Human Side of Katrina Recovery Still Needs Work


Oct 17, 2009

This commentary originally appeared in Montgomery Advertiser on October 17, 2009.

Four years after Hurricane Katrina, many people in the Gulf Coast region are still "just surviving," struggling with the economic devastation and the physical and psychological toll of these kinds of disasters. Federal and state leaders could take actions to enable these families to move from surviving to thriving.

Comparatively little progress has been made toward long-term human recovery, or the restoration of people's social routines and support networks. Communities haven't made the transition from just getting by to rebuilding full and satisfying lives.

We know that nongovernmental organizations play a critical role in helping communities recover from disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, yet their roles are still not well-defined in federal, state or local policies. Local and state governments spend a lot of time rebuilding roads and institutions, and leave the human aspects of recovery work to nongovernmental organizations, such as the United Way or the American Red Cross. Yet, the policies and financial supports for this work of human recovery do not always align.…

The remainder of this op-ed can be found at

Anita Chandra is a behavioral scientist and Joie Acosta is an associate behavioral scientist with the RAND Corp. They are the coauthors of the recent RAND study, "The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations in Long-Term Human Recovery after Disaster: Reflections from Louisiana Four Years After Hurricane Katrina."