Hari Krishna Nibanupudi - September 14, 2017

This guest blog comes to us from Hari Krishna Nibanupudi, a disaster resilience and climate change specialist at Safe Citizen International in Hyderabad, India. He has over two decades of experience in humanitarian work in Asia and Africa. He is an award winning Blogger and Short filmmaker on Issues of Climate Migration and Disaster Resilience and has published regularly on the subject in South Asia.

Recently, I was in Malawi to assess flood-affected communities. I noticed two young girls in a displaced perons camp who appeared to be suffering from not only disaster-related injuries but also acute mental illness. One stayed beside me throughout my interaction with the communities there. As we prepared to leave, she held my hand tightly and started crying loudly. As some members of the community took her away, a local told me more...

Special Operations Command Africa hosted its first Women’s Leadership Forum during International Women’s Day in N'Djamena, Chad, Mar. 7, 2017.
Meredith Blake - September 13, 2017

As humanitarian professionals pay greater attention to the differential impacts of disasters and conflicts on women, men, boys, and girls, they increasingly incorporate gender analysis into their preliminary assessments and response plans. These considerations are crucial not only in the emergency response phase—when pre-existing gender inequalities can be greatly exacerbated—but also in the longer-term, post-emergency response phase, when strategic humanitarian programming can play an important role in fostering equitable outcomes and inclusive, sustainable recovery and development. A critical irony facing the sector itself, however, is how often humanitarian organizations struggle internally with some of the same gender-related issues their mandates obligate them to address in beneficiary populations. If humanitarians are truly more...

Molly Doggett - September 8, 2017


This guest blog comes to us from students in Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. It is based on a previous version written by Carina Bentata Grytin, Molly Doggett, Lan Mei, and Alice Osman which appeared on the Human Rights@Harvard Law blog here.


In December of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly decided in a historic vote to conduct negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Momentum for such a treaty had been building for years, with UN member states and civil society participating in a series of humanitarian conferences leading up to the General Assembly vote. The treaty negotiations took place in two separate sessions, the first more...

Julia Brooks - September 4, 2017

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.  

Between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government entities, nonprofits large and small, and contributions from concerned individuals, a massive Hurricane Harvey relief effort is taking shape.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s “Help for Houston” drive and countless other community collections illustrate the American impulse to help people whose lives have been upended by catastrophic floods. But like his campaign, these well-intentioned bids to ship goods to distant locales in Texas are perpetuating a common myth of post-disaster charitable giving.

As a researcher with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, an interdisciplinary center at Harvard University dedicated to relieving human suffering in more...

Working Group on Protection of Humanitarian Action - August 18, 2017

World Humanitarian Day, held every year on August 19, pays tribute to those who risk their lives in humanitarian work around the world. Humanitarian aid workers provide life saving and life sustaining assistance and protection to populations affected by conflict, disaster and crisis, and in the process, many risk their lives to help others.

Violence against Aid

During the first six months of 2017, at least 104 aid workers were reportedly killed, at least 72 injured, and 97 reportedly kidnapped around the world, according to the monitoring by Insecurity Insight’s Aid in Danger project. These figures are based on information collected from open sources (Monthly News Brief) and direct submissions from 25 partner agencies to the Security in Numbers Database (SiND), and include incidents from the Aid Worker Security Database more...

Manoocher Deghati / IRIN
Julia Brooks - July 19, 2017

The pattern will be familiar to anyone working in international disaster response. In the immediate aftermath of a large-scale earthquake, hurricane or Tsunami, domestic responders are quickly overwhelmed, and offers of international aid begin pouring in. By filling gaps in local relief efforts, this international assistance can make a critical difference in the lives of disaster-affected people. Yet when aid is needed most, it can also get mired in bureaucratic red tape: foreign disaster relief workers face visa restrictions, delays and fees; relief goods and equipment get stuck in customs; foreign search and rescue dogs are held in quarantine. In other cases, the breakdown of governmental authority makes it hard to filter bad aid out from the good: (however well-meaning) private donors ship ill-suited goods or expired medications to more...

Bonnie Docherty - July 18, 2017

A previous version of this article appeared on the Human Rights@Harvard Law blog here.

Since armed conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014, the use of explosive weapons has directly damaged hospitals, destroyed ambulances, and killed or injured health workers. It has also indirectly affected the health care system by shutting down infrastructure—causing loss of electricity, heat, water, and communications—and creating travel risks for ambulances, medical personnel, and civilians in need.

These impacts have interfered with the provision of health care to local civilians and forced many to go without.

A recent report, Operating under Fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine, documents the situation, drawing on field research conducted in communities along the front line. more...

Megan Nobert - July 12, 2017

Sexual violence happens all over the world – in and out of conflict settings. Statistics suggest that at least 1 in 3 women will be affected by sexual violence. It is a degrading experience, one that takes away the ability to choose what happens to one’s body, and that affects individuals throughout the globe.

