Oxfam launches $2 million appeal as Katrina devastation mounts

Published: 24 November 2005

As the scope of unmet needs becomes more apparent in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oxfam America has announced a plan to raise $2 million in an online appeal. The agency will direct the funds to immediate relief work as well as to programs that will help some of the poorest victims of the storm with their long-term recovery.

As the scope of unmet needs becomes more apparent in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oxfam America has announced a plan to raise $2 million in an online appeal. The agency will direct the funds to immediate relief work as well as to programs that will help some of the poorest victims of the storm with their long-term recovery.

“Clearly the need is way beyond any kind of initial expectation,” said Emilie Parry, deputy director of Oxfam America’s humanitarian response department. “The gaps in resources, particularly among marginalized communities, are so severe that we must work on multiple levels to direct those resources to where they’re needed most.”

Spurring the appeal was a new report from an Oxfam America assessment team. The team was one of the first from a private aid group to reach two inaccessible parishes in southern Louisiana—St. Bernard and Plaquemines—where destruction was nearly complete in some areas.

“What struck us was the enormity of the devastation,” said Kenny Rae, a team member. “In the small coastal villages houses were nearly all totally destroyed. Some were lifted from their foundations and carried hundreds of yards away. We saw livestock—cows and horses—that had drowned in fields. In Delacroix, every single house is completely destroyed.”

Oxfam America is now preparing a plan for how to best help the people of St. Barnard and Plaquemines parishes—when they return.

“The rural areas of these two parishes are entirely depopulated,” said Minor Sinclair, director of US regional programs for Oxfam America. “People fled before the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. They are no longer in their homes, in their communities, in their fishing boats, or on top of their tractors.”

The widespread destruction Katrina left in its path—and the subsequent fumbling of government coordination and relief efforts—prompted Oxfam America to launch a major emergency response for the first time in the United States. It includes the distribution of food and emergency supplies as well as grants for medicine and emergency home repairs.

The agency is by no means a newcomer to this kind of work. For 35 years, Oxfam America has responded to disasters all over the world. But typically, the efforts focus on countries that lack the means to respond on their own. Now, massive institutional failure during the Katrina crisis at all levels of government in the United States has changed the agency’s operating practice.

“Because of huge gaps in coordination and aid delivery, we’ve made an exception to that policy and have changed, possibly forever, our work in the United States,” said Michael Delaney, Oxfam America’s director of humanitarian response. “The communities we have been working in have been excluded from government benefits.”

Those communities include some of the nation’s poorest residents, many of whom are family farmers, migrant farmworkers, immigrants, or Native Americans. Through a network of deeply rooted local organizations, Oxfam has been working in 23 states to reduce the poverty of these marginalized people and help them build strong communities.

Oxfam America’s long-term relationships with its partners in the Gulf Coast states is helping the agency to deliver relief and recovery assistance quickly and efficiently to those who need it most.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Stephen Greene (US)
617-728-2454
sgreene@oxfamamerica.org

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