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7 The Emergency Alibi

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Chapter Summary

The urgent priorities for life-saving assistance divert us away from the medium- to long-term restoration of livelihoods, self-reliance, capacity-building, economic development, and psychosocial well-being. Although only an infinitesimal fraction of refugee crises are short-term, the "emergency alibi" distracts us from more thoughtful approaches to the morass of intransigent problems that we face. This chapter presents and examines the idea of this term, challenge the alibi, and invite greater sophistication and science into our guild. The primary mandate of relief organizations is to impart critical lifesaving assistance to people in need, these initial activities typically involve the direct provision of food, shelter, water, and other essential services. The field of humanitarian assistance is compartmentalized in such a way that it is focused on immediate lifesaving measures and readily quantifiable indices like morbidity and mortality rates. We must shift our obsession from how people are dying to how people are living.

Keywords: emergency alibi; humanitarian assistance; life-saving assistance; refugee crises; relief organizations; restoration of livelihoods



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