Oxfam marks 60 years of working in India

Published: 23rd September 2012

Oxfam India’s CEO Nisha Agrawal is in the UK this week to mark 60 years of Oxfam working in India, responding to emergencies and helping to pull millions of people out of poverty.

Oxfam first started working in India in response to the famine in Bihar in 1951. Today Oxfam works to help people find ways of making a living and ensuring that they have access to education and health services. Oxfam also supports communities to help them cope with the impact of natural disasters. In July, the organization, for example, responded to the worst floods to hit Assam in the last 10 years and is now also responding to the humanitarian needs of those affected by ethnic tensions in the same area.

Success stories

"There have been many success stories over the last 60 years, such as the small cooperative milk dairy Amul which after being supported by Oxfam has now gone on to become the largest milk brand in India and one of the largest food products in the world. There is still, however a great deal more that needs to be done and we are committed to helping alleviate poverty and promoting social justice", said Oxfam India's CEO, Nisha Agrawal. 

Nisha Agrawal, is in the UK this week to celebrate the success stories and raise awareness of the ongoing need to help an estimated 456 million people in India still living in poverty. She will also be meeting with the Indian High Commission, the Nehru Centre and Asia House. 

Well known figures

Oxfam's history in India shows some moving accounts of well known figures seeing firsthand the extent of poverty. In 1967 Sir David Frost visited three areas in India to see Oxfam’s work. He visited New Delhi, Calcutta and the famine areas of Bihar. 

Sir David Frost at the time, said: “Oxfam asked me to look at some of the work they are doing and I must admit that, without the visit, I would never have been able to imagine the size and depth of the desperate human need, nor the magnificent way that Oxfam – thanks to the public’s support – is trying to tackle it.” 

A third of the world’s poor are Indian

A third of the world’s poor are Indian and there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest countries in Africa. More than 42 percent of India’s 1.1 bn population lives on less than $1.2 per day.

Nisha Agrawal said: “The work of organizations like Oxfam are vital to assist people in need. Aid to India has helped countless people, such as getting millions of children into school over the past decade. Although the country has seen dramatic change and development, there are still many challenges and aid is still vital in making a difference to people’s lives. However, as India has grown and become a middle income country, aid has become less significant as a financier of development in India, and also as a funder for civil society today. Civil society today is facing a huge funding crunch. It is vital for the continuation of the important contribution that civil society makes to creating a more inclusive development path in India, that Indian philanthropists (individuals, trusts and foundations) step into the void that has been created by the drop off in aid and start funding civil society more actively. For Oxfam India to be fully able to implement our strategy in the seven poorest states of India, we need to be roughly double the size that we are today, which is what we are aiming for in the next 3-5 years."

Oxfam’s Human Resources Director in Oxford, Jane Cotton said: "It is very inspiring to see Oxfam reaching its 60th year of working in India. Oxfam in India is an independent Indian organization whose staff members are from the region and are leading on programs and working with local partners who understand the context of the country. They are inspiring colleagues, who over the years have taught us a great deal."

Related links

Please donate to help our relief efforts in India

Blog: Fighting for food security in India

Oxfam's work in India

Oxfam India website

I would never have been able to imagine the size and depth of the desperate human need, nor the magnificent way that Oxfam – thanks to the public’s support – is trying to tackle it.
Sir David Frost

Notes to editors

To help the people in Assam who have been affected by flooding and ethnic tensions and urgently need clean water, shelter and hygiene, please go to www.oxfamindia.org or if in UK www.oxfam.org.uk/assamfloods

  • $94: Shelter support for 5 families
  • $57: Hygiene and Sanitation for 3 families
  • $45: Drinking water for 5 families

Oxfam India is reaching out to the affected population to:

  • Provide clean, safe drinking water by building or repairing water sources
  • Rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities in the camps
  • Help people in the camps to have appropriate emergency shelter especially women and children
  • Provide safe sanitation and hygiene conditions in the camps especially for women and children

Act now, donate!

For more information on Oxfam India's work go to www.oxfamindia.org

Contact information

For more information please contact:

Jonaid Jilani on T: +44 (0)18 65 472193 or M: +44 (0)7810 181514 or jjilani@oxfam.org.uk

Photographs can be found at this link: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=12110&k=92337d6d89