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  • May 5th, 2015

Military assistance at a price

Artizans Nepal

As Nepal suffers in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the small nation on 25 April 2015, aid has been pouring in from countries ranging from neighbouring India to distant Canada.

Last week, the Government of Canada pledged $5 million dollars in humanitarian aid and deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). The government also promised to match the individual Nepal Relief Fund contributions of Canadians to registered charities until 25 May 2015 (one month after the announcement). With the death toll in Nepal over 7,000 and rising, the government has since added another $5 million in aid to address the immediate needs of the displaced and wounded.

In the past, DART missions have moved rapidly, in some situations before official requests for assistance have come through. The last mission of the DART dates back to November 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, leaving over 6,000 dead and countless displaced. Then Foreign Minister John Baird made it clear that rapid intervention was the key to Canada’s response to global disasters: “Obviously, we’ve moved incredibly fast, probably faster than we’ve ever moved […] we’re not going to get into arcane bureaucratic discussions about paperwork and what not. There’s people who need our help, and we’re going to do all we can to provide assistance.”

Like the response to the earthquake in Nepal, Canada’s response to Typhoon Haiyan came in two forms: military assistance and humanitarian aid. After the initial DART response, $5 million pledge of humanitarian assistance, and government-match for individual contributions to the Philippines, a decision to add another $15 million was announced to Filipino-Canadians at a church in Toronto. While private donations totalled over $85 million, which were then doubled with the government’s matching funds, the cost of the 33-day DART mission was $29.2 million. The previous DART relief effort, responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, cost $52.3 million.

With the Canadian Armed Forces involved in military operations in Iraq and Syria and training troops in Ukraine, disaster relief enables the government to showcase the Canadian military in a different light. Specialized UN agencies and partnering NGOs are the real experts in disaster relief. Yet, despite the significantly higher cost of such operations, military assistance has now become an integral part of the international response. The Nepal relief effort is no different.

Help Nepal by donating to the Humanitarian Coalition here. The Government of Canada will match donations until 25 May 2015.

Photo credit: Artizans.com, Bruce MacKinnon, 30 April 2015

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