Study of Humanitarian Aid Agencies Service Delivery

Stuck in no man’s land:people of nowhere are people of now here –
A study of humanitarian aid agencies’ service delivery to residents in Kara Tepe refugee camp in Lesvos.
DR Disaster Relief
EASO European Asylum Support Office
EU European Union
FMO Forced Migration Online
HA Humanitarian Assistance
HSA Humanitarian Support Agency
IDPs Internally displaced persons
IOM International Organisation for Migration
IOs International Organisations
IRC International Rescue Committee
MSF Médecins Sans Frontiers
NGOs Non-Governmental Organisations
RCRC International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
ROs Regional Organisations
UN United Nations
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees   
Since the twentieth century, the migration of refugees has been a significant and constant feature of the world order. There has been several factors causing its occurrence, including international wars, civil wars, the rise of fascism, decolonization, national liberation struggles and the creation of nation states (Bloch, 2002, p.1). During 1914-1918 World War I, millions of people were left homeless, fleeing their homelands to seek refuge, and the international community and governments responded by providing travel documents to those people who were the first refugees of the twentieth century (1951 UN Convention). However the flow of refugees did not stop there, but the numbers drastically increased after World War II (1939-1945), when millions were forced to resettle, be displaced or were deported (Guterres, 2011).

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While the refugee crisis is a phenomenon that has been around for many years, the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and other troubled countries have resulted in an unprecedented number of 65.3 million people around the world forcibly displaced from their homes. Among them are 21.3 million registered as refugees under UNHCR and UNWRA mandates, over half of whom are children (under 18 years old) (UNHCR, 2016a). Syrians make up, without a doubt, the largest refugee population in the world. The Syria conflict alone, known to be “the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time” (UN High Commissioner for Refugees in UNHCR, 2016b), has spawned 4.8 million refugees in neighbouring countries (predominantly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan), hundreds of thousands in Europe and 6,6 million displaced inside Syria (Mercy Corps, 2016; UNHCR, March 2016).

Figure 1: The increase of registered Syrian Refugees from almost zero in 2012 to 4.8 million in 2016 (source: UNHCR, 2016 Which UNHCR article? You need to specify)
According to Amnesty International’s assessment of October 2016, more than half of the world’s 21 million refugees are hosted in just ten low and middle-income countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.[1] Europe, however, hosts a share of 6% of the world’s refugee population (Check percentage of refugees in Europe in 2016, add source).
In 2015, over a million refugees and migrants made it to Europe by sea, with a majority arriving via the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece (UNHCR, 2015). Responding to the massive influx of refugees, several international humanitarian aid agencies established themselves on the Greek Islands to meet the pressing needs of the novel refugee and migrant population. However, it has been widely debated whether these aid agencies are effective in their service delivery and whether they fulfill the tasks they have set out to do. Despite the allocation of millions of dollars of funds to guarantee a decent living standard for the refugees and migrants in the Greek camps, reports reveal dire conditions, with a lack of the most basic livelihoods, such as edible food, basic sanitation services and education (Strickland, 2016; ?). Deeply moved by the horrifying images of human suffering in these camps, I chose to travel to Greece to volunteer in Kara Tepe Camp in Lesvos in the summer of 2016 to investigate the topic further. It is of great importance to examine the efficiency of these humanitarian aid agencies’ service delivery on the ground in order to build future humanitarian aid programs which adequately meet the needs of the vulnerable refugees and migrants in Lesvos.
1.1 Question and Motivation of Study
This dissertation sets out to answer the following research questions:
Primary question: To what extent are humanitarian service providing agencies operating in Kara Tepe camp managing to live up to their stated aims and guidelines?’
Secondary question: What are the obstacles to effective service delivery?
This dissertation is a reflective research based on my time spent volunteering with a humanitarian aid organisation, Humanitarian Support Agency (HSA)[2], in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece over the course of summer from June to September 2016. However, the area of research of humanitarian assistance to refugees, sparked my interest already in 2011, when the flow of thousands of Syrian refugees began to Jordan, my home country, following Syria’s descent into civil war. Jordan, a small yet strong Kingdom, surrounded by countries undergoing conflict, is a host of over 656,000 Syrian refugees (Amnesty International, 2016). Seeing the difficult suffering faced by the Syrian refugee population in my own region (Middle East) as well as in Europe strongly motivated me to gain a hands on experience of humanitarian aid work with refugees. Following, for my applied field experience[3], I chose to travel to Greece and join HSA as a volunteer in Kara Tepe camp in Lesvos; a refugee camp in the largest transit point in the East Mediterranean route, which is the first assistance site for refugees and migrants departing from Turkey to Europe (HSA, 2016).
During my time volunteering in Kara Tepe, I had the opportunity to work closely with humanitarian aid agencies operating in the camp, gaining insights into their day-to-day provision of services to the residents. It also allowed me to speak to and get to know several of the camp residents – refugees and migrants predominantly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – who often expressed their concerns and hardships of life in Kara Tepe.
In this dissertation, I aim to draw on this experience to investigate the humanitarian aid agencies’ services to refugees and migrants in Kara Tepe camp. More specifically, by comparing these aid agencies’ stated aims and guidelines to the real situation of refugees and migrants on the ground, I wish to examine where the agencies are failing at fulfilling their promises in providing adequate assistance to the camp residents. Furthermore, I aim to identify some of the apparent obstacles hindering these agencies’ effective service delivery.
I do not intend to generalise my results regarding humanitarian aid agencies’ service delivery in refugee camps as it would require a more comprehensive material than what my study is based upon. My ambition is rather to attempt to highlight the humanitarian aid situation in Kara Tepe and voice out the concerns and needs of the residents, drawing on their living situation in the refugee camp.
This study will be structured into five chapters. In chapter 2, I will give an overview of the living conditions of refugees and migrants in Greek camps. Here, I will also provide a set of definitions of the key terms adopted in this dissertation. In chapter 3, I will give a review of the existing literature on the humanitarian aid system. In this section, I will outline the theoretical foundations used in this study, including the UNHCR, IRC, Save the Children and HSA’s stated aims and guidelines in relation to the factors of water, sanitation, education, food and health care. In chapter 4, I will draw on my first-hand experience in Kara Tepe in order to spot the gaps between the stated aims and guidelines of the aid agencies and the real situation on the ground, based on the stories and interviews with the residents. Furthermore, the analysis will identify some of the apparent obstacles hindering these agencies’ effective service delivery. Finally, I will conclude by giving a summary of the main findings and their implications, and the possibility of suggesting further research on the topic.
1.2 Methodology & Material
The choice of method for this dissertation is a mixed study between an autoethnography approach which is a form of qualitative research[4], based on primary qualitative data collection, and a case study using Kara Tepe Camp as the case, in addition to secondary research on academic articles in relation to the humanitarian aid system, UN reports and newspaper articles on the topic. Moreover, I will look at the guidelines, aims and goals of three main agencies operating in camp, namely UNHCR, IRC and Save the Children. The material I have used for my analysis is predominantly based on material gathered through the interviews I have conducted with different refugees from the camp. For their safety and integrity, I have decided to keep their names anonymous and have given them pseudonyms/alias. These interviews that I have conducted are valuable and have provided me with the useful information and insights that are necessary to establish an adequate answer to the question. Moreover, the analysis is also based on my own lived experience through working in Kara Tepe camp.
1.3 Limitations of study
When researching the above questions a few limitations had to be considered. First, due to time and space restrains, I had to limit my data collection to the period of my stay in Greece between June and September 2016. The humanitarian assistance keeps developing in camp so there may be new improved services that did not exist back then, which would have been valuable to include in my research. Second, it has to be taken into consideration that the refugees interviewed are in a vulnerable position; hence they may not be able to fully reveal all truths for a public audience, and this is why for some questions, unfortunately, the answers were either very broad or unclearly answered, due to the sensitivity of the matter. Third, there are several possible factors to take into consideration when researching humanitarian assistance provided to refugees living in camps. However, due to space and time restraints, I have chosen to focus on three key humanitarian aid agencies and their services in Kara Tepe camp, namely UNHCR, IRC and Save the Children.
‘To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory…’ (Tennessee Office for Refugees)
2.1 Definitions of keywords
In our current era, more than 65 million people worldwide are displaced by force as refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to be recognized legitimately as a refugee, a person must be fleeing persecution on the basis of religion, race, political opinion, nationality…etc. However, the present factors around displacement are complex and multi-layered which in turn makes the protection based on a strict definition of persecution increasingly problematic and very challenging to implement (Zetter, 2015).
Between asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants there is an overlap and this can cause confusion; therefore, it is very important to distinguish the difference between the terms, and which term applies on the people in the camps in Greece specifically in Kara Tepe Camp.
Asylum seeker is: ‘a person who has applied for asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees on the ground that if he is returned to his country of origin he has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular social group. He remains an asylum seeker for so long as his application or an appeal against refusal of his application is pending’ (Mitchell, 2006). Principally, asylum seekers flee in fear of persecution because of the reasons stated in the definition, so they seek refuge in another country looking for safety, and until their asylum process is ongoing they are called asylum seekers, but once it is processed and the approval is given then they are given a refugee status.
In the literature on refugees, there have been many definitions of the term, but I found the following by the UNHCR to be the most inclusive. A refugee is someone who: “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…“ (Article 1, UN Convention, 1951).
They also added that the term refugee can be defined as: ‘… people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk‘ (UNHCR, 2016). But according to migration watch UK, they define a refugee as an asylum seeker whose application has been successful, i.e. that person fleeing war and conflict as defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The difference between asylum seeker and a refugee is very difficult to state as they are very similar. Basically, an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection and is waiting for his refugee status, but a refugee is someone who is recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be eligible to be a refugee (Phillips, 2011, p.2).

