From Relief to Resilience: Heart and Head in the Sahel

This blog is part of a series organized by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction to call attention to the crisis in the Sahel, a region in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 18 million people face starvation and 1.1 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of dying from acute malnutrition. Click here to read more of HuffPost Impact's coverage of the Sahel and here to find out what InterAction members and others are doing in the Sahel.

Are you a heart person or a head person?

Me, I'm a little bit of both, as I suspect most people probably are. And in the world of relief and development, it's important to have heart -- to remember the human impact of the work we do. Of course, it's also important to use our heads -- to make sure that the work we're doing is efficient and effective and the best work that we can do.

As we watch a devastating drought unfold in the Sahel for the third time in less than a decade, putting millions at risk of hunger, it occurs to me that perhaps the international community has been responding to these crises over the years with a lot of heart, but maybe not as much head.

Let me explain what I mean.

When someone is hungry, our instinct as one human being to another is to give them food. That's our heart at work. We want to ease their suffering, and food will do that. And whenever there's a humanitarian crisis -- whether it's a slow-onset disaster like the drought in the Sahel, or a sudden shock like the massive earthquake in Haiti -- the humanitarian imperative comes first. When there is life-threatening devastation, you respond with life-saving assistance. That's relief.

But as we've seen in the Sahel in 2005, 2008, and now again in 2012, it's not enough. Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe, agricultural production is less stable and predictable, and the world can't continue to respond with a Band-Aid approach. We can meet the humanitarian imperative in ways that simultaneously enhance people's ability to meet their needs over the long term and become less vulnerable to future crises. That's resilience. Continue reading From Relief to Resilience on The Huffington Post»