Climate induced disasters are becoming more and more frequent. The scale and proportion of this onslaught has resulted in displacements, loss of assets and the destruction of livelihoods. These challenges are more evident in the cities that are facing shocks and stresses as a result of these impacts. Exacerbating this are systemic deficiencies in cities’ institutional processes which have further complicated the process of resilience building. Human welfare measures can play an important role in helping people to bounce back.
In the post disaster scenarios of a city, the humanitarian efforts are traditionally short term responses that aim to provide immediate relief to the people. These measures not only help them to survive but they might also help people to rebuild. In times of human crisis, such as the Ebola virus outbreaks and famines in Africa, or political crises in countries like Syria and Iraq, these kinds of aid have helped the people to deal with the challenges.
Resilience and humanitarianism have the same intentions but on distinct scales
Resilience intersects climate change adaptation, growth, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction in order to cushion communities against actual or anticipated extreme weather events without compromising the overall development vision. Humanitarianism and human welfare are relevant to resilience in ways that help the communities to recover from the challenges of climate change. The only difference is one of scale: while humanitarianism aims at the individual as a unit, resilience aims at the city as a unit, including its structure and its institutions, to bring about development.
Humanitarian aid is making cities dependent
The international humanitarian response in 2014 was to the tune of US$24.5 billion compared to the US$ 20.5 billion in 2013. Most of this aid went to the same set of recipients which indicates that most of these efforts have supported the people in crisis but have not been integrated into the cities’ systems to develop a long term solution pre-empting any potential issues or challenges emerging due to climate change. These measures not only create “dependency syndrome” with minimal accountability but also only short- term benefits.
Reroute Humanitarian aid towards building resilience in cities
There’s no denying the fact that humanitarian aid provides timely and much needed help to cities, such as food andmaterial assets which reduce mortality and help their inhabitants survive in times of crisis. However, resilience goes well beyond these efforts and focuses more on an overall framework of development. Hence, humanitarian assistance is now being looked upon as an opportunity to go beyond what has been its traditional role. It offers an important opportunity to shape resilience and development strategies and address needs across development and humanitarian spheres.
Humanitarian assistance can play a major role in building the resilience of cities and help them to “build back better”. While this aid will not be able to solve the deeper issues endemic to the cities, they can make an important contribution to supporting the cities’ systems so they can prevent, prepare for and respond to the challenges of climate change.
In the meantime, while the humanitarianism is being rejigged and deconstructed to better help urban climate change resilience, the cities will have to work on mechanisms that allow better linking of humanitarianism to their resilience goals. These could be very well achieved by aligning their shared goals, addressing latent fragilities of the city systems, and creating greater interactions between the humanitarian actors and stakeholders in the city.
This overhall must be carried out quickly; we cannot wait, until then?