Showing posts with label Disaster Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disaster Management. Show all posts

17 September 2017

Responding to Hurricanes While Assuming No More Wars

by Bing West

The 1938 hurricane season resulted in 700 fatalities. The lack of technology to provide early warning caused that high number. In the current cases of Texas and Florida, casualties are far less because we have early, accurate warning and have learned how to prepare. But since we cannot change nature, we cannot prevent the physical damage and so Congress appropriates vast sums—likely to exceed $150 billion—to repair.

Like hurricanes, we know with certainty that major wars recur. Yet while we are increasing funds for recovery from natural disasters, we are cutting our military budget to respond to man-made catastrophes. Human nature has no arc bending toward perfection. In the 3,000 years of recorded history, the most savage and devastating war occurred only 70 years ago. Like hurricanes, we cannot predict when or where the next war will strike. (Unlike hurricanes, some wars are averted because a potential adversary calculates we are too strong to be attacked. It is, however, impossible to prove that negative.) So, like prudent homeowners, we as a people take out insurance in the form of the Defense budget.

However, the nature of our democracy is to reduce our insurance payments when not engaged in large-scale conflict, and to surge spending only after the war has occurred. Thus, we allocated to the Defense budget 22 percent of our GDP in World War I, 41 percent in World War II, 15 percent in the Korean War and ten percent in the Vietnam War. It then declined from 6.7 percent in 1972 to 5.5 percent in 1975. At that point, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger publicly decried the trend in cuts as “deep, savage and arbitrary.” He was fired. In 1981, President Reagan proposed raising Defense from 5.1 to 5.7 percent and a majority in Congress agreed. What’s the point of all those numbers? When there is not a major war being fought, only the president has the stature and the “bully pulpit” to influence the Defense budget in Congress.

28 July 2017

Asia under water: How 137 million people's lives are being put at risk

By Ben Westcott and Steve George

The 28-year-old fled her home country of Myanmar in January with her two daughters, escaping the latest outbreak of violence, and was living in the Kutupalang Makeshift Settlement in Bangladesh when cyclone Mora arrived five months later and displaced up to 500,000 people.

"My house was shattered. It broke the wooden planks supporting my hut and blew away the polythene rooftop. The wind and water destroyed whatever little possessions we had," she told UNICEF workers in June.

Khorsheeda's hut was severely damaged during Cyclone Mora in June 2017.

Several weeks later, across the Himalayas in South China, over 12 million people were forced to flee their homes as flood waters rose for yet another year.

In China's southeastern Jiangxi province alone, flooding this year has so far caused $430 million in damages and economic losses. In neighboring Hunan province, 53,000 homes have been destroyed -- and the flooding has yet to fully recede.

Increasingly severe weather, triggered by climate change, is putting hundreds of millions of people at risk across the rapidly developing countries of southern Asia.

A man using an improvised flotation device in floodwaters in Liuzhou, Guangxi in July 2017.

"In the next 30 years, it is projected that heavy rainfall events will be increasing ... in Asia, by about 20% for sure," climate scientist Dewi Kirono at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told CNN.

15 August 2016

The $47 Billion U.S. Emergency Response Network That’s Already Obsolete


http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/08/47-billion-us-emergency-response-network-s-already-obsolete/130675/?oref=d_brief_nl
The $47 Billion U.S. Emergency Response Network That’s Already Obsolete
BY STEVEN BRILLTHE ATLANTIC
AUGUST 12, 2016
FirstNet was envisioned as a way for police and firefighters to communicate with one another in the wake of 9/11. But four years later, it’s still not up and running.
The prize for the most wasteful post-9/11 initiative arguably should go to FirstNet—a whole new agency set up to provide a telecommunications system exclusively for firefighters, police, and other first responders. They would communicate on bandwidth worth billions of dollars in the commercial market but now reserved by the Federal Communications Commission for FirstNet.
FirstNet is in such disarray that 15 years after the problem it is supposed to solve was identified, it is years from completion—and it may never get completed at all. According to the GAO, estimates of its cost range from $12 billion to $47 billion, even as advances in digital technology seem to have eliminated the need to spend any of it.
FirstNet, which has received scant press attention, was established in 2012 and funded with an initial $7 billion. A classic congressional compromise made it a quasi-independent unit of the Department of Commerce. That was supposed to give it the heft and authority of the federal government but the agility and culture of a private-sector start-up. In fact, the reverse dynamics seem to have taken over from the beginning.

