Knock Knock. Who’s There? WE’RE HERE

The recently published MSF Report “ Where is Everyone” has caused a lot of (distorted) opinion in the media and in development. We should focus on the fact that...

The recently published MSF Report “ Where is Everyone” has caused a lot of (distorted) opinion in the media and in development. We should focus on the fact that MSF is saying what most people inside the humanitarian system knew, but didn’t want to hear out loud, and finally do something about it. 

Working in emergency response is not easy, that is beyond doubt. It all happens fast and with no warning. There is need for rapid reaction, a systematic approach, acceptance of sudden and repetitive changes, and determination.

A few weeks ago Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) released a report -“Where is Everyone?” – which is a very constructive analysis of what is lacking in emergency response (especially in displacement emergencies).

Naturally, the media has framed the report as a criticism mainly directed towards the UN’s response in remote areas in emergency context, supporting and strengthening the (false) belief in this elusive blind dismissal of NGOs towards the United Nations. Yes, there is discontent and we all know that things could be better, but on the ground, we need to cooperate. I cannot stress it enough: We are all working for the same goal.



Inefficiency, bureaucracy and lack of access to the most insecure areas are avoidable realities that emergency staff- inside and outside the UN system- are very aware of, and probably angry about, and it is about time that someone spoke of it.

The findings in the report are based on research into the major displacement emergencies in recent years- Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Jordan-, interviews to 116 key informants, and verifications by MSF staff in these areas.

The three areas chosen for evaluations have very strong logistical and accessibility problems, and insecurity is also a major issue. The critique directed at UN’s lack of flexibility and effectiveness in emergency response should be seen as recognition of the strength of UN’s presence on the ground. It really is a time in which UN agencies on the ground should seriously re-evaluate their policies and make the most of their political influence, economic and personnel capacity on the ground.

Another important observation is directed towards the donor system, which also definitely needs a stir. Donors should also look into changing their system, which according to MSF is slow and unsuited for an emergency situation.

“ The value for money of a late, badly targeted and ineffective response is surely close to zero”

Attention and money flows very quickly into organisations during an emergency; however the time it takes for the money to reach the field is very slow.


In the last years, there has been a strong realisation in the humanitarian system, that there is a need for change. Colleagues and friends working in the system recognise that as it is, the system is failing on too many levels.

‘Reshape Aid’, the tagline of World Humanitarian Summit (that will take place in Istanbul in 2016) reflects this realisation. There are signs everywhere, for example the decentralisation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, pushed by their Director General Graciano Da Silva, is also indicative of a major stir in the humanitarian system.

There has been a general understanding that in order to have an impact on the places where implementation of programs (long or short term) are happening, there needs to be staff present and there is an urgent need to think in advance about the programs.

“ In acute emergencies, international staff of humanitarian agencies are rapidly evacuated or go into hibernation, and programs downgrade”. The report, mentions lack of international staff in emergency response as an obstacle to effective intervention.

This report gives an opportunity for every humanitarian organisation working in emergency situations to re evaluate their methods in a constructive manner.

This is not an attack; it is an intelligent stir of the stagnant situations that the humanitarian system is finding itself at.

As the report concludes, there is the capacity (funds and staff) to have a much more effective intervention and impact, but there is a huge need for work. There are many people willing to change things, and to actively participate in the creation of a more effective humanitarian system, MSF’s report is an encouragement to do so.

So, knock knock. Who’s there? WE’RE HERE


Written by: Virginia Vigliar


Please click on the following link to read the report here.

Virginia Vigliar

Virginia is a freelance journalist and editor based in Barcelona, consults for Oxfam in Spain and the Netherlands, and she is the Chief Editor of WIB. She is a passionate advocate of human rights and freedom of speech. And a meme enthusiast. She has worked in the development sector in Malawi and Kenya and Somalia before returning to Europe, where she gained experience in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Spain. To see her work, look at her website here:
No Comment

Leave a Reply



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.