Our projects in Ukraine that you may have read about before, such as the youth groups and orphanages, remain safe and far from the fighting. But we are greatly distressed by the fighting, destruction, and suffering further east and are exploring ways to safely get aid through to the region. Recently we were thrilled to read news from a former colleague that a very excited team from the International Red Cross has been able to get a convoy of aid through to the town of Debaltseve, which has seen heavy fighting. You can read about the mission on their site. They have very significant security arrangements but we can learn from their experience of this delivery and hopefully make a safe and successful delivery to eastern Ukraine before too long.
Meanwhile, although we’ve had no overland convoys over the winter, Aid Convoy’s director Kieran Turner has been busy talking at conferences and seminars — naturally part of our aim is always to raise awareness of the situations in our target projects, particularly about places like Albania and Ukraine, for which there is often little publicity. But the most recent events have also focussed on supporting students who are keen to get involved in the humanitarian sector. These events included the fourth annual “Health in Humanitarian Settings Research Symposium” at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and a careers day at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute in the University of Manchester where he spoke alongside Dan Smith, Secretary General of International Alert, and the University’s Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs, Professor Mukesh Kapila.
It’s hugely encouraging that the University of Manchester now includes this relatively new institute, which runs a range of Masters-level courses in the field of humanitarianism. Taken together with the long-established Peace Studies department at the University of Bradford, and (local to Aid Convoy) the highly aid-aware Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, it seems like the north of England is nurturing quite a centre of excellence in the field! More to the point, it’s great to see the relevant skill-sets being developed by academic teams focussed on better understanding of the causes of, and solutions to international health and security disasters. Sometimes the community of aid organisations themselves – especially those linked to national governments – can develop a politicised and even blinkered view. There is often also a tension between voluntary and “professional” (i.e. paid) organisations, ranging from staff motivation through to resource-use efficiency. We therefore thoroughly support the growth of the academic overview of the sector as a whole, and look forward to being part of the ongoing conversation!