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Monday, March 22, 2010

Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Maureen Taft-Morales
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. The quake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, had a magnitude of 7.0. A series of strong aftershocks have followed. Experts estimate the earthquake caused $8 to $14 billion in damage. Approximately 3 million people, roughly one third of the overall population, have been affected by the earthquake with more than 1.2 million displaced. The government of Haiti is reporting an estimated 230,000 deaths and 300,000 injured. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, President Rene Préval described conditions in his country as "unimaginable," and appealed for international assistance. As the humanitarian relief operation continues, the government is struggling to restore the institutions needed for it to function, ensure political stability, and address long-term reconstruction and development planning. Prior to the earthquake, the international community was providing extensive development and humanitarian assistance to Haiti. With that assistance, the Haitian government had made significant progress in recent years in many areas of its development strategy. The destruction of Haiti's nascent infrastructure and other extensive damage caused by the earthquake will set back Haiti's development significantly. A post-disaster needs assessment is being conducted, and Haiti's long-term development plans are now being revised. 

The sheer scale of the relief effort in Haiti has brought together tremendous capacity and willingness to help. The massive humanitarian relief operation underway in Haiti was initially hampered by a number of significant challenges, including a general lack of transportation, extremely limited communications systems, and damaged infrastructure. Road congestion continues to slow the flow of aid and challenges to the provision of basic services remain. As the rainy season approaches (with the hurricane season not far behind), attention is focused on providing waterproof emergency shelter, improving sanitation and meeting the basic needs of the displaced and other vulnerable Haitians. The relief effort is expected to last for many months. Recovery and reconstruction are to begin as soon as possible, and will be discussed at a donors conference in New York on March 31. 

On January 12, President Barack Obama assembled heads of U.S. agencies to begin working immediately on a coordinated response to the disaster. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is the lead agency within the U.S. government responding to this disaster. On January 14, the Administration announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti to meet the immediate needs on the ground. As of March 4, 2010, total humanitarian funding provided to Haiti for the earthquake was $712.9 million. Currently, there is no funding specifically for Haiti earthquake relief in the FY2011 budget or supplemental requests. Reportedly, the Administration is putting together details of a proposed assistance package to Haiti. The Department of Homeland Security has temporarily halted the deportation of Haitians and granted Temporary Protected Status for 18 months to Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Congressional concerns include budget priorities and oversight, burden-sharing, immigration, tax incentives for charitable donations, trade preferences for Haiti, and helping constituents find missing persons, speed pending adoptions, and contribute to relief efforts. Several congressional committees held hearings on Haiti in January and February. The focus of this report is on the immediate crisis in Haiti as a result of the earthquake, the U.S. and international response to date, and long-term implications of the earthquake. Related legislation includes P.L. 111-117, P.L. 111-126, H.R. 144, H.R. 264, H.R. 417. H.R. 1567, H.R. 3077, H.R. 4206, H.R. 4577, H.R. 4616, S. 2949, S. 2961, and S. 2978. 
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Date of Report: March 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 68
Order Number: R41023
Price: $19.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chile Earthquake: U.S. and International Response

June S. Beittel
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy


On February 27, 2010, an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 struck off the coast of central Chile. Centered 70 miles northeast of Chile's second-largest city, Concepción, at a depth of 22 miles, the earthquake was the second largest ever recorded in Chile and the fifth largest recorded worldwide since 1900. Over 100 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater were recorded following the initial earthquake. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which struck Chile's coast roughly 20 minutes after the earthquake and moved 2,000 feet onto shore in some places, devastated parts of the country. Although there are reports of varying casualty numbers, according to Chile's Ministry of the Interior, the official death toll is 507 (497 bodies have been identified; 10 remain unidentified). The numbers of missing persons are not yet known. Approximately 200,000 homes have been badly damaged or destroyed. Estimates suggest as many as 2 million people may have been affected by the earthquake, an unknown number of whom were injured or displaced. 

