Public Health

Public Health: Question B

Report on the interview with Oxfam international Director 

Oxfam International is an NGO with worldwide activities and project which have directly or indirect influence to the public health. An email questionnaire was sent to the organization’s director Winnie Byanyima, whose tenure at the helm of the multinational agency started in 2013. Byanyima is a Ugandan who has had an illustrious career in democratic governance, women and children rights, and several peace building initiatives that are meant to improve the humanity and public health initiatives. She is a former member of parliament in Uganda for 9 years, and also had a stint with African Union as well as being Director of Gender and Development at the UNDP. She is experienced in the public health, gender equality, children affairs, and refugee matters that directly impact the humanity across the globe (Dinçer et al., 2013). During the email interview through the questionnaire, she dissected her main roles and responsibilities at the Oxfam International, which entails coordinating and streamlining policies that enhance humanity through health provision, economic empowerment, and enhancement of equality across the world to the vulnerable population. Currently, according to Byanyima, her organization is engaged in several public health programs that are meant to improve the health status of the vulnerable population. 

The Public Health Project: Improving Hygiene in Syrian Schools

According to the Oxfam International Director Byanyima, improving the hygiene in areas around Damascus, which are prone to increase war and human suffering is one of the ongoing projects. Accordingly, the project entails teaching and training the learners on the mechanisms that improve the public health, such as enhanced hygiene, preservation of clean water, and reducing water-borne diseases. To make the students learn faster, Oxfam International uses a song with a strong message on the need to enhance public health consciousness in schools. According to Byanyima, the song’s lyrics are educative, informative, and leave a lasting memory to the learners to apply the appealing information embedded in it (Dinçer et al., 2013). “It was a noble idea that project uses the song to help associate with learners,” she said in the interview. Based on the ongoing conflicts in Syria, humanity has been placed under severe challenges, especially women and school-going children, whose education is under threat from continuous military fights. Even with these challenges, Oxfam still focuses on the need to improve the welfare of children through the public health information empowerment to make inform them of the dangers of water-borne diseases. 

Improving hygiene in Syrian schools essentially underlines the challenges that most children and other vulnerable individuals experience in the war torn areas of the world, such as Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Burundi, where the abuse is overwhelming and the concerns about the safety of water are ignored. In essence, improving hygiene in Syrian schools is an ongoing Oxfam International project, which targets informing the target population on sanitation and water conservation and use. This follows the aftermath of the Syrian conflict, which has left 400,000 people dead and more than 13 million in dire humanitarian crisis such as hunger, infections, unsafe or unavailable water, among others (Herbert, 2013). Therefore, the main focus on this project, according to Byanyima, is to enhance the knowledge on water and proper hygiene for the Syrian school children, who are in turn trained on how to impact their local communities at home. This means the project is targeting more people to get the knowledge and information on hygiene and water to reduce the death rates associated with water-borne conditions. 

The Oxfam projects such as on hygiene and water are funded by the agency itself through self-funding initiatives, or by partners such as NGOs and governments based on the humanitarian and poverty reduction policies. In this regard, Oxfam international gets its funds from well-wishers too and international organizations such as World Bank, IMF, EU, and UN agencies such as UNDP, WHO, and UNHCR (Fagen, 2009). The outreach projects and programs are of great essence to every organization and government, hence the continued support that the agency gets from these organizations. According to the interview reports, the Oxfam projects such as these have improved the general wellbeing of people in the affected areas across Europe, Asia, and African, which have been plagued with life-threatening and public health issues. 

