Humanitarian response


The Economic Argument To Resettle More Refugees In Europe

There’s been a lot to say about the world’s humanitarian responsibility toward Syrian refugees this week. The global call to help Syrians has been heard loudly and many countries have recently altered their policies. Nonetheless, concerns remain over the impact of receiving so many new people into countries.

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

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
Chris Alexander Just Got His A** Kicked By Rosemary Barton
"Mr. Alexander, you’re actually countering your own point."

An exchange between Rosemary Barton and Chris Alexander escalated quickly Wednesday, after the Conservative candidate tried to slip a lie past the Power & Politics host.

The discussion focused on the ongoing conflict in Syrian and whether or not Canada will step up its involvement in the crisis after “horrific” photos of a drowned migrant boy were published by media earlier in the day.

Alexander, the Conservative candidate for Ajax, responded to the question by saying the migrant death toll numbers “have been growing for years.”

He cited a United Nations report that half of all Syrians have been displaced as a result of ongoing conflicts catalyzed by Islamist militants.

“We are continuing to act, to be at the forefront of humanitarian response…” he said before being cut off.

“Mr. Alexander, you’re actually countering your own point,” said Barton. “If this is true, if this has been going on for years, why did government not act faster now?”

Alexander then tried to shift the focus onto the CBC.

“I’m actually interested in why this is the first Power & Politics panel we’ve had on this,” said Alexander.

The claim that was quickly shot down by Barton as “completely false,” adding that as a minister he was not allowed to appear on the network’s panel discussions.

“If you want to avoid the question, let’s just be clear that that’s what’s happening,” Barton said.

Continue Reading.

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

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”

‘We're waiting to die’: Ethiopians pray even as drought response praised

Limited food and dwindling livestock has become a way of life for many Ethiopians since drought struck. The government says its countermeasures are working, yet its confidence is belied by the hardship facing farmers

Madina Boru cradles her 18-month-old son as the health worker wraps the measuring tape around his skinny upper arm. The boy is one of more than 400,000 children in Ethiopia at risk of extreme hunger as the country grapples with the worst drought in decades, caused by a particularly severe occurrence of the weather phenomenon El Niño.

“All of our crops failed last year, after the rains didn’t come,” Boru says. “My son fell sick soon after.”

Health posts such as this one in the village of Ogolcho, about 160km south of the capital, Addis Ababa, are at the forefront of a government-led humanitarian response to 10.2 million people affected by the drought. Hand-drawn charts line the walls, displaying statistics on screening and therapeutic feeding programmes for children under five. Well-trained health workers distribute medicine and peanut butter paste, a nutritional supplement for malnourished children.

In contrast with other humanitarian crises, such as the one in neighbouring South Sudan, where aid is delivered through international organisations, the government is the main channel for relief efforts in Ethiopia. It distributes food, digs irrigation canals, trucks water to dry areas, and has unleashed an army of 38,000 health extension workers who detect and treat malnutrition.

“This is a genuinely collaborative effort,” said Paul Handley, head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) for Ethiopia. “If you like, it’s a humanitarian response through a developmental model.”

The government has committed more than £270m towards relief efforts and has pledged to dig deeper into state funds should international donors fail to meet the £1bn required. Only half has been secured so far.

“If the humanitarian partners fail to do their part, it will be the responsibility of the government to inject more money by shifting the development budget,” says Mitiku Kassa, commissioner at the government’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission.

But despite praise by international organisations and the government’s assurances that relief efforts are on track, signs of the operation’s limitations are visible on the ground. In Ogolcho, Boru complains that the aid distributed by the government doesn’t feed her whole family. “We are a family of 10, but only half of us received food rations,” she says. “I can’t say what we are getting is enough. If it was enough, I would have enough milk for my son, and you wouldn’t see him like this.”

While the funding gap is largely to blame for insufficient food aid, farmers also accuse the government of unfair distribution and corruption. “The local officials and those who lead the one-to-five groups, they use most of the aid that comes for themselves and give little to others,” says Ajo Mihesa, a farmer, referring to the government scheme to organise society at grassroots level – which human rights groups claim is aimed at controlling dissent. Mihesa’s family of nine received food rations for only two….

Read on:-

European leaders were confronted on Monday with a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, as estimates that as many as 900 migrants may have died off the Libyan coast this weekend prompted calls for a new approach to the surging number of refugees crossing from Africa and the Middle East.

Even as efforts continued to collect the bodies from the sinking off Libya late Saturday and early Sunday — only 28 survivors have been found — Italian rescue ships responded to new distress calls from other vessels. A second migrant ship crashed near the Greek island of Rhodes, underscoring the relentless flow of people fleeing poverty, persecution and war.

European foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss how to respond.Those governments are trying to balance humanitarian responsibilities against budget constraints and widespread public sentiment against immigration. Italy’s representative pushed for Europe to make “major commitments” to confront the crisis and European heads of government scheduled an emergency session for Thursday.

The disaster also underscored how Libya, reeling from violence and political turmoil, has become a haven for human smuggling rings along the African coastline. In Rome, the prime ministers of Italy and Malta on Monday called for targeted, nonmilitary intervention against Libya’s human traffickers.

This year’s death toll in the Mediterranean Sea is thought to have already surpassed 1,500 victims — a drastic spike from the same period last year. With the arrival of warmer weather, the number of migrants on smuggling boats has risen sharply, with more than 11,000 people being rescued during the first 17 days of April. Migrants also now seem to be coming from a larger geographic area — from Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Asia; Syria and Iraq in the Middle East; and African nations such as Gambia, Somalia, Mali and Eritrea.

