The Future is Equal


5 reasons why people are doing Oxfam Trailwalker

Oxfam Trailwalker

Since our launch last month, we have seen an incredible response with people stepping up to take on the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge. Already more than HALF of participant spots are filled and we want to make sure you don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Don’t miss out!

During the past month, we’ve been on the phones answering your questions as well as chatting to people about the event. We’ve heard so many great reasons why people are getting involved and want to share them with you…

1. Explore New Zealand’s finest: For the first time in its history, Oxfam Trailwalker will take place in the stunning Taranaki region. It’s an opportunity after the lockdown period to get out, support domestic tourism and experience a brand-new trail – exclusive only to Oxfam Trailwalker participants. 

2. Tick it off your bucket list: You probably know someone who’s taken on the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge – and had the blisters to prove it! Oxfam Trailwalker might have been on your bucket list for some time and this is your year to conquer it. There’s no time like the present!

3. A physical challenge we’re up for: People from all fitness levels are stepping up to take on the trail. Whether it’s to get fitter, push yourself out of your comfort zone, or be a great role model for your children, Oxfam Trailwalker is sure to push you to your limits for an incredibly rewarding experience. 

4. Bond with friends and colleagues: It’s a great excuse to round up your mates, get active and make memories with those you are closest with. Past participants have told us it’s a memory they reflect back on often and something their friend group will cherish for a lifetime.

5. Do your bit to help make the world a better place: With the world in its current state, we all should pitch in and lend a helping hand. When you participate in Oxfam Trailwalker, you’ll give families living in poverty access to basic water and sanitation while providing a safe environment for them to thrive. 

Start your adventure today!

Don’t forget – early bird pricing ends 31 August so take advantage of the discounted rates while you can!

We are here to help you smash your goals and would love to hear from you. Do give us a call on 0800 600 700 or email us at if you have any questions.

A family struck by hunger

A Mother of Eight Narrates Ordeal in Covid-19

Written by Bettie Kemah Johnson-Mbayo, Oxfam in Liberia


Before the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, Bone Kortie, 43 years, was a petty business trader in Paynesville city, one of the cities surrounding Liberia’s densely populated capital city of Monrovia.

Bone is famously called by regular clients as ‘cold milk’ – a name she earned from the tasty cold milk she sold prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in Liberia.

Bone is a mother of eight children between the ages of three and 16 years. Like so many other women across Liberia, she takes care of the extended family too. Bone is the biological parent of five children, while the others are those of her late sister who died tragically in a car crash in 2017.

Bone takes care of these children all by herself since the father of last child disappeared three years ago: “My son’s father asked for the money we were saving for the family to go do business, but since he left I have no idea if he is alive or dead.”



People are afraid to buy milk

Since the start of Covid-19, Bone’s business has faltered, and she has exhausted all her earnings from the sale of cold milk, which is the only source of income she has to feed her entire family.

“Since the start of the sickness, the people are afraid to buy the milk, nobody wants to buy, and I was losing, so I resolved to not sell it anymore,” she said.

Life for Bone and her children is unbearable according to her. She is now doing casual labour, collecting and piling dirt for a house foundation. Three of the children are selling plastic bags in the streets while the oldest son is doing yard work to help the family survive.

“I am currently helping someone to fill their house foundation. I get paid L$150.00 [about 75 cents] a day and at least 10 loads must be taken to the site in a day. The money we raise from the sales of plastic and the filling of the foundation, is what keeps us alive right now.

“Sometimes when I think about my suffering I just want to commit suicide, my life now is not easy, the condition I find myself in, I can’t explain,” she said.



The “no food days” of the week

Prior to Covid-19, Bone and her children ate two meals a day, but now, it is either one meal a day or none.

With tears running down her cheeks, she said, “This Saturday we didn’t eat but we ate Sunday, thanks to the help of a neighbour. I kept little of the food for Monday…I told the children if they eat early Monday morning there will be no food in the evening. So, you see, I can starve the children because I don’t have food and sometimes they don’t understand. Even on Monday they ate at 4pm but the food wasn’t enough, I made them drink enough water. I don’t know if they were okay, but they slept until Tuesday.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday Bone went to work and returned home with five cups of rice, which she steamed, and the children ate without any soup nor oil.

Thursday was a “no food day” for Bone and her children because of the heavy rain that resulted in no work for her and her sons selling the plastics. Now that Liberia has entered the rainy season, there will likely be more no food days to come.

