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World Humanitarian Day- Making a difference

by Oxfam | August 17, 2012

Soap, a water container, a mosquito net, and a cooking pan were among the objects on display in Oxfam Canada’s foyer this week — a reminder for World Humanitarian Day of our emergency field workers from Pakistan to Haiti, Mali to El Salvador.

In a crisis, hygiene and household kits, which Oxfamers distribute by the tens of thousands, can mean the difference between life and death. The kits are designed to help provide dignity to those suffering in a disaster and to prevent the outbreak of disease.

The United Nations designated August 19th as World Humanitarian Day several years ago to pay tribute to people who face danger and adversity to help others and to honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

It commemorates the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 people.The United Nations message this year promotes ways for people to “do something good for someone somewhere else.”

On the Internet you can join Beyoncé, the UN and humanitarian aid organizations around the world to reach one billion people, on one day, with 1 message of hope to make a difference in their community or to help around the world.

Hygiene and Household Kits- Question and Answer
Does every kit contain the same thing, whether it is floods in Pakistan or an earthquake in Haiti? Each hygiene kit contains soap, buckets, and jerry cans because basic hygiene needs, including safe water storage, are standard.  Each household kit contains plates, utensils, a pot and pan, drinking cups, a mosquito net, wood spoon, sheet, basin, and knife.

In some cases condoms may be culturally inappropriate, as well as disposable sanitary napkins. So we start from the basic needs and minimum supplies, but determine the exact kit contents based on local culture and needs. If condoms are too controversial to put in the kit, they are distributed at health clinics or gathering places.

Does Oxfam provide facilities for the use of the hygiene kits? Yes. In most cases Oxfam provides clean water, water distributions pipes and points, as well as latrines, bathing and other basic facilities.

How long will these supplies last? Do families get more?
The standard hygiene kit is intended to last a family of five for one month. But in some cases, where distribution is hard and access is not easy, people may be given a three-month supply. The standard household kit is given once.

How do you decide who gets a kit? Priority recipients or at least criteria for distribution are often decided by recipient community members during Oxfam’s needs assessment process.

Who and where are the kits assembled? Suppliers often assemble the kits because that is generally the least expensive. We sometimes hire beneficiaries to do it through a cash-for-work program if there is space and time in what are often urgent situations.

What if there are more than 5 people in a family? The kits are made for an average family. For example in Pakistan, kits are made for a family of 7 or 8. Families help one another within a community, with smaller families sharing or trading extra supplies.

For more information please go to and click if you are interested in supporting the purchase of emergency essentials.
-Melissa Ekdom-Delorme, Oxfam Canada Humanitarian Program Assistant