The Problem with Humanitarian Work. Syria as an Example


Charity by Giotto

Every now and then we hear about the gap between the funds available for humanitarian aid and estimated global needs. This gap seems never to shrink, ever widening. In 2013 it reached 4.5 billion dollars, leaving 30% of the needs unfulfilled. An we are talking here about humans lives, not a luxury demand.
It seems that no matter how big and generous the donations come after every crisis, they are never able to meet the demand. Therefore, we must conclude that there’s a problem in the system itself, and let me here state some observations on the humanitarian work during the Syrian crisis.
In a small Red Cross center in Aleppo, located in an apartment no more, they use a huge electricity generator to serve this small post, while it’s actually being used in the same city to provide electricity for an entire block. The generator itself is half-size the apartment!
And they by fuel for it on daily basis, which mean paying double the price, sometimes more, in winter. Now, why such things happen? Because the way humanitarian organizations are managed.
There’s no obvious profit. No one makes a feasibility study, nobody makes a cost-benefit analysis, none asks how much the generator gives and how much is actually needed. The work is being carried to fulfill current demand with no strategic planning.
The other thing, which everyone noticed and talked about in Aleppo, is the UN’s aid and relief supplies being sold in the markets.
And it’s not a rare thing; it’s clearly evident. You can go to the supermarket and ask for the X pasta or the UN pasta!
Obviously, this happens because nobody takes care of making sure to whom the aid supplies are delivered. Their job is to deliver aid. To whom? Nobody is responsible for that. And of course since we are talking about a gape, this trade of aid supplies happens while reports being issued about people dying of starvation in the Lebanon, Al Yarmok camp, Al gouta, Duma…
We all heard the disaster report of finding UN aid supplies in Al Asad battalions, and the UN promised of investigation, but, the supplies continue to be sold in the markets.
It’s not an issue of rich or not-in-need people who take aid and sell them to buy other luxury things only. But, the selection of supplies itself. I mean one of the supplies is pasta and it’s being distributed in country where pasta isn’t a common meal, and I don’t know about who put it, but pasta can’t be ate alone; it’s not a complete meal by itself. Therefore, those who are really in need also sell theirs supplies in order to buy something more useful for them.
Of course non of the above happens with small, local aid organizations; like Ahl Al Khair (people of good) for example. They don’t rent but use sites that were presented as a contribution. They subscribe to the neighbor generator, doesn’t own one. And most importantly, they take extra care of making sure to whom the aid is delivered, they might even know their beneficial personally, for they can’t afford any losses.
So if a big organization which has the resources like the UN worked with small-local organizations which have the better management of resources and distribution, the gap between humanitarian aid and demand might shrink, or pile… Hopefully.


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