Asia is the most disaster-prone region in the world. Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones frequent the headlines. Last year’s floods in Pakistan affected 20 million people, and inundated a swath of land the size of the United Kingdom. The Indian Ocean tsunami six years ago killed nearly a quarter of a million people and affected millions of lives in more than a dozen countries. To compound the challenges of natural disasters, Asia is home to roughly one billion of the world’s very poor who often go to bed hungry.
Given this poverty and disaster backdrop, people sometimes wonder: Can international aid really help nations in need? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as it is provided with the involvement of the people who can benefit from it, and it is sufficiently targeted to the needs at hand. For aid to be effective it must be based on partnerships with common goals and mutual responsibilities.
Aid takes many different forms. Humanitarian or emergency aid is immediate assistance provided to people in distress to relieve suffering during and after man-made emergencies, like wars, and natural disasters. In an emergency, this immediate help – in the form of items like food, medicines, blankets and temporary shelters – saves lives. Development aid, on the other hand, helps accelerate social and economic development over a longer period of time.
For short and long-term aid, why is it important to involve beneficiaries of aid in order to really make a difference? Firstly, it helps deter corruption and ensure support goes where it’s needed most. Also, communities themselves are the first responders after disasters, which was evident after the tsunami. The local heroes were thousands of small businesses, hotel owners and shopkeepers with assets, equipment and initiative. They were the ones first at the disaster area, long before outside help was at hand.
The next step after emergency aid is providing people with the means to move beyond survival to rebuilding their lives. This kind of aid provides immediate income to people to plant new crops, clean up damaged roads, rehabilitate water supplies, restore power lines, repair houses, schools, and health facilities.
A well-coordinated, sufficiently funded early recovery plan can avoid prolonged relief aid. In Aceh, Indonesia, one of the hardest hit areas from the tsunami, local communities worked together with national and international support to restart local businesses and create new ones. Assistance for the construction of new houses and feeder roads offered employment opportunities while rebuilding made use of recycled rubble left in the tsunami’s wake. Similar employment programmes are used after cyclones, floods and earthquakes across the region.
What about long-term aid, when a natural disaster or conflict is not in the mix? Here is where targeting and taking a long-term approach is essential. Development does not happen overnight. It takes place over years with strategic support, both at the national and international level.
In 2000, the world’s leaders agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for tackling poverty in its many dimensions. These are goals and targets on poverty, hunger, access to education, maternal and child health, deadly diseases, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation.
How can these goals be achieved? Target the priority areas of need. Investing in women and girls will be critical, along with investments in education and health, and in clean water and sanitation; and attending to the basic needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.
The international community can help, but only by banding together with governments, businesses, local organisations and communities. International aid can indeed help countries in need, but not by itself. Aid cannot be imposed from outside. It must be part of a long-term plan that involves the people in building and shaping their future.
Nicholas Rosellini is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, responsible for technical support to UNDP’s country operations. He is also involved in the UN Development Group for Asia-Pacific, which brings together 18 UN development agencies to improve coordination and coherence.
3 of 4 Comments
|Farahshikin Binte Mohamed Rawi on 04 May 2012 ,02:37 |
Say no to suffering, misery and cruelity... Hope to have love and peace!
|Farahshikin Binte Mohamed Rawi on 04 May 2012 ,02:26 |
Dear Anon... How can you be so cruel and so unkind! We must help to stop all the suffering, cruelity and misery! I just hope that there is love,peace and justice in this world.
|anonymous on 11 October 2011 ,08:17 |
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