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Last but not least, migrant, as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrants is a : ‘person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national‘. Article 1.1 (a) states that migrants decision to move to these States is taken freely, because of personal convenience and without any external factor that might affect the decision (UNESCO, 2016).Thus, there has been a gap along the lines with the usage of the terminology, especially between the term refugee and asylum seeker.
People who have crossed the Mediterranean by paying organised criminals (smugglers) to get them across the borders are known as ‘irregular’ migrants, because they have not entered the EU legally (European Commission, 2016).
Humanitarian aid system (add definition)
Humanitarian aid system or humanitarian assistance is intended to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and after manmade crises and disasters caused by natural hazards as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for when such situations occur (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2016). Humanitarian assistance should be administered by the four key humanitarian principles which are: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence; these key principles are the fundamental principles of many NGOs including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (RCRC) (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2016).
Therefore, in the immediate area of conflict, the main goal is preventing human causalities but at the same time assisting displaced people and making sure they have access to the basic needs of survival which are water, sanitation, food, shelter, and health care (Branczik, 2004).
2.2 International and legal framework/ Humanitarian assistance and relief efforts – add more info
Humanitarian assistance is and has always been an extremely political activity. It always influenced the political economy of the recipient countries, and is influenced by the political considerations of donor governments (Curtis, 2001, p.3).
The effect of conflict on civilians can be directly or indirectly through the so called complex emergencies. The primary aim in any immediate area of conflict is preventing causalities and making sure that everyone has access to the basic rights for surviving, which are water sanitation, food, shelter, and health care. In addition, the priority is usually to assist displaced people and try to prevent the spread of conflict, support relief work and create a space for rehabilitation (Branczik, 2004).
Complex humanitarian emergencies are defined by five collective characteristics: first, the deterioration or complete collapse of central government authority; second, ethnic or religious conflict leading to human abuse; third, episodic food insecurity that leads to mass starvation; fourth, macroeconomic collapse that involves unemployment and decrease in GDP per capita; last and the most important focal characteristic is having mass population movements of displaced people and refugees that have escaped a conflict or in search for a better life (Natsios, 1995, p.405).
Natsios stated that there are three sets of institutional actors that respond to the above emergencies in a so called complex response system that evolved over the years. These institutional actors are NGOs, UN organisations and the International Red Cross movement (Natsios, 1995, p.406).
These sets of actors were reckoned in the 1990s; however in the 20th century, the academics understanding and the literature on the main actors have widened, and have included more detailed actors. For example, according to Branczik (2004), there are four main actors that represent the humanitarian aid sector:

International (IOs) and Regional Organisations (ROs); the most important actor in the provision of humanitarian aid is the UN.
Unilateral assistance, as well as multilateral, i.e. the countries provide direct aid unilaterally through their own foreign-aid or part of their foreign policy.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which play a key role in the provision of humanitarian aid, either directly or as being a UN partner.
The Military and its main role is to make sure to create a safe environment where other agencies can operate from, they can also directly provide aid when necessary in cases where the IOs and NGOs are unable to perform or deal with security issues, and it can act as a managing body for the humanitarian relief process.

It is important to stress that in order to have a successful humanitarian relief effort, effective leadership and coordination should be present to avoid conflicting activities and duplications of projects and so forth. The UN is the agency that acts as the coordinator in most cases (Branczik, 2004).
In addition to the UN, there are other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that also respond to complex humanitarian emergencies and work together with the UN.
The humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts (HA/DR) had faced a major challenge in terms of that the diverse information and knowledge are distributed and owned by different organisations, and are not efficiently organised and utilized during HA and DR operations (Zhang et. Al, 2002).
Obstacle to the humanitarian aid agencies
Moreover, there have been other factors that are defined as great challenges that have affected the performance of the humanitarian aid agencies, and two of those are efficiency and effectiveness. For example and according to Branczik (2004), if the assistance is needed in a conflict zone that is located in a poor area of infrastructure then it would be impossible and dangerous for the humanitarian agencies to deliver aid, this leads to some beneficiaries being neglected due to that (Branczik, 2004). Another important point is the increasing number of agencies operating on the ground, this causes the struggle to obtain accurate intelligence, and when it is difficult to obtain accurate intelligence, the unpredictability of humanitarian crises causes effective management and coordination within the agencies to become difficult, therefore, and in order to solve this difficulty, agencies should improve gathering and sharing the information by improving the management and coordination within them (Branczik, 2004).
Furthermore, political dilemmas play an important part in influencing the performance of humanitarian agencies. As Branczik (2004) and Stockton (2006) call it, humanitarian alibi, which refers to the fact that most humanitarian crises are caused by bad governance and the bad performance of the humanitarian agencies is also affected by deliberate acts by governments to frustrate humanitarian access to, and deny the existence of the people that are in need of protection. It is therefore defined as: ‘the misuse of the humanitarian idea and humanitarian workers by governments eager to do as little as possible in economically unpromising regions’ (Branczik, 2004; Stockton, 2006).
2.3 Aims and guidelines of humanitarian aid agencies in Kara Tepe camp
UNHCR Legal Framework
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly was published in 1948 and is still used and relevant today as it was back then. The main reason for issuing it was to declare the rights and freedoms to which every human being is equally and inalienably entitled (UDHR, 1948, p. iii).
UDHR is a promise to everyone and not country-specific or for a certain era or social group, it is a promise to all the economic, social, political, cultural and civic rights whatever colour, race, ethnicity they are, gender, whether they are disabled or not, citizens or migrants, and no matter what creed, age or sexual orientation (UDHR, 1948, p. v + vi).
Abuse of Human Rights did not diminish when the UDHR was adopted, but at least more people have gained more freedom, and violations were not permitted. According to part 1 of article 14 of UDHR:’ 1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution‘, onwards the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted and entered into force on 22 April 1954, and is now called the centrepiece of international refugee protection, and its amendment the 1967 Protocol which removed all geographic limitations to include everyone and make it universal (UN Convention, 1951, p. 2).
Refugees are considered part of the most vulnerable people in the world; and for that reason, the UN has issued the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to help protect them (Guterres, 2011).
The UNHCR works under the United Nations General Assembly and its goal is to seek international protection and permanent solutions for refugees. It was established in 1950 with a core mandate to protect the refugees. However, nowadays it is responsible for a slightly larger group that does not only include refugees but also asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons or migrants (UNHCR, 2014).
Although the protection of refugees is the primarily the responsibility of States, however the main partner that works closely with the governments is the UNHCR and has been doing so throughout the past 50+ years (Jastram & Achiron, 2001, p.5).
UNHCR aims
Specify here what these conventions say about humanitarian assistance to refugees. And specify what they should do in Greece/kara tepe (Provide legal advice, information about asylum processes, housing tents, medical care).
IRC – aims and guidelines in lesvos
The IRC is the only international aid organization working on all fronts of the crisis. In Europe: The IRC was one of the first aid organizations to assist the thousands of refugees arriving each day on the Greek island, Lesbos. IRC aid workers continue to work around the clock in Greece and in Serbia to provide essential services, including clean water and sanitation, to families living in terrible conditions. And we are helping new arrivals navigate the confusing transit process and understand their legal rights.
Education is the most powerful tool for children, their families and communities in order to survive and recover from a crisis or a conflict; it enables people to drive their own health, safety and prosperity (IRC, 2016).
According to the IRC goals that they have published, they state that poor access to education can affect people’s chance to improve their lives, which is why they provide children, youth and adults with educational opportunities which therefore keeps them safe and learn the skills they need to survive and succeed (IRC, 2016).
Moreover, the IRCs main goals in regards to education are the following:

Ensure that children aged 0 to 5 develop cognitive and social-emotional skills
Ensure that school-aged children develop literacy, numeracy and social-emotional skills
Ensure that youth and adults have high levels of livelihood, literacy, numeracy and social-emotional skills
Ensure that children, youth and adults have regular access to safe and functional education services (IRC, 2016).

Save the children – aims and guidelines
Save the children’s main priority in Greece and especially in Lesvos is to protect the children that are in refugee camps, and to ensure that most importantly they are physically safe and have enough food and good shelter. Apart from distributing the basics, they claim to have started providing items such as sanitary pads, soap, shampoo, toilet paper and simple food items such as crackers and tea (save the children, 2015). However, since their priority is protecting children, they have also met with national charities in Greece to identify child protection needs, and have worked on transporting the new arrivals to the island to different registration points, to make sure that families and unaccompanied children to do not have to walk 70km to register (save the children, 2015).
Asylum Process
“Give me the money to pay a smuggler and I’ll go back to Syria right now. There the death is quick. Here we are dying slowly.”
In this chapter, the theoretical foundations of humanitarian aid discussed above will be applied to the case of aid agencies operating in Kara Tepe camp. First I I will give a brief overview of the situation in Kara Tepe according to my own lived experience and reflection there during summer. Second, I will compare and contrast the agencies stated aims and guidelines to the real situation on the ground in Kara Tepe in order to clarify to what extent they manage to live up to their words. I will then underline some of the key obstacles currently hindering the organisation’s effective service delivery to the residents.
Before arriving to Lesvos, I had no expectations of how the situation would be there. All I had in mind was the image often portrayed to us by the media about the refugee camps, which is one an image of violence and chaos, and I thought our task as volunteers would solely be to only distribute food and clothes as it was mentioned on the organisation’s website.
However, when I arrived to the island, nothing was as I imagined it to be. In fact, Kara Tepe was a well-organised camp, and our job as HSA volunteers with HSA was to distribute food and clothes to families in camp, but it was done through a well thought out system. We had the meals delivered to the resident families’ door- to-door to their housing units in teams. The residents themselves were also part of the distribution teams, depending on what area they lived in as they were more familiar with the people of the camp than the volunteers residents. Moreover, we also distributed clothes by giving the residents tickets for monthly appointments. This system has indeed created a harmony in the camp, and a sense of belonging to a community.
A very important factor that played a huge role for me while in Kara Tepe was the language. Arabic is my mother tongue, so it was easy for me to communicate with most of the refugees which had come to Lesvos from Syria and Iraq. Consequently, I therefore created a special bond with them and they turned to me to translate when misunderstandings or problems occurred in the camp. Being the only staff speaking their language, I felt that it became my duty to voice their feelings and opinions in everyday situations, being the only staff speaking their language, and I believe this was why I allocated a leading role in the team from the outset. My boss saw how the refugees turned to me for help as I could voice their concerns, and assigned me as a team leader shortly after I arrived.
As I gained an understanding of the family’s needs, my duties did not just involve the clothing distribution part, but also comprised on the task of improving the existing system to avoid stress and queues. This project was successful and it led the UNHCR to ask to publish our standard of procedures to the benefit of other organisations operating in the camp, and we got praised by the camp management for increasing the safety and dignity of the refugees residing in there which are referred to as residents of Kara Tepe.
It is important to stress that the refugees living in camps are human beings just like everyone else. Fleeing wars and conflicts, being homeless, does not make them any different from anyone. They had normal lives in their home countries when the war forced them to leave everything and flee, and they are often well educated and skilled. Unfortunately, the way the refugees are forced to live in camps portray them in a very bad way, that everyone including myself had our own assumptions towards them due to the situation.
It has been my privilege to have known and live among the refugees that I call my friends and family now for three months in Kara Tepe, and therefore I had to give this background of my time spent in camp as a tribute to

Benefits and Challenges of Mutual Aid Agreements

Mutual Aid Agreements


 Mutual aid agreements are vital keys to the response to any natural disaster, man-made disaster, or terrorist event. Most state and local governments do not have all of the equipment and manpower to respond to every kind of event that could be envisioned or planned for. Mutual aid agreements allow for state and local governments to assist each other across jurisdictional lines. What one town has for equipment may benefit the next town over during a flooding event. The flooded town may be able to help the other town respond a suspicious package with their bomb squad. Mutual aid assists jurisdictions not only with equipment and supplies put with man power and expertise. This paper will spell out how mutual aid agreements are truly beneficial and smart investment in teamwork and disaster response for all levels of government. This paper will also explain the differences in the various forms of mutual aid agreements and some of the liabilities associated with entering into agreements like these. This paper will also explain that mutual aid agreements are not limited to governments. Private companies and non-profit groups are quite often called upon to provide assistance in response to emergencies and natural disasters. Nothing proves the American can-do attitude more than the response to a large scale emergency. September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in United States’ history but it proved to be a benefit when it comes to developing emergency response plans all across the country.


We live in a country that faces natural disasters like varied wild fires, flooding, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. We face man-made disasters like, plane crashes, train crashes, nuclear meltdowns, chemical spills, oil spills, bridge collapses and others. We also face security threats like terrorism, prison riots, protests, border incursions, cyber-attacks, electric grid attacks, or even election meddling. Not many jurisdictions (except the New York City government) could handle all of these events let alone a few of these. For most jurisdictions, mutual aid agreements are a vital part of disaster and terrorism responses. From federal, state, and local governments none will have all of the equipment and resources necessary to respond to all of these events. The Federal government may have all of the resources but when time is of the essence, state partners could step in, instead of moving personnel and equipment across the country. Mutual aid agreements are not one size fits all style agreements. Mutual aid agreements may be as simple as a memorandum of understanding all the way up to an international agreement that two countries may enter into. In an emergency, governments, agencies, companies, and regular people want to help in any way they can. Some emergencies are overwhelmed with voluntary responses from all of what was previously listed. It is, however, better to be able to know exactly what coming to help and what exactly will be available to the victim of the emergency. Planning is probably the most important part of emergency response. Mutual aid agreements are an excellent example of response planning.


 Mutual aid agreements are pretty self-descriptive in title. Mutual aid agreements, are simply agreements between two or more organizations, whether governmental, non-profit, or private companies, to provide support during or after a catastrophic event like a natural disaster, terrorism event, other large scale emergency. To participate in a mutual aid agreement an entity would need to be willing to supply one thing, resources. These resources can be physical resources like response or rescue vehicles, food, medicine, or supplies, or the most invaluable resource to any emergency event, personnel. In post event responses of a large scale the local jurisdiction is going to need a lot of help. The greatest need will not be for equipment but most likely will be in the form of personnel. People don’t realize that when local governments are affected by a natural disaster or by a terroristic event, the local first responders have most likely been affected personally. September 11th may not be the best example of this but if something like that would have happened in a smaller city, the fire department and police department would need assistance for nothing more than funeral attendance. Working in local law enforcement, I have discovered nothing means more to a local jurisdiction than when personnel is offered to police the victim jurisdiction while their first responders are allowed to attend the funerals of their fallen. I have never seen that in a mutual aid agreement, but mutual aid agreements clear the way for legal jurisdictional limitation to be navigated so out of jurisdiction law enforcement officers can legally police out of their legal home.

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 An excellent example of a successful mutual aid agreement is the Florida Sheriff’s Association’s Task Force for Mutual Aid. The Florida Sheriff’s Association has two mutual aid agreements in place as of 2013, “One agreement was for disaster assistance, such as floods and other natural disasters. The other agreement involved operational assistance and voluntary cooperation that addresses other mutual aid needs, such as ad hoc operations that cross jurisdictional lines.” (Florida Sheriffs Association, 2018) The Florida Sheriff’s Association provided a large scale response under these mutual aid agreements in response to Hurricane Michael that made land fall in the Florida Panhandle in 2018. For weeks, Florida Sheriff’s Deputies patrolled the streets of the hardest hit areas to provide respite for the local first responders to be able to get their families and homes in order. My home agency provided twelve to fifteen deputies to include supervisors for almost a month. Our Mobile Command Center, an 18-wheeler, basically served as a police station for a township in the pan handle. The Mobile Command Center was able to accept phone calls, provide a radio hub, and an air-conditioned work space foe the men and women answering calls. Our agency was able to send these assets almost immediately upon request because of the standing mutual aid agreements through the Florida Sheriff’s Association. In the event of a natural disaster in Florida, statute supports mutual aid agreements in that the declaration of a disaster loosens paperwork requirements. According to Florida statute, “In the event of a disaster or emergency such that a state of emergency is declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252, the requirement that a requested operational assistance agreement be a written agreement for rendering of assistance in a law enforcement emergency may be waived by the participating agencies for a period of up to 90 days from the declaration of the disaster.” (23.1225 Mutual Aid Agreements, 2018) That makes navigating responses much easier for local first responders.

 Mutual aid agreements are developed in advance of an event to ensure planning is conducted between the agencies that are participating in the agreement. As mentioned earlier, without planning, no agreement will be successful. The time to plan is not a week in advance of a hurricane making land fall but instead, during the hurricane off season where jurisdictions can truly identify their assets, their needs, and their abilities without the pressure of a looming storm. Not all mutual aid agreements will be the same. Mutual aid agreements in Florida will be different than those in Oregon for example. Oregon most likely will never face a category 5 hurricane but they could easily face a strong earthquake or a large scale forest fire. A sample mutual aid agreement from the Oregon State Fire Marshal, “encourages Oregon departments that respond outside their jurisdictions to enter into formal mutual aid agreements” because “certain disasters have the potential of outstripping the capacity of any community to effectively protect life and property.” (Mutual Aid, 2004) Nothing could be more true that disasters can quickly exhaust local jurisdictions of their assets, supplies, and personnel. Mutual aid agreement definitely serves as a force multiplier. Maybe just as important is that the additional personnel respond quickly to the affected area. Mutual aid agreements should spell out exactly how the assistance can arrive and ensure that there are no slowdowns to their response or their post response specifically ensuring the responding personnel get receive the proper compensation. There has been discussion about the reimbursement for the responders from my agency but that is a Federal Emergency Management Agency funding issue and not a Florida Sheriff’s Association mutual aid agreement issue.

 According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) there are six recognized types of agreements and a general category of agreements called “other.” FEMA lists agreement types as Automatic Mutual Aid, Local Mutual Aid, Regional Mutual Aid, Statewide/Intrastate Mutual Aid, Interstate Agreements, and International Agreements. Automatic Mutual Aid agreements are established with a contract. Automatic Mutual Aid are much like a sheriff’s office assisting a smaller police department within the same county or a county fire department responding inside a municipality to help with a multiple alarm fire. Local Mutual Aid agreements are agreements between neighboring jurisdictions. These agreements require a formal request for assistance before aid can be provided. Regional Mutual Aid agreements are agreements formed by multiple jurisdictions in a similar geographical area. Statewide/Intrastate Mutual Aid agreements are organized through the state government. These agreements can involve state and local governments within the state and can incorporate nonprofit organizations and private business into the statewide plan. Interstate Agreements allow for the use of assistance from out of state. These agreements take advantage of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to manage the assistance requests. International Agreements are agreements between the United states and other countries to respond to huge disasters or terrorism events. The United States has sent law enforcement assistance in the form of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist in international terrorism events. The United States has also sent nuclear experts to assist in Japan when the Fukushima Nuclear Plant started to leak. The category “other” encompasses many forms of mutual aid agreements. Memorandums of understanding (MOU) fall into this category. Memoranda of understanding are, “agreements that define areas of understanding between two parties. They outline each party’s planned course of action, although actions taken by either party are not contingent on any action taken by the other. In some states, MOU are legally binding and can serve as valid contracts.” (Lessons Learned Information Sharing, 2018) I became very familiar with MOU’s in 2012, my county experienced heavy rains and flooding resulting in the main road that connects our jail was completely flooded out. We had to develop framework MOU’s to ask neighboring counties to hold our inmates for us and to ask the school board to use their school busses to evacuate the jail if necessary. Luckily, the sewer system did not fail so we were able to keep the inmates in our jail, but the MOU would have been used to allow for this assistance.

 There are legal issues with any type of agreement where personnel are shared across jurisdictional lines, specifically across state lines. Law enforcement officers are certified to enforce the laws of their state. When state lines are crossed then law change. That must be taken into consideration. In a large scale medical events, health care practitioners have licensure issues too. Mutual aid agreements that cross state lines, “should reconcile that practitioners licensed in one political jurisdiction retain the authorization to work at the level of their license or certification in other political jurisdictions as a part of the response.” (National Incident Management System Guideline for Mutual Aid, 2017) Many leaders will say that we should respond to the emergency then worry about the logistics later but in our litigious society planning in advance is definitely more beneficial.


 The benefits to participating in mutual aid agreements are very clear. There is no way, again unless you are New York City Government, where a local jurisdiction can possess all of the physical assets and the personnel to respond to a catastrophic event without the help of others. That being said, even New York City received an incredible amount of help during the events of September 11, 2001. Local governments operate mutual aid agreements every day. There are many jurisdictions that have fire departments that respond to fires and emergency medical service events because they are closest, not because a county line says another station should respond. This year, Florida proved their Florida Sheriff’s Association mutual aid agreements were very beneficial in the statewide response to the catastrophic Hurricane Michael response. Law Enforcement from all over the state helped the panhandle stabilize by providing law enforcement infrastructure and law enforcement personnel to provide services to the affected area. The ability to provide those services and infrastructure allowed for local officials to tend to their own families and property reducing the stress of those affected. All mutual aid agreements need to be well thought out and planned to include ensuring licensing and certifications are recognized when crossing state jurisdictional lines. Planning these things out in advance will prevent law suits and other complaints during and after the assistance event. Pre-event planning is the absolute key to success.


