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Global Financial Crisis Hitting Aid Agency Oxfam

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Global Financial Crisis Hitting Aid Agency Oxfam

International development agency Oxfam is bracing for a shortfall that could exceed $500,000 as a result of the global financial crisis and the fall in the New Zealand dollar. Oxfam recognises that these are difficult times for many New Zealanders, but is calling for generosity to be extended to those less fortunate than ourselves.

"Everyone's feeling the pinch, but it's been a particularly tough year for people in the developing world. People living in poverty need our support now, more than ever," says Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates.

"The rapid rise in food and oil prices has been compounded by turmoil on world financial markets.

"While it is difficult to gauge the longer term impact of these crises, the outlook is dire for people living in poverty."

The International Labour Organisation recently predicted an extra 100 million people would be pushed into poverty as a result of the global financial crisis, leaving them to live on less than $2 a day. This follows an estimate that a similar number of people have been forced into poverty by the impact of higher food prices.

The New Zealand economy is in recession and is expected to keep shrinking until at least the middle of next year, and this has started to impact on Oxfam's work in the Pacific, East Asia and Africa.

Coates said Oxfam New Zealand is doing everything it can to stop the expected shortfall impacting its programme work, and has cut its operational budget by 8.2 percent. The programme budget has been retained at the planned level at this stage.

The drop in the New Zealand dollar in the past three months is hitting Oxfam particularly hard because the cost to carry out programme work goes up when funds are exchanged into local currencies, or the US dollar.

This is already evident in our Papua New Guinea (PNG) programme where 2000 people in the Highlands are going to miss out this year on having access to fresh water.

Oxfam's PNG water engineer Pauline Komolong said Oxfam's funding in New Zealand dollars will now only buy enough materials needed to bring fresh water to 4000 people in the Highlands this year, instead of 6000 as originally planned.

"Oxfam will still be able to fund the building of one gravity-fed water system and 750 toilets for 4000 people in the Kup and Tari regions in the New Year, but 2000 others will be missing out for a further six months, and I don't know how we're going to tell them that," Komolong says.

People will have to continue to walk 2.5kms to the nearest tap at the health centre and wait their turn with patients for water, or continue using polluted river water for drinking and cooking. The now delayed extension of the water supply system will eventually deliver water within 50 metres of their village via 17 taps, placed in health centres as well as four schools.

Coates adds: "We are determined to do everything we can to continue to increase the support we are able to provide to those in the developing world who are suffering from multiple crises."

Oxfam New Zealand works in the Pacific, East Asia and Africa, partnering with local organisations to support people to access safe water and sanitation, to provide education and healthcare for their children, to build sustainable livelihoods, to live free from persecution and violence and to have a voice on decisions that affect them.

To help support Oxfam's work people can: shop online at www.oxfamunwrapped.org.nz for Christmas gifts that really make a difference; become a regular supporter; or make a general donation at www.oxfam.org.nz

ENDS

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