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Haiti Earthquake Disaster: Lessons and Who is to Blame?

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Haiti Earthquake Disaster: Lessons and Who is to Blame?

It is very sad to even contemplate talking about who is to blame for the disaster in Haiti. It is nonetheless a tough question we must ask otherwise we will Not be better prepared for the next disaster. Who is to blame for this calamity in Haiti? Should we blame nature, or should we human folly? It is pretty easy to eliminate technological causes for this disaster.

As an observer of contemporary geopolitical issues at work in developing countries, especially disaster related issues, I take issue with both nature and man in this disaster.

Nature is to Blame:

With respect to nature, we can blame the tectonic plates for their constant movement and restlessness. That said, it is not our business to determine how tectonic forces work or move. It is our business to attempt to mitigate or prevent the impact of their movement on human life. Yes, nature is to blame but ultimately, man shares the blame for napping and not doing enough.

Secondly we can also blame nature for Haiti ‘s precarious geographic location next to a dangerous fault-line that became the epicenter of the quake. The location and geography did not make the situation any easier for the impoverished nation… but more could have been done by man to prevent the impact of this disaster.

Man-made is to Blame:

Haiti ‘s disaster is also largely a man-made disaster in the sense the the leadership of the country did not do enough to prepare the country for such a disaster. The leadership failed failed its people in enacting a building code to provide guidelines on how to build earthquake-resistant buildings. When NPR reported on this on January 14, I thought it was a joke that there is a country without a building code in the 21 Century. Think about that!

Secondly, the citizens also failed to hold the leadership accountable in adopting international emergency preparedness principles to shape mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. In my work as president of the International Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), I have never met with any colleague from Haiti coming to conferences to gain knowledge to help the people back home.

The purpose of this blog post is not to lay blame but to ask a few questions that can help us learn. Thus, I am asking myself what lessons can the world learn from this disaster?

What Lessons for the Rest of Us?

Humans don’t learn from disaster. Sadly, in this disaster as in Bandar Aceh, Katrina and others, man does not learn much from disasters. Something must be done to ensure that man learns. How soon are going to see the end of such drama in other parts of the world?

Accountability: Is it not time the world should hold leaders accountable for failing to prepare their people for disasters? Is it not time we make disaster preparedness mandatory? Without making mandatory like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, dysfunctional and functional governments will continue to undermine the safety of their people. It is time the UN steps in.             As a citizen of the world, with roots in Africa, Asia and Americas, I am hereby calling on the United Nations to work towards signing a Universal Declaration of Mandatory Disaster Preparedness for all nations of the world.

Nations that deliberately fail to prepare and expose their people, the leaders that fail to mitigate threats should be made to face civil for criminal charges for undermining the safety of their people. This is long overdue!

Gideon F. For-mukwai, MA, CEM

Preparedness Champion