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Humanitarian Alternatives: Fourteenth issue – July 2020

Covid-19 : Impacts in the humanitarian field

This issue is dedicated to our colleague and friend, Olivier Mouzay, who died on 6 May 2020. Please read the tribute paid to him by Benoît Miribel, on behalf of all of us.


Humanitarian aid hit by Covid-19

By Boris Martin - The entire world has, to say the least, been “gripped” by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the “little” humanitarian world has not escaped. It was undoubtedly less surprised by this explosion, even though it is still trying to measure all the related direct and collateral damage. This is what this entire issue is about, since the resulting emergency led us to review our publication programme. [Read more]


Changes in our environment and epidemics are linked to human activity

Interview with Jean-François Mattei - The global health crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic has confirmed that most modern epidemics are caused by cross-species virus transmission between wildlife and humans. According to Jean-François Mattei, since epidemics are the result of the imbalance caused by humankind to ecosystems which had been preserved until now, there is an urgent need to consider the environment and human health as being inextricably linked. [Read more]

Understanding the history, dynamics and workings of epidemics

By Jean Freney - Where do epidemics come from, how do they spread, and how do they behave? To answer these questions, and to introduce this issue’s theme, it was first deemed necessary to consider Covid-19’s place in the long line of previous epidemics and develop a better understanding of those yet to come. Jean Freney has risen superbly to the challenge. [Read more]

Learning the hard way: how the Ebola virus experience can help Guinea deal with Covid-19

By Stéphanie Maltais - Resilience can emerge from fragility. This is what Stéphanie Maltais observed from her research conducted in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis in Guinea between 2013 and 2016. Lessons that can be applied to the current pandemic. [Read more]

What the Covid-19 crisis tells us about our ability to learn

By François Grünewald - The ability to learn from previous crises and adapt those lessons to any new context is one of the keys to disaster management, including health disasters. François Grünewald’s article seeks to put the management of the Covid-19 crisis into perspective in light of the lessons learnt from previous health crises. [Read more]

The central role of community health in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic: the experience of Médecins du Monde Canada

By Chloé Cébron, Shelley-Rose Hyppolite and Nadja Pollaert - Might a community approach be one of the solutions for social distancing, the scope of which has been revealed by the current pandemic? This is the argument put forward by the three authors, members of Médecins du Monde Canada. [Read more]

Tough choices: moral challenges experienced by aid workers during the Covid-19 pandemic

By Miriam Kasztura and Françoise Duroch - The truly unprecedented nature of the pandemic has mobilised and confused humanitarian NGOs and their staff as much. Forced inaction mixed with setting up programmes within a context of high uncertainty has resulted in strong, sometimes painful, moral experiences. The research project initiated within Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland has already made it possible to collect useful data both for the present crisis and for others to come. [Read more]

Responding to Covid-19 in conflicts: difficult but necessary

By Michiel Hofman - In this article, Michiel Hofman reflects on the difficulty of implementing a health response in war zones especially in a context where States are mistrusted, where non-state armed groups call on increasing hostilities and where humanitarian actors must deal with travel restrictions, supply shortages and fundraising gaps. [Read more]

A test of dignity: an anthropological analysis of Covid-19 responses in West Africa

By **Yannick Jaffré, Fatoumata Hane and Hélène Kane - The three authors of this article conducted an anthropological analysis of the Covid-19 pandemic as seen from and experienced in Africa, shedding valuable insight into how this pandemic has been perceived by the continent’s populations, scientists and politicians. It also – and perhaps most importantly – offers an astute interpretation of the representations made and the demands for dignity expressed. [Read more]

The Covid-19 pandemic: a double burden in humanitarian crises

By Karl Blanchet - From refugee camps in Kenya or Jordan to countries in conflict such as Yemen or Syria, the expertise of humanitarian actors is key to limiting the spread of the pandemic in countries where health systems are fragile. In order to better define the stakes and the different tools that can be mobilised, the new Covid-19 Humanitarian platform allows the systematic production of orientation documents and the sharing of lessons learned for a better impact of humanitarian programmes. [Read more]

An unhealthy combination: War, Covid-19 and the politics of metaphor

By Norah Niland - At a time when multilateralism is collapsing and populism rising, Norah Niland highlights the new fragilities that Covid-19 has revealed in local and international systems of governance. If the pandemic is further complicating access to communities already affected by war, what should our duty of outrage be in the face of empty political declarations and actions that enable armed conflict and the slaughter of civilians? [Read more]

Why Covid-19 should not be considered as solely a humanitarian emergency

By Anna Khakee - Should the health, social and political blast represented by the current pandemic lead humanitarian workers to break free from the principle of neutrality? In this article, the author gives a clearly affirmative answer to this question. Anna Khakee believes that humanitarian NGOs must take a stance so as not to be exploited by only helping to return to the status quo ante. [Read more]


Aid localisation: current state of the debate and potential impacts of the Covid-19 crisis

By Martin Vielajus and Jean-Martial Bonis-Charancle - Could the debate about localising aid and actually putting it into practice undergo an unexpected resurgence due to the global health crisis? Either way, the Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to review this idea, as the two authors of this article did just before the outbreak of the current pandemic. [Read more]


Neoliberalism: are we past the peak of the epidemic?

By Alain Caillé et Bertrand Livinec - While we have all now become amateur epidemiologists, we have also seen first-hand the adverse effects caused by neoliberalism. In an equally relevant and exhilarating parallel, the two authors recount the emergence and subsequent spread of this epidemic, which is by no means unrelated to the pandemic that we are currently experiencing. Which will outlast the other? [Read more]