Running head: EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

Judging the Effectiveness of International Aid: Nepal 2015
Geordon VanTassle

American Public University System
EDMG 611: Case Analysis
Professor Randall Cuthbert
August 30, 2015

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Abstract
The April 2015 earthquake in Nepal was the most damaging one in over 80 years. In one of the
world’s poorest countries, the widespread destruction will be difficult to recover from,
particularly with the need for secure shelter before winter. Through collected news reports and
first person accounts, this paper will examine what aid the international community has provided
and the level of effective use of aid money and resources. Research suggests that the
international aid community could be much more effective and efficient in distribution of aid in a
disaster zone, particularly if local nationals are looked to in order to provide vital labor and
services in the response effort. Unfortunately, unless and until the international aid-industrial
complex makes a shift away from being primarily concerned about self-preservation and
enrichment and more toward providing the most value per aid dollar, the same mistakes and
inefficient expenditures will continue to be repeated. Rather than treating the victims of disaster
as unable to care for themselves and needing to depend on the beneficence of the international
community, disaster agencies should look upon the disaster victims as survivors, and help them
directly to survive, recover, and rebuild.

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Judging the Effectiveness of International Aid Provision
The 2015 earthquakes in Nepal are an ongoing humanitarian disaster. The first issue was
the major earthquake in April, which was followed over the next few days later by aftershock,
including one almost as big as the initial quake a few days later. All across the nation, schools,
homes, multi-use buildings, and temples collapsed into heaps of red brick and stone rubble,
trapping countless thousands and killing many outright. Roads and bridges were destroyed and
covered by landslides, making overland transportation extremely challenging.
International aid to Nepal started to stream in after just a few hours after the first quake,
and continued flowing in for days, flooding the single international airport in Kathmandu to the
point of standstill. The aid and groups continued to flow in even after the Nepali government
asked for it to stop: They kept coming, often unable to support themselves and expecting
transportation and support from the government. They caused as many issues as they resolved, if
not more.
The United Nations’ Flash Appeal for Nepal, there were 78 organizations that proposed a
nearly 200 individual projects for a funding request of $422 million. Of that number, there were
only eight Nepali organizations that applied for $3.5 million in funding. That amounts to a
staggering 0.8% of the total. The resting of the funding went to non-Nepali organizations, with
non-Nepali employees and resources, meaning that a minuscule portion of the international
response money will directly benefit Nepali nationals. This despite the fact that most of the
international aid workers do not speak the language (requiring interpreters) or navigate the local
terrain (necessitating local porters), who will be paid at the local rate, which is significantly
lower than the international workers’ rate (Troutman, 2015).

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The earthquake disrupted most of the Nepali economy and earning power of the people
left alive. With all of the relief and aid money coming into the area, it would make sense on a
number of levels to allow those funds to percolate down to the Nepali people. International
organizations use local labor to clear debris and perform most of the labor associated with
recovery, relief, and rebuilding. The international organizations then “partnered” with local
Nepali organizations, who are subject matter experts on everything local. Rather than advancing
the 83 local non-governmental organizations, with a combined experience of over 1500 years,
they were relegated to the role of subcontractors for the internationals.
For all their stated good intentions, the international community of disaster organizations
tend to leave out the very people that they are trying to help. Double- and triple-dip accounting
of resources artificially inflates the amount of aid that is actually being provided. At the same
time, local experts and local labor (the people who could most directly benefit from international
aid funds) are treated as secondary. The international community is disturbingly good at raking
in donations but not putting those dollars to use in a way that helps the disaster zone. This is a
fundamental flaw in the distribution of disaster related support.
It was a cool and cloudy Saturday morning in the mountain city of Kathmandu, Nepal, on
April 25, 2015. Families worked in their fields, shoppers and tourists meandered through the
streets and markets of Kathmandu, going about their regular lives. Until, that is a major
earthquake turned a major portion of the country to rubble.
At 11:56:26 AM Nepal Standard Time (UTC +5:45 hours), a magnitude 7.8 earthquake
hit Nepal, approximately 51 miles northwest of the capital, Kathmandu. The fact that Nepal
experienced a major earthquake is no surprise, as it sits in “one of the most seismically hazardous
regions on Earth” according to the United States Geological Survey ("M6.6 - 44km E of

