Saturday, September 10, 2011

To Help-A Moral Obligation or Something Else?

"We were hungry and couldn't get work. We traveled as a family but soon after we arrived my husband died, leaving me a widow and my children without a father. 
I just need help — anything."

— Dainabo, a 30-year-old mother of three, who
arrived in Dadaab after walking for six days.

The situation in Somalia is getting worse. The United Nations has officially declared famine in five different regions of Somalia. According to Amnesty International, Somalia has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world, accounting for more than 50% of the country. Due to the drought, and unsuitable environment for living, most people are forced to move out. Many are migrating to refugee camps situated in nearby countries, like Kenya. As Dr. D’s post states, due to these massive shifts of people, these emergency camps are being filled quickly with increased amounts of people and fewer resources. The camp in Dadaab, Kenya, is host to 400,000 refugees. The place was designed for only 90,000 people.

The United Nations can only do so much. Their resources can assist only a fraction of those in turmoil. In times of need like this, many big non-profit organizations and companies are sending help through food, water, clothing, manpower, etc. The Helston-based charity has pitched nearly 3,000 ShelterBox tents and is ensuring that there are sanitary facilities and adequate water. Humanitarian Organizations are assisting with what they can. United States is also sending aid. But it still isn’t enough…

Such a situation brings a controversial thought to mind. Should we, as humans, be REQUIRED to help those in need? Morally, we all want to assist, and think about it, but should there be an external control over our intent to aid and support?

For most of us, this is a situation that speaks to us. We want to help those in need, but because of our busy schedules and external commitments, we tend to forget that such things are happening around the world. At times, some of may feel a moral obligation to help, and we send in a check to a charity and it makes us feel better. But is that it? We just think about it, make a minimal attempt to help, and move on?


Andrew B. said...

I think a paradox of choice may be at play here. There are so many different charities and nonprofit organizations in need of funds that most people have no idea where to begin giving. Governments, however, do have the specialists who know which situations are particularly threatening, and the resources to follow through on their recommendations. Funding for foreign aid, however, is incumbent upon tax revenue. As we seek to reduce the US' spending, we must be wary of cutting out aid to the very people who need it most.

Anonymous said...

I think you might have only raised parts of the issues as to why more help is not given to such people in need. Yes, people in safer societies become complacent, yet busy with their own lives; and forget to help people most in need. And, no doubt, cutting tax revenue makes it more difficult for the US Government to help the situation.

But, I do not know if people in a safe society giving their money or support, or even increased Government spending from the U.S., can really help this situation. As ArabianKnights said, there are hundreds of thousands of people in such camps.

The solution is yet to be seen. But, maybe it is time we consider other alternatives to helping such people, rather than throwing money at the problem.

Anonymous said...
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Andrew B. said...

True Ross, I don't think we would SOLVE the problem, but it could definitely help. I don't think "aid" involves handing out buckets of cash; typically the US funds highly efficacious and transparent nonprofits like Worldvision who are on the ground and can best achieve lasting change.

Regardless, even if it's not the most efficient use of public funds, I see no viable alternative. Support democracy? Infrastructure? These are far costlier and more difficult than setting up housing and food even for hundreds of thousands of people.

arabianknight said...

You guys bring up some great points!
Perhaps we can look at it as short term and long term solutions? Handing out money doesn't seem like the solution, but I'm not sure if advocating for democracy or infrastructure might actually be of any help either. Implementing democracy takes time; decades, if done correctly. I feel that time is of essence in a situation like this. Money might help in short term, and broader goals like democracy and infrastructure can be long term goals?

Anne said...

A lot of us so detached from those situations are at a loss for what we can do to help; and Ross is right to note that throwing money at the problem is not always the best option. Meanwhile, using funding to provide food and housing doesn't address the root of the problem. When we consider the case of a country like Colombia, where the guerrilla and paramilitary groups control up to 90% of the government (according to one statistic), how can true change be brought about? Must it start internally, with revolution? Infrastructure and democracy are costly, but rebuilding a country from the ground up might be the best long-term goal.