Lessons from the Chilean earthquake: How a human rights framework facilitates disaster response

MaryCatherine Arbour, Kara Murray, Felipe Arriet, Cecilia Moraga, Miguel Cordero Vega


The earthquake of 2010 in Chile holds important lessons about how a rights-based public health system can guide disaster response to protect vulnerable populations. This article tells the story of Chile Grows With You (Chile Crece Contigo), an intersectoral system created three years before the earthquake for protection of child rights and development, and its role in the disaster response. The creation of Chile Grows With You with an explicit rights-oriented mandate established intersectoral mechanisms, relationships, and common understanding between governmental groups at the national and local levels. After the earthquake, Chile Grows With You organized its activities according to its founding principles: it provided universal access and support for all Chilean children, with special attention and services for those at greatest risk. This tiered approach involved public health and education materials for all children and families; epidemiologic data for local planners about children in their municipalities at-risk before the earthquake; and an instrument developed to assist in the assessment and intervention of children put at risk by the earthquake. This disaster response illustrates how a rights-based framework defined and operationalized in times of stability facilitated organization, prioritization, and sustained action to protect and support children and families in the acute aftermath of the earthquake, despite a change in government from a left-wing to a right-wing president, and into the early recovery period.