Wednesday, 20 May 2015

[Today] Reforms needed in relief operations

Following criticism of its handling of last year’s Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization is setting up a US$100 million (S$133 million) contingency fund to up its game in dealing with future crises and also adopting reforms in crisis management.
In relief operations for natural disasters, man-made lapses have happened repeatedly, such as in the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the recent Nepal quake.
Some villagers in Nepal’s remote areas still had not received aid nearly three weeks after the earthquake (“Nepal unprepared for second quake this big, says PM”; May 15).
More lives could have been saved if the foreign relief missions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local government handled relief operations more coherently and efficiently.
During the first week, the United Nations reportedly urged Nepal to relax customs controls, which it said were holding up aid deliveries to the quake survivors.
Tonnes of aid had piled up at the airport, causing landing problems for relief aircraft in the first few days.
It is also saddening that eight people were killed when a United States Marine Corps helicopter crashed during a relief mission. Unfamiliarity with the terrain and weather conditions could have been key factors.
To avoid such tragedies, better operational support from the relief centres is needed. NGOs, the major aid nations and disaster-prone nations should take heed from the WHO and introduce reforms to improve future operations.
If nothing is done, the confidence and enthusiasm of the donors will be affected, including their efforts in helping affected nations to rebuild.
Organisations must learn quickly from past relief operations. They should develop a set of mutually-agreed-upon protocols that would serve as the basis or guidelines for making reforms in individual countries, NGOs and other parties with respect to disaster management.