disasters and homelessness in Haiti
In January 2010, Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, was in the epicenter of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Concrete buildings were reduced to rubble, homes were destroyed and more than five million people were displaced. As one of the poorest countries, the fight against disasters and homelessness in Haiti is a continuous uphill battle. Here are six facts about the link between natural disasters and homelessness in Haiti.

6 Facts About Disasters and Homelessness in Haiti

  1. Haiti needed around 300,000 houses before the 2010 earthquake, and over 500,000 afterwards. At the time of the 2010 earthquake, 70% of Haiti’s population was living below the poverty line. As a result of frequent natural disasters, political unrest and the high dependency on agriculture for livelihood, the country fell behind in development.
  2. Buildings in Haiti were not built to withstand powerful earthquakes. Before 2010, there were no proper building codes for houses in Haiti. Over half of the population lives in rural areas with their homes consisting of mud walls and palm leaves woven together for a roof. In the cities, most live in overpopulated slums with no enforced safety regulations. This leaves a majority of the population vulnerable to losing their homes if a natural disaster strikes.
  3. Those who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake had to go to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. There, they lived in makeshift tents of sheets and tin, had no direct access to running water, no electricity and no security. However, countries around the world banded together in an effort to help the displaced by sending supplies, along with doctors and relief workers. Donors of Direct Relief provided up to $7 million for rebuilding in Haiti.
  4. Continuous natural disasters delay the recovery process. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti as a category 4, damaging the south end of the country. Once again, countries and organizations like World Vision continued to supply relief well into 2018. The Red Cross also funded livestock replacement and vet clinics that brought benefits to 5,000 families. Collectively, it raised a total of $5.2 million to help those in Haiti who had been impacted by the hurricane.
  5. IDP camps are still in use today. Of the 1.5 million people who lived in IDP camps in the summer of 2010, there are 50,000 that remain. Those who were able to leave the camps had either raised enough money to rebuild their home or received rental subsidies from the government. There are also hundreds of non-profit organizations, such as Homes for Haiti, Build Change, Build Abroad and the Red Cross, providing volunteers to build shelters for the homeless in Haiti.
  6. A cholera outbreak took place in one of the camps after the earthquake. However, along with the foreign aid and continuous construction of houses, the country has been successful in containing the cholera outbreak that overtook the camp after the earthquake. Haiti’s last confirmed cholera case was in January 2019, and has not seen any since.

There is hope for homelessness in Haiti. Recovery from disasters in poor countries like Haiti take time, but with coordinated efforts between humanitarian organizations, Haiti can continue to rebuild.

– Molly Moline 
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake Preparedness in Nepal
Nepal sits between two very seismically active tectonic plates that span the length of the Himalayan mountain range. In the 20th-century and again in the early 21st century, devastating earthquakes prompted the Nepali government to create programs that prepare the Nepali people for possible earthquake situations. International organizations were also present and significantly aided earthquake preparedness in Nepal. The development of technological programs that maintain the tracking of people during a panic has made an enormous difference in the way first responders find and rescue people during natural disasters. To keep people safe, it is necessary to have earthquake preparedness programs in place.

Earthquake Education and Planning

The Nepali government created the Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project (KVERMP) in 1997 as an earthquake preparedness initiative. This project instituted an earthquake scenario program that simulated an emergency situation and assigned specific roles to various actors in the towns. A branch of KVERMP includes the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP). This program provided funding to schools so students could practice earthquake safety drills and masons received training to make the school buildings more resilient. Community members also received safety information along with risk-prevention advice from professionals. Another notable achievement of the KVERMP was the creation of Earthquake Safety Day, which is to promote awareness and normalize new earthquake preparedness safety methods.

The Study on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation of Kathmandu Valley (SEDM) was a study that the Nepalese government initiated in conjunction with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to increase earthquake preparedness in the country. The goal of SEDM was to assess the possible outcomes of major earthquakes in relation to resources, infrastructure and aid. The parties involved suggested various policy changes and committee formations to further promote earthquake preparedness. Most notably, the group suggested the establishment of a National Disaster Council and recommended that the government put a higher priority on policy relating to disaster preparation and mitigation and implement a disaster management plan in each level of government.

Gorkha Earthquake Relief and Recovery

When people in the 21st-century talk about earthquakes in Nepal, they are most likely referring to the April 2015 earthquake near Kathmandu. The magnitude 7.8 quake, also known as the Gorkha earthquake, killed about 9,000 people and injured around 25,000 more. The earthquake was so powerful, that Bangladesh, China and India could feel it and the devastation prompted response crews from all over the world to sift through more than 600,000 damaged structures. These aftershocks led to international organizations partnering with the Nepali government to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure using sustainable tactics. This relief effort built upon the earthquake preparedness that Nepal already put in place.

Nepal’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment wrote a document entitled, Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA), outlining the issues that the 2015 earthquake caused and the frameworks to fix them. Topics that the report covered included damaged water and sanitation facilities, agricultural impacts, education and more. Taking preventative action, such as changing toilet construction methods, should allow for faster reconstruction and less waste containment issues in the case of an earthquake. Among the multitudes of topics the document covers, another example is sustainable land use. Landslides that were dormant for years became free during the earthquake. This is partly due to the misuse of land and tree removal. The REA is calling for the revision of land-use laws and the enforcement of policies.

Life-Saving Technology

Earthquake preparedness comes in many forms. In response to various earthquakes around the world, a nonprofit organization called Flowminder created a population tracking program. Rescue crews use the technology to pinpoint the location of endangered civilians in a timely manner. Utilizing mobile phone data, satellite images and census data, the program analyzes the information and then sends the data to organizations in the midst of disasters. Organizations involved in relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti earthquake used similar programs, so the technology does work. Governments and first responders often struggle to find people in the dynamic aftermath of a crisis. Nepal would have an easier time finding and helping citizens with this sort of technology.

Sustainable Rebuilding

During the Gorkha earthquake, hospitals remained open and functional due to the earthquake preparedness technique of retrofitting. The World Health Organization (WHO) praised the Kathmandu hospital for working diligently to fill cracks and holes as they appeared on walls. The process of retrofitting has been a long-term campaign of the WHO in efforts to promote earthquake preparedness in the health sector. While thousands of other buildings collapsed, the hospital was able to continue to care for patients. The hospital also cited an emergency preparedness plan for the staff’s ability to respond quickly to the crisis. The plan ensured that everyone knew where to go and what to expect after the earthquake hit.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in 2015, USAID trained over 900 locals to build earthquake-resistant buildings. In the years after, the organization trained thousands more to help in the effort. The only way to prevent widespread infrastructure devastation is to take every precaution possible so that structures do not fall. USAID also encouraged the construction of seven deep wells in Kathmandu to ensure clean water in case of a natural disaster. Another project working towards earthquake preparedness involved the development of 12 “relief material” warehouses throughout Nepal in case of emergency. The idea was to stockpile supplies before a disaster occurred, allowing relief agencies sufficient amounts of resources to reduce the negative impacts of earthquakes. USAID has been instrumental in the long recovery since 2015 and preventing similar results from the next earthquake.

Creating Open Spaces

The final instance of earthquake preparedness in Nepal is the protection of open spaces. During crises like earthquakes, it is important for first responders and humanitarians to have a place to set up. The urbanization of Nepal has endangered these open spaces and the 2018 National Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction saw this as a threat to optimal earthquake preparedness. As a result, the planners decided to focus attention on the preservation of urban parks. The International Organization for Migration claims that 83 of the 123 parks in the Kathmandu area are at risk for infringement. However, various groups are actively working to protect those open spaces.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Worst Tsunamis in modern history
Tsunamis have existed on Earth for as long as there have been oceans. A tsunami is a series of ocean waves that the displacement of water triggers, whether it be by landslide, volcanic eruption or earthquake. The word “tsunami” comes from two Japanese words, “tsu” meaning harbor and “nami” meaning wave. There have been a countless number of tsunamis on the planet. These are the five worst tsunamis in modern history.

