Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
The aim of disaster response is to return the affected community "back to normality" as soon as possible even though that may take several years to accomplish. But, with the frequent reoccurrence of disasters in vulnerable areas, should disaster response stop after the community has been returned to "normality"?
This editorial is being prepared in early April 2000 and news is just breaking that eight million people in Ethiopia are bordering on starvation. This is despite all of the international efforts that were made in the mid-1980s to rescue the people of that beleaguered country from a similar plight. How has the international community allowed the same destructive forces of drought and war to bring about an even greater potential tragedy? Again, it would appear that the same fire-fighting response will have to be made and it is to be hoped that the international community will respond a trifle faster than they did during the Mozambique floods.
Should the same effort not be put into disaster prevention as is put into disaster response? In the event of a disaster being declared, it is often too late for many people who will have succumbed to the effects of that disaster. Should there not be an international monitoring organisation that keeps an over-seeing eye on disaster-prone nations and vulnerable communities with the power to offer aid before the situation escalates out of control?
In the wealthier nations we have an obligation to care for those who are less fortunate than we are. The European Union has just empowered a directive on human rights that will be emplaced within the member states. The accident of place of birth must not, or should not, be detrimental to the way you live. We all have the right to life, and those who are at greatest risk should not be dependent on large-scale loss of life within their communities to receive the benefits of modern society.
In the developed nations we are all too ready to reap the benefits that these vulnerable nations can offer us. We exploit their rainforests for new medicines, we exploit their oil reserves, their minerals, their gold, silver and diamond deposits. We build our wealth generation on the back of their impoverishment and it is time that we repaid some of that indebtedness.
We have to establish a system which allows the monitoring of vulnerable areas of the world to prevent situations such as the emergent famine in Ethiopia. This should be an international body that, with the co-operation of national government, would supply expertise, education and advice, as well as financial aid to prevent, or respond to, natural events such as drought, famine, floods, etc. We in the developed nations have the science, technology and resources to make this happen. We cannot continually allow thousands to die from starvation just to maintain the share prices in the developed world. For if we do just how far have we really developed as human beings?
Henry C. Wilson