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Lamjung, Nepal," 2015). In fact, Nepal has had a number earthquakes with a magnitude of 6 or
greater in the past century, with four within 250 km of the April earthquake alone ("M7.8 - 36km
E of Khudi, Nepal," 2015; "Poster of the April-May 2015 Nepal Earthquakes," 2015).
Due to the arrangement and movement of the tectonic plates that Nepal sits on, the
quakes are often relatively shallow, making them significantly more damaging than deeper
quakes would be. Where the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate collide, the ground piles up like
snow in front of a plow, forming the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains where the
Indian Plate dives under the Eurasian. Normally, the ground along this line moves at a relative
rate of about 2 inches per year. In this instance, a block of earth about 75 miles long and 37
miles wide jumped 10 feet in half a minute (Achenbach, 2015b; Stark, 2015).
The initial earthquake was felt across areas of at least five nations: Nepal, India, China,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Pakistan. In Nepal alone, more than 8,600 people lost their lives
because of the initial quake, with another almost 18,000 missing. Half a million houses were
completely destroyed, and almost 270,000 damaged, and avalanches and landslides altered the
landscape and ended lives all across the region ("M7.8 - 36km E of Khudi, Nepal," 2015). In the
Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere around the nation, UNESCO World Heritage sites and
religious temples collapsed into heaps of rubble, turning centuries-old buildings into so much
land fill (Ehrlich, 2015).
It is important to realize that Nepal is one of the poorest countries on the planet, with an
average per capita income of less than $1500 (Stark, 2015). Much of Nepal’s building
construction is unreinforced brickwork and uncoursed rubble stone masonry with piecemeal
foundations made out of mud- or concrete mortar and fieldstone. Neither of these construction
methods can stand up to the forces generated in even moderate earthquakes, let alone a major

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one. In urban and semi-urban areas, some construction is slightly better, being lightly reinforced
frame construction with solid concrete foundations. Up until this earthquake, the urban
construction had not experienced any significant earthquakes ("Nepal," 2015). Sadly, the
outcome was not very fortunate.
Almost immediately after the earthquake struck, international aid began to make its way
to the people of Nepal. Indian Air Force resources were rerouted to supply aid and personnel
into Nepal within four hours (Anonymous, 2015; "IAF concludes operations in earthquake hit
Nepal," 2015). China followed suit soon after, providing a rescue team and promising $3m in
aid, as did UN agencies and several additional countries. However, there was one problem: Too
much support with too little planning. The Kathmandu airport was quickly overloaded with well
meaning but less than helpful incoming aid. With only one runway at the best of times, the
single international airport in Nepal was only able to operate intermittently in the first few days
following the quake due to frequent and severe aftershocks (Alfred, 2015).
Moreover, any high-profile disaster tends to bring out the best intentions of people, which
is encouraging. The international community wants to lend a hand to the disaster-stricken.
However, when nonprofessional responders, inexperienced organizations, and individuals selfdeploy to the disaster zone, they often do not adequately coordinate with the government or
United Nations, only adding to the chaos of an already desperate situation. Any initial disaster
response organizations should be self-sufficient, including food, water, and shelter, for at least a
week.
One official from the World Health Organization is quoted as saying, “There are small
teams that have been launched after watching the news and that are trying to respond with the
best of intentions, but […] they do not have the sustainability to be able to deploy them to […]

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where we need them the most” (D. C. Sharma, 2015). For the most part, the best way that the
public (and even smaller organizations) can assist in the response effort is to offer monetary
donations to authorized and recognized response agencies such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent
Societies, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CREF), the World Health
Organization, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
However important the initial response to a disaster is (including rescue and recovery),
and how much needs to be done in order to rebuild after the disaster, there is vital middle part
that has not been attended to with the Nepal earthquake: Relief. This is especially important in
the remote parts of Nepal because they are remote. Their infrastructure, including water and
sanitation, is fragile

Methodology
We are approximately six months out from the date of the disaster at the time of this
writing. Most of the information available about the disaster and response comes from news
reports and eyewitness accounts, and it may be years before significant analysis of the
international response is compiled. The use of case study is appropriate when studying
contemporary events, such as this one (Yin, 2014 p. 12).
This paper will examine, in some detail, the wider context of international disaster aid
and if it has been/is being delivered effectively to the people of Nepal (Yin, 2014 p. 16). While it
would be simple enough to review reports from the response agencies themselves, approaching
the situation as a case study will tend to include more ground-truth from the point of view of the
impacted population. This shifting of reporting from the aid agencies to the Nepali people
provides an opportunity to see how they see the efforts of their government and the international

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community in responding to the disaster. The voices of the underserved, the “invisible” people
out of the eye of media cameras provide an important perspective to better understand how
disaster aid is distributed.
The initial supposition was that the international aid would be distributed in-country with
the advisement of the local government. However, the research material cited indicates that this
is far from the case. The Nepali government is rife with corruption and neglect, even in the
capital city of Kathmandu. Between governmental ineptitude and a “white knight” attitude from
the international community, acquisition and disbursement of aid was significantly hampered,
especially in the rural regions of Nepal. This change of direction emphasizes Yin’s advisement
that many case studies end up in a different place that they were initially thought to be headed
(Yin, 2014 p. 74-75).
One of the greatest challenges when researching a major disaster such as the Nepal
earthquakes is to not be too caught up in the tales of the survivors. Yes, their stories are
important and definitely compelling, but their relative importance to the overall case study has to
be kept in mind. Getting too caught up in human tragedy while at the same time investigating
issues with disaster aid distribution can tend to color the opinion of the researcher (Yin, 2014 p.
76). However, in light of multiple reports of issues with distribution, it is less likely that the
opinion of the researcher is swayed too much to the negative. Rather, disparate reports of similar
issues tend to indicate that the problems are real and significant, rather than just an overemotional identification with the poorly served populations.
Yin discusses the case study protocol in chapter 3, in some detail. While much of the
information provided is more pertinent to in-person study, there is useful information to a
document-based research study as well. In particular, the section on data collection procedures

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provides food for thought in selecting articles for analysis (Yin, 2014 p. 88). He reminds us that
it is important to maintain an open mind about the information gleaned and to accept that initial
suppositions about the situation may be faulty or even invalid. Maintaining an appropriately
impartial mindset allows the researcher to adjust the direction of the study and conclusions that
are reached even if they dispute the original hypothesis.
Even though this study was not able to directly gather information in situational context,
is was possible to maintain a focus on appropriate data collection. Specifically, Yin outlines four
principles that are important to appropriate and adequate data collection: Using m multiple
sources of information; database of findings; Maintaining an appropriate chain of evidence and;
Responsible collection of data from electronic sources (Yin, 2014 p. 105).
In this study only one of Yin’s six sources of evidence was readily available:
Documentation (Yin, 2014 p. 107). While some of the documents included partial interviews
with officials and disaster victims, there was no real way to vet them for accuracy or bias. That
being said, of all of the potential sources, documentary evidence Archival records are not
available to date, and may not even exist so soon after the event. Direct- and participantobservation were not considered due to logistical concerns. Similarly, physical artifacts were not
a reasonable consideration due to time and proximity constraints.

Data Collection and Analysis
In most instances, there are multiple years’ time between the event and release of detailed
analyses of it. The chronological proximity of this paper to the Nepal earthquakes makes it
difficult to obtain much detailed information about the response to the event. Additionally, there

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is the fact that the response is still ongoing as of August 2015. Therefore, any information
collected is necessarily an incomplete view of the total response effort.
Most of the data that is readily available is in the form of news reports and eyewitness
accounts of both the initial earthquake and subsequent international response. There is currently
little available from relief agencies, rescue agencies, and governmental and non-governmental
organizations to detail the efforts made. What exists from these organizations is often along the
lines of press-releases information, with little detail.
Much of what has been written, though, covers the immediate health needs of Nepal,
particularly in the remote rural areas, as well as pretty much anywhere outside of the tourist area.
The international news media appears to have been predominantly interested in the impact that
the earthquakes international community, with most of the coverage describing the damage in the
more well-built (though definitely not earthquake resistant) city and obliterated UNESCO World
Heritage sites. Much less has been written about public health risks due to destroyed water and
sanitation facilities, and the damaged infrastructure that the Nepalese depend on for food.
Data and information collection regarding the Nepal earthquakes was primarily obtained
through search of the University library resources and direct access to multiple news agencies.
The primary key words used included “2015 Nepal Earthquake” with sub-searches for “public
health,” “rescue,” “relief,” “international aid,” “food,” “rebuild,” and others. One recurring
feature of these multiple searches is that major Western (I.e. US and European) news sources
tended to focus on what the West was doing and how the West was impacted by both the
earthquakes and the response effort. Most of the information that discussed the impact on the
Nepali people and the efforts being undertaken to provide direct aid came from Asia and India,
with niche and specialty information resources in the West, such as medical journals and science

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journals providing focus on particular aspects of the response effort such as water, sanitation, and
public health services. No effort was made to acquire non-English sources, as the author is
monolingual.
Analysis of the research data will be quantitative in nature, owing in part to the dearth of
hard numeric data available. Rather, the interest of this paper is more on the functional outcome
of international aid, rather than the sheer amount of dollars spent. It does little good for millions
of tons of food to be brought into Nepal if it never reaches the intended recipients, particularly in
the hardest hit rural areas. As such, the analysis will tend to focus on the desired result of
international aid. That is, the reduction of human suffering and the long-term sustainability of
physical recovery
Research Questions
In order to determine how effective international disaster aid is, the first step is to decide
on what the desired outcome is. In other words, the aid agencies should ideally come together
between disasters and build a cooperative vision plan of what constitutes “successful” or
“effective” disaster aid
Question 1: What is the desired outcome at the end of the disaster response cycle?
The answer to this question may be quantifiable, or it might be qualitative. Either is
acceptable, as long as the end result is known. Otherwise, nobody knows what can be counted a
success versus a failure.
Question 2: Who is the response effort responsible for or accountable to?
This has a direct correlation to the first question. Determining who the response effort is
accountable to allows those leading the effort to know who the actual “customer” is. The
seemingly obvious answer is that the response effort should be serving the nation and people

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who were hurt by the disaster. Practice, unfortunately demonstrates that this is not always the
case.
Question 3: Are the recipients of disaster aid left capable of self-sustaining after the
aid period ends?
This ties back to the first two questions and is dependent on the first one. The obvious
answer is that the recipients of aid should be able to maintain any technology or processes that
the aid community leaves them with once the aid period comes to a close. However, if the
international aid community brings in 1000 water pumps, for example, are the residents capable
of maintaining them? Do they have the mechanical skills and available parts to repair a broken
pump?

Literature Review
The primary source for data collection was published news articles, though there were a
handful of documents produced by government organizations across the world, including the
United States Geological Survey, the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and SP’s
Military, Aerospace, and Internal Security magazine. An effort was made to review articles from
a wide variety of news sources.
Most of the relevant news coverage came from local correspondents of two news outlets:
Al Jazeera and Reuters. The Huffington Post offers some useful information, but should be
regarded with a more critical eye. The Economist, The Lancet, and New Scientist were also
useful sources of information.
Part of the difficulty with obtaining useful reports comes down to a couple of factors.
First, there was significant chaos on the ground following the earthquake and aftershocks. The

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best reports came from correspondents who were already on the ground in Nepal and who have
an established relationship with the people. The most moving and insightful report came from
Emily Troutman of Aid.Works, a website dedicated to providing transparency to the global aid
industry.
There is a significant lack of credible information on what exactly has been done by aid
agencies and the Nepali government. Nepali citizens across the country complain of aid that
comes too little and too late, if at all. The earthquakes happened just as the country was getting
ready for the monsoon season, making durable shelter a major concern all across the country.
Unfortunately the information gathered indicates that the international community tends to
donate only for specific functions, such as rebuilding housing. Unfortunately, aid that was
specifically for certain aspects of recovery did not account for work that has to take place before
rebuilding, such as removing rubble or clearing transportation routes in order to make way for
rebuilding to take place.
Details about how funds are allocated and spent are not often made available before the
money is spent. It seems that the budgeting is almost an after-thought, used to rationalize
expenditures after the fact. Budget and spending plans would be a significant benefit in
determining how effective donor dollars are applied to the disaster response. However, several
sources used in this study suggest that fiscal responsibility and accurate reporting of resource
allocation and spending are not primary concerns in the global response machine.
Additionally, sources indicate that donations to multiple major response agencies go into
a general fund, where they are distributed by the agency as it sees fit, rather than necessarily
spending the large wave of donations on the event for which they are ostensibly collected. The

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American Red Cross ran into this after the 9/11 and Katrina disasters, and the reputation of the
Red Cross suffered because of it.

Discussion/Analysis
As previously mentioned, Nepal is one of the most highly geologically active parts of the
world. Earthquakes in the region are no surprise, though ones of such magnitude are relatively
rare. In fact, the last quake of this size was over 80 years ago, long enough to foster a false sense
of security in much of the population. This is painfully clear when one Nepalese government
official was quoted in the late 1990’s as saying, “We don't have to worry about earthquakes
anymore, because we already had an earthquake" (2015a).
Nepal is a country of grinding poverty, where the average income is below $1500 (Stark,
2015). The economy depends on tourism, from both adventure seeking mountain climbers and
explorers who come to experience the Nepali culture and religious history of the area. The main
economic activity in Nepal is “services,” providing over half of the national Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). Agriculture provides income for more than 70% of the Nepali population and
just over one third of the GDP. Another 22% - 25% of the Nepali GDP comes from expatriate
remittances ("The World Factbook: Nepal," 2015).
Politically speaking, Nepal is in turmoil. The last election for the Constituent Assembly
was held in November of 2013, with no subsequent election scheduled. The previous
Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 2012, after being unable to draft and enact a functional
constitution. The last Nepali constitution to be in force was an enacted in 2007, as an interim act
("The World Factbook: Nepal," 2015). The Nepali people do not have much confidence in the

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government, and government ineptitude contributed to the chaos in the aftermath of the
earthquakes.
Because of the level of poverty in the country, much of the construction is little more than
piles of wood, mud and stone, which are fragile at the best of times. Building techniques
generally fall into the category of “vernacular construction,” meaning that they use local
materials, local labor, and are derived from local customs and almost certainly do not have the
benefit of trained architectural input ("Vernacular Architecture," 2015). Construction is often
directed by the person who will live in the building, who then depends on the labor of his family
and the goodwill of friends and neighbors to complete construction. Even much of the
construction within the city is relatively primitive. In some cases, the “pillar walaghar” type of
construction in urban areas enjoys the benefit of structural engineering, but these buildings carry
almost all of the hallmarks of vernacular construction ("Nepal," 2015).
Experts have been warning that Nepal was at risk for a major earthquake for many years.
Recent geological studies have predicted wide-spread loss of life and large-scale destruction in
the Kathmandu Vally and Nepal brought up the issue at the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk
Reduction as recently as February, 2015, where an outline to reduce risk over the next 15 years
was assembled. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of too little, too late for Nepal.
Fortunately, the Nepali people have been working on protecting and retrofitting some of the
buildings that are most important in times of disaster: Hospitals. Unfortunately, due to the
precarious political situation in Nepal, progress has been slow (D. C. Sharma, 2015).
To further confound proactive efforts, many young and strong Nepali have left the
country in order to find work and send money home. Much of the remaining population tends to
be at the extremes of age, either very young or very old, and therefore unable to be of much help

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in taking protective measures in advance of disaster. The national infrastructure is fragile and
highly susceptible to interruption, even in the best of times. After a major upheaval of land such
as the April earthquake, it is no surprise that electricity, communications, water, and sanitation all
collapsed. Making response efforts more difficult is the fact that roads that were rugged before
the quake were impassible after, largely due to landslides and building collapse.
All this is to say that the destruction and human toll of a major earthquake were no
surprise. The poverty and political climate did not allow much to be done in order to make the
country even somewhat resilient to disaster. While the international response was swift, there
were and are significant issues with the distribution of aid to the hardest hit areas of Nepal. What
aid has been distributed has been slow to come, and often too little to be of much use.
This has even been the case in Kathmandu, of all places, where the international aid came
rushing in. The Nepali government failed it’s people, who were (and remain) desperate for help.
Residents of Kathmandu were left with little in the way of food, water, and shelter for many days
following the earthquake. Aid agencies that flocked to the area were left standing, since the
locals who survived the event had a firm handle on rescuing victims from the rubble.
International media focused cameras on what was happening in the capital city, while having
little to do with the outlying areas, even a few miles away from Kathmandu. There was little or
nothing done for or seen of the mountain villages and rural areas, where destruction topped 90%.
In essence, the severity of the disaster was clearly anticipated, but the at-risk population
was unable to take proactive measures to mitigate their danger. The government was likewise
unable to protect it’s citizens, and the international community is complicit in mismanaging the
rescue, relief, and recovery efforts. The earthquake timing could not have been foreseen with
any certainty, but it was predicted in severity.

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It should be noted that there are a number of separate, if not distinct phases in the disaster
response cycle. First and foremost is rescue and recovery. The earthquake victims need to be
dug out of the collapsed buildings, their wounds treated, and the bodies of the deceased
recovered from the rubble. Second, and preferably simultaneously, is the relief phase, where the
immediate needs of the survivors are addressed: Food, water, shelter, injury treatment, sanitation.
Finally, and most long-term, is the rebuilding phase in which infrastructure and construction is
restored to a functional state
To repeat the question posed elsewhere, “what is the desired outcome at the end of the
response cycle?” At the most basic level, the answer is that the impacted population should be
restored to their previous level of comfort and livelihood. On a more pragmatic level, rebuilding
should culminate in more resilient structures than were previously built. Rebuilding a house is a
perfect opportunity to upgrade the residence with (in this case) earthquake resistant features.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that response agencies, particularly ones funded by the
Western world, are more interested in how their donations make them look on the world stage
than the actual benefit to the impacted population. For example, the U.N. sent over 6500 tons of
food supplies to Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquakes. However, Nepali officials with the
Food Technology and Quality Control Department found more than 500 tons of split peas and 6
tons of rice were “unfit for human consumption (G. Sharma, 2015). Although none of the tainted
food was distributed, the outcome could have been bad for already struggling disaster survivors.
Individuals and organizations often flood into disaster areas, congesting already stressed
transportation hubs and, in many cases, getting In the way of coordinated efforts and even
draining off much needed support due to their own lack of capability and coordinate with the
existing experienced and authorized leadership (Alfred, 2015). So too, donor fatigue starts to

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take it’s toll on incoming donations. As little as a month after the first earthquake, UN officials
said that most of the focus from donors was on reconstruction while neglecting the immediate
needs of food, shelter, and sanitation (Bhalla, 2015).
This feeds into the second question, “who is the response effort accountable to?” In
short, there are two possibilities here, which serve different fundamental interests. The first and
most obvious of these is, of course, the national government being helped (and, by derivative, the
impacted population). The other, and less obvious but more significant is the international aid
donation community.
That the impacted community is (should be) a major player in the accountability game is
no surprise. After all, they are ostensibly the ones that the aid is intended to help. It would seem
obvious that the impacted populations would be most aware of exactly where and what aid is
needed to restore them to normal productivity. The reality of the situation is often much
different, particularly when dealing with developing countries.
What actually happens is that international donors often earmark their funds to go to a
particular task, as opposed to letting the aid agencies determine how best to use the funds. This,
in turn leads to a focus on, say, rebuilding, rather than the immediate needs of food, shelter,
water, and sanitation, or for demolition of irreparable structures and rubble removal once the
rebuilding starts. To quote UN Development Programme Director for Nepal Renaud Meyer,
“Donors prefer more glorious projects” (Rousselot, 2015).
The final question is whether or not the impacted communities are able to maintain and
service any provided improvements once the disaster response funding and personnel are gone.
Will the Nepali be left with the skills, knowledge, and wherewithal to service, maintain, and
repair any new equipment brought in to support the recovery and rebuilding effort? If there are

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new water pumps or sewage treatment facilities, will the Nepali be able to acquire replacement
parts should they be needed? Do they have the necessary skills and knowledge to keep them
operational, or will they be so much junk once the international community leaves?
A large part of the issue is that many in the international community appear to see
disasters as a way to hold themselves up, collectively, to show how good and noble they are.
They demand that their donations fund quantifiable efforts, which, to choose an example, counts
the number of modern wells dug, rather than the number of sustainable wells have been created.
Consider that Nepal is one of the poorest nations on the planet. If they are to maintain the level
of function that the disaster response community left them with, they have to be able to afford to
buy tools and spare parts. If agricultural aid is provided, the Nepali people need to be in a
position to use the technology and methods year after year. It does them no good to use pesticide
resistant crops if they cannot afford the pesticides.
Third world disasters are nothing new to the international community. However, it
appears that none of the lessons learned after the 2010 Haiti earthquake have been taken to heart.
In that instance, the Red Cross collected $500 million in donations and built a total of six (6)
houses. Inefficiencies are rampant, and international aid worker continue to arrive even after the
Nepali government specifically asked them not to. Many of these well-meaning teams were
unable to take care of themselves, and were a drain in needed resources of food, water, and
transportation. Emily Troutman goes so far as to say that multiple agencies take credit for the
same actions, to the point of shelter coordination stating that 762,000 people have been given
temporary shelter. Aid agencies, though calculate as many as 3 million people having received
shelter assistance. “The industry is essentially quadruple-counting the same aid” she says
(Troutman, 2015).

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This sort of double dipping of reported aid leads donors to think that there is much more
being done than is actually happening. Aid providers (including individuals and agencies) flat
out ignore specific requests by the national government causing aid dollars to go wasted and
impeding the flow of aid materiel to those who desperately need it. From the looks of things, the
“aid-industrial complex” is often less about helping those in need and more about padding the
agencies own books and reputation.
Conclusions
This case study was intended to determine how effectively international disaster aid was
use in Nepal after a devastating series of earthquakes. From that perspective, this study has been
a success: The effectiveness of international aid was made clear. Unfortunately, as the joke goes,
the patient died. In other words, the level of effective aid distribution was and is appallingly low.
The Nepali government is dysfunctional. There is no constitution in Nepal, and there has
been no firm leadership since the last king abdicated the throne. There have been attempts at
drafting a workable constitution, but they have all met with failure to date. Additionally, the
government is rife with corruption and ineptitude. Nepali citizens quoted in multiple sources
indicate that there is a low level of confidence in the government, and a high level of
dissatisfaction with how the government responded in the wake of disaster.
So, to, is the international aid machine dysfunctional. Many response agencies from the
developed world appear more interested in making impressive claims as to how much aid they
are providing, rather than supporting the recovery of the impacted population directly. Less than
10% of the disaster aid went to directly support Nepal and Nepali response agencies. The
remaining 90% of the collected relief funds played a lot of shell games, moving here under one
guise and moving there under a different name. Significant duplication of effort wasted time and

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

21

funds in getting supplies and assistance to the most hard-hit populations in the mountainous
regions.
In a number of cases, the Nepali people knew what would make for useful recovery work.
However, because of the way response funds were managed by the international community and
the Nepali government, much of the country is in a shambles even six months later. Many of the
same mistakes that happened following the 2010 Haiti earthquake were repeated in Nepal. It is
almost as if the international aid community views the successful restoration of a country post
disaster as secondary to collection donations and administrative functions.
Recommendations
In order to provide aid to a disaster zone most effectively, there are a few things that need
to be taken into consideration. First, rely directly on the locals to provide direction for recovery
efforts. By doing this, the international community puts money directly into an economy that
desperately needs it and demonstrates confidence that the victims of disaster are able to help
themselves. Additionally, the local labor market is significantly cheaper than paying
international workers, and the locals will speak the language of the community, meaning that
there will tend to be better communication of what needs to be done.
Second, the international aid community should minimize the use of sub-contractors and
sub-sub-contractors in distribution of aid. Minimizing the administrative levels of the
organization will help keep from counting the same work or materials two or three times,
artificially inflating the numbers of relief provided.
Another factor that confounded the response in Nepal is the fact that the international aid
community, individuals, and organizations frankly disregarded requests for specific aid (or
cessation of certain aid) form the Nepali government. In most cases, the impacted population

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

22

will be expert on what is needed in their disaster zone as well as nominal experts on what makes
for useful recovery or rebuilding efforts. They are definitely experts on what the local
communities are able to provide, particularly if aid includes technology. In some cases, modern
technology is less useful than more primitive technology, and would be wasted ”aid”. The
worldwide response machine, if it wants to be effective in aid delivery, should change the
mindset that only outsiders know what is best for a disaster zone. “White knight” attitudes are
counterproductive to effective long-term recovery from disaster.

References
Achenbach, J. (2015a). Experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a killer
quake; Geologist says "it was clearly a disaster in the making.": Washington Post.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

