Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Earthquake in Haiti is a Wake-Up Call for the World

Posted in South America/Central America/Western Hemisphere by Dan on January 16, 2010

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For countries that are either poor or underdeveloped, natural disasters and the inability to respond to them are often the most unlucky of circumstances.  And if there is one nation in the underdeveloped world that is the most unfortunate, Haiti takes the cake.

With a horrific earthquake shattering the very essence of Haitian society, now is the time for the international community to come together for a common humanitarian mission.

The task for the United States & Company now should be “to save lives.” Some media reports are claiming that the death toll could be as high as 100,000.  Other sources are saying that 50,000 Haitians are either dead, missing, or trapped in the rubble.  Whichever figure is correct, tens of thousands of innocent people lay victim to Mother Nature.

It is far to early to speculate on the death toll. It usually takes weeks to figure out how many casualties result from a natural disaster (remember the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004?). The primary job now is to pour as much money and medical resources into Haiti as humanly possible. Obviously the United States will take the lead, but other countries need to pull their own weight as well; Brazil, a state that striving so desperately to become a strong force in the Western Hemisphere, must step up. Europe, China, Japan, Russia, and India should contribute as well.

Rescue and recovery is the first mission. The second should be a new U.S. emphasis on Haiti in the long-term. The island-nation has been overlooked for far too long by Washington…something that strikes me as rather shortsighted considering its proximity to the American mainland. If there is anything that can be taken from his horrible tragedy, it is the earthquake’s relentless power in fomenting a world response to Haiti’s already desolate environment.

God bless the victims and their families.

**Comments courtesy of The Economist**

-Daniel R. DePetris



12 Responses

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  1. Ignacio M said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:21 am

    Not just Dominican Rep. and the U.S. should be especially called for helping Haití. Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela and Puerto Rico we´re all sorrounding it and should be required to act (happily, we´re doing it). No time for distinguish between “nación capitalista/socialista” here.

    In Mexico we´re expert on hellish earthquakes (by way of force, Mexico City with it´s 20M people had one on 1985), surely other nations have their own especialities.
    Finally, above everybody, every aiding nation and international bodies, the UN should be coordinating everybodys efforts. There´s not a point of working separately and in completely chaos or with one team trying to coordinate another. National humility for hearing other peoples orders is one of the most needed things in these cases for make them work optimally.

  2. LACERNman said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:22 am

    It is the greatest disaster in this region ever and the worse is yet to come if the tens of thousand of bodies do not get buried immediately, desease will be rampant.. already there is no clean water and very little in terms of medicine.

  3. boontee said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:23 am

    With tens of thousands still struggling for last breaths below the debris, the severely injured without immediate medical care, and the deadly slow rescue work, the number of fatal casualties would go beyond 50,000.
    For most Haitians, tomorrow will be bleaker than ever, despite the massive and continuing international aids.

    But who cries for them?

  4. kellymoe said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:23 am

    breaks my heart to see such terrible things happening especially to the poor. They had something before which must have been very little for us but now they have nothing. Natural disasters could strike any parts of the world at any time. When it happens, we hardly have any defense. Most of the time, the best we can do is try to stay alive. Please give out a helping hand and realize that every cent can help someone to be someone again. All the best to Haiti.

  5. Gerald Graham said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:24 am

    I strongly urge the US Air Force to undertake an immediate airdop of emergency supplies, especially water, over affected areas of Haiti. With Port au Prince’s main airport and port likely to be clogged for days, it is crucial to get essential supplies to survivors in the streets of the capital; an airdrop seems to be the only solution at this point. People can only survive about 72 hours without fresh water. Thus, there’s only about 18 hours left before the death toll starts to rise dramatically, amounting, in effect, to a second catastrophe.

  6. Native Texan said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:25 am

    I’m reminded of Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” and his comment that for many economists and ag/environmental experts, mentioning Haiti evokes thoughts of hopelessness. Anyone reading this who cares must back up opinion with what financial help he or she can. Of course time is critical with regard to disaster relief (the logistics!)–but the recovery will be a long-term effort, and perhaps an opportunity for a restoration of hope. Thhe rebuilding should be a Pan-American effort that might be a model for future work elsewhere, as priorities shift–for now and the next couple of years, Haiti.

