Tag Archives: humanitarian aid

World Humanitarian Day: Reflections from Lebanon

Today is World Humanitarian Day, a day to recognize and honor the men and women around the world who risk their lives every day to help others.

World Vision writer and photographer Patricia Mouamar grew up in Lebanon during its civil war; now, as a humanitarian aid worker, she understands firsthand the trials faced by the refugees she is working to help.

[Infographic] How will you spend Valentine's Day?

Love is in the air this week as millions prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day. There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to spoil your loved ones; we all do it occasionally.

At the same time, we wanted to ask the question: How much money do Americans spend each year on Valentine's Day -- and what impact could that amount make in fighting global poverty?

This isn't meant to induce guilt; instead, consider it a source of encouragement as to how effectively you can make a difference with the resources you have!

[Photo blog] Tsunami in the Solomon Islands

Click here for updates on the situation and World Vision's response in the Solomon Islands.

Wednesday, February 6, a magnitude-8.0 earthquake followed by several forceful aftershocks generated tsunami waves nearly five feet high that battered Santa Cruz Island in Temotu province of the Solomons.

Rebel atrocities in Mali

While French and Malian troops continue their drive to force rebels out of major centers in northern Mali, World Vision communications manager Maria Mutya Frio spoke to those who have fled conflict zones.

Aid worker's diary: A cry for Goma

Congolese walk to a refugee camp in Gisenye, Rwanda. (2012 Reuters/James Akena, courtesy the Thomson Reuters Foundation – AlertNet).

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Rebel forces overtook Goma, the largest city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on November 20, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee for safety.

Much of the country and its borders are now under the control of this rebel group, known as the M23 rebels,  and the situation remains tense.

World Vision evacuated its staff to Gisenyi, Rwanda. Aimee Manimani, a World Vision aid worker in the DRC, shares her thoughts and feelings on leaving the city of Goma.

Before disasters strike

There's a common misconception that, whether we’re ordinary citizens or professional disaster-responders, we’re all helplessly at the mercy of unexpected, random disasters, both natural and man-made.

The truth is, it’s rare for disasters to be totally random -- and they’re almost never totally unexpected!

Organizations like World Vision and professionals who engage in disaster response are increasingly investing time and energy into what we call “early warning/early action.” The more we can predict when and where a disaster will strike, the more we can prepare for it. And the more we prepare for it, the less traumatic and devastating it will be when it actually happens.

There are a number of different tools we have available to assist in the prediction of disasters. Let’s talk about two main types here.

Building the best shelter for the displaced

Late last week -- after months of hard work, design, and planning -- students from three different schools gathered at John Brown University to present their solutions to the growing need for shelter of displaced people worldwide.

World Vision has been on the front lines, responding to the challenge of providing contextually appropriate shelter that offers privacy, security, and refuge from the elements -- all while being resistant to future disasters, like flooding and earthquakes.

As a part of the World Vision team that responds to emergency situations, I have firsthand knowledge of the importance of temporary shelters and was called upon to judge the student's designs.

An open letter to the presidential candidates

Dear presidential candidate,

I consider myself a good citizen and a patriot. I take pride in my country and care about the well-being of my fellow Americans. I want America to prosper. I hope that the United States will be a global leader for good, far into the 21st century.

Haiti will never be a lost cause

Last time I flew into Haiti, I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea." I finished it just as the plane hit the tarmac of the broken-down Port-au-Prince airport. As I closed the book, I looked up and realized why it had resonated. The protagonist and his struggles at sea reminded me of this fascinating and broken place I’d come to call home -- a country where work happens, struggles continue, and yet "success" or any kind of respite seem so often out of reach.

It’s now been two years since the largest earthquake to hit the country in 200 years shook the life out of Port-au-Prince, causing chaos, destruction, death, and leaving more people homeless than the wrecked city could cope with. Journalists have come and gone, and the visiting groups of beaming, t-shirted volunteers have become less and less frequent. The work of aid agencies, the private sector, and the government has continued, with varying levels of success amid swathes of challenges, for 24 long months, and will continue for as long as there is the will, funding, and available resources.

Do you let the media influence you?

On a recent Friday afternoon, I happily engaged in my favorite nerdy end-of-week work habit, the kind only indulged on a slow week in the world of disaster relief: catching up on the week’s news in disasters while listening to talk radio.