It took FirstNet two years just to recruit a skeleton staff, only to be hit by an inspector general’s report that found potential conflicts of interest and problems with the awarding of initial consulting contracts. It then took another two years to issue a request for proposal (RFP) asking contractors to bid on the work to build and operate the system.
The impetus for FirstNet grew out of an aspect of the September 11 narrative that is part tragedy and part urban myth.

9 August 2016

** How To Pack For E mergency Situations

posted on 04 August 2016

from STRATFOR

-- this post authored by Scott Stewart

We often talk about the need for people to prepare for emergency situations. In relation to personal preparedness, I'm frequently asked, "What equipment do you carry with you?" In fact, several people raised that exact question last week when I was teaching a course on travel security.

As I replied, it occurred to me that Stratfor readers might also be interested in my answer. So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to divert a little from the usual Security Weekly format to discuss it in the hope that readers will come away better prepared for emergencies.

Fire Protection

As we've discussed in the past, fire is a vastly underappreciated threat. Far more people die each year from fires - mostly from smoke inhalation - than from terrorist attacks. But as we've seen in places such as Benghazi and Mumbai, fire can be used as a weapon during an attack.

As my friend and colleague Fred Burton mentioned in the video above, there is something of a size-versus-effectiveness trade-off when it comes to smoke hoods. The larger hoods generally provide better protection against dangers such as carbon monoxide and toxic gasses, but many people, including me, find the larger hoods too bulky for everyday carry. There are some very good compact hoods that provide protection from carbon monoxide, but since they use compressed oxygen cylinders, passengers are not permitted to take them on board aircraft (although flight crews use the same smoke hoods). Since I travel by air often, this style of smoke hood simply is not practical for me. But if I lived in New York or Washington and took the subway or bus in my daily commute to work, I would carry this type of mask. By contrast, if I worked in a high-rise office building or lived in a high-rise apartment building, I would keep one of the larger, bulkier smoke hoods in my office or bedroom - and have one for every member of my family or staff.

1 June 2016

Dealing With Disasters. From Hurricanes To Asteroids, How Should We Determine What Steps To Take To Avert Catastrophe?

from the Richmond Fed

-- this post authored by Tim Sablik

When Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston, S.C., in September 1989, it became the first natural disaster in the United States to cause more than $1 billion in insured losses. Today, after adjusting for inflation, it doesn't even make the top 10 costliest U.S. disasters eight of which have occurred since 2000 alone. Indeed, disaster costs have been trending up worldwide over the last three decades (see chart below).


This may partly be explained by growth in coastal areas, which are at greater risk of damage from recurring natural disasters like severe storms and flooding. Development of these areas is not necessarily a bad thing, as Stéphane Hallegatte, senior economist in the World Bank's Climate Change Group, explained in a 2011 paper. Coastal cities are popular tourist destinations and are natural hubs for industry and trade thanks to their access to waterways. As a result, greater development in those areas is to be expected as a country's GDP increases, despite the risks.

