Looking back, looking ahead

In the humanitarian world, what will be remembered about the year 2009? Certainly it was a year in which there was continued interplay of global food and nutrition problems, decreasing water resources and the continuing effects of climate change--issues all being addressed by Church World Service.

Saleeha and her daughters
Displaced during Pakistan's intensified campaign against the Taliban, Saleeha and her daughters talk with Afshan, a CWS mobile health worker.
Photo: Saadia Haq/CWS

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

In the humanitarian world, what will be remembered about the year 2009?

Certainly it was a year in which there was continued interplay of global food and nutrition problems, decreasing water resources and the continuing effects of climate change--issues all being addressed by Church World Service.

It was also a year in which aid agencies felt increasing pressure to examine the quality of their work.

"An increased emphasis on quality, not just quantity, in international aid is something we welcome," said Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS Executive Director and CEO, noting that increasing number of humanitarian agencies are adopting quality and accountability standards and trying to assure that humanitarian groups are accountable to those they are committed to assist.

During several displacement crises in Pakistan in 2009, CWS served as a focal point for quality and accountability of humanitarian agencies in the region, working with both the Humanitarian Accountability Project and the Sphere Project, two accountability collaborations.

As part of its efforts, CWS applied HAP and Sphere standards in its distribution of emergency food aid and provided training and support to partners and local non-governmental organizations on the issues of accountability and effectiveness.

The issue of aid effectiveness will continue in 2010 in other areas, with humanitarian agencies increasingly addressing the problem of chronic malnutrition with an increased focus on micronutrients, therapeutic ready-to-use food for under-nourished children and supplements for nursing mothers.

"Investments in nutrition are among the most cost-effective development interventions because of very high cost-benefit ratios for individuals and for sustainable growth of countries because they protect health, prevent disability, boost economic productivity, and save lives," said Maurice A. Bloem, CWS Deputy Director, Head of Programs.

Last month, CWS announced it is intensifying its focus on the world’s most vulnerable children, under the banner "All Our Children." The focus will include a concentration on small child and maternal nutrition and health, access to education, greater school safety, especially for girls, and protection for children and their rights.

Relief and development agencies will also work increasingly to emphasize sustainable local self-sufficiency, particularly in the present economy and dwindling world fund commitments, McCullough said.

One way this can happen is for agencies like CWS to offer trainings, from climate change mitigation and disaster preparedness, to sustainable agriculture and maternal education on child nutrition.

"NGOs need to work with what the local communities have in light of all the 'diminishing resources' we face, to make the situation better," said Caroline Thuo Reggy of the Church World Service East Africa staff.

The emphasis on local solutions is also becoming apparent in another trend: that of the United States government consideration of channeling more U.S.-funded development support through government-to-government initiatives or to national non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, rather than via international NGOs, said Donna Derr, CWS's director for emergency response.

"Ideally, U.S. government resources should support initiatives that draw on both local and international expertise and capacity in implementing humanitarian and development programs that best serve communities," Derr said. "In many instances, it is only through our collective effort that we are able to achieve meaningful and sustained progress."

A trend in 2009 that is expected to continue in 2010 is that of increased refugee admissions, which returned to pre-Sept. 11, 2001, levels for the first time this year, said CWS Immigration and Refugee Director Erol Kekic.

"Ironically, this comes at a time of general economic distress, making it harder to rally private resources for resettlement," he said, adding though that 2010 will see changes and reforms in the U.S. refugee program, something long-sought by CWS and others resettling refugees in the United States.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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