humanitarian response

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”
Nepal earthquake: how to donate
Nepal has been hit by another major earthquake, two weeks after the devastating quake in which more than 8,000 people were killed. Here are details some of the main appeals
By Carla Kweifio-Okai

So news about Nepal has been trickling away because of the lack of interest and presentation in mainstream media, so here is a list of charities and groups that are trying to help people out there. This is still an urgent situation, and they desperately need help. 

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
Life under siege in Yemen: 'Bullets and shrapnel came into the house'
An aid worker describes working in Yemen’s capital Sana’a during the recent airstrikes from coalition forces

In pictures: Yemen devastation
Building a new Nepal: why the world must heed the lessons of Haiti | Prospery Raymond
A Haitian aid expert says mistakes in post-earthquake efforts in his country show the need to prioritise healthcare and medicine, and consult local people
By Prospery Raymond

1. Parallels between the Haiti earthquake and the Nepal earthquake:

- both are among the world’s poorest countries lacking the infrastructure, resources, and capacity to deal with such a crisis.

2. Differences between the two earthquakes:

- The Nepal earthquake has a significantly lower number of the death toll and a larger number of affected population compared to those of the Haiti earthquake.

3. Challenges of the post-earthquake efforts:

- the distribution of supplies

- the influx of foreign aid agencies

- the subsequent cholera outbreak

- the countless debates over the use of the foreign donations.

4. Lessons learnt from the Haiti earthquake:

- the media focus distracts the rescuers from the real needs: shelter, food, water, medication. 

- one major obstable to the initial relief effort in Haiti was the lack of collaboration and synchronisation between foreign agencies and Haitians. 

- a tiny percentage of donor funds for reconstruction work was given to Haitian firms and local NGOs - less than 0.6% of relief funds. 

- a careful thought is needed to be given to health issues. 

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.

Humanitarian Affairs Officers (HAO) at UNOCHA - United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Yola

Humanitarian Affairs Officers (HAO) at UNOCHA – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Yola

OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort.

We are recruiting to fill the position below:

Job Title: Humanitarian Affairs Officer

Location: Yola

Type of Contract: Service Contract

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Happy World Health Day from Peacebuilding Solutions!

Happy World Health Day from Peacebuilding Solutions!

As part of Peacebuilding Solutions’ sustainable alternative to current practices in refugee aid, we want to recognize and reinforce the humanity and the dignity of all people, including refugees. Just like non-refugees, displaced persons live holistic lives: one cannot thrive on clean water alone, for example, but needs food, shelter, physical…

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Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities

I wanted to highlight a publication just released by Feinstein International Center - “a global desk review of livelihoods programming for refugees in urban settings together with a review of low- income urban development prorgams that could be relevant for refugees.”

The report does not make direct mention to food security, nevertheless the program opportunities identified are very relevant.  As they state, “despite a growing body of research about the livelihood problems of refugees in urban areas in countries of first asylum, there is little evidence about which humanitarian programs work, what livelihoods initiatives refugees undertake themselves, and where opportunities for programming interventions lie. This study addresses this knowledge gap by analysing the urban livelihood context, and identifying programming opportunities and examples of promising program initiatives. The study’s key objective was to support livelihoods programming for refugees by generating new ideas from related fields of inquiry, such as low-income urban development and youth unemployment, and adapting these ideas to make them relevant for refugees.”

For the purposes of the study they defined livelihoods programming “as that which directly supports household income generation by promoting wage employment or self-employment through skills and vocational training, microfinance, business development and legal services, job replacement, apprenticeships, mentoring and so forth.”



The Feinstein International Center is pleased to announce new publications on Refugee Livelihoods:

Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas:  Identifying Program Opportunities

Recommendations for programming and advocacy

Refugees in urban areas face a specific set of livelihoods problems, and in recent years many aid agencies have begun to try to address these problems by supporting refugees through vocational training, microcredit and other services. So far, however, there has been little evidence about which humanitarian programs work, and where opportunities for programming interventions lie. This study, funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, addresses this knowledge gap.  Through case studies in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Quito, we analyzed the urban livelihoods context for refugees and identified programming opportunities and promising program initiatives. In each city, we sought to generate new ideas from related fields of inquiry, such as low-income urban development and youth employment that could be adapted for refugees in countries of first asylum.

Our three case studies represent contrasting refugee policy contexts and livelihoods experience, and offer lessons for other host settings.  Each case study begins with a review of existing livelihood programs in the country. This includes a mapping of commercial, humanitarian and governmental organizations that provide programming, advocacy or other resources that support the livelihoods of refugees, migrants and low-income citizens. We then interviewed asylum seekers and key informants to deepen our understanding of the livelihoods context in each country.  Our main program recommendations, based on all three cases, are included as a stand-alone document.


Read the reports at website,

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


Safe birth. Even here. SHARE the good news of safe deliveries, even in the most difficult humanitarian crises environments!
NRS International | Blogs | The Rise of CSR in the UAE
The UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability plan,launched a local network & appointed NRS International as Steering Committee member

Apparently I’m part of the rise of CSR in the UAE. UNGC and CEO Club hosted a lovely event in Dubai to announce the local chapter of UNGC in UAE. Nifty. Sustainability Excellence is a UNGC member >

Tomorrow, 17 October, is the launch of the World Disaster Report 2013 “Focus on Technology and the Future of Humanitarian Action.”


The World Disaster Report (WDR) 2013 examines the profound impact of technological innovations on humanitarian action, how humanitarians employ technology in new and creative ways, and what risks and opportunities may emerge as a result of technological innovations. The responsible use of technology offers concrete ways to make humanitarian assistance more effective, efficient and accountable and can, in turn, directly reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience.

Finding ways to leverage advances in technology to serve the most vulnerable is a moral imperative; a responsibility, not a choice.

Published annually since 1993, the World Disasters Report brings together the latest trends, facts and analysis of contemporary catastrophes and their effect on vulnerable populations worldwide. Initiated by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, it convenes eminent researchers, authors and development and humanitarian aid practitioners to highlight contemporary issues on a yearly basis.

A panel discussion will take place on October 17 th at 9:30 a.m. EST at Harvard University and will be web streamed (audio only). To participate this session please register at:

The full report will be available on October 17 th . To view the report visit:

Panel participants include:

Patrick Vinck - Associate Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Laura Howe - Vice President or Public Relations, American Red Cross

Gary Fowlie- Head of the Liaison Office of the United Nations International Telecommunications Unit

Rebecca Curzon - Senior Program Manager, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, IBM

Matthias Schmale- Under Secretary General, National Societies and Knowledge Development, IFRC