Haiti 2010 Earthquake Response

Haitian experience a study in disaster resilience

In an op-ed for the Miami Herald, Vinod Thomas, Director-General of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, offers life-saving advice to other nations:  Make critical installations and relief networks disaster -resistant.

In Haiti, Chile and elsewhere before, potable water could not be provided to victims in reasonable time, and emergency medical facilities dropped off-line just when needed most. The ability to take early action in critical care also has a cascading impact on the whole recovery process. Had basic connectivity to emergency medical care and water, for example, continued in Haiti and Chile (or in other previous catastrophes), reconstruction would have been that much easier.

Thomas points out that nations give far more attention to disaster response than to disaster mitigation.

Some 50 developing countries face recurrent earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and droughts, yet many of them do not recognize that they will recur. International agencies do not acknowledge these risks as a systematic threat to their assistance. Among the countries who have borrowed from the World Bank for disasters, almost half do not even mention disasters in their development plans.

Inattention to making lifelines resistant to disaster is not a problem only of developing countries, however.  It has been a continuing problem in much of the United States, as well.  Unfortunately, the current economic crisis makes it easier for planners to rationalize failing to harden critical facilities.  Thus, it falls upon citizens to insist that government agencies give greater priority to disaster resilience.

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