Aid in Afghanistan

Oxfam has reported that much of the aid donated internationally to Afghanistan is wasted. A large proportion of the aid is paid to foreign workers to build large of short-term projects that do not contribute to the needs of the poorest or those living in rural areas. There are examples of local officials taking from the aid money or taking bribes before any of the money reaches the poor.

Foreign aid in Afghanistan is focused on national economic need and not on the immediate needs of most of the populous. Also, some aid is tied, so that when a country gives aid to Afghanistan, the Afghani government has to do something for them in return.

The conflict and instability in the country makes it difficult to reach the poorest people in rural areas.

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NGO work in Haiti

Oxfam’s Let Agogo Project in Haiti funds an organisation that gives local people cows, with a focus on women. Support from vets allows them to care for the cows, sell on dairy projects and boosts the local economy.

Calves are given to other families from the original families, so that more can join the scheme. People have used their incomes to buy food, shelter and education. The government also buys some of the milk, which is then treated before being given free to local school children, which then improves their diets. The project has the clear benefit that local people run it for the benefit of other locals.

There are concerns to using cows, however, as just within the USA, POCs of African ancestry have a 75% chance of being lactose intolerant, and the USA is more affluent, and therefore more likely to give people exposure to milk. It is a proven thing that people can maintain a lactose tolerance despite their genetic predisposition if they have enough exposure throughout development, which poor people in Haiti are unlikely to. This being said, the economic benefit is likely to remain as the receivers of the cows can still sell to other ethnic groups with lower incidence of lactose intolerance. It is also worth noting that lactose intolerance normally develops with age somewhat, so that children who will be intolerant can occasionally still benefit from receiving free milk while they are young.

Dambisa Moyo- “Dead Aid”

Dambisa Moyo is a Zimbabwean economist, who wrote a book called “dead aid”. She doesn’t argue against the use of short term aid, but she does argue that aid is not getting to the poorest, and that only about 20¢ for every dollar that enters Zimbabwe get’s past Mugabe’s government. She claims that aid doesn’t encourage growth, self sufficiency or efficient enterprise.

Rather than relying on hand outs she says countries need to borrow on markets based on credit ratings. G8 countries have often discussed the state of poorer countries with no representatives for them present, even if they frequently have Western pop stars.

She argues that aid has not really done any overall good as US$1 trillion over 60 years has made no real impact on the incidence of poverty or on economic growth. Moyo claims that aid causes corruption, undermines accountability and chokes trade. This  is a huge fallacy as correlation does not mean causation. Lots of money does travel to relatively corrupt countries, but that’s often because some big disaster has occurred there, such as in Nepal, Ethiopia and many others, because they simply don’t have the money or infrastructure to support everyone even without the corruption, or, like in Swaziland, the presence of corruption is so great that it’s almost the sole cause of poverty.

Moyo suggests that instead of using aid money should be raised within the economy itself, by attracting foreign direct investment, reducing trade restrictions and promoting financial services to the poor. She seems to be unaware of the fact that countries don’t generally gain FDI unless they already have a decent enough economy or infrastructure to attract foreign companies. Far better methods would be to promote stability, tackle issues like climate change which are making it harder for poor countries to develop, reducing world wide corruption, changing immigration policies and promoting peace.

Views like hers may become very dangerous in the near future, as President Trump is likely to take any excuse he can to completely stop aid in the future. She does not propose viable alternatives to aid; the most viable alternatives are all things which Trump would be likely to diminish and suppress, and the US’s current role in aid would be hard to overstate.

UK Government Funding in Nepal

The UK government has given £65 million to the Nepalese government to use in its health services. This has allowed the government to cut health care fees and allow even the very poorest to access health care. Since 1996, the maternal mortality rate has fallen by 50%, with a 1/3 reduction in infant mortality within 5 years.

The UK provided £20 million in aid over five years for the Safe Motherhood Program, which trains doctors and nurses, improves healthcare facilities, provides equipment, and encourages hospital births, which are generally safer. 90% still give birth at home, but in 2009 alone, 60,000 extra women gave birth in hospitals or other specialised healthcare centres.

Typhoon Haiyan

Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on 8th November 2013 with the force of a category 5 Atlantic hurricane, at a speed of 250kmh^-1. It came with a 5m storm surge and up to 290 mm of rainfall in just 12 hours. Haiyan was likely known as Yolanda. Fewer than 20 other hurricanes had reached the same strength.

Between 5 and 10 typhoons hit the Philippines every day, leading to, within normal bounds, 2% of GDP lost annually.

