Haiti: Lessons Learned

Carol and Tom in Haiti post a list of lessons learned in the aftermath of the earthquake, while Trinidadian blogger Tattoo writes about the dos and don'ts of disaster aid.


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  • Haiti’s recovery process is not going to be easy to tackle and will require a lot of effort both from the international community and from local people. It is important not to forget lessons learned from the previous disaster responses and to integrate them into work in Haiti early on. The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has prepared an interesting note on the World Bank Group Response to the Haiti Earthquake: Evaluative Lessons. The note points out that the situation in Haiti is especially overwhelming because of the breakdown of social order and a fragile security situation, the near-complete loss of governance structures, and the failure to impose even minimum quality standards on the construction industry. Some of the main lessons highlighted in IEG’s note are the following:

    • Temporary shelters need to preserve existing social relationships. For instance, the layout of temporary shelter structures can reduce crime and violence against women if care is taken during the relocation process to ensure that as many doors as possible face a common and well-lit area.
    • Providing survivors with employment and cash transfers early on has had good results. For instance, taking the time to ensure that all usable building materials are recovered and recycled is a way to ensure that the poor will be able to afford to rebuild. The general population can be helped to recover emotionally through this process with paid work.
    • Donor coordination has always proved to be vital. Ways must be found for involved donors to work together or in parallel – in the short term – on a clearly defined set of activities with the same eligibility requirements and benefits.
    • Design of disaster projects should be simple, based on local participation and taking into account local capacity.
    • Streamlined decision-making and procedures for contracting civil works will help avoid delays. For instance, either a high-powered unit developed for the purpose or existing institutions can provide continuity in planning, coordination, and monitoring.
    • Damage assessments need to be simple and tailored to local construction types, with damage awards closely tied to actual costs.
    • Post-disaster operations need to include measures to reduce long term vulnerability and deal with land ownership issues. Reaching agreement on mitigation measures with the government within the first three months is important, because it becomes harder to get politicians to focus on disaster once the memory of the emergency recedes.
    • Owner-driven housing construction can be more effective than the use of contractors.
    • Leveraging existing private sector capacity is critical for effective emergency response. The private sector can play a key role in infrastructure and logistics, local banking, and provision of physical capacity.

    To read the full version of the note, please click on the following link: http://www.worldbank.org/ieg/haiti.html

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