Since March 2020, IHSA prepares a weekly collection of blog posts that relate to humanitarian crises, and the responses to crisis from people, communities, politicians, and humanitarians.
On this page, you can find our weekly selection of humanitarian blog posts. This selection is chosen to reflect the latest thinking on humanitarian crisis, highlighting key issues in migration and displacement, famine and food crisis, politics, human rights, disaster preparedness and response, and aid policy and practice.
Selection#29 (11th-18th October)
This week we return to blog posts on aid policy in the wake of Covid-19. Topics include Uganda’s successes, how women are disproportionately affected, and addressing the effect on hunger and food insecurity. A UN Food Systems Summit which focuses on private sector engagement and sidelines civil society raises concern. The need to reconsider state fragility, and north-south comparisons, in light of the pandemic is also important, while in Yemen, the combination of war, floods, and Covid-19 is contributing to an ever-worsening crisis.
Other blog posts continue to raise the human rights violations resulting from migrant deterrence strategies of the EU and the US. Non-Covid blogs this week include the fragility of Sudan’s peace agreement and the politics of aid in Somalia.
Selection#28 (4th-11th October)
This week we featured the Nobel committee awarding the Peace Prize to the World Food Programme. This is good because it draws attention to war as a cause of hunger and to the importance of multilateralism. It also raises concerns because food aid is highly political and even if WFP and technical interventions can alleviate hunger, they cannot build peace.
We also highlighted the plight of refugees in Europe, the need for a migrant justice movement, and for protection back home. Solidarity between private citizens and refugees can be a key factor in response, as in the Rohingya response in Bangladesh.
We also had a couple of posts on Covid; on the positive role that traditional beliefs and practices can play, but also how Covid responses can be manipulated to gain power. Finally, a commentary from Sri Lanka that America’s crisis is already there.
Selection#27 (28th September – 4th October)
This week we featured the new EU pact on migration. Most opinion pieces criticized the new pact: the new pre-entry screening seems more concerned with strengthening controls at external borders and with returning many people as quickly as possible, than with asylum. The pact does not say where people will stay during the screening process; it could be closed detention centres. The risks of violating human rights are enormous. Other blog posts and reviews comment on the difficulties in developing a common EU strategy, but also the possibility of creating a smaller coalition of willing states and people.
We also highlighted the resumption of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the drying up of Lake Chad. Finally, we drew attention to the humanitarian policy issues posed by aid as a business, the ethics of humanitarian negotiations, and the increased use of digital data.
Selection#26 (21st-27th September)
This week we highlighted blog posts on the UN General Assembly. They drew attention to the enormous challenges because of multiple crises and also increasing bilateralism. An online Zoom UN General Assembly would only consist of speeches with little debate and no informal discussion, making joint resolutions less likely. A Spanish blog post reflected on the ineffectiveness of the UN’s world peace day by looking at the increase in conflicts.
Related to Covid-19, we featured its impact on NGOs and suggestions on how they could survive, and how it has led to a rethinking of academic practices. Topics we returned to this week included the impact of Covid-19 on diaspora and remittances, the risks of cash transfers (because of increasing indebtedness), and the need for protection of migrants and refugees even – or especially – in times of Covid-19.
Selection#25 (14th-20th September)
This week we featured blog posts on Moria refugee camp fire in Lesbos and Lebanon’s crisis following the explosions. Key messages on Moria were that the fires were a result of EU policies of deterrence and externalisation rather than the criminality of refugees.
All refugees – including men – are vulnerable and need their asylum claims to be heard.
The explosions in Lebanon expose a political crisis, a potential for aid to support a political elite, and a failure in lessons learnt.
Meanwhile in Uganda, the government suspended hundreds of aid agencies which will affect refugee assistance, and in Syria the triple nexus is exposed as a myth.
Peace-keeping and human rights monitoring were also featured this week, with the reduction in peace-keeping highlighting the lack of agreement between global powers on responsibility for maintaining peace, with potentially damaging consequences.
Finally, once again, blog posts in Spanish highlighted the critical situation of Venezuelans both in their home country and abroad.
