Types of Aid

Aid is the help that we give to countries or areas in need, to promote their health and sustainable human development.  We give aid in different ways, which have different pros and cons.

Emergency aid

Emergency (or humanitarian) aid is rapid assistance given to people in immediate distress during and after emergencies like war and natural disasters.  It tries to relieve current suffering and reduce immediate threats to health, increasing short-term survival in crisis so people can later rebuild their lives.

It’s not sustainable, because it doesn’t provide long-term assistance or development like education or infrastructure would – but it saves lives so people can survive to build sustainable human development.

Bilateral aid

When aid is given directly from one country to another (bi = 2), like Australia giving aid to East Timor.

The problem with this aid is that it can be tied to politics and self-interest – countries may give aid partially to benefit themselves, rather than focusing totally on the receiving country’s needs, so it may be less useful.  For instance, they may send their own goods and services to a country to improve their own employment and trade, but these may be expensive and a less effective or efficient way of spending the money.  If the government receiving aid is corrupt, this can waste money as it doesn’t reach those who need it.

Multilateral aid

When aid is provided through an international organisation like the World Bank or UN.  It combines donations from a number of countries (multi = many) and then distributes them.

As this type of aid pools resources, it can implement larger-scale programs than individual countries or NGOs, which can have a huge impact and address major humanitarian needs on a global scale.  It can also work on international health and human development issues that individual countries can’t address, such as international conflict, global disease epidemics, and multinational fast food or tobacco companies.  The organisations that deliver this aid are often organised, experienced and reliable.

However, being so large-scale, it can’t focus on being appropriate to an individual community’s needs, so it can be less efficient, effective and sustainable.  It can also miss those who need the aid most.

Non-government organisation aid

NGOs take different approaches to aid, which include specific programs, emergency aid, volunteering, education and development.  Aid provided by NGOs often focuses on communities.

NGO aid can be effective and sustainable as it often supports small-scale projects that focus on community development and participation, targeting the community’s specific needs so that they are appropriate and effective.   They can often provide aid where official aid cannot reach, and work directly with communities to increase their knowledge, resources and skills.

However, being small, often a large proportion of the donations they receive are used to support and run the organisation itself, rather than promoting SHD.