Discuss the disaster in Haiti and identify failures of international groups to effectively respond. Examine ways in which the response could have been better coordinated (for example, effectively...

Discuss the disaster in Haiti and identify failures of international groups to effectively respond. Examine ways in which the response could have been better coordinated (for example, effectively moving medical supplies, food and water to the victims).

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the failure of the international community to effectively respond can be found in the magnitude of the disaster and how much needed to be done to provide assistance.  The 2010 Earthquake in Haiti "was the worst recorded natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere."  This is coupled with the reality that Haiti, itself, was one of the most challenged countries in terms of infrastructure and disaster preparedness:  "Haiti’s pre-earthquake conditions—principally, high levels of extreme poverty and weak institutions of governance—were contributing factors to the  massive loss of life and wide-scale destruction of infrastructure."  Yet, at the same time, international response took away from the Haitian ability to assist their own people.  Vital information and data was not accepted from the Haitian government and relief agencies because of the overwhelming international response.  Both realities significantly complicated relief efforts.

One way in which the international community was challenged in the Haitian Earthquake was in figuring out how to coordinate responses.  The massive nature of the disaster as well as the fact that Haiti, itself, had little, if any, emergency preparation models in place presented an overwhelming task for international groups to effectively respond.  Since international groups had to pretty much "do everything," there was an overwhelming in where to start. What responsibilities could go to which groups and how the rescue and relief effort would be coordinated through so many groups became a fundamental challenge.  This condition helped to limit the effectiveness of response because coordination had to be outlined prior.  The lesson out of the Haitian disaster would be that there must be some type of international body that takes the lead in assigning and coordinating relief efforts when the nation impacted has little to offer in this realm.

Yet, even within this, there exists another challenge that was evident. While Haiti was poorly equipped to deal with a disaster of such magnitude, once relief efforts were coordinated, Haitian voice in the relief effort was almost invisible. It seemed that once international relief groups and governments became involved, it became "their issue" and not one that directly impacted the Haitians.  The internationalism that was evident in the Haitian Earthquake relief response did much to stifle the voice of the Haitians in trying to help and understand indigenous challenges:

'One of the key lessons to be re-learned from the Haiti earthquake is that coordination can only be effective if the national authorities (civil protection, health, and other line ministries) are equipped and truly assume the ultimate leadership and authority for coordination,writes PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses in the report’s foreword.

This becomes one of the points of reflection that has to be understood going forward.  Nations such as Haiti might lack the abilty to effectively respond to a natural disaster.  Most nations would.  Yet, when international agencies do figure out "what to do" a coordinated response has to be integrated with a nation's sovereign right to help its own people.  When this becomes usurped, relief efforts are complicated, at best, and at worst, they become very misguided.  Political territories aside, the people who need assistance are trapped in the midst of such poor articulation.