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Oxfam International to close operations in 18 countries as coronavirus pandemic drains finances

Oxfam continues to deal with the fall-out after claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers in Haiti

Aid agency Oxfam International is to severely curtail its work because of the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Its plans include the closure of operations in 18 countries at the potential cost of more than 2,000 jobs.

The organisation, which currently operates in 66 countries and whose global work is coordinated via 20 affiliate offices around the world, said in a statement that it has had to accelerate changes as a result of the pandemic.

Countries it will be exiting include Afghanistan, Egypt, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania. It said the changes will affect around 1,450 out of nearly 5,000 programme staff and 700 out of nearly 1,900 partner organisations.

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.

The 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 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 Oxfam International's interim executive director Chema Vera.

Oxfam said the changes will enable it to be more effective in tackling global poverty and inequality and helping people to survive humanitarian crises.

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