3 stages to disaster response

This week as we remember the five year anniversary of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, it is important to reflect on the Colorado Haiti Project’s (CHP) relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts that were channeled to Haiti using resources-from our supporters and donors.

In any natural disaster, but particularly in a large-scale disaster such as the earthquake that impacted Haiti five years ago, there are generally three stages to a response:

1) The first stage includes the days or weeks immediately following disaster and focus on relief efforts that generally include life-saving activities, emergency care and rescue, and ensuring the immediate needs of impacted populations such as food, shelter, water, sanitation, and psychological support.

2) Weeks or months after relief efforts are well underway recovery efforts are undertaken. Recovery efforts focus on returning the population to a sense of normalcy, or as close to normalcy as possible. Recovery efforts include getting children back to school, organizing and mobilizing communities to rebuild, and developing medium term solutions to food, water, and sanitation difficulties, as well as providing economic opportunities for people to re-engage with their community.

3) Several months after a large-scale disaster efforts turn towards rebuilding. Rebuilding efforts focus on opportunities to build a better and more resilient community out of the disaster using long term and permanent solutions. Rebuilding efforts could include disaster mitigation programs that ensure the next disaster will have less of an impact, or building a new and better clinic where the old one once stood. Rebuilding efforts are opportunities to address needs that may have existed even before the disaster.

Over these past five years, CHP programs and resources have been well directed, transparently implemented together with our Haitian partners, and have created a sustainable impact.  Hand-in-hand with our Haitian partners we helped build a resilient and empowered Petit Trou. The community is not only better prepared to withstand and respond to a disaster, but able to bounce back quickly and even reach out to neighbors to provide a helping hand in their time of need.

A well-managed disaster response will take into consideration these three critical stages, and plan to use and distribute resources accordingly. CHP received over $300,000 from our donors and supporters following the earthquake in Haiti five years ago. CHP deliberately planned and directed our donated resources across the relief, recovery, and rebuilding stages of the response to the Haiti disaster. This included maintaining a reserve of about $30,000 (10%) to be used to leverage continuing work on disaster mitigation activities. It also serves as an emergency back up for an immediate response to future disasters that are often too common in Haiti. Today, through our high impact programs in water and sanitation, agriculture, health, livelihoods, and education, we continue to build a more resilient Haiti. We continue to empower our Haitian partners for positive and sustainable change.

Development is a complex and forward thinking endeavor. With all our programs in Haiti, we work closely with our Haiti partners to produce long-term, and locally led and acceptable solutions. This is one of the ways CHP ensures that donor resources respond to local needs, and they are used wisely to produce a positive and sustainable change.

Wynn Walent