  7. mahagwa said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Today is a good (and bad) day.

    It is a bad day because of all the suffering in haiti. It is a good day because everywhere I look I see the human spirit emerging. Kindness, generosity. Even Big Corporations are stepping to the plate; governments are stepping to the plate. UNlike Katrina when people were stepping up but the government was sleeping, everyone seems to be on the ball this time.

    Today, I once again embrace my fellow humans. For today, humantiy has shown that we can go beyond the color of skin, the nation of origin, the size of one’s pocket, the gender issues. Today, we have shown that we can look beyond all of that and see our fellow human being suffering and extend a hand. Unlike some in Lousiana who shot and harrased the poor who were trying to escape Katrina’s devastation.The only exception to this being an idiot named Pat Robertson who would utter such stupidity from his mouth at a time like this. I wish upon him and all his kin untold suffering and grief from this moment on.

    It should not require an incident like this to bring us together as humans. This should be our natural tendancy, and our innate drive. We are all of the same species…like it or not…

    On another point, this could be a turning point for Haiti. This might be the perfect opportunity to completelty rebuild the country in terms of physical infrastructure, economy and social cultural institutions. Haitians are NOT STUPID people..they are simply in a bad situation. This is the time to sit down with the Haitians and ask “Where to from here? Where you were was pretty much bottom. With this calamity, you ARE NOW AT BOTTOM. There is no way to go but UP. The question is, HOW?”

    May God bless the Haitians and may this tragedy be a birthing moment for a new and golden era for the people of Haiti.

  8. Aucio said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:27 am

    The US, Canada, Mexico, Brasil, the major economies of America are obliged to help and rebuild Haití. Its not only a question de compassion, but a question of national security for themselves. Cuba have showed the path, within their possibilities, they send medics. Venezuela send fuel. The USA will do it, its the best donor of the world, the Gov and citizens are very religious and gentle people. USA have send vessells, carriers, aircrafts and experts, besides food, drugs, money. Americans will show his best and nice face, sending marines, medics, equipment to rescue and rebuild. I dont know the cause of this disaster, but perhaps this kind of tragedies happens and the humans forget our differencies and get out our better virtues and sentiments. God bless America!!, and all America, to “Tierra de Fuego” Arg. to Anchorage, USA.

  9. mwendah said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:28 am

    First, my heart really goes out to the people of Haiti at this time of great suffering and need. Like U.S. President, Barack Obama, said, this calamity in this most helpless country should bind us together as human beings–help us express our common humanity by helping and supporting Haiti in any way possible.

    It is heartening to note the immense and fast response that the United States has put forth: sending soldiers to run what remains of the airport (and hence smooth the crash of planes headed that way with food, water, medicine and volunteers), sending medical ships and key search and rescue teams and committing funds among other needed resources.

    Individually, Americans, in addition to the government effort, have responded magnanimously through donations. Other nations too, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, the European Union and China have sent help. I hope that this will be sustained both in the short term (to rescue those still under the rubble as well as to care for the millions of devastated people in Port au Prince) as well in the long term to help the country re-build.

    This is not the time to grand-stand or theorize on the poverty, unpreparedness or underdevelopment of Haiti. This is the time to express our common humanity; to help in any way we can.

  10. zarnetske said, on January 16, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Now Haiti needs emergency aide – food water and temporary shelter. Her neighbors are doing what can be done. Soon she will need to build new homes and will likely have all the necessary assistance.

    Then comes the real test because then she will need to establish the institutions – particularly an education system – that will be the beginning of the end of corruption, poverty and isolation. Will the world take this as opportunity to prove what can be done? Or will we step away, pat ourselves on the backs for having provided food and modular homes and let everything fall into ruin again?

    Two hundred years of failure will not be easily erased, but if humanity will not at least try, really try, to remedy the problems on a small island about a 1000 kilometers from Disney World, how can we ever hope to heal all our other wounds?

  11. Clementina Barickman said, on February 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for the well-written article. I appreciate it. You have a very well-designed blog.

    • Dan said, on February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Spread the word to your family and friends!!

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