Protecting the most vulnerable people and communities and taking care of one another must underpin our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said today.
“We understand the deep concerns of people here and overseas as we all grapple with great uncertainty and a rapidly changing context in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Ms Morgain said.
“This is a time to take care of one another, to listen to the advice of our health experts and to do everything possible to maintain our resilience as we tackle this unprecedented challenge together.”
Ms Morgain said Oxfam Australia was adopting measures in line with State and national strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19, with the paramount concern being the wellbeing of staff, volunteers, partners and supporters.
These measures included having staff across Australia work from home, restricting travel and the cancellation of big public events, including Trailwalker Melbourne and the Oxfam Comedy Gala.
“We will continue to closely monitor changes in advice and we expect this will continue to have regrettable, but necessary, impacts on planned activities,” Ms Morgain said.
But Ms Morgain said as we all coped with our own concerns, Oxfam was acutely aware that vulnerable communities and people – both at here in Australia and around the world – would likely be hit the worst.
“As an international humanitarian organisation, we are extremely concerned that the most disadvantaged communities – communities already struggling with shortages of adequate basics like food, water and health care – will face the biggest threats to their lives and livelihoods,” Ms Morgain said.
“Communities already in crisis are least equipped to cope, such as people forced from their homes by conflict in Yemen and people living in the mass refugee camp in Bangladesh.
“Half of the world’s population do not have access to basic health care, therefore any outbreak of the virus in low-income countries will be devastating.
“Across the globe, Oxfam is working with communities, our partners, governments and key United Nations agencies in 65 countries to coordinate our response. Even in wealthy countries, COVID-19 is likely to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
“Given our expertise, much of this work will continue to focus on delivering water and sanitation services and hygiene promotion to the most vulnerable people and communities. In some countries, like Myanmar and Bangladesh, we have already increased our health promotional work around hand and respiratory hygiene in the refugee camps where we work. We are also working with vulnerable groups in Hong Kong and China, distributing protective supplies such as surgical masks, hand sanitiser and gloves.
“It must be remembered, all of this work is being undertaken by a humanitarian system that is already overstretched and under-funded.
“Now more than ever as this crisis unfolds, we need to unite. We need get past our differences, and we need to ensure the people who need our vital support are not left forgotten.”