Selection#24 (7th-13th September)
This week we had a number of blog posts on India, which focused on disaster preparedness, the marginalisation of migrants and refugees (especially with Covid) and the threat Covid measures pose to civil society.
Refugees also featured because of the risks posed by global governance failures, and how ideas of wellness can be part of social support measures.
This week’s posts highlight a number of aid policy issues. These include the politics of recovery interventions in the midst of conflict, how unconditional cash transfers actually encourage specific expenditure and relationships, and how fundraising often determines international agency actions at the start of crisis. Also how even in the pandemic monitoring and evaluation is more than reporting.
Selection#23 (31st of August – 6th September)
This week’s blog posts returned to the need for changing the way we provide aid.
Themes included the need to support local organisations, including women’s networks, and for global solidarity and justice rather than development. Other Covid-19 issues this week included its impact on state-building in Somalia, lessons learnt from previous health crises (in a short video by Groupe URD), and violence against children. How Covid-19 has led to anti migrant actions and downgrading of human rights remains a theme, with both NGOs and migrants under attack in Lesbos. We also featured crises in Nigeria, Mali and Cameroon as a result of the political manipulation of resource conflict, a fragile transition to democracy, conflict and economic hardship.
Selection#22 (17th to 30th of August)
This week we featured migration to Europe and the deadly consequences of actions to stop it.
The most obvious are the pushbacks from Greece, Italy, Malta, France and the UK, in response to desperate people crossing the Mediteranean or the Channel to reach safety. The last two weeks’ posts revealeed drownings, return to countries at war, and unsafe detentions; all in contravention of International Refugee Law. Covid-19 has made conditions worse as social distancing and hygiene measures are impossible in overcrowded camps and for the many who are forced to sleep rough. Asylum procedures have halted or slowed down. While migration to reach safety in Europe – and the pushbacks – have a long history, the anti-migrant narrative in 2020 has hardened.
These week’s posts also highlighted how Covid worsens existing vulnerabilities and marginalisation, in countries like Sudan, Peru and India, adding to the drivers of forced migration.
Selection#21 (10th to 16th of August)
This week’s selection started raising attention to racism and the need to decolonise the academic world of humanitarian studies. It provided some in-depth stories on the politics of rebuilding Beirut and we saw renewed attention to questions of accountability in aid.
Other posts also reflected on the impact of Covid-19 in Latin America and how it causes setbacks in the fight against other diseases.
Finally, we also included this week a summer-watch recommendation: The Right Girls, a film that tells the story of a group of transgender women seeking asylum in the United States.
Selection#20 (3rd to 9th of August)
This week’s selection spoke of the concerns of practitioners that Covid-19 caught the attention to other ongoing issues, such as malaria, into the shadow. They urged donors and governments to step away from the emergency modus that exclusively centred on COVID19, and resume much-needed efforts in other domains.
Other posts also reflected on the opportunities that Covid-19 could bring to other organisations such as refugee-led organisations and civic society.
Finally, we also included this week a Summer Reading List collated by The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute that contains their most recommended books, blogs, articles, documentaries, podcasts and films.
Selection#19 (27th July – 2nd August)
This week we return to the politics of Covid-19 humanitarian response and the economic effects of movement restrictions to stem the pandemic.
In Zimbabwe, the government has been using Covid-19 to undermine press freedom, arrest activists, and loot public funds. At the same time, border closure leads to smuggling of people, goods, and money resulting in both restricted livelihoods and increased disease transmission. In contrast, in South Korea, authoritarian Covid-19 containment measures are accepted because of a degree of government responsiveness. In poorer countries like Peru, however, chronic under-investment in health services and no safety net, a lockdown makes the population acutely vulnerable. This week’s blog posts also raise the politics of sanctions and humanitarian access in Syria and Myanmar, and the multiple rules and laws that are applied in refugee settings: national, customary, and international.