5 Worst Tsunamis in Modern History

  1. The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004: On the morning of December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 triggered a massive tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean. The tsunami first struck Indonesia followed by Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa and 11 other countries in a matter of hours. With some waves ascending over 100 feet, this tsunami has the highest recorded death toll with over 230,000 lives. Estimates determined that the material losses from the immense destruction were about $10 billion. There was also long-term environmental damage, displacing hundreds of thousands of people as the tsunami destroyed villages, resorts, farmland and fishing grounds. Prior to this tsunami, there were no proper preparations and communication strategies in the Indian Ocean for these types of disasters. Since then, scientists have prioritized improving the understanding of tsunamis and altered the way research and preparations are conducted. Of the five worst tsunamis, this one is the deadliest of them all.
  2. The Messina Earthquake and Tsunami in 1908: Southern Italy suffered devastation from both an earthquake and a tsunami in the early morning of December 28, 1908. The 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami almost completely destroyed Messina and several coastal towns in both Italy and Sicily. This disaster claimed at least 80,000 lives and forced thousands more to flee. Even 100 years later, scientists still struggle with the origins of the earthquake and the tsunami. A recent study in 2019 has finally found the fault responsible for the earthquake in the Mediterranean. The combined force of the earthquake and the tsunami makes this disaster one of the five worst tsunamis in modern history.
  3. The Valdivia Earthquake and Tsunami in 1960: The most powerful earthquake in recorded history occurred on May 22, 1960, off the southern coast of Chile. The 9.5-magnitude earthquake arrived with a Pacific-wide tsunami with waves as high as 80 feet. The earthquake and tsunami claimed 1,655 lives, injured 3,000 and left two million homeless in Chile. The tsunami swept across the ocean, resulting in millions of dollars in damages in Hawaii and killing people in Japan and the Philippines. Estimates determined damages in Chile alone to be about $550 million. This disaster is significant because it was the largest earthquake ever recorded and caused the first global tsunami. This tsunami left no corner of the Pacific Ocean untouched, leaving devastation in its wake and making it one of the five worst tsunamis in modern history.
  4. The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011: One of the worst disasters in Japanese history is the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region in Japan on March 11, 2011. The earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0 and a series of waves followed, reaching as high as 132 feet. This disaster claimed over 15,500 lives and left more than 450,000 people homeless. The damages to infrastructure from this event were far greater than any other tsunami in modern history. People estimated that the material losses were $300 billion and the tsunami also resulted in a level seven nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Six million Japanese households were without electricity and one million were without running water. About 270,000 people had to evacuate due to the nuclear emergency. While the cleanup was still ongoing, the radiation levels dropped faster than people expected and people deemed some areas to be habitable again.
  5. The Sunda Strait Tsunami in 2018: The Sundra Strait Tsunami occurred on December 23, 2018. This is the third major tsunami to originate in this area, the first being in 1883 and the second in 2004. This tsunami came with no warning even though the area previously endured two of the worst tsunamis in modern history. At least 373 people died with reports of hundreds more missing and the displacement of almost 2,000 people. While the rest of the list dwarfs this number, what makes this tsunami one of the worst is the fact that the death toll could have been less had people put the proper preparations in place. People only found out that volcanic activity by Anak Krakatoa caused the tsunami after the fact. However, the tsunami warning system was flawed, as its design was only to detect seismic activity, not volcanic, which allowed for this tsunami to come by surprise.

When one imagines the five worst tsunamis in modern history, it suggests that these are the largest or deadliest tsunamis. While most of these tsunamis are among the deadliest, what makes them the worst is that they came when people least expected them. However, each one of these tragedies posed a lesson that allows people to take better preventive measures to save as many lives as possible.

– Emily Young
Photo: Flickr

History of the Asian Development BankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional bank aimed at fostering social and economic development in Asia. The history of the Asian Development Bank is that of an evolving institution, constantly shifting focus towards new problems and expanding its role in regional affairs.

Founding and Early History

The bank was founded in the early 1960s to foster cooperation among Asian countries and spur economic growth in the region. In 1963, the United Nations Commission for Asia and the Far East held its first Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, where a resolution passed for the creation of this regional bank. The ADB was officially created two years later in Manila, the capital of the Philippines with 31 member states and Takeshi Watanabe residing as president.

OPEC Oil Crisis and Expanding Role

Asia, along with the rest of the world, suffered a severe economic downturn due to the OPEC oil crisis in 1973. The Asian Development Bank responded by increasing funding towards the development of domestic energy sources and infrastructure, to cope with the current shock and mitigate against future instability in the energy markets.  The resources of the Asian Development Bank began to expand during this time period to include increased co-financing and management of other organizational funds. The Asian Development Bank issued its first bond in 1973 worth $16.7 million in Japan.

The ADB also made strides to address the needs of developing nations. In 1974, it established the Asian Development Fund, a program designed to provide poorer nations in the region with safe, low-interest loans to aid in their economic and social development. The positive impacts of the Asian Development Fund on developing economies in Asia came to quick fruition, as some recipient countries’ reliance on the bank’s assistance ended within a decade.

Push for Social Development and Cooperation with NGOs

In the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank shifted its focus away from economic development to initiate support of social development in Asia. It began financing programs related to the environment, healthcare, urban development and women’s issues. In its 1987 policy paper, the Asian Development Bank established a framework for cooperation between the bank and various non-government organizations (NGOs) with the aim of increasing efficacy of social development efforts in the region. During the decade of the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank also expanded its support for infrastructure projects with particular emphasis on energy production, as memories of the OPEC oil crisis were still fresh in the minds of regional policymakers.

Poverty Reduction and the Asian Financial Crisis

With the end of the Cold War, the Asian Development Bank added several new central Asian countries as member states. Fears that the benefits of economic development were bypassing those most in need prompted the ADB to focus its efforts on poverty reduction in the mid-1990s. In 1995, the Asian Development Bank instituted a policy to ensure that 100 percent of its developmental assistance from the was directed to decreasing poverty.

The late 1990s were a dark period for Asia, which was hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. The ADB’s response was a shift towards aiding the poor and creating a social safety net for those hit hardest by the crisis. By 1999, poverty reduction became the top priority of the ADB.

Response to Humanitarian Crises

In the 2000s, the Asian Development Bank expanded its response to the humanitarian crisis in Asia. Following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, the World Bank established the Millennium Development goals, which include the elimination of hunger and extreme poverty, promotion of universal primary education, reduction in child mortality, gender equality, combating disease, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health and establishing a global cooperative effort towards development. The ADB committed to helping its member states achieve each of these goals.

In 2003, Asia was struck with a severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, illustrating the need for regional cooperation to combat infectious diseases. The Asian Development Bank provided financial support for efforts to combat HIV and the Avian Flu in the region. In December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami caused widespread devastation across India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The ADB responded to the disaster by providing over $775 million to recovery efforts. In 2005, the ADB mobilized almost $400 million to help the victims of an earthquake in Pakistan.

The history of the Asian Development Bank is one of constant evolution. It was established with open-ended goals and forced to adapt to new challenges as they arose. In the 1970s, the OPEC Oil Crisis forced the bank to invest in energy infrastructure. The financial crisis in 1997 prompted a focus on poverty reduction. Most recently, the natural disasters in the early 2000s catapulted the ADB into disaster recovery. In its eventful 55-year history, the one constant of the Asian Development Bank is its willingness to assume a central role to address regional challenges.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Wikimedia

Catastrophic TsunamisWhen they strike, catastrophic tsunamis claim numerous lives and cause horrific damage. A tsunami occurs when energy is transferred from the earth into water, resulting in large waves reaching heights of hundreds of feet. They can be triggered by earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions. Moreover, tsunamis travel up to 500 miles. And most tsunamis occur within the Pacific Ocean. While this natural disaster only occurs twice a year on average, the impact is colossal. Listed below are 10 famous tsunamis that everyone should know about.