24 April 2016

* 5 ‘big ideas’ to guide us in the Long War against Islamic extremism

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/5-big-ideas-to-guide-us-in-the-long-war-against-islamic-extremism/2016/04/15/c145cdde-028a-11e6-9203-7b8670959b88_story.html
By David Petraeus April 15 

The formulation of sound national policy requires finding the right overarching concepts. Getting the “big ideas” right is particularly important when major developments appear to have invalidated the concepts upon which previous policy and strategy were based — which now appears to be the case in the wake of the Arab Spring. To illustrate this point, I have often noted that the surge that mattered most in Iraq was not the surge of forces. It was the surge of ideas, which guided the strategy that ultimately reduced violence in the country so substantially. 
The biggest of the big ideas that guided the Iraq surge included recognition that: 
●The decisive terrain was the human terrain — and that securing the people had to be our foremost task. Without progress on that, nothing else would be possible. 
●We could secure the people only by living with them, locating our forces in their neighborhoods, rather than consolidating on big bases, as we had been doing the year before the surge. 
●We could not kill or capture our way out of the sizable insurgency that plagued Iraq; rather, though killing and capturing were necessary, we needed to reconcile with as many of the insurgent rank and file as was possible. 
●We could not clear areas of insurgents and then leave them after handing control off to Iraqi security forces; rather, we had to clear and hold, transitioning to Iraqis only when we achieved a situation that they could sustain.
Now, nine tough years later, five big ideas seem to be crystallizing as the lessons we should be taking from developments over the past decade.
First, it is increasingly apparent that ungoverned spaces in a region stretching from West Africa through the Middle East and into Central Asia will be exploited by Islamic extremists who want to establish sanctuaries in which they can enforce their extremist version of Islam and from which they can conduct terrorist attacks. 
Second, it is also apparent that the attacks and other activities of such extremists will not be confined to the areas or regions in which they are located. Rather, as in the case of Syria, the actions of the extremist groups are likely to spew instability, extremism, violence and refugees far beyond their immediate surroundings, posing increasingly difficult challenges for our partners in the region, our European allies and even our homeland.
Third, it is also increasingly clear that, in responding to these challenges, U.S. leadership is imperative. If the United States does not lead, it is unlikely that another country will. Moreover, at this point, no group of other countries can collectively approach U.S. capabilities. This does not mean that the United States needs to undertake enormous efforts to counter extremist groups in each case. To the contrary, the United States should do only what is absolutely necessary, and we should do so with as many partners as possible. Churchill was right when he observed, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them.” And, if one of those partners wants to walk point — such as France in Mali — we should support it, while recognizing that we still may have to contribute substantially. 

29 March 2016

How Innovative Tech Is Changing the Way We Respond to Risk

Mar 22, 2016 

In the highly complex world of risk management, mistakes, shortcuts and a lack of planning or regulation can lead to grave consequences if and when disaster strikes. But the digital revolution of the past several decades has contributed a number of innovations to help risk managers craft more effective and airtight strategies for facing such situations.

At a recent conference marking the 30th anniversary of Wharton’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, experts in the field discussed new products and solutions for addressing challenges associated with current and emerging risks. Panelists noted that science and technology play a key role in improving the modeling of risks and developing strategies for reducing future losses and aiding recovery.

“A poor decision can turn a natural disaster into what in retrospect looks very much like a man-made catastrophe,” University of Pennsylvania Provost Vincent Price said in his introductory remarks to the conference. “Such a level of complexity demands input not only from numerous and varied academic experts, but also from experts both in the government and the private sector.”

More Predictable Weather

8 March 2016

The US Needs to Whip Its Disaster-Response Plans Into Shape

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016/03/disaster-response-plans-shape/126352/?oref=d-river
It's time to digest the lessons of Haiti and Ebola and get ready for the mega disasters ahead. 
When the 2010 earthquake in Haiti proved too much for the United Nations’ humanitarian aid workers, the U.S. government took over, mounting a relief operation that was ultimately deemed fairly successful. But six years after that response, the federal government has yet to fully institutionalize the lessons it gleaned, or fund the capabilities that will allow it to handle the next mega disaster.
As the scale of the devastation in Haiti came to light, the U.S. augmented its civil relief agencies with military forces. That operation — and the ones that followed in Nepal, the Philippines, West Africa, and Japan — taught the civilians that American troops could be of enormous use in such work.
“There’s been quite a change over the last decade with respect to accepting the military’s role in responding to large-scale disasters,” said Mark Bartolini, a former head of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA.
The groups also recognized the need to develop better, formal ways of working together, and so formalized the civil-military relationship in a June 2015 policy update.