Top Five Natural Disasters, 2004-2012 in the Philippines Date Number Kiled
Typhoon Bopha Dec 2012 1,901
Typhoon Winnie Nov 2004 1,619
Typhoon Washi Dec 2011 1,439
Typhoon Durian Nov 2006 1,399
Leyte landslide Feb 2006 1,126

Bopha had a windspeed of 280kmh^-1 and hit the island of Mindanao. It caused over US$1 billion of damage. Yet no one remembers Bopha. This reflects how the richest countries tend to ignore the issues that prevent development in other countries once the immediate issue appears to be dealt with.

Many people made the link between Haiyan and climate change:

“I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing.”- David Cameron

Rising sea levels from melting ice caps mean that areas which are low lying or coastal are at more risk of damage from storm surges and other sea based hazards linked with the hurricane. An IPCC AR5 report judged that there would be no real increase in the number of hurricanes but the intensity of them would rise.

Date Development of Haiyan
2 Nov An area of low pressure developed South East of Micronesia
3 Nov Haiyan started to move westward, turning into a tropical depression
5 Nov Classified as a typhoon
6 Nov Joint Typhoon Warning Centre classified it as a category 5 storm
7 Nov Haiyan intensified to winds up to 314kmh^-1. Made landfall at Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
8 Nov Five more landfalls within the Philippines. Passed into the South China Sea
10 Nov Turned NW and made landfall in Vietnam as a category 1 typhoon
11 Nov Weakened to a tropical depression

Causes

To form, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (the same thing by different names depending upon location), need warm deep water (around 27°C for 70m) and sufficient rotatory power from the Coriolis effect; the coriolis limitation means that tropical storms can rarely be formed outside of about 5-20° away from the equator. Tropical storms form around an area of low pressure- Haiyan’s sea surface pressure was as low as 895mb- where air starts to rush in in a spiralling effect.

The air then starts to rise with warm water evaporating off the warm sea, forming clouds. The clouds then start to rise. The accumulation of air at the top creates a higher section of high air pressure. Air is then blasted out at immense speeds, creating the clouds visible on satellite images.

Hurricanes maintain their full force when they are over warm water with no real wind sheer (high up winds which move the top layer of cloud away from the hurricane). In the Philippines, most of the land is made of small islands with larger sections of warm water between them, meaning that the hurricane never gets far away from warm water when over the Philippines, and thus don’t really weaken around the country.

Across the Philippines, Haiyan made 6 separate land falls. It travelled very quickly, meaning that the water in front of it was not stirred up. Stirred up water will often have cold water near the surface, but the water in front of Haiyan did not. This meant that the water entering the typhoon was very warm, so when it rose it released masses of latent heat energy, giving the typhoon enormous power.

The islands of Leyte and Cebu’s configuration channeled the storm in a particular way, funneling it straight towards the city of Tacloban; the decreasing ocean depth also increased the intensity of the storm surge.

Lowest Pressure 895 mb
Sustained wind speed 314 kmh^-1
Radius of hurricane-force winds 85 km
Peak Strength Category 5
Strength at Landfall Category 5, 314 kmh^-1
Storm Surge Height 15 m
Rainfall 400mm

There had also been an earthquake (at 7.2 on the Richter scale) recently beforehand, in October 2013, which had an impact on how effective any aid work could be.

Impacts

Haiyan affected 11 million people.

  • 6,021 were killed, although the initial estimate was 10,000
  • 10,000s of people were made homeless, and further 10,000s lost their main sources of income.
  • The Tacloban City Convention Center was being used as an evacuation centre, but became a death trap as water poured into it.
  • A 5.2 m storm surge destroyed Tacloban airport’s terminal building.
  • Many water vessels were washed ashore; in some areas 95% of fishing equipment and boats were destroyed.
  • The phone network was lost, making it hard to establish contact between victims, the authorities, and the victims’ families.
  • 1,000s of trees were destroyed; 33 million coconut palms were destroyed, destroying 15 million tons of timber.
  • Roads were undamaged, but huge piles of debris still made transportation of aid workers and supplies very slow.

The worst affected area, the Eastern Vasayas were flooded up to 1km inland.

There was no clean water, electricity or food for survivors. There was also no available fuel for vehicles, many of which were also upturned.

 

Response

Preparedness

The Philippines has many low scale hurricanes on a regular basis; thus, many people had a false sense of safety going into the disaster because they had been desensitized to the danger of it.

The government frequently produces risk maps and provides evacuation shelters for its citizens.

On November 6th, PAGASA (Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) issues a low level Public Storm Warning, but had raised this to the highest level it could within 24 hours.

The military deployed planes and helicopters in advance to areas likely t be worst-hit. Community buildings were designated as storm shelters, although there was concern that they may not resist the high wind force. Some islands, such as Tulang Diyot, were completely evacuated of its 1,000 residents, due to years of education and community preparedness.

The local mayor of Tulang Diyot won an award in 2011 for community work in the “Purok system”, where community members agree to deposit their own money into a fund for post-disaster assistance rather than waiting for government aid.

Short Term

When Haiyan made land fall, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, allowing relief agencies to have satellite data from space agencies to help in relief and recovery after a disaster.

Journalists arrived very quickly to the area, largely consisting of storm chasers who arrived before the storm to help contribute to better models for use in predicting the effects and severity of future disasters.

The first actual aid work was done by survivors who searched the ruins for bodies and other survivors. The government was criticised for a very slow response, as locals turned to looting to acquire enough food for themselves. The UK and USofA sent supplies of diggers, and other moving equipment to help the distribution of aid. Aid supplies were often ambushed and looted. Mass graves were dug to contain the bodies before disease could break out.

Pledges of aid were made quickly but the actual carrying out of the aid schemes was severely delayed, partly because of the isolated nature of the effected islands, and the damage done to infrastructural and transport links.

Street sellers had started to set up stands again a week after the event. Fishermen salvaged water proof items to turn into impromptu boats, such as tree trunks and fridges. Broadband antennae were constructed and Micromappers.com managed to map out the worst hit areas to send workers into where they were most needed.

Long Term

Water and sanitation services were set up fairly soon afterwards. Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing 3,000 small businesses set up a permanent disaster committee. A month after the event, 100,000 people were still in evacuation centres, with 4 million in temporary homes. 324,00 households were given materials for emergency shelters, and began building 30,000 higher standard homes.

If material distribution had been slower, many people would have started to just rebuild with what they had, leading to more unsafe structures than what was there before the event.

Representatives of national and local governmental departments started administering aid directly, speeding up distribution and reducing bureaucracy. 50,000 homes in affected areas were given US$50 in addition to emergency supplies, overseen by the Philippines Red Cross.

People started to be paid for clearing up the mess, allowing them structure back into their lives while also helping the aid work.

There were no outbreaks of diseases, despite the large risk and the lack of initial sanitation.

More than 20% of government spending in the Philippines is on debt repayment. This crippling cost keeps much of the population in poverty and at risk of another disaster.

Cuba in terms of social development

Fidel Castro took charge of Cuba in 1959. At the start of the revolution, 1/4 of the population were illiterate and living in poverty. 1/2 died before the age of 60, and only 1/2 of all children went to school.

The main causes of Castro’s “special period” were the break down of the Soviet Bloc, a reliance on soviet nations to supply almost everything to the country, a trade embargo and a massive nationwide food shortage. The food problem was solved by the increased use of sustainable organic farming, with 10,000 urban gardens to grow food within cities. To this day, one of the main study areas emphasised in higher education in Cuba is agriculture, with the other two being Medicine and Sciences.

The rivers within Cuba became very polluted due to their starting development. There was a huge demand for clean water from the gardens, yet not enough money to build water treatment plants, despite the prevalence of old factories along the river polluting freely, leading to a high concentration of contaminants. Furthermore, there was no real sewage treatment system. A scheme was devised to mostly use a natural wetland replacement to remove most of the waste products. Plants are by no means a perfect filter for pollution, but they do help significantly, supposedly leading to a 85% removal of pollution from the water sources.

Cuba has had some major benefits for its development; their water cleaning scheme has helped to prevent waterborne disease, and they can now buy solar panels for use in schools. All children can now go to school, where they are guaranteed an education anywhere. This has lead to some very small schools across the country.

Cuba has a strong focus on Preventative Medicine. There is 1 doctor for every 170 people in Cuba. Each doctor spends 4 hours a day within their clinics and 4.5 hours on house visits, which is referred to as “integrated general practice medicine”. It is easier for a doctor to observe the patient’s symptoms in a home setting, and also helps to relax the patient. This system is entirely free.

As a result of this, Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate of any developing country, which is lower than some areas of North America. Their health care system is so renowned in the Americas, that many US doctors receive training there, as well as doctors from other countries; this comes with the caveat that they are not able to afford their education within their home country, or that their home country has no proper medical schools. For instance, Belize has no medical schools, and all their doctors are trained within Cuba as a result. During aid drives, Cuba rarely sends any money, but instead sends huge medical teams out to disaster events.

