Friday, January 14, 2011

Myths of Aid #1

MYTH #1: In a disaster response, relief efforts are uncoordinated, chaotic, and haphazard.

Following a disaster, it is common to read reports of too much aid reaching one location, and not enough reaching another, or of a community receiving triple rations of food but no water. Over recent decades, relief agencies and local governments have become more intentional about coordination. Still, gaps remain, and are intensified by the severity of the disaster; number, size, and experience level of responding agencies; and functionality of local infrastructure and services. Coordination is central to improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of an emergency response and reducing burden on recovering communities.

While time-consuming, coordination is vital to humanitarian organizations. By coordinating their response with other NGO’s, local authorities, and the communities themselves, they can ensure that the most-needed items reach disaster survivors as quickly as possible, without duplication of effort.

World Vision has worked in Haiti for three decades, and has developed relationships with communities, other organizations, and local officials that are critical to the coordination of aid.

Who does World Vision collaborate with in Haiti?
World Vision is an active member of the interagency cluster system, a grouping of United Nations (UN) agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other aid organisations that work to improve information management, coordination of activities and response standards and practices. There are eleven clusters within the system: Protection, Camp Coordination and Management, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Health, Emergency Shelter, Nutrition, Emergency Telecommunications, Logistics, Education, Agriculture and Early Recovery. Sub-cluster groups, such as the Gender-Based-Violence group within the Protection cluster, also operate to focus on specific areas of intervention. Cluster groups meet regularly, have set objectives and share lessons, activities and plans.

World Vision is also a participant in the United Nations’ Humanitarian Country Team, helping to ensure that the activities of organizations are coordinated and that humanitarian action in-country is principled, timely, effective and efficient, and contributes to long-term recovery. The HCT is a key decision-making group that includes the directors of the humanitarian organizations involved in the disaster response. It is under the leadership of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and seeks to coordinate with national and local authorities and address critical issues when they arise from the humanitarian response.

World Vision is engaged with the International Council for Voluntary Agencies, InterAction, and the Comité Permanent Inter Organisations (coordination body for international organisations in Haiti) to coordinate on humanitarian standards, accountability and response efforts.

Partnerships with local and international organisations have ensured the provision of locally appropriate services to target communities. World Vision partners with many local Haitian organizations as well as the United Nations and international humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, the American Red Cross and Handicap International, among others. Ongoing coordination with the Haitian government is also a priority. In addition, World Vision has worked with local churches and communities for three decades.

World Vision is an active participant in the Joint Haiti Security Forum to ensure information sharing on security matters. In compliance with its civil-military engagement policy, World Vision has coordinated with UN peacekeeping forces, local police and international security forces, including the US military, to provide assistance during food distributions where contextually appropriate.

As in any disaster, World Vision adheres to the coordinating mechanisms and professional standards set by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations' Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which is an "inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners."

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