Tag Archives: Humanitarian

Whom did you serve?

Poppies

Image courtesy of Prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

This piece was the reflection in our church’s Sunday bulletin. They are the words of Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jew in Warsaw during the Holocaust – a physician who ran an orphanage. When the children were sent to Treblinka, rather than abandoning them, he accompanied them to their death.

Why do you do what you do? What’s important to you and to whom do you give your effort in this world?

You lived – how many fields did you plow,

How many loaves of bread did you bake,

How much seed did you sow,

How many trees did you plant,

How many bricks did you lay,

How many buttons did you sow,

How many patches, how many seams did you make,

To whom did you give your warmth,

Who would have stumbled but for your support,

Who did you show the way without demanding gratitude or prize,

What was your offering,

Whom did you serve?

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Formidable Footprint – Wildfire / Tornado / Earthquake Exercises

 Received via e-mail today:

Please Share This Important Disaster Exercise Opportunity With Others

 

National Community / Neighborhood Exercise Series

 

The series of Formidable Footprint exercises for neighborhood, community and faith based organizations continues.

January 26 – Wildfire / February 23 – Tornado / March 30 – Earthquake 

 

Exercises have also been scheduled for the following scenarios:

Flood – Hurricane – Influenza Pandemic – Solar Storm

 

The Formidable Footprint exercise series has been developed in accordance with Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) protocols. The objective of the exercise series is for CERTs, Neighborhood Watch Programs, Neighborhood Associations, Community / Faith Based Organizations, Citizen Corps, Fire Corps and others to work as a team to become better prepared for the next disaster their community may face.

To-date 2,327 teams from across the United States have participated in one of several of the previous Formidable Footprint exercises. Here are several testimonials from participants in previous exercises:

Benicia Emergency Response Team – Benicia California

The drill Saturday was a wonderful learning experience and quit valuable. Looking forward to future opportunities.

Rowlett CERT – Rowlett Texas

Superb End-To-End exercise. Our organization really enjoyed this exercise.

American Red Cross – California

This was our first experience with this series of exercises. It appears to be very valuable. We will recruit the rest of the team to participate in a future exercise. Thank you

There is NO CHARGE for participation in any of the Formidable Footprint exercises.

For additional information or to register for up-coming exercises please access the following web site today:

www.FormidableFootprint.org

Stay informed regarding future exercises by joining the Formidable Footprint LinkedIn Group.

Please Share This Important Disaster Exercise Opportunity With Others

Taking a step back, perhaps?

Friend and colleague, Scott Reuter, has written a guest blog post for FirstResponder.gov about the use of SMEM (social media and emergency management) in the recovery phase of incidents – long-term recovery, in particular.

While there are many shining examples of social media use and crowdsourcing by some EM agencies, they are not yet the norm. Many have been slow to embrace social media and the open concept, and slower still to use collaborative docs and other new crowdsourcing tools.  Both the VTCs and the public expect their government agencies to be accessible and expect to see active social media accounts.

Some of the frustrations from both sides have merit, and some of the frustrations from both sides about the other are based on misunderstandings and a lack of trust.  Most of these issues will resolve themselves soon, so I look forward to the day when we can all work together.

One example of this struggle for which I’ve had a front-row seat is in the world of disaster recovery and VOAD. My social media colleague Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt and I are assisting National VOAD with social media during the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. National VOAD was so busy with recovery coordination that their social media presence was briefly unattended, which resulted in some undeserved negative posts. This was easily and quickly remedied by regularly answering questions and comments, and posting.

The last paragraph in the excerpt above gave me pause. The notion of being too busy to address comments and posts on social media channels makes me think we’re not as far ahead of the curve as we like to think in the SMEM world. Yes, we’ve had some amazing successes over the past couple of years but even with groups we’ve gotten online, there is often a great gap between what agencies are willing or, to be fair, able to do and what the public feels they should provide Interestingly, I have found myself advocating for both sides of this issue in the past few months. We need to find the right cultural balance between satisfying the public need and preserving the privacy of clients, in the case of VOAD, or unwittingly endorsing policies or activities that we are not involved in, just to show we can provide information.

While I look forward to collaboration between the different SMEM disciplines, the basic notion of networking  is lesson that is still to be learned. With regard to Sandy, even some of our colleagues were not aware of the work VOAD was doing on the ground. I think this is a fine opportunity to step back and look at social media and collaboration with a different and fresh perspective. I, for one, look forward to the challenge and to seeing what lessons we can bring back to the existing SMEM world.

Should I stay or should I go? Evacuating the elderly during Sandy

It would seem to me that when receiving mixed messages about storm strength, one should err on the side of resident safety. People may second guess your having evacuated but the alternative is this. Just sayin’.

The city health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said he and Dr. Shah believed the storm was weakening and would be no worse than Tropical Storm Irene when they made the initial decision not to evacuate the health care facilities on Friday, Oct. 26, three days before landfall. At that point, there would have been ample time to carry out a full and well-organized evacuation of the nursing homes and adult homes, which would have taken at least two days.

While the National Hurricane Center in Miami had warned of “historic urban flooding” in New York City, local National Weather Service officials issued contradictory public advisories on Friday and early Saturday that said there would be only “moderate flooding.”

Inside the city’s emergency management center, the local weather officials reported that the storm surge would be similar to the one during Tropical Storm Irene — four to eight feet.

An eight-foot surge was an important marker: after Tropical Storm Irene, Dr. Shah and Dr. Farley had said in interviews that they believed many nursing homes and adult homes could not withstand a surge of that level.

But Mr. Bloomberg, at a news conference on Oct. 26, announced: “At this point we are not — let me repeat that, not — recommending evacuations of these facilities.”

By Saturday night, the predictions were growing more dire, but Dr. Shah and Dr. Farley said they reconsidered but did not change their decision.

Mapping the health effects of climate change

GENEVA — Two U.N. agencies have mapped the intersection of health and climate in an age of global warming, showing that there are spikes in meningitis when dust storms hit and outbreaks of dengue fever when hard rains come.

Officials said Monday that their “Atlas of Health and Climate” is meant to be a tool for leaders to use to get early warning of disease outbreaks.

Though the data or conclusions aren’t necessarily new, the way in which they are presented may sharpen governments’ ability to respond to the threats posed by rising temperatures and changing climate.

Read more here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49602198/ns/world_news-world_environment/#.UJBFHWl27ES

Going on the stack: Can Intervention Work?

Bestselling author Rory Stewart and political economist Gerald Knaus examine the impact of large-scale interventions, from Kosovo to Afghanistan in Can Intervention Work?the second title in the Amnesty International Global Ethics Book Series. Below, an excerpt:

Our experience suggests the following rules of thumb: that interveners must distinguish brutally between the factors they can control, the dangers they can avoid, and the dangers they can neither control nor avoid (whether permanent features of the place or specific to the crisis). An outsider can—indeed, should—provide generous resources, manpower, equipment, encouragement, and support. Courage, thought, and pre-planning are relevant. But they are not enough on their own. The best way of minimizing the danger of any intervention is to proceed carefully, to invest heavily in finding out about the specific context, particularly after the intervention, and to define concrete and not abstract goals.

Power and authority must be given to local leadership through elections as soon as possible. Only local leaders have the necessary ingredient of knowing the situation well, over many years and in all kinds of conditions; only they can get around the dangers that cannot be avoided, and skillfully respond to them. Local leaders who are appointed by foreigners, rather than elected, will find it very hard to assume responsibility. The person intervening should not be so obsessive or neurotic about the activity as to ignore the signs that the intervention has become too dangerous, or the mission impossible, and that it is time to regroup, pause, or even withdraw.

Since intervention is a techne—to take a grand term from Aristotle—or, in more normal language, an art not a science, such advice will always seem underwhelming. Just as the military principle that “time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted” is seen by soldiers as an insight of great life-saving wisdom, but by a civilian as a glimpse of the blindingly obvious, so too advice on intervention. Few would have any theoretical disagreements with our recommendations. Even fewer would be surprised by them. The challenge is not to lay out the principles; it is to convey just how rarely they are implemented and why, how much damage has been done through ignoring them, and how difficult they are to uphold.

The difficulty is to show people how intervention—with its elaborate theory, intricate rituals, astonishing sacrifices and expenditure; its courage and grandeur and fantasy—can often resemble the religion of the Aztecs or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; to show how bad intervention can be: how far more absurd, rotten, counterproductive than any satirist could suggest or caricaturist portray.  And that even when all the leaders have recognized that a policy is not working, how impossible it often seems for them to organize withdrawal.

An incremental approach may seem simply common sense.  But overconfident policy-makers continue to be seduced repeatedly by the belief in the magic powers of planning, resources, and charismatic leadership.  Intervention may be a necessary, indispensable ingredient of the international system.  It is certainly capable, as in the Balkans, of doing good.  And yet how easily it falls into excess.  This is why the ultimate focus of these essays is on the particular context, temptations, predilections, and neuroses of twenty-first-century interveners.  Rory’s essay focuses exclusively on Afghanistan; Gerald’s largely on Bosnia.  But we hope they carry broader lessons because these essays aim to offer not an anthropology of the country into which the West is intervening, but an anthropology of the West—an anthropology of ourselves.

Buy Can Intervention Work? now in our online store!

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Miniature lab can diagnose disease in the field



David Ferrucci, Lead Researcher for IBM’s Watson Project, moves beyond Jeopardy!

Lead Watson scientist David Ferrucci (via satellite). Click image to expand.

David Ferrucci speaks via satellite at a PBS panel

When IBM’s question-answering supercomputer Watson soundly defeated two Jeopardy! champions in February, it looked like curtains for humanity. Sure, computers had beaten people before—at chess, Scrabble, sometimes Go, among other games—but this was different. Jeopardy! is all about fighting through thickets of language—puns, idioms, homonyms, homophones, and other quirks of English that seem uniquely suited to humans. The fact that a computer could understand this wordplay, let alone thump some of the best people who’d ever played the game, felt like a moment of eclipse. And if, in a decade or two, the machines have taken over, we’ll have one man to thank: David Ferrucci, leader of the Semantic Analysis and Integration Department at IBM’s T.J. Watson’s Research Center.

Ferrucci, an artificial-intelligence researcher who specializes in teaching computers how to understand natural human language, has repeatedly downplayed the notion that Watson’s Jeopardy! victory portends humanity’s decline. Computers are getting better at understanding us, he says, but they still need a lot more training, and that training can only come from collaboration. As machines get better at finding information, Ferrucci says, they’ll “dialogue with the user trying to find out what they need,” and this back-and-forth will generate the precise answers that today’s search engines too rarely deliver.

Ferrucci says IBM is already in talks to implement parts of Watson for a few of its customers, but the really amazing stuff will take a few years to debut. In fields like medicine and law, humans—both professionals and the public—must sift through huge amounts of data to find answers to common problems. (Search Google for ways to treat your headache and you’re likely to come away thinking you’ve got a brain tumor.) A Watson-like machine would step in to do these “high-value” searches for us, Ferrucci says. Even more importantly, the computer might sit between you and your doctor as a kind of intelligent mediator. You’d enter your symptoms, the computer would dive deep into everything that’s known about your condition, and it would present possibilities to your doctor, including suggestions for follow-up questions she should ask you. “This would be something you’d use anywhere you’re trying to make high-value decisions,” Ferrucci says.

Slate‘s list of
the 25 Americans who combine inventive genius and practicality—our
best real-world problem solvers. Read more about how we chose them.

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Because Watson’s powers increase as computers get faster, and because it learns from its conversations with humans, it’s bound to keep getting better. Still, Ferrucci says that researchers continue to look for ways to teach machines language—the technology is still in its infancy, and thorny problems remain. “Language is just hard, and it’s hard for a fundamental reason—to the computer it’s just symbols, and for the human it’s a map to actual experiences,” Ferrucci says. Thanks to Watson, we’re finally getting closer to understanding each other.

Read a Q&A with David Ferrucci.

Read Ferrucci’s essay on the challenges of designing a computer that can understand human language.

Check out the rest of our technology Top Right:
Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy.
Brian Tucker, president of GeoHazards International.

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Jeff Bezos
Brian Tucker
Cynthia Breazeal
David Ferrucci
Salman Khan

Farhad Manjoo is Slate‘s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can e-mail him at “)farhad.manjoo@slate.com‘);

and follow him on Twitter.

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

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Ageing and Disability in Humanitarian Response: A Resource Book on Inclusive Practices | ReliefWeb

This is just the preface. If you click through to the original at the bottom, you’ll find a download link on that page.

PREFACE

Older Persons 7%2 (of the total population) and persons with disabilities 10%3 (of the total population) equaling at least 3 million persons affected by the floods. Due to the massive extent of the floods and ensuing crisis, and relying on repeated past experience of such crises, persons with disabilities and older persons are forgotten in the humanitarian response and reconstruction phase. Response by the main agencies is designed uniformly and therefore does not take into account the particular vulnerabilities and contributions of different groups within the population such as persons with hearing, visual, physical and intellectual disabilities, (man, women and children) older persons (man, women). If particular attention is not paid towards their inclusion and participation in the humanitarian response, these persons will remain largely “invisible” and will not be in a position to access properly and equally relief and early recovery response initiatives.

To ensure that older persons and persons with disabilities are included in the emergency and early recovery response in Pakistan via mainstreaming Aging and Disability Task Force was formulated in September 2010.

Publication of this report comes at a time when the Government of Pakistan has further demonstrated its commitment to improve the lives of Persons with Disabilities through ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities4. It aims to secure for the estimated 650 million persons with disabilities (including women with disabilities) across the world the same human rights as so called “non-disabled persons” have – and on an equal basis with them.

Pakistan is a signatory to the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which calls for each older person to have a secure income, access to health care, a safe place to live, an opportunity to participate in the community, opportunities for continuous learning and personal growth, protection from harm from those he/she should be able to trust, and the right to make decisions for him/herself.

This report brings together the available evidence to review how International NGOs, NGOs, Disabled People Organizations and other stakeholders contributing in disability and ageing sector with mainstreaming of disability and/or ageing issues in their mandate.

In producing this report we became aware that there was a lot of useful data collected by ADTF member organizations which have helped ADTF to review the areas for further progress. However it has also become apparent that more needs to be done to ensure consistent data collection disaggregated by impairment type, gender and age is still to be initiated throughout the humanitarian response.

This report outlines the ADTF Member’s organizations commitment towards mainstreaming Aging and Disability in humanitarian response, with the support of Protection Thematic Working Group and future endeavors of ADTF. This report concludes by acknowledging the steady progress ADTF have made to date whilst recognizing the continued need for focused action and developing technical guidelines initially for Health, WASH and Shelter.

The ADTF has concluded that progress needs to be accelerated on establishing a new social model, which draws a system where:

  • Emergency relief stakeholders (donors and implementing partners) have improved knowledge and understanding on ageing and disability issues in Pakistan

  • Actors of the emergency response (International and local NGOs, Agencies, Gov bodies and funding organizations) have increased capacity to include Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities into in their activities

  • The concerns and voices of all types of disabilities and older persons (gender sensitive) are more comprehensively represented in the design and implementation of the ADTF activities

This process needs to be based on integration, where people participate fully and are supported to individually access the full range of opportunities that are open to everyone else.

The success of implementing the Ageing and Disability Task Force mandate depends on the contribution of many stakeholders, but most of all Government, UN Humanitarian Actors, Disabled People’s Organizations, NGOs and INGOs, who must give a lead on implementing the process of change.

We fully recognize the resource implications and urge all stakeholders to begin the necessary process of reform their policies and strategies for the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons.

ADTF is committed to advocate for the rights of Persons with disabilities and older persons and their inclusion in emergency and development initiatives.

Abia Akram (Ms.)
Coordinator Ageing and Disability Task Force

 

Ageing and Disability in Humanitarian Response: A Resource Book on Inclusive Practices | ReliefWeb

This is just the preface. If you click through to the original at the bottom, you’ll find a download link on that page.

PREFACE

Older Persons 7%2 (of the total population) and persons with disabilities 10%3 (of the total population) equaling at least 3 million persons affected by the floods. Due to the massive extent of the floods and ensuing crisis, and relying on repeated past experience of such crises, persons with disabilities and older persons are forgotten in the humanitarian response and reconstruction phase. Response by the main agencies is designed uniformly and therefore does not take into account the particular vulnerabilities and contributions of different groups within the population such as persons with hearing, visual, physical and intellectual disabilities, (man, women and children) older persons (man, women). If particular attention is not paid towards their inclusion and participation in the humanitarian response, these persons will remain largely “invisible” and will not be in a position to access properly and equally relief and early recovery response initiatives.

To ensure that older persons and persons with disabilities are included in the emergency and early recovery response in Pakistan via mainstreaming Aging and Disability Task Force was formulated in September 2010.

Publication of this report comes at a time when the Government of Pakistan has further demonstrated its commitment to improve the lives of Persons with Disabilities through ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities4. It aims to secure for the estimated 650 million persons with disabilities (including women with disabilities) across the world the same human rights as so called “non-disabled persons” have – and on an equal basis with them.

Pakistan is a signatory to the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which calls for each older person to have a secure income, access to health care, a safe place to live, an opportunity to participate in the community, opportunities for continuous learning and personal growth, protection from harm from those he/she should be able to trust, and the right to make decisions for him/herself.

This report brings together the available evidence to review how International NGOs, NGOs, Disabled People Organizations and other stakeholders contributing in disability and ageing sector with mainstreaming of disability and/or ageing issues in their mandate.

In producing this report we became aware that there was a lot of useful data collected by ADTF member organizations which have helped ADTF to review the areas for further progress. However it has also become apparent that more needs to be done to ensure consistent data collection disaggregated by impairment type, gender and age is still to be initiated throughout the humanitarian response.

This report outlines the ADTF Member’s organizations commitment towards mainstreaming Aging and Disability in humanitarian response, with the support of Protection Thematic Working Group and future endeavors of ADTF. This report concludes by acknowledging the steady progress ADTF have made to date whilst recognizing the continued need for focused action and developing technical guidelines initially for Health, WASH and Shelter.

The ADTF has concluded that progress needs to be accelerated on establishing a new social model, which draws a system where:

  • Emergency relief stakeholders (donors and implementing partners) have improved knowledge and understanding on ageing and disability issues in Pakistan

  • Actors of the emergency response (International and local NGOs, Agencies, Gov bodies and funding organizations) have increased capacity to include Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities into in their activities

  • The concerns and voices of all types of disabilities and older persons (gender sensitive) are more comprehensively represented in the design and implementation of the ADTF activities

This process needs to be based on integration, where people participate fully and are supported to individually access the full range of opportunities that are open to everyone else.

The success of implementing the Ageing and Disability Task Force mandate depends on the contribution of many stakeholders, but most of all Government, UN Humanitarian Actors, Disabled People’s Organizations, NGOs and INGOs, who must give a lead on implementing the process of change.

We fully recognize the resource implications and urge all stakeholders to begin the necessary process of reform their policies and strategies for the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons.

ADTF is committed to advocate for the rights of Persons with disabilities and older persons and their inclusion in emergency and development initiatives.

Abia Akram (Ms.)
Coordinator Ageing and Disability Task Force