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Emergency Relief Overview

Internally displaced people in Bulo Hawo, Somalia, near the Kenyan border. The area also serves as the town’s dump site. © Mohamed Garane/IRIN.Humanitarian Aid
The Media
Food Aid
Conflict Situations
Humanitarian Law

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid is aimed first and foremost at the people of the developing world and covers not only short-term relief but also disaster prevention and reconstruction operations. Such operations are targeted at the immediate requirements arising out of natural (e.g. flooding, earthquakes) or man-made disasters (e.g. outbreaks of war and fighting) and other exceptional comparable circumstances and last as long as is necessary (Source: EU)

Causes of Humanitarian Emergencies

The root causes of humanitarian emergencies
Economic differences, power inequalities and politically produced cultural differences are primary determinants of war Stewart, F. / World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER), 2001 (from here). This article aims identify the ’root causes’ of complex humanitarian emergencies and means of avoiding such emergencies.

Climatic emergencies
“Hydrometeorological” events linked to climate change - floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts - together accounted for nearly 60 per cent of Disaster Relief Emergency Fund grants in 2008, according to the 2009 World Disasters Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross. An earlier World Disasters Report showed that during a ten-year period, wind storms and flood related disasters combined accounted for 60 percent of the total economic loss caused by natural disasters. A significant share of disaster casualties, in human suffering in terms of lives lost and injured as well as people displaced from their homes and livelihood activities is also attributable to storms and floods.

FAO report: conflicts, HIV/AIDS, climate change main causes of hunger
Armed conflicts are the leading cause of world hunger with the effects of HIV/AIDS and climate change not far behind, according to a this FAO report.

The Media

From Massacres to Genocide: The Media, Public Policy and Humanitarian Crises Robert I. Rotberg (Editor), Thomas G. Weiss (Editor).Google books.
Contributors from the fields of disaster relief, journalism, government policymaking, and academia look at the influence of media attention in forming policies to resolve ethnic and religious conflicts and humanitarians crises, arguing that the media and humanitarians can collaborate to alter the attitudes of the public and of policymakers. In Chapter 4, Peter Shiras makes recommendations about how the media and relief community can work together to provide more informed and enlightened coverage of emergencies in developing countries.

Food Aid

Food assistance describes any intervention designed to address hunger, in response to chronic problems or short-term crises. Food assistance may involve the direct provision of food, for example in supplementary feeding or food for work projects. Equally, it may involve financial interventions, for example to support food subsidies or price stabilisation schemes. Food assistance may be funded largely internally, as in India; or be supported by internationally-sourced food and financial aid, as in Bangladesh or Ethiopia. Food aid is commodity aid that is used either to support food assistance action or to fund development more generally, by providing balance-of-payments support in substituting for commercial imports, or budgetary support through the counterpart funds generated from sales revenue. (Source: Reforming Food Aid: Time to Grasp the Nettle, ODI Briefing Paper, 2000.)

The rising tide of civil conflict, war and natural disasters in the world’s poorest nations has led to a near explosion in food emergencies - up from an average of 15 per year in the 1980s to more than 30 per year since 2000. The proportion attributable to man-made causes, such as conflict or economic failures, has doubled to 35 percent since 1992. Most are concentrated in Africa. In 2010, World Food Programme (WFP) emergency operations aim to reach more than 90 million people with food assistance in more than 70 countries.

Recurring Challenges in the Provision of Food Assistance in Complex Emergencies
This report describes the ethical dilemmas and operational challenges faced by the World Food Programme and its partners in ensuring food assistance to those in need in complex emergencies. The report is based on previous evaluation reports, field visits and information provided by a large number of WFP staff, staff of other UN agencies, NGOs and other institutions, as well as private researchers and consultants. It draws mainly on experiences during the decade 1989-98, but also takes account of some earlier conflict situations.

Conflict Situations

Humanitarianism Sacrificed: Integration’s False Promise (2004)
Recent efforts to integrate humanitarian aid with conflict resolution goals such as peace, justice, development and political representation compromise the ideals of humanitarian aid, says Carnegie Council’s Ethics and International Affairs. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military’s political motivations have increased targeted attacks on aid workers and caused several agencies to leave these conflict zones completely. This article believes humanitarian aid must be unconditional and impartial, as it is “ethically untenable” to put unknown future benefits before saving lives.

The Root Causes of Conflict: Some Conclusions Stewart, F. / International Development Centre / Queen Elizabeth House Library (QEH), University of Oxford, 1998.

Humanitarianism under Fire (August 5, 2004). 
The threat of armed attacks and bureaucratic obstacles imposed by warring parties blocks aid workers’ access to 10 million civilians in 20 conflicts around the world. UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland argues that states and humanitarian aid groups need to take action to clarify the blurred line between military operations and humanitarian work. (Christian Science Monitor).

The New Humanitarianisms: A Review of Trends in Global Humanitarian Action (April 2002). 
This comprehensive report by the Overseas Development Institute covers a wide range of humanitarian aid issues, including financing of aid, trends in EU and US aid policy as well as topics within the UN humanitarian system.

Regarding "The Responsibility to Protect" (February 15, 2002)
On launching of the report “The Responsibility to Protect,” Médecins Sans Frontières Delegate to the UN Catherine Dumait-Harper draws attention to the increasingly “blurring lines” of humanitarian and military interventions. While the report is important in addressing this confusion, concerns about the protection of populations are still “less important than other concerns like ‘national interest.’” And, unless the international community shows political interest to respect and carry “human protection interventions,” these concerns will remain unaddressed.

Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not, or no longer, participating in hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. It aims to protect human dignity and to limit suffering during times of war. It is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict (Source: ICRC).

Key texts on humanitarian law and principles

Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenants
Genocide Convention
Refugee Convention
UNHCR Handbook on Procedures for Determining Refugee Status
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Convention on the Rights of the Child
1949 Geneva Conventions and 1977 Protocols
Staying alive: safety and security guidelines for humanitarian volunteers in conflict areas

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