“We have further elaborated a system for that structural relationship between USAID and DOD as the lead agency for responding to international disasters,” said Beth Cole, a former head of USAID’s Office of Civil-Military Cooperation. 
USAID officials are now tasked to different combatant commands, and can quickly respond in a crisis. Civilians and military officials also take part in more regular disaster-response training programs.

3 March 2016

The US Needs to Whip Its Disaster-Response Plans Into Shape

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016/03/disaster-response-plans-shape/126352/?oref=d-river
MARCH 1, 2016BY KEDAR PAVGIPETER KOURETSOS
It's time to digest the lessons of Haiti and Ebola and get ready for the mega disasters ahead. 
When the 2010 earthquake in Haiti proved too much for the United Nations’ humanitarian aid workers, the U.S. government took over, mounting a relief operation that was ultimately deemed fairly successful. But six years after that response, the federal government has yet to fully institutionalize the lessons it gleaned, or fund the capabilities that will allow it to handle the next mega disaster.
As the scale of the devastation in Haiti came to light, the U.S. augmented its civil relief agencies with military forces. That operation — and the ones that followed in Nepal, the Philippines, West Africa, and Japan — taught the civilians that American troops could be of enormous use in such work.
“There’s been quite a change over the last decade with respect to accepting the military’s role in responding to large-scale disasters,” said Mark Bartolini, a former head of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA.
The groups also recognized the need to develop better, formal ways of working together, and so formalized the civil-military relationship in a June 2015 policy update.
“We have further elaborated a system for that structural relationship between USAID and DOD as the lead agency for responding to international disasters,” said Beth Cole, a former head of USAID’s Office of Civil-Military Cooperation. 
USAID officials are now tasked to different combatant commands, and can quickly respond in a crisis. Civilians and military officials also take part in more regular disaster-response training programs.

16 December 2015

Bangkok breakthrough


The brief interaction between Modi and Sharif in Paris paved way for a meeting between the NSAs of the two states in Bangkok on 6 December. It is these unobtrusive talks by empowered envoys in neutral venues which will achieve real results

After a much-discussed handshake in Paris on 30 November between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, it appears that both countries have made a well-calculated beginning to resume their stalled bilateral dialogue. Accordingly, on 6 December, the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of the two countries- Ajit Doval and Lt. Gen. (R) Naseer Khan Janjua met in Bangkok for four hours, exciting prospects of a thaw in the tortured bilateral.

This is a change from India’s one-point anti-terrorism agenda with Pakistan. In terms of the security challenges, the situation on the ground has not changed much. Anti-India terrorist groups in Pakistan persist in their activities including planning for a spectacular attack in India as was revealed over the weekend[1], while the Indian Army continues to intercept groups of militants attempting to sneak in the Kashmir Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. But the Modi government’s willingness to engage one more time with Pakistan, despite these threats, indicates that it is disposed to looking beyond the ISI’s ‘deep state’ India strategy, to a broader view of the Pakistani establishment.

15 December 2015

Disaster response: time to stop making excuses

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/post-chennai-floods-disaster-response-time-to-stop-making-excuses/article7983967.ece?homepage=true

December 14, 2015 FIX OUR CITIES: PART ONE

Army help makes the difference between life and death

When they were last heard, on the night of December 1, Lt. Col. Venkatesan and his wife Geetha were talking loudly to their daughter on the phone.

