|Meeting the Humanitarian Challenge - UNV's Work Between Conflict and Development (United Nations Volunteers, 44 p.)|
|UNV humanitarian action in the field: Effort and impact|
Experience continues to show that it is often easier to identify the neediest and most vulnerable groups than it is to ensure that aid reaches them sufficiently and in time. Access can be a major problem, affected not only by logistics and physical constraints such as weather, but by social obstacles, interference, or corruption.
The long trek to safety can be a tragic and fatal one. Many displacees/refugees never make it - others may arrive in utter exhaustion. Vanya Kewley (UK), a former media and war correspondent, worked as a Field Officer with UNHCR in Rwanda in 1993, at the height of the influx of Burundi refugees into Rwanda. Within her role as field officer for the UNHCR Burundi Refugee Programme, she was able to use both her journalistic skills, in producing high standard field reports and in networking field information with donors and NGOs, and her strong organisational skills in ensuring that food distributions were on time, and in supervising health and vaccination programmes, carrying out censuses and registrations in the camps and working closely with local authorities and NGOs.
When Vanya Kewley first arrived in Butare in November 1993, the camps (which housed up to 70,000 refugees) were disorganised and undocumented. Both food and nonfood distributions were erratic and inadequate and there were frequent outbreaks of measles and dysentery, resulting in a high mortality rate. Three months after Vanya's arrival, UNHCR reported that the refugee camps had been well documented, emergency food and nonfood distributions were being carried out in an organised manner. Following her surveys, refugees had improved housing conditions and due to the extensive vaccination campaign she coordinated, mortality rates had been greatly reduced. Because of the close team spirit between the UNV Specialist, UNHCR and local and International NGOs, her work played a key role in the overall humanitarian assistance of UNHCR to Burundi refugees.
Following tragic floods which destroyed rice crops in Laos and reduced some local populations to dependency on food aid, a UNV specialist identified needy villages. Some affected families were in fact surviving by selling-off frogs, bamboo shoots and livestock to buy rice. As local coping mechanisms for harvest shortfalls, such as inter-family loans, selling off family goods, migrant remittances etc. were considerably strained, WFP rice was given as payment-in-kind for work undertaken to repair irrigation systems damaged in the storms.