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This report is compiled following a request by the Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) at a meeting on 6 May 2010. The report is written 6 months after the 12 January earthquake in Haiti and is concerned primarily with the response by IASC members to the disaster, but necessarily refers to the role of other key actors, including the Haitian population and Government, international militaries, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and regional entities. The report describes the response of the humanitarian community to the earthquake, outlining the main achievements and challenges encountered, proposes lessons which can be learned from the initial phase of the humanitarian response, and summarizes some aspects of the way forward.
The humanitarian community's response to the massive earthquake which struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 was a considerable achievement in the face of a multitude of challenges. The earthquake, which is estimated to have killed over 222,000 people and directly or indirectly affected almost one third of the Haitian population, was the most significant disaster requiring a large-scale multi-sectoral international response since the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. It represents a major test of the capacity, resources, response readiness, and modus operandi of the global humanitarian community.
The overall objective of humanitarian response: to save lives, reduce vulnerabilities, and restore dignity.
Approximately 4 million people have received food assistance, emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 1.5 million people, safe water has been made available to 1.2 million people, and 1 million people have benefited from Cash-for-Work programmes.
Findings and Conclusion:
In a highly complex context such as Haiti, the humanitarian community is faced with challenging dilemmas in the provision of assistance, not least in identifying the most vulnerable and in distinguishing between those affected by the earthquake and those -- the majority of the population in this instance -- suffering from more systemic forms of deprivation. An equally challenging question relates to identifying and strengthening linkages between the relief operation and the longer-term reconstruction and development agenda. The humanitarian community in Haiti has a critical role to play in supporting a Government which was itself severely affected by the earthquake to lead the reconstruction efforts. One element of the response which could have been improved in the initial phase was the international humanitarian community's engagement with Haitian civil society and local authorities, and their inclusion in common coordination mechanisms. Had this been achieved in a more systematic manner, it would have significantly improved the humanitarian community's understanding of the operating context, and contributed to a more sustainable provision of assistance, as well as local and national capacity-building.
Critical lessons can be learned from the first 6 months of the humanitarian operation, which are essential to ensure the response in Haiti becomes more efficient, effective, accountable, and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable. These lessons will also inform wider analysis of how the humanitarian community can improve the way it operates, to contribute to saving more lives, reducing vulnerabilities, and restoring dignity to disaster-affected populations.
Another key lesson learned is the need for the humanitarian community to review how it should adapt to urban responses and to identify the necessary expertise, tools, knowledge, and partnerships to be able to operate effectively in such environments.
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