Showing posts with label aid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aid. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 18


The civil war in Syria has entered its fifth year. So far, with 210,000 dead and 10 million displaced, scattered to refugee camps or left to fend for themselves, the crisis seems overwhelming. 

"A lack of funding, coordination and international political will to guarantee aid access has meant that many people are not getting the help they need, particularly in hard-to-reach areas inside Syria," writes Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, for the New Statesman.

Save the Children works in 120 countries: "Across all our work, we pursue several core values: accountability, ambition, collaboration, creativity and integrity."

Forsyth offers specific recommendations including coalitions of governments and NGOs that can better coordinate aid, new strategies for reaching remote places, devising a system for nations to provide equitable funding, and empowering recipients. YaleGlobal points out that such strategies may "seem narrow in light of an expanding population, rising inequality, a decline in resources as basic as water amid so many longstanding conflicts."

As is often the case, readers' comments to Forsyth's essay reflect the challenges and even awareness of the complexities in the Middle East. Some readers offer small and hopeful recommendations; others argue the conflict is not the West's concern. YaleGlobal concludes by noting that the crisis could destabilize neighboring countries. The globe has reason to provide aid. Yet polarization among nations and within nations and organization, in addition to unnecessary politicization of countless issues and misinformation, not only prevent efficient distribution of aid but also the good governance and united effort that could keep such conflicts at bay in the first place.

The novel Allure of Deceit examines how charitable aid comes with an agenda by examining  a foundation's work on the ground in Afghanistan. A director uses programs to investigate the death of her son and wife while villagers are astounded to be regarded as recipients of aid. In the end, most parties are aligned, but not without deceit.

In the end, does aid from external sources help governments evade their responsibility? What kind of aid encourages responsibility? Priorities must be set.

Photo of Syrian children studying in Lebanon schools, with aid from the UK, Save the Children, and Unicef, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Russell Watkins, Department for International Development.

Tuesday, January 13

Shadow aid

YaleGlobal summarizes  an intriguing article by journalist Elizabeth Dickinson for the Middle East Research and Information Project:

“Across the Middle East, the United Nations is coordinating the largest operation in its history to help nearly 3 million Syrian refugees at a cost of $4.2 billion in 2014 alone….But on the side, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of start-up charities and regional donors have built parallel networks of aid.” Distribution is uneven, relying on select connections and networks, manipulated by politics and corruption....Dickinson concludes that the piecemeal approach to aid based on individual whims results in inefficiencies, waste, new power structures, inequality and conflict – all of which threaten sustained giving. Refugees might receive dates during Ramadan but their children have no schools to attend.

As a journalist, Dickinson gets to the heart of human predicaments. The inefficiencies and piecemeal aid she describes are not limited to Syria or the Middle East and can be found in countries as secure as the United States. Charities elsewhere have come under scrutiny, too. Malfeasance by a few hurt legitimate charities.

Allure of Deceit is the story of a fictional  charitable foundation, huge and influential, and its director who uses funds and programs in Afghanistan and India to figure out why a young inventor and his wife were killed in a terrorist attack. Afghan villagers are dismayed to be regarded as recipients of zakat, and in the book, a foundation employee is distraught, too, as he tries to explain the disparities to an Afghan man: 

.... so much charity was based on whims. “I sometimes feel as if all that matters is an administrator’s last conversation with a donor. A donor hears a report that children are going without shoes and soon we’re unloading crates of shoes, every size and style imaginable, most of them inappropriate for this terrain. So we look for storage, often paying to lease the space.”

Lessons of Allure of Deceit: Needs are great and transform abruptly over time, with shoes and coats desperately needed one day and not the next. Motivations, whether for generosity or murder, also transform over time - and too often, some regret their choices.

Photo of US Navy officer delivering shoes to children in Dijbouti in 2010 is courtesy of US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Bruns and Wikimedia Commons; photo of a US Air Force helping a young Afghan girl try on donated shoes at Parwan Refugee Camp in 2008 is courtesy of US Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Brown and Wikimedia Commons.