Friday, May 9, 2008

Aid coin flipped in Burma

The Burmese tragedy unfolding before us in the daily news presents a nearly unique twist to emergency response efforts.

In most cases, nations around the world volunteer assistance, sometimes showing up on the devastated land's "doorstep."

Along with governmental assistance, many non-governmental organizations, those "NGOs" like Red Mogen David and the Salvation Army, also stand ready to provide aid.

Finally, we have the unaffiliated volunteers.

These folks show up, usually unannounced, with no more than good intentions.

All this means is that the locals - the government Emergency Management folks - need to have a plan in place to control and manage all the resources which can pour into the disaster area.

Some do a better job than others.

In Myanmar, the current Burmese (how do you "adjective-ize" Myanmar?) government apparently wants to keep all foreign personnel out. I understand it only reluctantly is allowing aid supplies into the country.


Politics taken to the extreme.

In recent memory a predominately Moslem country suffered a disaster. The country avoided diplomatic relations with Israel, yet, when it needed help, Israel offered aid and the Moslem country accepted it.

Burma, under its present government, apparently is more paranoid than North Korea which would accept aid from China. The only country in my time that I think equates to Burma's situation is Albania, and I think that has changed in recent years.

Meanwhile, foreign aid is stacking up - on the ground and in the ports.

Meanwhile, Burmese are suffering; food supplies are bordering on non-existent if the media is to be believed. (How is it that the media got in and aid workers are kept out?)

Sudan is similar - aid caravans are attacked by land pirates; aid gets into the country, but not to disaster victims.

As an enterprise risk management - business continuity practitioner, I worry about controlling volunteers. I never seriously considered anyone refusing aid, especially when it can be properly managed.

Myanmar's government has changed that mentality.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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