Keywords: humanitarian relief, information management, Haiti earthquake, UN OCHA, relief coordination, earthquake response, emergency response, emergency management, earthquakes, disaster areas, information systems, information overload, reliability, accountability
Information management and humanitarian relief coordination: findings from the Haiti earthquake response
The overwhelming humanitarian impact of the January 2010 Earthquake in Haiti created a tremendous coordination challenge for the humanitarian relief agencies. In this paper, we first describe the coordination mechanisms that are implemented by the United Nations and the role of its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). We introduce the cluster approach, which is instrumental in providing a more efficient and effective coordination in affected disaster areas. The main thrust of our paper is on the role and use of information management (IM) in these coordination efforts. To understand better the benefits and problems of information systems, we conducted interviews with experienced information managers who participated in the Haiti relief effort. While the interviewees saw clear benefits of IM for the coordination of humanitarian relief, concerns related to information overload, reliability and accountability were found to impede the realisation of the full potential of IM.