If you only read one thing this week…

Lessons learned in earthquake response by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 19, 2010, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Articles, If you have 30 mins

The snappily named Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance works to improve humanitarian action through learning and accountability. They have a particularly interesting and timely paper on lessons learned from previous major earthquake responses – you can read it here (pdf). They divide their lessons into four categories, Recovery First, Relief Issues, Managing Aid, and Livelihoods and Shelter.

I’ve pulled out soundbites on some of the findings I thought were most interesting: Recovery is the overriding challenge – Agencies need to focus on the recovery phase even from the start of the operation as there is no gap between relief and recovery, and recovery is the biggest challenge in sudden-onset natural disasters.

Don’t prolong the relief phase – Agency planning should not overstate the need for relief, and should quickly move into recovery activities. Agencies should provide good information to the affected community on their plans, so that affected families can plan their own recovery strategies.

Recovery is not neutral – Agencies should analyse relief and recovery policies to determine their impact on men and women, on privileged and disadvantaged groups and on the distribution of
resources within a society.

Include measures to reduce disaster risk – Disaster-risk reduction is a long-term investment. The immediate post-disaster context provides fertile ground for planting the seeds of risk- reduction strategies. However, these strategies must reflect the full range of hazards and risks, rather than focusing on just one of them. The time for introducing a more hazard-aware approach
is limited, and this must be done from the start rather than as a later add-on.

Prevent further asset erosion – Agencies should provide assistance quickly and flexibly to prevent asset erosion. Cash support for households can be effective at preventing distress sales of
productive assets.

Pay people to clear rubble – Pay people to clear rubble, but be aware of the possible impact on community selfhelp mechanisms. Protect the property rights of the owners of the rubble, provide
appropriate protective equipment for the workers, and deal with hazardous material

Ask recipients to find out if your assistance is appropriate – Cultural awareness helps to prevent errors at the very start of an operation. However, as needs become more complex, agencies need to check that their aid is appropriate by asking the affected population, and by setting up channels for affected people to raise their concerns about assistance.

Gear up for land-ownership issues – Agencies should be aware of the difficulties around land-ownership, and prepared to support the land rights of the poor. Agencies should also advocate for accelerated procedures for resolving property disputes and for fair rules on property title. Title to
new housing for families should be joint, except where the household is headed by a single parent. Agencies may need to recruit specialist staff to address this area adequately.


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