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Faces on the front lines of local aid

A video series on local emergency response from the ground up

Mwaura Timothy/TNH

Meet the local aid workers on the front lines of today’s humanitarian crises.

They include Evans Onyiego, who leads Caritas Maralal in northern Kenya and was born and raised right where he works.

“The community are in the front seat and driving the initiatives,” Onyiego says. “It’s not somebody from outside. It’s the community themselves doing it.”

The New Humanitarian’s video series explores his work and that of other local responders to offer a sense of what local aid looks like on the ground.

The aid sector has made broad commitments to transform the way aid is funded and delivered. These “localisation” promises have stalled, but local aid workers are already at the forefront in emergencies around the world.

The series profiles local responders at the heart of three very different crises: a doctor bringing a rare palliative care programme to Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps; a Syrian refugee helping out-of-school students get an education in Lebanon; and Onyiego, an aid worker trying to bring divided communities together in drought-hit northern Kenya.

“It’s not somebody from outside. It’s the community themselves doing it.”

The first video in this series, “From the ground up”, offers a big-picture look at what localisation means in practice – from the vantage point of grassroots workers whose lives are intertwined with their communities’ crises.

But these local communities have also struggled to navigate the labyrinthine international aid system, where funding hinges on often-onerous donor demands and humanitarian programmes are devised in NGO headquarters far from the ground.

The head of one local organisation describes in the video how the group was forced to cut staff when it could no longer afford to pay salaries. A staff member with another organisation tries to convince his international counterparts that local groups can play a much larger role.

“It’s not about being less or more,” says Masroor Hussein of Bangladesh’s Fasiuddin Khan Research Foundation. “It’s about working together.”

Hear more from these local humanitarians about homegrown responses, and why they’re pushing for big changes to the global aid system:

The Healer

Meet Farzana Khan, the woman behind the first palliative care programme set up in the middle of a humanitarian response.

The Educator

Far from home, Maher Hamdan, a former university student, goes back to school to help his fellow Syrian refugees get an education.

The Peacebuilder

In northern Kenya, Evans Onyiego, a local aid worker, fights for peace as pastoralist communities clash over dwindling resources.

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