Why should you make Humanitarian donations to an NGO?

Why should you make Humanitarian donations to an NGO?

Often anyone who donates for floods, earthquakes or tsunami does so soon after the natural disaster has struck. When organisations and state governments call for donations to respond, they respond.

And the givers are right.

There are people who have lost their homes, their belongings and the more unfortunate ones have lost their loved ones. People are in need of food and medical aid. Sanitation and hygiene is compromised; leaving women and girls most vulnerable. So yes, there is a need for those who are lucky enough to come forward and contribute generously to relief funds.

But what many givers do not understand is that response is the just the first stage. Once the initial response is over, the lengthier process of recovery, rehabilitation and rebuilding begins. And this needs money too!

This is the phase when people start returning to their homes or whatever is left of it. To damp walls and broken roofs. To spoilt furniture and mossy kitchens. To wells and hand pumps that are unfit to be used. To waterlogged and ruined fields where standing crops were washed away and now what is left is uncultivable. To cattle sheds where there isn’t any livestock left. To snakes and sometimes even the big cats!

So effectively, there is no home, no drinking water, no agriculture field to go back to, no livelihood, no livestock, and a whole lot of water-borne diseases. For the flood victims this is the second round of hell. It is important that donations keep coming so that houses can be rebuild, kitchen restocked, safe drinking water brought to the homes and livelihoods restored.

And it is particularly important for those from the marginalized communities – the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, differently-abled, single women and women-led households. They are often at the end of the line, if any aid comes in. Those from the dominant caste and communities in the village end up appropriating the aid for themselves. The power and political structures are in play. And the poor are pushed to the brink of utter deprivation after floods.


How Humanitarian Agencies Play an Important Role

This is where humanitarian organisations like Oxfam India play a crucial part. While researching for the book to mark the 10 years of Oxfam India, I visited Supaul district in Bihar in 2018. This was one of the worst affected — a ground zero — for the 2008 Kosi floods. Recalling the response and recovery phase of the Kosi floods, Shambhu Nath Shaw who played a crucial role during the response back then explained how the team had made sure that the marginalised communities were brought into the fold in the recovery phase.

Kosi brought in sand instead of silt. This rendered the fields uncultivable and they continue to be so even after 10 years. Those who could afford to, dredged the sand out of their fields. But most couldn’t. Carpenters and masons had lost their livelihood tools. Livestock and livelihood was lost. After a proper assessment it was decided that Oxfam India would provide livestock and livelihood tool kits. But this process needed to be inclusive and had to ensure that it reached out to the poorest and those who needed it the most.

A village committee was formed but it was far from perfect. The participation from the marginalised communities and women was found wanting. Extra effort was then made to make them the core of these committees. Meetings were held with women, men, marginalised communities, upper caste, and village panchayats to drive home the point that villages would be rebuild in equitable and equal manner.  

Village volunteers were selected from the village; they drew the first list of project participants (people who Oxfam India would reach out to specifically). As the lists started coming in, the team realised that it was influenced by the dominant caste and it needed to be revised. The caste structures are very strong in Bihar and so it was important that this situation was handled with utmost care.

Oxfam India and its partner NGOs started holding village meetings under Banyan and Peepal trees. People revere these trees; they believed that if they lied under the banyan tree, some ill fate would befall them. It was under the tree, that the team went through the list with them and asked them to judge for themselves if there was anyone who should not be on the list. People actually started coming up to them and saying how they didn’t need to be on the list and how someone else did. This trick worked.

In 2018, people still remembered Oxfam India. They called it ‘badi company’ then and they called it the same after a decade. Some showed the steel trunks that were given back then; a few still had the tools. Some of the raised handpumps were still around.  Back then, a seed fair was held for all and livestock was distributed to people who were on the list. They remembered Oxfam India from helping them back on their feet and for ensuring that they got their livelihood back.

A recovery phase is thus, required to not just bring back economic stability but also social stability. While the state does help restore normalcy to a large extent, organisations like Oxfam India ensure that they reach out to those who are marginalised and in need of help the most. And this it cannot do without the support of the donors — those fortunate enough not to lose their lives, their loved ones, and their livelihoods to a natural disaster.


Humanitarian Response and DRR

Oxfam India saves lives by building the resilience of communities to disasters and conflict

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