Each year, 19 August the world marks World Humanitarian Day to honor and recognize those who have dedicated their lives to improve humanity. Each day, humanitarian workers risk their lives and sometimes lose it towards their efforts of giving aid to the most vulnerable people around the world.
It is difficult to commemorate this day without a tear. These tears come from mixed feelings of both happiness and sadness. Happiness for the brave women and men who have contributed financially, physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially to see humanitarian work delivered efficiently and effectively. Sadness when international humanitarian actors don’t take time to learn and change with the times, to ensure sustainability for the communities we seek to assist, and don’t appreciate national actors who make it possible for us to respond.
The humanitarian system must change and improve
The humanitarian system needs to change and appreciate the existing knowledge of national humanitarian actors who understand best the local systems and who can ensure there is linkage to development even after the emergency period.
That’s why Oxfam Somalia has done analysis of the situation and is now developing a project which says YES the humanitarian system can change and we can do a better job to ensure better delivery and sustainability. This is part of a global program to turn the humanitarian system on its head, emphasizing the roles and responsibilities of government disaster management agencies and local organizations in the current humanitarian system. Somalia has relied on humanitarian support for over 20 years without an established government. Now, the Somali authorities need to take on the responsibility to deliver aid to those who need it. It’s not an easy task with different international actors not providing them the strength, space and opportunity to take up the leadership role in their country.
“The ‘Strengthening Local Humanitarian Actors Project’ (SLHAP) has come at the right time and reminded National Humanitarian Actors that they are the first duty bearer for Somalis and have to reclaim their rights from external actors who are unfamiliar in the context, inaccessible in the field and cannot communicate to the vulnerable and victims”, says Fardus Awil Jama, Executive Director of Candlelight.
Support national humanitarian actors
We appreciate that the international community has done a considerable amount of good work in the past, but at the same time we also have to recognize that international agencies (including Oxfam) have not allowed the space for national humanitarian actors to take up the leadership of humanitarian response and coordination in Somalia.
How best can we start? We recognize that capacities both technical and institutional are of essence to national delivery of humanitarian aid, and we must support national actors to strengthen this. Collectively we need to develop agreed accountability and risk management frameworks contextualized to Somalia. We also need agreed Standard Operating Procedures for humanitarian aid delivery when it comes to access. Access should never be a way of determining who requires assistance, this must be directed by need – even if people are hard to reach, we must find a way. If we support Somalia national actors we will be able to reach those who are in need wherever they are.
Finally, resilience needs to be embedded within all Somalia programming. National humanitarian actors need to be supported to build a stronger path from emergency response, through recovery and into development. We need to ensure communities have capability to bounce back after any kind of shock and move beyond this into a place where they can thrive in the future.
We call upon everyone as they mark World Humanitarian Day to appreciate national humanitarian actors that are at the frontlines of aid delivery. International actors should give space for national actors to take the lead in humanitarian coordination and response. National actors should demand this space by demonstrating to international colleagues that they can do it: they are ready to be accountable, transparent, improve on their systems, and work together under one voice.
By Elizabeth Myendo, Training and Capacity Building Officer, Oxfam Somalia. Originally posted on the Oxfam East Africa blog
Find out more on our work in Somalia.