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Disaster Response

How to Survive a Global Disaster: a Handy Guide


Ubisoft’s role-playing shooter The Division wouldn’t be as much fun if players followed Nafeez Ahmed’s advice and stayed rural.  Photograph: Ubisoft

Whether it’s a natural disaster, bioterrorist attack or pandemic, experts reckon society as we know it will collapse within 13 days of a catastrophic event. So what do you do next? - by Keith Stuart - February 10, 2016

On 22 June, 2001, Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, organised a war game like no other. The two researchers, working with an array of bodies such as the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, set out to simulate the effects of a biological attack on the US. The project was called Operation Dark Winter.

What they discovered was that the country was ill prepared to cope.



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NGOs Speak: Their Most Pressing Humanitarian Priorities for 2016


South Sudan tops many aid agencies' humanitarian priority lists. as a three-year civil war exacts a heavy toll on the citizens of the country.  (Nichole Sobecki, AFP)

Following a call from the UN for a record $20.1 billion, 15 of the world's leading aid agencies were polled on their top humanitarian concerns. - by Tom Esslemont - December 28, 2015

There’s one prediction for 2016 that most aid workers can make with confidence – that the new year will usher in rising humanitarian needs.

Besides displacement caused by long-term conflicts in places like Syria and South Sudan, there is also the threat of more violence in Central African Republic and hunger caused by El Nino, which is expected to bring more drought to already-parched southern regions in Africa and potential flooding in the east. . . .

. . . A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll asked 15 of the world’s leading aid agencies to name their top three humanitarian priorities for 2016. Not surprisingly, Syria topped the list of concerns. But what were the others?



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Relief Effort Underway for Flood-Ravaged Chennai in India


People walk through a flooded street in Chennai, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. The heaviest rainfall in more than 100 years has devastated swathes of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with thousands forced to leave their submerged homes, schools and offices. ( AP Photo) Associated Press

CLICK HERE - #ChennaiRains Resource Center - by Archith Seshadri - December 7, 2015

Chennai, a city of 4.6 million people on India's southeast coast, is reeling from some of the heaviest and deadliest rains in decades. . . .

"The value of Wi-Fi access cannot be underestimated," said Sharanya Manivanan of Chennai. "Phone lines were down for days, but those with Internet access were able to make things happen.”

Tech workers created a crowdsourcing site called so people can find sources of food and shelter using their smartphones or computers.

Drinking water is a megaproblem . . .


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#Paris: The power, the horror, and the distortions - November 14th, 2015 - Dave Lee

As the true extent of the Paris attacks becomes clear, we are reminded yet again how the internet - or more specifically, social media - is changing what it means to cope with disasters affecting people on a global scale.

It may seem trivial to even care about social media during moments like this - in happier moments it can seem like a place for selfies, holiday photos and banal arguments in 140 characters.

But during a crisis social media becomes the single most significant platform for news to be spread, eyewitness experiences to be shared and official statements to be made.


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The White House - Memorandum -- Distribution of Department of Defense Funded Humanitarian Assistance in Syria
Office of the Press Secretary - November 13, 2015


SUBJECT: Distribution of Department of Defense Funded Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2249a(b)(1)(B) of title 10, United States Code, I hereby:

Determine that section 2249a(a) of title 10, United States Code, would impede the distribution of urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Syria to alleviate the current refugee crisis, as well as other United States Government objectives in the Middle East for stability and humanitarian relief; and

Waive the prohibition in section 2249a(a) of title 10, United States Code, for humanitarian reasons and to the extent necessary to allow the Department of Defense to carry out the purposes of section 2561 of title 10, United States Code, for the distribution of humanitarian assistance into Syria.

You are authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.


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Afghanistan-Pakistan earthquake leaves hundreds dead

This girl was among those being treated at a hospital in Peshawar, in Pakistan

Image: This girl was among those being treated at a hospital in Peshawar, in Pakistan - October 26th, 2015

More than 260 people have died, mostly in Pakistan, after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit north-eastern Afghanistan.

Tremors from the quake were also felt in northern India and Tajikistan.

At least 12 of the victims were Afghan schoolgirls killed in a crush as they tried to get out of their building.


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Combining Indigenous Knowledge with Scientific Expertise Can help Mitigate Disaster Risks

submitted by Carrie La Jeunesse


PAHO/WHO calls for more collaboration between governments and indigenous communities in preparing for emergencies and disasters

Washington, D.C., 6 October 2015 (PAHO/WHO) -- Involving indigenous communities in disaster risk reduction activities can save lives during catastrophes, experts with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) said on the eve of the International Day for Disaster Reduction 2015.

Building on a growing recognition that mainstream methods of disaster preparedness and mitigation have left indigenous people and their deep knowledge on the sidelines, PAHO/WHO is calling for new disaster risk reduction models based on close collaboration with the communities often most affected by catastrophes, both natural and man-made.



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Ebola Toll in Sierra Leone 'Could Have Been Halved If UK Had Acted Earlier'


Sierra Leone health officials check people transiting at the border crossing with Liberia in Jendema in March 2015.
Photograph: Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine finds that if Britain had set up beds one month earlier, about 7,500 people would not have become ill

CLICK HERE - RESEARCH - Measuring the impact of Ebola control measures in Sierra Leone - by Sarah Boseley - October 12, 2015

The number of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone could have been halved if treatment beds had been set up by the UK government and charities just one month earlier, a report claims.

The slow response of the World Health Organisation and others to the increasingly desperate pleas for help from people on the ground, especially Médecins sans Frontières, has attracted widespread criticism. Now researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have revealed how many could have been spared the disease if action had been taken sooner.


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Humanitarian UAV (“Drone”) Experts Meet at MIT

submitted by Andrew Schroeder

  - by Andrew Schroeder - October 14, 2015

Early Fall mornings in Cambridge, MA have the feeling practically of American myth. The sun rises over the mist that hangs like a blanket on the Charles River, lighting the water with a pale glow that filters through multi-colored leaves and glints off the steel and glass fronts of the buildings which line the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I’m hurrying down Massachusetts Ave towards Technology Square, wind in my face and coffee in hand, to arrive for the start of the second annual Humanitarian UAV (drone) Experts Meeting happening at MIT Lincoln Labs’ Beaver Works. The meeting is hosted by UAViators (Humanitarian UAV Network), a brainchild of my friend and colleague Patrick Meier.


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Offline: A pervasive failure to learn the lessons of Ebola

THE LANCET by Richard Horton                         Sept. 12, 2015

LONDON-- Post-Ebola reverie has given birth to a plethora of expert panels to consider what went wrong. The latest parade of global health specialists appointed to learn lessons gathered at the Wellcome Trust in London last week.
 Under the auspices of the US Institute of Medicine (IOM), a Commission to “deliberate and evaluate options to strengthen global, regional, and local systems to better prepare, detect, and respond to epidemic diseases” spent 2 days amassing evidence.

 There was no shortage of experience brought to bear on these important matters. Here were Margaret Chan, Jeremy Farrar, Ilona Kickbusch, David Heymann, Larry Gostin, Joy Phumaphi, Joanne Liu, and Peter Piot all wrestling with a seemingly intractable challenge. The statements offered to the Commission were arresting. But  the purpose of the meeting was not to talk. It was to identify the best system for an epidemic response....
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