Life is a crap shoot. Events like the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Asia, the hurricane in New Orleans are random. Bad things happen to good people (and good things happen to bad people). We all live in fear of the dreaded diagnosis or the death call in the middle of the night.
That's why some people believe "good living is the best revenge" and why others encourage the "practice [of] random acts of kindness." It's also why all the major religions of the world teach us to be charitable toward others. "There but for the grace of God go I."
We often see the best of humanity in moments of greatest tragedy. The enormous generosity exhibited after the Haiti earthquake whether in contributions or voluntary assistance has been inspiring. It reassures us about our finer natures. And there are lessons to be learned from the response, lesson that give us hope and increase our compassion toward others in need. But don't we also need to ask ourselves what our failures have been during a situation as desperately sad as the one we've been witnessing?
In the realm of international development assistance, there can be no greater challenge than that of responding to natural disasters. Earthquakes, floods, massive mudslides, tsunamis ask much of the world community. They call for more resources than are readily available (people, money, equipment and supplies) and they quickly exhaust what resources are mobilized.
Still, the world community has a long history of responding to such disasters. Why, then, have we not learned to react to them more effectively and efficiently?
Why do essentials like food, water, and medicine remain on the airport tarmac in the face of such desperate need? Why does no single agency seem to be in charge of distribution, or evacuation or resettlement? Why are there no grids established so that responsibilities can be sensibly and immediately shared by governments and non-governmental organizations in a capital city like Port au Prince, or a country like Haiti, which is prone to natural disasters, and which is so incredibly poor it is unable to sustain something as devastating as a massive earthquake?