Haiti Earthquake Disaster: How to Help

Tsunami Warning Cancelled
The Tsunami Warning was cancelled by NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at 12 Jan 2010 23:45 UTC.
The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). The Ops Center also says that “Our embassy is still in the early stages of contacting American Citizens through our Warden Network. Communications are very difficult within Haiti at this time.”

US Embassy  Haiti
The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify Americans in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.   Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at ACSPaP@state.gov to request assistance. Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672. Read Warden Message here.

How to Help:
If you need help making up your mind where to send your donation, you might check out Charity Navigator, the largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities in the US since 2001. It assesses the financial health of over 5,000 of America’s best-known charities. Check out what the ratings mean here.
You can help the victims of countless crises, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or to your local American Red Cross chapter. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at http://www.redcross.org.

MAP International Medical Assistance Program
MAP has contacted medical teams in Haiti who are already treating many of those injured. Hospitals and clinics are also providing lists of needs for emergency cargo shipments that will leave the MAP Distribution Center on the Atlantic coast to treat those needing critical care. Donations of cash and medical GIK are needed to support the many needs.” Click here to donate now.

MercyCorps: Haiti Earthquake
“Over the last five years, we’ve allocated more than 89% of our resources directly to programs. America’s premier charity evaluator rates Mercy Corps four stars in organizational efficiency.” Click here to learn more. Click here to donate.
Operation USA
Is appealing for donations of funds from the public and corporate donations in bulk of health care materials, water purification supplies and food supplements which it will ship to the region from its base in the Port of Los Angeles. Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator, has rated Operation USA a 4-Star Charity for six consecutive years. Donate money, miles, in-kind donations online at http://www.opusa.org, by phone at 1.800.678.7255 or, by check made out to Operation USA, 3617 Hayden Ave, Suite A, Culver City, CA 90232.

Oxfam: Haiti Earthquake Response
Oxfam is accountable for achieving the highest standards in programmes that are effective in helping people help themselves and achieve their development rights. We keep overhead costs below 5 percent and ensure that around 80 percent of all funds raised are spent on programmes. For more information about our record of achieving results in humanitarian relief, long term development and campaigns, and details of our finances, please read our Annual Review.” Click here for the Haiti Earthquake donation page.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is urgently appealing for emergency assistance to aid the victims of a devastating earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Donate now to support disaster relief efforts for the children of Haiti. You may also call 1-800-4UNICEF.

Twitter: Help Haiti
Twitter: @NYT/Haiti-Earthquake
Twicsy: Haiti Earthquake Photos (Twitter pic search in real time)

Snapshot of a Hardship Post: US Mission Nigeria

The Department’s OIG office has recently released its inspection report of Embassy Abuja and Consulate General Lagos, Nigeria (ISP-I-08-25A) from July 2008 Living conditions in the country are difficult and the work is not easy.  By one estimate I’ve heard, post there receives about 150 complaints per day on Nigerian scams alone.  Both Lagos and Abuja are 25% hardship differential posts.  Excerpt from the report below:        

Living conditions in Nigeria have changed little since OIG teams conducted inspections in 1997 and 2002. Traffic is congested and dangerous, the infrastructure is dilapidated, and public utilities function irregularly. Short-term leased properties are expensive, constructed poorly, and require frequent repair. Goods procured locally are of an inferior quality and sometimes counterfeit. Access to rest and recreation is limited and expensive. Crime is also a major issue. Unescorted travel for U.S. personnel is restricted to two islands in Lagos city; in other areas they must travel with armed escorts. Personnel have been subjected to mob attacks and armed robberies even in the “safe” zones. In fact, during the inspection, armed assailants robbed the Marine house and shot a marine and local security guard. It is reportedly not uncommon to see corpses in the street, and, in fact, a headless corpse was found floating in the lagoon close to the consulate general boat dock during the inspection. In Abuja, the living conditions are better, but safety is still a concern, and there is a sense of isolation due to a lack of amenities.
Despite a robust package of incentives and Nigeria’s strategic importance to the United States, it is hard to find at-grade officers interested in serving in Nigeria. U.S. direct-hire staff is characterized by a disproportionate number of officers on their first tours, in stretch assignments one or two levels above grade, working out-of cone, or on Civil Service excursion tours. Often, positions are simply left unfilled.
The inability of Abuja and Lagos to attract interested and qualified bidders hurts diplomatic readiness. Officers filling entry-level positions, in stretch assignments, and on Civil Service excursions too often lack depth of knowledge in their functional areas. There are few mid-level managers to mentor the inexperienced officers. Senior staff spends a significant amount of time on resolving operational issues rather than on planning, policy, and coordination. Morale is frequently low, and there are complaints about poor administrative services and quality of life. The inevitable backlog of work sometimes overwhelms new officers. These issues are not exclusive to Abuja and Lagos but are common to hardship posts.
Unfortunately, there are no clear solutions or recommendations for addressing staffing shortages at hardship posts. Possible solutions include more directed assignments, enhanced incentives, improved training, proactive leadership involvement in recruiting, and additional study and focus on resolving global staffing problems. At a minimum, the Department has to improve facilities and the quality of life for personnel serving in Nigeria, or recruitment woes are unlikely to improve.
The tour of duty at Embassy Abuja and Consulate General Lagos is two years (with two authorized rest and recuperation trips). The hardship differential is 30 25 percent in Abuja (as of 1/3/2010) and 25 percent in Lagos. Both posts are historically difficult to staff and are 15 percent service needs differential posts. Twelve employees are currently participating in the service needs differential program. The cost of living allowance is 42 percent in Abuja and 50 percent in Lagos. Abuja receives a $2,500 consumables allowance. A separate maintenance allowance is authorized for EFMs who choose not to accompany the employee.
Related Item: 
OIG Report No. ISP-I-08-25A, Inspection of Embassy Abuja and Consulate General Lagos, Nigeria – July 2008 | PDF

BLT on Former Ambassador Robin Raphel

FW: Secretary of State in Islamabad, Pakistan ...Image by america.gov via Flickr

The Blog of Legal Times has been tracking the news on lobbying disclosures concerning former Ambassador Robin Raphel who is a member of the team of Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative to the Af/Pak region.  Ambassador Raphel is currently Senior Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance.
From last week:
January 07, 2010 | State Department Official Lobbied by Former Employer
Robin Raphel, the State Department’s nonmilitary aid coordinator for Pakistan and a former lobbyist for Pakistan, attended meetings to help that country craft lobbying strategy until shortly before her new position was announced last summer. Now, new lobbying disclosure reports show her former firm contacted her regarding Pakistan within a month after the announcement.

A filing submitted to the Justice Department this month by lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates reports that the firm, which has a $700,000-a-year contract to represent Pakistan, e-mailed Raphel on Sept. 2 regarding “ROZ legislation” – economic development legislation giving the president authority to establish “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (ROZs) in Pakistan’s frontier area with Afghanistan.

Continue reading this entry here.
From last November:

November 06, 2009 | State Department Official Worked on Behalf of Pakistan Immediately Before Taking Job

Newly filed lobbying disclosure documents show that Robin Raphel, the State Department’s nonmilitary aid coordinator for Pakistan, attended meetings to help Pakistan craft lobbying strategy less than a week before her government appointment was publicly announced.

Raphel worked for lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates until July 31; her State Department job was announced Aug. 5. Cassidy has represented Pakistan since May. Cassidy’s latest disclosure filings, submitted to the Justice Department Oct. 30, show Raphel attended more than 40 meetings on Pakistan’s behalf in the two months before she left at places including the State Department, and Capitol Hill, though it doesn’t specify who she met with.

Continue reading this entry here.
Robin L. Raphel is a career diplomat who served as Ambassador to Tunisia (1997-2000).  In August 1993, during the Clinton Administration she was named the first Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs (1993-1997). Her Wikipedia entry says she retired from the State Department in 2005 after 30 years of service.

Quickie: Former US Ambassador on Those Yemen Myths

صنعاء /Sana'a (Yemen)Image by eesti via Flickr

“In my experience, there is no deep-seeded affinity between Yemeni tribes and the Qaeda movement. Tribes tend to be opportunistic, not ideological, so the risk is that Al Qaeda will successfully exploit opportunities created by government neglect. There are also family affinities — cousins, linked to uncles, linked to brothers. These do matter. But what matters most is the “mujahedeen fraternity” — Yemenis with jihadist experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Finally, what would matter — and significantly — would be innocent casualties resulting from counterterrorism operations, which could well set off a tribal response.”

“Forging an effective American counterterrorism policy in Yemen will be as difficult as it is necessary. But misreading Yemeni history and society can only complicate its conception and jeopardize its execution.”
Edmund J. Hull
United States Ambassador to Yemen (2001 to 2004)
from Al Qaeda’s Shadowland | NYT Op-ed | January 11, 2010


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