Humanitarian aid videos are getting rusty


Humanitarian aid videos are getting rusty

By Managing Editor

Everyone has seen the videos from humanitarian organizations featuring starving children in an unnamed sub-Saharan African country who can be fed for weeks for only a few dollars. 

These types of videos have become synonymous with humanitarian aid, disease, third-world countries, world hunger and many other prevalent issues. However, the majority of these videos are now simply playing upon clichés and stereotypes and do not challenge people’s beliefs about some of the most marginalized groups in the world. 

Radi-Aid, an organization formed in 2012 to foster a discussion about humanitarian aid campaigns and how they communicate their messages, announced the nominees for their annual awards which feature the best—Golden Radiator—and worst—Rusty Radiator—humanitarian videos from 2016 on Nov. 21.  

The nominees for the Golden Radiator included a video about educational access for girls, refugees in Poland and how people live with HIV and AIDS. 

The videos might be difficult to watch because they portray women being harassed and assaulted, emotional moments between citizens of Poland and refugees, and honest discussions about sex, HIV and AIDS. 

All of these videos are incredibly powerful and depict the reality of these issues,  but in comparison to the Rusty Radiator nominees, these videos steer clear of the usual, tired narrative seen in these kinds of videos.

One of the Rusty Radiator videos shows a starving child named “Jon” with information about how you can donate to feed him; another video shows a crying girl whose mother died from disease with information on how to “sponsor” a child. The last nominated video showed how a school keeps track of children who have sponsors and those who do not. A little girl said she is sad because she does not have a sponsor of her own. 

Radi-Aid’s critiques of these videos are not meant to undermine the issues they bring up. Malnutrition, education, poverty and access to clean water—all of which were discussed in these videos-—are some of the most severe problems facing the world today. These videos are all trying to make the average person living in a moderately developed country understand multi-faceted and complex issues with a very basic explanation. 

The videos do not explain that world hunger will not be solved if you donate to “Jon.” The video does not show that providing aid in the form of food does not lead to a lasting solution to hunger in an area, like building agricultural infrastructure would be much more likely to do. 

The videos on child sponsorship do not address if funds are going to one child, or if they are being put into the community to help support children now and in the future.  

These videos would be more successful if organizations would not water down issues. These problems are complex, but taking on a small part of them and giving a full and accurate explanation would be more beneficial and likely attract donors. 

It is easier for humanitarian organizations to create a video with a story that has been told a thousand times before, but that does not show an understanding of the impact they have on the world. These organizations must understand that if they are cognizant of the content they are creating, they could actually begin to shift the way people view the world instead of perpetuating demeaning and dehumanizing caricatures.