BOSTON - September 13 - Alarmed that relief and recovery efforts were not reaching some of the most vulnerable communities in the Gulf Coast region, Oxfam America for the first time in its 35-year history has launched a major relief effort in the United States. The international humanitarian organization is working to fill the gaps left by the government’s slow and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina – primarily focusing on impoverished victims who are still without adequate food and shelter and must cope with the possible loss of their homes and livelihoods.
To fund its efforts, both immediate and long-term, Oxfam plans to raise at least $2 million online this month. Supporters can make an online donation at www.OxfamAmerica.org/Give. The relief and development agency has already distributed food and relief supplies and made emergency grants to enable people to meet pressing needs like repairing their homes, refilling medical prescriptions, and obtaining crucial information in their native language.
“Entire communities have been bypassed by recovery efforts,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam. “People repeatedly told the Oxfam team that we were the first aid organization they had seen after the hurricane. The extent of the devastation, compounded by this massive institutional failure, is what prompted us to intervene.”
In partnership with grassroots organizations in Mississippi and Louisiana, Oxfam has been working for 15 years in that part of the country to help improve the lives and livelihoods of African-American farmers, migrant workers, and other poor, mostly rural communities.
Oxfam’s response to Katrina will eventually shift from immediate relief to longer-term recovery efforts. Oil slicks, toxic sludge, and fetid water have devastated the fishing industry and large sections of farmland are heavily contaminated, requiring creative and committed rebuilding efforts. Oxfam is concerned that substantial and long-term assistance will be needed to help people in those communities rebuild their lives.
“Beneath the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina and behind the stories of uprooted people and lost lives lie deep fault lines of poverty, class and exclusion in America,” said Minor Sinclair, who directs Oxfam’s U.S. regional programs, after returning from the area affected by Katrina. “The poorest families not only tended to suffer the most but also received the least aid. This is not the first time they’ve felt overlooked by the government – they’ve been ignored for decades. We are here to ensure a long-term recovery for these homeowners, farmers, and fishers.”
“Katrina is a stark illustration of how skimping on effective preparation and planning can lead to massive loss of life, property, and community,” said Sinclair. “Now all Americans must come together for a major relief and rebuilding effort—aiding those who lost so much, helping them get back to their homes and rebuild their lives, and changing the institutions that neglected the people they were intended to serve.”
To make an online contribution to support Oxfam America’s Hurricane Katrina Relief and Recovery Fund, please visit www.OxfamAmerica.org/Give.