 Writing about mutual aid agreements was not the easiest thing to do. Having lived through the response for Hurricane Michael from afar as an administrator supplying personnel, to planning for a facility evacuation during a flood to include borrowing school busses and developing skeleton memoranda of understanding just in case, to studying to overall response to other large scale events allows for me to stay focused on the mission at hand. The ultimate goal for any first responder is to keep their community safe, their co-workers safe, and to save property. Planning for these potentially catastrophic events will allow for the greatest protection of life and property. Using previous events and previous failures as catalysts to developing and implementing solid mutual aid agreements is paramount for all of our successes. The National Incident Management System Guideline for Mutual Aid document is an excellent resource for any jurisdiction looking to develop or fine tune their current mutual aid agreements. This document provides, “guidance on different types of mutual aid agreements, the key elements of a mutual aid agreement, and the key elements of mutual aid operational plans used for implementation.” (National Incident Management System Guideline for Mutual Aid, 2017) No document will provide all the answers. Leadership is necessary for all jurisdictions to be successful during an emergency. Without true leadership all plans will fail. As we have all heard throughout our careers “If you fail to plan you plan to fail” and when you are leading a first responder organization “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part” cannot be uttered because as first responders, all emergencies are ours to manage. Planning in advance goes a long way in our successes.



23.1225 Mutual Aid Agreements. (2018). Florida State Statutes. Florida, United States: Florida Government.

Florida Sheriffs Association. (2018, November 24). Retrieved from

Lessons Learned Information Sharing. (2018, November). Mutual Aid Agreements: Types of Agreements. United States: US Department of Homeland Security.

Mutual Aid. (2004, March). Mutual Aid. Oregon, United States: Oregon Government.

National Incident Management System Guideline for Mutual Aid. (2017, November). FEMA.


Zambia and Genetically Modified Food Aid

Background Information

 Genetically modified (GM) food is food that has been altered at DNA level by genetic engineering with purposes of increasing food production and sources. GM organisms are also able to lower food production costs. Ever since its first introduction, GM food has been actively studied for its safety to consumers. Debatable topics have also been brought up regarding such issue even though there studies indicating that GM food is safe to eat as it will not introduce diseases such as cancers or allergies. As a result, in a study conducted in 2003, the researchers found that up to 35% of consumers refused to buy food that had been derived from GM organisms due to the belief that GM food was harmful to use [1]. A recent research in 2017, after multiple comparisons of different aspects, pointed out that there was no potential harm from consuming GM food [2]. 

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Unfortunately, Zambia, an underdeveloped country in south-central Africa, let millions of its people suffer from severe hunger by refusing to be helped with GM food [3]. The Zambian government, besides the doubt that GM organisms would introduce contamination to the country’s farm crop seeds, concerned that the GM food would introduce negative health effects to the population. The lack of food is only one of many problems that Zambia needs to face.

Other problems that the Zambian government needs to deal with are corruptions, the lack of natural resources to grow crops, and low productivity despite its rapid population growth rate [3]. These problems combined undoubtedly contribute to food and nutritional insecurity. Nonetheless, the government keeps refusing to accept the GM food aid.

Current Situation

Besides the aforementioned problems, the iron triangle, the largest food aid donor in the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations, seems to also contribute to the complication in the food insecurity in Zambia. The iron triangle refers to the administration of U.S. food aid which consists of three major stakeholders: nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), shippers, and agribusiness. The problem in Zambia became more complicated because of the imbalance in administration of the three parties leading to ineffectiveness and mistakes in food aid distribution. As a result, the administration was accused of using the aid system to benefit its own parties. In addition, WFP has no specific policy for food aid containing GM organisms [3]. This further complicates the problem. 

Simply speaking, the mission of U.S. food aid is to stop world hunger. Although the mission has been partly accomplished, it is still far from its original goals [4]. The mission has been evaluated poorly due to impracticality and uncertain future. It has been hard to keep up with the set goals because many things change annually such as quantity, politics, and availability of food aid [4]. Thus, a clear and effective policy for the iron triangle is one of the most important aspects to update to make the goals more realistic and achievable, and Zambia, as well as other malnourished countries, may benefit from such changes.

Prioritizing Issues

 According to the case study, Zambia denied the food aid because of three root causes: skepticism about GM food, the imbalance in administration of the iron triangle, and unclear policy regarding GM food from WFP. Zambian government doubted that GM organisms would bring negative consequences. First, it believed that GM food would have harmful effects to its people as it would potentially cause allergies, cancers, and other diseases. Second, GM organisms would create an imbalance for the environment in the long run due to cross-contamination because GM organisms would eventually dominate over GM-free organisms. This domination would eventually cause a disparity in the ecosystem. In addition, Zambia and several other countries refused the food aid offer because they believed that the U.S. food aid had some shady policies which were used to mostly benefit the members of the iron triangle [3].

 The most important problem is the policies of the U.S. food aid, especially within the iron triangle, which would not match the international policies. The second most important issue is the unclear policy regarding GM food from the WFP. However, as the largest donor, changes in policy of the U.S. food aid program will determine the actions of the WFP. The third most important problem that should be focused on first is the doubt of negative effects that GM food will bring. This doubt potentially comes from the lack of necessary education in Zambia. Nonetheless, for an excellent solution to stop the famine in Zambia and other southern African countries, a change in policy of U.S. food aid program should be the most needed.

Analyzing Alternatives

 There have been several attempts to solve the problem regarding the rejection of GM food aid. Specifically, in 2003, President Bush gave a speech to discourage the skepticism about GM food. Another effort to solve this issue was the proposal of purchasing food directly in Africa instead of having the food aid shipped from the United States to the African countries who were facing famine. Unfortunately, the proposal was eventually rejected [3].

 A theoretical perspective that could be applied to a solution was the change in structure of agricultural industry in the United States so that the surplus production was essentially eliminated. With this change, the government could work on other methods that offered benefits to both the United States and malnourished countries in southern Africa [3].

 An alternative method proposed by Falkner and Gupta shed some light on this problem. The conflict between the United States and the European Union regarding biotechnology regulatory contribute mostly in the low acceptance rate GM food aid in many southern African countries. The United States leans towards permissive approach which encourages the use of GM food if there is no evidence of potential risks provided by scientific studies. On the contrary, the European Union leans towards restrictive approach which discourages the use of GM food because the risks are still unknown. The authors propose that the globalization of biotechnology should form an international convergence in regulatory of GM food by combining the permissive and restrictive approaches into new policies which can remove the conflict between the United States and the European Union [5].  


 The most practical recommendation was provided by Falkner and Gupta. First, the United States-European Union conflict in regulatory regarding GM food should be removed. Second, due to the globalization of biotechnology, a convergence in policies must be established. This convergence can be formed by funding more in scientific studies about biotechnology, especially in GM organisms. These studies would focus mostly on the harms and benefits of agricultural genetic engineering, and the new policy should be established based on these harms and benefits. In the fight of hunger and poverty specifically, these policies should boost up the acceptance rate of GM food aid in poor African countries [5].

Thanks to this approach, if the benefits outweigh the risks as results of the scientific studies, such restrictive attitude of the European Union can be removed. The convergence in policies also requires the United States to change its policy regarding GM food aid. Thus, the changes in policy within the iron triangle must also be made so that the act of donating GM food would benefit both the United States and the malnourished African countries. Notably, the change in attitude of the European Union alone will significantly convince the southern African countries, such as Zambia, to accept the GM food aid.

Establishing an Action Plan

 Realistically, there are five specific steps which can be carried out in nine years to achieve the desired goals. First, the United States and the European Union must come to an agreement to mutually fund for scientific studies on the harms and benefits of GM food. This will take no more than three years. These researches can provide results by 2021 if the project starts in 2018. Second, in one year, both parties must modify their policies so that their ends meet; in other words, they must establish a convergence in policies by 2022. Third, both parties must present their new policies to the WFP of the United Nations by 2023. Fourth, the European Union must convince the southern African countries to accept the GM food aid by 2026. This can be hard to achieve as it requires time for people to understand the scientific evidence and remove their restrictive attitude towards GM food. Last, but not least, the United Nations must globally implement these policies as international guidelines for GM food aid by 2027.


 In my opinion, the case of Zambia and GM food is very complex because we must consider all political, financial, and global health perspectives. This is a long-term plan which requires lots of resources. Nonetheless, Zambia and other southern African countries will no longer be malnourished once the problem is solved using the proposed methods.

 Compared to Zambia, Vietnam, another underdeveloped country, is open-minded about GM food. As a result, although Vietnam is a poor and politically corrupt country, famine rarely exists thanks to its acceptance and expansion of GM organisms [6]. The most significant contribution to its success is the clarity in its policies regarding GM food. Notably, this set of policies allows agricultural biotech companies from other countries to work in Vietnam so that both the people of Vietnam and these companies will benefit [6]. As a result, Vietnam has established its own long-term nutritional security thanks to these policies.


Evaluation of Humanitarian Aid Efforts of Natural Disasters


The United Nations is an international organization which was established in 1945 and currently consists of 193 member states. According to UN Charter, its aim is to uphold global peace and security, cultivate/strengthen relations between countries, develop cooperation between countries to solve economic, social or humanitarian issues.

The fundamental structure of the non-refugee humanitarian coordination system was laid out by General Assembly resolution in 1991. However, this was revised in 2005, under the ‘Humanitarian Reform Agenda’. The major element introduced was the cluster system.

The cluster system consists of discrete organizations, some part of UN and some non-UN organizations which include intergovernmental, non-governmental, private sector and national partners. Each of these is allocated a specific sector of humanitarian action (water, health, shelter, agriculture, etc) to act in case of disasters. These sectors are delegated by the IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee), ensuring clarity of the roles and responsibilities of each organization to ensure maximum coordination, reduce duplication of projects and allow resources to be shared. This system’s first implementation was in 2005 and since been used in 30 countries worldwide.

























Figure 1: The UN’s Cluster System – Diagrammatically illustrated; Image courtesy: UNOCHA HumanitarianResponse, 2019, link 13 in bibliography





Examples of humanitarian responses used in real life disasters will be used in this essay to show the positive and negative aspects of the cluster system of the UN. (The positive/negative aspect will be bolded and the disaster example will be underlined for easy identification)

In the Myanmar’s Nargis Cyclone, which occurred on 27th of April 2008, a total of 11 clusters were activated – Agriculture (FAO), Early Recovery (UNDP), Logistics (WFP), Protection (UNHCR), Emergency Shelter (IFRC), Health (WHO/MERLIN), Nutrition (UNICEF/GOUM), WASH (UNICEF), Emergency Tele-communication (WFP) and Food (WFP) (Kauffman & Kruger, 2010).

