The Human Impact

India’s growing global humanitarian role: Is it enough?

India is increasingly seen as an important player when it comes to supporting nations hit by disasters or conflict, as well as for development, but given its size and influence, is it really doing enough to help resolve global crises?

Many, like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), think not, especially when it comes to addressing humanitarian issues at an international level.

“I am of the very strong opinion that India – which has an enormous influence due to its population, economic growth and history – will have to play a more assertive role in the world,” Yves Daccord, ICRC director general, told AlertNet recently.

Daccord, who was in India earlier this month to boost relations with New Delhi and seek ways to engage the government more in hot spots such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, said it was imperative that India be much more active.

It’s not that India is doing nothing. It has been active, at least in terms of doling out aid.

Looking ahead to 2013: what stories will make the headlines

Journalists working for Thomson Reuters Foundation’s AlertNet and TrustLaw news services cover humanitarian issues, climate change, women’s rights and corruption around the world. We asked the team to highlight some of the stories on their radar in 2013.

Editor-in-Chief Tim Large kicked off with his top stories:

1/ Countries in transition: My eye is on South Sudan as violence threatens to erupt along its disputed northern border; Myanmar as foreign money flows in; Arab Spring nations as they finish new constitutions; Afghanistan as it braces for NATO troop withdrawals; Pakistan as aid diminishes and cracks widen between military and judiciary… And of course Syria, where it’s hard to imagine the humanitarian situation getting any worse. Sadly it can.

2/ The temperature in Pyongyang: Is North Korea coming in from the cold – or at least thawing slightly? Signs are mixed. Yes, new leader Kim Jong-un has called for an end to confrontation with the South. Heck, the boss of Google even visited Pyongyang. But that didn’t stop North Korea lobbing a long-range rocket into space in December. Meanwhile, what’s the latest on the country’s chronic hunger crisis?

Safer water, sanitation could save 2.5 mln lives – WaterAid

The lives of 2.5 million people could be saved every year if governments committed to universal access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, charity WaterAid has said.

Citing the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), WaterAid said in a report that boosting access to clean water and sanitation could save people by reducing deaths from diarrhoea, malnutrition and related diseases.

Although the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) water target to reduce by half the proportion of people living without safe water by 2015 has now been met, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania are lagging behind, WaterAid said.

Cash aid transfers should be standardised – report

Aid agencies and donors should develop a “tool box” for the use and distribution of cash transfers to improve effective aid delivery, according to a new report from the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP).

Cash and voucher programmes are increasingly being used in regions where security problems interfere with the delivery of such traditional forms of aid as food.

An estimated 4 million people in the Horn of Africa are now receiving famine assistance via cash and voucher programmes from non-governmental charities and United Nations (U.N.) agencies, according to CaLP.

Insecurity hinders aid distribution in northern Mali

As Mali tries to restore order after the recent coup, a key challenge for the interim civilian government will be getting aid to people as the country verges on a humanitarian disaster.

Dioncounda Traore took over as Mali’s interim president on Thursday after leaders of a March 22 coup agreed to return power to civilians. Nearly 80 percent of Malian territory comprising the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal is under the control of a mix of Tuareg-led rebels, who have declared an independent state in the north, and armed Islamic groups.

Aid agencies say about 100,000 internally displaced people urgently need assistance including shelter. Residents of some northern towns say they are trapped without food, water, electricity, money and medical care.

Will Twitter put the U.N. out of the disaster business?

How is communications technology transforming disaster response?

A business that doesn’t communicate with its customers won’t stay in business very long — it’ll soon lose track of what its clients want, and clients won’t know what products or services are on offer.

In the multi-billion dollar humanitarian aid industry, relief agencies are businesses and their beneficiaries are customers. Yet many agencies have muddled along for decades with scarcely a nod towards communicating with the folks they’re supposed to be serving.

That’s because relief agency “lines of accountability” – to use a much-loved piece of aid jargon – are to the donor governments who fund the bulk of their activities, rather than to the people on the ground who are caught up in the crisis.

Introducing ‘The Human Impact’

Two Congolese boys comfort each other in a hospital in Goma, Feb. 10, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Welcome to “The Human Impact”, a new blog by journalists of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.

Based in far-flung corners of the world, these reporters work for the Foundation’s free global news services: the AlertNet humanitarian website and TrustLaw, an online hub for news and information on good governance, women’s rights and pro bono legal assistance.

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