Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Disaster Relief Efficiency: And then there's the governments...

I've spent the past week reading Richard Branson's engaging autobiography Losing My Virginity. Its a great lesson in entrepreneurship and life, and a fascinating read.

Branson is quite an adventurer, and in describing one of his round-the-world ballooning expeditions talks about something that rings through today. After three sleepless days in a hot air balloon capsule, he writes the following in his journal:
Day 3, 20 December 1998
I haven't slept since I last wrote my diary 24 hours ago, with good reason. [While] I wish you could be up here with us...there were some moments...I would not wish on you.
Let me first explain the challenge that It is not just the elements, or the technological challenge. Sadly, it also involves people and politics. As always in life, it is not the ordinary people who get in the way.. Its a handful of politicians at the top who selfishly make their country and this world a sadder place to live. After all...this is a mission flown in peace.
He goes on to describe how much a hot-air balloon is at the mercy of the weather elements, with wind as the only propulsion system. The balloon goes where the wind takes it. You can't demand that the wind go south of Russia, Iraq, China and North Korea. It goes where it wants and takes you with it. And although he had cleared this with many of the governments before starting his journey, some (China) revoked their permission just as he was about to enter their airspace, while others he expected to be downright difficult (N. Korea) were absolutely civil.

What is so sad and poignant about this situation is reflected in Burma's situation today. With relief teams and supplies ready to help the people of Burma, you have a few idiotic politicians on the top who are selfishly standing in the way of helping their innocent people.
In this case, it isn't a lack of technology or human resources or management, its the government and its stupid policy that comes in the way.

What can be done?? Well, its a watch-and-wait game. Relief and other philanthropic organizations need to think of this extra time as a blessing. Use it to practice, prepare and coordinate, so that when the regime does let them in, they can be efficient. OCHA (the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs)...are you listening?? The Regime can't hold us off forever. They have to let us in.

In the meantime, can we please bring up our kids better?? Because some kid somewhere grew up to be the nutcase(s) who run(s) Burma now. Maybe if he had had a couple of knocks on his head, maybe he would have turned out better...

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