Saturday, June 19, 2010

Haiti quake: a wakeup call for a new "war" ahead


Haiti: Fighting a "New Kind of War"


"A picture of life's other side" includes the dark futility of much rescue effort in Haiti.

Maximum outpouring of international concern, but s
low access to the trapped, wounded, homeless, and hungry.

Against a "deadline" after which hundreds, even thousands, of those trapped will be dead.

The dark picture also contains a compelling wake up call: to step up prediction and contingency planning for a new form of "war" which may lie ahead.

Despite all the international attention, very little in the way of medical aid and rescue assistance made its way to those in need during the window of opportunity during which entrapped survivors were still alive.

And then thousands who could not be reached quickly were dead.

Looking Backwards: What Happens Without Planning

As bottlenecks opened, aid workers and thousands of U.S. soldiers poured in to help sustain those who survived.

An exercise in futility?

Hardly, for the money collected and the attention aroused could be used for future long term recovery -- after the dead are buried.

After the failure to save those who could not be quickly reached comes the second major challenge: to maintain interest, commitment, and co-ordination for long term recovery.


And the broader challenge: to step up prediction and contingency planning for a new form of "war" which may lie ahead.

Looking Ahead: One Guide to Choice

Stepped up international planning will be necessary to meet fresh emergencies.

From unpredictable weather, earthquakes, climate change, and a rise of ocean water levels which may threaten
coastal settlement in both poor and rich parts of the world.

There is a need to learn from Haiti, to improve precautions against bottlenecks, methods of co-ordinating aid, establishing security, getting medical teams in fast.

Haiti may be an extreme case but the challenges it presents will occur again and again.

Coastal Flooding: Waves of the Future?

Climate Change: To Mitigate and Adapt

It matters little whether climate change is "man made."

To one degree or another we can expect the consequences will be there.

In some cases there will be sudden catastrophes.

In some cases gradually developing, more manageable problems.

But stepped up international planning and co-ordination will be necessary to minimize bottlenecks, confusion, rivalry.

As we push forward ahead, let us learn from Haiti.

New forms of "war" lie ahead.