How Aid Works

How Aid Works


How do you stop an epidemic that’s already killed the local doctors? How do you solve a problem like 80,000 refugees and no toilets? How do you pipe safe drinking water into a village with no roads and no electricity? In this podcast, Australian Red Cross aid workers talk about the challenges of providing aid – in the crises that make the news and the ones that don’t. If you’ve ever donated to an aid agency or wanted to be an aid worker, this is the show for you.


We’ll Do It Our Way, Thanks  

The Philippines has been battered by three super-typhoons in the last three years. It’s not surprising that they’ve become very good at dealing with them. Catherine Gearing unpacks the success factors that have dramatically reduced the death rate from Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 to Typhoon Koppu in 2015.

The Pitter-Patter of Ebola Vomit  

How well did our humanitarians face the big disasters of last year – the disease outbreaks, the earthquakes, the conflicts that created a global refugee crisis? Steve McAndrew, who led Red Cross responses to most of these crises, offers us insight, gruesome stories and his personal hopes for humanity.


How do you solve a problem like 85,000 people and no toilets? We ask sanitation engineer James Godbee about solutions devised in the field, on the run, to solve the unexpected challenges that can arise in humanitarian aid.

Heart-Stopping Moments  

A simple road trip means negotiating safe passage with militants. A child’s stuffed crocodile contains his only hope. A soldier comes to understand what the red cross really means. Here’s what it’s like to lead an aid mission in a high-security environment like Nigeria or Afghanistan.


In the wake of a disaster, everything you’ve learned about child protection comes sharply into focus. In Nepal, Sally Chapman found destroyed schools, lingering trauma, forced marriage and trafficking, as well as incredibly resilient children who helped their families to survive and cope.

Good Water After Bad  

Your challenge: get safe drinking water to an island where a cyclone has destroyed all the water tanks and an active volcano is spewing ash everywhere. Water engineer Gordon Ewers talks about racing against time, winning a chicken, climbing towers to avoid a tsunami and why he sleeps on dirt floors.

Regulating Good Intentions  

What should you send a country that’s been hit by a disaster? Here’s a tip from Finau Limuloa: don’t send bras. In fact, don’t send anything. Finau unpacks the concept of disaster law and its vital role in making aid effective.

What’s a Humanitarian When It’s At Home?  

It's not a great time to be a humanitarian. Around the world, they're being shot at, sent home or silenced. Vicki Mau and Christoph Hensch are  'professional humanitarians': Vicki inspects detention centres and Christoph sends people overseas to provide health care in armed conflicts. We talk about what it means – and what it costs – to be humanitarian.

No Really, I'm Fine  

How emotionally healthy are people who spend their working lives in disaster zones? And if that’s your career path, how do you manage your stress? Psychologist Claire Groves, recently returned from the Nepal earthquake relief operation, offers some personal insights.

How Quickly the World Went to Hell  

In Sydney, a massive outbreak of armed violence forced millions of people – students, doctors, artists, shopkeepers – to flee for their lives, to any place where they were no longer being shot at. No, wait. Not Sydney. Syria. But as Toni Stokes explains, the parallels are terrifying.

Modern Family: Kathmandu  

The Nepal earthquake changed families in profound ways. Most lost their homes. Some lost children or parents. Others reconnected with brothers or sons who left long ago. And a few special people formed their own family when no one else would have them. Jess Letch unravels  a complex web of family ties and gender politics in a country that’s been shaken hard but still standing.

Is It Fixed Yet?  

Why are people still homeless three months after a massive relief effort in Vanuatu? We ask Tom Bamforth about who lost a house, who got a house, and whether any of those houses will still be standing when the next cyclone hits.

The Observer Effect  

You can access any prison, any detention centre, any gulag or PoW camp, anywhere in the world … but you can never tell anyone what you see there. Katrina Elliott talks about why neutral observers are important and the personal cost of seeing all and saying nothing.

War Surgery  

This is medicine stripped to the core: mending broken bodies by torchlight, in a tent in the heart of a swamp. Florence Nightingale Medal recipient Nola Henry describes how a mobile surgical team works in South Sudan and why a red cross on a white background keeps the bullets away.

The All-Access Pass  

A red cross or red crescent on a white background means ‘Don’t shoot!’ in every language. It’s meant to give aid workers access to the most difficult and dangerous places on earth: from prisons to battlefields. But as Dr Debra Blackmore explains, it demands strict neutrality. And with a recent spate of attacks on workers bearing the emblem, is it effective anymore?

Disasters and Do-Gooders  

Everyone wants to help when a major disaster hits: from relief agencies marking their turf to well-intentioned foreigners wanting to volunteer. Madeline Wilson, reporting from cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu, explains how disaster relief works and how order can emerge from chaos. 

Ten Men in a Tent  

Emergency shelter is a complex thing. How do you keep diseases from spreading? How do you protect women and children?  Robbie Dodds reports from Malawi, where 42,000 people are living in tents after flash floods covered a third of the country.

Dirty Jobs That Save the World  

You don’t stop diseases like Ebola with doctors. You stop them with garbage collectors, plumbers and grave-diggers. Amanda McClelland, leader of the Red Cross Ebola response team in Sierra Leone, talks about the unsung heroes who may yet stop Ebola in its tracks, no to mention the other deadly diseases you didn’t see in today’s news.

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