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Urban disasters – lessons from Haiti Report for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC

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Urban disasters – lessons from Haiti Report for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC
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    Urban disasters – lessons from Haiti Study of member agencies’ responses to the earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 2010 Report for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Carine Clermont, David Sanderson, Anshu Sharma and Helen Spraos March 2011    Executive summary ‘It's poverty that is at the core of these disasters.’ - Sálvano Briceño, Director, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Haiti’s earthquake of 12 th  January 2010 killed over 220 000 people, injured 300 000, left well over one million homeless, and destroyed infrastructure, services and homes. The cost of reconstruction is estimated at US$11.5 billion 1 . This happened in a country already the poorest in the western hemisphere, ranked 149 out of 182 countries on the 2009 Human Development Index, with some 78% of its population living on under US$2 a day, and beset by huge societal inequality and weak governance. While recognising the effects of the disaster on the whole country, this study is required to focus on the impact within urban areas, and to ask, what can be learnt for international NGOs for the next urban disaster? Several lessons emerge. A first one concerns increased urban risk globally, described by the World Bank in a new report 2  as a ‘new game-changer.’ If this is right, and urban risk presents something different, then agencies need to learn ‘new rules of the game’ in urban post disaster response. Issues of complexity, range of actors, space, the importance of commerce and trade, services, infrastructure and sheer concentrations of people require a consideration of how to operate compared to rural contexts, including collaborations (with government and the private sector), the importance of cash based programmes (in cash for work but also in supporting petty vendors and businesses), markets (working with them and not unfairly competing) and housing (considering trade offs between short term shelter and long term settlements and thinking about forms of rental). Building social and human capital is key, and in this response good programming approaches sought to do this in the relief stage, for example working with street food vendors to enhance food security. Some responses however tended to forget that cities contain readily available concentrations of skills and resources that, rather than being imported, might be found locally. Relief provided in camps sought to work through camp committees. Especially vulnerable people were often located and assisted, for example in the work of Age UK in the formation of a network of camp volunteers. The prolonged provision of services in camps however, such as water and healthcare, has been both expensive and has in some cases undermined pre-existing service providers who could not compete. One reason for this has been the ‘extended relief period’ many people and agencies find themselves in, with at the time of writing some one million people still in camps. To attempt to reduce camp density the government, with the support of some agencies, has relocated people to new, planned settlements such as Corail, located away from the capital with few services or job opportunities.  Already such camps are being labelled as a failure 3 , with a real risk that new slums are being created. This approach is opposed by UN-HABITAT, the UN agency tasked with urbanism, which has proposed a policy of ‘safe return’ based on urban planning principles. Had this been adopted sooner then many more 1  Government of Haiti (2010) Post Disaster Needs Assessment report  . Port au Prince 2  World Bank (2010) Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters ; The Economics of Effective Prevention. Washington 3   See for example the news report Camp Corail: Haiti's good idea gone wrong  , by Ezra Fieser, December 7 at globalpost.com      camps may have closed by now. More agencies and others ought to consider how they might work with and support this policy further as an essentially ‘urban’ approach to rebuilding the city. Within recovery many agencies have adopted transitional (T) shelter as the best option for rehousing people in conditions better than tents. Some good examples of this approach exist, in particular where land ownership has been clarified such as rebuilding on srcinal plots. Examples of success though are small compared to the overall need, and T shelters as a viable urban option here have been subjected to a barrage of criticism from all sides. Certainly agencies engaged in T shelters need to take stock of where they are and consider all the other options open to them, such as shelter kits provided by CARE and Tearfund. In balancing short term needs and longer term considerations, this has been difficult, given the weakness of government and its capacity to move forward. Good initiatives have included a scaling down of relief operations as quickly as possible, for example in the work of Merlin’s surgical response, but this has been hard given the need to engage in other post-earthquake emergencies, especially the cholera outbreak. Agencies that worked closely with partners at the outset have yielded benefits in stronger ties and partnerships, although this was not the case across the board, and in some instances pre-existing agency partners were ignored in the relief rush.  