Humanitarian relief projects involve massive undertakings, and often organizations employ hundreds or even thousands of aid workers to get the job done. It’s no surprise then that relief efforts require huge amounts of logistic planning and coordination.

This can be difficult to achieve accurately and quickly as communication infrastructure may be downed or poorly developed to begin with.

Further, it is difficult to track the individual efforts of aid workers across large developing, or vastly affected regions. As a result, relief may be slow, disorganized, and ineffective. In order to deliver aid more quickly and efficiently, the UN has teamed up with San Francisco based tech company Frog to develop the Humanitarian Data Exchange, or HDX for short.

The goal of the project is to streamline humanitarian data. In the past, relief workers compiled thousands of documents and data points in a variety of formats. The HDX standardizes the methods in which data is entered and collected, thus making finding specific data points easier with less crucial time wasted.

The HDX contains numerous data points, most complied by aid workers on the ground. The network can be accessed from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. Users then search for a specific dataset using a basic search engine.

The data includes region-specific populations, available medical services and their inventories, national poverty indexes, the number of homeless in the area, and hundreds of others.

The UN first implemented the HDX in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic. Currently, aid workers coordinating earthquake relief efforts are most actively using the HDX in Nepal.

The HDX has currently 76 different datasets for Nepal; many of these include maps and topographical information, as remote Nepalese regions are difficult to traverse due to limited infrastructure.

Nepal is not the only country benefitting from more efficient aid; the HDX lists data in 244 locations. Data is available to the public as well, and can be found at their website.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes 1, Forbes 2, RW Labs
Photo: Forbes

The United Nations World Food Program announced on Wednesday a shift from emergency response efforts to long-term recovery efforts in Nepal.

The announcement signaled an end to nearly two months of emergency response efforts conducted by both Nepal’s government and multiple allies from across the globe after a large portion of the country was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25.

Serving as the largest humanitarian aid agency in the world, the WFP works to assist nearly 100 million people in 75 countries each year and participates in fighting extreme poverty, providing emergency assistance and improving infrastructure and health systems within developing communities.

Richard Ragan, Emergency Coordinator for the WFP’s response in Nepal, stated in an interview this week, “We have started the difficult transition from the emergency period to the early recovery phase – providing cash, employment and rebuilding opportunities for people heavily impacted by the disaster.” Ragan noted that the WFP has successfully provided meals to nearly 2 million displaced citizens since the disaster.

The WFP has implemented a highly effective cash-for-work program in severely affected areas, which pays citizens to build transitional housing and repair agricultural centers and, in turn, revitalizes local markets and economies. The United Nations estimates that 20,000 porters who became displaced and unemployed by the earthquake are now receiving income to repair essential road and trail networks damaged by the disaster, as well as provide vital supplies to isolated communities.

Despite the positive figures offered by this UN program, the WFP warned this week that the operations currently being conducted within Nepal are only 38 percent funded and that they require an additional $74 million in order to continue providing operational assistance until 2016.

In response to questions about the lack of funding, Ragan stated, “To maintain and expand an operation of this scope and logistical complexity, sustained financial support is required.”

– James Thornton

Sources: United Nations, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr


Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson designated Temporary Protected Status to Nepal on June 24, 2015.

Temporary Protected Status is granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security when nationals of a country are unable to return to their country safely, or when a country cannot adequately handle nationals returning to their country. The Secretary of Homeland Security may grant Temporary Protected Status to a country that is experiencing a civil war, a country that has experienced an environmental disaster, or a country that is in other extraordinary and temporary situations.

In this case, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015. Nepal ranks among the poorer countries in the world and has a GDP of about $19 billion and a population of 27.8 million. The earthquake has caused 1 million people to fall below the poverty line and has worsened existing poverty in Nepal.

More than 8,000 people died following the earthquake, and thousands were left homeless and without proper medical care. There are several temporary camps across the country, but many are without sufficient food and water. In addition, children and families have to worry about the threat of human trafficking, which has been made worse by the earthquake.

It is for these reasons that Temporary Protected Status to Nepal was designated. Nepalese nationals are allowed to apply and reside in the United States and possibly receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Nepalese nationals in the United States could also have the ability to travel and be protected from deportation. The Temporary Protected Status will last for 18 months and could possibly be extended further.

The ability of the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a country for Temporary Protected Status is a way for countries to cooperate globally during or after a disastrous event. The United States can assist Nepalese nationals living within its borders and can also help Nepal by allowing Nepalese nationals to stay in the United States.

Nepal is working to improve conditions within the country with the help of humanitarian aid from other countries. Until then, Nepalese nationals can stay and work in the United States in order to remain safe following this crisis.

Ella Cady

Sources: BBC, United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Immigration Impact, Times of India, USCIS
Photo: The Guardian

In the wake of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25, the world responded to help those buried in rubble, but as the region rebuilt itself, traffickers preyed from the shadows on families seeking a better life.

Even before the earthquake hit two months ago, human trafficking in Nepal plagued communities and victimized children. According to a 2001 International Labor Organization study, 12,000 Nepalese children were brought to India as a result of human trafficking every year.

After natural disasters such as earthquakes, children face a greater risk of being trafficked. Girls who are not forced into prostitution would be sold as domestic slaves in India or other countries, and boys are often subjected to harsh working conditions against their will.

Traffickers approach tragedy stricken families offering education, food and security for their children, when in reality, children are whisked away in to a life of monstrous exploitation and horrendous abuse.

Thankfully, multiple organizations have made efforts to deal with the aforementioned issues. UNICEF, a United Nations children’s organization is working closely with the police in Nepal and has already rescued 245 children since the earthquake, by intercepting and thus preventing them from slipping into a dark underworld of sex slavery and forced labor. UNICEF is also supporting the local police in the establishment of 84 checkpoints and police stations throughout the country.

Maiti Nepal, a national NGO, non-profit organization, with the help of UNICEF, is beefing up interception and screening stations along the India and Chinese borders. UNICEF is ensuring child accountability through the strengthening of information management and coordination systems.

The Nepalese government suspended international adoption since the earthquake and in early June, they banned children from traveling between districts without parents or approved guardians. The registration of new orphanages has also been suspended.

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, issued an advisory to increase vigilance at border controls and has advised the society in India to be aware of human trafficking. UNICEF has since spearheaded an awareness and public information campaign by radio reaching the population through 40,000 flyers on prevention of family separation.

25 airline companies operating in Nepal have also been made aware of the need to screen passengers, ensuring that children are accompanied by their legal care givers. Radio Nepal is concurrently airing messages, reaching an estimated 70 percent of the population bolstering awareness.

Lastly, UNICEF has supported the establishment of hundreds of child friendly spaces and temporary learning centers, providing children with education programs as part of a back to school campaign.

Another problem in Nepal, which often hides behind a cloak of good intentions is “Orphanage Voluntourism”. Families around the world with expressed interest to adopt children perceived or mistaken to be orphans, are left unaware about the fact that these children have been deliberately separated from their families to attract high fee paying adoptive families.

UNICEF and its partners have thereby been working to encourage orphanage volunteering programs to discontinue their practices as volunteers. Although for the most part well intentioned, these can be ignorant to deceptive practices. Moreover, backgrounds are usually not adequately checked.

Nepal, like much of the developing world has thus been diseased by human trafficking long before the earthquake in April. After the catastrophe, however, the practice has amplified as wolves in sheep’s clothing prey on the unsuspecting and desperate. Organizations such as UNICEF are therefore out to bring down those who would seek to unreasonably profit from innocence and disaster.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: Free for Life, UNICEF, American Himalayan Foundation, The Guardian
Photo: UN News Centre