Selection#18 (20th to 26th of July)
This week we had blog posts on a wide range of topics related to Covid-19 and humanitarian studies. The heightened risk to particular population groups continued to be a theme, with this week’s posts highlighting the plight of indigenous Amazonian populations and of refugees in Hong Kong. Another issue raised this week was the changes in detention and prison practices with Covid-19, and what it means in terms of risk. The impact of multiple crises on populations in Yemen and Syria also remained a theme, including increased difficulties in access because of the pandemic. We also had a couple of new topics. One is on the ethics of vaccine trials in Africa and the need for close community participation to implement them. Another is the need for solidarity and equality in addressing today’s crises.
Selection#17 (13th to 19th of July)
This week we featured the #NoNaturalDisasters campaign, which asserts that disasters are not natural but social and political phenomena and affect already marginalised populations most. Many blog posts in this and previous selections revealed that Covid-19 has the same effect, whether on Somalis in the UK, Palestinians in the West Bank, religious minorities in Iraq or Venezuelan migrants in Peru. This week’s posts also highlighted how the combined effect of Covid-19 and other disasters is creating a severe food crisis. Posts on racism and humanitarian aid continued to feature on humanitarian blogs, we provided two this week, and discussions continue on how Covid-19 will fundamentally transform humanitarianism.
Selection#16 (6th to 12th of July)
This week we highlighted the issue of borders and mobility and the impact of Covid, as well as other humanitarian issues. Closure of borders, and the halting of asylum procedures, is increasing the risks for migrants and refugees on the US, Greece, and UK borders. We also had posts on food poverty amongst the Somali diaspora in Bristol, and how Covid-19 affects the difficulties in assisting mobile populations in South Sudan. Other than its impact on mobility, we covered the disproportionate impact on women in Nigeria and the impact on youth in South Sudan. More generally, we highlight posts on how language affects humanitarian action and on the presence of institutional racism in Medecins Sans Frontieres, and how they are addressing it.
Selection#15 (29th June to 5th of July)
This week, we returned to issues of migration and forced displacement. Posts covered issues ranging from why it has become more difficult to claim asylum, to increased displacement due to Covid-19 combined with other disasters, to the risks caused by border closures, and risks associated with evicting refugees from safe accomodation in the UK. Other topics include the Security Councils endorsement, finally, of a global ceasefire and why it took so long, and the localisation of food systems in response to Covid-19. Issues of racism and the need to decolonise humanitarianism, and how to promote inclusion, continued to be a major theme this week.
Selection#14 (22nd to 28th of June)
This week, for the first time, we had more blog posts on humanitarian issues generally rather than on Covid-19. These issues included: the need to support local leadership in tackling disasters and climate change, to address corruption in the aid sector, and to reform the UN. Also highlighted were the humanitarian implications of the DFID merger with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including for Covid-impacted Africa. So Covid-related humanitarian issues were still with us. This week’s posts also showed how government policies, determine whether and how the virus is brought under control. We included two posts that reflect on why the NorthAmerican and Brazilian central governments, have failed to contain the virus. Other blog posts urged the need to consider Covid’s impact on the ability to respond to disasters and their interaction with other crises.
Selection#13 (15th to 21st of June)
In the context of the World Refugee day, this week we focused on refugees. Issues raised included the political and economic obstacles preventing long-term support for refugees, and the need for involving refugees themselves in policies that concern them. The complexity of decision-making around returns, ensuring this is voluntary and the need for assistance to re-integrate are key themes. The impact of Covid-19 continued to feature: not only the heightened risk faced by those living in overcrowded camps, or loss of work in lockdown, but also the use of the pandemic to increase deterrence measures and to suspend asylum and resettlement procedures in Europe and the US. We included our most-read blog posts on refugees from previous months too. Other topics highlighted this week included the effects of lockdown in rural India, the need for early preventive action and how rumours around Covid-19 can feed into local politics.
Selection#12 (8th to 14th of June)
This week our selection of blog posts presented a range of issues. Racism in the aid sector remained a key theme: for example on the need to confront issues of ‘white supremacy’ within the aid sector, and the dangers of a new colonialism in the transfer digital data from the global South. Other themes included the multiple crises that countries, like Sudan and Yemen, face: ongoing conflict or political instability, displacement, and economic crisis as well as Covid-19. The impact of Covid-19 on inequality, migration and the risk of food crisis were also highlighted. A new topic was the importance of access to water, how much poor people already pay, and the need to tackle corruption in water infrastructure projects. Globally, it seems that countries where poverty will increase most have received proportionally less funding to address Covid-19 impacts.