While perusing various news sites, I happened to catch an interesting interview with Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose renowned work focuses primarily on behavioral economics, which is more or less the study of why we do the crazy things we do. During this very interesting discussion on cognition and biases, the subject of the media briefly arose, in the context of how we decide what issues are important to us. Kahneman noted that we “tend to judge the importance of issues by how frequently they are mentioned.”

Perhaps your immediate reaction is to say, well, that seems obvious enough. It probably feels somewhat intuitive that most of us conflate the importance of a certain topic -- such as the national debt or the release of Apple's iPhone 4S -- with the amount of time we hear or see the subject filtered through any of our media lenses, be it national television, social media, print news, radio, etc. The very existence of the word “trending” makes one feel like we’ll probably never escape the Kardashians.

Ask an aid worker about Haiti

There are few disaster response efforts that have received the level of public scrutiny that has been focused on the international response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As a result of the earthquake relief response in Haiti, it's likely that most Americans have formed their own opinions about humanitarian aid. Questions like these and their answers (or lack of answers) influence our understanding and opinion of aid work:

Did my donation really help? Why hasn't anything been accomplished there? I watched one news channel that looks like everything is progressing quite well, and another that shows everything is in complete disarray. What's the truth? What's really happening? Two years seems like enough time to make some progress. Is the aid effort failing? Are dollars being wasted? Or is everything much better off than the news is telling us?

Most of us don't get to meet real humanitarian workers in the course of our everyday lives, so we don't have the opportunity to ask questions like this to front-line professionals. Therefore, consider this post your "open mic" chance.

Continuing with our expert interview series, in which you have the opportunity to ask your questions to aid professionals, I'd like to introduce you to Jeff Wright and Elizabeth (Liz) Ranade-Janis, aid workers on World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs team. Ask an aid worker about Haiti | World Vision blogJeff and Liz were both deployed to Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010 -- two years ago next week -- to work alongside World Vision field staff to help implement the initial stages of our relief programs, including shelter, economic recovery, child protection, healthcare, cholera prevention, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Where should American Christians stand on foreign aid?

As an American Christian, I like to think I do a fair job caring for the world's poor -- those in my own neighborhood and those around the world who have greater financial need than I do. After all, Americans pride themselves on generosity. And Christians desire to be known for their service to others.

However, recent news (polls, studies, and political campaigns) suggest otherwise. How do we reconcile this?

Q & A with USAID's Raj Shah on the Horn of Africa and foreign assistance

On Tuesday, Dr. Raj Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visited World Vision's U.S. headquarters in Federal Way, Washington, to talk to our staff about faith and global development. After his speech -- which included a call for Americans and the American church community to continue supporting the United States as a leader in bringing relief to those suffering from poverty around the globe -- I had the great privilege of talking to Dr. Shah for a little more in-depth Q & A.

Here is the transcript of our conversation:

JAMES: Did Horn of Africa governments respond quickly enough to early warnings [of the food crisis and famine]?

DR. SHAH: It’s important to put this in context and recognize that the famine early warning system did generate knowledge of this crisis before it happened. The Ethiopian and Kenyan governments -- and the United States and a range of other partners, including the World Bank -- did work together in advance of this to put in place poverty safety-net programs that today are effectively protecting millions and millions of people. This is why we are not seeing large-scale child deaths in Kenya and Ethiopia, despite the fact that this drought is actually worse than previous ones. In Somalia, it’s a very different story, because access for humanitarian partners has been highly impeded by militias and al-Shabaab. The direct consequence of this is a famine that has taken tens of thousands of children who otherwise would not have died. The United States is doing everything it can, working with a broad range of international partners, both to save lives now and to put into place our Feed the Future programs so that future droughts don’t lead to these catastrophes. And we are already seeing some important policy reform measures that the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments are taking to liberalize their agricultural economies and allow for more agricultural development to achieve their own degree of food security.

Answers from a food aid expert (Part 1)

To mark World Food Day, October 16, we asked you earlier this week to share your questions about food aid -- its complexities, and its implications on economic development and child health. This is part 1 of a 2-part series of responses to those questions from Paul Macek, World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition.

Paul leads a team of specialized program officers who focus on food security, livelihoods, economic development, nutrition, agriculture, and environment. Paul has degrees in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Arts in international affairs with concentrations in international development and political economy from American University in Washington, D.C.

