With everything that’s going on in Nepal right now, I feel the need to share some important information we just went over in my Disaster Response course.
It is the job of the government, whenever a disaster happens, to coordinate all the relief efforts. Their own, those from NGOs, those from other countries, even those from the UN or WHO. The government of the affected country or region to approve, monitor, coordinate, and keep track of all relief efforts, from water and food distribution to organization of refugee camps.
The thing about a disaster of this scale is that the government is often in shambles. This happened so close to the capitol that what sections of the government are left functioning are going to be completely overloaded. Any normal government will be stretched to the limits, and when the capitol is affected, things are going to be nearly impossible. There are wounded and stranded pouring into Kathmandu, and the city itself has been damaged, meaning communication and travel are going to be limited, so the government not only has to deal with their own city being over-crowded and heavily damaged, they still have to manage hundreds of relief teams all asking to come in. The amount of coordination needed to ensure that there aren’t gaps in relief coverage, and that money isn’t being funneled into the wrong channels, and that the most people are being helped, and that outside relief efforts work with local internal efforts, and that the peace is kept while all this is happening, and that it doesn’t turn to mob rule, and that the government can still manage the rest of the country, and that medical care is being distributed according to not only current need but in anticipation of future need, and that disease doesn’t spread, and that monetary aid from other countries is being properly used–and hundreds more– is absolutely staggering.
And sometimes, under that much pressure and strain, governments crack. Take the Port-au-Prince earthquake from 2010. The government was devastated, as the palace collapsed in the earthquake and aftershocks. Without a functioning government, some agencies couldn’t get in, some came in illegally, some came in only with a blanket go-ahead and no direction as to what needed doing first. Things were in complete chaos.
I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen in Nepal; I’m bringing this up to point something out.
Who stepped in and took charge in Haiti? The United States Marine Corps. They did not, contrary to popular belief, institute martial law and take over the government. What they DID do was organize the relief efforts in place of the government, which couldn’t do it on their own. They got things under control, eliminated redundancies that drained resources from other needy areas, assisted the government in fielding all the paperwork and permissions that international agencies need to come in and work, helped keep peace UNDER the direction of the Haitian government; then, when the government was once more fully staffed, stable, and capable, they left.
That’s my point in bringing this up.
In the next few weeks, there may be a need for outside assistance to the government. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, that means military support. The military is extremely qualified for emergency management; that’s a huge part of what they do on a daily basis. I’m bringing this up now so that maybe people won’t freak out if that starts happening. It’s not a militaristic takeover of a wounded country; spreading rumors like that is only going to make the relief efforts more difficult. Understanding that sometimes military support, often from other countries, is a part of disaster management will prevent panic that could delay and hinder recovery processes. The military is so often seen as simply soldiers, only called in when there’s war or some strategic value to be gained through violence and oppression. But war and defense of life through combat is only a teeny tiny part of what the military does. They provide structured support to people in need, through peaceful means, and organizational skills. If there’s one thing any military does well, it’s organize. They’re already a body of highly organized, team-working, cooperative professionals; they can get things done more efficiently than a group of volunteers who have never worked together before. So sometimes groups like the UN and Red Cross call upon military personnel to do the groundwork. Armed Forces of all nations are trained in crisis management, and know how chain of command works; so in a situation where the government is stretched to the limits trying to maintain order within its own sovereign borders, management of relief efforts often fall to the Armed Forces, sometimes of other countries.
I just wanted to put this out there for consideration in case military personnel from any country are deployed in Nepal. It doesn’t mean they’re usurping power; they’re just highly qualified to help recovery efforts move along smoothly. And please, if Nepal does call on other countries for aid, or if other countries offer aid and it’s accepted by Nepal (remember, Nepal has the final say in what aid is taken), PLEASE don’t grumble about how other countries should stay out of Nepal’s business. We are all citizens of this world; while we’re not required to assist another country, doing so is not a crime, or “forcing” politically backed aid onto a weakened government. Nepal could easily say, “Get out, we can handle this ourselves.” If aid from the U.S. or Great Britain or anywhere else ends up in Nepal, it is because Nepal either requested or approved it. And I, for one, think it’s a very good thing for countries to help each other in times of need. If we all ignored each other for our own interests, so many more would suffer. We’re all brothers and sisters of one Earth, and just because we have problems of our own doesn’t mean we should be deaf to the cries of others who are also suffering.
That’s just my two cents, and kind of beside the point, but there it is. The main point is:
Don’t get up-in-arms if military support is requested in Nepal. Military doesn’t mean hostile takeover. They’re honestly just extra manpower and crisis management staff to hold down the fort while the Nepali government takes care of business.