The Chilean government, through the Chilean National Emergency Office, is leading the relief operation and coordinating assistance. Despite offers of assistance, thus far the international humanitarian relief operation has been limited pending further requests for assistance from the government. In addition, there are more than 16,000 Chilean military personnel providing humanitarian relief and maintaining public order. At least two elements of the Chilean government's initial response have been criticized in Chile. The first is that the coastal and island communities did not receive timely warning about the tsunami waves that caused so many of the reported casualties. The second Chilean government response that has been widely questioned was the speed with which the Chilean military was deployed to quell looting and violence in the disaster zone. While critics point to weaknesses in the initial response, later assessments by disaster managers gave the Chilean government's response higher marks. Many credited the government of President Michelle Bachelet with success given the scope of the disaster and some labeled the government's response a model. The Chilean government's response to the earthquake has been complicated by the fact that President Bachelet left office on March 11, 2010, and has been succeeded by Sebastián Piñera, the leader of a center-right coalition that won the country's recent presidential election. President Bachelet held meetings with President-elect Piñera in order to ease the transition. 

On February 27, 2010, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. government would assist with earthquake rescue and recovery efforts, pending a request from the Chilean Government. On February 28, 2010, U.S. Ambassador to Chile Paul E. Simons issued a disaster declaration, and through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), authorized $50,000 for the initial implementation of an emergency response program. OFDA deployed a 16-member USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. As of March 10, 2010, USAID/OFDA reports that it has provided $10.7 million for emergency response activities in Chile. The U.S. Department of Defense is also providing limited assistance. Policy issues of potential interest include levels of U.S. assistance to Chile, burdensharing and donor fatigue, tsunamis and early warning systems, and managing risk through building codes. Related legislation includes S.Res. 431, H.Res. 1144, H.R. 4783.

For more background on Chile, see CRS Report R40126,
Chile: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations.


 


Date of Report: March 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R41112
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Maureen Taft-Morales
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. The quake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, had a magnitude of 7.0. A series of strong aftershocks have followed. The damage is severe and catastrophic. The earthquake caused an estimated $14 billion in damage. It is estimated that 3 million people, approximately one-third of the overall population, have been affected by the earthquake with more than 1 million displaced. The government of Haiti is reporting an estimated 230,000 deaths and 300,000 injured. In the immediate wake of the earthquake, President Rene Prèval described conditions in his country as "unimaginable," and appealed for international assistance. As immediate needs are met and the humanitarian relief operation continues, the government is struggling to restore the institutions needed for it to function, ensure political stability, and address long-term reconstruction and development planning. A national day of mourning was observed on February 12, one month following the earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, the international community was providing extensive development and humanitarian assistance to Haiti. With that assistance, the Haitian government had made significant progress in recent years in many areas of its development strategy. The destruction of Haiti's nascent infrastructure and other extensive damage caused by the earthquake will set back Haiti's development significantly. Haiti's long-term development plans will need to be revised. 

The sheer scale of the relief effort in Haiti has brought together tremendous capacity and willingness to help. The massive humanitarian relief operation underway in Haiti was initially hampered by a number of significant challenges, including a general lack of transportation, extremely limited communications systems, and damaged infrastructure. Road congestion continues to slow the flow of aid and challenges to the provision of basic services remain. As the rainy season approaches (with the hurricane season not far behind), attention is focused on providing waterproof emergency shelter and improving sanitation. The relief effort is expected to last for many months, and recovery and reconstruction to begin as soon as possible. 

President Barack Obama assembled heads of U.S. agencies to begin working immediately on a coordinated response to the disaster. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is the lead agency within the U.S. government responding to this disaster. On January 14, the Administration announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti to meet the immediate needs on the ground. As of February 16, 2010, total humanitarian funding provided to Haiti for the earthquake is $601.4 million. The Department of Homeland Security has temporarily halted the deportation of Haitians and granted Temporary Protected Status for 18 months to Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Congressional concerns include budget priorities and oversight, burden-sharing, immigration, tax incentives for charitable donations, trade preferences for Haiti, and helping constituents find missing persons, speed pending adoptions, and contribute to relief efforts. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere held hearings on Haiti in January and early February. The focus of this report is on the immediate crisis in Haiti as a result of the earthquake, the U.S. and international response to date, and long-term implications of the earthquake. Related legislation includes P.L. 111-117, P.L. 111-126, H.R. 144, H.R. 264, H.R. 417. H.R. 1567, H.R. 3077, H.R. 4206, H.R. 4577, H.R. 4616, S. 2949, S. 2961, and S. 2978. 
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Date of Report: February 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 62
Order Number: R41023
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail congress@pennyhill.com or call us at 301-253-0881.