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The Advantages of Short-term Humanitarian Missions

Many volunteers and aid workers go on short-term humanitarian missions. They are often touted as problematic for global development and humanitarian work. And while there is some disadvantage to short-term humanitarian missions, there are also advantages.

Here are some ways in which short-term humanitarian missions contribute to global development.

Availability of aid workers

Aid workers and volunteers are people. Often, they have a variety of commitments both in their career and their personal life. Sometimes, it’s impossible for them to deploy long-term. Therefore, short-term missions allow those who do not have long-term availability to contribute still.

This argument is also particularly important for specialized experts. Short-term volunteers are not dedicated humanitarians, and that’s ok. They can still be of great help – in particular for issues such as environmental clean-up, nature and conservation, and expert assessments or workshops. On the other hand, expert humanitarians can provide short-term support and knowledge exchange through short-term missions.

Rapid response in disasters

Rapid onset disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes or flooding, require an urgent response. Often, it’s only the first few hours or days after disaster strikes that will allow saving the most lives. So short-term deployment of disaster responders is essential.

This includes specialists in search and rescue, disaster management and response. These are individuals who can immediately travel to the affected zone and save lives. However, organizations should take care only to deploy trained personnel and volunteers in these situations. This is because the situation on the ground may be volatile and require expertise for successful implementation.

Immediate medical support

Similarly, short-term medical missions can be beneficial. When there is a disease outbreak, or specific services are needed, medical aid workers can be of great help. Often, medical experts are busy and cannot commit to long-term missions. But they will deliver aid in an emergency or for a specialized case.

Reduces aid dependence

One of the significant criticism of the aid sector is the dependence that it risks to create among communities. Short-term missions that tackle specific issues can reduce this risk. Instead of generating dependence, they may address only those problems that communities cannot treat on their own.

Empowering local communities

Also, it is possible to allow local communities through short-term missions. One way is through workshops and education. For example, by providing skills training, local communities may then implement changes on their own. This, instead of depending on outside organizations to do it for them.

Of course, this should always be context specific. Training out of context wastes everyone’s time. But an organization can first identify particular community needs. Then, they can deploy a short-term trainer or implementer to empower the locals to carry on with the initiative.

Training Opportunities for Humanitarian Aid Workers

Repeat short-term missions

Finally, short-term missions do not have to mean short-term commitment. Many volunteers and aid workers deploy for only a few days or a few weeks. But they can return to the same community over and over again.

For volunteers, this often means an annual commitment when they get time off work. They go back to the same community to provide continued support. This is a great way to make short-term missions have a long-lasting impact.

As for aid workers, it is sometimes impossible to deploy long-term experts. Visiting a place on multiple occasions allows them to understand the context. It is also a chance to see implementation through its different stages and make adjustments as needed. In the long-run, repeat short-term missions can become long-term accompaniment.

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