spent properly.

Legislation developed with help from ACEP and others funded by Oxfam mandates this kind of transparency, which we are promoting with our partners in many other countries where governments struggle to deploy oil, gas, and mining dollars to fight poverty. Next up in Ghana: legislation mandating similar transparency requirements in the mining industry.

Video: Oil Money TV segment on irrigation dam in northern Ghana


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Oxfam and our partners help people hold their governments responsible for using their country’s wealth to fight poverty.

Why are people in countries rich in natural resources suffering in poverty? We help people defend their right to participate in decisions about how countries exploit their non-renewable natural resources.

3. Looking Behind the Brands to reform the global food system

Hidden in the food we buy every day are commodities supplied by millions of small-scale producers who provide crops for the world’s food supply chains. Many of these farmers are poor and chronically hungry. Millions lack secure rights to the land they depend on. Oxfam challenges multinational companies that dominate the agricultural sector to use their power and influence to improve the lives of vulnerable producers all over the world.

Oxfam launched its groundbreaking Behind the Brands campaign in 2013 to challenge 10 of the largest food and beverage companies to improve their economic, social, and environmental performance. Since then, more than a quarter-million advocates have supported the campaign, and it has spurred well-known companies to make unprecedented commitments: Mars, Mondelez, and Nestlé committed to tackle gender inequality. The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo declared zero tolerance for land grabs. General Mills and the Kellogg Company pledged to fight climate change, setting science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets and eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

When Oxfam encourages companies to adopt new commitments, we know it’s only the first step. This year, we have continued engaging with these companies to follow through on their commitments. We track their progress and collaborate with them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their policies and action plans, and we publish independent progress evaluations.

We know that implementing change is complex, so we also lend our expertise to areas where companies want to do better. In Ghana, for example, Oxfam is developing an innovative program with leading cocoa, shea, and sorghum companies to boost women’s collective economic empowerment. Oxfam also is increasing its focus on companies’ suppliers. For example, we are facilitating a multistakeholder process in Brazil involving The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo to help resolve a land conflict involving one of their joint sugar suppliers.

We will continue to focus on companies’ efforts in Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, and Thailand, home to some of the world’s largest commodity producers—and many of the world’s poorest small-scale farmers.

Right now, one in nine people go to bed hungry every night. Oxfam and our partners are helping to address the root causes of hunger by bringing people together to challenge injustice.

Deep power imbalances and lack of access to resources like fertile land and clean water cause hunger.

4. Savings and loans lead to more active women leaders in El Salvador

Oxfam envisions a world where women and girls gain power over every aspect of their lives, live free from violence, and influence the institutions that affect them. We’re dedicated to helping women and girls break the cycle of poverty by overcoming gender discrimination and assuming leadership roles in their communities. In rural El Salvador, for example, Saving for Change groups help women save, start businesses, and inject their concerns into local and national affairs.

In a small town in eastern El Salvador called Calvario, about 20 women in the Saving for a New Life group meet in a small cinderblock structure on a steep hillside. One by one, they make a deposit into their Saving for Change fund—usually just a few dollars each, but it adds up. Having some savings—and access to loans—helps women here make a decent living: Maria Angela Guevara, 70, says her loan of $100 buys two pigs for $40 each, plus some feed. She can sell the pigs later for $125 each.

Now that Oxfam has helped form 18,000 Saving for Change groups and women are finding themselves more financially secure, women like Doris Hernandez, who led the formation of a group in nearby San Isidro, are taking up roles in municipal government committees. “We went to the mayor’s office in San Simón, and we asked for representation for women,” she says, “so that inside the municipality there exists a space for women, more support for women.”

Beyond municipal governments, Oxfam is helping women form regional networks to advocate for better government policies that will help women living in rural areas.

“After 10 years, we have [thousands of] women in Saving for Change groups,” says Ivan Morales, Oxfam’s director in El Salvador. “We want to connect the groups and help them influence public policy” on issues such as new laws that threaten to privatize access to water—pricing it beyond reach for poor people—and agriculture policies that could assist poor women farmers.

Having a safe place to save money along with access to credit can help a woman—and her family—work their way out of poverty. That’s the goal of Oxfam’s Saving for Change program.

Saving for Change helps women gain financial independence and learn entrepreneurial skills.

I support Oxfam because I know that Oxfam’s deep experience, their working relationships with local people, and their thoroughgoing understanding of what it takes to address and solve problems are the essential factors that enable them to get the job done.

Pat Hackbarth
Oxfam donor

Thank you to the many generous donors who support our work this year.

Thank you to the many generous donors who support our work this year.

View our 2018 financial reporting, including our sources and use of funds.

View our 2018 financial reporting, including our sources and use of funds.

Oxfam spent $1.27 billion last year, we worked with 3,663 partner organizations, and helped 22.2 million people (more than half of them women) in more than 90 countries. You make this work possible. With your help we will defeat poverty.

Additional credits: In the opening photo, shot by Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam, two young men roll a 10,000 liter tank into position in Unchiprang Camp in southern Bangladesh. The tank will form part of an Oxfam water treatment system that will serve 30,000 Rohingya refugees with clean, safe drinking water. After surveying the land, Oxfam’s team built a dam to pool water for pumping. The water will be pumped through a treatment system, which includes chlorination, and then sent to tanks on the roadside for people to use. Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya people from Myanmar have fled their homes and settled into Bangladesh’s southeastern districts, resulting in a massive humanitarian crisis. They joined more than 200,000 Rohingya who were already living in refugee camps and host communities in Bangladesh. Many have little or no access to clean drinking water, food supplies, sanitation facilities, and other basic needs. Oxfam has responded with clean drinking water, emergency toilets, water pumps, and food rations, and is also supporting government and humanitarian partners to ensure newly established camps meet necessary humanitarian standards.

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