Ninety per cent of conflicts in developing countries are internal, between factions or regional groupings within a country, and most continue longer than 5 years, causing complex humanitarian emergencies with cycles of war, civil strife, displacement, food shortages and significant mortality. There have been seven million casualties from these internal wars over the past 15 years, and 75% were civilians. Responses by the Western powers, whether of intervention or abstention, are often justified on the basis of high moral purpose, defending values of liberty, human rights and the rule of law, but can be devastating in their consequences. The relationship between bodies that seek to offer humanitarian aid and the prevailing powers in any situation is equally complex. Thoughtful analyses here show how aid efforts to succour the desperately damaged are always constrained, and sometimes completely negated, by sociopolitical realities, particularly those influencing the major powers.
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