1 major negative aspect of the cluster system is it caused reluctance of the government to accept international aid. The UN cluster system calls for international aid from multiples nations/organizations. Governments are often disinterested in openly receiving assistance from these organizations due to political sensitivities, mainly to portray the image that the nation can manage disasters on its own to prevent criticisms from the political opposition parties. Also, ‘there is a particular resistance to the presence of foreign military personnel as it could be seen as an infringement of sovereignty’. (ABC News, 2018; directly quoted from link 1 in bibliography)

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Exemplifying this issue with cluster systems, relief actions were halted in Myanmar after the Nargis Cyclone as its military personnel denied large-scale international assistance. ‘US President George W Bush said that an angry word should condemn the way Myanmar’s military rulers were handling the aftermath of such a catastrophic cyclone’ (Wikipedia,2019; directly quoted from link 2 in bibliography). Only 10 days after the Nargis cyclone were the efforts accepted by the government of Myanmar. This is comparable to Bali’s 2018 earthquake, where the Indonesian government instructed foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone, limiting the help offered by the cluster system. The set of rules put forward by the government is depicted below.




















Figure 2: Rules for humanitarian relief – National Disaster Management Authority Indonesia, 2018 (Photo courtesy: ABC News, 2018)

The Australian Council for International Development’s chief, Marc Purcell, informed media he was surprised by this limitation on humanitarian relief due to the political sensitivity.

Also, the ‘Government of Myanmar was hesitant handing out visas to international aid workers and restricted in giving access to international aid workers….. restrictive in giving access for aid workers to travel to the Delta region which was one of the regions that was worst hit and this created difficulties in organizing and coordinating the response’. Also, ‘due to visa restrictions, OCHA was a late arrival to Myanmar’  (Trude Kvam Ulleland, 2013; directly quoted from link 3 in bibliography)

This shows three things. Firstly, the negative aspect of cluster system where governments are hesitant to allow it due to political sensitivities, delaying disaster response which costs lives. Secondly, how prominent of a role government’s intervention plays in cluster system activation, especially in sudden-onset disasters such as the denial of visas in the Myanmar’s Nargis cyclone project case, and how it can result in delays/inhibitions in humanitarian relief operations. The third negative aspect of the cluster system is how it can result in tensions between the government and the humanitarian relief organizations. This especially can be seen from the 2007 Pakistan floods, where the government insisted only a few clusters being activated to avoid the image of various countries helping it. However, there was a need to activate twelve and this caused tensions between the government and the involved actors.

As for the Myanmar’s Nargis Cyclone case, when aid items were donated by international aid agencies for the Sichuan earthquake in China, Myanmar’s government announced heavy persecution for its citizens who traded these items. This reflects the shortcoming of the cluster system of coordinating multiple aid agencies all around the world, causing political sensitivity for the government of the affected nation, in accepting their humanitarian help to avoid risking the image of their military calibre. A viable solution to this shortcoming would be pre-emptive treaties/agreements between nations to allow for international assistance being conducted in case of disasters striking in the future, to allow for smooth implementation of the procedures of the UN cluster system.

The fourth negative aspect of the UN cluster system is high turnover rates of cluster coordinators, causing gaps in predicted leadership. In Myanmar’s cyclone case, these coordinators had short-term contracts. For example, there were 5 different WASH cluster coordinators and their varying contract dates resulted in huge gaps between assignments in the Nargis Cyclone project. It also caused replacements of dedicated cluster coordinators (whose contract expired) with some others who managed assignments simultaneously as well as those that were not fully committed as the ones in their place before. The other challenge with this was the extra training needed to equip the new contractors to continue the assignment after the turnover of their original members. The lead coordinator of WASH in Myanmar’s Nargis Cyclone project stated that most cluster leads were not familiar with what a cluster is, so UNOCHA had to provide training first. It is evident that this causes delays and extra funding required in the training process, which seems to be a challenge in the cluster system.

Another challenge for Myanmar was the Cluster Coordination was more interested in long-term development rather than quick disaster response/relief. This is not always the best sought-after method for disaster management since long-term development is usually cost-driven while disaster management is time-driven.

Another significant negative aspect of the cluster system has traditionally been the lack of sufficient attendance in inter-cluster meetings. In the case of Myanmar’s cyclone, the main reasons were most materials used in the meetings being in English instead of Burmese which caused unclear communication hence disinterest in some local authorities to attend cluster meetings, as well as the fact that these cluster meetings being perceived to be ‘unfriendly’ by local authorities since they were designed for English speakers and expatriate staff. In the case of Haiti Earthquake, cluster meetings were held in English, restricting participation of local organizations that have French and Haitian Creole as their fundamental languages for communication. However, when GBV meetings for the Protection cluster were changed to French, local NGO participation increased. Another solution to strengthen the effectiveness of cluster meetings, is using translators which will allow cluster organizations to communicate information with local authorities before every meeting so that these authorities can prepare for the meeting and be motivated to be present.

A cardinal factor that undermines the effectiveness of the Cluster System is corruption. For example, USAID in Haiti allocated $270 million in 2013 for post infrastructure development following the damage from the Haiti earthquake. 40% was sent to American NGOs and 50% went to US organizations. ‘Chemonics International received $58 million claiming they would promote the recovery of Haiti and invest in ‘laying the foundation for long-term development’’ (Vinbury N., 2017; quoted from link 4 from bibliography). It was soon found out that Chemonics and USAID aimed to construct a biofuel company in Haiti with their funds, creating a ‘phantom aid’ situation overall. Weak administrative monitoring of the financing involved and gaps in the cluster system allowing corruption undermines its own effectiveness.

Another weakness of the Cluster Approach is the fact that disaster prevention has always been underfunded compared to emergency relief. For example, in the case of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, many buildings that were reconstructed after the earthquake were made with cheap materials, further increasing the risk of a second disaster in case of another earthquake.

The final negative aspect of the cluster approach to humanitarian relief in disasters is the lack of knowledge of international aid organizations of local culture and lifestyles, which can cause wastage of funds spent on building capital for long-term development. For example, between 2011 and 2013, the Caracol EKAM project took charge of housing development in Haiti post-earthquake to restore infrastructure. The budget for design and construction was estimated to be US$31.5 million. The implementing partners were US contractors, CEEPCO contractors, THOR construction and Global communities, all being non-Haiti based companies. The end result was “a total mess, a total failure with very poor planning” (Melinda Miles, 2015; directly quoted from link 4 in bibliography) The homes have been called ‘culturally inappropriate’ and have resulted in plenty being unoccupied and empty. “Donors are not doing their homework to understand preferences and lifestyle of Haiti’s population” (Gesly Leveque, 2015; directly quoted from link 4 in bibliography)


However, one positive aspect of the UN cluster system is it minimizes gaps and overlaps in humanitarian roles in global disaster responses, by allocating specific sectors of humanitarian actions for each organization. This is proved true in the case of the Myanmar Nargis Cyclone. According to the cluster approach’s second evaluation phase, ‘it was evidenced in Myanmar that overall duplications were eliminated and gaps were identified due to the cluster approach. The evaluation team found that due to this, it resulted in more efficiency and wider coverage’ (Trude Kvam Ulleland, 2013; directly quoted from link 3 in bibliography).

The second positive aspect of the cluster system is it enhances communication between humanitarian aid workers and the sector representatives/leaders in the country to sort out issues. In the case of Nargis Cyclone, the cluster approach evaluation phase 2 concluded that the cluster approach did indeed strengthen communication. Humanitarian organizations from each cluster played an intermediary role between the government and NGOs. Special meetings were arranged which were set up for each organization from the cluster representing a specific sector, to talk with local authorities responsible for that same sector (e.g. WASH/Education). The benefits of this are the ability to exchange ideas for policies and guidelines for humanitarian aid for each sector, straightforward process of seeking approval from the local authorities to carry out relief mechanisms and simplifying the process by knowing to who to talk to.

Here are graphs that show the result of 18 evaluations throughout the humanitarian relief process in Myanmar. Majority of the evaluations are in favour of the cluster system, depicting its effectiveness of having an appropriate structure for improving the coordination of humanitarian relief. (Graphs extracted from link 5 in bibliography)


For the 3rd positive aspect of the cluster approach, a closer look is needed at the humanitarian crisis management project in Northern Uganda, where 90% of the population are displaced from homes. The protection cluster in northern Uganda during humanitarian crisis management in 2006 found organizations duplicating programs in the same region. This immediately was followed by a cluster meeting in the protection sector, and an agreement was made to move the program to an area where much more coverage is desperately needed. This is an example of the effectiveness of cluster meetings in successful team coordination and planning of humanitarian responses.

Also, during Somalia Drought 2015-2019, UNICEF noted gaps in its WASH cluster and became more active in recruiting new local NGO partners. This shows how the cluster approach separates specific sectors for humanitarian response and makes easier to track progress of each sector for the overall success of the project and shows how clusters help actors to decide which gaps to fill.

The cluster approach, between 2004 and 2006, has increased levels of humanitarian funding by 56% and between 2005 and 2006, has increased the number of actors by 32%, which is a positive impact on global humanitarian management. This could be a result of the awareness created by the cluster approach at a global level, through the coordination of various organizations worldwide.

Finally, the last note-worthy positive aspect of the cluster system is, it ensures response capacity is in place and that leadership in carrying out humanitarian responses are strengthened through inter-organizational coordination. This can be seen from the humanitarian project during Somalia’s drought in 2011, where the ‘nutrition’ cluster lead coordinated with all the organizations in that cluster to identify key geographical areas where coverage was small and eventually altered numbers of personnel in each location to provide food for the affected people. 


