Opinion | To Survive Disaster, Plan for the Worst – By Tina Rosenberg – The New York Times

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Ms. Rosenberg is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

Credit…Rehman Asad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Disaster relief works like this: There is a flood, a drought, an earthquake, a famine, an exodus of refugees. Reporters swarm in, broadcasting images of suffering. Humanitarian workers on the ground analyze who needs what relief and draw up plans. The government asks for help. The United Nations coordinates international pledges. Relief comes in — money, bags of grain, medical supplies.

But by that point, weeks or months have gone by.

Rarely is there preplanning, pre-fundraising, or pre-agreement on a plan. “This is medieval,” said Stefan Dercon, a professor of economic policy at Oxford and a former chief economist of Britain’s bilateral aid agency, the Department for International Development. He and Daniel Clarke, head of the London-based Center for Disaster Protection, wrote the book “Dull Disasters? How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference.”

“It is as if financial instruments such as insurance do not exist,” they wrote. “This is begging-bowl financing at its worst.”

But here’s what can happen instead — what, in fact, did happen in the Kurigram district of northwest Bangladesh in July. With colossal rains predicted, the United Nations World Food Program and the Bangladesh government identified about 5,000 particularly vulnerable families. Three days before the flood hit, they used mobile phone banking to send each family the equivalent of $53. With that money, the families secured their houses and belongings — for example, buying materials to lift their furniture off the ground. And they could pay the costs of taking their livestock and fleeing.”

Opinion | The Iraqi Comedian Animating a Political Revolution – By Tina Rosenberg – The New York Times

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Ms. Rosenberg is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

“Last week in the studio where he tapes the “Albasheer Show,” Ahmed Albasheer put on a dark presidential hat and a jacket covered in an absurd amount of medals and gold braid, and sat at his desk in an office adorned with the seal of the president of the Republic of Albasheer.

The republic is his invention of course, but Iraqis know what he is mocking. Mr. Albasheer, a 35-year-old journalist, fights for his country with his sense of humor. He has a repertoire of slightly deranged expressions and inspired comic timing, in Arabic (I’m told) and, more surprisingly, in English — a language he didn’t really speak until recently.

Since it began airing in 2014, Mr. Albasheer’s weekly show has become one of the most popular shows in Iraq, airing on YouTube and satellite television. In the past few weeks, the show has taken on new importance. Thousands of young Iraqis are demonstrating, in ways the country has never seen before. The “Albasheer Show” is deeply intertwined with the protests. Mr. Albasheer exposes the workings of power in Iraq, covers the protests and the government’s brutal response, exhorts the protesters to stay peaceful, amplifies their voices and boosts their morale. Some in Iraq believe the protests wouldn’t be happening without him.