What Is Humanitarian Assistance?

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Across the world, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are coordinating the United States’ humanitarian response to man-made and natural disasters. Through these two agencies, many forms of U.S. assistance and aid reach people in need. Aid could be deliveries of clean drinking water, distributions of malaria vaccines, or even clean-up and rescue efforts after earthquakes.

In this video, USAID Assistant to the Administrator Sarah Charles shares different humanitarian assistance efforts and why it is important for the United States to provide help to other countries when they face devastating disasters.

Discussion Questions

Use the following discussion questions to guide your classroom conversations about this video. Refer to the timestamps to find the answers to these questions.

  1. What is humanitarian assistance? (start – 0:10)
  2. What is disaster risk reduction and why should the United States support investment in this concept? (1:25 – 1:46)
  3. What percentage of the U.S. budget is devoted to humanitarian assistance? (2:45 – 3:12)
  4. Explain your thinking about this quote from the video, “We provide our humanitarian assistance in what’s called an impartial way. So this means that it’s regardless of race, class, religion, or politics.” Why is being impartial important when it comes to providing humanitarian assistance? (3:25 – 3:35)
  5. Why is it important for agencies providing assistance to have separate relationships with the government of a country and with the people of a country? What advantages does this approach bring? (3:36 – 5:07)
  6. In what ways is humanitarian work both challenging and rewarding? (5:08 – 6:50)
  7. Identify some current ways the United States is providing humanitarian assistance abroad.
  8. What is one thing you learned from the video that you found interesting, surprising, or confusing?
  9. What is one question you would ask the speaker in this video?
  10. Summarize what you learned about the importance of providing humanitarian assistance.

Video Vocabulary

The following terms are referenced in this video.

  • Humanitarian – Promoting human welfare, well-being, and social reform.
  • Solidarity – Agreement and support for members of a group.
  • Bipartisan – Cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties.
  • Intervention – The act of getting involved with the outcome or course of something to prevent harm or improve a function.
  • Volcanologist – A scientist who focuses on understanding the formation and eruptive activity of volcanoes.
  • Mental health – The condition of a person’s mental and emotional state.
  • Friction – Conflict or disagreement between parties with opposing views
  • Common ground – Opinions, interests, or agreements shared by two or more parties.
  • Propaganda – Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.
  • Trauma – A deeply disturbing or upsetting event or experience.

AP and IB Course Connections

Use this video in your Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Below are prompts for each course.

AP Comparative Government

Suggested Course Units: Unit 1: Political Systems, Regimes, and Governments, Unit 2: Political Institutions, Unit 5: Political and Economic Changes and Development
Question Type: Comparative Analysis
Prompt: Compare how international aid can be impacted by the type of government and level of economic development in two different AP Comparative Government and Politics course countries. In your response, you should do the following. 

(A) Define humanitarian assistance. 
(B) Describe how humanitarian assistance is used or provided by two different AP Comparative Government and Politics course countries. 
(C) Explain why each of the two AP Comparative Government and Politics course countries described in (B) would choose to approach international humanitarian assistance differently.

IB Global Politics

Paper Type: Stimulus-based paper on a topic from one of the four core units.
Prompt: To what extent is humanitarian assistance an effective act of diplomacy?