Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Nepal wasn't ready
For 'quake volunteers


IF THE STORY headlined Disorganization plagues relief efforts, frustrating even trained volunteers is true - and I suspect it is - Nepal both benefitted from and suffered from the sudden influx of volunteers following the recent earthquake and after shocks.

No surprise.

Another practitioner, then in Pakistan. and this scrivener had a lengthy email exchange on volunteers pouring into a disaster area when the hosts were ill-prepared to accept their help and to direct the volunteers to areas where they were most needed.

While most non-governmental practitioners probably never will need, or encounter, a surge of volunteers we can offer diplomatic input to our Emergency Management office.

The problem encountered in Nepal, where volunteers poured in from many places, was that it wasn’t prepared to absorb them.

There is a language problem.

There are logistics problems.

There are "show the flag" problems; national and organizational egos can - and often do - get in the way of helping those who need the help.

There are political problems; e.g., bivouacing Iranians next to Israelis might not be the most advisable situation.

Emergency managers need to take lessons from the military high command.

During World War 2, Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower was in charge of the European Theater of Operations.

"Ike" was blessed - or perhaps cursed - with a handful of prima donnas (or whatever the male equivalent is called): Patton and Montgomery leading the list. He also had to contend with De Gaulle and the Free French.

While each had his own agenda, Eisenhower was in charge and he forced these gentlemen to what needed to be done for the good of the war effort.

Fortunately military discipline prevailed and Ike kept the generals' egos reigned in and the Allies, not always working in concert, won the shooting war in Europe.

Nations, as generals, have "national egos" and the Emergency Manager on the spot must be both diplomat and martinet.

While nations develop plans to invade or repel other nations, they also should plan on how to welcome, and control, nations and individuals who swarm to a disaster site with good intentions but, often, little else.

As far as the nation volunteers and volunteer organizations, while you are preparing to board the transport that will take you to the disaster site, ASK THE ON-SITE EMERGENCY MANAGER or volunteer coordinator what is needed and where.

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