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Six Important Lessons for Disaster Relief

The massive earthquake that struck Haiti last week has wreaked havoc on a scale that appears unprecedented. Unfortunately, there are many precedents, including several in the last five years, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which killed an estimated 220,000 people, the South Asia earthquake of 2005, which killed 86,000 people, and the Chengdu earthquake of 2008, which killed a similar number. Learning from these is critical to succeeding in minimizing the suffering in Haiti in the next few days and weeks and maximizing the opportunities for recovery over the next several years. While different people involved in the response to these disasters will draw different lessons, from my perspective at the White House during the tsunami and the South Asia earthquake, the following come most quickly to mind: