SEATTLE — On April 25, 2015, a disastrous 7.8-magnitude earthquake rattled around eight million people in Nepal. Around 9,000 people lost their lives and more than 22,000 people were injured.
The earthquake’s destruction was extensive, destroying many residential and government buildings, schools, roadways and water supply systems. The Post Disaster Recovery Framework, dated May 2016, valued the earthquake-related damages and losses at $8.6 billion.
In Nepal, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) created for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 the Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS). The program fosters “a more democratic, prosperous and resilient Nepal.”
The organization declared that if Nepalese institutions become more effective at delivering services, engaging citizens and strengthening the communities’ economic, environmental and human capacity, then Nepal will be a more strong, robust and democratic nation.
For more than a decade, Nepal was under armed insurgency, until 2006, when Nepal signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. By assisting with the agreement, the USAID promotes, at the national level, institutions like the Election Commission, the Constituent Assembly and political parties to help ensure an effective government.
At the local level, the USAID helps develop direct citizen participation in elections to also help ensure an inclusive government. A democratic governance provides global accord, which is just one of the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Nepal.
The mission of the CDCS also indicated that a major earthquake would be a “game changer” that would affect proper implementation of the organization’s strategy. Following the earthquake, the CDCS integrated a Transition Objective (TO) into its program. The objective captured USAID’s financial, human and programmatic earthquake recovery goals that could not be accommodated within the original program.
USAID Nepal, including the CDCS and the TO, supports the idea that United States foreign assistance is best used to implement and strengthen Nepali institutions like recovery assistance. For fiscal year 2017, the total U.S. foreign assistance to Nepal was $115 million and the total spent on disaster readiness was $10.5 million.
Foreign assistance provides and sustains education, healthcare, sustainable resources and disaster relief in the recipient country. Senior Brookings Fellow George Ingram explained that “foreign aid is an investment in helping to educate and improve health of children and others in developing countries.”
Ingram declared that foreign aid is a bipartisan issue because it “advances three fundamental U.S. interests: it keeps us safe, it meets a moral imperative and builds economic prosperity.” He also indicated that this investment could also be considered a kind of insurance, which describes one of the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake.
After the earthquake, U.S. Air Force C-17 went to Kathmandu, Nepal with a 136-person Disaster Assistance Response Team, deployed by the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The team helped coordinate immediate recovery efforts in Nepal. Their teams assisted in two rescues: the first, a boy pulled from rubble five days after the earthquake hit and the other involved a woman saved from a collapsed building.
However, before the earthquake, the USAID had provided training and tools for more than two decades. The Program for the Enhancement of Emergency Response, supported by USAID, helped Nepal’s disaster management agencies organize and conduct training on medical first response, collapsed structure search-and-rescue and hospital preparedness for mass casualties following a disaster.
This investment in the Nepalese disaster management agencies helped the people become more self-sufficient in their ability to efficiently respond to disaster. Many Nepalese people saved lives in their communities following the earthquake with emergency response tactics. Assisting the Nepalese people’s natural disaster response techniques lent to one of the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Nepal by reducing the total amount spent on resources supplied to the country.
Bill Berger, the Senior Regional Advisor for the South Asia for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, indicated that these preparedness investments, initiated prior to the earthquake, helped saved many lives in Nepal.
The main U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Nepal are support for inclusive governance along with the tools provided for them to overcome natural disasters. Democratic governance proves to be effective in Nepal, and the U.S. training and programs for disaster relief preparedness equipped them for the inevitable.
– Andrea Quade