(Formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

2018 in Review: Local aid

Highlights from our coverage

Wes Bruer/IRIN

This series

In this week-long series, IRIN’s editors highlight five themes from across our reporting that will continue to inform our coverage of the humanitarian sector in the new year: local aid; women and girls; returns and rebuilding; policy and practice; and migration. Are there untold stories we should be covering in 2019 on these or other themes? Let us know: tweet us @irinnews or get in touch here. Happy reading.

The aid sector has made broad commitments to “localise” aid by shifting more power and funding to humanitarians on the ground where crises hit. But change has been slow, and the costs of delivering aid in emergencies continue to soar.

 

In sprawling refugee camps and ravaged disaster zones, however, local aid workers are already on the front lines of the world’s most pressing crises, as our 2018 reporting on local aid in emergencies demonstrated.

 

Below are highlights from our reporting, which will continue to explore how these local humanitarians – from grassroots NGOs and community leaders to local governments and everyday citizens – step in to respond, and to examine how this shift impacts the wider aid sector.

 

Aid sector imbalances

From evacuee to humanitarian: aid goes local in conflict-torn Marawi

 

Local humanitarians rushed to respond when fierce urban warfare and martial law turned the Philippine city of Marawi into a no-go zone for most international aid groups last year. But they also put themselves at immense risk, foregoing basic protections that international staff would demand – exposing imbalances in the aid sector.

A woman with an umbrella stands on rubble as light breaks through

 

Stepping in

In the Caribbean, local aid helps tackle a surge in Venezuelan asylum seekers

 

Venezuelans continue to flee their country, and the region is struggling to absorb the influx. In small Caribbean nations like Trinidad and Tobago – home to an estimated 40,000 Venezuelans – local aid groups are some of the only agencies helping the growing number of asylum seekers.

closeup of a people in jeans as they sit waiting

 

Agile response

In Burkina Faso, a local drive to educate children fleeing extremist violence

In 2018, jihadist attacks forced hundreds of schools to close in Burkina Faso’s north. One school in the capital, Ouagadougou, adapted to the emergency by taking in and providing psychological support to children displaced by the violence.

Twins look directly at the camera in front of a chalkboard

 

‘Informal humanitarians’

Behind Indonesia’s tsunami response, a patchwork army of volunteers

 

Everyday volunteers are playing a crucial role in the ongoing response to the earthquakes and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province in 2018. These “informal humanitarians” were first on the ground, while official aid was hampered by damaged infrastructure and red tape. However, the effort was also “spontaneous and disorganised”, as one volunteer told IRIN.

A woman with a headscarf and sunglasses on a boat carrying a box of aid on her lap

 

Aid at home

First person: Bringing aid to my neighbours in Hodeidah just got harder

 

“The days are long, the dangers many, and the obstacles to aid workers’ jobs in Hodeidah never seem to end,” a local aid worker wrote in his on-the-ground account of the mounting challenges in Yemen’s Red Sea port.

A family sits on the floor inside and looks up at the camera

 

Slow-going reforms

In Bangladesh, a Rohingya strike highlights growing refugee activism

 

For proponents of the “localisation” agenda, the response to the Rohingya refugee emergency in Bangladesh is evidence of just how slow reforms have been: local aid groups say they’ve been pushed aside while dozens of big international agencies have flooded into the camps. But the voices of Rohingya refugees themselves have also been conspicuously absent.

Three adult men in a white have a discussion inside a temporary structure

 


 

Read more of our local aid coverage here. In 2019 we’ll deepen our reporting on local aid, spotlighting the new humanitarians on the front lines of crises around the globe, tracking progress toward “localisation” and examining the implications of this continuing shift. Any stories we should be covering? Let us know: tweet us @irinnews or get in touch here.

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