humanitarian

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UK response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines makes the grade | 

UK-funded jerrycans being distributed by the NGO Plan International in the village of Santo Nino on Leyte island, Philippines, Saturday, 7 December 2013.
UK-funded jerrycans being distributed by the NGO Plan International in the village of Santo Nino on Leyte island, Philippines, December 2013.
DFID

Survey says, the UK did a very good job in its response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

At least that is what the Independent Commission for Aid Impact found when investigating the work of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). A green rating was given for the humanitarian support provided by DFID, the best possible rating. Not only that, the £77 million that the UK provided was more than any other country, even beating out the US.

“DFID responded swiftly and decisively to the emergency,” said Independent Commission for Aid Impact Chief Commissioner, Graham Ward. “It was the largest single donor and played a lead role in the response, providing vital humanitarian assistance to people in dire need. Its early and multi-faceted action helped to galvanize support from other donors and to influence the global humanitarian aid response.”

This represents only the third time that DFID has scored green in thirty-two reports. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is an independent body that scrutinizes the UK’s foreign aid work. A team of investigators were sent out in January to determine how things went in the Philippines. Their findings that the UK was a leader in the response, but there is still more work to be done. Continue reading

Why did Americans donate $730 million to wealthy Japan? | 

Japanese residents offer a prayer for the victims in an evacuation zone near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants.
Japanese residents offer a prayer for the victims in an evacuation zone near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants.
AP

Three years ago today, a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan spawned a tsunami that devastated communities, killed nearly 16,000 people (with some 2,600 still missing) and damaged nuclear power plants at Fukushima.

The international aid and relief community responded with offers of assistance and a surge in fund-raising.

This was actually fairly controversial – partly because Japan is a rich nation capable of taking care of itself and also because the Japanese government initially asked the humanitarian community to not interfere with the disaster response.

One aid worker even contended the whole thing was just an ugly game the humanitarian community often engages in, exploiting a high-profile disaster to raise money. Continue reading

Feeble effort dooming Central African Republic, activists say | 

A survivor of a suspected Anti-Balaka grenade attack waits to go to hospital with the help of MISCA.
A survivor of a suspected Anti-Balaka grenade attack waits to go to hospital with the help of MISCA.
Laurence Geai/NurPhoto/Sipa USA

Extreme violence persists on a daily basis across the Central African Republic.

The inability to protect civilians affected by targeted violence is evidence that the international community is failing the Central African Republic, said humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today.

MSF says it has treated more than 3,600 people for injuries caused by gunshot, grenade, machete and more, since December 5.What little that is being done falls well below acceptable humanitarian standards.

When regular violence returned the country that has been in crisis for nearly a year, in December, people had few options for humanitarian assistance. Medical aid was the only form of assistance many people received for roughly four weeks, claimed Hurum. She described the situation in the Central African Republic as the “roughest mission” in her eight years with MSF.

“There is an exceptional situation going on. I’ve never seen such a high level of violence, in the last few years,” agreed Dr Joanne Liu, President for MSF International.

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The marginal impact of celebrity on humanitarian campaigns | 

George Clooney arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.

George Clooney arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.

Celebrities are often used as eye candy for charity campaigns and giant advocacy efforts.

Remarks from actress Angelina Jolie are released alongside comments from the UN on the number of Syrian refugees surpassing the 2 million mark this week. Mia Farrow vocally campaigned against China in the run up to the 2008 Olympics in response to their support of the brutal regime in Sudan.

George Clooney also made Sudan his point of focus, Ben Affleck has the DR Congo, Princess Diana campaigned to end landmines and Bono wants to end extreme poverty.

Using celebrities does have an impact, but not how you may have expected.

They do have a small impact on humanitarian events, but generally serve as amplification tools for existing organizations and campaigns. In some way, the Hollywood set use their celebrity to reach audience by putting their ability to represent an idea created by someone else to the public. It is a lot like acting in a film. Continue reading

International development according to Hollywood | 

International development is just about at the bottom of the list of things that the average American thinks about each day.

Foreign bureaus are closing for major US news sources. One of the big television networks turned down more money for global health reporting after a series, entirely funded by grants, led to a dip in viewers. In other words ratings were so bad that the network turned down millions of dollars. It is that tough.

Aside from advocacy efforts like Kony 2012 and Oxfam advertisements, how are people learning about the world around them if they are not reading the news? The answer could be Hollywood.

Reporting on Africa does not get much attention in the US, but a film staring Leonardo DiCaprio about Sierra Leone does.