23

Achenbach, J. (2015b). Kathmandu shifts three metres in 30 seconds. Retrieved from
http://www.smh.com.au/world/kathmandu-shifts-three-metres-in-30-seconds-201504261mtc5x.html
Alfred, C. (2015). Nepal Desperately Needs Aid, But The Wrong Kind Could Make Things
Worse. The Huffington Post Blog. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/1677223387?accountid=8289
http://yw6vq3kb9d.search.serialssolutions.com/?genre=article&sid=ProQ:&atitle=Nepal+Desper
ately+Needs+Aid%2C+But+The+Wrong+Kind+Could+Make+Things+Worse&title=The
+Huffington+Post+Blog&issn=&date=2015-0430&volume=&issue=&spage=&author=Alfred%2C+Charlotte
http://social.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/30/nepal-aid-needs_n_7173750.html
Anonymous. (2015, 2015 May 02). To the rescue; After Nepal's earthquake. The Economist, 415,
32-33.
Bhalla, N. (2015, 2015-05-25). Donor fatigue hits Nepal one month after mega earthquake - U.N.
Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/25/quake-nepal-aididUSKBN0OA0XB20150525
Ehrlich, R. S. (2015, April 27, 2015). The state of Nepal's historic sites after major earthquake CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/26/travel/nepal-earthquakelandmarks/index.html
. IAF concludes operations in earthquake hit Nepal. (2015, 2015 Jun 05). SP's MAI.
M6.6 - 44km E of Lamjung, Nepal. (2015). Retrieved from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us2000292y - general_summary

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

24

M7.8 - 36km E of Khudi, Nepal. (2015). Retrieved from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us20002926 - general_summary
Nepal. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.world-housing.net/category/asia/nepal
Poster of the April-May 2015 Nepal Earthquakes. (2015). Retrieved from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/poster/2015/NepalSummary.php
Rousselot, J. (2015). Rebuilding Nepal: The rubble must go. Retrieved from
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/08/rebuilding-nepal-rubble150818154652473.html
Sharma, D. C. (2015). Nepal earthquake exposes gaps in disaster preparedness. The Lancet,
385(9980), 1819-1820. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60913-8
Sharma, G. (2015, 2015-06-29). Nepal tells U.N. to destroy low quality food meant for quake
survivors. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/29/quake-nepal-foodidUSKCN0P92GX20150629
Stark, C. (2015, April 27, 2015). Nepal earthquake: 'A tragedy waiting to happen' - CNN.com.
Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/25/opinions/stark-nepal-earthquakegeology/index.html
Troutman, E. (2015, 2015-06-19). What Happened to the Aid? Nepal Earthquake Response
Echoes Haiti. Retrieved from http://aid.works/2015/06/nepal-haiti/
Vernacular Architecture. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.archdaily.com/tag/vernaculararchitecture
The World Factbook: Nepal. (2015). Retrieved from
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/np.html

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID
Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research : design and methods (Fifth edition. ed.). Los Angeles:
SAGE.

25

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

26

Appendix A: Annotated Bibliography
(2015). IAF concludes operations in earthquake hit Nepal. SP's MAI. New Delhi, Athena
Information Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
The author recounts, in some detail, the specific levels of aid that the Indian Army and
Air Force provided to Nepal after the earthquakes. Specific resources like field hospitals,
potable water, water sanitation equipment, medical support, medicine, and food were
provided to many outlying areas of Nepal. In these areas, helicopters and heavy aircarriers were used to deliver support in the form of personnel and supplies. Additionally,
the Indian Army's Engineer Task force helped to clear , repair, and construct track to help
provide aid to inaccessible and difficult to reach areas of Nepal.

(2015). "M6.6 - 44km E of Lamjung, Nepal." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us2000292y - general_summary.
The USGS provides some pertinent details about a significant aftershock.
Seismotectonics mechanics and earthquake history are also discussed.

(2015). "M7.8 - 36km E of Khudi, Nepal." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us20002926 - general_summary.
The USGS offers details of the pirmary earthquake. Seismotectonics mechanics are
discussed as well as some earthquake history of the area.

(2015). "Nepal." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.worldhousing.net/category/asia/nepal.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

27

This source discusses reports about several typical building sctuctures seen in Nepal.
One feature that is common to most of the structures is the fact that they are not
engineered to withstand earthquakes of any intensity. The common structures have little,
if any, professional input into the design and construction of buildings in Nepal.

(2015). "Poster of the April-May 2015 Nepal Earthquakes." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/poster/2015/NepalSummary.php.
Discusses seismotectonics relative to the earthquakes in Nepal. Associated graphics
provide a dramatic view into the seismological activity in the area.

(2015). "Vernacular Architecture." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from
http://www.archdaily.com/tag/vernacular-architecture.
The author discusses the general term and how it applies to low technology areas'
building methods. Typically, the local methods use local materials and labor to construct
buildings and homes.

(2015). "The World Factbook: Nepal." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/np.html.
Provides detail into the politics, resources, economics, and population of Nepal.
Identifies over 100 languages and ethnic groups reported on 2011 census.

Achenbach, J. (2015). Experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a killer
quake; Geologist says "it was clearly a disaster in the making.", Washington Post.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

28

Achenbach makes it clear that there had been too little appreciation of earthquake risk in
some levels of the Nepali government. Geologists, on the other hand, knew that it was
only a matter of time before another major earthquake struck this region of Nepal.

Achenbach, J. (2015). "Kathmandu shifts three metres in 30 seconds." Retrieved August 25,
2015, from http://www.smh.com.au/world/kathmandu-shifts-three-metres-in-30-seconds20150426-1mtc5x.html.
Experts have warned that Nepal would face another earthquake – ever since the last
major quake 80 years ago.

