What happens after an earthquake

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.

Making the news

Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small:

It’s been frustrating then, to watch foreign, especially U.S., news crews pull up to Cite Soleil and start walking down the street with cameras and lights and audio booms. Of course, they would cause a stir. And then all it takes is one card handed out, one bottle of water given to a child in sympathy and it provokes a stampede of folks all under the misapprehension that there’s some form of aid to be had. Jostling begins and suddenly, BREAKING NEWS THERE’S RIOTING IN HAITI!!!

Personally, I have seen no real riots: after the tv crews sprint back to the vehicles the crowd disbands and everyone goes home. But the longer the tv crew remains the more violent the crowd gets: people are desperate especially when they think they’re vying for a few pieces of food or water that they may not get if they’re not out in front. The UN, for example, hired Haitians with megaphones to walk up and down the line assuring people this morning that everyone on line would receive food and water – this calms down the ones behind and stops them from pushing to the front. TV crews obviously don’t do this and, I was told by some U.S. military sources, are potentially leaving behind hurt, injured or dead from the mini-riots they incite.