Nepal Karnali Earthquake

In response to the latest earthquake, the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) swiftly mobilized its Emergency Response Team to Jajarkot and Rukum West districts to provide immediate assistance. The team is tirelessly engaged in search and rescue operations, providing ambulances and first-aid services and essential relief items such as tents, blankets, and mattresses. Photo credit: Manish Prajapati, Nepal Red Cross Society

Late in the evening of November 3, 2023, a powerful 6.4 earthquake struck the western region of Nepal. The quake and its more than 300 aftershocks across the mountainous area of the country caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, triggered landslides, and cut off access to remote communities. According to the Government of Nepal, more than 60,000 households were affected, and more than 300 people were killed.

SIMS Activation

In response to the earthquake, a SIMS Coordinator response was activated within 2 weeks of the disaster, starting on the 12th of November. Over 3 months, support was provided to the operations team in the country delegation and the Nepal Red Cross Society. A variety of information management products and services were provided, including a 5W (Who's doing What, Where, When and for Whom), needs assessments analysis and reporting, market assessments, and more.

Remote Support Overview

The types of products and services being requested were typical of SIMS responses, with a heavy focus on maps and infographics to visualize the scope and impact of the earthquake, as well as the operation’s progress in responding to the emergency. The volume of requests remained relatively low throughout the SIMS activation, with a small number of supporters capable of handling the bulk of the work.

Learning and Reflections

Communication and Coordination Tools

We routinely evaluate the effectiveness and convenience of the tools our network uses during activations to ensure we’re leveraging the most appropriate ones for our needs. We found that our preferred configuration of Slack for communication and Trello for task management worked well in this operation, and recommend continued usage.

Time Differences

As a global network, we’re used to working across multiple time zones so the time difference between Nepal and the SIMS Remote Coordinator and remote supporters was not an issue. In fact, this was a situation that highlighted a key advantage to the distribution of our remote supporters; as the teams in Nepal logged off for the evening, it was still daytime in Europe where most of the remote support was coming from. This allowed for products to be worked on and ready for the field when they woke up.

Leveraging the Existing Portfolio

As the SIMS Network continues to grow its portfolio, we have an increasing number of examples to choose from when seeking inspiration, leveraging existing products, and learning from past efforts. This operation took advantage of this body of work, often using past examples as templates for new maps, infographics, reports, dashboards, and more.

Underscoring the Importance of Dedicated IM Resources

SIMS is designed to plug gaps in Information Management capacity at the national society level, but also demonstrates the importance of developing and maintaining standing capacity for these functions within the countries we support. This operation provided an opportunity to advocate for more dedicated IM capacity, and the SIMS Remote Coordinator worked with the Nepal Red Cross to identify that focal point.

This operation emphasized the importance of operations having an IM focal point. In the absence of one, the SIMS Remote Coordinator ended up working closely with Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (PMER) colleagues in lieu of an IM contact. PMER is often the most natural substitute for IM resources, but their teams have different priorities and technical specializations.

Importance of Using the Network

There can be a tendency among SIMS Remote Coordinators to handle many requests themselves rather than farm them out to the network. While tempting to take on tasks yourself, the SIMS Remote Coordinator found it necessary to rely on remote supporters so that he could focus on coordinating with the field.

Remember to Sometimes Say No

When our network activates, we can be eager to support operations wherever we can be helpful. However, there are some requests that are simply outside of the scope of what SIMS can reliably fill. Rather than accept a task that eats up remote supporters’ time only to deliver a product that doesn’t fill the requestor’s needs, the SIMS Remote Coordinator sometimes must reject a field request. Avoiding this issue requires both clear communication with the field about the types of tasks we’re set up to handle and diplomacy when politely declining requests.

SIMS Remote Coordinator Training

Just as this operation was spinning up, the SIMS Remote Coordinator took our new training designed to help orient folks to the structure of remote support, develop skills to communicate with the field and engage with the network, and learn how to manage the full request cycle from start to finish. He found that the training significantly contributed to his understanding of systems and tools we use and strategies for coordinating with the various stakeholders that benefit from our work.

The network is currently reviewing the learnings from the first iteration of this new course and will be refining it for future participants.

SIMS Support

Members Icon
4 Members

provided support to the response

Products Icon
1 Products

created and publicly available