In 2010 a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. The sheer scale was unprecedented: 230,000 people killed, 300,000 injured and 1.5million displaced. The global offer of support was instant and almost overwhelming. Governments, charities, and individuals responded with time, money and people. But Haiti's suffering did not end with the quake. When Hurricane Sandy ripped through the US and Caribbean in 2012, people still living in camps following the earthquake were vulnerable to the full force of the storm. Work to rebuild Haiti's fragile infrastructure was disrupted.
The eyes of the world may now be turned elsewhere, but Haiti remains one of the most vulnerable places on earth, battered repeatedly by earthquakes, cyclones, floods, landslides, drought, and epidemics. Hurricanes routinely knock up to 15% from GDP. The total volume of humanitarian aid to Haiti since 2001 exceeds $4billion. The challenge ahead is stark. The 2012 Climate Change Vulnerability Index lists Haiti as the country most vulnerable to climate change. Rather than waiting for the next disaster to hit, what can we do now to stop Haiti's susceptibility to these events?
“Responsibility for disaster risk management does not lie with disaster managers alone. It is rather a concern for everyone - from citizens to political leaders, to the private sector and civil society. Whole-of-society approaches to disaster risk reduction will become increasingly important as climate change alters hazard patterns,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator.
Key development partners such as the United Kingdom and the UN have committed to put disaster risk at the heart of development investment. The Political Champions on Disaster Resilience was created - an international ministerial-level group looking at how to put this into practice.
Justine Greening travelled to Haiti last Sunday with representatives from the Political Champions, to see how the international community can support the government to reduce Haiti's vulnerability to disasters. This will mean backing the government's inclusion of disaster risk in their development plans, making sure donors commit to integrating disaster resilience in their investments in Haiti, and putting all this into practice on the ground.
“With the frequency and severity of natural disasters likely to increase, managing their risks should no longer be seen as a humanitarian endeavor, but rather as a development one. Sitting on the sidelines while countries like Haiti are prevented from developing their potential by recurring natural disasters is not an option,” wrote Ms. Greening in her blog.
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