Oceans of Need in the Desert: Ethical Issues Identified While Researching Humanitarian Agency Response in Afghanistan
Zwi, Anthony B.
Developing World Bioethics 2002 December; 2(2): 109-130
This paper describes the interventions by the International Committee of the Red Cross to support a hospital in Afghanistan during the mid-1990s. We present elements of the interventions introduced in Ghazni, Afghanistan, and consider a number of ethical issues stimulated by this analysis. Ethical challenges arise wherever humanitarian interventions to deal with complex political emergencies are undertaken: among those related to the case study presented are questions concerning: a) whether humanitarian support runs the risk of propping up repressive and irresponsible governments; b) whether humanitarian relief activities can legitimately focus on a narrow range of interventions, or need to broaden to address the range of challenges facing the health system; and c) whether sustainability and quality of care should be routinely considered in such settings. The paper concludes by highlighting the value of case studies, suggesting mechanisms for extending transparency and accountability in humanitarian health interventions, and highlighting the need for contextualising humanitarian work if the interventions are to be successful.
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