The tsunami that hit Southeast Asia on Dec. 26 created one of the largest swaths of destruction meted out by a natural disaster in historical memory. This catastrophe galvanized an unprecedented outpouring of international aid in terms of funds and organizational efforts, providing an opportunity to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of international humanitarian response.
Today (March 10), from 3:30 to 5 p.m., a group of experts in international disaster response will discuss the aftermath of the tsunami, and share their firsthand experiences of humanitarian efforts in Aceh Province, Indonesia. The conference, titled “Humanitarian Response to the Asian Tsunami: Lessons Learned and Relearned,” will be held in Snyder Auditorium, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Building 3 (677 Huntington Ave.).
Background reading material for the conference, including “After the Tsunami – Facing the Public Health Challenges” (New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 3, 2005) by Michael VanRooyen and Jennifer Leaning, and “Smoke and Mirrors: Deficiencies in Disaster Funding” (British Medical Journal, Jan. 29, 2005) by Leaning, Peter Walker, Ben Wisner, and Larry Minear, may be downloaded from the Program on Humanitarian Crises and Human Rights Web site.
Speakers include Jennifer Leaning, Michael VanRooyen, and Hilarie Cranmer. Leaning, director of the Program on Humanitarian Crises and Human Rights, François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at HSPH, and professor of international health, Department of Population and International Health, will discuss the history, norms, and best practices of responding to humanitarian crises, both natural disasters and humanitarian crises caused by conflict.
VanRooyen, associate director of the Program on Humanitarian Crises and Human Rights, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and chair of the Division of International Health and Humanitarian Programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, will describe some misunderstandings about humanitarian assistance, such as the myth that disasters are random killers; that local people in a disaster are helpless in its aftermath; and that victims’ needs have lessened if media coverage decreases.
Cranmer, attending physician and clinical instructor, Division of International Health and Humanitarian Programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, will describe her monthlong assignment with the International Rescue Committee in Aceh Province.
This event is co-sponsored by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and the HSPH Office of the Dean. For more information, visit http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/fxbcenter/humanitarian_crises.htm.