Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A few thoughts on Haiti

The disaster in Haiti (as seen by those in the rest of the world, of course) is winding down. The government is giving up on searching and moving toward rebuilding. The media frenzy is nearly over - no headlines, few articles on the front pages of websites and papers. Even more - people aren't talking much about Haiti any more, and although I don't know, I imagine donations are on their way down, too.

I could say that in reality, the disaster is far from over, that we still need to support Haitians, etc. And it would be true - at least to a point.

But in all honesty, Haiti will be okay - as much as it can be. The damage is already done. Hundreds of thousands are dead, and the country destroyed. The humanitarian groups are finally in place, and all the rich foreign governments are involved. The disaster relief machinery is in place, it's all downhill (or is that uphill?) from here.

And it's too late to really do anything, because this disaster wasn't really caused by the earthquake.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It had a terrible infrastructure. The government was inefficient, corrupt, had no resources, and was completely incapable of dealing with a disaster. And on and on it goes.

Haiti needed 'disaster relief' long before the earthquake. And if something had been done, the effect of the quake would have been much, much reduced.

That's how it always happens, though. A part of the world, a people group, some other division has a problem. It could be poverty, potential war or genocide, or just simple racism, sexism, classism. Something happens, the conditions finally become intolerable, and then people (hopefully) do something. If it's obvious enough (earthquake, hurricane), we do quite a lot. If it's more subtle, we don't do as much.

Regardless, by that point all that can be done is clean up. That's the real disaster.

Something needs to be done before the earthquakes, not after.

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