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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Caroline Williams

Identification Methods for Aid Distribution Following Natural Disaster Events

To ensure a quick and sustainable recovery for those affected by natural disasters, aid must be distributed efficiently and effectively. Identification systems are used as a tool to ensure the intended beneficiaries receive the required amount of aid. Yet many identification methods used in developing countries today are paper-based and can lead to corrupt practices.


Recognising the downfalls of paper ID systems, some technology-based ID systems claim to improve aid distribution performance. This research aims to investigate this claim, using the 2015 Nepal earthquake as a case study. Additionally, methods for implementing technology-based ID systems within the context of a developing country following a natural disaster are also studied.


A series of interviews were carried out in Nepal during May 2016 with the Nepalese government, international organisations, local organisations, and beneficiaries to better understand the aid distribution system following the earthquake. Critically, none of the interviewed relief responders believed aid was distributed equally across all disaster affected areas. Furthermore, many gaps were identified in the paper-based ID system, and the majority of people interviewed showed interest in utilising technology-based ID methods for aid distribution. The paper ID used in Nepal was compared with three other technology-based ID systems using a new evaluation framework. The evaluation revealed that technology-based ID has the potential to improve aid distribution service as compared to paper systems. The results also suggest that an ID system for aid distribution should be controlled by the national government and accompanied by supporting disaster management policy and strong preparedness plans. Further studies are required to confirm the findings of this research both in Nepal as well as other aid distribution contexts.