Think Critically about Humanitarian Aid

This activity has been designed to help young people think critically about humanitarian aid.


This exercise introduces the topic of disasters and examines early opinions related to disasters and humanitarian aid, which may be based on stereotypes. You can repeat the exercise after young people have gained greater knowledge concerning the topic.

Learning Objectives
  • To encourage critical thinking about humanitarian crises and their causes.
  • To enable young people to take part in discussions, listen to the opinions of others, and reach a compromise.
  • Activity sheet: ‘Opinions about humanitarian crises’ (one sheet per pair of young people).
Who is Affected by a Humanitarian Crisis?

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose everything in one moment? Literally, everything. You would be without all the things you need for everyday life – such as housing, food and water. The people who were with you, including your family, couldn’t help you. Many of them would have just lost their lives. The others would be in the same bad situation as you.

Or can you imagine that you and your family, parents and friends were forced to flee in order to survive? Walking for days without food and water and not knowing where your journey would end.

Such a course of events seems to be difficult – or practically impossible – to imagine, and yet every year millions of people around the world are in exactly this situation. Many of these people are victims of humanitarian crises, fleeing from earthquakes, wars and other disasters.

Teachers notes

Divide the class into pairs. Give each pair a copy of the activity sheet ‘Opinions about humanitarian crises’, which contains a list of opinions about humanitarian crises. Ask each pair to choose one statement they agree with and one they disagree with. Give them time to discuss the statements and their implications.

Next, ask the pairs to combine with another pair to make a group of four. Each pair should tell their new partners about their choices, providing reasons behind their choices.

Ask each group to nominate a representative to present their choices to the class and to explain why they made those decisions.

Bring the group back together and consider the following questions:

  1. What are the reasons for our attitudes towards disasters that result in a humanitarian crisis?
  2. Where do our opinions regarding these types of disaster come from?
  3. Where do we get most of our information about the world? From adults, parents, school, TV, newspapers, friends or other sources?
  4. In what ways can we find other sources of information?

Activity Sheet: Opinions about Humanitarian Crises

The climate in the Global South is unfavourable. That will never change.

There are too many wars in the world. Money used to buy weapons should be used to buy food instead.

The majority of the resources in the Global South have been taken over by countries in the Global North. Many countries in the Global South have lots of land and rich mineral resources.

People in the Global South are so ill that they cannot do anything to help themselves.

People in the Global South expect too much from charities. They should do more to help themselves.

Countries must become self-sufficient and stop relying on others.

As wealthy countries, we must help other, less fortunate countries to reach a similar level of development and wealth.

There is enough food for everyone in the world however it is poorly shared between countries.

The biggest problem is the number of people in the world. There are too many people to feed and clothe.

Victims of humanitarian disasters need all the help they can get, so it’s best to make a small donation rather than do nothing at all.

You shouldn’t help citizens of countries affected by civil war. They brought their problems upon themselves.