The recent earthquake in Haiti is, beyond doubt, a truly tragic event. The impact of the quake in terms of the physical destruction of buildings and infrastructure, the massive loss of life, and the inability of the government to respond all demonstrated how fragile the Haitian state is. While Haiti is probably at the extreme end of fragility, it is not alone in terms of states struggling to survive in difficult conditions. And when something unexpected hits a fragile state, the response of the international community is crucial, because the impact is so much greater and the state's own ability to respond so severely limited.

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