Conflict and disasters

Internally displaced families living in Yar Hussain camp, Swabi district of North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

Oxfam is a key player in the global humanitarian system, working with local communities and partners, governmental bodies, other international agencies, and consortiums. We work with others to encourage and enable the participation of people living in poverty, increase sustainability, and increase our impact.

Oxfam follows internationally-recognised guidelines for humanitarian response including the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief.

Read more: Humanitarian Brochure: A summary of Oxfam's expertise in emergencies, which summarises what we do and how we collaborate with others to deliver successful emergency response programmes all over the world.

Our goal

All women, men and children affected by conflict or natural disasters will be protected from violence and receive the humanitarian aid that they need.  

Oxfam responds to such need directly, but also supports national governments and local partner organisations to respond in emergencies.  Oxfam combines its programme response with global and national campaigning to ensure that the rights of people affected by conflict and disaster are upheld.

Key strategies

Responding to crises

  • Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Promotion (WASH) Oxfam is a leading humanitarian agency in the WASH sector, capable of providing clean water to hundreds of thousands of people following disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods, or where people have been displaced by violence. 
  • Public health: During emergencies we work with local partners and communities to reduce public health risks and promote the safety and dignity of emergency-affected communities.  
  • Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods (EFSL) Oxfam's EFSL specialists are at the cutting edge of humanitarian thinking with the development of cash transfer and market-based approaches.
  • Protection: Oxfam recognises that women and men must have equal access to assistance and protection and that their needs may be different.

Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction

  • Disaster risk reduction work is increasingly important due to the affect of climate change on the most vulnerable people.
  • We are working with partners, vulnerable communities and their governments to improve risk analysis, adaptation measures, and contingency planning.

  • Oxfam prioritises the building of local capacity in our country and regional teams, and our partner organisations to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

Read more about Oxfam's practical work on emergencies in our Technical Briefing Notes.

Campaigns and advocacy

Campaigning for 'Rights in Crisis'

Oxfam campaigns nationally, regional and globally, together with partner organisations, for the rights of the individual in humanitarian emergencies to be recognised and protected. Our priorities are that:

  • In humanitarian crises, the international community should provide timely, well co-ordinated, and adequate provision of relief and recovery assistance, and better support national governments and local actors to prevent and respond to those crises.

  • There should be greater investment in disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness.

  • Governments should place the protection of civilians in conflict situations at the heart of their foreign policy, and UN peacekeeping missions should be effective in protecting people from violence, including through engagement with conflict-affected communities.

  • Government donors must ensure that their aid is directed towards reducing poverty and suffering, and not be used for their political or security objectives.

  • The international community should agree an arms trade treaty that will require all countries to have in place a national system for the licensing and control of international transfers of conventional arms.

We currently focus much of our effort on the long-term crises in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also respond to new crises as they emerge, such as the conflict in the Côte d'Ivoire and the drought in the Horn of Africa.

We take up the key issues affecting communities, calling on national governments and the international community to fulfil their obligations.

Read more about Oxfam's policy work on emergencies in our Humanitarian Policy Notes.

From the sector

Connecting with the past : The Fundamental Principles in Critical Historical Perspective

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the University of Exeter and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, held a two-day historical symposium to discuss the humanitarian fundamental principles in critical historical perspective.

Conference panels covered the birth of modern humanitarianism in the nineteenth century to the challenges faced by the sector in the aftermath of 9/11. 

Download the report here