OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL ENVOY FOR HAITI

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE TSUNAMI

  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a catastrophe on the scale of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Post-disaster reviews yielded many lessons that are applicable to Haiti in the wake of its own catastrophe.
  • There is no substitute for good – and early – preparation. Within hours of the tsunami, life-saving supplies were successfully delivered because relief agencies were already pre-positioned in the region and disaster response systems had been rehearsed.
  • Funds are needed within hours of the crisis. A Global Emergency Fund with a standing pool of funds for agencies to draw on in the first 72 hours of a crisis would ensure that lives are saved immediately after the crisis.
  • Financial accountability is critical to ensuring ongoing donor support. Financial tracking mechanisms must be transparent and open to the public. Disasters hit the poor and marginalized the hardest. Women and children must be at the forefront of preparedness and recovery agendas.
  • The first step in any recovery effort is an assessment of damages, costs and what is needed to rebuild the affected areas. These plans must draw from a broad group of participants, including the affected communities themselves, and must be cross-cutting in nature. Shelters and homes, for example, cannot be built without access to water and sanitation.
  • Strong leadership by national governments is essential. Presidents and prime ministers must break through bottlenecks whether they involve customs duties that are slowing down import of critical items or financial disbursement procedures that create unacceptable delays.
  • Communities need to be consulted in the recovery process. People in affected areas need to be aware of resources available and involved in decision-making processes. Special efforts are needed to ensure that traditionally marginalized communities are included in the consultation processes.
  • Rapid results must be balanced with development plans. Those who have had their homes and incomes destroyed by the tsunami deserve to have their lives rebuilt quickly. Yet the push for rapid results must be balanced against the need for equitable and sustainable long-term solutions.
  • All actors involved need to coordinate their efforts. International mechanisms for humanitarian relief are well established and have performed admirably. Similar structures are needed for coordination in recovery, which is often a far more complex process involving a large number of agencies and organizations.
  • Humanitarian relief and recovery do not occur perfect sequence. Even as recovery proceeds, attention must be given to humanitarian requirements. The World Food Program, for example, is still providing emergency food relief while major reconstruction projects are underway. This has implications for planning and funding.
  • Aid must be distributed equitably. Traditionally marginalized communities and those displaced by conflict must not be left out of recovery plans. Likewise, standards for temporary and permanent housing must be uniform so all beneficiaries receive houses of equal quality.
  • Replacing permanent homes takes time. Tents are a short-term solution that in many cases do not last until the provision of permanent homes. Planning for durable, temporary shelters is required early on to ensure a decent standard of accommodation for the transition period between relief and recovery.
  • The private sector has an important role in recovery as well as in relief. International organizations and governments should engage private sector assistance and expertise and seek to ensure that the role of the private sector in reconstruction promotes both growth and equity.
United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, 2006