Lessons from Haiti

Tuesday, 08 March 2011


A report written by a team led by Professor David Sanderson warns the world should expect three to five big urban disasters within the next decade.

A report written by a team led by Professor David Sanderson of Oxford Brookes University warns the world should expect three to five big urban disasters within the next decade.

The report was commissioned by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the umbrella organisation which coordinates recovery efforts following disasters overseas.

Professor Sanderson (pictured right) is the Director of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) at Oxford Brookes.

Urban Disasters – Lessons from Haiti concludes that more preparation for city-wide crises is necessary while offering 10 practical lessons to guide recover efforts in future – including making permanent resettlement a priority rather than focusing on building camps or temporary shelters.

The Haiti earthquake in January 2010 saw more than 220,000 people killed and 1.8 million made homeless.

950 million people now living in urban slums around the world are particularly vulnerable to disaster. Three of the potential urban disasters which aid workers fear most are earthquakes affecting Tehran, Istanbul or Kathmandu.

Some potentially tough choices face aid workers about how and where to focus their efforts, the report suggests. For example, withdrawing aid to temporary camps sooner after an urban disaster in order to support local businesses could mean the speedier return of survivors to their old neighbourhoods.

Disasters Emergency Committee Chief Executive Brendan Gormley commented:

“Our member agencies are committed to continuous improvement and this means asking ourselves hard questions about the tough choices we face during an emergency. It is challenging to be told that after an urban disaster we may need to give away fewer goods and services, while doing more to support entrepreneurial and market solutions.”

:: The other authors of the report were: Carine Clermont, Haitian social activist, Dr Anshu Sharma, an NGO urban planning and disaster risk reduction expert and Helen Spraos, Haiti based researcher and social development practitioner.