Katherine Butler: So how do we know the aid stays in the right hands?

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The Independent Online

The BBC's objection to broadcasting the disputed Gaza aid appeal appears, at least partly, to be based on the fear that Gaza aid cannot be delivered effectively. Implicit in that is the suggestion that BBC viewers may give cash which ends up in the coffers of Hamas.

The ability of aid agencies to deliver aid is an entirely legitimate question to address before launching any public appeal. But in the case of Gaza, NGOs insist, this is not an issue, since manifestly, they are delivering all manner of supplies from food packages to water. Phil Bloomer of Oxfam states: "Aid is getting through and going to those that need it most, regardless of political affiliation". Any idea that we mightbe inadvertently raising cash for Hamas is also a red herring, the agencies say. Why? Because emergency aid is distributed independently of governments and this principle applies whether the emergency isthe cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, the Burmese cyclone, or Gaza. "We don't deal with governments. You give us money. We buy stuff, bring it in and deliver it," Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt explains. "We don't put the money into anyone else's accounts. It is not on the radar that we'd deal with Hamas. Everything has to be accounted for, down to the last box of food aid on a truck." Christian Aid works in Gaza through local independent organisations such as the Near East Council of Churches. "We've known them for decades , we know the staff, we have no concerns about any funds or aid being diverted to Hamas." says the agency's Janet Symes.

The charities behind the appeal say they have rigorous monitoring procedures. Are they credible? Most have years of experience of raising money and disbursing aid, and are accountable to big corporations and public agencies such as the EU or the Department for International Development. If NGOs had compromised their political neutrality when they sought public cash for say, Kosovo, Nicaragua, or the Asian tsunami, we would most likely have heard about it from the auditors of these bodies a long time ago.