The Crisis Caravan: What's Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?

Polman, Linda
Metropolitan Books, 2010, ISBN: 978 0 80509 2905, 240 pp.
Reviewed by or other comment: 

Hugh Goyder - Independent Consultant


This book is an entertaining and provocative attack on the humanitarian aid ‘industry’ by the Dutch journalist and war correspondent, Linda Polman. The book starts in 1994, with the Rwanda refugee camps in Goma, Zaire in which the aid effort was effectively controlled by the Hutu genocidaires, which was described even at the time as a ‘total ethical disaster’. She goes on to attack both humanitarian agencies for being too concerned about chasing the next donor contract, and journalists whom she feels depend increasingly on the major aid agencies for stories, and hence cannot afford to be too critical of humanitarian operations. There are also chapters about the media's obsession with the amputees following the conflict in Sierra Leone, the use of food aid as a weapon of war, and the tendency of humanitarian agencies to be exploited (and charged extensive taxes) by governments in countries like Sudan. Finally there is a highly critical exposure of what Polman calls ‘Afghaniscam’ – the huge amounts of aid which have gone unaccounted for in the last ten years in Afghanistan.

The full book review is available here: