Oxfam report: We need to go local

A member of Oxfam prepares crates of humanitarian aid to be sent to Pakistan. Photo by: Oxfam International / CC BY-NC-ND

The need to review and challenge the current humanitarian system is high, especially when the present method no longer works as efficiently as it should — which is to reach more people and save more lives.

This is what international nongovernmental organization Oxfam wants to address in its latest report, ”Crises in a New World Order.” The report says building local capacity and investing in disaster risk reduction are the ways to go in today’s changing times — although funds for emergencies should not be taken away entirely.

Disasters and conflicts are expected to rise in number, Oxfam notes. And with the current challenges plaguing the humanitarian system, such as sluggish funding from donors, these crises cannot be left for the United Nations and international NGOs to handle on their own. Thus the need to shift from global to local, from making resources more readily available in crisis-affected countries to training local NGOs for a speedy and more efficient aid response.

A greater emphasis on disaster risk reduction is also needed to prevent crises from escalating. Oxfam noted that according to the United Nations, it only cost $1 to save a malnourished child’s life in 2005. Today, with many countries in Africa experiencing a food crisis, costs have gone up to an astounding $80.

Sarah Oughton of the British Red Cross agrees. Oughton said that according to the U.N. Development Program, every $1 spent on disaster risk reduction could save $4 in emergency response.

Little has been done — and given — to address these cases. In 2009, Oxfam noted that less than 1 percent of total aid spending was allocated for disaster risk reduction. And without media coverage, help becomes “too little, too late.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.