10 Most Catastrophic Tsunamis

  1. Indian Ocean
    In 2004, the world saw one of the most catastrophic tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. A magnitude 9.1 earthquake caused the ocean floor to rise a shocking 40 meters, with waves rising heights of hundreds of feet. Consequently, the fault line covered 900 miles and touched the shores of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia. Unfortunately, this tsunami led to the death of approximately 230,000 people and caused $10 million worth of damage.
  2. North-Pacific Coast, Japan
    One of perhaps the most catastrophic tsunamis hit the North-Pacific coast of Japan in 2011. After a 9.1 earthquake occurred just miles off the coast, an alert went out warning locals to find safety. This was the largest earthquake in Japanese history and the fourth largest in the world. Moreover, local nuclear power plants worsened the situation, as one plant cooled down and melted from the water. Ultimately, this led to four days of continuous radiation that required two weeks of clean up.
  3. Portugal and Morocco
    In 1755, an unexpected earthquake hit Lisbon on All Saints Day. Consequently, most people were in church when the tsunami arrived. The waves killed between 60,000 to 100,000 people along the coasts of Portugal and Morocco. Shockingly, some of the debris from Lisbon traveled as far as the Caribbean. As one of the most catastrophic tsunamis in European history, this disaster remains a pivotal point in European history, as seen in subsequent artwork and philosophy of the time.
  4. Messina, Italy
    In 1908, the small town of Messina suffered a 7.5 magnitude and subsequently a tsunami. With waves as high as 40 feet, this tsunami devastated the land of the agricultural community. Thus, many people relocated after the disaster. Most people immigrated across Italy, however, some traveled as far as the U.S.
  5. Krakatau, Indonesia
    While earthquakes usually cause tsunamis, a volcanic eruption caused the tsunami of 1883 in Indonesia. The eruption of the Krakatau Volcano led to a tsunami, with waves extending as high as 98 feet. Surges from the tsunami lasted approximately 29 to 30 hours and reached as far as New Zealand.
  6. Southern Chile
    In 1960, the world’s largest earthquake occurred in the southern part of Chile. At a magnitude of 9.5, this earthquake had a global impact. Accordingly, waves from the resulting tsunami traveled as far north as the U.S., causing $23.5 million worth of damage in Hawaii. And in Japan, more than a day after the earthquake, tsunami surges caused 139 deaths. Overall, this tsunami left an estimated 2 million homeless in Chile.
  7. Sanriku, Japan
    Once again, Japan finds itself on the list of most catastrophic tsunamis. In 1896, an atrocious earthquake rocked Sanriku, Japan. Having had several minor earthquakes earlier that day, locals did not anticipate a tsunami. However, after an 8.5 magnitude earthquake rocked the surface, tsunamis waves crashed into the shore. At the time, no preventative measures were available to warn locals of the incoming tsunami and the disaster claimed 22,000 lives.
  8. Central Chile
    Like Japan, Chile commonly experiences from tsunamis. In 2010, an earthquake spanning 62 miles ruptured in central Chile. Approximately 12 million people felt the ground tremble. Shortly thereafter, a tsunami struck. This tsunami damaged, if not destroyed, 370,000 houses and 4,013 schools.
  9. Arica, Chile
    In 1868, Arica, Chile (then Peru) experience a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami. Subsequently, Chile makes the most catastrophic tsunamis list for the third time. Three naval ships were docked at the port city, of which only two crew members survived. Thirteen hours after the initial incident, waves hit New Zealand and caused damage to local harbors.
  10. Mount Unzen
    Like the case of Krakatau, this tsunami began when Mount Unzen erupted in 1792. Consequently, this led to an estimated 15,000 deaths. Interestingly, in 1990, the mountain began to release ashes.

While stories of catastrophic tsunamis seem frightening at first, there are preventative measures being implemented. For instance, starting in 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System has installed sensors in the ocean floorboards. Run by the Intergovernmental Coordination Group and Unesco, IOTWMS sensors detect incoming tsunamis and alert officials.

In addition, as scientists conduct more research on the history of tsunamis, they can better predict the likelihood of tsunamis in specific regions. Ultimately, while tsunamis are a powerful force, there is hope for improved prevention strategies in the future.