Sexual violence is distinguished from consensual sex by the lack of consent given by one of the parties. This absence of consent creates a power imbalance, makes it more difficult for survivors to report or seek justice, and can be a root cause of the psychosocial impacts of sexual violence, in particular the feelings of shame and worthlessness. In humanitarian settings, these impacts are felt regardless of whether one is a survivor of sexual violence from the local population, or from the humanitarian community – an more...

Lisa Reilly / EISF
Adelicia Fairbanks - July 10, 2017

This guest blog post comes to us from Adelicia Fairbanks. Adelicia is Research Adviser at the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF), where she is responsible for producing original research papers, articles, blogs and guides that help share and promote best practices in security risk management within the humanitarian sector, with the aim of building the capacity of security practitioners. She is currently managing a research project on the security of staff with diverse profiles.

As an aid worker, it is not unusual to travel in remote and insecure locations, driving from one field location to another in clearly marked humanitarian vehicles. Being stopped at checkpoints is also a regular feature of being an aid worker. But imagine you reach a checkpoint where the guards are young and appear tense. They tell everyone to get more...

Blast victims receive treatment at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN
Julia Brooks - May 15, 2017

It’s been over a year since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2286 condemning attacks on medical facilities and personnel in conflict, and calling for an end to impunity. Yet as a series of new reports indicate, attacks on healthcare are more prevalent than ever, and accountability remains just as far afield.

Tracking violence against healthcare

In 2016, “the sheer number of countries and the intensity of attacks on health facilities, health workers, ambulances, and patients are staggering,” notes the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition in its newly released report documenting widespread attacks on, and interference with, healthcare in 23 countries in conflict. Collectively, the report emphasized, these attacks “threaten the health, well-being, and the lives of people who may number in the millions.”

Rob Grace - April 30, 2017

Humanitarian access obstructions, which limit international humanitarian organizations’ abilities to provide assistance and protection to populations in the greatest need, endure as one of the most vexing policy issues faced by the humanitarian sector. Indeed, recent reports published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) detail ongoing access challenges faced in humanitarian crises occurring in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan; West and Central Africa; as well as the Asia and the Pacific region. Previous blogs, podcasts, and policy papers produced by the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) have examined approaches to grappling with access—and other—constraints within the framework of frontline humanitarian negotiation, including issues related to the challenges and more...

© Melissa Martinelli
Melissa Martinelli - April 18, 2017

This guest blog comes to us from Melissa Martinelli, an Immigration Attorney based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Melissa has represented hundreds of asylum seekers in the United States, and has volunteered in Texas and New Mexico representing women and children detained in “family” detention centers. She recently returned from Thessaloniki, Greece, where she volunteered for two weeks with Advocates Abroad, a non-profit organization representing asylum seekers in their registration, protection, reunification and relocation processes.

Omar is 21 years old. He arrived in Greece in late February 2016. A series of shellings had destroyed his neighborhood in Damascus, forcing him to flee. After several months of uncertainty and misinformation, he was finally able to register with the Greek Asylum Service (“GAS”) in July, and was more...

Steve Wilkinson - April 7, 2017

April 7 marks World Health Day and this year the World Health Organisation is using the day to draw attention to global mental health concerns, including the devastating impact of the Syria conflict. Such an important moment should facilitate greater reflection by the humanitarian community in terms of preventing, limiting and responding to mental health impacts during war, and this conversation should also include legal assessments and applications. 


“… many children are living in an almost constant state of fear, terrified by shelling, airstrikes and ongoing violence, with devastating psychological consequences”, was just one of the central findings of a recent report undertaken on Syrian refugees by Save the Children.

Beyond physical harm, armed conflict causes considerable mental health more...

Wikimedia Commons
Julia Brooks - March 7, 2017

On 6 March 2017, the Trump administration signed a revised executive order banning entry into the U.S. by nationals of six Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – for 90 days, suspending refugee resettlement for 120 days, and lowering the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. from 110,000 to 50,000 in fiscal year 2017. Promulgated in the name of national security and protecting the U.S. from foreign terrorist threats, this revised order is a step back from the more sweeping original ban issued on January 27th, which prompted nation-wide protests and was suspended by U.S. federal courts in February. Nonetheless, at its core the policy remains cruel and misguided. It continues to betray humanitarian (and American) norms while doing little to keep Americans safe.

Suspending refugee admissions more...

Steve Wilkinson - February 6, 2017

Humanitarians are increasingly exasperated with the lack of respect for international humanitarian law in a number of contemporary conflicts. Many are regularly calling for  those violating the basic tenets of the law of war to be held accountable and in this context, it is worth examining the potential role these same actors can play in relation to such accountability mechanisms.

When frontline humanitarians witness horrific acts, what activities can and should such actors undertake to promote accountability for violations of international law? Is it possible for humanitarian actors to have their operational space respected, if at the same time they seek to address some of the root causes of the conflict, and promote and/or contribute to holding violators of the law to account? What activities would be considered more...


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