Haiti: behind the scenes of an earthquake relief operation

Wired magazine just published an excellent article about the Red Cross Red Crescent relief operation in Haiti: “Organizing Armageddon: What we learned from the Haiti earthquake.” In the paper edition Vince Beiser takes 13 pages to describe what is needed to manage a major relief operation. It is an extremely well-balanced and well-informed piece. Vince was in Haiti just after the earthquake and saw everything first hand.

Criticizing the right things

On the destroyed streets of downtown Port-au-Prince. Photo: Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross. (p-HTI0383)

The article does not shy away from criticism. But it is criticism that I find fair and appropriate. Vince took the time to find out why certain things don’t work and Wired gave him the space to explain it. I wish we would see more articles like this. Disaster relief is extremely complex and these complexities cannot easily be reduced to three paragraphs, a two minute YouTube video or 140 characters.

Knowing how hard the international and local staff and volunteers have been working since January, I often can’t help but feel protective about them.

Everybody is a disaster manager

However, in most cases it is not the criticism that I mind. What I have a problem with is most of the time the people who do the criticizing don’t take the time to try to understand the issues before launching into a tirade of condemnation.

In the same way, that everybody is a football coach during the world cup, it seems like suddenly everybody is a disaster manager.

For everyone who is prepared to invest 30 minutes of his time to get a good, basic understanding of the problems and solutions that all aid agencies face in Haiti, I recommend that you buy the magazine or read the story online.