Part 2 will be posted on Monday, October 17. Read the post that started this: Ask an expert about food aid.

[caption id="attachment_9090" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Paul Macek is World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition."]Ask an expert about food aid | World Vision blog[/caption]

FROM STEPHANIE: I would like to know your approach to the tension between feeding children with no strings attached (religious or political) but still making the most of the feeding connection to ensure children get the tools they need to grow up and break out of the poverty cycle.

World Vision provides assistance regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. We focus on changing the behavior of parents and guardians of children to ensure that they know how best to feed and nurture their children. Often with new mothers, we focus on basic messages of proper breastfeeding and weaning practices and balanced nutrition for the entire family. In our agricultural programs, we focus on providing farmers with the right information and strategies to improve their crop productivity.

Ask an expert about food aid

When I was a little kid, my sister (who never ate her vegetables) used to wish aloud at the dinner table that she could send her broccoli to Africa, where the kids really need it.

At the time, I liked to think of myself as not quite so naive -- I knew we couldn't literally send our vegetables to Africa. It would taste really bad by the time it got there.

Yes, shipping leftovers probably isn't a best practice in terms of humanitarian food aid. But what about food security? And malnutrition prevention and mitigation? And ready-to-use therapeutic food?

Asking questions like these is absolutely essential in better understanding the complexities of humanitarian work. It's also why we're continuing with our expert interview series -- in which you have the opportunity to ask your questions to aid professionals. Our first post on this topic was "Ask an aid worker about the Horn of Africa" with World Vision's Betsy Baldwin. In this second installment, I'd like to introduce you to Paul Macek.

The moral imperative of humanitarian aid

The following commentary is based on remarks Mr. Hill presented on September 5 at a forum entitled “Reforming Aid, Transforming the World,” hosted by Global Washington at the University of Washington. For more information on Global Washington, visit: www.globalwa.org.


“I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering.” —Robert F. Kennedy, in response to a question, a few weeks before his assassination, about how his obituary should read

From books to blogs, it has become fashionable to focus on the failures of foreign assistance. To be sure, there have been failures, and there is plenty of room for improvement.

That said, it would be a travesty to ignore what has been accomplished. In the early 1960s, preventable child deaths exceeded 20 million per year. In 2011, that number is around 8.1 million. While humanitarian aid may not have been the sole cause, I contend that it was a major factor in reducing these preventable deaths.

An aid worker's answers about the Horn of Africa

On Tuesday, we asked you what questions you have about disaster aid and assistance, in an effort to help you better understand the current humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and its implications for aid recipients and aid donors. Betsy Baldwin, whom we introduced you to, answered some of your most pressing questions. Read the post that started this: Ask an aid worker about the Horn of Africa.

[caption id="attachment_8112" align="alignright" width="196" caption="Betsy Baldwin, World Vision Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs"]An aid worker's answers about the Horn of Africa | World Vision blog[/caption]

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 is currently in Nairobi, Kenya, on her second visit to the Horn of Africa to assess needs and determine programmatic response.

From T: How do you ensure that what is written on paper is what happens on the ground?

Great question, and possibly the subject of future posts here on the World Vision Blog -- how do we actually do emergency relief? A short, sweet answer for now is simply that we make sure we have experienced, professional disaster-responders on the ground, running the relief response. This means that with almost every disaster response in which we are involved, we have a mix of both local and also international staff -- all experienced and capable.

Ask an aid worker about the Horn of Africa

Ask an aid worker | World Vision blogUpdate: 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.

Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field

Editor's note: In an effort to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives to provide it, the UN General Assembly has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This year's theme is "People helping people," celebrating everyday humanitarians helping people around the world. From wherever you are today -- at home, at a desk, or in the field -- be inspired by the spirit of aid work in those around you and in yourself.

In my new job at World Vision, I was recently sent to assist our response to the drought, food crisis, and famine across the Horn of Africa. I had spent several weeks learning the systems of World Vision from my desk in Washington, D.C., and was anxious to get back out to the field, where a real disaster was unfolding.

Before World Vision, I had spent more than four years overseas, working in relief settings. I love this line of work for its fast-moving nature and its tie to the headlines of what we see in the news. This is a chance to do something that matters.