Crisis Response

Matt DiGiovanni

Every time a large scale disaster occurs, for the most part, the rest of the world responds by offering aid in some way or another. Whether through funding, manpower to help with recovery, or the contribution of equipment and supplies, global aid can greatly help an ailing nation. However, with the short attention span of mainstream media and the general population, it is easy to forget what was happening a few days ago, let alone what was happening a few weeks or months ago. While it is inevitable that we will move on eventually, the question that arises in my head is when the proper time to move on actually is. As a first world country, I feel that our nation and others frequently fall short of promises to aid others in disasters.

A prime example of falling short in relief efforts came with the disastrous earthquake that happened in Haiti in January 2010. Initially the world was greatly concerned and for good reason; the country had been devastated, and there was an estimated death toll of over 200,000. In addition to many groups sending aid workers to Haiti, numerous countries compiled funds to send to pay for supplies, care, and infrastructure repair; however, almost across the board, these funds were held up in their respective countries by bureaucracy, and all of the pledged funds were not delivered.

Conversely, the aftermath of the February 2010 Chilean earthquake was handled in a much more organized and successful way. While Chile is a more stable country compared to Haiti and the overall impact of the quake was much smaller (confirmed fatalities were listed as 521), the pledges that countries made were largely upheld. While I know that the delivery of all pledged aid to Haiti would not have completely resolved the disaster without a hitch, I doubt that the aid would not have helped improved conditions faster.

To close, I want to touch on the current situation in Japan where three crises, an earthquake, a tsunami, and a damaged nuclear plant, are all issues simultaneously. Although all figures are currently preliminary as so many people are still missing, as of March 20, police in Japan estimate the death toll to be over 18,000. It is still too early to tell whether aid will fall off sooner than it should; however, Japan has said that 128 countries and 33 international organizations have offered assistance.

The greatest issue that I see potentially arising is distraction from Japan by the events in the Middle East and North Africa, Libya in particular. If outside involvement in Libya lasts longer than planned, down the road when Japan still needs aid, their request may fall on deaf ears if other countries are too tied up in a conflict in another country. I expect that since Japan is a more developed country, and since they provide many important products to the rest of the world ranging from automobiles to computer chips, they will have no shortage of aid.

Hopefully in the future, the world as a whole will look at disasters of all sizes and in all countries, whether developed or undeveloped, and be willing to not only help in the immediate aftermath, but deliver on all promises made throughout the recovery as well.