“What happened on Sunday was a game changer,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta said at a news conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. “There is a new realization that if Europe doesn’t act as a team, history will judge it very harshly, as it did when it closed its eyes to stories of genocide — horrible stories — not long ago.”

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, expressed dismay at what he characterized as European apathy over the migration crisis. “How many more people will have to drown until we finally act in Europe?” he asked in a statement. “How many times more do we want to express our dismay, only to then move on to our daily routine?”

GIS Volunteering

So, your a student looking for experience in creating maps and analyzing data, very cool! But you cant work a mandatory 15-20 hr internship that doesn’t pay. So how do you go about obtaining experience and networking? You can volunteer! Below is a list of agencies that use volunteers to create maps and analyze data, among other tasks. 

National Map Corps:   Run by the USGS “  Volunteers collect and/or improve structures data by adding new features, removing obsolete points, and correcting existing data using a web-based mapping tool. “-NMC website:

 Humanitarian Open Street Map Team: “ The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team [HOT] applies the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development.”- HOT website: 

GeoMentors:  Supported by ESRI and AAG, Geo Mentors works with schools to bring ArcGIS software to classes. Volunteers work with students and teachers to explore various topics being taught in the classroom and creating a map to demonstrate that topic in a visual way through maps. Website:

Know any other ways to volunteer as a map student? Send me a message and let me know! 

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.
Syria, The UK And Funding The “Moderate Armed Opposition.” - TruePublica
UK Non-Humanitarian Aid in Response to Syria, makes interesting reading. The British gov't has spent over £100m, “working closely with a range of actors”


A document produced last December by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, headed: “UK Non-Humanitarian Aid in Response to The Syria Conflict”, makes interesting reading. The British government it states, has spent “over £100 million” since 2012, “working closely with a range of actors” to “find a political solution to the conflict and prepare to rebuild the country in the post Assad era.”

“Our efforts … include providing more than £67 million of support to the Syrian opposition.”

One of the “actors” to benefit from hefty chunks of British taxpayers moneys is the Syrian National Coalition whose website states, under “Mission Statement and Goals”: “The coalition will do everything in its power to reach the goal of overthrowing the Assad regime …” and to “Establish a transitional government …” Thus the UK government is overtly supporting the illegal overthrow of yet another sovereign government.

Incidentally, Foreign Office accounting farcically includes: “more than £29 Million to reduce the impact of the conflict on the region.” Stopping dropping British bombs would surely be the most practical way to do that – and persuading their US “coalition partners” to do the same. Yet more nauseating, murderous, hypocrisy.

Talking of reducing “the impact of conflict on the region” – here is what the UK is contributing to destroying it – courtesy again the (un-consulted) British taxpayer:

  • “Each of the RAF’s Tornado GR4 jets costs £9.4 million, and each flight costs around £35,000 per hour.
  • “Two Tornados are typically used for each flight, and each flight lasts anywhere between four and eight hours. Even at the lowest estimate, each flight costs £140,000.
  • “Their cargo is four Paveway bombs and two Brimstone missiles, costing £22,000 and £105,000 per unit respectively.
  • “That’s £298,000 plus the cost of the flight which is £438,000, and that’s an optimistic estimate. If the jets carry Storm Shadow missiles – which cost a cool £800,000 a pop – and conduct an eight-hour mission, the total cost is a hell of a lot higher, and none of this takes into account the cost of fuel.”

The British government document informs that: “To date, there are over 2,700 volunteers in 110 civil defence stations across northern Syria, trained and equipped with help from UK funding … The ‘White Helmets’ as they are more commonly known … “The ‘White Helmets’ of course, only work in the areas held by the “moderate” organ eating, child decapitating, human incinerating, crucifying “opposition.”

In Foreign Office parlance, under the heading: “Moderate armed opposition: £4.4 million”, it is explained that this has been devoted to “life saving equipment”, presumably for the head choppers since the “life savers” appear to be their guests. Indeed the “White Helmets” website states that: “They are the largest civil society organisation operating in areas outside of government control …”

Also, near farcically, the Foreign Office informs: “We have also funded Law of Armed Conflict training to help commanders train their fighters to understand their responsibilities and obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.” Given their track record of near unique, mediaeval barbarity, the “training” is clearly falling on deaf ears.

The UK of course, is in no position to lecture on the law of armed conflict since the newly unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May, has vowed to halt all cases against British service men and women brought by Iraqis who allege torture, murder of relatives, and varying unimaginable abuses. So much for “responsibilities and obligations under human rights and humanitarian law.”

British generosity is seemingly boundless in murderous meddling in other nations. “Media activists” have been given £5.3 million: “UK funded projects are helping establish a network of independent media outlets across Syria, whose work has included sending out messages about personal safety after the regime’s chemical weapons attack in Ghouta and, more recently, active reporting produced by civil society groups and the likes of the ‘White Helmets’ across Twitter and Facebook accounts.”

The “regime’s chemical weapons attack on Ghouta” has of course, been roundly disproved despite the best efforts of Western propaganda. As Eric Draitser has written:

“What makes that incident significant, both politically and historically, is the fact that, despite the evidence of Syrian government involvement being non-existent, the Obama administration nearly began a war with Syria using Ghouta as the pretext.

“As the months have passed however, scientific studies amassing an impressive body of evidence have shown that, not only were Washington’s claims of ‘certainty’ that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons in their war with extremist fighters utterly baseless, but in fact the reality was quite the opposite – the rebels were the most likely culprits of the attack.”

The cynic might ponder that funding “media activists” and the “The White Helmets” to possibly “actively (mis)report” is blatant propaganda. As the propoganda master, Joseph Goebbels knew: Propaganda is the art of persuasion – persuading others that your ‘side of the story’ is correct – with mega money and resources thrown at the “persuasion.”

Read complete article…

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


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

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