Oxfam exits 18 countries, Kenya office feels the pinch

At least 1,450 employees will be laid off.

In Summary

• Oxfam has been operating in Kenya since 1963 in mostly in the Northeastern region. 

• The global headquarters were moved from Oxford, United Kingdom, to Nairobi in 2018. 

Oxfam International headquarters at The Atrium along Chaka Road in Nairobi.
Oxfam International headquarters at The Atrium along Chaka Road in Nairobi.

Nairobi-based Oxfam International will lay off about 1,500 employees globally and close its offices in 18 counties, including Tanzania, Rwanda, and Sudan. 

The closures come to due to a fall in fundraising, mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Oxfam said around 1,450 out of nearly 5,000 programme staff will be laid off, and 700 of its 1,900 partner organisations will be affected.

The interim executive director of Oxfam International, Chema Vera, also explained how Kenya, which hosts the global headquarters, will be affected by the changes. 

He said they will strengthen their presence in Kenya, by seeking an affiliate organisation to join the Oxfam fraternity.

Affiliates are independent organisations with their own areas of activities but are coordinated by the international office in Nairobi.

Currently, there are 20 affiliates around the world.

"We are now exploring the possibilities for six more in the Philippines, Indonesia, Senegal, the Pacific region, Kenya, and Colombia," Vera said in an opinion shared by Devex, a development news network. 

One of the world's best known NGOs, Oxfam works in more than 90 countries. Its global headquarters was moved from Oxford, United Kingdom, to Nairobi in 2018. 

Vera says the Covid-19 lockdowns have hit the organisation hard, forcing it to close income-generating shops in Europe, cancel fundraising events, and absorb rising costs.

"Fundraising conditions in many countries are really tough. We need to make significant savings and so we have had to accelerate our change," he said.

"We will lose around 1,450 staff and I pay tribute and give thanks to their brilliant work and dedication; our changes are no reflection on what they have accomplished. We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions." 

Oxfam currently operates in 66 countries and has 20 affiliates. Vera said they will retain a physical presence in 48 countries.

The organisation will shut down its country offices in Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Egypt, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Mauritania, Thailand, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Paraguay.

Oxfam has been operating in Kenya since 1963, mostly in the Northeastern region. In 2008, it began programmes in urban informal settlements. It also supports women to join businesses to fend for themselves and take care of their families.


(Edited by F'Orieny)