Between War and Peace: Humanitarian Assistance in Violent Urban Settings
AffiliationMédecins Sans Frontières, Spain
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AbstractCities are fast becoming new territories of violence. The humanitarian consequences of many criminally violent urban settings are comparable to those of more traditional wars, yet despite the intensity of the needs, humanitarian aid to such settings is limited. The way in which humanitarian needs are typically defined, fails to address the problems of these contexts, the suffering they produce and the populations affected. Distinctions between formal armed conflicts, regulated by international humanitarian law, and other violent settings, as well as those between emergency and developmental assistance, can lead to the neglect of populations in distress. It can take a lot of time and effort to access vulnerable communities and implement programmes in urban settings, but experience shows that it is possible to provide humanitarian assistance with a significant focus on the direct and indirect health consequences of violence outside a traditional conflict setting. This paper considers the situation of Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Guatemala City (Guatemala).