November 16, 2010
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
Who can forget the tsunami, its staggering death toll and the destruction left in its wake?
An estimated 226,000 lives were lost.
The world saw more mega-disasters following the 2004 tsunami in the form of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the January 2010 quake in Haiti and the August 2010 flooding of Pakistan.
Torrential monsoon rains in Pakistan deemed by the United Nations to be the result of global climate change, affected nearly 20 million people. This is greater than the total number of people impacted by the three preceding mega-disasters combined.
In fact, in 2009, the United Nations, anticipating disasters related to global climate change, urged the most vulnerable Asian nations, like Bangladesh and India, to allocate funds for disaster preparedness.
Recognizing the need to prepare for future catastrophes, Amrita has partnered with the University at Buffalo, SUNY (State University of New York) to address social and behavioral conditions currently afflicting the global community.
UBARI, the UB/Amrita Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute, born out of this partnership, will conduct research in extreme events, disaster management, community development, trauma and mental health.
The institute is housed within the Buffalo Center for Social Research (BCSR) in the UB School of Social Work and at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham on the Amritapuri campus.
Dr. Catherine N. Dulmus, BCSR Director (UB) and Dr. Sunil D. Santha, Chairperson of the Department of Social Work, Amritapuri campus will be Institute Co-directors.
Faculty members from the UB School of Social Work journeyed to Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in August 2009 and again in February 2010 to gain an insight into Amrita’s concept of social work.
“We are very impressed with Amrita’s grassroots community activism,” expressed team members including Diane Elze, Director, MSW program; Laura Lewis, Director of Field Education; and Dean Nancy Smyth.
When the team met Chancellor Amma, she stressed her concern about disaster prevention and disaster response, stating that she didn’t want to see people suffer. Amma also outlined guidelines for disaster management.
In May 2010, the two universities finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the UB/Amrita Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute.
“Special research consideration under this agreement will address the economic and social advancement of India,” stated Prof. Jay Misra, who helped facilitate the partnership. “The MOU will pave the way for implementing many projects and collaborations. Recruitment is currently underway to hire field specialists who will assist with the collection of data.”
University at Buffalo, with nearly 20,000 students, is highly ranked among the United States public research universities. It collaborates with 70 universities worldwide, investing millions of U.S. dollars in research every year.
UBARI is researching today to prepare for the future. When the next disaster strikes, Amrita will be ready to provide effective emergency management with helping hands and compassionate hearts.