One of my favorite books is Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu. I have thought of that book often over the past week, as the world has watched as Nepal tries to recover from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the country just before Noon on April 25. A week later, the death toll in Nepal has reached over 6,000 and there are additional fatalities in India, China and Bangladesh. Over 14,000 people have been injured and an estimated 2.8 million people have been displaced. The destruction is unimaginable. It is estimated that 8 million people have been effected.
As with other disasters of this scale, the the world is not only watching but is contributing the massive relief efforts. Within the first couple days, India, China, Pakistan, Australia and the UK had all announced humanitarian relief efforts. Many other countries have now joined the effort. To date, foreign governments have donated over $65 million. On April 29, the UN launched a $415 million flash funding appeal; $7.5 million has been raised to date.
Largely through USAID, the US government has donated $12.5 million to relief efforts and has sent disaster relief teams Los Angeles and Fairfax County, Virginia. Congress established USAID in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Pub. L. No. 87-195, 75 Stat. 424. to bring US disaster relief and foreign development efforts under one umbrella. The current statutes regarding international disaster relief are found at 22 U.S.C. §§ 2292-2292b.
§2292. General provisions
(a) Congressional policy
The Congress, recognizing that prompt United States assistance to alleviate human suffering caused by natural and manmade disasters is an important expression of the humanitarian concern and tradition of the people of the United States, affirms the willingness of the United States to provide assistance for the relief and rehabilitation of people and countries affected by such disasters.
(b) General authority
Subject to limitations in section 2292a of this title, and notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or any other Act, the President is authorized to furnish assistance to any foreign country, international organization, or private voluntary organization, on such terms and conditions as he may determine, for international disaster relief and rehabilitation, including assistance relating to disaster preparedness, and to the prediction of, and contingency planning for, natural disasters abroad.
(c) Specific direction
In carrying out the provisions of this section the President shall insure that the assistance provided by the United States shall, to the greatest extent possible, reach those most in need of relief and rehabilitation as a result of natural and manmade disasters.
The current Congress can, of course, pass additional relief. On April 27, HR 2033, To designate Nepal under section 244 if the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit nationals of Nepal to be eligible for temporary protected status, was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee. The bill will grant 18-month temporary protected status (TPS) to Nepalese citizens who have been continuously and lawfully present in the US since April 25. In situations where conditions such as war and natural disaster prevent people from safely returning to their home countries, TPS allows them to temporarily stay in the US, and obtain employment and travel authorization during that time.
When he introduced the bill, Rep. Al Green (TX) said:
“The people of Nepal have suffered a calamitous tragedy, and I think providing TPS is necessary to help them attain a sense of stability in the United States while their country recovers. A great nation does not force people to return to conditions that are unsafe and detrimental to their well-being. A great nation extends the hand of friendship to all during times of challenge and crisis.”
On April 30, the Senate passed S. Res. 163, which
(1) expresses profound sympathy to, and unwavering support for, the people of Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, who have always shown resilience and now face catastrophic conditions in the aftermath of the April 25, 2015, earthquake, and sympathy for the families of the citizens of the United States who perished in the disaster;
(2) applauds the rapid and concerted mobilization by President Barack Obama to provide immediate emergency humanitarian assistance to Nepal, and the hard work and dedication of the people at the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense in quickly marshaling United States Government resources to address both the short- and long-term needs in Nepal;
(3) urges that all appropriate efforts be made to secure the safety of orphans in Nepal;
(4) urges that all appropriate efforts be made to sustain recovery assistance to Nepal beyond the immediate humanitarian crisis to support the people of Nepal with appropriate humanitarian, developmental, and infrastructure assistance needed to overcome the effects of the earthquake;
(5) expresses appreciation for the ongoing and renewed commitment of the international community to the recovery and development of Nepal;
(6) urges all countries to commit to assisting the people of Nepal with their long-term needs;
(7) calls on the Government of Nepal to take all necessary actions to enable a faster and more sustainable recovery; and
(8) expresses support for the United States Embassy team in Kathmandu, DART members, other Federal agencies, and the non governmental organization community in the United States, who are valiantly working to assist thousands of people in Nepal under extremely adverse conditions.
The House of Representatives is considering a similar resolution, H. Res. 235.
In addition to the official US government response, individuals in the US continue to donate to relief efforts. USAID has provided a list of organizations that are helping in Nepal. No doubt this is not a complete list. USAID does not endorse any specific charity and encourages donors to learn about the organizations they donate to. The Federal Trade Commission has good advice for vetting charities. Their page includes links to the main charity evaluators, Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar. The IRS offers Exempt Organization Select Check that allows donors to search for and find some information about exempt organizations.
Just one week after the earthquake, the situation in Nepal is desperate. Relief efforts will continue for many years into the future, though much of the world’s attention will focus somewhere else in a little while. If you stumble upon this blog several months, or even years, from now, please check on Nepal