How Does Humanitarian Relief Fall Short?

Big World

Mar 1 2022 • 29 mins

Humanitarian assistance tends to be associated with aid workers figuratively parachuting into a country or a region to do work in times of event-based trauma, but that conceptualization only scratches the surface of what such work entails. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Lauren Carruth joins us to discuss a different kind of humanitarianism. Professor Carruth discusses the issues that arise from the humanitarian responses of large relief organizations (2:03) and explains why the field work she conducted on humanitarianism, which culminated in her recent book, took place in the Somali region of Ethiopia (5:46). She also breaks down why the use of the word “industry” is at odds with what she believes humanitarian aid should be trying to accomplish (7:35). What does the Somali word “samafal” mean, and how does it differ from what's been the norm in the humanitarian industry (13:00)? How often does samafal take place when it comes to humanitarian work around the globe (17:26)? Professor Carruth answers these questions and describes the inequitable hierarchy of the aid industry (19:15). Closing out the episode, she shares her advice for what people should do when they want to provide assistance during a humanitarian crisis (27:23). During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Carruth shares the policies and practices she would institute to make the aid industry more equitable and more effective (11:06).

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