“Today [Thursday] until now no food, the plan I have is, when it is late evening I will go to the lady that I can wash for to give me the clothes to wash, I know she will pay but going for the clothes is an assurance that we will eat Friday because tonight, I am hoping that someone can help me for the children not to sleep hungry again.”

Despite the struggle for food, Bone is also faced with an increase in the rent of her one-bedroom apartment where she and the eight children live. “The landlord said the rent has increased, where am I going to take the money from?” she asks.



Cash transfer: a dream come true

Luckily, Bone is now one of the 300 project participants for the social protection project funded by Oxfam and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Danida). The project is locally led by two partners: Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI) and West Point Women for Health and Development Organization, both largely focused on women rights.

The project aims to minimize the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on women and girls in six urban poor or slum communities, and it was pre-designed to address their basic food and non-food needs by providing a digital cash transfer via mobile phone.

However, not everyone has a mobile phone, explains Mohammed Massalay, the Oxfam Covid-19 focal point for the project: “after the selection process we noticed that 50% (150 households) of the project participants did not have mobile phones and no mobile money account due to age and some level of vulnerability. We procured phones and SIM cards for these 50% participants and registered a mobile money account of their own.”

Each project participant received $109.50 to their mobile money accounts.

Currently, Bone with a smile beaming across her face, displays the text showing receipt of payment on her phone via mobile money.

“I am going to buy food for the house and start selling charcoal, I do not know when this sickness will go, and I can’t use all the money to buy food,” she said.


The transfer is a dream come through, my children and I can’t say much but to say thank you for coming to our rescue, now we can eat daily.” She said.


The Top Five Questions You Asked About Oxfam’s Call For A People’s Vaccine

Covid-19 Vaccine

Oxfam, along with UNAIDS and over 150 world leaders recently called for the forthcoming Coronavirus vaccine to be made available free of charge, to everyone on the planet. As researchers race to find a vaccine, you asked us some great questions about our call to action. Here are our answers:

1. why is it important for the covid-19 vaccine to be free, and fairly distributed to everyone?

The Coronavirus pandemic has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and while it is slowing down in some countries, in others — and particularly across some of the most unequal regions — we’re seeing it continue to spread. Just last week the WHO marked Latin America as the next epicenter for the virus.

We have seen this virus cripple some of the most advanced health systems in the world, so imagine what it can do to already struggling health systems in the poorest countries. A vaccine is our best hope of ending the pandemic and the chaos it is causing.


Your ability to stay safe and healthy should never be dictated by the amount of money in your pocket.

Good health is a right not a privilege and health care should be free at the point of use. Unfortunately, billions of people each year are denied health care, because they are too poor to pay the fees charged.

This pandemic has left billions of people at risk of being pushed into hunger and poverty. 

Which means that most people in the world will find it even harder to pay for health care, including a vaccine, out of their own pockets. This is especially true for women and girls who are usually last in line for care, even though they shoulder the majority of care work themselves, putting them at higher risk for infection.

But a free of charge vaccine is not only about fairness. It is also imperative to protect everyone one of us.

A vaccine will only work to protect all of our health if everyone who needs it has access to it.

It is self-defeating if only rich people and rich countries get access to a vaccine because they can afford to pay. As long as some people in the world have no access to the vaccine, we all remain at risk from this virus.

While some people think the virus will simply disappear one day, and others are banking on 
herd immunity, it is important to know that herd immunity is often achieved through  vaccinations. Just waiting until enough people have been infected with the virus could cost millions of lives and continue to deepen inequalities between us. A price that we cannot be prepared to pay.

The People's Vaccine

2. what does 'fairly distributed' mean?

If only limited supplies of the vaccine are available it makes sense to vaccinate those at most risk first, including frontline medical staff and other front-line workers, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions — wherever they are. Estimates show that there are about 1 billion people in this category.

We need a global binding agreement that governments will prioritize supply according to need and not ability to pay.

The best solution to achieving fairness is to have enough supply of a vaccine for everyone as soon as possible. Achieving this requires at least two things:

Firstly, a commitment by all governments, institutions and pharmaceutical companies involved in developing the vaccine to share the science and technologies they discover. Rather than locking it up in patents that will be afforded to the highest bidder, the science of the vaccine and all treatments should be shared openly. This means any country or company with the capacity to do so safely can make the vaccine, while other countries will be free to import low-cost vaccines to ensure everyone on the planet can benefit from it equally. Secondly, the world needs additional vaccine manufacturing capacity to meet the unprecedented global demand. We need to see governments investing in this additional capacity now, especially in countries that already have the technological know-how to produce the vaccine and are committed to free and fair global access.
The People's Vaccine

3. who will end up paying for the vaccine? can we afford for it to be free for everyone?

