Sunday, January 24, 2010

Long-Term Relief

So with the news, the Government, the University and even our own GWBlogspot so avidly focused on the terrible disaster in Haiti I thought I would give it a mention too.

Obviously all of you have read a multitude of stories on the issue and I am sure that many of you have also been involved in some way or another with the relief effort. GW and the students have had a fantastic reaction to the crisis with numerous ways of supporting the survivors being available:
Swipe Your GWorld for Haiti
GW Fundraiser Party

However what I would like to talk about is the long-term relief effort. The most obvious modern comparison of this disaster is the 2004 Tsunami, a tragic event that killed an estimated 228,000 people in 14 countries. The initial relief effort that occurred in the worst hit countries like India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand was sensational and even the short to medium term relief was very successful. However though these periods are important it is what occurs a year later, or 3 years later or even what occurs now is what I believe defines the success of a relief effort. Some people from these countries are still living in the initial temporary shelters that were built in the short term period after the disaster. The job of rebuilding after a disaster cannot be left half done.

It is fantastic that the US government have sent troops to help with the initial rebuilding and backed by the abundance of NGO's arriving the initial relief effort will inevitably be a success. However what occurs after that, when the soldiers leave, when the journalists and camera crews finish their stories and when the commercial based NGO's feel that the decreasing lack of publicity means it is no longer worth their while to stay.

Hundreds NGO's flood South East Asia straight after the Tsunami occurred, raising and giving huge sums of money. But when I arrived in 2007 to volunteer in badly hit East coast of India, things had changed. I worked with one of the few organizations that was left in the region and like the other NGO's we had minimal manpower and minimal funding. Three years after the disaster, the mammoth task of rehousing all those who were placed temporary tarpaulin houses as a short-term measure, was being carried out by to few. Specific musing on my NGO experience can be found here.

This article is in no way trying to stop people helping the relief effort, it is just a reminder that when the news stops talking about this tragedy (a process which is already beginning) it does not mean the suffering is over.

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