Oxfam closing operations in 18 countries amid coronavirus financial strain

Oxfam closing operations in 18 countries amid coronavirus financial strain
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Oxfam International said Thursday it will close operations in 18 countries because of the financial strain of the coronavirus.

Oxfam, which works in 66 countries and with 20 affiliate offices worldwide to fight poverty, will withdraw from countries like Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. The overall cutbacks could result in job losses for about 1,450 of the group's nearly 5,000 employees.

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

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“The tough decisions we announce today will allow us to continue making a positive impact on the lives of people living in poverty in ways we believe will be even more relevant and focused than before,” Vera added.

Oxfam will phase out of the countries and continue to advise local aid agencies, The Associated Press reported.

In Liberia, one of the affected countries, Oxfam has been helping develop safe drinking water and sanitation facilities since 1995. Bobby Whitfield, the chairman and CEO of Liberia’s National Water Sanitation and Hygiene Commission, said the decision to leave came as a “shock,” according to the AP.

“Water, sanitation and hygiene are at the heart of this fight against COVID-19,” he said. “So it must be at the center of our response. To see one of our partners closing down their operations when we need them most is truly devastating.”

Oxfam will also leave Haiti, where its reputation was tarnished after the revelation of a sex abuse scandal that occurred when the country was recovering from the deadly 2010 earthquake.