There are few disaster response efforts that have received the level of public scrutiny that has been focused on the international response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As a result of the earthquake relief response in Haiti, it's likely that most Americans have formed their own opinions about humanitarian aid. Questions like these and their answers (or lack of answers) influence our understanding and opinion of aid work:
Did my donation really help? Why hasn't anything been accomplished there? I watched one news channel that looks like everything is progressing quite well, and another that shows everything is in complete disarray. What's the truth? What's really happening? Two years seems like enough time to make some progress. Is the aid effort failing? Are dollars being wasted? Or is everything much better off than the news is telling us?
Most of us don't get to meet real humanitarian workers in the course of our everyday lives, so we don't have the opportunity to ask questions like this to front-line professionals. Therefore, consider this post your "open mic" chance.
Continuing with our expert interview series, in which you have the opportunity to ask your questions to aid professionals, I'd like to introduce you to Jeff Wright and Elizabeth (Liz) Ranade-Janis, aid workers on World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs team. Jeff and Liz were both deployed to Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010 -- two years ago next week -- to work alongside World Vision field staff to help implement the initial stages of our relief programs, including shelter, economic recovery, child protection, healthcare, cholera prevention, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Liz is a program officer who has spent a majority of the past two years managing the World Vision U.S. Haiti earthquake response. "There is no 'normal' with an earthquake response [like Haiti]," she told me, noting that long hours, complex issues, and intense media coverage adds to the existing pressure of having thousands of lives at stake. Even two years later, the highly complex response environment of Haiti is reflected in Liz's job every day.
Jeff is the humanitarian and emergency affairs operations director for World Vision U.S., managing a team of professional aid workers covering international disasters and relief programs for the past five years. Jeff's perspective is shaped by 20 years of experience in international relief and development. He's been involved on the ground in many of the major relief responses of recent memory, including Hurricane Mitch in 1998, post-war Angola in the early 2000s, the Asian tsunamis of 2004, and, most recently, the Haiti earthquake.
I asked Jeff and Liz in a recent conversation what the greatest misconception is about post-quake Haiti relief efforts. Their response:
Probably the biggest misconception is that aid work in Haiti has either failed or succeeded. Six months after the earthquake, then one year later, then a year-and-a-half later, people were asking why things were still so bad and why it was taking so long to rebuild. Haiti’s rebuilding process is a huge work in progress, and the reality is that the sheer magnitude of the quake itself and the pre-existing conditions of poverty created a melting pot of complexity for Haiti's aid response.
So, now it's your turn. Submit your questions to Jeff and Liz by leaving them in the comments section. Remember, the point is to ask the sort of questions that will help us better understand humanitarian aid work and the relief efforts in Haiti. On Monday afternoon, we’ll pick the top eight or nine questions and give them to Jeff and Liz to answer firsthand. (And, if you particularly like someone else’s question, leave a reply saying so to help us get a sense of what questions are of most interest to you.) Then, look for their answers and responses next Thursday, January 12, the two-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.
Read related post Haiti enters third year of quake recovery.