A film like Blood Diamond, setting aside its problems, brings a big audience to the story of  Sierra Leone’s civil war. Most people have likely heard of blood diamonds before, but the film provides an easy to understand explanation for why the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was put in place a decade ago. The film brought in $171 million despite mixed reviews.

City of God
City of God

Recognizing the influence that Hollywood has on bringing the issue of development to the American household, a group of researchers decided to analyze what these films actually tell viewers about development. It is easy for critics to dismiss popular representation of development. There are reasons to be concerned with the oversimplification of issues related to poverty and conflict. The authors say they are aware of this, but challenge that popular depictions need to be taken seriously given the audience that they reach. Continue reading

Doctors Without Borders pulls out of Somalia after 22 years | 

Somalia - MSF distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to families with young children.
Somalia – MSF distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to families with young children.

The France-based medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced it was leaving Somalia after 22 years due to security concerns. The organization that provides crucial health relief in conflict settings has remained in Somalia through some of the most violent stretches. The announcement comes as a surprise and a signal that Somalia’s improvements may be more tenuous than previously reported.

Two MSF staff were killed in December of 2011 while working on Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu. Another pair of staff were released last month after being held for 21 months in south central Somalia after they were kidnapped from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. MSF says the two incidents highlight only a part of the challenges it has faced in Somalia since 1991. Attacks on MSF staff, ambulances and medical clinics have led to an additional 14 deaths.

Medical programs in Mogadishu, its suburbs and in other parts of Somalia will be closed. MSF says its 1,500 strong staff provided more than 624,000 medical consultations, admitted 41,100 patients to hospitals, cared for 30,090 malnourished children, vaccinated 58,620 people, and delivered 7,300 babies in 2012. The cessation of MSF’s work in Somalia will have an immediate impact on Somalis.
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Humanitarian standards to go under reform process | 

Israeli Defense Forces in Haiti.
Israeli Defense Forces in Haiti.
Israel Defense Forces

An effort is underway to create a set of standards that will guide humanitarian action in cases of conflict and disaster. The Humanitarian Standards Forum, held in Geneva at the end of June, brought humanitarian leaders together to begin the process of creating the new standards.

The guideline developed going forward will serve as a set of instructions for all humanitarians. Responses will be guided by the standards in order to ensure that it is not only effective, but is mindful of the dignity of every person.

“Quality is a major concern in today’s humanitarian efforts,” said Ambassador Manuel Bessler, Head of the Humanitarian Aid Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which hosted the Forum. “It is not about controlling or enforcing, but about bringing different voices together to improve the quality that makes us accountable to beneficiaries in the first place.”
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A renewed push to ban spies from overeas health and aid work | 

Is it foreign aid or covert aid?
Is it foreign aid or covert aid?
Flickr, johanoomen

Co-authored by Tom Murphy

The latest assassination of health workers vaccinating kids against polio in Pakistan may be the tipping point.

Or not.

It remains to be seen if a new surge of efforts — a letter of protest from leading public health experts, a petition — asking the Obama Administration to prohibit spies from pretending to be overseas aid and health workers will force a change in policy.

Such protests didn’t even garner an official response the last time.

When it was learned in mid-2011 that the CIA had conducted a fake vaccination scheme in Pakistan aimed at gathering evidence to locate the then still-alive-and-in-hiding Osama Bin Laden, many in the global health and humanitarian community (including Humanosphere) cried foul and predicted a lot of collateral damage.

The problem, said 200-plus aid groups in a letter of protest sent by Interaction, was not just that this would undermine international vaccination projects in Pakistan, which it arguably did in this nation with one of the world’s highest rates of polio and other infectious diseases.

Many experts said it would more broadly undermine trust and credibility for all humanitarian work – and likely endanger aid workers. Many of these tragic predictions have since come true, prompting many in the global health, aid and development community to push again for policy prohibitions against such schemes.

Frumkin“Public health programs overseas offer a very special opportunity … as a bridge to creating peace and mutual understanding,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and a signatory to the letter of protest sent by leading health academics to President Obama. Unlike many other kinds of aid and assistance programs with inherent political or economic complications, Frumkin said, health initiatives done correctly overseas can forge intimate bonds of trust and respect for life that transcend politics.

“This is why it’s so important not to subvert the credibility and integrity of these kind of health programs,” he said. “The recent killings in Pakistan only underline the importance of keeping our intelligence activities separate from our health aid and assistance work.”

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