IFRC Report: Western Aid Agencies Intrusive, Likely to be Unwelcome in Disasters

Unless humanitarian aid agencies become more inclusive and responsive to what governments and communities in disaster-prone regions want, they may soon find themselves unwelcome in these areas, a new report by one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid groups warned.

According to experts, local communities are in the best position to respond more efficiently and more effectively to disasters, and local knowledge can make aid much more appropriate. But there has not been enough focus on training local authorities in dealing with disasters.

The international response to humanitarian crises, thus, has been increasingly seen as ”intrusive and disempowering“ by communities, the World Disasters Report 2011 found. 

The report was launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Sept. 22 in New York.

The report drew on the experiences in humanitarian relief to recent emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the earthquake in Haiti, the flooding in Pakistan and the earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, where Western aid agencies were reportedly refused entry by the Chinese.

Randolph Kent, one of the report’s authors, said Western aid organizations can continue to play an international humanitarian role if they would be more sensitive to local culture, learn what governments and communities in disaster-prone regions actually want, and build contacts in those regions well before humanitarian disasters strike.

The report also noted that the alarming rise in food prices is not only pushing the poorest deeper into poverty, but could become a source of instability in many countries, as what happened in the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

To help the world’s 1 billion malnourished people overcome this situation, the report urges governments to invest more in agriculture and give poorer farmers easier access to financing.

The World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations joined IFRC in calling for urgent action on hunger and malnutrition during the report’s launch. 

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About the author

  • Che de los Reyes

    As a senior staff writer, Che focuses on international development breaking news coverage as well as interviews and features. Prior to joining Devex, Che handled communications for local and international development NGOs and government institutions in the Philippines.