Covid aid shouldn’t be a tool for manipulation

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020 00:00 |
A health worker takes a throat swab sample for COVID-19 testing.

In a world that has become extremely materialistic and unsympathetic, it is easy to lose hope for redemption in the face of the apparently insurmountable challenges facing mankind.

Individuals have become selfish, and countries unilateral, in their relationships. 

This year, the priceless value of humanitarian work is even more critical, as the world fights back against the menacing Covid-19 pandemic.

Humanitarian staff forms the core of frontline workers protecting lives from the coronavirus. 

According to the United Nations, humanitarians “are treating and preventing Covid-19, providing food to vulnerable people in need, providing safe spaces for women and girls in lockdown; delivering babies; fighting locusts and running refugee camps, all amid the pandemic.”

Humanitarian crises are basically defined as events that threaten human life “in terms of health, safety or well-being of a community or large group of people”.

The global humanitarian assistance report 2019 published by the development initiatives group observes that the value of the global humanitarian response rose from  Sh2.3 trillion ($. 22.2 billion) in 2014 to Sh3 trillion ($ 28.9 billion) in 2019.

Much of this aid in 2017 was sent to the war-tor countries of Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia. 

Amid the challenging environment, quite a lot was achieved in ameliorating human suffering.

For instance, almost 29 million children were vaccinated against measles, 32.2 million people were provided with safe water for domestic use, and more than 92 million children and caregivers were offered mental health and psychosocial support.

Indeed, the selfless and often dangerous work of humanitarian workers cannot be gainsaid.

While some of the careers in this sector are high paying, it does not negate the fact that no amount of remuneration can compensate those who lose their lives or end up permanently maimed in the course of giving material and logistic aid to people in need of assistance. 

Humanitarian work is not just another job. Even with massive resources, any entity without genuine empathy may not sustain the gesture without exploiting the opportunity.

Some powerful countries have been accused of using humanitarian assistance as a carrot and stick in their geopolitical strategy.  

Countries that have fallen out of favour with some donors have ended up in a blacklist, whose aim is to manipulate them to do their benefactors bidding.

Luckily, emerging superpowers like China are stepping in to fill the humanitarian material and ideological vacuum created by the so-called donor fatigue.

During the current pandemic, China has given out millions of dollars’ worth of aid around the world in form of drugs, and both medical and personal protective equipment. 

In recent years, African countries have particularly enjoyed China’s magnanimity through donations by the both the Chinese government and private sector.

Interestingly, the US and other developed countries have been struggling to match such assistance.

During Covid-19, some developed countries have even benefitted from specialised Chinese capacity building. 

China is fast becoming a focal point of humanitarian assistance in the world. 

According to a paper published in December 2019 titled, Positive disruption? China’s humanitarian aid  co-authored by the Humanitarian Advisory Group, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies and other partners, “governments have an opportunity to engage productively with China and leverage its alternative approaches to strengthen international humanitarian action.”

 As long as extreme poverty exists, humanitarian assistance will be inevitable.

However, it is immoral for rich countries to use aid as a tool for domination or other manipulative purposes against hapless partners. — The writer is a communications expert and public policy  analyst — [email protected]

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