The water level was rising rapidly across most parts of Chennai, and in no time, the nearby river gushed into Defence Colony, Nandambakkam, and engulfed their ground-floor house. While their neighbours moved to the upper floors or rooftops, the old couple were trapped. A neighbour’s efforts to alert the Army to their plight failed.
Around the time when the two were drowning, Deepthi Velachamy had gone into labour. Efforts by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to evacuate her on a boat was deemed too risky, and she moved to the rooftop where a Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Air Force (IAF) hovered, and a soldier pulled her into it. The shaky visuals of the daring rescue have gone viral since.

On December 4, she gave birth to twins.
Contrasting plight
The contrasting plight of the elderly couple and the pregnant young woman captures what is increasingly a consistent feature of natural disasters across India: access to the Indian military rescue team is the only difference between life and death for those affected.There is no other organisation, at the Centre and State levels, that has the kind of logistics capabilities, trained manpower and willingness to wade into a disaster zone.
Before the tiny window of opportunity for timely protest slips away, here is a question for all of us — not just flood-affected residents of Chennai; this is a question for those who ran out during the earthquake in New Delhi last week and those who dealt with Cyclone Phyan in Gujarat a few months ago: what next?
The answer, better not be, nothing. Not this time.

It has been drilled and etched in our collective brains that the first 72 hours of any disaster, we fend for ourselves. The state response, if at all it comes after that window, will be a welcome and unexpected relief.
As was witnessed in Chennai, the Army is more likely to reach you before the local administration. Our Army has been reduced to a disaster relief team, and that is a problem.
“Responding to natural disasters for immediate rescue and relief has now become a key function of all three arms of the military. I cannot see any change to it for a very long time to come,” said a senior military officer involved in recent operations.
“The question is no more whether the military should be involved in rescue and relief, but how do we improve coordination with the civil administration.”

24 October 2015

Deepening India-U.S. Cooperation on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific Regions

By Richard M. Rossow, C. Raja Mohan 
OCT 21, 2015 

This paper summarizes the discussion and recommendations arising out of a workshop organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Honolulu, Hawaii, on June 27, 2015. The workshop included officials from the governments of India and the United States, though the views are not considered “official policy” by either government. The paper presents both governments with a possible path forward to strengthen cooperation on humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR).






15 October 2015

Kashmir Floods And Disaster Management – OpEd

http://www.eurasiareview.com/14102015-kashmir-floods-and-disaster-management-oped/
By Adfar Shah -- (Wednesday, October 14th, 2015)

The devastating floods in India’s Jammu and Kashmir State following the Uttrakhand tragedy last year exposed our response and preparedness for disasters both at the state and the national level.

Unprecedented rainfall in the State destroyed houses and submerged vital highways and lanes. A calamity of such a magnitude taking hundreds of lives and destroying property worth billions does not come as a shock as the State of Jammu and Kashmir has already been put in the category of disaster prone zone/seismic zone by experts.

But unfortunately our acts of disaster management are itself disastrous. We as a state administration think of and ask for boats and other life-saving gear only at the time of crisis, failing to learn from the past. We forgot the recent devastating flash floods in Kargil, the heart wrenching Uttrakhand tragedy (killing thousands) and last year’s ferocious windstorms (that hit the valley of Kashmir besides other parts of the state) are just some recent examples of the disasters to learn lessons from but thanks to our forgetful nature and collective social dementia, every time seems like our first time.
Natural calamities and nature’s fury has time and again not only caused severe damage, but has also exposed the deep rooted lacuna in the disaster management system in India and our lack of preparedness which makes us even more prone to damage in such an eventuality.

Not to talk of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in the development planning, we are yet to give the subject of disaster management a due place in our curriculum. Forget the curriculum; we do not even have enough boats for rescuing people and are being requested and ferried from other states after the crisis reaches its peak.

17 August 2015

Can the Earth Feed 11 Billion People? Four Reasons to Fear a Malthusian Future

August 15th, 2015 

Humanity is on course for a population greater than 11 billion by the end of this century, according to the latest analysis from the UN’s population division.

