Oxfam’s response to COVID-19

In the face of a global pandemic, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what language you speak, or your cultural background. COVID-19 reminds us that we all deserve to be treated equally and have the same basic rights.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, Oxfam is concerned about the impact it could have on the most vulnerable communities in poorer countries across the world. Drawing from substantial expertise and lessons learned from past disease outbreaks, we are prepared and ready to respond. Meanwhile, we have also put measures in place to protect the health and security of our staff.

Despite access restrictions, we are working around the clock with our local partners in more than 60 countries to deliver much needed assistance to curb to spread of the virus and help protect communities from its economic impact.



What is coronavirus/COVID-19? 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The current pandemic is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The main source of the outbreak is still unknown but considering previous experiences of coronaviruses, it is most likely that the virus made the jump to humans from animals. The disease triggered by the new coronavirus is called COVID-19 (as it was first discovered in 2019).

  • Symptoms: In COVID-19, the symptoms are very similar to the common cold or flu, including fever, cough, sore throat and/or lethargy. Some people develop more symptoms such as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

  • Transmission: It is thought that COVID-19 may be transmitted by person-to-person contact (through the air by coughing and sneezing, or through close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands) or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands. It is not known how long the virus can survive on different surfaces as yet.

  • Treatment: There is no specific treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated, and therefore, treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Current analysis shows 97-98% of those infected with COVID-19 survive the illness, and 80% of those infected show no severe symptoms.

  • Vaccine: Effective vaccines can offer the world a way out of this pandemic and we have seen promising results from several drug companies. However, 9 out of 10 people in some of the world’s poorest countries are set to miss out on a vaccine next year, while rich countries have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021.

How is Oxfam responding?

Oxfam is mobilizing to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. Water, sanitation and hygiene are vital for any attempts to manage the rate of inevitable infections and have been areas of our core work for decades. We have longstanding operational experience in responding to public health emergencies and our expertise is informed by lessons from past epidemics like cholera, Zika and Ebola. As with other emergencies, we work closely with our local partners and support them and their work wherever possible.

Our priority is to support the most vulnerable people, especially those in higher-risk environments such as refugee camps or crowded urban areas. Our teams have increased the delivery of clean water, sanitation services such as handwashing facilities and hygiene materials like soap. We work with communities on hygiene awareness, help ensure access to food and other essentials, and get cash to those most in need.

Globally, our humanitarian response has reached 14 million people across 68 countries.

Oxfam is a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, coalition of organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a People’s Vaccine for COVID-19: urging that safe and effective vaccines are produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge.

How do we protect the health and security of our staff?

Oxfam has a comprehensive COVID-19 Staff Health protocol and has socialized best practice procedures for all our staff to follow in hygiene and infection management. At Oxfam in Vietnam, we have cleaned and disinfected our office regularly,  established travel restriction warnings and consultations, and encouraged all staff to work from home until further notice. We have also developed contingency plans in the event of office closures.

Given that our programs are predominantly led, managed and staffed by national staff, and because we hold reserves and procure our goods and services locally where possible, we are hoping to minimize disruptions. However, we are certainly expecting that our operations will be increasingly affected.

Our concerns for the most vulnerable

Oxfam is very concerned that when COVID-19 broke out in Vietnam, marginalized communities suffer the most. They are women, poor people, informal or migrant workers working in the production/service industries,.. that have to live and work in insecure environments with high exposure to the disease. Companies are cutting down on their human resources and job loss increases as the pandemic prolongs. Informal workers are not part of social protection and still have to make their ends meet on the streets.

On another note, a large portion of laborers and service workers are women, and they are on the frontline of infection risk. Their shoulders also carry the vast burden of unpaid care which is bound to increase dramatically, whether caring for sick relatives or looking after children at home since schools are now closed.

In the face of a global pandemic, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what language you speak, or your cultural background. COVID-19 reminds us that we all deserve to be treated equally and have the same basic rights.


Actions taken by Oxfam in Vietnam

To strengthen unity and holistic approach tackling Corona virus in ASEAN region and particularly in Vietnam as well as to protect the lives and ensure the wellbeing of the people, Oxfam in Vietnam has been working with partners to propose propositions and recommendations to the ASEAN Heads of State and the Vietnamese governments.

Read more on our actions: