Since World War II the rate of humanitarian crisis around the world has been drastically increasing. This trend is likely to continue or even get worse, considering the effects climate change, population growth and urbanization will have in the decades ahead. Humanitarian aid agencies and organizations continue to stretch their capabilities and resources to the limits in their efforts to respond to the rush of conflict zone and climate driven crises emerging worldwide.

One example of this is the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November of last year. The wave of destruction brought by the storm affected 14 million people and put relief organization into high gear.

In collaboration with the government of Philippine, aid organizations and the U.N. provided much needed emergency relief services in the form of water, food and sanitation. In a massive deployment, U.N. and other aid personnel were able to clear over 500 miles of road and provided temporary shelter to over 550,000 families.

Even as media attention has moved to other crises, aid workers continue to work behind the scenes bringing emergency relief services to all affected people. Beyond the small portion of aid work that makes the headlines, aid work provided by the U.N. and other aid agencies is complex, multifaceted and long term. The U.N.’s aid network “forms the backbone of the global humanitarian response system.”

While the U.S.’ aid network remains strong, according to Richard Brennan, the World Health Organization’s Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, aid agencies have been working at their maximum capacity for several years. This is cause for concern, since it allows vulnerable people to fall trough the cracks.

But it is not all gloom, there are things that can be done to change the course. First and foremost, aid agencies need the necessary funding to do their job well. So far, many aid initiatives remain severely underfunded, despite continuous calls from the U.N. and other organisms for support. Governments, non-governmental organizations, private businesses and individuals all have a stake in making these contributions happen to reach the necessary funding goals. This cannot be a one-sided effort, and it is in the best interest of everyone to protect those in the most vulnerable situations.

Secondly, the international community should be more attentive to the well-being of aid workers. These workers risk their lives to provide much needed services to the most precarious and devastated places on earth. It is our responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being, so that they can continue this valuable task.

And last but not least, strengthening the humanitarian system cannot only be a function of responding to crises; it is imperative to include prevention as a main objective of humanitarian aid. It is much easier and more cost effective to construct communities that can identify and avoid risk, or at least to be more resilient in the face of disaster, not to mention that it considerably reduces suffering as well.

The global humanitarian aid system is large and strong, but it can only do so much without the support of governments, businesses and individuals. It is our collective responsibility to support this system and to ensure that its members are able to continue bringing emergency relief to those who are suffering.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Diplomatic Courier
Photo: Diplomatic Courier