Humanitarian responses to disaster, poverty or pandemics have been around since antiquity, but humanitarianism as a field has a more recent history linked to international aid, non-governmental organizations and ‘humanitarian’ actors. Since an upsurge of unrest in Burundi in 2015, more than 258,000 refugees have crossed into Tanzania, making it the largest recipient of Burundian refugees in the East African region. Humanitarian aid and professional disaster response receive attention, yet what is missing here is the action taken in response to both protracted and acute humanitarian crises by Tanzanians who are not humanitarian professionals. Everyday humanitarianism (EH) refers to an expanded series of practices in the everyday lives of citizens that are engaging in humanitarianism, outside of the formal structures of humanitarian actions (Richey 2017). This do-gooding response to crisis can be proximate for one’s neighbours or distant for suffering Others. Humanitarianism is often explored in a North-South perspective, assuming that organisations funded and dominated by the Global North carry out humanitarian acts of ‘rescue’ in the Global South. Furthermore, humanitarianism is mostly assumed to be carried out by (international) organizations and focused on recipients. EHTZ challenges these assumptions in three ways. First, it explores the everyday humanitarian actions of ordinary citizens. Second, the project explores these responses in a Southern context, not through the typical Northern perspective. Third, we focus explicitly on the givers as well as the receivers.
Everyday humanitarianism (EH) may involve, for example, housing refugees along their journey to processing centres, paying school fees for additional children in areas affected by floods, or donating online or to local churches in earthquake prone regions of the country. Tanzanians of all social classes are involved in EH, from rich philanthropists to farmer neighbours, yet these actions remain unacknowledged and unaccounted for. Unfortunately, the reason that Tanzania is an excellent case for understanding EH results from its increasing humanitarian need, uneven government attempts to manage disasters, and complex linkages between humanitarian and development needs and the partners who engage them. EHTZ will measure and explain the everyday humanitarian practices of communities engaged most directly with protracted crisis (refugees) and others experiencing acute crises (earthquake, floods). EHTZ’s Overall Objective is to understand how people interacting in everyday situations respond to crisis situations outside of the formal structures of humanitarian assistance.