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. In the first place, these will be posts and op-eds on the impact of COVID19 on crisis-affected communities and response capacities. In the second place, we will include posts on crises that are now pushed away from the front pages despite their importance.
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#20 (3rd to 9th of August)
This week’s selection speaks of the concerns of practitioners that Covid-19 has cast the attention to other ongoing issues, such as malaria, into the shadow. They urge 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 reflect on the opportunities that Covid-19 could bring to other organisations such as refugee-led organisations and civic society.
Finally, we also include 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).