sustainability and humanitarian aid go hand in hand

Sustainability and Humanitarian Aid Go Hand In Hand

Sustainability and Humanitarian Aid Go Hand in Hand

Photo by shuang paul wang via iStock by Getty Images

Natural and anthropogenic disasters negatively impact a community’s ability to deal with human, material, monetary, and environmental fallout. As climate change and global conflict continue to limit our natural resources, spread disease, and drive mass migrations of refugees, populations struggle to survive.

However, humanitarian efforts help communities overcome their plight, and without their assistance, the hope for a sustainable future would be dim. Here are five ways humanitarian aid and sustainability go hand in hand.

1. Water Crisis

The water crisis continues to be one of the most pressing issues affecting nations worldwide. About 2 billion people lack safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion people do not have access to appropriate sanitation. The water crisis has led to an increase in water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera, and other severe and life-threatening conditions.

The humanitarian response to the water crisis is not only necessary, but it’s also dire. Programs like Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) focus on providing unrestricted access to clean water for drinking and bathing, as well as safe waste disposal and waste management. WASH recognizes access to safe water as a human right from an educational standpoint and teaches communities about proper hygiene practices and public health.

2. Health and Medicine

Sustainability and humanitarian aid have long been at the forefront of tackling the global health crisis, from health inequalities to natural disaster response to preventive care. More recently, humanitarian efforts have concentrated on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Humanitarian organizations like Doctors Without Borders have zeroed in on marginalized, remote communities to provide care and protection from the coronavirus. Teams of doctors, nurses, and medical aid volunteers advocate for equitable access to vaccines, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations.

Companies are also contributing aid to impoverished global populations during the pandemic, such as the biopharmaceutical industry, which utilizes purified, medical-grade water for COVID-19 vaccines, syringes, therapeutics, and tests for worldwide distribution.

3. Renewable Energy

When climate disasters strike, the impacts can have lasting effects on communities. For example, when Hurricane Maria pummeled through Puerto Rico in 2017, it crumbled the country’s infrastructure and knocked out power for a year.

To better assist communities in the wake of natural disasters, greater focus is given to humanitarian engineering and renewable energy. At its core, humanitarian engineering considers culture, strengths, and institutional structures to help communities rebuild better, stronger, and smarter.

By integrating engineering concepts with the installation of renewable technologies, humanitarian engineering becomes a driving force in providing a framework for climate change resilience, enhanced livelihoods, and supporting socio economic development. Most importantly, it allows communities to store clean energy for later use in an emergency.

4. Food Crisis

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 690 million people are hungry. This is around 8.9% of the global population. While climate change-induced droughts and increased flooding have disrupted agriculture in susceptible regions, prolonged conflicts have cut off people’s access to income, food production, and the food itself, as well.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the food crisis, and 45 million children have severe malnutrition worldwide. Whether it’s natural disasters, climate change, or war, humanitarian aid provides food assistance and boosts agricultural development.

Humanitarian organizations usually respond to the food crisis by purchasing and distributing food in an affected region and distributing food vouchers to those in need. Other activities to aid food insecurity may include prevention and treatment measures for malnutrition, sustainable agricultural development and management, education, and improving sanitation and water access.

5. Education

Regarding sustainability, one area of humanitarian importance is education. According to UN Women, women account for two-thirds of the world’s population of 796 million illiterate individuals. Additionally, the education gap for rural women has particularly dire consequences regarding health, poverty, and mortality.

While humanitarian aid is widely available to address the global education crisis, more needs to be done. The European Union, for example, implemented education aid programs for 10-12 months; however, the short duration failed to address children’s educational needs. Likewise, funding for education aid in crisis-affected countries is also lacking.

Education is an essential component of sustainable development. By concentrating humanitarian aid in the education sector, young people will learn the skills needed to challenge environmental, societal, and economic challenges while staying empowered to seek and develop solutions for a better future.

Photo by Anjuman Sharma via iStock by Getty Images

Aiding Sustainable Solutions for a Better Tomorrow

The link between sustainability and humanitarian aid is more apparent than ever. Short-term humanitarian aid interventions can help sustainable progress and climate change resilience. Although humanitarian work tends to address the current needs in poverty, economy, and social inequality, the work itself impacts long-term success in achieving sustainable solutions.

Author bio: Jane Marsh works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

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