Selection#11 (1st to 7th of June)
This week, we focused on racism in the humanitarian aid sector, and on decolonising humanitarian studies. Covid-19 has not only highlighted inequalities in societies everywhere, but also within the aid sector and in how research on humanitarian issues is done. Some of this week’s blogs were hopeful that Covid-19 would force the localisation agreed on at the Humanitarian Summit of 2016, while others were more sceptical about the ability of an essentially western aid system to change. Issues of racism in aid were not new, as you could see from the number of older blog posts on the topic included this week. This week’s blogs also highlighted, once again, that some African countries were better prepared to deal with the pandemic than many in the West, and the cruel treatment of migrants and refugees who have to take greater risks to reach safety when borders are closed.
Selection#10 (25th to 31st of June)
In this week’s selection, we had a special focus on the need for global cooperation in the wake of Covid-19, which is needed to address not only the pandemic itself but also the resulting social and economic crises. Can the actions of citizens and local actors provide an incentive? This week’s contributions also urged the Security Council to back a global ceasefire, a revival of peacekeeping, and for global cooperation on cybersecurity – in particular for health facilities. Other themes included Covid-19 impact on the already marginalised and on food security. In South America, lockdown policies resulted in a food crisis all over the continent due to unemployment and the closure of food markets. Another worry was that mobile cash transfers may exclude the most vulnerable because they do not have identity documents or internet access. We also had a number of non-Covid blogs this week: on the plight of migrants and refugees in Libya and in Jordan, and analysing the US-Taliban agreement in Afghanistan.
Selection#9 (18th to 24th of June)
In this week’s selection, our main themes were food crisis, the challenges of remote research, and ethical decision-making. Covid-19 lockdowns have drastically reduced some people’s income (whether from lost work or closure of markets) and their ability to access food. Many have to choose between health and hunger. It also affects the income of aid agencies, and the lack of aid leads to additional hardship. Covid often comes on top of other crises; for example locust swarms in Africa and Asia, or ongoing conflicts and displacement. Doing remote research in crises when researcher’s and participant’s mobility is limited is hard but not impossible. Qualitative enquiry is particularly difficult but no less needed in a crisis which is as much a social and medical phenomenon. Ethical issues such as consent and confidentiality remain crucial but also require new thinking. Our week’s special on remote research gave some ideas on this.
Selection#8 (11th to 18th of June)
In this week’s selection, the main theme was how Covid-19 reveals or amplifies existing inequalities, corruption, and violations of human rights. Poor and migrant workers suffer disproportionately from the virus and lockdown measures. Refugees face greater constraints and risks in entering Europe with the pandemic and an unsafe Europe now also used as a deterrent. A couple of posts highlighted how politicians are using funds raised to address the pandemic to further their own political and economic interests. At the same time, there were some good news. It seems that many African countries were better prepared than those in the West, because of their experience in dealing with Ebola. We also saw that solidarity networks and activism continued to increase, although in many cases also highlighting the absence of a coherent multi-lateral response. As a special feature, we re-posted URD’s Covid Observatory which includes links to some of their publications.
Selection#7 (4th to 10th of May)
This week’s blog posts looked at issues of Covid-19 and refugees, migrants and returnees. They highlighted the positive role that diaspora play both in destination and origin countries, but also the difficult decisions that undocumented migrants or refugees have to make. Do they stay without work, limited access to services, and often increased violence, or do they return home and face the stigma of being Covid carriers? The politics of aid remained a key issue, this week including the political dimension of the bilateral provision of aid globally, the political economy and elite capture of aid contracts in Somalia, and how the language of war in describing Covid-19 responses is misleading. In terms of response, the role of faith-based organisations or leaders was highlighted, as is the importance of locally-informed responses more generally. As a special feature, we re-posted a selection of MSF’s CRASH, which – like this blog post selection – provided a list of key readings.
