Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'm joining nearly everyone else in urging donations to the agency of your choice to help victims of the Haitian earthquake. Please give what you can. Give till it hurts.

It won't be enough.

Even if we could send enough aid, the Haitian infrastructure wouldn't allow it to reach the people in a timely manner. That infrastructure was not the best before this happened, and the quake certainly did not improve it. Yet we must do what we can, and keep doing it for the months, maybe years it will take to help the survivors get some semblance of a life back. In fact we should help them try to get a better life than they had before the earthquake.

Some may wonder why we should bother, after all it was Haiti that failed to build the roads and other transportation facilities now so badly needed. It was Haiti that failed to require buildings to meet any sort of standard that would have allowed them to withstand the shaking. It was Haiti that failed to establish any means of dealing with such emergencies. All that is true, but it is also true that those were failures of the government, not the people.

The fact is that Haitians have long been subject to probably the most corrupt government in the western hemisphere. That is not the fault of the citizens who are too poor and uneducated to do anything about it. Haitian adults have spent an average of less than three years in school and lack the resources to prepare for such a disaster.

We can see the results on TV every night. Poorly constructed buildings are now rubble while the people sleep in the street and hope for food and water. Roads are impassable to relief workers, making it difficult or impossible to provide supplies except by airdrop. Medical facilities are either destroyed or swamped with the injured.

However the Haitian survivors are still people, just like us. They get hungry and thirsty; they love their families (though they have lost many family members). Haitians may be uneducated but they are quite as human as are we. Whatever help we can provide will help with that humanity.

We won’t be able to save them all of course. That is just the way things are, similarly to my volunteer work in search and rescue. We don’t save everybody but those we do save make it all worthwhile. Our help can allow some to live, and maybe even begin to improve their lives.

Beyond that, we should work with the Haitians and whatever emerges as their government to lift the people out of poverty. They need new homes but also education. They need food but also opportunity. None of that will come without a better government and foreign investment. We may be able to influence the government and we can certainly encourage the foreign investment. However we should also encourage their government and any foreign companies there to subsidize education. And of course we should be certain that our aid goes to help the people not to feather the nest of Haitian officials. That may be difficult but it is important.

We must first address the immediate problem of course. However as we make progress with that, we should also work with the Haitians on long-range plans to improve education and infrastructure, and to provide employment opportunities to the Haitians.

Haiti needs both immediate help with this disaster and long-term help to improve the lot of the people. We can and should do all we can in both areas.

Personal Note: Due to some family commitments, I'll not be able to post anything here for about a week and a half.

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