By Chiara Liguori, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Chiara Liguori is Amnesty International’s Caribbean researcher. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Four years ago this Sunday, a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean island of Haiti, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead and more than 2 million homeless. It was a disaster on an almost unprecedented scale. And, for a country already wracked by poverty with so many institutional weaknesses, it was a complete catastrophe.
When I visited Haiti two months after the earthquake, my worst fears were confirmed. The Haitian authorities were completely overwhelmed, with most of the country’s government buildings having collapsed and countless public officials dead. The blank stare of then Haitian President René Préval was one of the most telling symbols of a country stood on the precipice of an abyss.
Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was headline news across the globe. Yet four years on, with the cameras gone, the problems and suffering of the people remain.
It is estimated that almost 150,000 people are still living in 271 displacement camps, often in appalling conditions. The lack of access to basic services such as safe water, sanitation and waste disposal leaves them exposed to the risk of cholera and other diseases. Many still live in makeshift shelters, vulnerable to flooding, especially during hurricane season.
By Mong Palatino, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mong Palatino is a Philippines-based writer and former lawmaker. The views expressed are his own.
The images of the devastation wrought by super typhoon Haiyan as it hit the Philippines the past two days have shocked people across the globe. But be prepared for even more heartbreaking images and stories of the storm’s aftermath once reporters and rescuers are finally able to reach remote coastal towns here like Samar and Leyte Provinces.
Haiyan, the strongest typhoon this year, caused a tsunami-like storm surge that almost completely wiped out facilities in Leyte Province, killing thousands in the process. Indeed, early police reports are already suggesting the number of dead could top 10,000.
The scenes in Tacloban City alone are heart-wrenching. Dead bodies are everywhere, dazed survivors are walking the streets, and parents are desperately looking for food and water. Some sought refuge in the airport, but this was also destroyed during the storm. Evacuation centers and public markets have been flooded. Even the mayor of Tacloban reportedly had to be rescued from his home. Power lines are down and could take a month to be restored. It seems particularly cruel that the already powerless here literally now don’t have power.
By Mahshid Abir, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mahshid Abir, M.D., is an adjunct behavioral and social scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Last Monday, a massive tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, leveling or largely destroying hundreds of homes, businesses and two elementary schools. Plaza Towers Elementary School, where 75 students and faculty had taken shelter, was in the direct path of the tornado. Moore Medical Center lost an entire floor of its facility, requiring many of the injured, including children, some with severe injuries, to be taken to other area hospitals. At least 24 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
The tornado struck only days before the two-year anniversary of the deadly EF5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, causing significant devastation and 155 fatalities. That twister lasted only minutes, but its toll on the mental health of Joplin’s residents lingered much longer. And the incident holds some important lessons for Moore and future disaster areas as they try to recover.
By Edward Alden, CFR
Editor's Note: Edward Alden is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Renewing America was originally published here. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, is famously believed to have said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.
For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:
Editor's Note: Soner Cagaptay is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the co-author, with Scott Carpenter, of Regenerating the U.S.-Turkey Partnership.
By Soner Cagaptay – Special to CNN
In 1999, two massive earthquakes struck Western Turkey just outside of Istanbul, killing thousands of people. The quakes shook not only the Anatolian tectonic plate but also the Turks’ confidence in their much-respected secular elites who, soon after the quakes, were voted out of power for failing to respond in time to the devastating tremors.
Just as the 1999 quakes were a test of competency for the country’s secular elites, the October 23 quake in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish east will serve as a test for the self-proclaimed leaders of the Kurdish nationalist movement, which ranges from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a socialist outfit, to religious orders (tariqats) and faith-based NGOs.
Editor's Note: Vishnu Sridharan is Program Associate in the Global Assets Project at the New America Foundation. This post is part of the Global Innovation Showcase created by the New America Foundation and the Global Public Square.
By Vishnu Sridharan - Special to CNN
Since July, at least 745 people have been killed and 8 million affected by monsoon rains and flooding across Southeast Asia. In response to the floods of the past week, a number of countries pledged assistance: U.S. Marines arrived in Bangkok last Saturday with equipment and sandbags; China has provided 64 rescue boats and water-purifying equipment; Japan has come forward with tents, blankets, mattresses and electricity generators. In addition to the provision of these ‘in-kind’ goods, however, Australia and the Philippines stepped in with a kind of aid that only a couple years ago was considered controversial: cold, hard cash.
Editor's Note: Paul Collier is Professor of Economics at Oxford University and the author of The Bottom Billion. Following the Haitian hurricanes of 2008, he worked with the Haitian government on the report Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security.
By Paul Collier, Foreign Affairs
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, was the 9/11 of humanitarian disasters. The death and misery that resulted were beamed out to a global television audience, unleashing public sympathy on an unprecedented scale. More than half of all U.S. households donated to the relief operation. But whereas the government responses to the nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11 have ensured that that event has remained at the center of global attention for the decade since, memories of the more than 200,000 Haitians slain by the earthquake, and of the approximately 4,000 more who died of cholera after it, have quickly faded.
Back during the devastating tornadoes that hit America in late April, 2011, CNN's Amar Bakshi interviewed Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool it, about the relationship between what Tom Friedman calls "global weirding" and global warming.
Bjorn argued that there is no correlation between tornadoes and global warming. But more controversially, he contended that even if there was such a correlation, it would be much more cost-effective to invest more heavily in adaptation mechanisms to limit their damage rather than putting the preponderance of climate-change-related money into trying to curb global warming in the near term.
Check out an excerpt of Bjorn's remarks below and see if you agree.
Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter (who was most recently on GPS last month) lays out a vision of a brighter world in 2025, but warns that it may take cataclysm to get there. Below are some highlights of her piece, which is well worth reading in full on ForeignPolicy.com.
In 2025, Slaughter envisions:
1. A much more multilateral world.
"By 2025 the U.N. Security Council will have expanded from the present 15 members to between 25 and 30 and will include, either as de jure or de facto permanent members, Brazil, India, Japan, South Africa, either Egypt or Nigeria and either Indonesia or Turkey."
She also envisions more and stronger regional organizations from the African Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations to a new Middle East free trade region. "Each will follow its own version of economic and political integration, inspired by the European Union, and many will include representation from smaller sub-regional organizations."
Editor’s Note: Ayako Doi is an independent journalist and associate fellow of the Asia Society, an organization devoted to improving U.S.-Asia relations.
By Ayako Doi – Special to CNN
In the wake of the massive earthquake, devastating tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Japan, it's hard to find a silver lining. Most certainly, the people struggling to survive don’t see it – nor do those who are frantically trying to help them.
But watching the unfathomable human tragedy unfold from afar, I can already see some real and potential positives.
Here's what I've been reading this morning:
What's happened in Japan is a tragedy but it's a very resilient country. In the Financial Times, Martin Wolf reminds us us that Japan is a rich country with lots of assets:
In its thorough way, Goldman Sachs has produced an estimate of the total cost of damage to buildings, production facilities and so forth of some Y16,000bn ($198bn). That would be 1.6 times the destruction from the 1995 Hanshin earthquake, which devastated Kobe. Since this quake was more powerful, that is hardly surprising. If this sum were to be correct, the cost would be 4 per cent of gross domestic product and less than 1 per cent of national wealth. Yet the Japanese stock market has lost $610bn since Friday, 12 per cent of GDP – probably an overreaction.