Friday February 7 2014

Aid agencies should shift from relief to development

By Simon J. Mone

Whenever wars, famine or disasters occur, there is always the inevitable need to respond in order to ease the suffering of humanity. Many NGOs offer assistance that displaced people need. Emergency response is a welcome measure because in such situations, displaced persons look out for immediate solutions to their sufferings. In many cases, they require psychosocial support in addition to a range of material items like food and non-food items. They also require shelter, medication and basic sanitation.

Once the calamity is contained, it is difficult for many communities to access these necessities. As a result of prolonged dependency on material support from relief organisations, people’s ability to cater for their basic necessities, is affected.

Material support from aid agencies have never empowered communities to independently earn their basic needs and relief have added little value to them. It is commendable that a number of NGOs now emphasise capacity-building through training and empowering communities to work towards sustaining their livelihoods. They offer various trainings after which trained beneficiaries receive start-up. Start-up are provided in the form of seeds for agriculture, carpentry kits for vocational skills trainees and sewing machines for tailoring trainees, among many other start-up capital.

Many NGOs that still emphasise material support should follow suit. Interventions in form of handouts cannot help communities. In order to link relief efforts to development of communities, NGOs should provide their implementation plans to district local governments in which they operate. This will ensure that their proposed activities are integrated in district development plans.

Implementing projects alongside each other ensures that the implementation gap left by the government is duly covered by NGOs. Sharing activity plans, budgets and reports with government would be commendable.

One worry that leaders of NGOs have is of misappropriation of money lobbied for the benefit of under-privileged people. This puts development aid agencies on collision course with government. Nonetheless, aid agencies should now start moving away from relief and aim at development-oriented interventions.