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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Bolivia – How Being Landlocked Hinders Development

Much of Bolivia’s trade passes through Chile, and the deals between them cannot reduce the distance between the Bolivian cities and their historic coastline. This would not be an impediment to the Bolivian economy if trade could flow freely, but it cannot.

Most of the world’s 45 landlocked countries are poor. Of the 15 lowest scoring countries by the Human Development Index, 8 are landlocked; all of these are within Africa. Landlocked areas within large countries- the PRC being a good example of this- are normally far less developed and far poorer. Even within countries with access to coastline throughout, areas closer to more heavily used ports are more developed- as shown in the difference between areas like Lincolnshire and Yorkshire vs Kent and Surrey within the UK.

Even compared to countries with similar climates and histories, landlocked countries have still lagged behind in development; the GDP difference between two such countries can be as high as 40%.

Some landlocked countries have managed to develop strong economies- such as Switzerland. Switzerland’s main industry is banking, which requires no transport, so their geographical location does not matter to their economy. Most of Switzerland’s physical exports are small and expensive. Countries like Botswana (which is still an LIC) rely on diamonds, which can be flown, as opposed to shipped, equally. No landlocked countries cannot readjust to neighbour richer countries, or choose to have diamonds, so many landlocked countries are stuck in a bad position for their own development.

Landlocked countries are seen as unreliable by businesses, as transit states can interfere. A strike by Chilean officials in 2013 caused a 20km long line of lorries in Bolivia; this is an especially great risk in Africa, where civil strife is more common, so trade routes often have to be adjusted. Businesses need to be more heavily stocked so that they can cope with the unpredictable situation more easily.

International agreements promise all countries will have access to the sea, but goods still have to be moved to the coastline through other states, and responsibility relies on the government of the states that good travel through.  Border officials in both the source country and the transit country often accept or demand bribes, and cause further delays. Lorries travelling to poor, landlocked countries can end up travelling at half the speed of lorries in neighbouring maritime countries.

Landlocked countries generally attracted fewer entrepreneurs from other countries, and thus fewer ideas that could then develop the economy further; some economists calculate that Bolivia’s GDP may be up to 20% larger if it were not landlocked.

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.

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