Rush to Aid Haiti's Earthquake Victims

WASHINGTON - Individuals, aid organizations, and governments worldwide are rallying to aid the people of Haiti after Tuesday's devastating earthquake that has killed tens of thousands of people and crippled the infrastructure of the island nation, already the poorest in the western hemisphere.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck right outside Haiti's capital city. The devastation in Port-au-Prince is severe -- a major hospital reportedly collapsed, much of the capital is in ruins, and untold thousands are feared dead or injured. A Haitian Red Cross official estimated that between 45,000 and 50,000 people were killed, reported the Washington Post Friday, though others have said the toll may ultimately rise well over 100,000.

"There is a blanket of dust rising from the valley south of the capital. We can hear people calling for help from every corner. The aftershocks are ongoing and making people very nervous," described Kristie van de Wetering, a former Oxfam employee based in Port-au-Prince.

"The situation is overwhelming," said Ambassador Michel Tommo Monthe of Cameroon, acting president of the UN General Assembly. "We need to mobilize all our resources and to coordinate all our efforts to help the people of Haiti in the most urgent and effective manner."

One of the Largest International Relief Efforts Ever

Rescue efforts in Haiti are underway as teams, funding, and supplies arrive from around the world. The international community's quick response to assist victims of the earthquake is "most heartening," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, with over half of the population living in extreme poverty. The recent earthquake threatens to make conditions worse in the struggling island nation. © Mikelli! (flickr)

On Thursday a plane from China and three French planes landed in Port-au-Prince carrying search-and-rescue teams, medical staff, and much needed supplies, reported the Associated Press. The United States has also sent emergency response teams to Haiti and President Obama pledged Thursday to provide $100 million in aid for the country. Obama has asked his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to raise private donations for the relief effort as well. That effort was launched by all three presidents at the White House earlier today

But even before the launch of the Clinton-Bush fund, individuals were already donating money in overwhelming support of the relief effort. Via text message alone, Americans have pledged well over $4 million so far to organizations like the American Red Cross and Yele Haiti Foundation, reports news outlet MSNBC.

Amadi Ajamu, a reporter for Black Star News in New York City, which has a very large Haitian population, said there are many organizations in the city coordinating aid for people in Haiti. In an interview with New America Media, Ajamu said the relief effort he is organizing among Haitian Americans would begin Friday with a rally in New York City.

Despite this huge international effort, reports from Haiti describe a difficult situation as Haitians -- who were in dire straits even before Tuesday's earthquake -- become more desperate for relief.

Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti

Tuesday's earthquake is sure to drastically increase the needs of Haiti's people, already plagued by hunger, poverty, and years of political instability.

Almost half of the population lacked access to clean water even before the quake. Combined with poor housing and a shortage of doctors, these factors contribute to poor health conditions, especially in rural areas. Additionally, Haiti has the highest malnutrition, child and infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS rates in the Americas. Almost 54 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and 40 percent of households are unable to purchase adequate food. Approximately three quarters of the population lives on less than $2 dollars per day, according to the UN News Center.

Violent riots in April 2008 encapsulated the severe impact of the global food crisis on the struggling nation, and the humanitarian crisis intensified due to four tropical storms that swept across the Caribbean country the following August and September. For more information on poverty, development, and human rights in Haiti, visit OneWorld UK's Haiti country guide.

The cancellation of Haiti's $1.2 billion debt last July was considered by humanitarian groups as a turning point for the impoverished country. Debt cancellation is expected to allow Haiti's government to invest greater resources in desperately needed human needs like health care, infrastructure, and education. But the opportunity for progress in Haiti is threatened by the immense damage caused by the earthquake, warns the Jubilee USA Network, a group working for debt relief and cancellation.

"It is becoming clear that Haiti will need support for relief and reconstruction from the U.S. and international community at unprecedented levels," states a Jubilee call to action.

No comments:

Post a Comment