A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam has started to employ people affected by Haiti’s earthquake to clean up their makeshift camps and improve their living conditions. This “cash-for-work” effort began on Sunday and will expand this week across the nine sites serving 80,000 people where Oxfam has recently installed clean water and latrines.
“People are anxious to have some money,” said Oxfam food security expert Alexandros Yiannopoulos. “Just look at the long lines at the few banks that opened on the weekend and the even larger crowds at money transfer outlets where remittances come in.”
Providing paid employment such as collecting trash and human waste not only makes for a cleaner camp, it puts money into the pockets of those who need it most. Oxfam is also contemplating cash distribution in target areas to boost the micro-economy in and around the camps.
“We’ve learned from experience that people prefer money to goods or food,” Yiannopoulos said. “That way they can buy what they need. And who better to decide that than the people themselves.”
Oxfam has tested “cash for work” in crises around the world and found it more effective than food distribution as long as sufficient food is available on the market. Oxfam’s assessment of market conditions in Port-au-Prince shows there is sufficient food, but people do not have the money to purchase it.