Photo: Flickr

Earthquake Recovery in MexicoIn the wake of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City on September 19, 2017, damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 318 people, the nation of Mexico has come together in a number of ways to recover. One of the most notable ways is the “brigadas,” or the Mexican brigades consisting of volunteers that have helped pull people from the rubble. Ordinary citizens have been a major part of the earthquake recovery in Mexico.

Much of the initial response to the earthquake was formed out of frustration toward the Mexican government, which many citizens view as corrupt and incompetent. The Mexican armed forces, who have taken over much of the recovery, have been accused of gravely mismanaging the earthquake recovery. The military has simultaneously drawn ire for bulldozing buildings suspected of still having people trapped in the rubble, as well as wasting time and resources on futile rescue attempts. One of the higher-profile examples of the latter occurred when the navy spent days searching in vain for Frida Sofia, a 12-year old girl who later turned out not to have existed at all.

Another concern is that the trucks sent by the government with much needed food and medicine will end up being siphoned by corrupt politicians and criminals, or simply sent to places that do not need the aid. This fear is not unfounded; Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party remain very unpopular. Many do not trust the government on any level to handle the earthquake recovery in Mexico.

In spite of this, there have been some bright spots in the recovery efforts. Young people in particular have stepped up as volunteers. Social media apps like Facebook and WhatsApp have become critical tools in coordinating the earthquake recovery in Mexico. Some young people have joined the “brigadas,” which often venture into still-unsafe buildings to find survivors. Others have collected and distributed canned food to hungry citizens. Others still have used whatever talents they have, including music and performance, to entertain children in shelters who now have no home. Many volunteers have taken time off from their lives and livelihoods to assist in what ways they can.

Activists have also taken a stand to lead the way in the recovery. One notable example is a successful online campaign that has forced the major political parties in Mexico, set to spend record sums on the 2018 election, to redirect a quarter of the $375 million of public funds, originally earmarked by the National Electoral Institute, toward the earthquake recovery in Mexico instead.

Currently, many of the streets have been cleared, and people are going back to work and attempting to rebuild their lives. It may take years to fully complete the earthquake recovery in Mexico, but in a country known for its sharp socioeconomic divide, many Mexicans have been heartened by the way the earthquake recovery in Mexico has brought people together across class lines.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr


Haiti has been consistently named the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck seven years ago and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 brought attention to this truth. With natural disasters like the two aforementioned raising media attention to philanthropic efforts, the question often remains: why is Haiti poor?

The question at hand can be addressed by looking at one of the key reasons: political instability. Haiti’s political history has been unstable and this is usually attributed to post-colonial tensions and leadership struggles. While the situation has improved in recent years, the periodic vacancies of positions within the cabinet and of the prime minister, as well as parliamentary debate can and have halted reconstruction efforts or poverty-reducing legislation. For example, the 2016 election process was delayed many times. This delay did nothing for the reported 55,000 people still living in makeshift camps after being displaced due to the rural housing damage caused by the 2010 earthquake.

The slow implementation of policies is often cited as a governmental failure, a failure that fuels crises. IRIN News notes the Haitian government’s wish to implement reforestation projects and other policies that would aid commercial farmers, but that corruption and donated resources not being properly distributed are hampering this effort. IRIN News quotes a Haitian farmer who states that “politicians have failed…Our leaders even had the audacity to take credit for efforts done by aid agencies and directed towards their friends.”

Because of this political instability and overall distrust for the political system, demonstrations are often held in Port-au-Prince. Haitians themselves are questioning: why is Haiti poor?

With new president Jovenel Moïse inaugurated in February 2017, many citizens are hopeful that he will follow through on his election promises of government reform and more democratic processes.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

Nepal's Earthquake Relief

In April 2015, Nepal experienced a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The disaster killed over 4,300 people and damaged many historic cultural sites. Yet over a year after the earthquake, much of the country finds itself still in ruins. Outside of the capital Kathmandu, many homes and public spaces lie in virtually untouched rubble.

