Yearly, people around the globe face sudden occurrence of emergency scenarios, including eruptions of violence, famines, earthquakes and tsunamis. These natural disasters and subsequent disaster response efforts are and will continue to be part of humanity. Despite the fact that these events cannot be prevented or predicted, it is important that response to these events works to avert further loss of lives and minimize damage. As disaster relief plan (DRP) or disaster management systems respond and evolve to changing scenarios, it is critical to examine how these plans or systems are addressing the needs following a disaster. Evaluation is a vital tool that government agencies and relief organizations can use to analyze processes, operations, and impact of response, relief and reconstruction following a disaster (Benjamin, Bassily Marcus, Babu, Silver, & Martin, 2011). In its simplest form, a disaster relief plan (DRP) is a documented set of procedures or polices designed to manage disasters. In essence, a DRP creates a framework within which the affected communities can cope with disasters. This paper explores a country DRP, Haiti in context. In January 2010, an earthquake and cholera outbreak devastated the fragile and impoverished country (Dowell, Tappero, & Frieden, 2011).
How the DRP Should be Evaluated by Haiti and Countries Likely to Provide Relief Efforts in Case of a Disaster
Disaster relief is an interdisciplinary concept entailing organizational processes that help entities prepare for and handle emergency functions needed to prevent, respond to, prepare for, and recover from disasters or emergencies caused by hazards (Benjamin et al., 2011). Hazards can be human-made, technological or natural. DRPs describe planning for disaster relief. Most disaster relief planners contend that DRP is incomplete until it has been tested. DRP evaluation identifies gaps in the plan or phases that need improvement. Once a list of potential vulnerable entities is outlined, and each entity’s failure tendency and business criticality are assessed, the DRP planners must analyze various relief delivery methods available for each entity and define the best delivery method for each. Different forms of evaluation can be used to gauge the effectiveness of the DRP. Under formative evaluation, the DRP staffers assess the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and strategies to tailor it to its target audience (Patton, 1982). The second form of evaluation entails monitoring the tasks and procedures involved (Dahlberg & McCaig, 2010). In this case, organizational and administrative goals of the DRP will be examined to ensure that they are aligned to its goals and objectives as predefined at the onset of the plan.
How the DRP Would be Evaluated
In line with many agencies and organizations including United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nation (UN), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the International Red Cross (IRC), the Haiti DRP decisions should be founded on transnational or evidence-based research (Dahlberg & McCaig, 2010; Dowell et al., 2011). The significance of evidence-based actions and the application of evaluations, quality assurance and performance indicators suggest that Haiti government and relief aid agencies should emphasize on utilizing research to form their decision-making and actions (Dowell et al., 2011). The underlying argument is that when the DRP is well informed and developed based on current research, evaluation will illustrate that the plan will provide the most effective results or perform the appropriate activities for the target population. In simple terms, the DRP should use evidence-based research to improve its outcomes. To this end, evaluation will provide constructive and timely information to improve DRP performance. As a compliment to the effort, research will advance theories and knowledge about the scientific perspective of the disaster.
The evaluation process should entail proposal writing; identification and prepping the evaluation team; defining and classifying goals and objectives; choosing an evaluation design; drawing data collection methodology; gathering and analyzing data making recommendations; and utilizing the results to design future plans (Patton, 1982).
Significant Issue that Should Be Factored in by the International Community while Mounting Relief Effort for Haiti
Considering variations and multiple options of disaster relief mechanisms available, it is important for Haiti and relief aid agencies or organizations to evaluate the best suitable relief mechanism for the affected population. Some of the most important factors that should be considered are relief or response time; the cost of deployment, operation and maintenance; and the ease of DRP activation and operation (Benjamin et al., 2011). Despite the variation in disaster complexity, the affected populations still need food, clean water, clothing, security and shelter. Relief organizations and agencies must quickly deliver these commodities with limited resources. Beyond this fact, there is much more to consider when similar emergency situations occur. For example, which organizations or donors are providing aid? Are there enough medical resources, food and water for the affected population? What type of aid relief is provided? What are the outcomes of these services? During and after such emergency situation, planners must find out whether the relief aid agencies and organizations not only met the needs of the target population, but also whether the status of the affected people was improved. In essence, evaluation entails understanding whether the interventions have been effective, and whether they have made a difference among the populations impacted by an emergency or disaster.
Aspects of Corruption
Evaluation is critical both ethically in terms of ensuring that the available resources are utilized well and also politically by being accountable to the donors and financiers. Rodgers (2013) noted that concerns about weak institutions and corruption in Haiti made international donors reluctant to channel financial aid through Haiti’s organizations. Despite the millions of dollars, improvement in Haiti has been sluggish (Dowell et al., 2011; Rodgers, 2013). Given that the poor suffer most because they live in areas with poor infrastructure, elements of corruption must be put in check. Corruption worsens scenarios of limited resources. Following a disaster, societies must rebuild, and these vulnerable groups must be protected from corrupt entities. To successfully deliver aid relief, various government agencies and humanitarian organizations must cooperate to fight corruption in the procurement, tendering and delivery processes. Ideally, the government needs to be supported and have control over more resources. Through accountability, relief organizations and funders will be certain on how the DRP affects the target population. Further, transparency and accountability will indicate whether the DRP activities are producing beneficial outcomes.
Possible Pitfalls/Problems that Must be Considered During the Evaluation Process
There are common pitfall and problems associated with disaster relief planning activities. This entails outlining the strengths and weaknesses of potentially dysfunctional activities such as centralizing authority, stockpiling, identifying evacuation shelters and relying on military units to assume preparedness and recovery roles. In most scenarios, the effectiveness of a DRP is put at risk by focusing relief efforts over preparedness activities. Further, communal group response by victims can be discouraged by a hierarchical decision-making approach. Centralized international-based DRP efforts are likely to limit the disaster support that is compatible with local needs. Additionally, military organizations are not suitable for long-term disaster roles. This is subject to the fact that military policy does not apply to civilian conditions, especially when families are affected. Summing up, evaluation in disaster relief, emergencies and reconstruction is often incomplete or inadequate. In spite of the fact that numerous actors, including governmental organizations, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), provide aid, these efforts are often insufficient or duplicative for the needs of the affected populations. Therefore further evaluation of humanitarian responses is needed to improve program effectiveness. By providing methodological data or information to a DRP, evaluators can gain information to thwart errors in the future and illustrate the benefits of the DRP, which can improve the confidence and interest of the International Community in the DRP. Despite the fact that a DRP can cost millions of dollars, it should demonstrate its effectiveness.
Based on the explored aspects of the disaster relief plan in Haiti, the DRP should lead to a framework that provides effective actions plan to mitigate the effects and results of any disaster. In order to reduce considerable losses to developing states such as Haiti, both developed and developing countries should collaborate to identify potential risks, and hopefully manage their occurrence. In the event that a disaster occurs, relevant parties should have a strategic and flexible plan designed to moderate the effects or outcomes the disaster, as well as to guarantee continuity of critical infrastructure and operations. In summary, it is important for Haiti to formulate procedures and policies to determine the point at which its disaster recovery plan should be activated.
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