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

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal, turning buildings into ruins and killing nearly 5,900, has serious monetary implications. With the cost of reconstruction standing at $5 billion, it is evident the economic aftershocks will continue to be felt for years to come.

Frantic rescue workers, faces caked with ash and dust, carried a victim on a stretcher following the collapse of Dharara tower in Kathmandu, Nepal. Omar Havana, a freelance photographer for Getty Images, watched from afar.

“I try to be as human as I can be,” Havana said. “It’s hard not to be overwhelmed [by] what’s in front of my eyes: a hand appearing from the debris, a mother hold[ing] her baby. I’m just trying to tell the story of the people and the damage caused to the city.”

This damage, captured in pictures of destroyed homes and displaced children, could nearly paralyze the landlocked mountain country’s economy. The U.S. Geological Survey even estimates losses could exceed Nepal’s $20 billion annual gross domestic product.

Centuries-old temples and palace squares, once meccas for travelers, have been turned into dust. Tourism, which accounts for eight percent of Nepal’s economy, is likely to nosedive as high-end hikers and backpackers cancel vacations.

The seven percent of the workforce involved in the tourism sector will also feel these aftershocks, left unemployed and homeless in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

“Imagine the Due Torri in Bologna or the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. crumbling into rubble,” Saurav Rana, World Bank Group consultant, said of the destruction. “The loss has been demoralizing.”

Critical foreign investment plans are also being halted. A Chinese funded hydroelectric dam near the Himalayas, a $1.6 billion project, has been placed on the back burner.

Coca-Cola Company bottling plants in Kathmandu and Bharatpur have been temporarily shutdown. Stalling output will only worsen the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 40 percent.

“It has been one of the worst scenes I’ve witnessed in my life,” Havana said.

For those in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu, rampant power outages and constant rain have left camps of families unnerved and dejected. Rural areas, where nearly 80 percent of Nepalis live, remain buried under landslides, inaccessible to rescue workers.

With the wet monsoon season a month away, many fear abject conditions and destroyed infrastructure will only foment an increased number of dysentery, cholera and hepatitis cases. Crowded camps, limited supplies and scarce drinking water will also put a strain on health care centers.

So far, the Asian Development Bank, a regional multilateral lender, has pledged $200 million to fund the first phase of rehabilitation. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also announced that the U.S. has pledged $10 million.

Though this aid could have a sizable impact on the small country, analysts are doubting the government’s capacity to revive Nepal’s economy. Political discord could compromise rehabilitation.

“It’s not only money that you need for reconstruction, but also human knowledge and a functioning government,” said Ilan Noy, an expert on the economics of disasters at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. “Nepal belongs to a category of countries where it’s unclear whether the ability to execute reconstruction will be sufficient.”

– Lauren Stepp

Sources: NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The World Bank, TIME
Photo: Rebecca Katherine

With nearly 5,900 dead and monetary growth stalled, loss has become commonplace in the wake of Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The tourism sector, constituting eight percent of the country’s gross domestic product, now looks gutted – a reality that could have grim implications for Himalayan Sherpas.

Jagged snow-capped peaks and olive-green farmlands frame rural villages in Nepal. It is here, with the beast’s shadow looming, that backpackers from across the world come to tackle Mt. Everest. Himalayan Sherpas, indigenous people notorious for their mountaineering prowess, lead nearly 100,000 through the unforgiving ice fields each year.

Making upwards of $7,000 in a single trekking season, 10 times the average Nepalese wage, the Sherpas contribution benefits Nepal’s economy. By filling hotels, airplane seats and sporting goods stores, the sun-aged workers have created their own niche in tourism.

This once lucrative business, however, is taking a turn for the worse following April’s earthquake.

In Chaurikharka, a rural area in Nepal, villagers and Buddhist monks gather in a hut, its walls crumbling and sagging in the dim lamp light. They mourn the loss of Dawa Chiri, a 27-year-old Himalayan Sherpa killed alongside 17 other trekkers and guides during an avalanche caused by the quake.

Dawa’s wife, Phura Yangzi, is now left with an 18-month old child. With the baby strapped to her back, Yangzi explains that she will now turn to street vending, selling soda and mineral water in hopes of supporting the family.

“It will be difficult but I will try,” she said. “I have to.”

Mountaineering companies, hearing of these tragic and devastating stories, have called off all spring expeditions. From teahouses to airlines, the effects of a poor trekking season will be felt by many – a big blow for Nepal’s economy.

“Foreign clients will be reluctant to climb next year,” David Morton, executive director of the Juniper Fund charity, said. “There are concerns about danger, sure, but also cost, after climbers lost all that money.”

With nearly 40 percent of villages already living below the poverty line, this drastic decline in tourism will leave high-altitude families reeling. Most, now camped in makeshift nylon tents, may never secure the funds to rebuild their homes.

