Nepal People Miscounted

International Aid Community in Nepal Inflating Numbers of People Reached

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and humanitarian shelter officials report that 762,000 people have been reached with either a tent or a tarp in Nepal. Meanwhile, the aid community claims to have reached 3 million. What can explain this discrepancy?

I looked at the websites of 45 major aid organizations operating in Nepal. Many are taking credit for the same aid. For example, USAID, ACTED and IOM all “reached” the same people with USAID’s shipment of tarps. Who should be able to say they “provided shelter”? When is an organization saying they “delivered shelter materials” misleading?

Many donors believe their dollars are doing more than they are. These excerpts from organizational websites demonstrate that some organizations are much more precise in their reporting than others. Ideally, an organization would state exactly how many of an item they gave and whether or not they paid for it. Did they pay someone else to ship it or give it out?

The standard counting convention in humanitarian aid is that 1 tarp = 5 people reached = 1 household. Where organizations mentioned tarps or households, I multiplied the number by five.




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  1. Brook

    Hi Emily,

    Love your work and am an avid reader/follower. But I haven’t seen the 3 million claim? Only “3 million in need”. Could you link?

    • Emily Troutman

      The claim of the aid organizations listed is that they’ve already reached three million people. Which is the number you get if you add up all the claims listed here. In reality, lots of these groups are taking credit for the same aid.


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