Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sustainable Disaster Recovery for Nepal.

The recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal is a heartbreaking disaster with thousands dead and much of the infrastructure destroyed in Kathmandu.

Nepal is a poor country. Nepal’s GDP per capita was only $694 in 2013, unemployment is at about 40% and overseas workers account for 30% of the economy.

The disaster relief phase will be in the headlines as many countries send armies on the ground for search and rescue missions and medical support, saving lives. Providing much needed shelter, food and water will also be very prominent and large NGOs like Red Cross and Global Giving will raise a lot of funds for this purpose.

For people who donated and supported in the relief efforts, I really respect you for taking action and making a difference to the survivors after the earthquake. In disasters however, the rebuilding process is not as easy as providing shelter, food and water. In poorer countries like Nepal, the rebuilding process is extremely complex as the stability of the government is in question and even with a lot of funds from donations, it may never recover to even the state before the earthquake.

From my experience in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, even with US$3.5 billion in aid, Haiti still has not recovered much and in some areas, the situation seems to get worse. The local economy that is supply similar products will find increasing difficulty to earn a living and resort to relying on just foreign aid to get by.

I have worked with a few great organizations in Haiti like Haiti Partners' Children's Academy which does great work and empowers the next generation of youths with holistic education with affordable education. However, there are also a lot of other NGOs which does not provide real social impact. Many NGOs still provide free services or free food, 5 years after the disaster, and local businesses are affected badly.

The situation of Haiti and Nepal may be quite similar, I would like to look at the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild an infrastructure for growth to reduce poverty. My experience at different disaster areas and getting inspired by the great projects and people I met over the years, I believe I have a lot of value to add to the disaster recovery efforts in Nepal.

I'm interested in forming a Relief 2.0 recovery team for the following tasks:

1) Deliver donated products to partners on the ground. (Solar panels, 3G connection, etc.)
2) Relief B2B, helping local businesses to restart, giving them access to crowdfunded loans (locally or online)
3) Gather information about local capacity and state of business and infrastructure. Find out what is needed to help economic recovery.
4) Gather and share information about marginalized communities and connect them to social enterprises in the world to find solutions collaboratively.
5) Document with photos, accurate information about the magnitude of destruction. Perhaps follow up in the future on the progress of recovery and what else needs to be done.

-- Robin Low

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