What happens after an earthquake

by | Jan 31, 2010

Duncan Green has been perusing ALNAP‘s report on lessons from past experiences of the aftermath of earthquakes, and has summarised some of the key findings.  This one was especially interesting:

Land disputes will rise: Land-ownership emerges as a critical issue in all earthquake disasters. First, there are property disputes even before the disaster. Will opportunists seize land in the chaos? Will squatters be able to return and rebuild their shacks (even if that is a good idea)? The loss of documentation, the destruction of landmarks, the deaths of property owners, and the need to formalise previously informal arrangements all add a new layer of complexity to existing land-ownership issues.

But there are positive opportunities too. Some disaster interventions have been effective in changing the pattern of formal house ownership, with new houses registered in the names of both husband and wife. A follow up on the 2001 El Salvador earthquake response, in which the World Bank implemented a joint-ownership policy for new houses, found some communities where 50% of respondents reported that a woman was one of the legal home-owners and that, overall, 37% of the homes were wholly owned by women.

There’s a load of other interesting material on Haiti in other recent posts on Duncan’s blog – e.g. this piece on why humanitarian work is so hard in cities.


  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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