IRIN’s Top Picks: White elephants, corruption and IEDs

Welcome to IRIN's weekly assortment of journalism and research about the humanitarian world that piqued our interest.

Five to read:

There can never be a humanitarian component to military action

Stephen Cornish, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Canada, calls into question the practice of mixing military and humanitarian missions. “There is simply no compatibility between humanitarian action and the use of military force in combat,” he says. “One has as its singular objective the alleviation of human suffering, regardless of the sufferer's identity or affiliation; the other, by definition, involves taking the side of one group against the other.” Given the core principles of humanitarian work are neutrality and independence, Cornish says linking aid with military delivery puts even more lives at risks.

The impact of IEDs on the humanitarian space in Afghanistan

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a growing threat to humanitarian operations working in conflict settings. This new Chatham House research paper outlines the challenges IEDs pose for aid delivery in Afghanistan, where between 2004 and 2014 122 (111 national and 11 international) staff working for a variety of aid organisations, including the UN, were killed or injured by IEDs. Authors Hannah Bryce and Henry Dodd note how as humanitarian work becomes more dangerous, its neutrality is at risk due to growing militarization.

Empty Ebola clinics in Liberia seen as misstep in U.S. relief effort

When the world finally began to take West Africa’s Ebola epidemic seriously, money poured into the affected countries. But how well was the cash spent? This New York Time article paints a sorry picture of the age-old story of funds being lavished on visible, donor-pleasing projects (in this case treatment centres) instead of more nimble and effective community responses like awareness-raising and prevention. According to US officials, only 28 Ebola patients have been treated at the 11 treatment units built by the country’s military in Liberia.

International community enabled South Sudanese corruption

When South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July 2011 there were big hopes for its future. Just a few years later it is back in a slough of civil war with humanitarian suffering on a massive scale that is largely undoing previous post-conflict development efforts. What went wrong and who is to blame? Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, explains the problematic role played by the United States and how corruption has blighted this new nation.

Iraq: ISIS escapees describe systematic rape

A disturbing but important read, this Human Rights Watch report chronicles the horrendous physical and sexual abuse meted out to women from the Yazidi community in Iraq by militants from the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS). As well as detailing the extent of the violence, the report also calls for more to be done to support the survivors, in terms of healthcare and psycho-social support, and for communities to help those affected re-integrate without stigmatization.

One to listen to:

Are we tired of talking about climate change?

This installment of the weekly BBC World Service programme Inquiry asks why media coverage of the issue appears to have dried up. It reviews the controversial 2009 Copenhagen summit and how that has shaped subsequent debate and negotiation. Guests include: Max Boycoff, from the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) at the University of Colorado, which tracks reporting; Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute who has taken part in many high-level meetings; and Robert Gifford, a professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria in Canada, who analyses why people are switching off.

From IRIN:

Photo feature: on the migration road in Serbia

Serbia has been hosting refugees from Croatia and Bosnia for the past 20 years, but was unprepared for a recent influx of new asylum seekers, the majority of them from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. This photo feature follows migrants and asylum seekers along the Western Balkan route which, is now the third most popular way of reaching the European Union.

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