Published on: 25/01/2010
The Overseas Development Institute reports on earthquake response.
As aid agencies launch Haiti earthquake relief efforts, a blog post on the Overseas Development Institute web site, has showcased a report by learning and accountability network, ALNAP [Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action], outlining 28 lessons learned over 30 years of earthquake responses.
The report covers the 1976 Guatemala earthquake that killed 23,000 people and the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake that left 5,749 dead. Earthquakes are uniquely challenging, with high mortality rates, severe road and infrastructure destruction, debris delaying recovery efforts and the risk of aftershocks, stated ALNAP in the 2008 report.
“Every time there is a major evaluation, it states [that] emergency responses did not apply lessons from previous emergencies,” ALNAP head of research and development, Ben Ramalingam, told IRIN. “Decisions we make now in Haiti can influence the way operations go for quite some time.”
He has high hopes. Comparing Haiti now with the immediate aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, he says: “Now there is much more focus on what can be done better; there is a lot of debate about coordination and quality – this is potentially unique.”
The most important lesson aid agencies must apply is to address emergency relief and longer-term recovery efforts together, ALNAP says. “Recovery is the overriding challenge. Agency planning should not overstate the need for relief, and should quickly move into recovery activities.”
Physical recovery is likely to take three to five years in Haiti.
“In Haiti recovery is also social, political and economic – not just physical – and there is a limit to what humanitarian assistance can do in this,” Ramalingam said. “The entire international community needs to rise to this challenge.”
Other immediate priorities for Haiti include identifying an institution – be it existing government bodies, the UN or the American administration – to lead the response, he pointed out.
And when planning their response all aid groups must not forget a simple lesson: “The majority of life-saving work in any disaster is done by populations themselves… the most important resource Haitians have is their own social capital. Agencies must give good information to communities so they can plan their own recovery from the start.”
Two water-related lessons from the ALNAP report:
Other lessons from the ALNAP report:
Source: IRIN, 21 Jan 2010
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