Oxfam America is a development and relief agency that works with local partners to help people escape poverty. Oxfam Americas domestic work focuses on the rural poor, especially African Americans, Native Americans, women, and immigrants.Oxfam is concerned that some of the regions poorest residents, particularly those in rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, may be bypassed by much of the relief and recovery effort. Katrina has devastated many people in rural communitiesespecially African-American farmers, migrant farm workers, and immigrant dock workers. These are communities with some of the most profound and entrenched poverty in the nation. The hurricane ripped roofs off houses, knocked out power, blocked roads, and flattened farmers fields, leaving already-marginalized people homeless and with no means to support themselves. These communities vulnerability to Katrinas destructive effectsreflected in the location and construction of their homes, their inability to escape from the storms path, and their limited resourcesputs them similarly at risk of being ignored or disenfranchised during the recovery phase. Many are now without potable water, or diesel fuel to run their farm equipment. In some cases, the markets where they sold their produce have been obliterated.
For 15 years, Oxfam America has worked on economic and community development in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta through the partner organizations we are now supporting with these emergency grants. Over the weekend, Oxfam distributed food, supplies, and electric generators to two congregations in east Biloxi, Mississippi, that are providing up to 1,000 meals a day and sheltering up to 200 people a night. A $30,000 grant to Voices of Hope, a local housing organization, will enable homeowners to obtain $200 vouchers to buy materials needed to make their homes watertight before another storm passes through.