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Prioritizing Chaos: The Challenges Humanitarians Face When Responding to Crises

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When the world's humanitarian leaders gathered at the World Health Organization's headquarters in December 2010 the mood was somber. The previous year had witnessed large-scale natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan, and the collective response of the major United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations had been chaotic and ineffective. The response to the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince had been especially problematic, and the Haitian people were angry and frustrated by the vast gap between resources committed and actual improvements in their lives.

The obvious conclusion was that business as usual for the loosely organized humanitarian system was not acceptable. Prodded by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, the leaders of the operational UN agencies and the NGO consortia -- including InterAction -- resolved to change the way they respond to large-scale crises. Four years later, as we approach World Humanitarian Day, positive effects of this resolve have been felt, especially in the response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, but we are still far from being the unified, effective humanitarian response system that millions of people affected by large-scale emergencies need and deserve.

Read the full article by Joel R. Charny, Vice President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice, InterAction in the Huffington Post.

This post is part of a five-part series produced by The Huffington Post, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, and the NGO alliance InterAction to commemorate World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day (August 19) honors aid workers who have lost their lives helping the millions of people affected by disasters around the world.