Humanitarian Aid 2016: The needs, the highlights, the crisis and the relief

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mrs Simran Inlani, medical student with experience in humanitarian action. Mrs Inlani is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA).


Simran Inlani, IFMSA

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s more persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Humanitarian aid is the aid and plan of action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of man-made crises and natural disasters. It is material and logistic assistance to people in need. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by government and other institutions replaces it. The people in need constitute the homeless, refugees, victims of natural disasters, wars and famines.

Conflicts adversely affect civilians both directly, and indirectly, through the resulting ‘complex emergencies’ that protracted conflicts create. In the immediate area of conflict, irrespective of the country, the primary aim is preventing human casualties and ensuring access to the basics for survival: water, sanitation, food, shelter, and health care. This is called humanitarian relief. Away from the main fighting, the priority is to assist people who have been displaced, prevent the spread of conflict, support relief work, and prepare for rehabilitation.

The debate over how to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and minimize its potentially negative consequences is ongoing and intense. As humanitarian aid work becomes more professional and more academic institutions offer the topic as fields of study, now is an important time to develop the subject further.

Humanitarian aid is not straightforward, and masks many political failures. Ultimately, however, it plays a crucial role in saving lives, and a role that can be continually improved as lessons are learned and applied.

While focussing on the relief work and ensuring that the relief reaches the victims of crisis we have to see that not only they get immediate basic requirements but also come up with plans which helps them to restart their lives both emotionally and enabling them to start earning again. I strongly believe that care and psychological help should also be given to aid workers as aid workers are exposed to tough conditions and have to be flexible, resilient and responsible in an environment that humans are not psychologically accustomed to deal with, in such a severity that trauma is common.

On the Indian front, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations have attracted the attention of the global community in recent years.  In the six decades since independence, India has experienced a number of natural and man-made disasters. At the same time, India has partnered the global community in providing relief in affected regions. As India moves to occupy an important position in the global community, it is in the process of bolstering its capabilities to match the rising expectations.

In my opinion, although we have progressed immensely in providing humanitarian aid, there are simple tasks that could be planned and implemented that could immensely help the entire process. As medical students, there is so much that we could contribute right from building new ideas, the plan of action and execution. All we need is more encouragement from our medical institutes and the government so that we can receive more exposure and be actively involved at every step of the way. Also, humanitarian aid basically implies being ‘humane’; hence helping families belonging to the low socio-economic strata by educating kids or making them aware of the opportunities available will help produce more confident and efficient citizens who in turn could contribute to the same cause. The key lies in understanding every individual’s potential and coming together as citizens of the world to help and protect it.

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