Agencies that sought to work with traders and through markets, and who chose to work in neighbourhoods with locally based organisations, may have provided better responses. Most agencies, such as World Vision, sought to increase accountability, delivering leaflets, putting up noticeboards and distributing complaints phone numbers. Several agencies undertook assessments using tools they used equally in urban and rural contexts, while others such as ActionAid developed urban-oriented tools. A problem identified by several agencies was a lack of link between assessment and implementation, ie that pre-identified solutions were sometimes put in place. As one agency staff member stated, ‘if you have a hammer, then all problems begin to look like nails’. Many agencies also reported Sphere to be ‘unworkable’ in urban areas, though this appears to relate more to numeric indicators rather than the standards themselves. Concerning building long term urban resilience – this is a real challenge. To happen, agencies need to look beyond the short term and engage in a longer-term vision for rebuilding the city, and consider how their actions are reducing vulnerability. In this regard agencies should consider existing approaches such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and engage in actions that strengthen institutions, build ‘a culture of safety’ and reduce underlying risk. Agencies also need to genuinely prepare for the next big urban disaster. As one experienced staff member from Oxfam said at the end of a long interview, ‘forget all my other recommendations ! . we need to prepare for the next one.’    Recommendations 1. Always seek to work with and through municipalities and pre-existing service providers whenever possible to strengthen local structures on page 7 2. Include the building of neighbourhood social and human capital and local civil society as a vital component in all programme approaches and at all stages of relief and recovery on page 8 3. NGOs should take care not to compete unfairly with the local private sector, and should work where possible with local commercial providers on page 10 4. Support the ‘safe return’ of people to neighbourhoods of srcin, considering especially the most vulnerable, as a strategy based on urban planning principles on page 14 5. In urban response and recovery assume that professional skills and resources might be found locally on page 14 6. In recovery, prioritise the facilitation of long term homes over the building of short term transitional shelters on page 15 7. Assume complex and fast-changing environments: improve the link between analysis and action, and have a clearly identified exit strategy on page 20 8. Use cash transfer approaches to aid recovery and stimulate markets, but beware not to create dependency on page 22 9. Use urban-derived programming tools and approaches for working with complex sets of stakeholders on page 23 10. Prepare for the next 3-5 big urban disasters that will almost definitely occur over the next ten years. on page 24    Sequence Actions for urban planning and response PRE-DISASTER •  Disaster risk reduction initiatives underway -   Make DRR a local priority; identify risks and enhancing early warnings; build a culture of safety; reduce underlying risk factors; strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response •  Preparedness plans in place -   Staff communication and co ordination plans in place; logistics in place; servers backed up; preparedness plans rehearsed regularly DISASTER RELIEF TO RECOVERY •  Enact preparedness plans -   Decide what the exit strategy is, and at what point to withdraw •  Save lives and meet basic needs -   Ensure safety; provide water, food, health care, shelter, protection etc for as short a time as possible; beware of creating dependency •  Co ordinate with others in assessment and planning -   Conduct joint assessments; co ordinate closely; link assessments with actions •  Engage with markets and the local private sector -   Employ food vendors and water providers; source goods locally; use local importers; find and support local entrepreneurs; be careful not to compete unfairly and undermine local business •  Keep people in or close to their neighbourhoods where possible -   Risk assessments for ‘safe return’; avoid creating new settlements; facilitate permanent housing rather than build short term shelter •  Find, use and build neighbourhood social capital -   Use pre-disaster developmental networks and partners; assume skills exist locally; adopt a range of negotiation approaches when dealing with complex sets of stakeholders •  Work with government wherever possible -   Proactively engage with offers of assistance, eg technical support and  provision of resources; provide regular updates; avoid creating parallel structures •  Use cash based programmes -   Target most vulnerable for cash transfers; do meaningful cash for work  programmes; use technology, eg phones. Figure one. Actions for urban planning and response
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