The Broader View: I am living proof that humanitarian assistance is more than just a sense of welfare
Twenty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution, 46/182, to establish a global humanitarian system. The resolution called for governments and aid agencies around the world to work together to deal with the rising number of crises. Two decades on, that system is more important than ever.
Yasin Samatar, who fled the civil war in Somalia with his family about twenty years ago, talks about the importance of coordinated humanitarian efforts, both as a former refugee in Kenya and a former employee at OCHA.
I was just 11 years old when the Somali Government collapsed in the early 1990s. My family and I then left Somalia with nothing - no belongings or documents. We were lucky enough to end up in a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya. UN agencies like UNHCR offered a last flicker of hope by providing us with basic necessities like shelter. I can remember living in a hut made out of mud, bamboo sticks and palm leaves.
Along with other kids in the camp, I was offered an education. We were given food rations by WFP and I can clearly remember the sacks of wheat with USAID logo delivered by CARE.
If OCHA hadn’t been there, honestly, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today. The humanitarian community gave me food, shelter and an opportunity to resettle in the United States. And if OCHA or the humanitarian community hadn’t been there, it would be almost impossible to think about my being able to contribute to the work of the UN as well.
One cannot just look at humanitarian concerns through one lens. It’s a complex system and one has to take the different strands, and look at them carefully. When you have a story such as mine, I think it can be very helpful to look at the tangible outcomes of something such as humanitarian assistance.
I am living proof that humanitarian assistance is not just a sense of welfare, it is something that is offered to people when they cannot be helped by any other parts of society, whether that is the Government or its neighbours.
Given that the current situation in Somalia is as precarious as it used to be, we have a long way to go in terms of addressing the root cause of the issue. But in terms of the delivery of humanitarian assistance we have come a long way: not just in terms of what we deliver but how we deliver, how we advocate and how we try to put ourselves in the shoes of those we are helping.
More>> Watch video interview