Monthly Archives: April 2015

Humanitarian Spotlight: Nepal Earthquake

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On Saturday, April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country of Nepal, leaving the shaken nation to recover from the worst earthquake to hit the Himalayan region in over 80 years. The death toll has now risen above 5,200 people, with over10,300 injuredfigures expected to rise as national and international response teams gain access to remote locations. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala recently warned that the death toll could reach 10,000 people. Dozens have also beenkilled in India and Tibet, China’s state agency said, with at least18 people killed and 60 more injured around Mount Everest. Buildings have been decimated and cultural and historical landmarks reduced to ruinspast and present destroyed all at once. The UN Office of the Resident Coordinator in Nepal estimates that 8 million people, one quarter of the population, have been affected, with tens of thousands left homeless and1.4 million people requiring food aid.

Local communities – always the first responders in humanitarian emergencies – and Nepalese troops spent the first few days searching for trapped individuals and loved ones among the rubble and tending to the needs of the injured and the recovery of the dead. The international community responded promptly, offeringsupport and resources as the Nepalese government struggles tomanage a relief operation of this size and magnitude. Disaster Response and Search and Rescue Teams have been deployed fromIndia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Israel, and the UK, while several other countries have offered financial support.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, priority needs will includefood, water, shelter, and various health considerations toprevent the spread of disease. Many of the villages outside of Nepal’s capital and largest municipality, Kathmandu, where thedamage is thought to be the worst, have been difficult to access due to landslides and poor weather.

WFP is providing food and trucks for distribution, UNICEFis sending tents and healthcare supplies, and WHO isaddressing urgent health issues. IFRC and the Red Cross National Societies have also been heavily involved in the response along with the International Medical Corps and a number ofinternational charities already present in Nepal, such as Save the Children.

Relief efforts have encountered various challenges includingcrippled transportation systems, damaged communication infrastructure, overwhelmed health services, and airport capacity limitations. Due to the multiple aftershocks and desperate living conditions, more than 100,000 people have already left Kathmandu, with officials estimating the number could reach 300,000, more than a 10th of the city’s population.

In the immediate aftermath of the emergency, communications and social media have played a significant role in tracking the missing and connecting families. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was one of the first agencies to launch an online platform to trace thousands of missing people after the earthquake. Google also initiated its Person Finder that allows individuals to post information about their condition or to try to find missing family members, and Facebook activated its Safety Check, a feature that helps friends and relatives quickly find out whether their loved ones are safe.

Now more than ever, there seems to be a greater analytical foundation underlying the international humanitarian response, informed by the experiences of aid professionals and lessons learned from past crises. International Alert has issued a statement gently cautioning that humanitarian aid can go wrong if the aid workers don’t take into account the full reality on the ground. The organization believes the Nepal Earthquake is a crucial moment to ensure that post-disaster aid delivery and reconstruction efforts are carried out in an inclusive, sustainable and conflict-sensitive way. Aid professionals have also commented widely about the implications of impulsive international volunteering, and the dangers of donating goods, advising instead to send money to experienced and reputable aid organizations – or in one author’s words “choose a sector and do your homework.”

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Alumni Update: Carol Chi Ngang (IDHA 38)

Carol Chi Ngang (IDHA 38) recently authored an article in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance entitled “Transgression of Human Rights in Humanitarian Emergencies: The Case of Somali Refugees in Kenya and Zimbabwean Asylum-Seekers in South Africa.” Carol currently works as an Academic Associate/LLD Researcher at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Public Law. Read the article here

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Alumni Update: Aileen Reynolds (IIHA Internship Seminar Spring 2014)

Aileen Reynolds (IIHA Internship Seminar Spring 2014) recently co-authored an article with the Executive Directors of VIVAT International. The article, “Global Migration and Immigration: Why the Church Needs to Be an Advocate for the Migrant,” was first published in the German Theological Mission Journal VERBUM SVD, and discusses global migration, immigration in the United States, and the Catholic Church’s efforts to assist migrants and address migration issues. Read the article

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Alumni Update: Piwi Ophoff (IDHA 24) and Martine van der Does (HNTC 6)

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The Strategic Issues course in London welcomed back two of its own, Piwi Ophoff and Martine van der Does (IDHA 24 and HNTC 6), for another exciting IIHA course.

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Alumni Update: Timo Lüege (IDHA 21)

Timo Lüege (IDHA 21) of Social Media 4 Good recently wrote an article about How Facebook Helped Restore Family Links After the Nepal Earthquake, which reviews Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature.

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Alumni Update: Barry Finette (IDHA 33, IDHA Tutor)

Barry Finette (IDHA 33), THINKmd Founder and CEO, issued the second edition of of the organization’s newsletter, which discusses THINKmd’s recent developments and progress. Read the newsletter here

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Alumni Update: Solomon Wasia Masitsa (HRHL 2)

Solomon Wasia Masitsa (HRHL 2), Manager of the Forced Migration Program at Kituo Cha Sheria, one of the largest legal aid centers in Kenya, recently shared his organization’s newsletters from March and April

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Alumni Update: Samantha Andrews (SIHA 2 and DMTC 6)

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Samantha Andrews (SIHA 2 and DMTC 6) is currently pursuing her graduate studies in International Political Economy and Development as a Public Service Fellow at Fordham University. She recently completed an internship with the US Mission the United Nations in the Economic and Social Section, focusing on diplomatic engagements related to development and security. This summer, she has also been awarded a scholarship from Fordham University to intern at the Council on Foreign Relations in the Center for Preventative Action. Congratulations Samantha!

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Conflict Affected Youth: Education and Paths to Peace

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In last week’s well-attended lecture sponsored by Fordham University’s Department of Political Science, the FCRH Dean’s Office, and the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA), Kabba Williams, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, addressed students, faculty, and guests of Fordham University.  A passionate and engaging individual, Kabba described his journey from child soldier to education advocate, noting the personal challenges of reintegrating back into society and the vital importance of education in the lives of former child soldiers and other conflict-affected youth. In a statement that reveals both personal strength and the transformative role of education, Kabba told the audience,  “Despite all the obstacles, I was determined to be educated because I knew the power of education. It is the best legacy you can ever attain in this world. No one can take it from you.”

One of the youngest child soldiers rescued during the Sierra Leone civil war, Kabba has served as an advocate for education and reintegration of ex-combatant youth for Amnesty International and the United Nations. A recent graduate of Njala University, he is currently writing a memoir of his experiences.

Read more about his keynote address here.

Interested in learning more about the life-saving role of education in humanitarian crises and conflict situations? Take the IIHA Education in Emergencies course this October!

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Alumni Update: Judy Greenberg (IDHA 40)

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Judy Greenberg (IDHA 40) was recently acknowledged in the INEE report “Where It’s Needed Most: Quality Professional Development for All Teachers” for her comments regarding mental health and psychosocial topics.

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