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susan t. pineda
susan t pineda JANUARY 12, 2010 was a normal day. Everybody in this world must had been pre-occupied with the daily demands of living. I myself had been busy with my work rushing for some deadlines. I happened to pass by our office TV and I saw CNN flashing news about the killer magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake that struck Haiti. I was shocked by the initial devastation reported, about the large number of people who died inside collapsed buildings.

The tragedy reminded me of the Asian tsunami, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf War, the recent devastating flooding in the Philippines, and the so many mega-natural and man-made disasters suffered by people worldwide, unexpectedly and, most often, unprepared.

As a former disaster relief worker in the aftermath of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Pampanga in 1991, I can never forget the face of human suffering and the severity of the cataclysm's socio-economic impact and environmental effects. Disasters cannot be prevented but their impact can be managed. The whole disaster management spectrum—from to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery/rehabilitation—is put to test on those who provide humanitarian services for victims.

What is so unfortunate is that in catastrophes, poor countries and their people are the hardest hit. More people are heavily affected in poor countries than in developed countries. Poor people are vulnerable because they lack financial resources to cope with emergencies. They are poorly nourished, have no access to social services, health facilities, and most often cannot even choose where to live and work and so are forced to live in potentially dangerous and hazardous areas.

However, the challenge now is on how to prevent poor people from becoming vulnerable to the tremendous onslaught of disasters. Efforts should not be only geared towards immediate relief efforts but more towards sustainability of communities affected. Efforts should be towards addressing poverty, because poverty itself is a disaster. Disaster is defined as a tragic event which entails great loss. Poverty is also the result of disaster. In poor countries, natural disasters can wreck personal and national achievement, bludgeoning the people and country into more severe poverty.

The "good" part is that when disaster strikes, the greatness in many people emerges. Disasters cause people to reevaluate their priorities in life. In various parts of the world, particularly from developing countries and charitable institutions, hundreds of millions of dollars in aid are sent to help disaster victims.

Like in Haiti. Various fundraising drives were held across the globe such as the telethon concert of big stars in the USA that had former US presidents asking for support on TV and collaborating artists donating proceeds from songs to the rehabilitation efforts. Such humanitarian outpouring proves that people can prevail over disaster through action. Indeed, great good comes out of terrible tragedies.

[About the author. Susan Pineda is a social activist and a feminist. Academically, she graduated with a degrees in BS Psychology and Bachelor of Laws. She took Methods of Teaching and an under-graduate of Masters Degree in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines. She is author of 'Moving Forward with GAD!,' published by NCRFW and UNICEF, and the 'Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (RA 9262) or Anti-VAWC Handbook.' Honed by years of being a youth leader and as city councilor, she now serves as full-time executive director of IMA Foundation where she supervises the day-to-day operations and management of the center. She also acts as a counselor and paralegal adviser. She was a project consultant for NCRFW and UNIFEM. She represented the country in various UN conferences on women and environment and acted as resource person on these endeavors. What challenges her, as a woman leader is the multiple-burden role of women, being a public servant/NGO worker, intertwined with the demands of bringing-up a family in a very challenging society. Susan is happily married to her supportive husband, Marlon, and has two girl children, Ayah and Mira (ages 13 and 6).]

-Posted: 7:49 PM 3/7/10 | More of this author on eK!