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Can there be a quality response?

What makes a high-quality disaster response? Look at how changes in humanitarian work over the past 20 years influenced Pakistan 2010 flood relief.
The humanitarian thinking has gone through a lot of developments. Humanitarian work based on charity now becomes based on professionalism. It becomes much more rights-based instead of needs-based. What do we mean by rights-based? That means that people affected by disaster have the right - by law - to humanitarian assistance and protection. The most important of all is to have a camp management community from the people here. You get 5-6 people - ideally should be 50% women and 50% men - to manage the camp. This village that we were working with – the response took 2 streams. One is the immediate response – quick impact project with the aim to save people’s lives. Addressing the most vulnerable groups.
Providing them with food, water, hygiene and shelter. The second task was actually the longer term. Helping people to stand on their feet again. Helping people to enable them to help themselves. And we had an agreement and consultation with the community and told them where to start, how do you want - and then we ask them, ‘What can you offer, we are here to help you, what can you offer?’. And they are offering, they said, ‘We can provide labour, we can provide some material, local material’ and so on. Six weeks ago, this village was completely vanished. And now we started by providing them with new houses.
This house has to have three conditions – one is to protect the people from the heat in the summer and cold in the winter and in addition to that to be flood resistant and earthquake resistant. The design that we came up with is in full consultation with the community here. We gave them several options, we provided them with some technical expertise and we let them to decide for themselves what was the best for them. This consultation was with both men and women.
If you want to improve the humanitarian response - make it quality - means providing the right things, the right items to the right people in the right time, the right quantity - we need to come closer to reduce the gap between the theory and practice. Make humanitarians more effective and more efficient.

Our first starting point is that the humanitarian response must meet the needs of the disaster-affected.

The starting point is the alignment of the humanitarian agency’s policies to humanitarian principles and standards that underpin effective response. In situations where a humanitarian agency aims to meet the standards to which it previously committed, but operational contexts do not permit, nothing can realistically be done. For instance, if space for shelter for an individual family as stipulated within the Sphere standards cannot be met, and only a limited space has been allocated by the government under whose jurisdiction you are operating, then little can be done.

The only way forward might be to request more land allocation from the state. Do the best you can within the constraints. This is just one of the many complexities, which the dynamic nature of disasters can bring.

Your task

Watch the video, think back over what you’ve learned the past two weeks, and answer the following questions:
  • Can there be a quality response?
  • Has your thinking and perceptions changed since you joined the course?
Share your thoughts in the comments area.
To help you with this, there is a reading list available to download from the bottom of this step, which lists all of the further reading, references and links within the short course.
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Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

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