Bertolaso: Haiti aid is a pathetic situation

The well-respected head of the Italian Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, strongly criticizes the management of aid after the earthquake in Haiti. He said that the relief effort was a “pathetic” failure and showed that the international community was unable to mount an adequate disaster response. According to Bertolaso, it was necessary the appointment of an international civilian humanitarian coordinator, saying the U.S. military wasn’t adept at coordinating a civilian humanitarian emergency.

Here is a digest of what he said:

«I think it has truly been a pathetic situation. It could have been run a lot better, and instead of being the first time that the world came together to do something good, it is instead been the latest time that the world has done it this way.

The American presence and willingness to send in a floating hospital, cargo planes, troops and aid is commendable and absolutely necessary, but USA tends to confuse military with what should be an emergency intervention that cannot be given over solely to the armed forces. Unfortunately it is a massive presence, but it has not been used in the best way. We are missing a leader, a co-ordination capacity that goes beyond military discipline.

It is a truly powerful show of force, but it is completely out of touch with reality. They do not have close rapport with the territory, they certainly do not have a rapport with the international organizations and aid groups. We need a man, we need a "Obama" to handle emergencies. The fact that Clinton showed himself downloading boxes of fruit was useful, but it would have been the turning point if he had handled the emergency in first person. Instead he is gone away.

The technique applied by the U.S. intervention in Haiti was already used in the past in Goma, Rwanda, and Cambodia. No-one came here with the idea of running the emergency. They came here thinking this was just a humanitarian catastrophe, so they came with the idea of bringing them a bit to eat, some water, and the problem is resolved. This is the great contradiction. We have to lay the foundations for future life. Too often, once on the site of a disaster, they immediately think to put a large poster with the emblem of their organization, to do well in front of the cameras, rather than putting them to work to bring relief to those in need.»

Some critics said that Bertolaso joined several allied leftist Latin American presidents — Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega — in voicing such criticism of the U.S. military effort. However Bertolaso is a recognized professional and skillful authority on the subject, whose good reputation is known at worldwide level. So his opinion is not a political one, but a technical one, and it should be seriously considered.

Please use Facebook only for brief comments.
For longer comments you should use the text area at the bottom of the page.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

In compliance with the appropriate provisions of the law I state that this site is no profit, has not a predefined recurrence and is not updated according to a deadline. It may therefore not be considered an editorial product under Italian law #62 of March 7th, 2001. In addition, this site makes use of the right of citation for academic and criticism provided in Article 10 of the Berne Convention on copyright.