Indonesia tells independent foreign aid workers to leave quake zone. (2018). Retrieved 13 July 2019, from

Cyclone Nargis. (2019). Retrieved 21 July 2019, from

Kvam Ulleland, T. (2013). The Cluster Approach for Organizing Emergency Response: A case study of Myanmar and Haiti (2008). Retrieved 12 July 2019, from;sequence=1

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Humphries, V. (2013). Improving Humanitarian Coordination: Common Challenges and Lessons Learned from the Cluster Approach. Retrieved 13 July 2019, from

Stoddar, D., Harmer, A., Haver, K., Salomons, D., & Wheeler, V. (2007). Cluster Approach Evaluation. Retrieved 13 July 2019, from

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Design for Developing Countries Aid

Topic: Like development aid, much design for development has been increasingly criticised for not having real, sufficient, diverse or lasting value for the people it is intended for. Research three recent examples of capability-sensitive design from one or more design disciplines – architecture, urban planning, or industrial, communication, multi-media or digital design – that improves the lives of poor people in developing countries. One design should be sourced by a designer/s from a developing country. Discuss aspects of each example’s potential for real, sufficient, diverse and lasting value for the targeted users and the makers where is it made/built in a developing nation


          Word count _1731_

Design for development has continually been criticised for not having a real and diverse effect on people without any sufficient of sustainable value for the people that is intended for. This concept of design for development is not new and has been around in the world for a long time. Especially since the 1960s, the idea of developmental design and its process has been mentioned infrequently, however failing to be a permanent name in the process (Margolin 2007, p.111). Design for development are those designs that are beneficial for the population that are in need, that demonstrates the ‘pedalling to prosperity’ concept. Pedalling to prosperity involves designs engineered to be affordable to the dollar-a-day customers with a fair market price eventually leading families out of poverty. Many designers and engineers focus on providing the best services for the percentage of the world that is financially ahead and this has been seen as an opportunity where there is a monetary gain for the people involved. Such example of this are engineers developing elegant shapes for modern cars that only a handful of people can afford. However, there is a majority of people in the world who can only dream about riding a bicycle, and these designs intended for the rich would not affect their lives (Polak 2007, p.19). As the world continues on with advanced technology and an increasing awareness for the population inflicted with poverty, designers should focus on the designing and making the lives of these people better. Designing for those in-need plays an important role in the ethics and morals of designers and the services they provide. It is fair to expect a monetary gain in designing luxury items that appeal to the rich. Nevertheless, there seems to be a big opportunity for recognition and marketing in designing for the ninety percent of the population in developing countries afflicted with poverty and lack of resources. The slightest of contribution and effort into communities such as these would show a huge change in their daily routine, leading to a better quality of life. A capability sensitive design approach is required, where it focuses on the moral significance of individual’s capability of achieving life with value for developmental design.

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Sanitation and hygiene has been one of the most challenging areas in economically challenged communities in developing countries. Countries in South Asia, such as India has been facing this issue for a long time, with about 55% of the population in India having no access to toilets. O’Reilly and Louis (2014), have quoted that, “The focus of policy and research has shifted to the creation of demand for sanitation because low demand at the household level has been blamed for the failure of sanitation initiatives.” Many villages in India has lacked a proper toiletry system and factors such as poverty, inequality and minimal or no access to resources continually act as restraints to proper sanitisation. This leads to various waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera etc. These diseases which can even lead to death, as in most cases with infants, thus has a negative impact on the well being of the overall community and greatly affects the quality of life. It is essential that there should be a focus on engaging the social and economic factors to lead people to toilet adoption, which comes from proving the right toilet designs, involving the community, providing specific solutions to the local area and understanding the people’s views on sanitation. The portable and eco-friendly eToilet concept introduced by civil engineer Bincy Baby with the help of Eram Scientific Solutions Pvt. Ltd. in the villages at India, which focused on providing a hygienically maintained toilet challenged the constraints and provided with a sustainable solution for the country.

Figure 1. The first hygienically and unmanned e-Toilet at the Surajkund Fair in India.


The e-Toilets contain sensor-based technology that self-maintains and includes a water conservation mechanism. This toilet also provides instructional note outside the toilet and also contains audio commands inside activated through a sensor based light system. There are now 500 toilets in ten different states in India, especially at schools which has allowed the communities to practice safe hygiene and prevent any diseases and this has seen a gradual change in the public sanitisation scene in the country.

Hancock (2001), argues that a more human-centred development is required instead of an economic-centred approach and as a society, the idea of improving quality should be in the forefront of our minds while designing for development. In Kenya, due to the poor infrastructure and rural roads, limited access to facilities and a lack of modern technology, it has proven to be a challenge for local villages where agriculture is their backbone. There is also a high reliance on rainfall which can lead to fluctuating production and income in agriculture (Alila and Atieno 2006, p.5). Thus, small designs to make the people in the villages benefit from agriculture can lead to a better quality of life. Programmes such as the Kenya Towns Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitisation work towards providing access and increasing availability to water sources. The Africa Research Bulletin (2017), states that, “The programme aims to catalyse commercial activities, drive economic growth, improve people’s quality of life and build resilience against climate variability and change.”

Figure 2. The use of a treadle pump for irrigation purposes in Kenya


Appropriate Technologies for Enterprise Creation (ApproTec) have supplied a treadle pump in the villages challenged by lack of water resources, that connects with a drum and costs starting from $45-$100. This gives an opportunity to the community and the people to purchase the products as an investment which allows them to feel like customers. This has a great impact on the lives of the people involved in agriculture, providing them with a cheaper technology to continue their work in a more efficient way, also saving the time spent on travelling long distances to collect water for farming. This treadle pump allows the farmers to use the collected rainwater for agriculture, which is also a great way of being less dependent of rainfall and saving water resources. Another innovative design developed by the Natural Resources Monitoring, Modelling and Management Project is the donkey carts to deliver water to the bucket kits situated in Nayuki, Kenya, which is a drought prone area. These are generally available for purchase and is a long term investment for families to use for the collection of water, avoiding the issues that arise with physically transporting water.

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There has been a crisis of water resources in Nepal for a very long time. Especially the southern Terai region, experiencing a lack of safe water source leading to various water related diseases which has presented itself as a roadblock in the country’s development. A huge factor in affective the life of the people has also been the geographical structure of the country, with transportation of water taking a long time due to the hilly terrain. This causes villages to go on weeks with scarcity in water, resulting in people turning towards to any contaminated source of water. Even the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu has been facing issues with contaminated water throughout the city, leading to an increase in deaths, common with infants. One of the major causes of this is due to poor filtration system for drinking water as high levels of arsenic are found in the wells throughout the villages. Ngai, (2007, p.1879) quoted that, “Although arsenic contamination in drinking water has received widespread attention, microbial contamination is still, by far, the single largest cause of waterborne disease and death.” Although there have been technologies implemented treating drinking water, they have proven to be costly, thus being more common in cities where people are able to afford the system. Therefore, Environment & Public Health Organization (ENPHO) in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), instigated the Kanchan Arsenic Filter (KAF) made up of materials found in the local markets and put together using simple tools such as wrenches and screwdriver. The filter contains a sand filter and a  diffuser basin consisting of iron nails which helps remove the arsenic from the water.  This easy to use design requires low maintenance and is affordable for families with little to no income. This design was also supported by the society and utilised their input in construction, also providing people with employment opportunities. This design has shown a positive trend in the quality of life and is only the first step in pedalling to prosperity.

Figure 3. The Kanchan Arsenic filter being used in a village in Nepal. (

In conclusion, all the three designs are relatively simple to use and provides a huge step for the population affected with poverty. These designs do not require high maintenance and also gives a chance for the community to involved in what they need for their betterment. Providing a design that is affordable and cheap allows the people the opportunity to be customers instead of recipients of charity. This helps them to learn the necessary economic skills required, allowing them to use the products sustainably, giving them a chance to save money in the future. These designs are also necessary for communities, as this allows the people to have a say in what they require and get involved with the process of providing the tools and services, which is a great example of co-evolutionary design. Murcott (2007, p.123), agrees stating, “This learning, iterative process among partners includes cooperation, local expertise, local resources and reliance on the global environment as a ‘lab’ for knowledge-sharing and open-source innovation.” There is also a huge opportunity for making money as design for development is an unexploited market with the number of poor customers reaching billions. Venturing into this sector of the market, not only provides a huge opportunity to exploit a potential business framework with big profits, but also helps to make the world a better place one step at a time, solving minute problems which account into a global issue. I believe that designers should have the focus of using their skillsets to improve the quality of life of people at the front of their mind. This raises the question as to why people entering into the design field still look towards the five percent of the rich population when a huge amount of money lies in the other ninety five percent.


Journal and Online articles

Africa Research Bulletin. (2017). WATER: Kenya (pp. 21515-21517). Africa Research Bulletin.

Alila, P., & Atieno, R. (2006). Agricultural Policy in Kenya: Issues and Processes. Future Agricultures, 5.

Hancock,T. (2001) People, partnerships and human progress: building community capital,  Health Promotion International, 16, 275-280.

Hong, I., & Roh, K. (2018). Evaluation of a Community Development Program in Nepal. Research On Social Work Practice, 28(6), 721-730. doi: 10.1177/1049731518755010

Murcott, S. (2007). Co-evolutionary design for development: influences shaping engineering design and implementation in Nepal and the global village, Journal of International Development. 19, 123-144

Ngai, T., Shrestha, R., Dangol, B., Maharjan, M., & Murcott, S. (2007). Design for sustainable development—Household drinking water filter for arsenic and pathogen treatment in Nepal. Journal Of Environmental Science And Health, Part A, 42(12), 1879-1888. doi: 10.1080/10934520701567148

Oosterlaken, I. (2009).  Design or Development: A Capability Approach. Design Issues: 25, 4, 91-102

O’Reilly, K., & Louis, E. (2014). The toilet tripod: Understanding successful sanitation in rural India. Health & Place, 29, 43-51. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.05.007

Polak, P. (2007) Design for the Other 90%, in C. Smith, (Ed.) (2007). Design for the other 90%. New York, USA:  Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian, National Design Museum.


