Defining the Limits of Emergency Humanitarian Action: Where, and How, to Draw the Line?

Public Health Ethics 3 (1):68-71 (2010)

Decisions about targeting medical assistance in humanitarian contexts are fraught with dilemmas ranging from non-availability of basic services, to massive demographic and epidemiological shifts, and to the threat of insecurity and evacuations. Aid agencies are obliged, due to capacity constraints and competing priorities, to clearly define the objectives and the beneficiaries of their actions. That aid agencies have to set limits to their actions is not controversial, but the process of defining the limits raises ethical questions. In MSF, frameworks for resource allocation are subject to constant reflection and reiteration, and perspectives are sought at all levels, from implementers at the programme level to the operational directors at headquarters. The perspectives of the programmes staff hold considerable weight as they have the knowledge and experience with particular communities to assess the degree of vulnerability and need, and are also the people who ultimately have to give explanations to beneficiaries when changes or closures are going to be instituted. Humanitarian agencies have a responsibility to ensuring that their workers are prepared to reflect on these dilemmas, and challenge the status quo when it costs lives
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DOI 10.1093/phe/php026
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Cholera and Nothing More.D. Devakumar - 2010 - Public Health Ethics 3 (1):53-54.

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When Ethics Survive Where People Do Not.G. M. A. Hussein - 2010 - Public Health Ethics 3 (1):72-77.

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