A lot can happen in five years. A country can make great strides, but in the same time, its challenges can be forgotten by the outside world.
Five years ago, dozens of aftershocks were still shaking a stunned Haiti after a massive earthquake on January 12, 2010 took hundreds of thousands of lives, and affected millions. By this time, relief efforts were arriving in increasing numbers. The hospitals that weren’t damaged (like Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti) were overflowing as sick and injured patients were brought in by the truckload.
But by the time the cholera epidemic hit in October 2010, Haiti had long left the global spotlight already, despite the fact that little of the debris had been cleared and almost everyone who was displaced was living in tents. In fact, to this day, there is still rubble from the earthquake that hasn’t been cleared, and some people are still living in tents.
Among the many lessons gained from this experience, there are two that stand out to me:
– Relief efforts require effective oversight and coordination between different supporting organizations, or else they’ll end up with wasteful surplus, fatal delays, and unfulfilled tasks.
– Whenever possible, individuals and organizations should avoid letting short-term fixes get in the way of empowering the affected country’s citizens to be self-sufficient.
Without these things, no amount of money or aid will ever be enough to complete the job.
Photo credit: Christian Als.