Aid agencies accused of 'jostling for position' in relief operations

A row has broken out between aid organisations working in Haiti and
The Lancet medical journal which claimed the organisations look after their own interests rather than those of the people they claim to help.

In an editorial published yesterday, The Lancet criticised the "decline of humanitarianism" in the aid sector and its replacement by a culture of competition in which organisations seek to raise their media profile to win more donations.

The aid sector has become "polluted" by the "internal power politics and unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations," it said. "Relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have better networks in affected counties and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief," it said.

But the Disasters Emergency Committee, which is co-ordinating the aid response in Haiti, said The Lancet's attack was "risible".

Brendan Gormley, the DEC chief executive, said: "Rather than "jostling" for position, 13 major UK aid agencies have come together under our banner to launch the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal to ensure a coherent and united response in our UK fundraising and publicity."

He went on: "It is clear that the scale of the disaster in Haiti is far too large for any individual agency and the DEC agencies always work closely together on the ground."

Logistical problems in Haiti were huge because of the scale of the destruction and the large number of UN staff and members of the Haitian government who had perished. The Lancet had failed to take this into account, he said.

Dedicated staff and volunteers were working tirelessly to bring help to the survivors. "To suggest that humanitarianism is no longer the ethos of many organisations is risible," he said.

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