Delivering humanitarian aid: How the world’s top organisations help

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

The humanitarian effort in response to the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal serves to highlight the fantastic work that aid agencies deliver across the world. Nepalese officials have reported that more than 5,500 people have been confirmed dead and 11,000 injured as a result of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that originated close to Kathmandu.

The UN reports that about 8 million people have been affected and more than 70,000 houses destroyed. A disaster of this scale requires clear vision and strategic excellence from the humanitarian aid agencies that seek to help those in need.

For people affected by humanitarian crises, a range of delivery agencies work tirelessly to ensure that international support is in place. United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and non-government organisations (NGOs) are the fundamental component in the humanitarian assistance chain. These agencies also often direct and implement the vast majority of private support for international aid. Between 2006 and 2010, delivery agencies have managed over US$62 billion of humanitarian aid, and 30 per cent of this money has come from private sources. NGOs have been the main channel for private support, experiencing a 70% increase in private funding from 2009-2010. Some agencies will be forced to pick and choose when and how they can afford to help, based on the level of donor funding, as well as in relation to the organisation’s own priorities and mandates. Other larger organisations need to be able to effectively control far larger, more flexible funds that have more far-reaching applications. But the work of delivery agencies goes far beyond just fundraising and the redistribution of funds. The incredible diversity if their work is reflected in the diverse range of humanitarian aid organisations – from single-country organisations, working in highly focused areas on a very local scale, to huge multinationals working across every possible sector.

In order to deliver aid effectively, these agencies work in areas as diverse as policy formulation, coordination, logistics, advocacy, campaigning and more. Each organisation must decide where and when to help, and which activities to undertake. This determines the path down which funding and aid flows.

It’s precisely the kind of decision making and supply chain management that’s going on in Nepal right now. These are some of the highly-rated non-profit organisations currently working to deliver aid in response to the earthquake at the moment. Each has its own unique role to play, with communication between organisations being key to maximising the effectiveness of aid delivery.

The World Food Programme (WFP) – this United Nations entity provides relief to millions of people, who are victims of disasters. In Nepal it is responsible for mobilising food and funds for transport.

CARE – founded in 1945, CARE is an international humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. It has a long-established presence in Nepal, and has stated that it is “coordinating with other agencies to assist up to 75,000 people” in the country. The ability of organisations to communicate effectively, work together and pool their skills and resources is key to effective aid delivery.

British Red Cross – the UK government gave £2 million to the British Red Cross to fund their efforts in Nepal. They have a long-established presence in the country, it being one of the most disaster-prone countries on earth, and their current work involves searching for survivors, providing first aid to the wounded and running blood banks. They have also been working long-term with over 66 community-based groups to help communities better identify local hazards and increase awareness of the risks of natural disasters, develop and implement plans so the community is ready to respond to disasters, supplying emergency first aid training, and helping to build the Nepal Red Cross’ capacity for disaster response.

GlobalGiving – this charity fundraising website that has set up a fund specifically for Nepal relief efforts. The money collected is going to help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, the fund will then transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by vetted local organisations in the area.

So even in the midst of disasters of this scale, both short-term and long-term aid issues are addressed by humanitarian organisations. Their supply chain management skills are put to the test in recognising and prioritising the immediate support that is required, while also concentrating on the bigger picture and how they can help the area recover in the longer term.

Interested in Humanitarian Aid Management? The University of Lincoln offers a top-up degree in Humanitarian Supply Chain Management.

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