The Human Impact

The future of “building back better”: houses, schools, and political transformation too?

Disaster recovery experts and scholars alike seem to agree on at least one thing: disaster-recovery efforts should concentrate not only on restoring affected communities to pre-disaster levels, but should focus on “building back better” by linking immediate relief with long-term recovery and development.

Some go even further by suggesting that disasters can become an opportunity not  just to “build back better”, but to bring about political transformation by ending conflicts and improving governance in post-disaster settings.

“The aspiration to build back better – to use the opportunity of a disaster response to leave societies improved, not just restored – is self-evidently common sense: after all, who would want to build back worse, or simply reinstate conditions of inequality, poverty and vulnerability if the chance for something better was at hand?”, said Lilianne Fan in her paper “Disasters as opportunity? Building back better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti.

The first step is to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals to withstand nature and protect their occupants better when the next disaster strikes. But aside from reconstructing buildings, a disaster response could also present an opportunity to improve people’s lives in other ways.

At a time when money is flowing into a region, and international organisations are at hand, this could be the moment to reshape the political environment too.

Storm Isaac puts spotlight on Haiti’s homeless

BOGOTA (AlertNet) – Couples strolling through parks and squares now empty of makeshift tents, crowds enjoying football matches and voodoo and hip hop summer festivals, rubble-free streets.

These were signs of normality that I saw during a trip to Haiti last week, returning to the Caribbean nation two and a half years after a massive earthquake flattened the capital Port-au-Prince.

But as Tropical Storm Isaac tore through Haiti early last Saturday killing at least eight people and washing away food crops in muddy flood waters, the plight of hundreds of thousands of Haitians still living in tent camps is once more in the spotlight.

Director hopes Haiti cholera film will pressure UN

An American filmmaker is hoping to use the power of viral video to raise awareness about Haiti’s cholera epidemic in much the same way the surprise Internet sensation Kony 2012 got the world talking about the plight of child soldiers under Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

If David Darg’s award-winning documentary, “Baseball in the time of Cholera”, gets even a fraction of the 100 million hits the Kony video received, there could soon be a lot more people demanding action on Haiti’s epidemic.

Darg’s hard-hitting film aims to heap public pressure on the United Nations to take responsibility for the outbreak which began in October 2010 and continues today.

Rape hotline a lifeline for Haitian women

BOGOTA (TrustLaw) – A 24-hour hotline for survivors of sexual assaults and rape is proving a lifeline for Haitian women and girls, in a country known for its high levels of sexual violence.

Thousands of woman and girls are sexually abused and raped every year in the Caribbean nation.

Although it was a widespread problem long before the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, sexual violence escalated after the disaster, women’s rights groups say.

New MSF emergency health clinic in Haiti an “advance”

Medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has opened a new emergency health referral centre in Haiti, which will celebrate its official launch on Wednesday in conjunction with Haiti’s health ministry.

The move is part of a much-needed campaign to improve conditions in a country where the vast majority of people live below the poverty line.

“MSF is now supporting the Ministry of Public Health and Population with 600 hospital beds in Haiti for emergency care,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF’s head of mission in Haiti.

What good is ‘crowd-sourcing’ when everyone needs help?

In a recent blog post I referred in passing to some of the hype surrounding “crowd-sourcing” projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

That’s not to criticise the volunteers – mostly in the United States – who collectively devoted hundreds of hours to charting the needs of quake survivors on online maps, based on SMS texts sent from the disaster zone.

My point was that their gate-crashing of the relief response in Haiti posed a welcome challenge to the traditional humanitarian system – but also generated hyperbole about the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing in actually saving lives.

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