Traditional medicine is actually encouraged in Cuba, largely because of a lack of money. Patients can normally choose what type of treatment to prioritise in their own health care. It’s thought that the traditional medicine is good for treating the whole of a person, and the locals claim it gives different results to just western medicine. It’s unclear exactly how effective any of these treatments are, but many modern medicines are loosely based off of traditional remedies, so it’s entirely possible that a good proportion (it won’t be all) are quite effective.

Cuba has spent a lot of funding on biotechnology, which has helped to ensure there are a variety of cheap and effective drugs available for Cubans. This has helped to keep the health care free for all citizens, with a lowered government cost. 1500 citizens are employed in biotechnology, and have developed several drugs and vaccines, and has eradicated some tropical diseases from within Cuba.

Tourism has created an issue for Cuba in recent years as the government is used to controlling the supply of goods and currency. Tourists demand to have control of funding properly, which meant that a second currency had to be made; the Convertible Pesal is worth 25x as much as the Cuban Pesal. Tourism has also lead to inequality; tourist guides can earn as much in an afternoon as doctors will in a month (roughly equivalent to US$25 a month).

Cuba is in a fragile position at the moment. Castro’s reign was autocratic, so few politicians were trained to manage the country. A few trusted advisers seem to have taken charge for now, but it is hard to discern how the country will function in the long term.

Philippines mudslide 2006

On 17th February 2006, a mudslide hit the village of Guinsagon in southern Leyte province in the Philippines. The slide covered 9km^2, was 3km wide and in places 30m thick. Half a mountain collapsed on the single village. .

Causes

The main cause of the mudslide was a La Ninya event in the Western Pacific. 200cm of rainfall fell in 10 days, weakening the slope strength. Slopes in the region are mostly very steep and mass movement and mudslides occur frequently.

Widespread deforestation during the past 70 years have also increased slope instability. The slide was ultimately triggered by a small local earthquake of magnitude 2.6Mw.

Exposure in that area of the Philippines is high. In 1991, 5,000 people were killed when typhoons triggered landslides, and a similar event in 2003 killed 133 people. Mudslides and landslides are a constant threat due to:

  • heavy and prolonged rainfall from typhoons
  • Steep hillsides largely built of weathered volcanic rock
  • Extensive faulting and earthquake activity

Many villages are located at the base of steep slopes in the direct path of mudslides, and rural populations are high. The people are very poor and have high population growth. Southern Leyte is one of the poorest areas of the Philippines. Between 1995 and 2000 the population grew by +2.73%, placing pressure on environmental resources.

Logging bans have not been enforced by the government, largely due to political corruption. Even where sustainable logging has been practiced, in many places trees with shallow roots have replaced trees with deep roots, and thus made the slopes far less stable.

Impacts

Survivors described how a “wall of mud” descended on the village, killing over 1,000 people, including 246 children at a primary school. Almost every one of the 300 homes was destroyed. The slide killed thousands of livestock and buried the farmland; around 16,000 people were affected.

Response

Hazard mitigation maps have been made of Southern Leyte, but are not very detailed, so that villages that will be effected by mudslides cannot be identified. Following heavy rains and the deaths of 20 people in a nearby village, warnings were issued between the 4th and 17th of February, and several hillside villages were evacuated. However, many people chose not to leave.

Evacuation centres were set up around St Bernard, the capital of the region. Emergency aid in these centres provided safe drinking water, sanitation and health services. The region is very poor, however, so they cannot afford communications, which slowed down response times. Two hundred rescue workers were brought into the site. Unlike earthquakes, mass movements have few survivors.

International aid was provided by the Red Cross and Red Cresent, and their appeal raised US$1.6 million.

The government has commissioned a US$1.5 million geohazards survey and mapping of Leyte to try to prevent future similar disasters.

Nepal Earthquake

Fact File

  • The main earthquake scored a magnitude of 7.8, and hit on April 25th, 2015, between Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • There was a major aftershock on 12th May 2015, of magnitude 7.3
  • It was the worst earthquake to hit in 80 years

Causes

Natural

  • The Himalayas are caused when the northern part of then tectonic plate containing India and Australia pushes up towards the Eurasian plate. Both plates are continental, so relatively light- the crusts both push upwards when they collide, causing huge mountains to form as the Himalayas. Because these rocks started as sedimentary rocks from the sea floor, before the continents collided, seashells can be found in rock faces along the Himalayas
  • Kathmandu is located on soft rock, which, when shaken undergoes “liquefaction”- where solid rock effectively becomes a liquid under stress. This undermined building foundations, causing huge property damage
  • Weak rocks and steep slopes combined to make the aid operations very difficult in the area.

