Saturday, February 27, 2010

Haiti Quake: Next Steps in a Sustainable Response

IntLawGrrls continue to follow developments in Haiti. Posts discussing the 12 January 2010 Haitian earthquake, humanitarian assistance, immigration status for Haitians located in the U.S. and France, human rights and disaster response, and participatory and sustainable recovery and development policies appear here.
Recent or Upcoming Developments
Montreal Meeting. An international donors meeting on Haiti was held in Montreal, Canada in late January. Haiti was represented by its Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive. The European Union and 14 other countries participated.
CARICOM Response. CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) pledged its continued support to the Haitian recovery, initially in the area of health, to be followed by support for long-term sustainable development.
UN New York International Donors’ Conference. The Montreal meeting will be followed by another international donors’ conference at UN headquarters in New York on 31 March 2010.
Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN). U.S.- and Haiti-based lawyers organized a network focused on human rights and other legal issues (sponsored by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti).
ASIL Panel. The program committee has just added a late-breaking panel on Haiti at the American Society of International Law 104th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. (I will chair the panel; also see post on “Women at ASIL” here). The panel is scheduled for Thursday, March 25, at 10:45 (web program will be updated shortly).
Current Priorities
All that Diane Marie Amann, Marjorie Florestal, Naomi Norberg, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and I have said in earlier posts remains true. Emergency responses must continue as coordinated by the Haitian government and people and the international community under the mandate of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The many NGOs on the ground themselves coordinate through umbrella organizations such as InterAction and use resource sites such as ReliefWeb.
Housing and Sanitation
More than 1 million people in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti are living in tent cities or other make-shift shelters as the rainy season and hurricane season approach.
Although tents are an emergency quick fix for those with no other choice, they cannot be a long-term solution. The overcrowded tent cities do not have proper sanitation and potable water distribution facilities. This situation leads to the rapid spread of infectious disease (especially among those who’ve already been injured). Immediate attention must be given to the acquisition and distribution of more sturdy structures, along with the necessary temporary infrastructure for sanitation and water. Because so many things are interrelated, the overcrowding and lack of adequate shelter cannot be addressed without attention to rubble-removal and voluntary decentralization of the population.
The challenges are difficult and of unprecedented scale, but there are international guidelines and strategies for disaster response and recovery. Those guidelines should be implemented and supported by the Haitian government and by the international community.
As noted in a recent New York Times news story, crush injuries were common after the earthquake. Many amputations resulted from immediate trauma, while others became necessary because of the lack of proper medical facilities and antibiotics in the days and weeks following the quake. Other survivors were blinded, lost hearing, or suffered brain or spinal injuries. Even (especially) in the midst of disaster, the rights of persons with disabilities must be respected, protected, and fulfilled. (See Disability Rights series.)
Local disability resources were devastated by the quake. Haitians now need adaptive equipment (canes, crutches, walkers, rough-terrain wheelchairs, etc.) and trained physical therapists. These resources can help the newly-disabled recover and participate in the rebuilding of the nation. Unless you are a trained physical therapist or health professional, or a non-profit willing to donate appropriate equipment, the best way to help is through existing disability NGOs that already work closely with the people of Haiti.
The following governmental and private organizations provide links to a range of disability NGOs working in Haiti:
United States International Council on Disability (USICD) (US government site coordinating NGO work).
Mobility International USA (webpage on Haiti resources).
PBS Newshour report on the non-profit Whirlwind Wheelchair International ( discusses the group's work to build rough-terrain wheelchairs). As was the case where a large number of amputees resulted from the use of landmines in armed conflicts, responses that are participatory, generate local jobs, training, and owenership, and focus on the empowerment of people with disabilities are to be applauded. Haitian people with disabilities can help build and fit prosthetic devices and wheelchairs, as well as train others in their use.
Those involved in large-scale rebuilding projects for housing, government buildings, or private sector buildings should ensure both accessibility under international standards and durability to withstand the risks of natural disasters.
Note: As this post was being written, news was coming in that an 8.8 earthquake has hit Chile. Our thoughts and solidarity are with all those affected.


Marjorie Florestal said...

This is a really comprehensive and thoughtful outline of all that is being done. Thanks for this Hope. I think the biggest challenge right now is keeping the public eye on these issues now that Haiti no longer makes it on to the front page of world newspapers. My thoughts too are with the people of Chile and their families. Be safe.

Hope Lewis said...

Thank you Marjorie--and thank you for all you are doing. Peace, Hope