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Liberal MP calls for 'worldwide 911 system'

Keith Martin, Liberal MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, is calling for a "worldwide 911 system" to respond to major disasters like the Haitian earthquake and the floods in Pakistan.

In an article published in The Hill Times and posted on his blog, Martin outlined the predicament faced by the millions of Pakistanis displaced by flooding:

The United Nations World Food Program has estimated that at minimum nearly two million people will need to be fed over the next month, and more flooding is expected in the days to come.

Waterborne diseases such as cholera are now a risk and could spread to kill thousands, particularly in regions such as the North-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where some 600,000 people are struggling to survive beyond the reach of rescue workers.

...Every time disasters strike, the international community’s response suffers from a lack of co-ordination between governments, NGOs and other international bodies.

It seems that each time disaster strikes, the international community must relearn the same logistical lessons and recommence the same process of identifying, acquiring, and deploying urgently needed humanitarian goods and equipment. While this happens, people on the ground continue to suffer and die.

Martin's solution: "a 24-hour, 911 command-and-control system that connects the appropriate professional capabilities and assets with particular emergencies."

Working under the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Martin says, this system would create a database of emergency assets such as water-purification equipment and emergency response personnel. It would also include the resources of national and international organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.

Martin called on the US and Canada to lead the 911 system:

It is only logical that Canada and the United States should lead this multinational effort to create an international rapid response system. There is a compelling—and perhaps selfish—and reason to do this.

There is a 100 per cent certainty that, as the Pacific and North American tectonic plates grind against each other, a catastrophic earthquake will one day hit the west coast of North America.

...As the devastation in Pakistan and continued strife in Haiti (even seven months after the earthquake hit) makes clear, we simply cannot continue merely to plod, struggle, and stumble in the face of nature’s wrath.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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