There are challenges that the water and sanitation project in the Syrian schools have experienced, according to Oxfam International director. For instance, the efforts to enhance water security and availability in most of the neighborhoods have been hit with conflicts over land, ownership, and management. The entire nation is prone to conflict, and it becomes challenging for the Oxfam International to be caught between the warring parties. Furthermore, the organization asserts the unwillingness of the local community to at times allow the projects to proceed due to preoccupation with increased conflicts that has left almost half a million men, women, and children dead and more than 13 million’s lives disestablished. However, the project at considered to be a success especially after targeting the school students as the recipients and agents of water and sanitation message (Afshar & Eade, 2004). At least, the students can share with the local communities on the information that the Oxfam international is passing to them. In this regard, the campaign has been a huge success as measured with the number of people who are accessed and how motivated they have been to advance the goals and objectives of the project. Furthermore, according to the director, the cases of water-borne infections in the war-torn Syria have reduced to bare-minimal as a result of the interventions from the Oxfam activities. 

Leadership challenges of the water and sanitation project in Syria

Incidentally, the Oxfam International is often engaged in interventions that can reduce the possible outcomes that hurt humanity. This was evident in the West African Ebola situation, in which the rates of contamination and infections threatened the successful containment of the viral disease. However, the situation in Syria means that most of the projects are under the influence of continued military activities and fuelled conflicts. This makes it challenging for the Oxfam International mission to move around and enhance the knowledge transfer and training on the projects under its objectives. Therefore, the political instability is a major challenge to the Oxfam International activities and missions since the target groups are often worried about their safety than their public health (Fagen, 2009). Additionally, the Oxfam international experiences the funding challenges, which impede the successful implementation of the Syrian school water and sanitation projects in the long run. Therefore, the agency is often dependent on well-wishers and donors, whose contributions may not be sufficient to improve the general public health of the vulnerable and endanger Syrian population. 

Another leadership challenge is on the local community whose cooperation is often under scrutiny due to the brewed bad blood amongst the communities that are targeted in Syria. For instance, the fight over resources such as land, political incitements, and deteriorated social structures has made accessibility, acceptance, and goodwill objectives to be all-time low and this threatens the effective management of the water and sanitation projects in the Syrian schools. Furthermore, insecurity across Syrian borders and towns has limited the willingness of volunteers, especially from other communities and countries (Dinçer et al., 2013). This means the Oxfam International has to spend lots of resources in mobilizing the local community since the foreign volunteers fear for their safety and lives resulting from the war and political instability. The Syrian government is more concerned with dealing with rebels and terror groups, which consumes large sums of budget, while the international community has also taken the political affiliations on which side they support. This has negatively impacted the unwillingness of major donors such as the US and EU from directly helping the activities of Oxfam international. 

Solving these challenges is the core to success. For instance, Oxfam has targeted the school children, who will in turn educate and train their people on the concepts of hygiene and water sanitation. Furthermore, the use of locals as volunteers other than foreign employees have enhances some level of acceptance (Afshar & Eade, 2004). Collaboration with school administrations and the parents to the children has also enhanced the success of the projects in the long run. Through collaborative approaches, the local community has had to appreciate the efforts and improved their collaboration and identification with the projects to achieve the ultimate results and success rates. Appealing to the international donors and governments has bore fruits, especially in the management of hygiene and provision of safe water to the vulnerable population in Syria. 

One of the healthcare firms that got its fine share of challenges was Turing Pharmaceuticals, which attempted to use its market monopoly to increase the price of life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill. This was met with public outcry and uproar, forcing the company to reduce the prices to reasonable levels. The results included a reduced reputation and poor public relations in the organization. The pricing strategy was meant to take advantage of the competitive edge that the public health firm had over its competitors in the industry, but backfired seriously. It was forced to normalize the prices so that the beneficiaries of the life-saving drug can get access to it (Pollack, 2015). It was a moral and ethical concept and a public opinion contest. According to the John Kotter’s Leading Change, the PR implosion that marred the hiking of prices by 5000% did not go well with the company, and it had to be reduced to restore the normalcy. This attracted the stakeholders such as consumer federations, government entities, and the ethical organizations. The CEOs arrogance was met with public outcry and this increased hatred. The process of regaining relevance through PR were not successful due to the perception that consumers and the general public developed in the long run based on the conduct of the company and its CEO, who in turn insulted people. Therefore, the organization did not follow the required change programs and ideals to reach its goals and objectives by unilaterally making assumptions. 


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