The Muddy Notebook: Journalist Carolyn Davis  Writes on Humanitarian Issues


These Web sites are the ones I often turn to for reliable and comprehensive information on humanitarian issues. For the games such as the World Food Program's Food Force, I encourage parents to try them first to determine for yourselves whether they are appropriate for your children. Please let me know if there are other Web sites I should include on this list. I'll do so after I've checked them out myself.


The U.S. Agency for International Development created this Web site to track hunger crises around the world through reports, maps including satellite imagery, and weather forecasts.


I'll leave it to the Web site to describe this innovative and much-needed project:

"Humanitarian emergencies are happening all over the world, all of the time, and there are many organizations, large and small, that are called upon to provide assistance in such emergencies. These can be governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, faith-based agencies, charities, and even commercial companies. One of the pressing concerns for all involved in the world of humanitarian assistance is the training and retention of key staff, and their professionalization. In the past, much of the assistance was provided by volunteers who sometimes had little or no previous experience, and consequently mistakes, sometimes tragic mistakes, were made. There is now a more professional career structure for aid workers, but the need for and costs of training are overwhelming, and agencies are struggling to provide this.

"It is against this background that the international Forced Migration Online team, particularly those at the University of Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre of Queen Elizabeth House, and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, began to envisage the possibility of developing a sophisticated computer-based simulation tool, ReliefSim. These partners, together with the University of Oxford's Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL), and Oxford ArchDigital (OAD) have begun to develop a unique training tool designed to create a believable representation of the environment in which aid workers may find themselves. This tool will allow aid workers to test their abilities and experiment with techniques in a realistic, but not real, environment, and will encourage them to develop skills in solving complex and interrelated problems."


Sponsored by the Reebok Human Rights Foundation and the International Crisis Group, this game simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp. It's not entirely clear how the game works, but the hazards for refugees couldn't be starker. I haven't thoroughly explored it, but the game seems sensitive and doesn't show gory situations, so this might be a good one to introduce older children to the concepts of being caught in fighting and having to flee home.


This is a creative, educational, interactive Web site from one of the top international aid organizations. I saw the good work Oxfam did in my own relief jobs abroad. Now, the group is using new technology to educate young and old about these situations and move them to action. I just did a so-so job of saving a village from an earthquake. It seems wrong to say a game about a natural disaster was fun, but fun it was. The site includes resources for teachers and schools.


The United Nations' World Food Programme created this free video game as a creative way to educate young people about world hunger and relief efforts. Players complete six mini missions on their way to deliver food aid to the ficticious island of Sheylan.


The World Health Organization hosts this powerful online database that delivers country-by-country statistics on a range medical and quality of life issues. Topics include, but are not limited to, access to clean drinking water; access to doctors and nurses; immunization rates; maternal mortality rates, and drug, tobacco and alcohol use.




Click here to read "To Catch a Falling Spoon"