Oxfam America launches largest US relief effort

Published: 24 November 2005

Aid organization provides immediate relief and grants to poor communities affected by Hurricane Katrina - In response to inadequate government coordination and delivery of aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina, Oxfam America has launched, for the first time in its 35-year history, a relief effort within the United States.

Aid organization provides immediate relief and grants to poor communities affected by Hurricane Katrina

In response to inadequate government coordination and delivery of aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina, Oxfam America has launched, for the first time in its 35-year history, a relief effort within the United States.

While we have conducted relief operations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America for decades, we learned from our local partner organizations in the Gulf Coast region that they were not getting the help they needed. As a result, we are now distributing food, supplies, and electric generators to some of the hardest-hit residents of Biloxi, Mississippi, and are also providing emergency grants to local organizations in the region.

“The government’s response to Katrina amounts to a massive institutional failure,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “Before Katrina, we reserved our emergency response for countries that lack the resources of the United States. If we’ve got this kind of failure at home, how can we expect poor countries to do better?”

A major obstacle has been the lack of centralized coordination. “In many of the chaotic overseas emergencies in which we’ve worked, we’ve had a much better idea of who was doing what than we do right now, and a better sense of what the government’s response was likely to be,” said Ray Offenheiser, Director of Oxfam America.

To date, Oxfam America’s response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation includes:

  • Working with local congregations in Biloxi to provide up to 1,000 meals a day and sheltering up to 150 people a night.
  • Granting $30,000 to Vision of Hope, a local social service group, which will enable homeowners to obtain $200 vouchers to buy materials needed to make their homes watertight before another storm passes through.
  • Providing $25,000 grants to each of three organizations working in the Gulf region that support rural agricultural and fishing communities.

As with the South Asian tsunami, poor people have been hit the hardest. They had limited resources and few choices for escape from the storm’s path. The hurricane ripped roofs off houses, knocked out power, blocked roads, and flattened farmers’ fields, leaving already-marginalized people homeless and with no means to support themselves.

Oxfam America has been asked by several partner organizations with whom it has worked to focus its emergency response on marginalized communities. In addition, Oxfam America will explore new partnerships with other organizations working in the region. In the meantime, Oxfam America welcomes contributions to its Hurricane Katrina Response and Recovery Fund.

Contact Information

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