Water Engineering and Development Centre
The 12 January 2010 earthquake was the most devastating of many major sudden-impact natural
disasters affecting Haiti in the last 10 years. The health impact of the earthquake in absolute terms
(number of dead and injured) was among the highest in recent times. When the needs are compared
to the country?s response capacity, this disaster was truly unprecedented.
The level of response, especially in the health sector, was generous, even overwhelming. Organization
of the massive, global response was challenging, and many of the problems seen in past
disasters were replayed in Haiti. Information was scarce, decisions were often not evidence-based,
and there were serious gaps in overall or sectoral coordination.
This book presents lessons to be learned from Haiti with the aim of improving the health sector?s
response in major, sudden-onset disasters in the future. It also identifies opportunities provided by
the disaster for making significant changes in health services in Haiti. One of the key lessons of the
Haiti tragedy is that coordination can only be effective where national authorities are equipped to
assume leadership and establish relief and recovery priorities.
The authors have drawn on their own extensive experience in international disaster management,
and synthesized material from reports, evaluations, peer-reviewed scientific publications, and over
150 interviews. A review group was convened by PAHO/WHO to corroborate the findings and
conclusions of this publication.
The book gives particular emphasis to those lessons that are of general interest, i.e., not specific to
the case of Haiti. The international community has much to learn from the response in Haiti where
it has shown an ability to repeat its errors and shortcomings from past disasters