Selection#6 (27th April to 3rd of May)
This week’s blog posts brought global issues to the forefront again. They highlighted the need for a global response to Covid-19 rather than only national or regional ones, with richer countries not only supporting their own populations but also others, and this must go further than humanitarian aid. Localisation remains important within such a global agenda, with refugee- or victim-led organisations taking a key role in determining their protection and assistance. In contrast in Europe, delays and suspension of asylum procedures are increasing refugee vulnerability. Politics was once again highlighted in responding to crisis: not only in asylum procedures but also political priorities may have led to a lack of preparedness or aid may be manipulated for political gains. Like other forms of aid, manipulation of Covid-19 responses is a risk, whether in Europe, the US, Africa, or Asia
Selection#5 (20th to 26th of April)
This week, a number of blogs highlighted the need for Covid-19 responses to be locally-specific, the role of local communities and civil society in determining and influencing responses, and the need for international support and coordination. With multilateralism struggling, the role of activism and political action is coming to the forefront in addressing humanitarian problems. Others cautioned not to take new aid delivery modes, such as digital cash transfers, too far. The need to link the Covid-19 response to existing disaster risk reduction mechanisms is highlighted, as is the need to prepare for Covid-19 related vulnerability to future disasters. The differential impact of Covid-19 on migrants and refugees, as well as the risk of economic damage and food crisis, remains a key theme in this week’s blogs.
Selection#4 (13th to 19th of April)
This week, the posts covered both global and moral issues as well as the issues facing specific countries whether from the Covid-19 pandemic itself or the response. Key issues were the interaction between the Covid-19 and climate change, and how responses to the pandemic risk re-enforcing strategies of exclusion and containment that pose risks to migrants and refugees. Another issue is the need for ethical programming, to deliberate on the relative impacts on health and the economy, who to treat and where, and the protection of responders. As such, the shift to remote technologies (e.g. mobile cash transfers) needs to be carefully studied, to reveal its impact on power relations as well as food security and livelihoods. Finally, we have a number of blogs from Somalia, Uganda, Cuba, Peru, and Colombia: all of which illustrate the inequalities between countries, and the risks that ‘lockdowns’ pose for the informal sector.
Selection#3 (6th to 12th of April)
The Covid-19 pandemic dominated blog posts on humanitarian issues. This week, a new issue they highlighted was the reduction in remittances which may cause a humanitarian crisis for many populations in the global south; many diasporas in Europe and the US have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to illness. The risk of Covid-19 exacerbating existing inequalities, discrimination and exclusions remained a key theme; whether for refugees, displaced or migrants, as does the impact of the pandemic on already crisis-affected populations. A couple of blogs highlighted the difficulties of delivering aid, and of doing research remotely.
Selection#2 (30th March to 6th of April)
This week’s posts highlighted the humanitarian crisis created by India’s sudden lockdown policy – when the poorest laborers and migrant workers streamed out of cities to walk back to their villages without any guarantee of food, shelter, or income. The fear of a disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus on refugees and migrants, and the potential for authoritarian regimes or warring parties to abuse the crisis for political gains, remained a theme this week. So did the need for good epidemiological knowledge, and the importance of learning lessons from the Ebola crisis. New themes were the importance of local participation in planning response and thus the need for speeding up the localization agenda as part of humanitarian reform.
Selection#1 (23rd to 29th of March)
On our first weekly selection, we covered a range of topics, including the risks to democracy posed by the extraordinary measures taken in most countries (see Desportes), the different political responses within Europe, the ethical implications, and the need for solidarity (Muller), the effect on existing inequalities and the disproportionate effect on vulnerable people such as the homeless and the displaced, as well as their inability to adopt many of the recommended measures in the West (e.g. frequently washing hands if little access to water, or social distancing in a crowded camp or slum) (Mueller, Shankland). Others analyzed the health versus the economic costs and consequences (Schutte, Pistor, Shankland, Yazigi, below), or provide lessons from local and national responses to health crises (Shankland), including the role of religion and the Church in facilitating and preventing the spread of the virus and in assisting the vulnerable (Lichtenstein et al).