The vaccine needs to be a global public good — it must be produced at the lowest price possible — ‘at true cost price’ with no one profiting from its production. This is especially important because it is largely public money that is paying for its development. Ideally the vaccine should be provided at a cost of no more than $2 per dose to governments and agencies who will deliver it, and free of charge for those who get it — in rich and poor countries alike.

Oxfam has estimated that the cost of delivering the vaccine to the poorest people on the planet could be the equivalent to just 4 months’ worth of the annual profits of the ten wealthiest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

This isn’t a matter of whether it’s affordable, it’s a matter of political will to make it happen.

Pharmaceutical net income

4. Is Oxfam saying the vaccine should be mandatory for all people?

At this stage, the priority needs to be on making the right steps to secure that a safe and effective vaccine is found and made available for all those who need it. If action on this is delayed the world might witness the development of a successful vaccine but it’s scarcity will mean only those with the deepest pockets will be able to access it.

Vaccines have an extremely positive track record and continue to prevent millions of deaths across the globe. Smallpox and polio are only two examples of diseases that have been erased from most societies effectively, due to vaccines.

There is a large body of scientific evidence that shows that vaccines are effective and safe. A single vaccine not only works for the person who receives it, but every single person that is vaccinated helps to prevent the spread of a disease, as they then cannot pass it on due to immunity.

Hence, vaccines are so important for everybody — not just on the individual level.

Right now, with millions of people threatened by the Coronavirus pandemic, the greatest fear is not that people will have to get vaccinated who don’t want to be protected, the fear is that not everybody who needs protection will be able to get the vaccine.

Oxfam supports calls for public information campaigns based on clear, transparent, peer-reviewed and accountable scientific evidence regarding the vaccine and any other medical solutions adopted to protect peoples’ health so that people are well informed ahead of any vaccine and treatment roll outs.

The People's Vaccine

5. what are the ethical issues at stake with the development and rollout of a new vaccine?

Vaccines have contributed vastly to our overall health — only second to access to clean drinking water — and hence play an important role in our collective public health. However, there are several ethical issues that come up when a new vaccine is being developed and introduced. Here are two important ones:

The testing phase:

New drugs, including vaccines, need to go through a rigorous testing phase, before they are approved for wide medical use. There are new types of vaccines against Covid19 currently being developed — for example, the so-called RNA vaccines. Just like all other vaccines, new types of vaccines must be tested rigorously to ensure it is safe and effective.

While clinical trials are an inherent part of developing safe drugs and vaccines, it is of utmost importance that ethical standards are adhered to in the strictest form.

There have been appalling examples of medical testing in vulnerable communities, for example in Zimbabwe, Nigeria in the 90s or when the first ever vaccine (against smallpox) was tested in children living in an orphanage in Austria, back in the18th century.

A new vaccine needs to be developed and tested under strict ethical protocol. That is imperative.

The rollout phase:

Some drugs that are developed end up not being made available for those in most need, but for those in the “right” country or with enough cash to pay for it. Especially when there is limited supply, the tough question is who gets the treatment first.

The answer should be straight forward — those who need it, irrespective of where they live, what their income, ethnicity or gender is.

Meet Nick and Renay – Mindful Travellers

Nick Potter and Renay Duncalfe, of Wellington have been driven by their strong values, supporting Oxfam Aotearoa since the early 2000s.

“We decided to support Oxfam because of the focus on the Pacific region…and because it campaigns to address the root causes of poverty (not just the symptoms). Oxfam is guided by good values, it delivers a high proportion of fundraising to humanitarian relief, and it’s a secular organisation working directly with communities.

“Travelling through places such as India and Nepal gave us a strong impression of how fortunate we are living in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is real poverty in our country too – but seeing the poverty that many people experience in the world, often with no safety nets in the form of government assistance, is a real heart-opener.

“We both want to give more than we take and leave the world in better shape through our presence and actions.

 “We want any material wealth that we leave behind to be put to good use. We focused on charities that contribute to areas that we particularly care about: eradicating poverty, gender equity, caring for victims of violence, and environmental regeneration… All of that’s going to require compassionate action, generosity, and patient persistence.”