“I have lost everything,” Pasang Lamu, a 55-year-old villager in Khunde said, choking back sobs. “Please help us.”

Foreign aid efforts, though effective for urban centers, prove futile for most Himalayan towns. The only way in or out is by foot making travel for international aid workers, reporters and government officials impossible.

“It has been the main economic driver for many people and now, the industry will take a hit,” nonprofit director Ben Ayers said of the tourism sector. “We are looking at hunger, disease and suffering for a lot of people.”

Yangzi will be one of those people. Her face tired, the 22-year-old widow explains how she wishes her husband’s death was simply a nightmare. She tries to think of it as a dream, but then remembers the last words he spoke a day before the earthquake.

“Tomorrow,” the Sherpa said. “Is my rest day at base camp.”

– Lauren Stepp

Sources: Bloomberg Business, CNN, The Economic Times
Photo: Flickr


help nepal
Are you ready to help Nepal? The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Nepal on April 25, and its multiple aftershocks, has taken over 4,000 lives so far. That number is only expected to rise with the thousands of wounded needing medical aid.

Once the worst of the devastation has passed, the people of Nepal will face many hardships rebuilding their country and their lives. While many of the nation’s closest neighbors are traveling to Nepal to provide direct aid, the best an average American citizen can do is give money.

“It’s usually better to give money than stuff after a disaster because it gives charities more flexibility to address the immediate needs of the affected communities,” Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar, a company that maintains a database of 2.2 million IRS-recognized nonprofits, said.

Here is a list of reliable nonprofits that are accepting donations to be spent on relief efforts:

  • Save the Children: This organization has actually had programs in Nepal since the 70’s. It plans to save 10 percent of what it receives for future natural disasters.
  • Doctors without Borders: This organization is sending various medical teams to Nepal, including one that will perform surgeries. These doctors are traveling from all over the world and a donation will make sure that those in need receive medical attention.
  • The American Red Cross: The Red Cross has donated $300,000 to this disaster and that amount is just its initial monetary contribution. This organization encourages the public to not only donate on its website, but to also find a donation link on iTunes. It also recommends taking to social media to spread the word about the cause.
  • Global Giving: This organization plans to raise at least one million dollars for the people of Nepal. Aside from donating on its website, $10 donations are also accepted by texting GIVE NEPAL to 80088.
  • Social Media: Facebook has put up a link to donate on its front page, and the company is matching donations up to two million dollars. The hashtag #SupportNepal is also being used to spread awareness. The Red Cross is posting updates on the dire situation on both its Facebook and Twitter pages, and recommends clicking “Share” to raise awareness.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: Maria Shriver, Red Cross Chat, TIME
Photo: flickr

ways haiti has improved
Haiti has recently been highlighted for making strides in the fight against cholera, with the number of new cases this year down 74 percent. Looking beyond this progress in the Haitian health sector, Haiti is experiencing successes in several other areas. According to a report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) last month, the country reached many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Based on statistics from this U.N. report, here are five ways Haiti has improved and is climbing the ladder of global development.

1. Education

The rate of primary education among Haiti’s youth has increased from 47 percent in 1993 to almost 90 percent today. There is equal participation in education between boys and girls, giving all children an opportunity to learn.

2. Earthquake Recovery

In 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake left Haiti in shambles, with 200,000 people killed and billions of dollars in damages. After four years of work, the UNDP reports that 97 percent of debris from the hard-hitting earthquake is gone from the streets of Haiti, 11,000 displaced families are back in their homes and more than 4,000 meters of river bank have been protected against flooding.

3. Clean Water

More households are using safe, clean water. The U.N. reports, “Nearly 65 percent of households now have improved access to water, compared to 36.5 percent in 1995.” The increased availability of hygienic water is key to fighting cholera, acute diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. This progress will continue, especially in rural areas, thanks to the country’s newly launched “Total Sanitation Campaign.”

4. Infant Mortality

The health of Haiti’s youth is improving, with infant mortality ranking lower than the global average, down 44 percent since 1990. Additionally, the number of underweight children under the age of 5 has been cut in half, meeting the MDG three years ahead of schedule.

5. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The Haiti MDG report boasts a rise in per capita GDP from $1,548 in 2009 to $1,602 today. Extreme poverty has stabilized at 24 percent since 2012.

Although Haiti is on the path to success according to MDG indicators, there are undoubtedly aspects of the country that still need attention. More children than ever are attending school, but there are still far too many kids dropping out and repeating grades. Clean water access has improved, but in order to eradicate cholera entirely there needs to be more widespread sanitation reform, especially in rural areas.

But without a doubt, the aforementioned successes are extremely commendable. With a sustained push, a Haiti without extreme poverty could be on the horizon.

– Grace Flaherty 

Sources: New York Times, UN, World Bank
Photo: UN