Craig Pulsifer is a photographer and
freelance writer who recently moved to
Toronto. Find more of these columns at
Relief, recovery and recon- struction – these are the three Rs of humanitarian aid intended for communities affected by a natural disaster.
They’re as solid as a three-legged
milking stool, but knock one leg out
and the whole process hits the floor.
The recovery stage falls after
emergency disaster relief and before post-disaster reconstruction.
It’s a tricky transition when emotional and spiritual recovery, child
education and interim livelihood
projects should be addressed.
Some aid agencies handle that
transition time really well, while
others limit their focus mainly to
relief or reconstruction.
Part of the challenge is that the
recovery gap is where greed, inefficiency and corruption from all
levels of business and government
seem to creep – consider the fortunes at stake in the table below.
While handling all that generously
donated money with fairness and
transparency is a challenge, the biggest problems are actually lack of
local expertise (and political will)
coupled with poor accounting practices, argues Tony Lloyd-Jones in a
2006 report called Mind the Gap!
And of course inefficient relief
efforts have a backlash effect on
donor trust, leading people to either
withdraw support or feel they need
to go themselves as volunteers.
While volunteering after a disaster is inefficient and unadvisable
for most people, individuals with
specialized training can make a
difference in the gap between relief
and reconstruction. One such person is Tiger Girrado, a 34-year-old
orthopedic surgeon from Manila.
After Super Typhoon Yolanda, he
scrounged 40 large boxes of medical supplies and then went to
Guiuan himself, on the open Pacific
side of the island. Among the first
wave of professionals to land, he
stumbled on members of Operation
Blessing, the relief arm of The 700
Club. Together with military personnel and local survivors, he
worked for a week straight before
returning to Manila.
Back in Manila, Girrado heard
worrisome stories of food rotting in
warehouses and supplies not reach-
ing intended destinations. Taking
time away from his practice, he
initiated a series of self-funded
medical missions, and over the fol-
lowing months led teams of volun-
teer doctors, dentists and trades-
men back into Guiuan.
Thinking ahead on gap relief. One
of the best ways to bridge the gap
between relief and reconstruction,
experts suggest, is for governments
and aid groups to have concrete action plans drafted and tested before
natural disasters occur.
Such plans allow international aid
and qualified volunteers to partner
with local labour and government to
be more effective and accountable,
so affected communities receive
maximum benefit from the recovery
phase of post-disaster relief.
Gap relief is worth finding out
more about. Why not ask an aid
agency that you support how they
are addressing this issue? You can
find examples by visiting www.
theEFC.ca/AffiliateSearch and typing in a search term such as “
typhoon yolanda.” /FT
Understanding the fragile timeframe between disaster and development
disaster at www.
yolanda gap relief
slideshow at www.
Visayas Region, Philippines, Nov. 8, 2013 – The world’s largest typhoon on record devastates the central
Philippines, killing more than 6,300. Relief agencies work for months to establish temporary tent cities.
but what happens after the big white trucks go home?
Fortunes at stake in disaster Response
Event Date Death Toll Displaced Total
indian ocean: tsunami 2004 > 250,000 1.7 M $6.2 b
usa: hurricane katrina 2005 1,833 1 M $854 M
haiti: earthquake 2010 300,000 1.5 M $3.5 b
philippines: super typhoon yolanda 2013 > 6,300 4 M $844 M
Sources: www.cnn.com, fts.unocha.org, iipdigital.usembassy.gov