Alfred, C. (2015). "Nepal Desperately Needs Aid, But The Wrong Kind Could Make Things
Worse." The Huffington Post Blog.
Alfred talks about how the Nepali government needs and requests specific forms of aid
from the international community, as well as the impact that inappropriate forms of aid
can have on a disaster area, particularly one with limited access. Some types of aid that
are/were i greatest need included equipment, expertise, supplies (especially sanitation and
public-health related), and specific technical support Experts indicate that the most
helpful way to support disaster response is to make monetary donations to recognized
response agencies. Nonprofessional aid organizations and untrained volunteers generally
do not coordinate well with the government or UN response systems, making a bad
situation worse. Alfred notes that poor communication and coordination caused slow aid
delivery and rampant rumors of government hoarding of aid.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

29

Anonymous (2015). To the rescue; After Nepal's earthquake. The Economist. London, The
Economist Intelligence Unit N.A., Incorporated. 415: 32-33.
The author focuses mostly on the immediate assistance that India rendered to Nepal in the
aftermath of the earthquakes. China also provided immediate aid to Nepal in the form of
a rescue team and some $3 M in financial aid. There are concerns, however, that the
rural areas of NEpal, where the poorest and lowest-caset Nepalis reside, will tend to be
neglected in preference for the major population centers, higher caste populations, and
tourism related industry.

Bhalla, N. (2015, 2015-05-25). "Donor fatigue hits Nepal one month after mega earthquake U.N.". Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/25/quake-nepalaid-idUSKBN0OA0XB20150525.
U.N. Officials indicate that the amount of donations tapered off rathger quickly after the
earthquake. Additionally, donors focused more on the reconstruction phase, rather than
the immediate needs food and shelter.

Ehrlich, R. S. (2015, April 27, 2015). "The state of Nepal's historic sites after major earthquake CNN.com." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/26/travel/nepalearthquake-landmarks/index.html.
When the quake hit, many of Nepal's most renowned pagodas in and around Kathmandu
crumbled. But in other locations some survived.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

30

Rousselot, J. (2015). "Rebuilding Nepal: The rubble must go." from
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/08/rebuilding-nepal-rubble150818154652473.html.
After earthquake, debris and a vague reconstruction plan hinder Nepal's efforts to 'Build
Back Better'.

Sharma, D. C. (2015). "Nepal earthquake exposes gaps in disaster preparedness." The Lancet
385(9980): 1819-1820.
Sharma, like othere authors, recounts the severity of the disaster, but goes further to
discuss the rural damag, where construction was primarily mud and stone. In those areas,
over 90% of the construction failed. Worse, these areas residents tend to the extremes of
the age scale, as most young people have left Nepal for work in other countries. A WHO
official asked that relief teams register their intent, capability, and level of selfsufficiency and wait for deployment by the organization in charge, rather than selfdeploying. Well-meaning but inadequately prepared teams run the risk of being a burden
on local officials and are not able to help where the need is greatest. Sharma also talks
about long-standing warnings of severe seismic hazard. Nepal has been working on
securing important buildins including hospitals since 2009. However, political instability
and inadequate institutional psuport has hampered efforts.

Sharma, G. (2015, 2015-06-29). "Nepal tells U.N. to destroy low quality food meant for quake
survivors." from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/29/quake-nepal-foodidUSKCN0P92GX20150629.

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID

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The UN World Food Programme distributed 6500 tonnes of food to areas impacted by
the quake. Nepal's Food Technology and Quality Control Department said laboratory
tests of some rice and pulse samples showed they were "unfit for human consumption".
None of the food was distributed, and was able to be returned to the WFP. Nepali
officials demanded that the contaminated food be destroyed in front of Nepali witnesses
or by Nepali authorities so that it did not get redistributed to some other disaster zone.

Stark, C. (2015, April 27, 2015). "Nepal earthquake: 'A tragedy waiting to happen' - CNN.com."
Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/25/opinions/stark-nepalearthquake-geology/index.html.
The disastrous earthquake in Nepal was large, but geophysicists knew it was coming,
writes scientist Colin Stark. Unfortunately, the level of poverty in Nepal made refitting
construction to better withstand damage was beyond the meands of most of Nepal's
citizens.

Troutman, E. (2015, 2015-06-19). "What Happened to the Aid? Nepal Earthquake Response
Echoes Haiti." Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://aid.works/2015/06/nepal-haiti/.
Troutman reveals that many of the lessons that should have been learned following the
2010 Haiti earthwuake and response have not, resulting in the same mistakes being made.
The amount of aid made available to Nepali citizens is slow to come, if at all, and
significantly less than needed to rebuild homes with adequately earthquake security. She
also demonstrates that there is significant mismanagement of the recovery effort, with the

EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL AID
same work being report three and even four times by different aid organizations,
artifically inflating the amount of aid provided.

Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research : design and methods. Los Angeles, SAGE.
Yin provides an outstanding framework for developing and conducting a case study
analysis. His informaiton includes recommendations for choosing a topic of study and
appropriate investigative techniques.

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