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Global humanitarian need is on the rise. The UN estimates that 125 million people need humanitarian relief and more than 60 million people are displaced from their homes. The Government of Canada's international assistance review could not have come at a more critical time. Disasters do not discriminate, but ultimately due to structural gender inequalities kill more women than men, and affect women's livelihoods hardest. Sixty per cent of all maternal deaths take place in humanitarian settings and all forms of gender based violence against women and girls spike during disasters and conflict.
I have been fortunate to be able to assist on the ground with disaster relief in communities across Alberta including the Slave Lake fire in 2011 and the Calgary floods in 2013, and I've learned that cash donations, even small ones, are by far the most effective way to help those recovering from a disaster.
Despite there being no shortage of reasons for despair, we must start this new year with hope. There is no doubt that the situation in Syria is dire. But just as with Ebola, we can mitigate the dreadful human toll if we retain our instincts for empathy, and remain steadfast in our defence of fundamental humanitarian principles.
It's hard to drum up generosity in a world that always demands you to give, give, give. So, this International Day of Charity, don't give. Take. Here are five takeaways that will make you ready to give again.
There is simply no compatibility between humanitarian action and the use of military force in combat. One has as its singular objective the alleviation of human suffering, regardless of the sufferer's identity or affiliation; the other, by definition, involves taking the side of one group against the other. That's also why it is very worrying to hear that humanitarian assistance is being used as strategic tactic in military action.
When Canadian music industry mogul Gary Slaight announced his foundation was giving a $7 million donation to seven non-profit organizations, he didn't just hand over a cheque. He presented a vision. Slaight wants non-profits to come out of their silos and change the world with cooperation.
"We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it," said Ernesto Guevara. If indeed true, then Kayla Mueller would have spent her final hours in deep assurance and firmness of conviction.
#BringBackOurGirls was a massively popular way of protesting in part because it was so simple. Most major celebrities, politicians and even conservative political pundits participated. It was all an impressive display that sadly overlooked the real solutions to dilemmas like the Nigerian kidnappings.
People worldwide can be forgiven for their sense of bewilderment at the constant back and forth between military and diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Syria. We've now been at this long enough for commentators to reverse their positions depending on the most recent developments. But there is one group -- a huge one -- for whom none of this really matters: refugees.