Those who have experienced natural disasters such as Indonesia’s 2004 tsunami or Haiti’s 2010 earthquake note that it is common for aid-funded projects to not begin until a year after the disaster. This is because investors prefer to wait until the estimated costs have been assessed before beginning projects. With this in mind, here is a summary of aid given by some countries with the hopes that it will help with Nepal’s earthquake relief soon.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom initially donated five million pounds to Nepal’s earthquake relief fund. Three million pounds were given to what is known as the Rapid Response Facility. This money is for use on the ground in addressing more immediate concerns such as water and shelter. An additional two million pounds was given to the British Red Cross to send British citizens as a form of follow-up aid.

India

India’s contribution to Nepal’s earthquake relief fund was coined Operation Maitri. The operation consisted largely of evacuating over 1,000 citizens and stranded tourists. They also dispatched many emergency supplies to Kathmandu. India’s aid position is unique because they have the ability of relatively easy ground transportation.

United States

In the year since the earthquake, the U.S. donated $130 million for Nepal’s earthquake relief. The initial Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) focused on providing first response services, especially search and rescue efforts as well as protecting human rights. Since then, USAID has continued to help recovery efforts by supporting temporary schools, training people for new construction projects and providing damaged farms with tools to help them get back on their feet.

Global Organizations

The U.N. pledged $15 million from its emergency response fund. This money is to be used on behalf of the international community, and the U.N. hopes to work with the Nepalese Government to best distribute aid. UNICEF and the World Food Program have both provided supplies such as food, medical supplies, and tents for shelter. They will also provide support in the form of people on the ground who hope to keep relief efforts running smoothly.

Lots of aid money has been supplied to help with Nepal’s earthquake relief, yet the rebuilding process has barely begun. Now that the chaos of the immediate aftermath of the disaster has subsided, Nepal and the rest of the world hope that global aid can begin to rebuild all affected areas.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Ecuadorian RefugeesIn April, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed over 650 people across the provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabí in northwestern Ecuador. It was one of the most powerful earthquakes the nation had ever experienced. Rubbing salt into the wound, two strong aftershocks in May injured 90 people and devastated the two provinces.

The United Nations Refugee Agency has called on donors to immediately provide $73 million of support in order to respond to the needs of 350,000 people affected by the earthquake. Only 15% of that amount, however, has been received.

10 Facts About Ecuadorian Refugees

  1. According to official records, around 73,000 people have been uprooted and are either residing in organized camps and shelters or with host families. Over 30,000 are currently staying in collective centers, where violence and abuse against women, boys and girls are rampant. Moreover, close to 15,000 people have lost their identity papers, making it difficult for them to access basic social programs and services.
  2. The earthquake also destroyed 10,00 buildings and close to 560 schools. Thousands of people are staying in makeshift shelters, and 120,000 children are in immediate need of temporary educational centers. So far, the Ministry of Education has opened up temporary learning centers for 20,000 children and circulated 750 “school in a box” supplies to nearly 60,000 children.
  3. The number of Zika Virus cases increased twelvefold in three months after the earthquake, from 92 to 1,106 nationwide. The most affected demographic is women between the ages of 15 and 49. This age range accounts for 509 cases in the Manabí Province alone.
  4. In 2015, the United Nations Refugee Agency, alongside its partner organization Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and state and private institutions, launched an inventive poverty reduction program called the Graduation Model, which aims to lift 7,500 people out of poverty in 2016 via financial education and vocational training.
  5. Ecuador hosts the highest number of refugees in all of Latin America. It is home to around 200,000 Colombian migrants, far more than any other Latin American country. Almost all of the Ecuadorian refugees fled to Ecuador from the Colombian civil war. Although Ecuador gets some support from the United Nations and Colombia, it bears most of the social and financial burden for the refugees itself, costing the government around $60 million per year.
  6. Approximately 17,000 refugees, mostly from Colombia, were residing in the areas most affected by the earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks. The crisis has made assimilation more difficult for them.
  7. Since 2010, the asylums and protection spaces for Colombian refugees in Ecuador have been rapidly deteriorating. Ecuador signed both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, but the country revised its Refugee Act in the early 2010s to alter the original definition of “refugee.” This has restricted domestic asylum procedures for Colombian refugees, and many have been forced to live in remote jungles by the Colombian border, making them susceptible to armed conflict between FARC rebels trying to cross into Ecuador.
  8. Limited livelihood opportunities, lack of access to health services, discrimination and police harassment are common in some areas. This has made secondary displacement of Colombian refugees within Ecuador common.
  9. Plan Colombia, a U.S.-sponsored initiative working to wipe out cocaine crops in Colombia, ends up destroying adjacent farmlands. This creates a large number of economic migrants who are forced to relocate to Ecuador, where they live in constant threat of belligerents that follow them from Colombia. To be resettled, Colombian refugees must create a new testimony, just to make themselves fit the “refugee” definition.
  10. A survey conducted by the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health in 2014 reported that 92.2% (404 out of 438) of Colombian refugees in Ecuador did not intend to return to Colombia. Out of these, around nine percent were considering migrating to another area of Ecuador. Some 12% intended to migrate to a third country, mostly to the United States. Moreover, virtually no one had a precise short-term plan.

