Natural disasters are costing $250 billion to $300 billion annually, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said in a report released last week. According to the Associated Press' Edith M. Lederer, the report estimates that, if a $6 billion investment is made every year, the cost from disasters would be reduced by $360 billion over the next 15 years. Andrew Maskrey, lead author of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, said climate change will make the costs of disasters increase even more.
The American Red Cross has been claiming that 91 percent of charitable dollars are spent on services, ProPublica and NPR reports. But overhead expenses are more than charitable officials have been claiming, with fundraising expenses alone taking up 26 cents of every donated dollar, the two journalism outlets report. While the Red Cross changed the wording on its web site to now explain that 91 cents of every dollar goes to humanitarian service, "that too is misleading to donors ... Most of what the Red Cross does is take donated blood and sell it to health care providers. Of the more than $3 billion that the Red Cross spent last year, two-thirds was spent not on disaster relief but rather on the group's blood business," ProPublica and NPR further reported.
According to a report in the New York Law Journal, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking the return of $5.8 million of the $1.4 billion expended in emergency disaster aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy. FEMA also is reviewing another $53 million in aid payments. FEMA is seeking to recoup money in "instances where the agency believes a household got more money than allowed under program rules, but not necessarily because of an intentional attempt to cheat the system."
ProPublica reports that the Red Cross had dropped its argument that documents about how it spent $300 million in disaster-relief funds on Superstorm Sandy contain trade secrets. The Red Cross disclosed that the largest Sandy expenditures involved financial assistance, food, other relief items, programming resources and paying for the deployment of staff and volunteers: "More than half the money spent, $129.6 million, went to financial assistance, food, and other relief items. .... The next-largest expenditures were $46.1 million for 'deployment of staff and volunteers (e.g. air travel, rental vehicles, meals, lodging for volunteers)' and $30 million for 'costs of permanent program resources included in Superstorm Sandy response.'"
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought details on how the Red Cross spent money on Superstorm Sandy relief, and ProPublica sought the correspondence through a Freedom of Information request, ProPublica previously reported. The Red Cross initially objected to the FOIA request on trade secret grounds.
Only 352 of 15,000 New York City residents seeking aid to fix homes wrecked by Superstorm Sandy have received federal assistance so far, Wall Street Journal said. The aid has been "slowed by a combination of federal rules invoked to prevent fraud and misspending after Hurricane Katrina, local rules, and certain missteps by local officials and contractors," WSJ reports. Aid also has been very slow on the New Jersey Shore.
Research in Somalia shows that disaster relief should be focusing on resilience, or "building the capacity of a family or community to withstand shocks in a way that minimizes long-term developmental consequences." For example, the research showed that when women were empowered to be involved in household decision-making, resilience was improved: "Traditionally, Somali women don’t take a big role outside the household, where men tend to run the show. But during the crisis, the men were often absent. In search of income or assistance, they relocated to towns, distant grazing lands, or IDP camps. Women who were more empowered had the confidence to negotiate with elites to gain access to essential services, like health clinics and markets. Their children tended to be healthier and better fed."
A federal judge has ruled that people with disabilities were discriminated against by New York City during Superstorm Sandy. The New York Law Journal reports that "Southern District Judge Jesse Furman ruled Thursday that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the New York City Human Rights Law in how it plans to respond to severe storms and power outages." While the judge said the discrimination against people with disabilities in getting them evacuated and housed during the storm and its aftermath was not intentional, "more needs to be done to meet the needs of the disabled in the future, especially in the evacuation of people stuck in high-rise buildings after a storm," the NYLJ further reports.
A year after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, "thousands of people still trying to fix their soaked and surf-battered homes are being stymied by bureaucracy, insurance disputes and uncertainty over whether they can afford to rebuild," the Associated Press reported.
Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad made her record-breaking swim from Cuba to Florida just recently. This morning, she started a 48-hour charitable swim to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy survivors. But, as her coach said, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything — everything you’ve worked for and strived for in your life, gone. It’s not easy. These are the people who become heroes. These are the people who pick up and start over.”
My piece for Hearst's Connecticut News Group starts: "When Lindsay O’Brien’s 15 minutes are up, she’s not going to linger one second longer than she has to in a 120-foot, two-lane pool that is going to be installed in New York City’s Herald Square.
'The minute that clock hits the 15 minutes I am jumping out of there,' said O’Brien, the project manager for Hurricane Sandy relief at Stamford-based AmeriCares, a nonprofit global health and disaster-relief organization.
When she and others from AmeriCares undertake 15 minutes of nonstop swimming as part of a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief, it will challenge their endurance. But the true endurance test will be undertaken by marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who plans to swim for 48 hours straight — from 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to 8:30 a.m. Thursday — in an effort to raise money to help Sandy survivors.
Nyad, who is fresh off her record-breaking, 53-hour ocean swim from Cuba to Florida, said in an email that she wanted to help her hometown of New York City raise storm-relief money after Sandy hit. After a conversation with Carol A. Robles-Roman, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for legal affairs and counsel, Nyad came up with the idea of constructing a pool in 'in the heart of Manhattan, where I would swim for 48 continuous hours, in solidarity with those who had suffered great loss, and invite guest swimmers to shadow swim with me in the next lane' she wrote."
The rest of the story: http://blog.ctnews.com/stamford411/2013/10/08/stamfords-americares-swims...
Two of the causes closest to my heart-- disaster relief and people with disabilities--intersect in this piece on how the early dissemination of information is crucial to improve disaster relief for people with disabilities.