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John O'Shea: What the world needs to learn right now to help Haiti

Yet again, the developed world's absolute lack of organised, co-operative preparedness for natural disasters has been brought into sharp focus.

The devastated people of Port-au-Prince, like so many hapless victims of so many disasters before them, have been left reliant on the haphazard goodwill of individual nations and NGOs for aid and assistance.

Days after the earthquake, aid is still only trickling in and there is no co-ordinated rescue plan.

It is morally wrong that millions have to suffer. Tens of thousands of people are dead, bodies lie in the streets, there is a critical shortage of food, water, medical care and medicines. Before anything positive and meaningful can be done, the international community has to accept responsibility for its failure over the decades to put in place a mechanism to respond to major tragedies such as famines, natural disasters and genocide. Recognising that failure is the first step in facing up our responsibility to provide an effective rapid response to humanitarian emergencies.

History repeats itself. The tsunami of south east Asia showed the need and proved that there was no co-ordinated international response. So did the Rwandan genocide, do did all the famines of Africa, and here again we are in a situation where the world is unprepared to deal with a major tragedy.

There is no questioning the compassion of the nations and the humanitarian organisations that have responded to the earthquake.

Today the people of Haiti are suffering unnecessarily -- because of a lack of clear leadership or synchronisation across the various entities and nationalities.

If anything positive is to come out of this disaster, we must now ensure that the international community puts a meaningful task force in place. We need a highly professional group of doctors, nurses, civil engineers, nutritionists, logisticians and people with similar expertise and experience of dealing with disasters of this magnitude, that can, at a moments notice, go directly to the site of these human catastrophes.

This international humanitarian emergency taskforce must be able to overcome the kind of logistical and security issues that have hampered the relief effort for the three million people affected by last Tuesday quake.

We can create and equip international standing armies, but so far the international collective will does not exist to form and fund a body that -- on the evidence of the past number of days -- is perhaps the most urgent requirement for the people of the Developing World.

Natural disasters are unpredictable, but what we do know with absolute certainty is that hardly a year passes without at least one earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami, drought, flood or famine situation.

Yet, each and every time a disaster like this takes place, the developed world responds in a haphazard, sluggish and completely un-coordinated fashion.

If the western world really cared about assisting the helpless in their times of need, then we would be as prepared as it is humanly possible to be for the next disaster that will come along. For, come along it surely will -- to be followed by another.

The attitude of the developed world is comparable to the town that hasn't yet equipped itself with a fire brigade. Regardless of how many tragedies it has suffered previously, it still acts as though the latest blaze will be the last.


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