Haiti: The 3 “Rs” of Disasters

The following is from Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development

It is important to remember that all disasters have a life cycle: “The Three Rs of Disasters.”

Right now, we are in the “Rescue” phase. All hands are on deck to save lives and property. This phase involves finding and treating the immediate medical needs of survivors and stabilizing ongoing hazards, such as shifting buildings. As such, it is best left to the heavy lifters – government and military search and rescue teams. These groups also have heavy equipment that can clear roads and debris, as well as large specialized operations with mass distribution systems that have pre-positioned warehouses. The “Rescue” phase typically lasts a week, but with the extraordinary logistical hurdles being faced in Haiti, it may take longer.

The next phase is the “Relief” phase, where the focus is on creating temporary safe and sanitary conditions. As I saw in Katrina, the church is often one of the first places people go to seek assistance and shelter. We have already heard that in rural and outlying areas around the earthquake zone, existing clinics are seeing patients who have been able to get out of Port-au-Prince. Some of these clinics are expanding patient care to schools and church buildings. The “Relief” phase typically lasts a few months.

Finally, we get to the third and final phase: “Recovery.” During recovery the emphasis shifts to restoring services, rebuilding houses and buildings, and returning, to self-sufficiency. The Diocese of Haiti has a very large and vibrant social infrastructure and we fully expect that Episcopal Relief & Development will be there for the long haul supporting their important and vibrant ministries.

The challenge of the “Recovery” phase is that most of the television cameras have moved on, but the human suffering has grown. It is a chronic state, not a crisis. However, it is the phase that Episcopal Relief & Development and its partners excel at, because we work with churches that are part of the communities and know the needs best and how to meet them. This phase will last years. The unmet needs in a place like Haiti – which already struggles with immense, chronic poverty – will be monumental.

Right now Episcopal Relief & Development is focused on preparing for the “Relief” phase and securing the resources for the “Recovery” phase.

For more information on the Haiti earthquake and on Episcopal Relief & Development’s response, please visit www.er-d.org/HaitiCrisis.

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