Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Money Crippling a Crisis Response
The latest crisis relief operations occurring in Somalia are not going well. There are reports of assistance efforts falling apart because supplies of water cannot be delivered due to ‘lack of funds.’ Once again the appeal for aid agencies, particularly international ones that have wealthy supporters, are asked to come to the rescue. While the world of aid waits for richer groups to save their aid efforts, 2.4 million Somalis are affected by the drought with another 1.4 million displaced because of the late or insufficient rains.
Since when does innovation and crisis response become so needy on money as the major factor motivating people to action? Since 1991, the destruction of Somalia’s social networks, when civil war pitted Somali against Somali, unraveled their society and peace. This breakdown allowed multinational organizations, like private companies, aid organizations and even terrorists, to enter Somali territory in order to advance their own agendas often at the cost of Somalia’s ecology, society and security. The response by Somalis to these intrusions were various with few collaborating, many abstaining, and some fighting against outside intervention. Civil groups resurface from time to time to help out in health, security and other social services but they remain weak and tenuous, vulnerable to falling apart when the next natural hazard or human crisis occurs. They cannot grow and become a secure social good when the time and commitment individuals bring to such services detracts them from their need to feed, cloth, and house their families and themselves.
There are parts of the world that are under serious crisis where people are volunteering their time and effort to help the common good, many times without financial compensation. The civil service workers backing the rebel factions fighting Qaddafi in Libya are a good example of this. Libya, however, is just starting out in a civil war. If the half-hearted efforts the United Nations provides to the rebels keeps them afloat and if Qaddafi is able to keep preying upon poor Libyans and other Africans to fight for his side, it will be no surprise years from now when Libyan society unravels and people watch various outsiders exploit their resources, like the petroleum fields lying inland and fish reserves off its coast. The prolonging of this civil war only weakens Libya, like it did Somalia, for private corporations, geopolitical powers, and other international actors to take advantage of Libya when the violence recedes.
Disaster response is a money game that continues to keep Somalia and other parts of the world that are politically unstable, weak and dependent on the larger geopolitical actors. It is under-funded, it is a guessing game in effective coordination, and in the end it is shaped and exploited by larger powerful actors that have no affiliation or allegiance to the local people affected by the crisis. Throwing money at a disaster, while it has shaped Somali’s society for the past 20 years, will not solve the long-term problem of reconstructing Somali civil society. This is a project that needs Somalis themselves in shaping human response to disaster without the end goal constantly being monetary gain.