A sign is seen above a branch of Oxfam, in London, Britain. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Hit by virus-induced financial crisis, Oxfam to shut operations in Pakistan, 17 other countries

The world aid organisation to lay off 1,450 jobs too

​ News Desk May 21, 2020
Oxfam International, one of the world's leading aid agencies, will severely curtail its work due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including the withdrawal from Pakistan and 17 other countries at the potential cost of 1,450 jobs.

According to a statement issued by the organisation, it has had to accelerate changes as a result of the pandemic. Oxfam currently operates in 66 countries and its global work is coordinated via 20 affiliate offices around the world.

The countries it will be exiting include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tajikistan, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Paraguay, Egypt, Tanzania, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia and Mauritania.

It said the changes will affect around 1,450 out of nearly 5,000 programme staff.

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Following the changes, it will retain a physical presence in 48 countries, six of which it will explore as new independent affiliate members, including Indonesia and Kenya.

According to an Associated Press report, the aid organisation had started a 10-year strategic review in late 2018 in the wake of a sex scandal in Haiti that caused a global outcry and prompted many donors to withdraw their support, particularly in the UK, where it started operations back in 1942.

Many of its charity shops, particularly in western Europe, have had to close, a visible sign of the financial damage caused by the scandal. Haiti is another country in which it will be closing operations.

“We’ve been planning this for some time but we are now accelerating key decisions in light of the effects of the global pandemic,” said  Chema Vera, Oxfam International's interim executive director.

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Oxfam said the changes will enable it to be more effective in tackling global poverty and inequality and helping people to survive humanitarian crises. One key change will be shifting more decision-making power to the global south and re-orientating work to meet local contexts.

Vera said the changes, combined with further "phases of transformation in the months ahead,” will lay “the foundation for our future over the coming decade as the longer-term effects of this devastating pandemic become clearer.”


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