Local partners undervalued in humanitarian work: Red Cross

Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:03pm EDT
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By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Afghan villages, committees of grandmothers have been teaching younger women about health during pregnancy and advising them to visit clinics, leading to a fall in maternal deaths and a rise in child vaccinations.

In Syria, local doctors and aid groups have been central to getting medical treatment and basic supplies to people cut off or displaced by the conflict, as insecurity makes it dangerous for international staff to work on the ground.

The importance of local volunteers, rescuers and aid workers is growing, as foreigners are increasingly targeted in some war zones and governments in emerging economies have more resources to manage disasters, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a report.

Yet often local groups are undervalued, and do not receive enough funding, technical support, management training and help with security issues from the international donors and aid agencies that rely on them in troubled places like Somalia and South Sudan, the report said.

"A better balance must be struck between the two (sides)," said Mo Hamza, lead author of the World Disasters Report and professor of disaster risk management at the University of Copenhagen.

Local groups are increasingly determining the effectiveness of aid operations, and so clearer understanding and a more open dialogue with them is critical, he added.

Other crises where local people have taken the lead include the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Nepal earthquakes this year, IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy wrote in a foreword to the report.

Local responders are effective not just because they are there when a disaster hits, but because they know how things work and can identify the causes of problems, he added.   Continued...