In a simple sense, population is the root cause of all sustainability issues. Clearly if there were no humans there would be no human impacts. Assuming you don’t wish to see the complete end of the human race – a desire that is shared by some deep green thinkers and Bond super-villians – then the issue is whether there is an optimal number of humans on the planet.

Discussions on population growth often start with the work of Rev Thomas Robert Malthus whose An Essay on the Principle of Population published at the end of the 18th century is one of the seminal works of demography. Populations change in response to three driving factors: fertility – how many people are born; mortality – how many people die; and migration – how many people leave or enter the population.

18 May 2015

Taking a comprehensive view of quakes

C. P. RAJENDRAN
May 18, 2015 

The tragic Nepal quake is an opportunity to learn and understand the threats of great temblors

The Nepal earthquake of April 25 is the largest in the Himalayan region since the 1934 quake which measured 8.2 on the Richter scale and destroyed not only parts of central Nepal but also the plains of northern Bihar in India. Mahatma Gandhi, shaken by the Bihar tragedy, wrote in the Harijan that the earthquake was “providential retribution to India’s failure to eradicate untouchability”. Although this statement dismayed the rationalist in Jawaharlal Nehru, it was Rabindranath Tagore who dared Gandhi by sending a letter to the Harijan saying, “Physical catastrophes must have origin in physical facts”. When Tagore, always far ahead of his times, made this insightful statement, the science of earthquakes had not developed. It was only in the 1960s that plate tectonics explained the origin of earthquakes.

14 May 2015

Nepal’s Recent Quakes Don’t Mean a Bigger One Isn’t Coming

A house in Sankhu, Nepal house that was already severely damaged in the April 25th earthquake, shakes as a new 7.4-magnitude earthquake hits on May 12, 2015.

Nepal and the rest of the Himalayan region suffered another major earthquake today—a 7.3 magnitude quake that struck about halfway between Kathmandu and Mt. Everest, near the Chinese border. Early reports estimate that up to 1,000 people are injured, and at least 68 have been killed in both Nepal and India.

The region, especially urban areas like Kathmandu and Chautara, had already been reeling from the devastation wrought by the 7.8 magnitude event that hit the country on April 25 and killed over 8,000 people. Hundreds of aftershocks—some as strong as 6.7 magnitude—have continued to hamper relief efforts and keep residents in a panicked state.

This latest quake, however, is not an aftershock, but a brand new seismic event. According to the United States Geological Survey, today’s earthquake occurred 9.3 miles deep in the earth’s crust—the same depth as the April event. Cities and villages in the area have already felt six aftershocks, and the new quake created a whole new wave of landslides further north in the Himalayan mountains.

9 May 2015

Special to the Express: How the NDRF raced against time in Nepal

By: O P Singh
May 9, 2015
Source Link

As I boarded an Air India flight to India with my rescue teams, preparing to withdraw from disaster-stricken Nepal, the memories of a people who had survived a “natural” disaster filled my mind. I had seen a society in mourning, uncertainty and despair adding to their suffering.

I had witnessed arguments on the preparedness for such disasters. As people try to put back things together, they also know that future earthquakes are inevitable. Because as Edward Simpson, professor in social anthropology at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, writes: “An earthquake does not conclude. It lives in metaphor and history, passing in and out of popular consciousness.”
The April 25 earthquake that devastated Nepal stunned the entire world. It was the Himalayan nation’s deadliest disaster in more than 80 years, killing thousands and causing immense destruction.
The first international response and assurance to the Nepalese people came from the Indian Prime Minister who spoke to the political leaders of the devastated nation and promptly dispatched a strong contingent of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as an Indian search-and-rescue force.

