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Lessons from the Haiti earthquake

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The Haiti earthquake of 2010 was a terrible tragedy, but offers lessons for those needing to understand crises and emergency management:

  1. Everything I learned about how to react during an earthquake from growing up in California does not apply in developing countries. Forget standing in the doorway. Get outside and get outside fast.
  2. You can be in an impromptu IDP camp, your world can be turned upside down, but if your family is safe, you still can find happiness.
  3. Humanitarian responses are far more chaotic then you would ever believe and logisticians are totally underappreciated.
  4. Stories of looting and violence however rare are news. Stories of people banding together to help their communities however common are human interest pieces. TV news by design does not show a representative sample of life on the ground. It only shows what reporters think will maintain viewer interest and ratings with far too little regard of the larger scale effects that such practices will have on society at large.
    1. Inside St Claire’s soup kitchen. After hearing so much about the trouble the larger agencies and NGOs were having with large scale food distributions, Sasha and I were very surprised when we visited this well organized and peaceful soup kitchen at St Claire. This feeding program, which has been in operation for 9 years, has been serving 2,500 to 5,000 people a day since the earthquake, according to Lavarice Gaudin. Though Father Gerard Jean Juste, a strong advocate of liberation theology who headed the church, passed last May, his staff and partners try to “carry on his legacy” of serving the poor.
  5. Music, art, and play are more important in crisis situations than people fully acknowledge. It takes more that food and water to nourish the human spirit.
  6. People will allow you to take their photograph even when in despair if they think the story of their pain will help others or serve the greater good.
  7. There is no UN agency charged to deal with engineering issues before and after disasters in the same way that say the World Food Program or the World Health Organization deal with food and health respectively.
  8. Part of AIDG’s response to the crisis has been to recruit earthquake and structural engineers to assess buildings on the ground in Port-au-Prince. The 2 teams, one fielded in close cooperation with the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the University of Buffalo, assessed nearly 200 government buildings, schools, orphanages, residences and food distribution warehouses during their stay in Port-au-Prince. Above MCEER’s director, Andre Filiatrault, inspects the collapsed Ministry of Justice to determine whether it is safe enough to enter the basement to extract important legal records. I’ll be writing a lot more about these fantastic engineers in future posts.
  9. You can ride in the back of a pickup in the middle of Champ Mars and not get mobbed or shot at or caught in a riot. I’m talking to you CNN. Their reporting, which largely misrepresented the situation here, is a big reason why some teams of foreign American doctors are not allowed outside the gates of the General Hospital without escort.

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Attribution: This page includes content by Catherine Laine for AIDG, licensed as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (which allows reuse under Appropedia's CC-by-sa license).


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Comment: Keep suitable links, from text below, but with formatting and descriptions. May 2010


In English :

http://www.misereor.org/fr/savoir-et-experiences/technologies-appropriees.html

Anti-seismic handbook - Adobe (pdf)

Anti-seismic handbook - Wattle & Daub (pdf)

Anti-seismic handbook - Rehabilitation (pdf)


In French :

http://www.planseisme.fr/IMG/pdf/Guide_CPMI_Antilles-2.pdf

( 140 pages )