Keller, J. (2012). Kenya; Gardening with Low-Cost Drip Irrigation in Kenya For Health and Profit. Retrieved from

Pareek, S. (2014). This eToilet Is Changing The Way Public Sanitation Works In India – The Better India. Retrieved from

Challenges Facing Agriculture and Farming in Kenya. (2018). Retrieved from

Kanchan Arsenic Filter (KAF) | Engineering For Change. (2018). Retrieved from

An Essay on Effective First Aid For Staphylococcus Aureus

The aim of this investigation is to experimentally determine which first aid product and its active ingredients are most effective against Staphylococcus aureus, and to establish how and why the chemical compounds of the active ingredients in each product affected the results.
The idea for this exploration was developed as a result of an experiment and study that were conducted and taught in my medical microbiology class. The specific lesson that caught my interest was focused on the skin flora as well as infection causing bacteria. This, combined with the lab about the effects of specific antibiotics on bacteria as well as my considerable experience with first aid and disaster response skills led me to think about the importance of antibiotics for medication and treatments. I decided that my investigation would concentrate on topical first aid products against the occasionally pathogenic bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, a member of the skin flora. My choice to pick a ubiquitous bacterium was because I wanted to focus on the more practical implementations of the investigation and could evaluate for myself which first aid product would be most useful in real world applications.
This investigation requires background information about the biochemistry or mechanisms of action in specific compounds and the Kirby-Bauer test. These are described below.
Kirby-Bauer Test
The Kirby-Bauer test or disk diffusion tests allows for scientists to test the antibiotic sensitivity of bacteria. A disk is impregnated with a substance and placed on a petri dish and a zone of inhibition or inhibition zone appears after days or hours after incubation. The inhibition zone represents the area in which the bacteria has stopped growing or has been killed by the antibiotic. The size of the inhibition zone indicates the effectiveness of the antibiotic (the larger the diameter of the zone of inhibition the more effective the substance is).
Mechanism of Action in Compounds
This investigation focuses on five specific compounds which are active first aid antiseptic or antibiotic ingredients in the products that will be tested. These compounds are: benzalkonium chloride, triclosan, bacitracin zinc, polymyxin B sulfate, and neomycin sulfate. This information will be sectioned into Part A, B, C, D, and E.
Part A: Benzalkonium Chloride
Benzalkonium chloride is a member of the quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) which are also known as cationic agents/surfactants. Furthermore, quaternary ammonium compounds have positively charged structures. Thus, the cationic zone of benzalkonium chloride disrupts the intermolecular attractions/electrostatic interactions of the negatively charged cell components, destroys the outer membrane, and ultimately kills the pathogen.
Part B: Triclosan
Triclosan works to inhibit bacterial growth through its mechanomolecular energy. This mechanomolecular energy is as a result of the ether single-bond rotations on the central oxygen atom. Subsequently, the rapid and fluctuating vibratory movements of the bonds in the molecule disrupt bacterial membranes which easily allow the chemical compound to enter the cell’s membrane. Once triclosan enters the cell membrane, it binds and blocks the active sites of the enoyl-acyl carrier-protein reductase enzyme (ENR) thus preventing the process of fatty acid synthesis. This fatty acid process is critical for building the pathogen’s cell membrane and its other vital functions necessary for processes like reproduction. Furthermore, at extremely low concentrations, triclosan can develop into a crystalline form by ring stacking, thus interfering with essential enzymes including the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) coenzyme of bacteria.

Figure 1: Figure 1 visualizes the two benzene rings and the central oxygen atom in the Triclosan compound.
Part C: Bacitracin Zinc
Bacitracin has antimicrobial activity primarily because of its ability to bind to divalent metal ions, in this case the Zn²º cation, resulting in bacitracin zinc. The Zn²º ion forms a ternary 1:1:1 antibiotic-metal-lipid complex. This means that the divalent metal ion complex can tightly bind to the lipid C‚…‚…-isoprenyl pyrophosphate molecules of the cell, acting like a bridge between the pyrophosphate and bacitracin zinc. Once the C‚…‚…-isoprenyl pyrophosphate has been compromised due to its inability to dephosphorylate or remove its phosphate (PO43ˆ’) through the pyrophosphatase enzyme and hydrolysis process, the pyrophosphate can no longer transport lipids into the cell-wall. Subsequently, this inhibits the process of cell-wall synthesis and results in the weakening of the cell wall and ultimately leads to bacterial death.
Part D: Polymyxin B Sulfate
The mechanism of action of polymyxin B sulfate is similar to that of benzalkonium chloride, in that it is also classified as a cationic surfactant. Therefore, like benzalkonium chloride, polymyxin B sulfate alters the external membrane of bacterial cells. Additionally, because of its positively charged amino group in the cyclic peptide region in the compound, it has an electrostatic attraction for the negatively charged lipopolysaccharide layer of bacterial cells and binds to these specific sites. Once these sites have been compromised, the outer membrane of the bacterial cell becomes destabilized and weakened.

Figure 2: Figure 2 visualizes the amino group and cyclic peptide region of polymyxin B sulfate which is the primary mechanism of antimicrobial action within the compound.
Part E: Neomycin Sulfate
Neomycin sulfate is classified as an aminoglycoside antibiotic which means it has an amino group (-NH‚‚) attached to derivatives of sugar called glycosides. Aminoglycosides are highly positive in charge due to the presence of amino groups and have a high electrostatic attraction for the negatively charged outer surface of bacteria. This electrostatic interaction disrupts the membrane of the bacteria due to the displacement of Mg²º and Ca²º bridges and creates temporary openings in the bacterial cell membrane. Subsequently, this process causes intracellular content leakage and further increases the antibiotic intake in the bacteria. Additionally, rRNA molecules of bacteria are highly negative in charge because of the presence of phosphate groups. This negative charge has an electrostatic attraction with the positively charged antibiotic and allows the aminoglycoside to easily bind to the rRNA of the bacteria and thereafter inhibits the process of protein synthesis leading to bacterial cell death.
The initial prediction is that NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment will be the most effective compared to Bactine Spray and CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray because it is a triple antibiotic and has a greater variety of active ingredients that can kill bacteria.
Experimental Procedure and Methodology
The independent variables for this experiment are the different first aid products because each product should influence the dependent variable (diameter of inhibition zone). The dependent variable is the size of the inhibition zones because the length depends on what first aid product is used. The controls of the investigation are the incubation time, petri dish, Staphylococcus aureus, method of inoculation, the incubator, and the amount of each drug because they are variables that are kept constant throughout each trial and for each product tested. It is important to maintain the controls throughout all trials so that measurements can be as consistent as possible.

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Safety and Environmental Ethics
It is important to keep in mind the risks and safety precautions before attempting this experiment. These risks include residual bacterial contamination on the skin and burning. It is highly advised to wear gloves or rubber insulator gloves when needed and to wash hands frequently throughout the experiment. Additionally, an environmental ethical consideration must be taken in account because experimenting with antibacterial products can contribute to antibacterial resistance. However, the effects would be negligible due to the small scale size of the experiment.

125 ml of Agar
Absorbent bibulous paper
Hole puncher
Ruler (with millimeters)
12 Petri dishes
Incubator @34 °C; set at 4.5
12 strips of Parafilm
Large beaker
Hot plate
Rubber insulator gloves
Bunsen burner
Inoculating loop
Staphylococcus aureus
NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment
Bactine Spray
CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray


Heat up 125 ml of agar in a beaker filled with water on a hotplate and wait until the agar is clear all the way through. Use forceps and rubber insulator gloves to remove the agar out of the beaker.
Pour about the same amount of agar in each petri dish and wait until the agar sets (5-10 minutes).
Use isolated Staphylococcus aureus and a heated and then cooled inoculating loop to carefully swab the culture into the 12 petri dishes. Make sure to go in a zigzag motion and cover all areas.
Label each petri dish

#1-#3: NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment
#4-#6: Bactine Spray
#7-#9: CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray
#10-#12: Control

Punch at least 12 holes into absorbent bibulous paper.
Soak the disks with each of the drug solutions. Use tweezers that have been heated up and cooled down with water to minimize bacterial contamination. Additionally, each time a different product is being impregnated into the disks, reheat and cool the tweezers to minimize cross-product contamination.
Place three disks containing NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment in petri dishes #1, #2, and #3.
Place three disks containing Bactine Spray in petri dishes #4, #5, #6.
Place three disks containing CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray in petri dishes #7, #8, #9.
Leave the remaining three petri dishes with no disks in order to show that the petri dishes have pure cultures of Staphylococcus aureus.
Use parafilm to seal all the petri dishes.
Flip over all petri dishes and place in incubator at 34 °C on the 4.5 setting (the optimal temperature and conditions for bacterial growth)
Measure the diameter of the inhibition zones (including the disk) 48 hours post inoculation with a ruler (in mm) and record data.
Repeat all steps for Trial 2 and Trial 3 making sure all conditions are maintained.


Product Name

Table 1: Recorded Length of Inhibition Zones on Staphylococcus aureusᵃ

Trial 1 ± 0.5 mm

Trial 2 ± 0.5 mm

Trial 3 ± 0.5 mm

Mean ± 0.5 mmᵇ

NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment











Bactine Spray











CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray











a- Diameter of zone of inhibition (mm) including disk diameter of 6mm
b- Average diameter of inhibition zone after 3 trials for each product
*The values that were found to have “0.0mm” were petri dishes that had no zone of inhibition
*Controls were not included as they only served to show that the petri dishes had pure samples of Staphylococcus aureus and are irrelevant to be included in the processed data
Conclusion and Evaluation
The objective of the experiment was to investigate the effectiveness of the active chemical ingredients in topical first aid treatments against Staphylococcus aureus. The initial aims of the investigation have been reached. The results of the experiment have suggested that Bactine Spray is the most effective against Staphylococcus aureus followed by NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment then CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray. Thus, the initial prediction was incorrect.