The April 2016 earthquake hit northwestern Ecuador, where most of the country’s Colombian refugees reside, the hardest. These refugees had originally fled from civil war in Colombia and had already lost their homes once. In Ecuador, they had managed to rebuild their lives. Dealing with the massive refugee influx from Colombia, as well as internally displaced people in Ecuador, remains a daunting task for the Ecuadorian government and the refugee agencies working on the ground.

Swapnil Mishra
Photo: Flickr

Nepal Earthquake
The 2015 Nepal earthquake left over 1 million children without a school. A little over a year has passed since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands.

However, unrepaired damage continues to plague the country. The scope of the damage and political difficulties have meant much of the country still lies in rubble.

But the nation is making progress. Newly announced plans for reconstruction have set a three-year timeline for various progress goals, with education infrastructure named a top priority.

The Nepal earthquake destroyed 17,000 classrooms of nearly 8,000 schools, and the aftershocks damaged an additional 20,000 classrooms. While the donations obtained as of April 2016 tallied approximately $200 million, this was sufficient to repair only 1,700 schools.

Due to limited funding, the initial rebuilding efforts will focus primarily on education infrastructure in the hardest hit regions of the country. Over the course of three years, the national government hopes to accomplish significant rebuilding.

The overall economic impact of the earthquake on Nepal is estimated at nearly $7 billion. The country’s long history of political tension, combined with the magnitude of reparations needed, has led to an atmosphere of political urgency.

These tensions have aggravated preexisting political divides and slowed down measures to hasten reconstruction. Frustration with the situation has led to protests following the earthquake, making the need for efficient rebuilding of education infrastructure all the more urgent.

In the months following the earthquake, many students had to use temporary classrooms. These classrooms are not strong enough to withstand heavy Nepal weather (including monsoons). However, students have already used them for an entire winter season.

For those involved in the rebuilding efforts of prior learning spaces, avoiding the continued use of these classrooms is a top priority in order to provide students with a safe and stable learning environment.

The Nepal government continues to seek methods for resolving political differences and hastening reconstruction as much as possible. However, the three year-plan emphasizing education infrastructure represents major progress.

Additionally, humanitarian development organizations such as Plan International have contributed in the wake of the disaster. The organization recognized the importance of this project and hence began a classroom-rebuilding initiative.

Plan International seeks to rebuild 20 of the schools that the Nepal earthquake destroyed. They also plan to repair 1,600 damaged classrooms.

In order to further extend the positive impact of these schools, the buildings will have reinforcements that can withstand tough weather conditions. Additionally, Plan International will provide extreme weather training for students and teachers.

The students who lost their learning spaces in the Nepal earthquake will gain more than a building from this project.

They also represent increased safety for students. Schools not only provide education, but they also operate as a safe space. This rebuilding project could enact a decline in exploitation, child marriage and trafficking threats.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: CNN