United Nations High Commission For Refugees

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It doesn’t need me to say anything for you all to know and understand that what is happening to the people of Haiti should make us not just filled with compassion but also shame for whining about anything at all.

However, I do want to spare a thought now for the field workers of United Nations High Commission For Refugees and for their co-ordinators in Geneva.

Most folks associate UNHCR with the UN – correct. Most people assume that UNHCR is funded by the UN. Not correct. UNHCR is a charity just like any other and she relies entirely on donations.

The other thing people may not know about UNHCR is that she is the lead organisation on the ground – first in every disaster zone straight away. It is UNHCR which goes in, assesses the situation, directs all other NGOs as to what they can best do and where and when they can best do it. Put crudely ‘OK Oxfam, we need you to go south with medical supplies, Save The Children, we need you to go West with tents and bedding’ and so on. Or just as likely ‘Listen it’s simply not safe/appropriate/physically possible for any of you to go there right now.

So it is often UNHCR’s ‘fault’ that the news coverage reports that 5 days after a disaster, aid is still not reaching the victims.

I would like you to spare a thought for what a catastrophe it would be for dozens of aid agencies to be rushing in willy nilly to earthquake epicentres, losing their own people in aftershocks, mudslides and violence or just all turning up with the same supplies. UNHCR carries this burden, and gets all the bad press for apparently delaying aid.

Next time you’re on the bus and you overhear ‘Isn’t it shocking the way the UN have been there a week and there’s still no food getting through’ Think about this little article. Thank you UNHCR


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