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Rethinking Humanitarian Aid: Bottom-Up Solutions

humanitarian aid
What tools and actions are humanitarian organizations overlooking while in developing countries? According to a recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs presented at the Humanitarian Innovation Conference at the University of Oxford, aid agencies often do not use the talent and skills of those they are helping to overcome challenges.

The report urges international organizations to give the people who have been affected by conflict a chance to be involved in the process of coming up with ideas and creating products that meet the needs of their community.

The most important way to shift the focus of aid is to change how the international community thinks about administering humanitarian aid to refugees and people affected by conflict. When the mindset that refugees are vulnerable and in need of help is replaced with the fact that they are people with unique skills and ideas who have unfortunately been affected by conflict, then the way aid is approached can be fundamentally changed in a positive and more affordable way.

User-led innovation has already begun in places like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, where people are using technology in various ways, such as to sharpen tools, make sanitary pads and produce radio shows.

The Oxford conference report is meant to serve as a conversation starter, something to build on as international organizations and countries rethink how they distribute aid as both costs and the amount of people affected by conflict continue to rise. Advocating for more bottom-up solutions from refugee communities, as opposed to top-down ideas from international organizations, can lead to more efficient aid and stable situations for both the refuge and host communities.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: SciDevNet 1, SciDevNet 2, UN-OCHA
Photo: Global Communities