January 7th, 2014 by Rob

The anniversaries of disasters are a day for quiet reflection and remembrance by people who lost friends and family, so I have always asked my disaster response colleagues not to use these dates as a professional milestone or to make the focus about the international aid community instead of the crisis-affected community.

For disaster response professionals, it is natural to focus and reflect on the most important part of their jobs: actually responding to disasters, so it is easy to have the wrong focus and forget that many people will not share the enthusiasm for any part of the response effort, no matter how successful some component might have been. I was reminded of this recently with a comment that was left on a post about social media and disasters:

“How shameless to exploit the anniversary of when we lost our friends and homes to talk about the triumph of technology.”

My response to the comment was that people who actually work in disaster response know that so few people are helped no matter what technology is used. It is usually people on the periphery who end up treating other people’s suffering as a media event to be exploited. It seems to be falling short of professionalism to be triumphing technologies and methods that only lessoned some people’s suffering at the worse time in their life, or worse, using the media covering an anniversary and the dramatic stories as a platform for publicity for international organizations.

Disaster response professionals can reflect on their own work at any other time, and this should be enough.

– Rob Munro
January 2014

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