Learn About Humanitarian Aid Projects

By Obinna Ekezie. Follow him on Google+

International humanitarian relief organizations supply assistance to populations in need of support. Humanitarian aid strives to improve the quality of life for its recipients with impartial and independent assistance. These groups provide emergency and long-term support to global populations affected by armed conflict, natural disasters, and other emergency situations. Traditional international humanitarian aid refers to short-term, emergency assistance. These efforts include coordinating disaster relief logistics that address the immediate material and physical needs of the vulnerable population.

As emergency situations may occur for extended periods of time, the definition of humanitarian aid has expanded to include transitional and rehabilitation projects, like repairing community infrastructure and creating disaster preparation systems. Once immediate needs are met and pre-existing systems are repaired, developmental aid organizations replace relief organizations. This transition point will differ from situation to situation and depending on the aid groups involved. Developmental aid groups turn the focus to long-term improvements.

Many humanitarian and developments efforts are currently focused in Africa. This is due to a large number of countries facing recent or current armed conflict and natural disasters such as famine and earthquakes. These factors, combined with a lack of infrastructure, make the implementation of relief efforts challenging.

Relief Workers

Humanitarian efforts are carried out by a worldwide network of aid workers. There are over 200,000 aid workers throughout the world. The International Red Cross/Red Crescent and United Nations are the largest networks of humanitarian aid throughout the world, and about 50 percent of all aid workers work for these organizations. The other 50 percent of humanitarian workers are employed by a variety of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) that provide targeted forms of international humanitarian aid.

International Funding and Support

Global humanitarian assistance encompasses many different sources of support and funding. It includes domestic and international governmental responses, private aid, and peacekeeping and security efforts.

International governmental aid generally includes the contributions of the member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which includes twenty-four economically developed members including the United States and European Union. Additional international governmental donations are recorded by the United Nations tracking service.

Private contributors include companies, individual citizens, and foundations/trusts. These funds and resources are coordinated via United Nations various agencies, the International Red Cross, as well as through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The actual breakdown of these contributions and distributions are tracked by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).

Types of Emergency Relief

Civil conflicts and natural disasters can harm and displace large groups of people. Emergency relief groups provide assistance for affected communities. Services range from immediate supplies and physical aid to relocation and rehabilitation efforts. Humanitarian agencies and NGOs generally provide support in the following areas:

Medical Assistance

Medical relief organizations provide emergency and general medical care to needy populations. These communities lack supplies and trained medical professionals. Emergency medical assistance groups focus on urgent care for populations affected by conflict and natural disasters. Other medical organizations focus on making general medical care, training, and supplies available to communities throughout the developing world.

Food and Agriculture Aid

Hunger is an on-going problem that is exacerbated by emergency situations. Some groups provide immediate food assistance and distribution to communities in need while other groups focus on long-term policy changes or implementing agricultural development.

Shelter and Social Issues

These organizations help with emergency and transitional shelter needs as well as addressing infrastructure issues such as access to clean water and disaster preparedness.

Research and Accountability

In addition to aid organizations on the ground, research organizations and experts study issues related to international humanitarian aid. They analyze the current state of relief efforts and conflict situations to provide policy insights and find ways to improve aid systems. Current relief efforts are also monitored by joint agency or independent initiatives ensuring that organizations face accountability for their conduct and performance. Governing bodies like the OECD track official reported totals of contribution and disbursement from different NGO's, UN agencies, and government partnerships in order to maintain an up-to-date picture of international humanitarian aid.