Human

  • Bureaucracy stopped a lot of aid progress, hindering recovery efforts and fostering mistrust between locals and aid organisations
  • Political haggling has effectively stopped aid efforts
  • Corruption among aid workers, particularly Indian aid workers, led to Nepalese blockades in progress, which, according to the Nepalese government, are more damaging than the earthquake itself, economically. Blockades have stopped the flow of construction materials, greatly increasing the costs of rebuilding.
  • Nepal is known as a corrupted country, slowing down aid work and reducing the ability of redevelopment
  • As the earthquake started during the working day, many farm workers were out in their fields, which helped protect them from injuries from falling masonry

Impacts

Short Term

  • Almost 9,000 people were killed, between Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Within Tibet, foreign nationals of various countries including Australia, China, India and the USA were killed.
  • People panicked upon seeing the damage and were too scared to return home- this had psychological effects on many individuals, but likely probably helped some people’s safety. As Nepal is hit by frequent tremors, many people are still terrified by small ground movements on a regular basis
  • Dubar Square, a noted UNESCO site was utterly flattened by the shaking
  • 600,000 homes were destroyed
  • 21,000 people were injured
  • The earthquake damaged water supplies from springs down to people causing huge clean water shortages.
  • In the Langtang valley, entire villages were wiped out by avalanches.
  • Many Tibeto-Burman villages were destroyed, as the ethnic group like to settle high up on rocky slopes, making them especially susceptible to land slides and avalanches.
  • Avalanches caused by tremors on mount Everest killed 18 people, making it the day with the highest fatalities on Everest. At least 60 people were injured, and some had to be taken out by rescue helicopters.
  • 4 million people are still living in temporary shelters

Middle Term

  • Many people have taken out large loans to help fund house rebuilding, plunging them into debt.
  • Violent crime rates, particularly against women, greatly increased.
  • Women struggled to get aid, leading to even greater gender disparity within the region
  • People no longer had access to decent sanitation, or to toilets, so there were fears of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera

Responses

Short Term

  • Aid agencies quickly started distributing out survival items like food, bed sheets and crude shelter-making materials (like iron sheets) to help protect people.
  • Airports were reopened as soon as they were safe. That said, some had to be reclosed very quickly afterwards due to aftershocks. During these, people were moved out of the building and onto the runway temporarily, to minimise the risks of injury due to damaged building work.

Middle Term

  • Very few of the roughly 800,000 flattened buildings have been rebuilt.
  • Pledges of US$3×10^9 were made, but 3.5 million Nepalese people have still yet to receive more than very basic aid.
  • The government is starting to give out about 200,000 rupees to the worst effected homes- but only 660 families have received anything so far out of 100,000 eligible, and that is no where near enough to build up new houses or recover losses to the family. Just buying sand for a single room can cost 60,000 rupees.
  • To receive this money, 150,000 of the rupees must be spent on home-building, using a 7 step plan to build earthquake-proof homes. In theory, this would greatly reduce the impac of future earthquakes. In practice, each of the 7 steps is very expensive to locals, who have no means to pay for all of it. If they flout the building rules, they get no compensation.
  • Only about 30% of foreign aid goes to beneficiaries; meanwhile, over 40% is just in admin, breeding discontent between locals who view them as corrupt and the aid companies, slowing down the rebuilding. In Nepal, 43% of the aid money goes to the government. Corruption watchdogs have said that local officials may siphon off even more money

Evaluation of Responses

International aid have been trying to help the area, and on a small scale, they have worked relatively well. Where they can work without funding, such as by building small evacuation camp latrines out of bamboo and rock, they are very effective. However, corruption, and growing irritation at the corrupted system has lead to complications and delays to the extent where very little has really been achieved by aid workers, despite their best efforts.

Many locals would probably be fine helping themselves to build housing, as many people are using loaned money to build their homes faster than they could on the government money, if the supply were supported, instead of being crippled by protest groups.

It’s understandable why they are protesting- at a time when their country needs all the help it can sensibly receive, the government has been redirecting funding away- but their protests merely exacerbate the issues they are complaining about, at least from an outside perspective. It’s unlikely they will change anything with corruption soon.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36089960

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/25/earthquake-survivors-stranded-nepal-aid-bureaucracy

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jul/18/nepal-earthquake-emergency-sanitation-red-cross