Linda Polman raises several concerns throughout her book. She opens with a quote from a humanitarian and founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Henri Dunant. He states, the humane desire to lighten a little the torments of all these poor wretches… creates a kind of energy which gives one a positive craving to relieve as many as one can. The first concern she raises is the exploitation of humanitarian aid. It is the responsibility of the humanitarian aid workers to relieve human suffering regardless of what parties are involved. The principal concern that is raised here is that you do what you can for the victims, but soldiers will exploit your efforts. You dig a well? They demand you pay a price in addition to tax. You want food flown in? Taxed. You want medical supplies sent to where you are? Taxed. When you get these resources flown in, they will take a portion of it to sell. They sell these in return for weapons. This essentially adds to your death toll. This is a never ending cycle. The reoccurring concern here is that is it worth saving lives while aiding terrorism? That is what humanitarian aid does. It involuntarily aids the very killers that are harming the patients they take care of. Some view that some help is better than no help although they are fueling the terror. Is sacrificing a few lives worth saving more live? Does one let a few people die in order to stop terrorist groups from being able to kill even more? This has been an issue for centuries.
Polman states, “aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa”. By this statements, she means that journalists do not look into the actions of aid organizations although they are the ones who report it. Journalists do not suspect foul play when it comes to non-profit organizations; therefore, they do not question them. If attention isn’t brought to these organizations, they can easily go astray from their goals and turn into something ugly that we may not be able to control. They are viewed as “saints” and uphold a certain level of respect from their surrounding communities. Polman states, “often the journalists reporting on an aid campaign are also financed or at least accommodated by the aid agencies taking part in the caravan”. This is also another reason as to why journalists do not question aid organizations. Would you investigate someone that accommodated you during a visit? The chances are slim.
In order to make humanitarian aid successful, the public, government, and journalists will play a crucial role. The goal here is to ask questions. By turning the other cheek to these aid organizations, you are giving them more power. If they are not questioned, they do not feel threatened per say and will carry on the activities they do behind the scenes. These parties must be bold with their questioning. Polman states, “if they say what they’re doing helps, ask who’s going to be helped by that food, by those medicines: innocent victims, warlords, or both?”. This type of questioning leads straight to the point and for anyone who witnesses such a conversation will have opened their eyes whether they admit it or not. They must ask where the line is drawn when it comes to supplies that are looted by attackers. At what point does an aid organization say that too much money and/or supplies are being taken into the wrong hands? In addition, a very important piece of information to uncover is to find out whether or not aid organizations are sufficiently independent when it comes to deciding who gets aid and who does not. As mentioned before, these aid organizations are dressed up like saints to the public eye. In reality, they are fueling these wars and many of them are seeking financial profit and not so much fulfilling the mission of providing adequate aid to those who have fallen victim to these wars. I stress the importance of raising the question of whether or not doing something is better than doing nothing at all.
This book was deemed the name crisis caravan for a reason. These caravans provide aid, but bring forth crisis because they do not only aid victims of war, but they unfortunately aid the attackers as well.
In conclusion, obtaining success when it comes to humanitarian aid is not impossible. The issue here is that people are easily swayed by little perks such as accommodations. Take a moment and look past the perks – what is really going on in front of our eyes? Certain aid organizations wear the mask of being helpful, but in reality they seek profit whether it is social or financial. They must be questioned and not looked past simply because they provide aid.