Main challenges of humanitarian aid in the 21st century

Challenges in distribution of humanitarian aid

Main challenges of humanitarian aid in the 21st century

Surely on more than one occasion you have heard of humanitarian aid and emergency action plans, for example in countries at war or in regions of the world where people lack basic services and must do everything possible to face serious social emergencies.

Almost all of us have seen images of humanitarian aid, however, do we know what exactly this type of aid refers to? How effective and important can it be?

In this post we tell you everything you need to know about humanitarian aid and its role in the 21st century.

The 3 levels of care of humanitarian aid

In general, immediate care measures the response capacity of care agencies to adverse situations, whatever their origin. There are three levels of care when it comes to humanitarian aid. Let’s see:


This type of assistance includes fundamental aspects such as food, accommodation, shelter in a safe place and medical and psychological attention, among others that may arise.

It is the most important type of help but, at the same time, the most difficult of all, since the effects of the situation are recent and the care personnel still do not fully control the terrain.


After the first 48 hours, care plans change. The work goes from being immediate to urgent and its objective is to try to reestablish normality in the scene of incidents and ensure that the essential needs of the people have been covered. There is greater control of the situation by the care teams and the initial impact of what happened begins to diminish.

Depending on the severity of the events, urgent care can last days or even weeks.


After these deadlines, humanitarian aid is planned in such a way that it becomes sustainable in the immediate future. The initial situation has been controlled, people are no longer at risk and now the main objective is to try, as far as possible, to return to normality.

This type of aid is usually implemented through social and economic plans.

International humanitarian aid agencies of the UN

An earthquake can destroy livelihoods, a war can force people to abandon their homes, a drought can cause crops to be lost… A humanitarian crisis makes people vulnerable. Action is needed to return their lives to normal.

For this reason, in addition to OCHA, the United Nations has other expert bodies that will provide assistance:

  • The UN Development Program (UNDP) is responsible for preventing and mitigating natural disasters.
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is responsible for protecting and sheltering refugees, preventing their rights from being violated.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) takes care of children, preserving their rights so that they can live safely.
  • The World Food Program (WFP) mobilizes food to fight hunger.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) ensures health and hygiene and prevents diseases.

The joint work of all of them makes it possible to protect the rights of refugees , disadvantaged groups or prevent the violation of fundamental human rights .