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Bactine Spray contained 0.13% of benzalkonium chloride and in this investigation had an average length of 16.3 mm for its zone of inhibition (Table 1). According to a study done by Ali Fazlara (a member of the Department of Food Hygiene at Shahid Chamran University) and Maryam Ekhtelat (a researcher at Shahid Chamran University in the Department of Microbiology) found that because Staphylococcus aureus has a highly negative charge on its cell wall due to its slight anionic teichoic acids and peptidoglycan molecules, it allows for the cationic benzalkonium chloride to bind easily to specficically Staphylococcus aureus’ cell wall and thus block the active sites for essential enzymes to undergo their normal biochemical reactions for the bacterial cell. Therefore, benzalkonium chloride should theoretically be highly effective against Staphylococcus aureus. The data collected seems to support this and underpins the known fact that benzalkonium chloride is bacteriostatic (a chemical agent that stops bacteria from reproducing) at low concentrations. The investigation also suggests that NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment was the second most effective against Staphylococcus aureus compared with the Bactine Spray and CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray. The active ingredients within this first aid product are bacitracin zinc (400 units), neomycin sulfate (3.5mg), and polymyxin B sulfate (5,000 units). NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment resulted in an average zone of inhibition diameter of 15.4 mm, as shown in Table 1. The possible reason for why NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment was not as effective against Staphylococcus aureus in this investigation is because of antibacterial resistance to some or all of the active ingredients by the bacteria. Studies have proposed that the isolate primarily found in the United States called USA300 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has been increasingly discovered to have been resistant to neomycin sulfate, bacitracin zinc, and polymyxin B sulfate. In this investigation, it can be suggested that CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray, with a concentration of 0.13% of triclosan was the least effective against Staphylococcus aureus. It resulted in an average zone of inhibition diameter of 5.2 mm according to Table 1. A possible conclusion that can be reached based on the results is the increasingly proven theory that Staphylococcus aureus has a progressively high antimicrobial resistance to triclosan. This is due in part because triclosan was the most common active ingredient in over the counter (OTC) products, which contributed greatly to Staphylococcus aureus’ antimicrobial resistance. As a matter of fact, the FDA banned triclosan on consumer antibacterial wash products because of the health related risks from bacterial resistance. However, some products still use triclosan because it banned to be used in soaps.
These conclusions are incomplete and require improvements in order to thoroughly and further confirm the results and achieve consistent values. The addition of more trials would further eliminate any systematic errors that may have occurred such as error when impregnating disks with the products or cross-product contamination. Any instances of random error can be best alleviated by the use of a Vernier calliper (a measuring instrument that is used for measuring diameters) instead of a ruler. The use of a calliper to measure would contribute to higher precision and less measurement uncertainty.
Extending the investigation to other normal bacterial skin flora would be interesting to see the extent of the effectiveness of Bactine Spray, NEOSPORIN® Original Ointment, and CVS Health Instant First Aid Spray on different bacteria.
Works Cited   
Chittapragada, Maruthi, and Sarah Roberts. Aminoglycosides: Molecular Insights on the Recognition of RNA and Aminoglycoside Mimics. Perspectives in Medicinal Chemistry, 2009. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.
Economou, Nicoleta J., et al. High-resolution crystal structure reveals molecular details of target recognition by bacitracin. 2013. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
Fazlara, Ali, and Maryam Ekhtelat. The Disinfectant Effects of Benzalkonium Chloride on Some Important Foodborne Pathogens. IDOSI, 2012. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
Federal Drug Administration. “FDA Issues Final Rule on Safety and Effectiveness of Antibacterial Soaps.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, 2 Sept. 2016, Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
Kaya, Deniz. “Quarternary Ammonium Compounds.” 21 Jan. 2010, Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.
Kling, Jim. “Antibiotic Ointments May Fuel Resistance and Spread of MRSA.” Medscape, 14 Sept. 2011, Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.
Maxka, Jim. “Organic Chemistry Interactive Notes.” Organic Chemistry, North Arizona University. Arizona. Reading.
McDonnell, Gerald, and A. D. Russell. Antiseptics and Disinfectants: Activity, Action, and Resistance. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 1999. Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.
Petersen, Richard C. Triclosan Antimicrobial Polymers. HHS Public Access, 2016. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.
—. Triclosan Computational Conformational Chemistry Analysis ForAntimicrobial Properties in Polymers. HHS Public Access, 2015. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.
“Polymxyin B Sulfate.” Digital Photograph. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
Pub Chem. “Aerosporin | C56H100N16O17S – PubChem.” The PubChem Project, Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
Ramin Khajavi, Morteza Sattari and Ali Ashjaran, 2007. The Antimicrobial Effect of Benzalkonium Chloride on Some Pathogenic Microbes Observed on Fibers of Acrylic Carpet. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 10: 598-601.
Stone, K. J., and Jack L. Strominger. Mechanism of Action of Bacitracin: Complexation with Metal Ion and C55-Isoprenyl Pyrophosphate. 1971. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.
Tay, William M., et al. 1H NMR, Mechanism, and Mononuclear Oxidative Activity ofthe Antibiotic Metallopeptide Bacitracin: The Role of D-Glu-4,Interaction with Pyrophosphate Moiety, DNA Binding andCleavage, and Bioactivity. JACS Articles, 2010. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
Unblok Bio Solutions. “Ammonium.” Unblok Bio-Fix, Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.

The Crisis of Humanitarian Aid in Syria

The seven-year Syrian civil war has claimed the lives of approximately half a million people and displaced around eight million. The “human rights community,” both nations and international organizations, have responded with humanitarian assistance. While offering promising solutions, such transnational activism has been riddled with unforeseen consequences, biases, and blind spots effectively extending the conflict. Many countries give aid to Syria, only do so to further their strategic interests. The dark side of humanitarianism has states translating suffering to local and specific concerns in order to gain legitimacy on the domestic front. The European Union gave over 3 billion euros to Turkey, the site of refugee camps on the northern border, to further increase its economic bond with a non-E.U. Member. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave 5.1 billion dollars to humanitarian organizations in Syria. USAID hoped that by adopting this strategy, they could control the situation in a more distant way, rather than the hands-on approach taken in Libya (Marks). Iran has been giving food, blankets, and water for the benefit of the Assad regime. The most unusual form of aid comes from the Israeli government through operation “Good Neighbor.”

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At the onset of the civil war, Israel provided aid to Syrian civilians wounded near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria. The aid consisted of medical supplies, water, electricity, education, or food. Over 200,000 Syrians have received such aid, and more than 4,000 of them were sent to Israeli hospitals, including combatants (Gross). The IDF has granted special permits for Syrians who were critically injured to enter Israel and obtain the necessary medical treatment with the IDF escorting them to and from the hospital. In September 2018, the Netanyahu government announced that it was ending the aid program (Gross).
This response to suffering is an example of foreign aid being politicized and used as a guise for diplomacy. Israel sought to improve its standing in the eyes of potentially hostile Syrian citizens by creating a positive bond between the Syrian populace and the Israeli government. However, “Operation Good Neighbor” serves more as a tool of defense as it discourages combatants from potentially raiding Israeli territory. It also serves as a way of maintaining Israeli control of the Golan Heights. Even the vocabulary of human rights can create winners and losers. The legal definition of refugee can both exclude some who are in need of protection and legitimate the engagement of the UN.The Syrian civil war also saw the use of “humanitarian bombing.” In the early stages of the conflict, Syrian citizens were imploring the U.S. government to begin a bombing campaign in the name of human rights. Jessica Whyte notes, “Today, the line between human rights organizations and the militaries of Western states is blurred, and the human rights movement has “entered the thick of organized mass violence” (Aporia of Rights, 184). Humanitarian bombing in Syria is also used as a political tool as it gives Obama/Trump administrations the ability to intervene without risking the lives of Americans. It gives the American populace the moral justification they need to continue intervention in the area, without the feeling that they are sacrificing the lives of fellow Americans. The use of gas bombings by the Assad regime and the violation of the Geneva conventions is considered an acceptable reason to continue violence in Syria. Using this framework, issues of human rights are stripped of their aid component and are instead only tied to political matters. Compassion has been replaced by vengeance. The language of human rights is now a casus belli for Western Imperialism. Jessica Whyte writes “Ultimately, war itself has come to be viewed as a technical instrument for preventing the abuse of human rights.”(Aporia of Rights, 196). The universal vocabulary of human rights has become a tool not only for NGOs, but also the Pentagon.
In Crisis Caravan, Linda Polman writes, “There are no rules, no limits, and no requirements to have any understanding of the local balance of power, or to coordinate with other parties involved, humanitarian agencies included. In fact, for reasons of competition and public relations, aid agencies often choose not to discuss details with their fellow organizations (Crisis Caravan, 99).” Within the context of Syria, this has lead to disastrous consequences.
Much of the aid given internationally has fallen into the hands of Bashar AlAssad. U.N. Agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have allowed the Assad regime to determine the use of a $30 billion international humanitarian response (Marks). The Syrian government has donor funds to skirt sanctions and subsidize the government’s war effort. Most of the money is diverted funds from the very same Western governments that imposed sanctions on the Syrian government.
In April of 2018, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) debated centering aid for the Syrian Civil War in Damascus (Marks). While no formal decision has been made, aid organizations have protested the suggested action, which would make humanitarian aid no longer appear neutral. The current base in Amman allows for a consistent flow of cross border humanitarian aid. Humanitarian actors in civil conflicts across the globe increasingly find themselves caught between the competing political interests of regimes, complicating the implementation of relief actions.
The humanitarian response in Syria is sharply divided over the issue of neutrality via the Syrian government. Humanitarian organizations operating across borders in rebel-held areas do so without the state’s consent. They hope that by doing this, they can both be providing aid and simultaneously reporting on regime violence against civilians. These actors are slowly disappearing from the stage as the Assad government regains and consolidates its military and administrative control. In response to how humanitarian actors deal with areas in conflict, Linda Polman writes,
“In war zones, there’s no chance of fair competition…. warlords and army commanders hold onto power, having transformed themselves into members of the highest post-war business and political circles, with whom INGOs negotiate. So most of the houses and services INGOs need are provided by local war elites. Cousins, uncles, and close friends of those in power have the best chance of being chosen to supply goods to INGOs and to run the restaurants and clubs where the foreigners spend their evenings. Providers of cheaper goods and services suffer intimidation to deter then from taking part in the tendering process.” (Crisis Caravan, 100). Neutrality, in terms of the material needs of humanitarian actors, can never be truly achieved as the reliance on one side over the other, generates perceived bias.
The proposal of a Damascus centralized humanitarian response is increasingly becoming the official international humanitarian presence in Syria. This new paradigm of aid facilitates government control and discretion over the distribution of services and aid. As a result, humanitarian actors who are now operating in Damascus, principally U.N. agencies and 31 other humanitarian groups, have become ingrained in the structure of the Syrian bureaucracy (Marks). This reality of providing aid in Syria has severely curtailed their ability to help citizens in need, regardless of political affiliation, and to implement programming and deliver aid effectively.
A Damascus controlled U.N. humanitarian effort will remain subject to the complicated government bureaucracy and its recurring administrative and bureaucratic constraints to access and programming. Aid would be limited to governmentcontrolled areas and propagandized. Such a move would enable the Syrian government to increasingly centralize control over the Syrian humanitarian response, resulting in a humanitarian regime more acquiescent to the interests of the Syrian state or, at the least, silent to the violence employed against Syrian civilians throughout the war.
This paradigm of human rights is a fundamental weakness in our international system of aid. Getting around it is extremely difficult and requires a certain commitment foreign government and aid organizations mostly are not willing to make, which is to seize control, themselves, of the politics of the region.
Gross, Judah Ari. “Operation Good Neighbor: Israel Reveals Its Massive Humanitarian Aid to Syria.” The Times of Israel, 19 July 2017,
Marks, Jesse. “Analysis | Humanitarian Aid in Syria Is Being Politicized – and Too Many Civilians in Need Aren’t Getting It.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 Aug. 2019,
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? Picador, 2011.
Yeatman, Anna, and Peg Birmingham. The Aporia of Rights: Explorations in Citizenship in the Era of Human Rights. Bloomsbury Academic, An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, 2016.