Humanitarian Response
Disability in conflict zones: 'I told my wife to take the children and run'
Being caught in a humanitarian crisis with a disability can lead to abandonment and neglect. How can we make humanitarian response more inclusive?
By Holly Young

Being caught in a humanitarian crisis with a disability can lead to abandonment and neglect

Ukrainian authorities finally made a decision. Open war against Ukrainian citizens was announced.

After almost three months of constant protests in Ukraine’s major cities, President Yanukovych’s government declared de facto martial law in the country. Violent clashes have spread beyond the capital.

#Euromaidan Protests Spread Throughout Ukraine After Explosion of Violence

With worldwide levels of displacement by war reaching all-time highs, more than 477,000 refugees and migrants have reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean so far in 2015, according to the United Nations. An estimated 4,000 people are arriving daily to the Greek islands. Nearly 3,000 people have died trying to make the journey.

Special Coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

Syria crisis: the humanitarian response

On 15 June 2012, the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the Overseas Development Institute held a closed-door roundtable on the Syria crisis. As HPG describe, “the aim was to provide a forum for humanitarian partners to share information and discuss how best to respond to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian needs and security situation in Syria.”

Below a summary of some of the issues highlighted . With regard to urban food security:

  • the high number of internally displaced (hundreds of thousands), that continues to increase;
  • skyrocketing prices and mounting unemployment that are intensifying uncertainty and vulnerability;
  • the increase in World Food Programme beneficiaries from 100,000 in March to 500,000 in June ( in addition “an upward shift in the items requested for inclusion in the food basket reflects the escalating prices of commodities and provides more evidence of the intensifying economic pressure upon Syrian people”); and
  • the lack of a comprehensive understanding of needs within Syria.

With regard to the politics of humanitarian access, it is worth noting:

  • the fundamentally important and very delicate role that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is currently playing, the difficulty for local NGOs to operate in such a politicized environment and the role of the diaspora in providing relief supplies;
  • the administrative and bureaucratic hurdles being faced in order to offer assistance within the country, as well as the Government’s attitude to aid organizations (including intense surveillance of all relief activities);
  • the role of health professionals in the conflict; and
  • the thin line between effectiveness and advisability of public advocacy in such a conflict scenario.

Concerns for the medium-to long-term action included: (i) elevated degree of destruction of public facilities and infrastructure in many areas; (ii) low schooling attendance rate with current political climate, as well as future needs for psychological support; (iii) deep divides the conflict has created within the society.

For more reading on Syria, look also at Hugo Slim’s article Lifting the Siege: Protecting Civilians in Syria

My heart aches to see the family members and loved ones of #MH17 going through such a tragic and devastating loss.

A Malaysia Airlines flight attendant highlighted on Instagram and Twitter the loss of lives on both flights: “Within 4 months I lost almost 30 friends.”

Only Months After MH370 Disappears, Plane Crash in Ukraine Sends Malaysians Reeling

Enough. Enough.

After more than two years of conflict and more than 70,000 deaths, including thousands of children. … After more than five million people have been forced to leave their homes, including over a million refugees living in severely stressed neighboring countries … After so many families torn apart and communities razed, schools and hospitals wrecked and water systems ruined … After all this, there still seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency among the governments and parties that could put a stop to the cruelty and carnage in Syria.

We, leaders of U.N. agencies charged with dealing with the human costs of this tragedy, appeal to political leaders involved to meet their responsibility to the people of Syria and to the future of the region.


Valerie Amos, Ertharin Cousin, Antonio Guterres, Anthony Lake and Margaret Chan

NYT “A U.N. Appeal to Save Syria”

It doesn’t matter if you are documented. You have rights in this country.

Hundreds of Central Americans and their supporters gathered in front of the White House on Wednesday, 30 December to protest the US government’s plan to significantly ramp of deportations, beginning on January 2.

As US Steps Up Deportations, Advocates Push for Refugee Status for Central Americans

I wanted to share another report that may be of interest to those following issues about urban food security and emergencies/ humanitarian aid, and detail some of the most interesting points.

“Learning from the City” is a recently released study by the British Red Cross, that aims to be a building block for the better understanding of the challenges posed by humanitarian action in urban areas. It has focused principally on evidence from five British Red Cross operational contexts in Haiti (Port-au-Prince), Uganda (Kampala and other cities), Djibouti (Djibouti-ville), Mongolia (Ulaanbataar) and Nepal (Kathmandu).

The study “looks at the evolving nature of risk and vulnerability in urban settings and assesses the operational implications of these trends and challenges"  and highlight five ways forward (for the British Red Cross): (i) Sharpening context analysis and assessments; (ii) Understanding cash and markets better; (iii) Engaging and communicating with complex communities; (iv) Adapting to the challenges of land and the built environment; and (v) Engaging with urban systems and partnering with local groups and institutions.

With regard to food security issues, there are some interesting obsevations:

  • "Many evaluations of urban responses have highlighted the importance of recognising the role of cash in urban areas, as people depend more on goods and services, than on producing their own food or fetching water, for example.”  However as they explain, there are challenges with the identification and targeting of the most vulnerable  in peri-urban slums in Djibouti (p.8)
  • The limitations of the Households Economic Security (HES) approach, as it involved identifying (geographical) livelihoods zones for analysis, which is unrealistic for urban contexts with multiple livelihoods.
  • A number of characteristics of urban areas that often give rise to humanitarian needs are detailed, among which “dependency on food produced outside cities - an on cash for food, rent, water and other services - can trigger crises for the most vulnerable groups when food and fuel prices are volatile, or if a conflict or disaster cuts off physical access between a city and rural areas.”
  • Research by ACF in Guinea, Zimbabwe and Guatemala, for example, found that the links and interdependencies between rural and urban communities were an important part of people’s ability to weather food insecurity in times of shock or stress (Vaitla, 2012).”
  • On urban violence and food, the report mentions food price riots as an ocurrence that poses significant challenges to the humanitarian community.

Personally what I found most interesting was the calls for a change in coordination (very different to the current system) and the integrated neighbourhood apporach they adopted in Haiti (as well as its limitations). As the report states: “Some authors have called for a new, area-based method of coordination in urban settings. Such an approach is appealing given the general absence of many potential partners, such as the private sector, from the cluster system convened by the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Lastly Appendix 2 “Tools for humanitarian action in urban areas” contains some useful links among which mention is made to FAO’s Participatory Urban Food Security and Nutrition Security Assessment Process.


By taking action, you are not showing your concerns only, but you join thousands of activists around the world to save Syrian civilians lives.

#withSyria campaign wants the world leaders to hear and act through 100K signatures to effectively stop the indiscriminate attacks of Syrians civilians. Help us by spreading the word.

#WithSyria Wants to End the Indiscriminate Bombing of Syrian Civilians


Horrible stories about North Korea is nothing new. But this may be one of the most extensive reports worth-reading on the country’s abysmal human rights condition.

UN Report on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea