Tamang Family Emily Troutman Nepal Earthquake

Where in the World is the Money Going? Analyzing the Nepal Earthquake Response

In order to write the story, “What Happened to the Aid? Nepal Earthquake Response Echoes Haiti,” I referred to a tremendous amount of data and documents. I believe that the quality and quantity of reporting on humanitarian disasters is damaged by the difficulty people have in accessing crucial information. Keeping that in mind, I have made all of my original research and data analysis available to the public.

Read and Download Documents Here


Many of the documents I referred to can be found on Humanitarian Response, though often in different formats. To make analysis easier, I combined multiple documents into single documents wherever possible. For example, I combined all of the Humanitarian Situation Reports to date (1 through 19) into one document.

To summarize my findings and help individuals explore the data on their own, I created a data dashboard, “Nepal Earthquake $422 million Humanitarian Response: Less than 1% will go to local organizations.” The data dashboard was created using Tableau.

My documents are shared here using Document Cloud. Original sources are listed. To extract data, I often used a program called Tabula, which I highly recommend for taking data tables out of pdfs. In many cases, I converted documents and tables embedded in pdfs to Excel. They are listed below and downloadable directly from Aid.Works.


To apply for money in the Flash Appeal, organizations do not need to indicate what country they are from. If they were, it would be a lot easier to understand where the money goes. I looked up each organization in the Flash Appeal and tried determine the country where they are based. It was often unclear.

Many organizations do not apply for funds in the Flash Appeal. For example, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. But because the Flash Appeal is run by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in conjunction with the humanitarian “clusters,” the document sets the stage for the humanitarian response and provides direction on where all funds should go.

Nepali or Not Nepali?

This would seem to be the easiest distinction to make, but it wasn’t always obvious. Organizations may put “Nepal” in their name, but that doesn’t mean they are a local organization. For example, CARE identifies themselves as “CARE Nepal” for the purposes of the Flash Appeal. But to me, this organization is not truly Nepali.

The government of Nepal also considers CARE a foreign charity. It is registered on the Nepal government’s list of International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs). It is not listed with the local organizations. Wherever possible, I referred to the Nepali government’s categories of foreign and local.

Some organizations seemed to be Nepali, but on closer inspection, I discovered they were founded by foreigners and were being run by foreigners. Who founded the organization was a key determinant for me. For example, the Hilary Himalayan Trust has been funding activities in Nepal for many years, but it was founded by a foreigner, Sir Edmund Hilary, and is based in New Zealand.

International or U.S.?

Some organizations identify as “Federations,” which I considered “International.” For example, OXFAM, CARE and the Lutheran World Federation. OXFAM is based in the U.K., but they have partner organizations around the world.

Partner organizations are either run independently or as subsidiaries, like franchises. Each of those organizations is registered as a local organization in the country where they operate. The Red Cross is one of the most well-known “federations.”

In some cases, organizations calling themselves “International,” are really only international in name. For example, Relief International. On their website, Relief International lists offices in the U.K. and in Hungary, but they are identified as “Management Offices,” not independent organizations. Relief International is based in Los Angeles.

World Vision International also has the word “International” in their name. But I categorized this organization as American. Like Relief International, they identify their foreign locales as “offices,” not branches or independent affiliated organizations. World Vision headquarters is in Monrovia, California.

Registered with the Government?

I identified organizations within the United Nations as “UN” to distinguish them from “International” organizations. Organizations affiliated with the United Nations are theoretically working for all nations within the U.N. Therefore, in most countries, they do not have to register under the list of foreign charities.

The only oddity in this case was the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is not a part of the U.N. I identified IOM as an “International” organization for Country of Origin. But under the “UN” for Government Registered. As an inter-governmental organization, it is not my belief that they would need to register as a foreign charity.

Because of the difficulty I faced in categorizing the organizations, I have made the data set that I used available for the public and would encourage others to give it a shot.