20 Feb 2015
Jeannette Fernandez Castro, Recovery Specialist, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team
Heavy rains in Haiti's northern city of Cap Haitian left streets, homes and fields flooded and hundreds of people homeless and up to 15 people dead.
Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In 2007, when I began my career with UNDP in Ecuador, I thought I knew the ins and outs of disaster recovery. I had the technical background as a civil engineer, researcher and professor of earthquake engineering.
A year after starting at UNDP, a major challenge arrived: intense and concentrated rains battered Ecuador’s entire coast for four months. Thirteen provinces were reporting major damage, with some urban centers remaining under water for two months and landslides closing roads and leaving many communities completely isolated. Two percent of the Ecuadorian population was affected, with damages accounting for nearly 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP that year.
I received a crash course in the complexity of recovery. Before a single shovel could hit the ground or a brick laid, dozens of meetings and consultations had to be held and dozens of plans formulated.
While we had created a recovery strategy based on four pillars (social, productive, infrastructure, and environment and sanitation) and three cross-cutting elements (institutional reform, community participation, and land use and planning), we still had to implement an extremely complex, comprehensive recovery plan: arranging and channeling funding; establishing ad-hoc implementation bodies; putting line ministries and regional development entities in charge of …