January 25, 2010

British Medical Journal Slams 'Aid Industry'

As disaster-relief charities assist survivors of Haiti's earthquake, an editorial in a leading public-health journal slams them for seeking the news-media spotlight and too often being moire concerned with raising money than helping needy people.

In an editorial published last week in The Lancet, a noted British medical journal, says that in Haiti and other impoverished countries charities do "exceptional work in difficult circumstances."

But after years of observing the "aid industry," it's clear the groups are highly competitive with each other for financial support, it says.

"Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavory characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts," the editorial says.

It goes on to say: "It seems increasingly obvious that many aid agencies sometimes act according to their own best interests rather than in the interests of individuals whom they claim to help."

While it may seem "unpalatable" to question people and charities who are busy helping the people of Haiti, The Lancet argues that "just like any other industry, the aid industry must be examined, not just financially as is current practice, but also in how it operates from headquarter level to field level."

The article, "Growth of Aid And The Decline of Humanitarianism," is available in the current issue of The Lancet. (Free registration is required to view the article.)

What do you think? Do international aid groups sometimes focus too much on raising money rather than helping people?