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Fundamental considerations on humanitarian aid

Humanity has faced emergency situations that have threatened people's integrity and dramatically worsened their living conditions. They are usually caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and storms, or by high-intensity social and political conflicts.

Under the principle of solidarity, humanity has created mechanisms to support nations facing such situations. The United Nations (UN) has made international cooperation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian nature one of its main functions.

Humanitarian aid is assistance aimed at saving alleviate suffering and safeguard human dignity in the face of real emergency situations. To be classified under this category, it must be in accordance with the principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality.

Through humanitarian action, life, health and respect for human beings are protected. The criteria governing this type of assistance has to do with the need to receive it, so priority is given to the most urgent cases without distinction of race, nationality, sex, ideology, religion, social status or political opinion.

Likewise, it is autonomous from the political, economic or military objectives of any State.. In this sense, the actors in these actions should not take sides in the controversies that may arise in situations involving different countries or social groups.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs distinguishes between three categories of humanitarian assistance: emergency relief; reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance; and disaster prevention.

The United Nations Development Program, the UN Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Program are four UN entities that play important roles in providing humanitarian assistance. They provide immediate attention to refugees and people displaced by armed and political conflicts; assist children in the aforementioned emergency situations to minimize threats to their survival; mobilize food and funds for feeding operations; support farmers and herders in restoring production following natural disasters; and coordinate international response actions to health emergencies.

The beginnings of humanitarian aid in a global conflict

The first such care occurred after World War II in Europe. The need to rebuild a large number of European nations devastated by the conflict was the driving force behind the formal emergence of humanitarian aid, established as a function of the UN. Facing such a large-scale reconstruction required the support of various organizations that not only made economic resources available, but also had the capacity to provide human talent to deal with the emergency.

The World War II scenario proved to be the best training laboratory for the organizations that provided this type of assistance. In this context, the first government agency for humanitarian work dedicated specifically to the care of refugees, the first large non-governmental agencies for international work and associations dedicated to medical-health care in the midst of crises appeared.

Humanitarian aid projections for 2018

In December 2017, the Global Humanitarian Review estimated that for 2018, the number of resources to provide humanitarian aid amounted to $22.5 billion. These resources were requested through a record request issued by the UN to international donors. The organization estimated that conflicts will continue to be the main reason for humanitarian needs, although natural disasters could also be the protagonists of aid.

The requested funds would be used to assist 91 million affected people by providing them with food, shelter, health support and emergency education.. The estimate presented in 2017 exceeds that made in 2016 and is the highest so far. According to this scenario, the countries that will receive the most support will be Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya and Somalia.

Similarly, for 2018, the UN Refugee Agency stated that. the strongest humanitarian crises will be those experienced by: Yemen, Libya, Rohingya, Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine.

The effectiveness of humanitarian aid must be measured in the prevention capacity of donor countries. The cooperation of partner countries to increase their resilience to mitigate these situations can also be seen in the response to crisis situations.

Humanitarian assistance is delivered through government agencies, non-governmental organizations and other non-profit organizations, in accordance with the principles established in Resolution 46/182 of the United Nations General Assembly.

Each organization involved in assistance operations has its own codes of conduct and rules of action to deal with any situation in a safe manner for those providing the service and for those being assisted.

The European Union (EU) is the world's largest aid donor. In 2015, it supported more than 134 million people affected by natural disasters or armed and political conflicts in more than 80 countries. Much of the EU's humanitarian aid is intended for refugees and displaced persons and consists of support for food and nutrition.

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