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Coronavirus: Oxfam responds in India

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Oxfam together with our partners have scaled up operations to fight coronavirus in 14 states across India, providing food to 40,000 poor people, 40,000 cooked meals to migrant laborers, and distributing 2,660 safety kits to frontline workers. Through mobile vans and announcements in rural areas, Oxfam has also reached 4.5 million people with awareness messages on preventive measures.

Oxfam India Executive Director, Amitabh Behar, said: "We fear that the virus will push people further into poverty. The needs of the people, particularly migrant workers and daily wage earners require immediate attention by the government. While a large number of efforts are underway to address the urgent need for food and shelter, more needs to be done. We urge people, corporations, philanthropies and the international community to help us reach many more vulnerable and poor families in need of care.”

Rajini, a 40-year-old construction worker from Odisha, stranded in East Delhi and receiving support from Oxfam said: “There is no work, no source of income for us since the lockdown has started. We would die of hunger; our construction company is not giving us anything to eat. We have been provided food twice and water bottles. The support is helping me and my children survive.”

Oxfam India Director of Program & Humanitarian Response, Pankaj Anand, said: “The coronavirus threatens livelihood, survival and the future of millions of poor people in India. We are deeply concerned about the exponentially greater burden on low-income households. In the last week, we have been flooded with requests for food from different parts of the country. Our teams and partners have worked round the clock to reach out to a significant number of families in need. We have also provided training to our partners and staff to ensure their safety and safety of those they are reaching out to.”

Oxfam is also experimenting with alternative messaging systems that include microwave software that delivers mass messaging around preventive measures, across Assam and Uttar Pradesh. The messages are shared with around 600 volunteers across the state who further share it within their network.

To protect the people in the communities we serve, and safeguard our staff, nearly 800 individuals across 14 states, including Oxfam staff, partners and volunteers have been trained on safe response and responding within the pandemic restrictions. Training included areas like "Self Protection and Protecting Others", Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Gender Equality, Social Protection and Food and Livelihood Support. This was followed by state-wise training sessions with a focus on contactless distribution.

Suneetha, one of our Oxfam partners working at RIGHTS NGO in Kerala said: "Stranded laborers required basic food items like rice, onions, potatoes, spices, soaps and washing powder. We managed to find a vendor with great difficulty and explained the situation the laborers are facing. The vendors agreed to provide us with supplies and we paid them through their bank account to deliver the supplies to the stranded laborers. We are providing dry packages wherever it is not possible to provide cooked meals."

In addition to direct delivery of food, Oxfam focuses on capacity development of local stakeholders, providing food and clean water, as well as hygiene kits, to ensure the right to survival for those worst affected: migrant workers, stranded daily wage earners, agricultural workers and other vulnerable groups including women and girls.

Notes to editors

  • Over the last ten years, Oxfam India has responded to around 40 humanitarian disasters across the country and directly provided relief to nearly 1.5 million people. Oxfam India’s humanitarian response is guided by the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in disaster-affected areas.

  • Oxfam has been working in India since 1951 and has responded to numerous humanitarian disasters. Our Coronavirus response draws from our substantial experience and expertise in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and Public Health, and lessons learned from past crises.

  • Oxfam is distributing food (dry ration and hot cooked meals), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and Safety kits in 8 states – Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and West Bengal. In the coming weeks, Oxfam aims to broaden its response to include 6 more states— Assam, Jharkhand, Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.

  • Oxfam and local partner NGO RIGHTS in Thiruvananthapuram is supporting around 100 migrant laborers and 1,500 migrant workers across Kerala.

  • One dry ration kit (which varies according to states and regional food requirements) fulfills the food requirements of one household for a month. A household is an average family of five people.

Contact information

For media queries please contact:

Himanshi Matta, Media Relations Lead in Oxfam India, himanshi@oxfamindia.org, Mobile: 91-8860182310

Laressa A. Gomez, Program Coordinator - Humanitarian Communications, Oxfam India, laressa@oxfamindia.org, +91 9831144091

For updates, please follow @Oxfam or @OxfamIndia.