Update: read the follow-up post: An aid worker’s answers about the Horn of Africa
Want to know more about managing household finance? Talk to Suze Ormann. Health advice? Watch Dr. Oz. General wisdom? Google, of course.
But what about those disasters all over the news? It looks like a lot is going on.... or not? Who should you ask to find out about the issues in a big disaster response, like the current drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?
You ask an aid worker. Why? Because they're out in the disaster zone talking to survivors and assessing needs, determining the scale and involvement of response, identifying funding sources for assistance plans, writing proposals communicating with donors about needs and planned projects, and getting the projects started.
In an effort for all of us to better understand the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, we're gleaning from the inspiration of Rachel Held Evans interview series, "Ask a ____" and starting our own "ask" series. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to Betsy Baldwin -- disaster response expert.
Betsy is a program officer for World Vision Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, currently focusing on relief efforts in the Horn of Africa -- where 12.4 million people are affected by drought and famine. She has degrees in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University and Virginia Tech, and has worked in relief development in Darfur, Sudan, Northern Afghanistan, Haiti (following the January 2010 earthquake), conflict regions of the Congo, and South Sudan.
She recently returned from the Horn of Africa, assessing needs in Somalia. (Read her blog post about her visit and "Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field".)
When I first met Betsy, she was introduced to me as a (and I quote) "total aid worker expert." When I asked her why she thinks the public needs to better understand humanitarian aid work, this is what she said:
"We are seeing an increase in disasters for several reasons -- some related to climate change and others related to higher demand for resources (oil, raw materials for electronics, etc.) from under developed nations. Providing assistance means saving lives now but also preventing lives from being lost in future disasters."
If you have questions for Betsy, here's your chance -- leave them in the comment section. Remember that the point is to ask the sort of questions that will help us better understand humanitarian aid work and the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Wednesday, we'll pick the top six or seven questions and give them to Betsy to answer first-hand. (And if you like someone else's question, leave a reply saying so. That way we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to you.) Look for her answers and responses this Thursday.
Read Betsy's follow-up post: An aid worker’s answers about the Horn of Africa