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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The shoes of an Aid Worker

Typhoon Huiyan- Utter devastation!

For more than one week I have been following news from the Phillippines concerning the approach of Mega-Typhoon Huiyan, its landfall and the aftermath. It has been a depressing week for news as we  had a typhoon hit Somalia as well, the on-going crisis in Syria, and several other depressing news events around the world.

CNN has devoted a massive amount of air time to bringing the viewer up to the minute reporting. I'm not quite sure that this is really necessary in so far as the average viewer is concerned, but it does help in raising funds to help survivors to rebuild.

I was thinking about crisis of this sort from the viewpoint of the aid worker organisation. Something along the scale of Huiyan happens and volunteers leave their own comfort zone to journey into the depths of hell where death, injury, destruction, and extreme discomfort await.

The truth is that many people will have survived the winds and waters of the event itself, only to die from a lack of clean drinking water and food in the days that follow. Firstly, organisations have to load up supplies and manpower and fly out to the affected area, if they can, assuming they can actually land. Making airports secure for landings and takeoff is the first priority. Then relief supplies can actually land.

Next comes distribution, but there are no clear roads and all facilities on land have been compromised. The slow process begins of opening roads, most likely by hand. All those supplies have to be offloaded and stored, but are there any buildings still standing that will serve that purpose? It simply takes time when time is priceless!

Meantime, all around are the dead people and animals, decomposing and generating a sickening smell. In my opinion, even more sickening are the comments of the reporters that go something like this: "It's been two days and no aid has reached the people who need it most. They are without power, running clean water; shelter and food!"  Or, " vital supplies are stacked up at the airport but are not being distributed!"  At least one set of comments of this ilk was made by an announcer from his well lit and warm and dry studio in London.  It's one thing to state the facts, but when your voice suggests actual criticism that someone is not doing enough, for the aid workers themselves they must feel like strangling the speaker.

The fact remains that whether we were living in the lap of luxury or very basic, when something like this happens we are scared and nervous and anxious to be returned to something close to what we had before the event. If our lives are threatened by the things we have to go without we can easily slip into desperation.

The Aid organisations will always be doing their very best to bring relief, and need the support and encouragement of the world that was lucky enough to have escaped the disaster.

They don't need criticism. Anyone who feels the need to criticize is always welcome to do better!

Copyright (c) 2013  Eugene Carmichael