August 2, 2011
NGOs Collaborate to Contain Crisis in the Horn of Africa — Oxfam America

Water lines by Oxfam tank on the outskirts of Dadaab camp of 380,000 famine refugees


One of the first questions I ask when considering supporting a disaster relief effort is, “With whom do you collaborate?”  No one NGO, not even the most mammoth, can address all dimensions of a crisis single-handedly.  Likewise, foreign NGOs can not create lasting solutions with a savior mentality; they must consult and empower local leaders in both rescue operations and long-term recovery.  I posed the question about collaboration to Oxfam America staff and their response was heartening:


“Given the extraordinary needs on the ground, it is crucial that we join forces with other organizations. Oxfam has been actively collaborating with other international NGOs, local partners, and local governments in the early days of the response to share information and avoid duplication of services.  We have held coordination meetings with CARE, GOAL, Save the Children, and Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) and outlined possible areas for collaboration:  nutrition, water supplies, animal health, and cash-for-work activities.  We have conducted joint assessments with local partners and shared information with international NGOs, UN agencies, Red Cross/Red Crescent (IFRC) organizations, and local government authorities. 


Oxfam is also a member of the Interagency Working Group (IWG), which is composed of seven major NGOs: Oxfam, World Vision, Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services, CARE, and Save the Children.  The IWG takes steps, especially at the outset of emergencies, to ensure that we apply our resources and strengths wisely to serve the needs of the local population. 


Oxfam’s program in Ethiopia will benefit 700,000 drought affected people. Oxfam will work with local partner groups in Ethiopia to provide emergency aid that also helps communities build their resilience to future hardship.  This is part of a larger regional Oxfam International response that aims to reach 3 million people across Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.”


Since 2004 I have served on the Leadership Council of Oxfam America.