In a humanitarian crisis a population’s needs are great and many–for medical attention, shelter, safe water and adequate sanitation, food, and security. Disasters that occur in places that are already resource-poor and underserviced are more devastating than they might otherwise be.

The catastrophic January 12 earthquake in Haiti is currently in the spotlight, but other disasters, such as the 2008 earthquake in China, Hurricane Katrina and the northern Pakistan earthquake in 2005, and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 also remain clear in recent memory.