The role of NGOs in development

Synopsis : The role the NGOs play in the development work, animal rights, human rights and numerous other fields are very important because they fight for the rights of people, animals and the environment where the governments fail. They help with free medical aid to the very poor, set up sanctuaries for orphaned animals and rescue abused children from slavery and bonded labor. They protect the whales and dolphins from illegal slaughter and they often suffer in the hands of criminals who profit.They are the unsung heroes of the world.

The role of NGOs in development


 MSF doctor helping African children ( Source – MSF photos)

I started out as a volunteer agronomist in Vietnam when I was a bit over 22 where I worked with the farmers in the TayNinh province west of Saigon. It is called Ho Chi Minh City or HCM city now  but I still prefer Saigon because it brings back all the memories some good and some bad of that era when dodging bullets was a part of our daily life so to speak. I worked in Vietnam during the war when some areas were out of limits and others were relatively safe although not completely safe as you will learn if you read my life story in

I worked with a few NGOs ( Non governmental organizations) that worked in Vietnam and were doing wonderful work helping refugees so I got to know some of them after the Tet offensive when a large number of refugees started to come in and had to be sheltered and supplied with essentials. My job was to go with the Saigon University students who were all volunteers and pick up supplies from the ministry and deliver them to the refugee centers scattered around the city. Some time it was soap, rice or nuoc mam and at other times gasoline, grass mats etc. I had to tie a Red Cross flag on my jeep so that everyone would know that we were in the relief business and not shoot at us.

There were numerous NGOs working in Vietnam at that time doing many things to help the people. Some were teaching, others doing relief work like us or working with farmers in agriculture but they all had one thing in common that was the constant danger to their lives. Some died serving the people and others were injured. A few were captured by the Vietcongs and kept as prisoners for many years but there was  also the risk of malaria, diarrhea, many types of tropical sickness or food poisoning that came from eating street foods that were not very hygienic.  These brave souls took it in stride and kept on working and helping that won the admiration of the common folks.

Some reported on the government corruption and army brutality to the press and paid a heavy price while others did what they could while working under very difficult circumstances to say the least.

Some were helping run orphanages and others worked as nurses to care for the wounded and sick so the NGOs played a vital role in the matter of helping people in Vietnam during that horrible war.

I often feel that these unsung heroes are not often truly appreciated by the corrupt people in the government because they often were at odds .The NGOs often fought corruption and talked to press that made them unpopular with the officials. Young people are often idealistic and want to help those who need them without any consideration for their own safety and health. They certainly were not there for money because they survived on pittance

All over the world there are numerous NGO that are involved at the grass roots level in poor countries where they teach, set up orphanages for children and animals rescued from poachers, some plant trees and others are helping with health related issues. In Nepal one brave woman is rescuing girls from brothels who were kidnapped by the criminal gangs and sold as slaves while in other countries they try to stop deforestation and pollution of water by big corporations.

In India one NGO is rescuing dancing bears and has created shelters and sanctuaries where these abused animals are given proper veterinary care and food. Others are trying to save and rescue the bears from the bear farms in China where these poor animals are tortured by making their story public. The naming and shaming the wrongdoers works to some extent but also has risks. These NGOs are often asked to stop their work and leave the country. They work in famine stricken countries bringing food and other necessities to starving people, they collect money through donations to help many and take photos, videos and write to news papers to expose the gravity of the situation.

Thanks to these NGOs and their admirable work, many governments have started to realize how serious the climate change issue is and what they must do to reduce the carbon emission worldwide. This has led to discussion and signing of treaties that may help reduce the pollution and global warming.

They fight big corporations that use pesticides indiscriminately poisoning the food chain and have sided with the Native Americans to protect their rights to clean water and their way of life.

No matter where you look, you will find NGOs working to help the poor and oppressed people everywhere. But their battle is an uphill battle because poachers are hell bent on killing the rare animals for profit and the big corporations are using slave labor to extract minerals for profit often in cahoots with corrupt officials who get rich with bribes.

Wars cause famine so it is manmade.  People in Ethiopia, Somalia and in many countries in the middle east are suffering due to wars that are fought there through proxy by other countries so farmers cannot grow food that causes famine.

Even if there are no wars, the climate can be the reason for low rainfall or no rainfall that causes the famine. The Governments in poor countries are ill prepared to deal with the massive number of people affected so they allow the NGOs to help .It is so bad in Somalia and other countries that the NGOs. have to bribe the corrupt officials so that they are allowed to bring the food to the needy.

There are the religious NGOs as well who help during flood and famine in India and the Red Crescent and the Red Cross people help where the help is needed. They helped in Iran and Pakistan where the earthquakes and flood caused misery of epic proportions.

The most admirable work is done by the Medecin Sans Frontiere ( MSF) people who are called doctors without border. They are doctors and nurses who risk their lives to work in war torn countries and bring their expertise to help people hurt in the war and work under appalling conditions. Recently an American plane bombed their hospital in the Middle East killings scores of doctors and patients even though the hospital was clearly marked as a hospital.

These wonderful people take time off from their regular jobs to volunteer to work in countries where people are dying of ebola or war and often get killed themselves.

There are doctors who perform surgery to correct the cleft lips of children for free and there are doctors who do free eye surgery as a gift to the very poor who cannot afford it.

So the NGOs play a very important role in the development everywhere and are the first to show up to help when a disaster like typhoon or earth quake hits a region.

I only wish that there was more awareness and support for these NGOs who do the admirable work to help people. They are the true angels but the bad people want to clip their wings because these angels show a bright light on the wrong doers. I know how hard it is for the NGOs to work in some countries because of my own experience of working in Vietnam during the war so I have full sympathy for them and wish them all the success.


Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Anil’s biography in English.

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