Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid

Topics: Aid, Development aid, Humanitarianism Pages: 5 (2047 words) Published: November 28, 2010
The Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid
The author of “The Crisis Caravan”, Linda Polman is a Dutch journalist with personal experience with war zone charities since 1993; she has firsthand accounts in Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and numerous others. Her novel “The Crisis Caravan” is the consequence of her and others experiences and gives an uncompromising view of the contradictions of the humanitarian industry, and the results of money raisers, like the United States, neither being held accountable to lenders nor the voters they promised. The author situates her perspective on humanitarian aid by positioning herself in-between an old debate between Florence Nightingale and Henri Dunant. Dunant was the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), his stance was that aid was a presumed duty. Polman associates her view with the opposite arguments of Florence Nightingale. Nightingale assisted in the Crimean War by helping wounded soldiers and concluded through her experiences that the work she was providing was only making it easier for countries to start and pursue war. Nightingale began to argue against aid organizations, especially the ICRC. “Dunant wrote [to Nightingale] to try to convince her that his initiative was crucial. He agreed that war ministries bore primary responsibility for the care of their own sick and wounded, but even in the best organized armies such care was inadequate. Nightingale answered, if the present Regulations are not sufficient to provide for the wounded they should be made so” (Polman, p.7). This creates the basis for debate on humanitarian aid. Nightingale’s stance, as well as Polman’s is humanitarian relief was not available then countries would have to take more responsibility for their soldiers and their casualties, and understand all the expenses and sacrifices that come with choosing war. Polman, similar to Nightingale believes that countries no longer sense how significant the decision to go to war is because humanitarian relief has become a staple across the globe. According to Linda Polman $120 billion is made available a year from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for disaster and refugee aid. Approximately 37,000 International aid organizations each year have to compete for a share of this funding. "The Crisis Caravan" immediately alerts readers that there are serious problems in the aid industry, beginning with the constant error of duplicating effort and expenses, which creates excessive spending with minimal progress. The author proceeds to explain that inflated statistics of success cause an exaggeration of accomplishment. Other problems aid organizations face are soldiers demanding money for everything an organization brings in, including food and medicine for victims, and taking a sum of donated supplies. Soldiers use some of these supplies for their benefit but Linda Polman explains that much of theses supplies are sold for more arms. Therefore, aid representatives, as well as the rest of the world, start to wonder whether humanitarian aid is doing more harm than good. Unfortunately, the United States plays a role in this problem, mostly because they are the leading humanitarian aid funder in the world. Politicians contribute to this problem by making promises of aid but are more concerned with publicity, public support, and donations that are tied into making those promises rather than the aid itself. “The Crisis Caravan” states that a few INGO’s attempt to challenge humanitarian aid abuses. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimates every major disaster attracts, on average, about 1,000 aid organizations and with the estimated 37,000 organizations across the globe, there is always a rival donor willing to fill the void. "Phantom" aid is another big problem - this occurs where money never leaves the donor nation, instead is used for lobbying, recruiting expert consultants, and...
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