SomaliaThe debate over the efficacy of humanitarian aid in impoverished countries has been a hot topic in recent years. Some people believe that humanitarian aid breeds dependence, while others argue that it can exploit some of the most vulnerable people in impoverished countries. To provide better and longer-lasting aid, the U.N., the U.N.’s International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization, among others, are taking a new approach to humanitarian aid. The new method, dubbed “A New Way of Working,” combines the short-term aid for emergency relief with long-term development efforts. The organizations are testing this model for development in Somalia, one of the more embattled nations on Earth.

Finding a Solution

Whether it’s disaster relief or funding for infrastructure projects, foreign aid does help people who need it. Despite the horror stories in the news concerning corruption, mishandled aid only accounts for an estimated 9 percent. Not perfect, but not as bad as some purport.

Many issues still plague not only the development in Somalia but in humanitarian aid and global investment around the world. One reason is modern humanitarian assistance finds its roots as a disaster response mechanism, whether it’s man-made or natural, and funds need to be spent within 18 months. Conversely, developmental aid sprung up as a result of colonialism and seeks long-term solutions such as education and agriculture, with funding plans structured in three to five years cycles. So, the projects needed to accomplish these varying goals are often very different.

Development in Somalia: A Guide for Others

Somalia is a country recovering from a two-decade civil war and a 2011 drought that killed over 260,000 people. With the government declaring 2017’s drought another national emergency, aid organizations realized a different approach was necessary.

In January 2018, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the U.N.’s Development Program (UNDP) set out to provide immediate assistance to those in desperate need of water. It also tried to identify the root of the emergency and establish projects that will allow everyday people to tackle the problem on their own when the next drought inevitably comes along.

While this sounds great in theory, there needs to be a practical element for improving development in Somalia. The current drought has lasted three growing seasons and is killing crops and livestock at alarming rates, which precipitates into a nationwide famine. In response, the OCHA-UNDP project built a sand dam in Bandarbeyla.

This dam allowed farmers to maintain their livestock, a vital resource for the agricultural economy in Somalia. Farmers say they can now save up the money they used to have to spend on water. Finally, these aid groups no longer have to focus solely on subsistence and can invest their energy and resources on education and security projects that will make Somalia stronger and more stable as it progresses as a nation.

Where Will It Be Seen Next?

The success of this project for development in Somalia is giving hope for other nations dealing with similar environmental and security-related emergencies.

  • South Sudan:
    The world’s youngest nation has over 1 million people at risk of famine. Luckily, the massive humanitarian response has kept the situation from getting worse.
  • Nigeria (Northeast region):
    Due to the Boko Haram insurgency, more than 5 million people need housing and food assistance.
  • Yemen:
    A brutal civil war has left more than 75 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid.

These three nations face similar problems to Somalia in that they endure a vicious cycle of drought and insecurity. The UNDP and other organizations are hoping to implement strategies similar to what is occurring in Somalia with the goal that “A New Way of Working” will allow these countries to flourish on their own.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr