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A Year of COVID-19

Rasu Begum (left), 35, is a single mother of two and an unemployed domestic worker living in Dhaka, Bangaldesh. The pandemic lockdown put her out of work; she was unable to pay rent and she ran out of food. Oxfam partner Nari Maitree distributed food aid packages to women in Dhaka facing acute food shortages. The food package was designed to provide a family of four with one month’s worth of food. Fabeha Monir / Oxfam

It’s been a year since the pandemic began, and Oxfam has reached millions of people with lifesaving help, thanks to you. Together, here’s what we’ve done.

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, Oxfam quickly mobilized to assist people affected by restrictions that limited their ability to work and secure food.

During this pandemic year, we reached more than 14 million people—54 percent of them women—in 68 countries. We collaborated with nearly 700 local organizations to provide food assistance, distribute clean water and soap, and conduct public information campaigns. With local partners, we helped farmers and other small business owners, and provided cash assistance to a million people, more than half of them women.

Reducing hunger and food insecurity

Movement restrictions, job losses, and lack of government assistance created a crisis for millions of people who rely on daily wages, including farmers. Right from the start, Oxfam took steps to help them get their produce to functioning markets, and we “support the demand side so people can buy what farmers can grow,” explains Emily Farr, an expert on food security and livelihoods for Oxfam.

In collaboration with our partners, we helped migrant workers in India with food, provided cash to suddenly unemployed domestic workers in Kenya, and helped farmers with cash and livestock assistance in numerous countries affected by ongoing conflict, such as Syria and Yemen. We also worked with local organizations to set up food banks in Bangladesh and provided cash to cooperatives in Gaza to help them pay workers to process vegetables for restaurants and supermarkets.

Alleviating the impact on women

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that women are incredibly strong. They’ve kept their families, businesses, and communities from falling apart—all while being pushed past the edge, overworked and underappreciated. While serving as frontline workers in nearly every capacity imaginable, women (particularly women of color) have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of the pandemic. They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from health care. From record job losses, increased unpaid care work, an uptick in domestic violence, and the seemingly endless struggle of securing child care—women have suffered from a system deliberately unprepared to support them.

Orbelina Garcia, 43, lives in an arid part of El Salvador known as the Dry Corridor. She participated in a farmer school sponsored by Oxfam and partners, where she got training in growing drought-resistant varieties of vegetables to overcome the negative effects of climate change and lack of food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alfredo Carias / Oxfam

Out of the 14.3 million people Oxfam has reached since the start of the pandemic, 54 percent have been women. We have gender programs in 24 countries working with 33 women’s rights organizations focused on supporting women and girls. Oxfam and our partners are helping immigrant women in the US excluded from government support, providing cash and training to women farmers in arid areas of Central America, and supplying clean water, soap, and sanitation systems to refugee women and their families in Asia and Africa and the Middle East.

Providing water and sanitation tools

Oxfam has worked closely with partners all over the world to respond to disease outbreaks for decades, and we used this experience to work with Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh to design contact-less handwashing stations, provided funds so our partners in Somalia and El Salvador could set up phone hot lines to answer questions about the coronavirus and help people find treatment, and trained people to promote good hygiene and minimize the spread of disease in Yemen. Working closely with our local partners, Oxfam provided clean water to 1.8 million people, and handwashing supplies to more than a million people.

Pushing for better policies and vaccines

Over the year, Oxfam released numerous reports calling on governments to take action to reduce inequality, head off famine, and better protect essential workers. We pushed companies such as Whole Foods to provide paid sick leave for their employees, and joined the People’s Vaccine global campaign calling for a free, fair, accessible vaccine for all people in every country. Oxfam supporters helped us urge President Biden and Congress to pass COVID relief legislation to help people in the US and overseas.

Your support for our programs has made the lifesaving work we do with our partners possible. This pandemic is not over, but as we eventually emerge from the worst of it here in the US, our focus will remain on helping the most vulnerable people recover and build a better future.

You can help people survive COVID-19 and fight poverty

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