Swift and coordinated rescue efforts make a difference in coping with the aftermath of any disaster, natural or otherwise, in terms of saving lives and minimizing property loss. The severity of the Nepal disaster, with the death toll rising steadily and many buried in remote mountainous regions, warranted large, swift and coordinated rescue efforts.
Constrained by limited resources, Nepal simply could not cope alone and, therefore, the assurance given by India’s Prime Minister provided succour to the grief-stricken people. In keeping with its commitment to humanitarian causes, India led the way in rescue-and-relief. Its first seven rescue teams, comprising 305 multi-skilled and internationally-trained personnel of NDRF, reached Kathmandu within six hours of the tragedy and started round-the-clock rescue operations in the affected areas of the valley and its surroundings.

7 May 2015

The U.S. Military Knew the Nepal Quake Was Coming The Pentagon had been preparing for potential disaster

JOSEPH TREVITHICK

Eight months ago, the Pentagon’s top command in the Pacific hosted a training exercise in Nepal, prepping to deal with a major earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley.

On April 25, that scenario came devastatingly, horrifyingly true. A quake between 7.8 and 8.1 magnitude rocked the small Himalayan nation.

Thousands of buildings collapsed. Thousands of people died.

And now, acting out the responses it practiced back in August, the U.S. Marine Corps has sent UH-1Y helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors—which fly like regular planes but can land like choppers—to help deliver rescuers and supplies, scout damaged towns and retrieve the injured.

The Ospreys are capable of “delivering aid twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters,” which “enhances the operational reach of relief efforts,” according to a Marine Corps press release boasted. The tiltrotors flew in from Japan under their own power.

The U.S. Air Force ferried the shorter range UH-1s to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The flying branch’s cargo planes had already delivered tons of humanitarian aid and ferried in civilian first-responders.

6 May 2015

Saving Nepal: the information revolution


Communities impacted by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake (and subsequent aftershocks) that struck Nepal on April 25th have a variety of needs, stemming from immediate protection of physical safety and security, access to life saving services, and basic subsistence (food, clean water, shelter) and psycho-social support in the aftermath of an extremely traumatic event. In the case of Nepal and the city of Kathmandu, recent reports suggest that the capital city’s critical infrastructure and services were not sufficiently resilient to protect against an earthquake, that the topography of the region is such that landslides remain a concern, and that socio-cultural factors like caste-based discrimination makes some communities more vulnerable than others.

The scope of the natural disaster

According to the April 30 Situation Report of the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), search and rescue and aid agencies responding to the crisis in the coming days are focused on providing shelter to the displaced--government reports suggest over 130,000 homes were destroyed and 85,000 partially damaged. In Kathmandu alone there are an estimated 24,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) registered in tented settlements, although many more are likely seeking refuge in informal settlements and in the rubble of partially damaged—and still vulnerable—homes. Identifying missing persons, and effectively and ethically managing dead bodies are still a major part of the response. Tents and food are among the highest prioritized areas of need (over 3 million are in need of food aid in the region), and health remains a primary concern as hospitals near the capital have reportedly run out of supplies.

2 May 2015

An Earthquake Exposes Nepal’s Political Rot

APRIL 30, 2015

Nepal is in the headlines this week — for all the wrong reasons. It’s not just the April 25 magnitude 7.8 earthquake, with an epicenter located 80 miles northwest of the overcrowded urban sprawl that is Kathmandu, that devastated the country and left more than 5,500 dead. It’s also the shambolic response of the country’s leaders.

For Nepal, one of the poorestand most corrupt countries in Asia, this catastrophe has laid bare itspolitical dysfunction.

For Nepal, one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in Asia, this catastrophe has laid bare itspolitical dysfunction. Many of those left homeless or injured have been waiting in vain for any form of government assistance. There were no pictures of political leaders visiting stricken citizens, no words of empathy or consolation. Nepalis had to content themselves instead with TV appearances of officials like Communication Minister Minendra Rijal, who merelyacknowledged “some weaknesses in managing the relief operation.” While some foreign countries have already started supplying humanitarian assistance (albeit on a fairly limited scale), the corrupt government machinery is already reportedly seizing much of what they have brought.