“I might not survive this pandemic but right now I am their mother”

A Mother’s Day Tribute to Atsede Getaneth
By Tigist Gebru

“I might not even survive this pandemic but right now, the most important thing for me is my children. I cannot see them go hungry.”

Before COVID-19 reached Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Atsede Gataneth, a single mother who sells vegetables for a living, earned enough money to ensure her family had enough to eat and to keep her two daughters in school. But government measures to limit the spread of the virus, physical distancing, and increasing prices of basic commodities are pushing her towards desperation. Her story reflects the challenges of women in the informal sector across the Horn, East and Central Africa (HECA), who are struggling to make ends meet.

“It is not a good time to be in business, as a single parent, I have two daughters to look after,” says Atsede.  She has been selling vegetables on the street for the past 13 years and it has never been worse. She wakes up at 6 am every morning to go to the market to buy and sell vegetables right on the roadside.  On top of this, she used to walk from her informal settlement to up-market settlements to provides cleaning services.  But, since COVID-19, most rich families she provides these services are ‘physical distancing’.

“I have been a single mother for the past 9 years. The father never helps any of his children, so I work hard to provide for them. Now, school is closed so the kids stay with me on the road.”

A month ago, she fell ill and had to undergo surgery. Due to the fear of getting the virus, she stayed away from her business for close to a month.  “I reached a point where I could not afford to stay in bed anymore. With the excruciating pain from my surgery, I have to be back out on the street to do what I know best that helps me get money to live.”

“I have seen my daughters struggle and starve. Most times, I had had to leave home to work, even when I can no longer bear to hear them say they are hungry. I do not want to hear them say that anymore. I am their mother, I have to do something to help them. So here I am again, risking everything. I am weak and vulnerable, and I know I might not even survive this pandemic but right now, the most important thing for me is my children. I cannot see them go hungry.”

Like many workers in the informal economy, Atsede’s business is facing a huge decline. The government recently moved the biggest vegetable market in Ethiopia right in front of the street where she sells vegetables, as a measure to facilitate social distancing. Because of this, her customers no longer buy from her and instead go to the market across the road. “Nowadays, I barely get 20 birr,” which isless than a dollar per day.

“I would not mind living on a dollar if other food items were not too expensive. What hurts me the most is that, even after all this suffering, I am not able to provide the basics for my two children. I cannot even afford cooking oil and Teff. Washing clothes for rich people would have supplemented my income, but now, no one wants me around. That extra income would have helped, but now it is no longer there. I don’t have any other alternative, but I will die trying for as long as I live to bring food for my children,” says Atsede.

Atsede selling vegetables at the market. Photo by Tigist Gebru/Oxfam.
Atsede selling vegetables at the market. Photo by Tigist Gebru/Oxfam.

Mothers like Atsede who work in the informal sector are being hit hard. The informal economy accounts for 85.8% of employment in Africa. In Ethiopia, it comprises 50.6% of urban employment. As governments in the Horn, East and Central Africa region have called for ‘physical distancing’ and imposed lockdown measures, informal workers whose livings require social interaction are often unable to observe these measures. Being forced to work from home may mean giving up on their only way to earn an income. Many informal businesses are run by women such as Atsede whose lives and families depend on their income. These women have not been reached by economic stimulus packages or tax relief. Most relief efforts have built on pre-existing relationships between states, workers, and businesses in the formal sector, which have inadvertently deepened the gap between formal and informal economies.

It is critical the governments across the region enhance social protection systems to provide fast, direct support to people in need and develop policies that support the informal sector.   

Love in the time of COVID

Darren Brunk
LEFT: Oxfam humanitarian specialist Darren Brunk; RIGHT: Oxfam New Zealand’s partner, the Tonga National Youth Congress put together a team of youth volunteers for their emergency response work in Tonga after Hurricane Harold struck last week. Here a TNYC worker uses Oxfam equipment to clean contaminated water for a community of 100 on the remote island of Nukunuku Motu.

I write this on a laptop propped up in a hastily-cleared space on the kitchen table, during that small window of opportunity that is a two-year-old’s afternoon nap. Only just a fortnight ago, rapidly rising infection rates of the coronavirus made a country-wide lockdown essential and upended the working world as we knew it. 

