Oxfam's Response in hong kong
With the limited supply of masks and disinfectant, and the price of these items soaring in Hong Kong, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 has placed an exponentially greater burden on vulnerable groups as many of them can’t shoulder these expenses. That’s why since the end of January 2020, we at Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK) have been working with our partners and people from low-income households to fight against COVID-19. Thanks to generous people from all walks of life, and through our own procurement efforts, we have received more than 224,000 masks, 76,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and 9,500 packs of hand sanitizing wipes. These have been distributed to street cleaners, elderly people who live alone, the visually impaired, those with mental illness, low-income families and ethnic minorities. So far, we have reached over 30,000 people.
Against the backdrop of an ailing economy in Hong Kong because of the pandemic, we have continued to carry out research on the impacts of the coronavirus on the poor, and have been urging the Government to offer them with much-needed support. For instance, together with three other civil society organisations, we conducted the ‘Survey on low-income families’ employment situation amidst the epidemic. We found that unemployment among low-income families had increased by 400 per cent since Chinese New Year, clearly indicating that the coronavirus has impacted these families exponentially more. That’s why we’re urging the government to provide the unemployed with a monthly unemployment allowance of HK$5,800 for at least six months, offer unemployment insurance to better protect low-income workers, and create more short-term jobs. Learn more here.
DISTRIBUTING RELIEF AND PROMOTING THE IMPORTANCE OF HYGIENE
Protecting Frontline Cleaners
With the continued spread of the virus, cleaners have been put on the frontlines to keep public hygiene in check. With a lack of basic protective equipment like masks, they are put at great risk. Since the beginning of February, we have been working with various partner organisations, including Catholic Diocese of HK Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers, the Cleaning Worker Union, and Health In Action to distribute the masks and hand sanitizer. Together, we have distributed 50,000 masks and shared ways to prevent the spread of the epidemic, and have reached close to 5,000 cleaners who work in high-risk conditions. We have also distributed hand sanitizer to some of these cleaners.
According to the Cleaning Worker Union’s estimates, around 20 per cent of outsourced cleaners from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are ethnic minorities, and many are Nepalese. Since most information about the epidemic in Hong Kong is either in Chinese or English, it can be difficult for some ethnic minorities to understand. During distributions with our partner organisations, Health In Action and Cleaning Worker Union brought translators along to explain how they can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the language they are most comfortable with.
Advocacy: Care for our cleaners
Offering Low-Income and Vulnerable Groups Relief
Aside from reaching street cleaners, OHK also distributed Walch hand sanitizer and hand sanitizing wipes to over 20 local organisations before Chinese New Year (CNY). After the CNY holidays, we continued to rush relief items like face masks to those in need. For instance, we distributed them to seniors and those living with chronic illness who have little access to these items because of their limited mobility. Together with over 10 organisations that work with various groups in Tung Chung, Kwai Chung, To Kwa Wan, Tuen Mun and other areas, we also distributed face masks and shared hygiene tips together with ethnic minority communities, seniors who live in poverty, low-income households, children and those with disabilities.
Easing the Financial Burden on Poor Families
Distributing Rice to Low-Income Families
To ease the financial burden on low-income families, especially with the price of necessities like masks going up, since late February, we at OHK began distributing twelve tonnes of rice to 3,740 families with partner organisations like 1 Step Association, Alliance for Children Development Rights, Alliance for Protection of Low-income Families, Community Development Alliance (Tin Shui Wai), H.K.S.K.H. Tseung Kwan O Aged Care Complex, Society for Community Organization.
We at OHK will continue to source masks and other items to ensure the poor are well protected against this epidemic, and ease their burdens. We will also continue to urge the government to do their part to protect the poor during this difficult time.
Organisations OHK is distributing relief to:
- 1 Step Association
- Alliance for Children Development Rights
- Alliance for Social Protection of Low-income Families
- Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Union
- Catholic Diocese of HK Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers – Hong Kong Island
- Catholic Diocese of HK Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers – Kowloon
- Catholic Diocese of HK Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers – New Territories
- Celebrity Charity Fund Association Ltd.
- Cleaning Worker Union
- Concern for Grassroots' Livelihood Alliance
- Concerning CSSA and Low Income Alliance
- Concerning Grassroots' Housing Rights Alliance
- Concerning Home Care Service Alliance
- Food Angel
- H.K.S.K.H. Tseung Kwan O Aged Care Complex
- HK Islamic Youth Association
- Hong Chi Association
- Hong Kong Blind Union
- Hong Kong Islamic Culture and Welfare Society
- Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association
- Islamic Union of HK
- Jubilee Ministries
- Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre
- Kwun Tong Methodist Social Service
- Mission Bridge
- Muslim Council of Hong Kong
- People Service Centre
- Society for Community Organization
- Street Sleepers Action Committee
- Tin Shui Wai Community Development Alliance
- Tung Chung Community Development Alliance
- United Muslim Association of HK
- United Welfare Union
learn more about Oxfam's response to Covid-19
Street cleaners are often seniors; with long working hours along with their unfamiliarity with shopping online, it’s extremely difficult for them to get their hands on face masks. Oxfam Hong Kong staff gave street cleaners in Siu Sai Wan masks during their lunch break so that they would be better protected from the novel coronavirus.