Haiti is in Desperate Need

I still can’t believe it happened to Haiti again.  Haiti:  the poorest country in the Americas with 80% of the population living below the poverty line; a country whose people launched the first and only successful slave rebellion to gain independence from its French oppressors.  Haitians, a peaceful people who overcame the bonds of slavery only to suffer through brutal dictatorships, political instability and recurring natural disasters.  The earthquake in Haiti may prove to be the single worst natural disaster in modern history.  Already the death toll is estimated to be over 200,000 and this number will rise unfortunately.  Only the Tangshan, China earthquake of 1976 is comparable with 255,000 fatalities officially reported though the number is said to have been as many as 655,000.  Haiti.  A land stripped of trees and vegetation by excessive logging, unwise farming practices and flooding, which has lead to dangerous landslides and massive soil erosion.  With each torrential ran, topsoil simply washes away leaving a desert like terrain.  These environmental conditions make Haiti even more vulnerable to natural catastrophes.

That this earthquake was predicted with some degree of certainty is one of the most haunting aspects of the disaster.  Haiti knew it was coming eventually, but even if it had known one was on the way, it did not have the infrastructure in place to organize a mass evacuation.  The proposition would have been impractical, even absurd.  How could 3 million residents of Port Au Prince have been relocated.  Haiti is a poor country.  It did not have the resources to earthquake-proof the buildings and houses, but I can’t help but think as Anderson Cooper said of the slow pace of relief efforts, “these deaths did not need to occur”.

And relief is still on the way and finally getting out to the people who need it, but it has been a painstakingly slow process because of the complete destruction to the government, the UN building, the communication grid and other vital systems.  Initially, no one was in charge – a complete disaster after the disaster.  Relief planes backed up on the single airport runway.  Planes circled Haiti’s airspace.  Planes were sent back, flights cancelled.   Once on the ground, relief organizations couldn’t get moving.  Blocked roads.  No clear sense of where the aid needed to go most urgently.   And in the chaos of disaster planning, people died – yet another tragedy within the tragedy.

Fortunately, there has been substantial support in the U.S. and from the international community for the relief efforts.  Private citizens, corporations and governments have pledged millions of dollars in cash for the relief efforts.  Through donations, relief organizations have begun to ramp up their operations.  The U.S. government has sent security personnel, search and rescue teams, and supplies.  The UN is present.

In a humanitarian gesture, the Obama Administration plans to issue Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to all Haitian nationals living in the U.S.  And it’s about time.  Aid is on the way.  Aid is on the ground.  Haiti is in desperate need.  Now is the time to help.

Please donate what you can to a relief organization of your choice.  I would recommend Partners in Health (PIH), or the American Red Cross, though there are many, many more.  Here’s a list compiled by the Huffington Post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: