I have made a donation to Oxfam. While I have some reservations about Oxfam’s stance on a range of issues, I have none about its integrity. I’d like to endorse Richard Murphy’s defence of the organisation, and his follow-up. Oxfam took swift and serious action in relation to its staff in Haiti in 2011. It reported that there were problems at the time; the offenders were fired; and since then it has publicly reported on its actions relating to child protection (most of which concerned its charity shops). Oxfam’s main failing was that its disclosure was not full; I am not sure that it could have been.
Oxfam also claimed in its annual report to have helped help more than half a million people in Haiti in 2011/12. This is from their web page on their work in Haiti:
Oxfam’s 100 strong team, including 15 emergency specialists, was on hand to respond with provision of clean water, shelter and basic sanitation, as well as by helping community canteens provide daily hot meals.
By providing paid employment to the people in the camps; to keep the camps clean, build latrines and clear up their destroyed neighborhoods, we put money in the pockets of those who needed it most and helped them improve their living conditions. We reached 300,000 people with aid in the first three months.
The level of destruction and logistical challenges were among the worst Oxfam had ever faced. The Oxfam office and a key warehouse full of vital water and sanitation equipment were destroyed when the quake struck. Like thousands of others in Haiti Oxfam staff were not left untouched by the disaster.
Despite personal losses, including two Oxfam employees, a day after the quake most Oxfam staff were back in the office and they managed to salvage some of the stock from the destroyed warehouse. Oxfam Country Director, Yolette Etienne told her staff there was “no other option but to work and to work harder since we have the privilege of still being here and we can help people to overcome their desperation.”
Before we join the chorus of criticism about Oxfam, let’s remember what really matters.