Help is often restricted by the ability to receive – be it Nepal or Baltimore

The news today about the riots and looting currently ongoing in Baltimore got me to wonder why in 2015 such behaviour is still possible in the US? Even with a black (or more accurately, half-black) President and a black Attorney General (Holder followed by Lynch). One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, and after over 5 decades of “affirmative action”, why are “African Americans” still at the bottom of all social and economic league tables in the US? Why are they – as a group – being overtaken even by the “new immigrants” from Asia?

Could it be that the efforts to lift the African American community have been misguided, or that the particular measures on offer have not been capable of being received?

Take the situation in Nepal.

There is much international help on offer but much is not getting through because of the limitations on the ability (infrastructure and personnel) to receive it. The current death toll of over 4,000 may turn out eventually to be closer to 10,000 .

Planes arriving in Kathmandu have been slow in being unloaded and then the relief supplies have been stuck on the ground because many of the airport workers have left for their own damaged homes and injured relatives. The airport was never designed to handle this level of traffic. The aftershocks are continuing and everything comes to a halt when one occurs.

Relief and medical teams from India and China remained undeployed for many hours because there was nobody available to direct them where to go. And when the “authority” of who would decide was settled, they had no information as to where the teams could be best deployed. Infrastructure was poor in any case but is now damaged. Highways into the remote areas are blocked. Power and water distribution has been hit hard. Foreign teams arriving in Kathmandu have not had the local support necessary readily available. In fact, just finding the necessary support for the foreign teams (guides, interpreters, vehicles, maps, intelligence) itself has overloaded the few organised resources available. The Nepalese Army is overwhelmed. Many Gurkha villages have been hard hit and the primary concern of some of these Gurkha soldiers is to get to their villages and their relatives.

Even in Kathmandu itself – let alone relief and rescue in remote areas – heavy lifting equipment is limited. Even when available they cannot reach “at least 19” areas of the city because of the narrow lanes which have to be negotiated or because of rubble blocking their access.

It is often underestimated or forgotten that the provision of anything (help or education or technology) – once the will to provide is established – is still restricted by the ability to receive.

I am reminded of the struggles we had with “technology transfer” where the will and readiness to transfer technology was often restricted by the ability to receive and absorb technology. I recall that our efforts to open new factories in rural areas were severely limited by the ability of local villagers to absorb the change from working in a field to working in a factory.

The ability to receive trumps the will to give.


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