a reflection on a summer nearly-gone

while my summer in Ecuador is not over quite yet, and the time for the sentimental reflections has not yet come (particularly because there is still much work to be done), I still want to offer a reflection on what has happened thus far.

this summer I have been working with IFRC and working on my own research. in the midst of this research, I have been focusing on interviews and surveys and participation and housing design. when I have hit roadblocks (or at least unexpected outcomes), my mind has wandered to ‘how does this affect my research and timeline in the bigger picture?’ although I have been reflecting on what I have been hearing and seeing along the way, a couple of questions from recent conversations have particularly stuck with me.

one of these questions regards the role of the international humanitarian/development community in the wake of a disaster in a middle/upper-middle income country. much of the shelter response here in Ecuador (and in neighboring Peru following the intense rains and landslides earlier this year) has been led by the national governments, leaving NGOs with a challenge of determining where their space is and what their role should be. is this not the goal of development: to ‘work ourselves out of a job’? while I certainly wouldn’t say that we are to that point, there might be a need to develop a new emergency response model (or at least adapt the existing one) for countries with greater institutional capacities.

additionally, what I have found in Ecuador is that the shelter response is much more scattered than what I have heard about from other contexts. I have visited communities in which you can find shelters from four or five different organizations sitting next to one another. and still other families didn’t receive any assistance. how does this affect the social fabric of a community? some families receive assistance and others do not. and some families receive shelters perceived as better than others. if social networks are an important component of resilience, how does this affect long-term recovery?

while there is much more to reflect and comment on, these are two ideas that have stuck around and wedged themselves into my thoughts over the past couple of days. I’m sure there will be much more to share and discuss in the coming weeks as I return home and can miss being in Ecuador.

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