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Bad aid

After a decade of deregulation and expansion, the emergency relief business is in a mess. Alex de Waal laments the industry's lack of professionalism, but welcomes official recognition of the problem

By Alex De Waal   October 1996

Western governments have become much more stingy about humanitarian aid to Africa. Curiously, this may be good news for many famine vulnerable Africans. For all is not well in the aid business. Morale is low and some relief workers are questioning whether they are really doing something worthwhile.

The last decade has seen a rapid expansion and deregulation of the “humanitarian international”-the industry providing emergency relief to disaster stricken people in poor countries. Private and official aid agencies have proliferated; relief consumes ever larger proportions of aid budgets; and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) now dispense more aid to Africa than the…

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