Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Role of Leadership in Overcoming Social Vulnerability
“We should know by now that after an apocalypse is not the perfect moment for outsiders to come in and remake a country.”
Approximately one year has passed since Haiti was hit with the earthquake that resulted in the largest mortality rate due to a natural disaster that the country has seen in recent decades. The article Great Expectations by Charles Kenny discusses how little progress we have made in helping to improve Haiti’s post-disaster conditions. Maybe, as the author claims, we are overly optimistic about how much we can really help a country in just one year, after it is hit by a disaster. Maybe we should lower our expectations. Maybe we should set smaller goals over a longer period so that we will anticipate achieving our goals in a more realistic timeframe. Maybe.
What caught my attention most in this article was the fact that Haiti has been suffering numerous problems, including poor health conditions and institutional shortcomings, which predate the earthquake. So maybe, instead of lowering our expectations of how much we can accomplish within one year of a disaster, we can find the catalyst that will help us reach our expectations quicker. I say that one catalyst we should focus more on is the pre-disaster conditions of countries at risk.
· Only 19% of Haiti's households had access to adequate sanitation
· 40% of Haiti's households lacked access to clean water
· 40% of Haiti's households were unable to access basic nutritional needs
· 65% of preschoolers had anemia
· Haiti had the highest HIV burden and rates of tuberculosis infection in the Western Hemisphere
· Cases of malaria and acute respiratory infections were pervasive, with pneumonia accounting for one out of every five child deaths
Now, after the disaster, over 150,000 people were recently hit with a cholera break which could have been avoided had Haiti been properly prepared for dealing with a disaster.
These health issues, along with many other issues that developing countries may face, should be addressed first and foremost by the country’s government. However, many feel that Haiti has “some of the lowest-quality government services in the world.” Outside foundations have had to pick up the government’s slack and take on roles they were not prepared to take on. For example, Red Cross has to provide water and sanitation to the Metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. If outside organizations are taking on such huge roles, what is the government doing? This is a problem that needed to be addressed long before the earthquake.
Feel free to argue against me, but from what I can see, if more focus is put on improving conditions in developing countries and preparing at-risk countries before a disaster hits, post-disaster aid will be a quicker and easier process.
- GlassFrog Blogger Sherisse