Everyday life has been turned upside down here and around the world, and while sheltering mostly at home, Kiwis across the country are quietly worrying about the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on the future of work and exactly how we’re going to pay the bills, if and when this is all over. Given the unprecedented disruption and the evident health risks, it’s hard not to focus our concern on those closest to us.

Through my work as an international humanitarian, the focus of my attention is often jolted far from my immediate situation to places where the need is the greatest. For people already living in poverty or crisis situations, any spread of this coronavirus will be far deadlier than what we’ve seen already, elsewhere in the world. And some of these people living in crisis are closer to our shores than we think. 

It’s hard enough here in New Zealand getting ahead of this tricky new disease – where water is free, we have space to distance from each other, and soap is cheap and plentiful. Imagine being a parent of young children in the world’s slums or refugee camps, where dwellings are crowded and soap, or even water, is a scarce commodity. In refugee camps where Oxfam works, hundreds of people share a single water tap.  

Or right now in the Pacific, where Cyclone Harold has raced through the region as a monster Category 5 storm – that means big and mean – and carved a high-velocity path of destruction through the heart of Vanuatu, before hitting Fiji and Tonga. When it comes to cyclones, the slow-moving ones like Harold are the worst kind, causing mayhem in the way of landslides, significant flooding and storm surges, and leaving behind smashed buildings, torn-up gardens and broken power and water systems. 

Meanwhile families face the terrible choice of staying home to face the storm, or cramming into over-crowded evacuation centres along with thousands of others, where they are vulnerable to infectious diseases like Covid-19.

Pacific Islanders know if coronavirus gets a foothold, the impacts could be especially bad. For now, island communities are keeping the global pandemic at bay, but coronavirus represents an ominous new threat for many of our Pacific neighbours living in already at-risk communities. The basic tools and protections we take for granted in our fight against this pandemic – healthcare, handwashing and physical isolation – are simply out of reach for many people living in extreme poverty or grappling with the devastation of a disaster such as Cyclone Harold. 

Many Pacific communities are using this time to do what they can to prepare, though any such preparations are blown out the window when a cyclone sweeps through the village. For starters, disasters such as Cyclone Harold sabotage any preventative measures such as lockdown or distancing. It also totally undermines a country’s ability to fund their already thinly-stretched public health services. Economically, the cyclone is a double disaster for Vanuatu, as almost half of this island nation’s economy is reliant on the tourism and hospitality that was just stopped in its tracks by the recent border restrictions.

A coronavirus outbreak in the Pacific may also disproportionately affect women and girls. Women are the primary care givers in the family and are key health care frontline responders placing them at increased risk and exposure to infection. Coronavirus risks increasing women’s workloads, as they care for children as schools close and the sick. There is a risk of increased family violence when families facing huge economic and mental stress are forced into isolation, especially in a region where pre-existing rates of violence against women are already very high. 

In most Pacific countries, access to quality health services including intensive care is limited. In PNG for example, there is 0.5 doctors for every 10,000 people; by contrast, New Zealand has 30. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, represent the single largest cause of premature mortality in the Pacific. These are some of the conditions for which this coronavirus presents the greatest risk. 

The challenges are real, but the situation is not without hope. A pandemic of this size and speed is not something we have seen in recent times, but the world has plenty of experience fighting disease. And Oxfam, alongside other NGOs and local agencies have much experience to draw on in supporting Pacific communities to deal with the devastation and aftermath of cyclones. While at-risk communities in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world lack access to even the most basic coronavirus-fighting tools, it’s one problem that humanitarian organisations like mine can help fix. 

There are basic things that save lives. We can distribute emergency sanitation and water kits, locally-sourced soap and other hygiene supplies from local markets; we can build hand washing points; we can install water purification plants in vulnerable communities to make contaminated water safe. We can build emergency toilets to improve sanitation conditions; we can use local water committees to share hygiene messages and identify people who may be at risk or infected. We know we can, because we do it every day, for millions of people around the world.  

Despite the many challenges, Oxfam is right now supporting community health workers to help the people worst hit by this crisis. Today, like every day, teams are working hard to channel life-saving resources into some of the world’s toughest places, helping to save and change lives. The people living in these places desperately need help from all of us. 

This global pandemic suggests a new era of solidarity and care for strangers. Troubling times remind us how much we love our friends and family – it’s also a moment to respond in a loving way to people we haven’t yet met.

– Darren Brunk works as a Humanitarian Specialist with Oxfam New Zealand.

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