The Challenges Facing Charities When Providing Lifesaving Humanitarian Aid

The Challenges Charities Face When Providing Lifesaving Humanitarian Aid

Many people in the modern world feel it is important to help those who require humanitarian aid and whose lives are possibly in danger. However, most would also expect complete transparency from charities to show that gifts and donations reach the people needing them most. In this feature, Shameet Thakkar throws some light on the subject.

As technology advances, so does the ability for people to ask questions and share their thoughts, and no areas are immune from this, including organisations that are set up to do good. Over recent years, some charities have become talking points for the wrong reasons, and news of surprisingly high salaries of some working in senior positions in charities has raised the ire of many.

Given the current high cost of living, people who would give money and sometimes valuable chattels without a second thought probably wonder if the needs of others ‘trump’ their own. Whether they should donate something that will likely pop up on an auction site to generate funds to help maintain some charities’ glossy appearances and seemingly burgeoning infrastructures.

A smiling Shameet in a stately home
Shameet Thakkar.

To shine more light on the topic, Shameet Thakkar, a leading humanitarian aid expert and founder of Unimed Procurement Services, explains some of the biggest challenges facing charities today.

Luxurious Magazine: What is involved when it comes to a charity providing aid?
Shameet: A considerable degree of strategic planning goes into delivering humanitarian aid. Charities adjust their means and objectives depending on the nature of a crisis, the needs of those affected, and, crucially, the resources available.

Needs assessment is a crucial first step, helping establish exactly what the affected communities require and whether the right quantities of a certain product or the right services can be provided.

Further, resource mobilisation needs to be prompt and efficient when it comes to responding to humanitarian crises: though logistical planning is critical, that is, considering factors such as transportation, storage and personnel coordination, speed is key.

Direct distribution of resources means setting up distribution units in affected areas – when these are accessible – or working with partners or local communities to reach communities in need with tailored aid. When multiple organisations become involved in a project, coordination and collaboration must be streamlined to maximise the effectiveness of a mission.

A woman celebrating the sun rising

LM: Talk us through some of the challenges of providing humanitarian relief
Shameet: Delivering humanitarian aid often involves gaining access to conflict zones or areas permeated by diseases. Ensuring aid can be provided safely can often slow down the distribution process, which makes logistics one of the most complex elements to manoeuvre.

Whether as a result of damaged infrastructure, inaccessible routes or difficulty in accessing remote areas, geographical barriers can significantly hinder the timely distribution of commodities.

What’s more, obtaining correct and up-to-date information regarding the needs of populations can be a challenge, as is addressing the evolving needs of affected communities, particularly where situations are changing rapidly.

Coordination with other organisations can also prove problematic, especially when each has different operational and logistical needs that must be complied with. It is why charities often outsource the procurement and delivery of resources to a single point of contact, reducing the need to liaise with multiple stakeholders, which maximises risks and translates to extra costs.

Relying on a single partner can help streamline quality assurance processes and is particularly beneficial for small or medium-sized charities that lack adequate resources or that mainly depend on volunteers. This can help charities improve their supply chain traceability and transparency with consumers, too: many are concerned about where their money is going when they donate, and this is intrinsically linked with charities’ relationships with their external suppliers and how they manage operations.

And like other organisations, charities are increasingly adopting new technologies to address the challenges they experience daily and find new and more effective ways of operating. Having access to automated data collection means having data analytics and insights, which can help keep track of donations, identify trends, and better understand the impact of their operations.

Equally, charities can leverage new technologies to more easily recruit volunteers, gather community feedback, and coordinate activities among volunteers and partners. Ultimately, new technologies, automation and AI have been proven to help charities make a greater impact, providing access to scalable, cost-effective and – importantly – future-proof solutions.

A man holding a red piggy bank in his hands

LM: We live in a time of high living costs, and public distrust is increasing across all areas of society. Has this had an impact, and is the money generated being used in ways people would want and expect?
Shameet: Most charities rely on public donations to operate, meaning that thought is given to balancing running and operational costs with those stemming from sourcing the products or services needed to complete a humanitarian relief project.

Unsurprisingly, recent research has shown that the current cost-of-living crisis has significantly impacted UK charities – at least one in four existing donors have reported giving less money to charities as a direct result.

Balancing funds, especially when limited, can require making some difficult decisions regarding resource allocation, particularly where charities have to dedicate funds to immediate emergency response and the long-term support of a humanitarian crisis.

Though providing relief with essential supplies and sanitation measures is vital, charities are required to subsequently shift their focus to supporting emergency situations in other ways, implementing recovery and rehabilitation strategies to rebuild communities and help them gain self-sufficiency.

Monitoring the overall effectiveness of their efforts and whether their impact has been as successful as predicted during the planning stages is vital. Again, adopting new technologies such as automated tracking tools and IoT data collection can be instrumental, allowing charitable organisations to continue to improve their approach to humanitarian relief, gain additional expertise, and better tend to the needs of vulnerable populations.

Charities work hard to improve internal processes and build a network of partners that includes like-minded organisations, communities and individuals to help further their charitable objectives, discover innovative solutions to increase resilience and ultimately build a better future for those in need.

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