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Crazy academic research on disaster relief

Sigh, do U.S. strategic interests influence even disaster relief aid? (Ungated version.)

Could humanitarian aid cause governments to under-invest in disaster prevention, causing natural disasters to have worse effects? If so, then past disaster relief could induce worst disaster outcomes now (And I thought MY ideas were unpopular)

The amount of news coverage of disasters is heavily influenced by the country’s popularity with US tourists.

News coverage is also higher when there are no other big competing news stories. This variation in news coverage is unrelated to need, of course, but has a major effect on the amount of disaster relief aid.

How does this likely affect aid to Haiti for the earthquake? News coverage has been high from major media, and aid flows seem likely to be high.  (Although Haiti doesn’t pass the much more severe test of making ongoing headlines in my hometown newspaper, the Bowling Green (OH) Sentinel-Tribune, where today’s headline is about a new stoplight.) Still aid could have been even higher if Haiti were very central to US strategic interests (imagine an earthquake destroying Kabul) or a major US tourist destination (a Cancun earthquake that killed US tourists might even get covered in Bowling Green, triggering even larger relief aid).

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5 Comments

  1. Ben wrote:

    “Could humanitarian aid cause governments to under-invest in disaster prevention”

    That is certainly what you would expect.

    On the other hand the sorts of places which need disaster relief may never have invested properly in the first place since they are more likely to be hopelessly corrupt.

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  2. rjs wrote:

    i believe its been our longstanding foreign policy to keep haiti poor & dysfunctional, because the shipping lanes from asia and the west coast to the US east coast go between cuba and hispanola…

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 5:24 am | Permalink
  3. Ana wrote:

    Haha…please prof. Easterly, don’t even suggest anything else happening to Cancun! With some of my most significant ones living there, and being the economic drive of my state (Q. Roo, Mex.) I feel threatened by the sole exemplification…enough with hurricanes, insecurity and swine flu already!

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  4. Del wrote:

    I recall that in late 1973 there was a disastrous earthquake in Managua. It might be interesting to look at the reconstruction efforts for both good and bad lessons.

    In 2006 the Nationall Academy of Public Administation published an interesting report on the problems (and failures) of foreign aid to Haiti:
    http://www.napawash.org/haiti_final.pdf

    Posted January 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  5. Sanaa wrote:

    “The amount of news coverage of disasters is heavily influenced by the country’s popularity with US tourists.”

    On January 3rd, 2010 the earthquake in Tajikistan left 22,000 people homeless. Though no deaths were reported, this was a heavy blow to an already fragile country. It will take them ages to recover! The lack of news coverage was astounding. Who is helping the people of this country cope with this very recent disaster??

    Posted January 20, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink

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