Urgent deconfinement for humanitarian aid!

©Mozambique, Guaraguara, 21 march 2019. Photo: WFP/Deborah Nguyen

More than half of the humanity that has been under house arrest for a hundred days has finally been allowed to come out of confinement and come out wisely. While waiting for a vaccine, for lack of anything better, the scientific battle rages around hydroxycloroquine.

Basically, if at the beginning we lost precious time in the face of an unknown virus that has become globalized, if the priority was obviously to avoid paralysing hospitals by jamming up the sick and the risk of having to sort them out as in wartime, we have been able to measure the limits of our knowledge and our means. And the pendulum then swung from lightness to excess, even media and political psychosis and the confinement of minds.

In France, as elsewhere, day after day, television channels rang the alarm bells of the great fear of pandemics from the plague to the Spanish flu. Three months later, while acknowledging the complexity of the challenges, we can regret the lack of composure, of an appeal to a civic spirit of responsibility, of truth about realities, weaknesses that today give us a much-needed lack of confidence.

Like many I applauded.

Like many, every night I applauded the “caretakers”, along with the garbage collectors, farmers, shopkeepers, staff who every day provided us with drinking water, gas, electricity and the firefighters always present on the front lines of fires and emergency evacuations and so many other professions. Conversely, did fear, excessive caution, over-cautiousness, over-reaction not contribute to aggravate the collateral consequences of the pandemic?

Like the “carers” who have risked their lives for the lives of others, with you I would also like to applaud the humanitarians whose primary vocation is to save lives and then to accompany them in their convalescence and towards autonomy. No one is obliged to be a humanitarian. It’s not a job, it’s a choice, even a vocation, a know-how, a way of being and taking risks. Nothing can be taken for granted for humanitarian aid workers, they must always overcome the ordeal and deserve the trust of the people and partners.

So, in all this, has the humanitarian community confined itself too much by yielding to media and political injunctions or more certainly to operational constraints? To tell the truth, the diversity of situations has led the humanitarian community to adapt on a case-by-case basis.

But one thing is certain. Now that containment has been lifted everywhere, that rescue aircraft are multiplying, that Africa has not experienced the tragedy announced by the WHO, but has not reached the peak of the pandemic, and that the economic and social consequences will very quickly amplify and aggravate existing emergencies, it is essential that in this new phase the humanitarian community gives the best of what it can do.

I regret to think that the humanitarian emergency ahead will be the same as before, only worse.

Give the best of humanitarian aid to deal with the coronavirus and other emergencies such as access to care for the wounded and sick, the fight against malnutrition and for food security, access to drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, basic necessities and housing, protection of prisoners, respect for international humanitarian law, complementarity between emergency aid and development.

I regret to think that the humanitarian emergency to come will be the same as before, only worse, that is to say the addition, if not the multiplication, of the emergencies of before plus the coronavirus and its economic and social consequences! If humanitarian confinement may have been momentarily imposed, getting out of it is just an imperious necessity in the field as well as at the associations’ headquarters. At a time when the “caretakers” are tirelessly pursuing their mission, when teachers and students are returning home, when workers are returning to the building sites, the humanitarian workers are there to carry out their mission without discontinuity and whatever the cost.

So what better examples than those of action. In this edition, the interview with Dr. Meguerditch Terzian, President of Médecins Sans Frontières-France, the interview with Jean Bosco Bazie, Director General of Eau Vive Internationale and the article by Alexandre Giraud, Director General of Solidarités International, are there to bear witness to this renewed commitment and the challenges to be overcome.

Alain Boinet.