Tenth issue – March 2019


Cities: a new humanitarian field

By Boris Martin - Fom the plains of Solferino to the mountains of Afghanistan, by way of Ethiopian villages and the South American bush, humanitarian aid has mainly been forged at a distance from urban settings. Certainly, cities have never been spared their share of wars, natural disasters or epidemics. Lisbon, Hiroshima, Saigon, Beirut, Sarajevo and Sanaa spring to mind. [Read more]


“1919 was ‘year zero’ for internationalism”

Interview with Jeremy Adelman - In October  2018, the workshop “Humanitarian Photojournalism: A History of the Present” was organised at Princeton University. The main goal of this event was to think about “the connections between the rising importance of photojournalism and the rise of global humanitarianism”. One of the workshop’s organisers, the Global Historian Jeremy Adelman, granted us an interview. [Read more]

Médecins Sans Frontières-France: tensions arising from the “Migration” projects

By Michaël Neuman - Can Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) be first responder, advisor and activist, all at the same time? While the organisation has never seemed to be on the front line with regards the effects of the “migration crisis”, the question is still being asked internally, particularly in the French section. All credit to Michaël Neuman – and his role at the Centre de Réflexion sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires (CRASH) – for leading this discussion. [Read more]


Humanitarianism at the heart of tomorrow’s urban challenges

By Emmanuel Matteudi - The urban clinical picture is disquieting, but not hopeless. Emmanuel Matteudi, in his analysis of the world’s urban explosion, appropriately reminds us that humanitarianism, lying at the heart of the challenges facing tomorrow’s cities, will not be able to act alone. [Read more]

A development NGO faced with a major emergency in an urban environment

By Renaud Colombier - Before being struck by an unforgettable earthquake, Port-au-Prince was a city. For this very reason it suffered so many deaths, injuries and devastations. The experience of GRET (former Group for Research and Technology Exchanges), as recounted here by Renaud Colombier, provides food for thought about the links that must be forged between development and emergency humanitarian aid actors. [Read more]

A virtuous circle of collaboration for an efficient urban humanitarian response: Kampala

By Louise Thaller et Innocent Silver - As the country in Africa that receives the greatest number of refugees, Uganda has an open and inclusive migratory policy. The authorities of the capital, Kampala, have put in place an innovative and comprehensive project for the management of the needs of migrants and of the host population. The project, which brings together local and national authorities, international NGOs and local associations, benefited from the support of the think-tank IMPACT Initiatives. [Read more]

The “Officials of 40 Street” in N’Djamena: a phenomenon outside the humanitarian field

By Emmanuel Bossennec - The capital of Chad is experiencing a phenomenon which is common to many other African cities. These young people who “come to the city”, being neither refugees nor displaced persons, pass under the radar of humanitarian workers and politicians alike. They nevertheless represent a situation which ought to concern them both. [Read more]

Overcoming barriers for treating people who use drugs in an urban setting

By Alan González, Alexandra Malm, Lucas Molfino, Carlota Silva - Reaching drug users in urban contexts is as much a challenge as it is a social and health requirement. In Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, Médecins Sans Frontières has developed a medical approach adapted to a population at high risk, stigmatised and criminalised. [Read more]

Resilience as a protection strategy in informal settlements

By Pablo Cortés Ferrández - The city as a refuge or as a prison. Pablo Cortés Ferrández carried out a study in Altos de la Florida, an informal settlement in the municipality of Soacha in Colombia. This vulnerable urban community is a reflection of a global phenomenon which must lead humanitarian workers to rethink their interventions, together with local actors and, of course, the populations. [Read more]

Can gangs play a role in providing relief?

By Diego R. Fernandez Otegui - The thesis is daring, but in the extreme context of urbanisation and violence in Latin America, it deserves to be asked. In this article, indeed, the author analyses the extent to which gangs could play a role in providing relief to populations. More questioning than affirmative, Diego Otegui calls above all to overcome simplistic visions and developing research in this field. [Read more]

Urban warfare: a challenge for humanitarian law and action

Par Julien Antouly - Increasingly, war is being fought in urban areas. Because it is where the centres of power are based, where resources are concentrated and where the civilian population can be held hostage. A situation that questions the law of war and the intervention strategies adopted by humanitarian organisations. [Read more]


Revisiting the Nexus: numbers, principles and the issue of social change

By Gilles Carbonnier - Might the concept of social change enable us to work towards a better synergy between the current actors in the development-humanitarian aid-conflict prevention Nexus? This is the hypothesis of the economist Gilles Carbonnier, based on the flow of resources to recipient countries of humanitarian aid. [Read more]


Innovating humanitarian practices through socio-anthropological research

By Magali Bouchon - The seminar, “Socio-anthropological research at Médecins du Monde: What use is it to act?” was held on 14 December 2018. This day was the opportunity to look back on the ten years of Médecins du Monde’s (MdM) socio-anthropological approach, and provide – with the input of researchers and academics – perspectives for fruitful collaboration between the world of research and that of humanitarian action. [Read more]

“The Kamaishi miracle”: lessons learned from the 2011 tsunami in Japan

By Diane Alalouf-Hall - The tsunami that hit the east coast of Honshu Island in Japan in 2011 not only made Fukushima a martyr city, a universal symbol of the current nuclear risk. It also struck many agglomerations exposed to the deadly wave that came from the Pacific Ocean. Kamaishi was one of them. It was also the place of a “miracle” that drew on good will and education of younger generations. [Read more]


“What have we lost along the way?”

By Pierre Brunet - This text by Pierre Brunet found its way into the humanitarian microcosm after its publication on the website Défis humanitaires. It is certainly no coincidence that it has generated so many positive, enthusiastic, and maybe even grateful reactions. Indeed, it powerfully coalesces the concerns, disappointments and perhaps disenchantments that the NGO world is experiencing. Pierre Brunet surely knew how to put into words the sometimes confused, untold or withheld feelings. May this text trigger a reflection about our own drive, and on what we refuse to become. [Read more]


Collectif item is an eye-opener

Le collectif item - Its rallying slogan, “So as not to stay with our eyes shut”, is a leitmotiv that resonates for humanitarian workers, development professionals and social workers and which justifies our turning the lens towards these revealers that are photographers.

Created in 2001, collectif item’s members now include 12 photographers, a video and sound director, a graphic designer and an anthropologist.



 [Read more]


Which hospitals and schools for Africa's capital cities in the future?

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The small world of major disasters

By Philippe Ryfman - For the past fifteen years, Sandrine Revet involved in a relatively unexplored sector of social science research, that of so-called “natural” disasters. And she has become a recognised specialist, not just in France, but internationally. [Read more]

The Next Generation

Dorian Dreuil’s commitment to aid work dates from when he was just 16. Presenting here something between a testimony and an essay, he goes back over his 10 years’ involvement as a volunteer with “Action contre la Faim” [Action against Hunger], the NGO that this year is celebrating 40 years of humanitarian action. [Read more]


Thérèse Benoît • Méline Bernard • Catherine François • Fay Guerry • Alain Johnson • Gauthier Lesturgie • Juliet Powys  • Benjamin Richardier  • Derek Scoins

Acknowledgements for their voluntary contributions:

Brax • Damian Gonzalez Dominguez (CIRC/ICRC) • Fay Guerry