CAMPAIGNS: Charities PR - Oxfam aims to bring aid to refugees

Client: Oxfam

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Afghanistan refugee crisis

Timescale: 11 September - ongoing

Budget: Part of ongoing comms budget

Oxfam has worked in Afghanistan since 1989, distributing food and

helping with water and sanitation.

The past three years have also brought drought and, even without the

current turmoil, people would be struggling to survive.

The charity has been trying to continue with its work while the war

continues around it.


The charity's PR has had two main objectives since the bombing


The first has been lobbying to secure a pause in the bombing to allow

for humanitarian aid to be distributed.

The second has been to counter what it saw as misleading information

from the UK Government about the situation on the ground. The Government

was saying that food was getting through, but Oxfam wanted to make the

point that people were still in danger of starving.

The disagreement degenerated into a war of words with the charity having

to defend itself against the Secretary of State for International

Development Clare Short.

Strategy and Plan

To put maximum pressure on the Government to push the Americans for a

pause in the bombing. Oxfam teamed up with six other charities to issue

a press release making the case for a temporary cessation of


The idea was to start a debate on the subject and put pressure on the

coalition through the press.

Behind-the-scenes lobbying coincided with the press campaign. Aside from

the press release, journalists were also called.

To get Oxfam's point of view heard, an important decision early on was

to send an experienced press officer to Islamabad, Pakistan.

The idea was to put him among the journalists writing the stories where

he could put the charity's point of view. As media interest heightened,

he gave 30 to 40 interviews a day.

Meanwhile, the leader writers and comment columns were dealt with by the

charity's London-based staff.

In each case, the most important thing was to establish the charity as a

reliable source of information.

Measurement and Evaluation

Despite high-profile backing from the The Mirror, the 'Call for a Pause'

campaign was not successful. However, the charity believes it

successfully raised the profile of debate on humanitarian aid

The story about the disagreement between the charity and the DfID was

widely covered, with Oxfam managing to get its views across.

The World Food Programme is considering air drops, and there is a

dialogue - albeit a slightly tense one - with the DfID.


Oxfam believes it has cemented a reputation for providing accurate

information, something that will be useful in the future.

Additionally the fact that the humanitarian issue has been kept in the

news - along with the daisy cutters - is a tribute to the charity's

lobbying skills.

Having a press officer 'in theatre' seemed to help in the battle of

words with Short.

Overall, Oxfam set itself a huge task in trying to influence US

strategy: whether more creative techniques would have helped bring a

pause in the bombing is doubtful.

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