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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

How do you feel about the latest to befall Haiti and is there anything more we can do besides donate money?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38828 points ) January 13th, 2010

Last night I learned of the terrible earthquake that shook Haiti yesterday around 5 pm (check out cnn.com now for the story and photographs). I stayed up all night trying to get any news updates and calling my friends and their families. One of my good friend’s family is in Haiti and he could not get in contact with them and continues to fear they’re all dead. I was greatly shook up – in some ways I am more familiar with the Haitian community here in NYC than any other – so many of my patients have been affected. I immediately texted “Haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross for relief efforts and donated further as instructed here

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/01/12/thoughts-and-prayers-haiti

but this all feels as if it’s not enough – this country is one of the poorest in the world, there has been so much disease, poverty and political instability there (since 2004, a U.N. ordered peace keeping mission, many of who are unaccounted for now, have been keeping some semblance of order after removing former President Aristide)...it was previously said that 60% of structures in Haiti are not in any acceptable condition and, obviously, that means that buildings are so much more susceptible to destruction…

What I’m trying to say is that while I am aware that this is a natural disaster that none of us could have prevented, the death toll would have been lower had the country not been in such a terrible condition to begin with…and as the U.S. has a convoluted history with Haiti for decades, this is something we all must reflect on…

What are you thoughts?

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45 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I think all we can do is simply give money and wait and see sometimes. We of course can’t fly over there and help because we are working and have lives here. All one can do is donate and wait. There are so many less fortunate countries all over the place, it’s so difficult to help everyone and everything unless you are a rich philanthropist that dedicates your life to such a cause. The people with the most money, and the people with the most time on their hands to go out and help, are the ones that can do more than just donate.

philosopher's avatar

I agree with Blackberry.

JLeslie's avatar

I am very sad about what has happened in Haiti. There must be great suffering, I can barely think about it. If Katrina horrified you, I would guess this is similar, but will be worse for much longer. Haiti is very poor. Basically, they have lived in anarchy and chaos for years. We will never know how many died or were hurt. We still have little information on the realities in the aftermath because reporters are having trouble getting in, same with the Red Cross and others who can help, like the US military, and I am sure other countries intend to help.

These people have gone through some horrible hurricanes in the last 3 or 4 years. I think it was Wilma (the one that caused a lot of damage to my own home) killed something like 1,000 people in Haiti, and I am sure that is underestimated.

It will be interesting to see what happens this winter concerning Hatians coming to America. In FL many come to our shores much like the Cubans, but Hatians are turned away, while Cubans are given asylum. Many die on these trips, but I think many more might be attempting the crossing with what has happened.

Cruiser's avatar

Most of anything that will be sent will be looted and sold on the black market. Haiti’s government has always been corrupt and I see little reason to just drop loads of US emergency food and medicine that will be pilfered and do little to help the people who need it.

I would support supporting the independent non profits that already have boots on the ground that have the support network already in place that can securely get the aid where needed

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Cruiser the non-profits there and organizations like Doctors Without Borders have been severely affected by the quake – all 3 of DWB centers are destroyed.

gailcalled's avatar

The best organization I have found, after lots of research, is Direct Relief International. Most of their money goes where it is supposed to. It gets high ratings from the ratings sites. http://www.directrelief.org/

As of this morning, Haiti relief is at the top of their webpage. Oddly, I gave some money to them in December for building compost toilets in Haiti.

Cruiser's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That was my point is that is where our help will do the most good in getting these non profits functioning again! Terrible situation there.

JLeslie's avatar

I just saw on TV a congressman who is requesting the US give temporary status to Haitians. That they refrain from deporting for a while. The issue of deportation of Haitians has been an issue for years in FL.

Snarp's avatar

Haiti is a lot like the lower 9th ward in New Orleans. It was much more deeply affected by the disaster because it was lacking in adequate infrastructure due to horrid poverty. In Haiti you also have to add in rampant corruption in government that makes Louisiana politics look like the Brady Bunch.

Frankly, I’m really concerned about disaster aid to Haiti. If money is to be handled by the Haitian government, then we can expect horrid mismanagement and corruption. On the other hand, Haiti needs help even more than most victims of disasters. Sadly this could be an opportunity for Haiti to use the aid in appropriate ways and really help the Haitian people beyond immediate disaster relief, but it will probably end up, like the lower 9th ward, not getting what they really need.

All we can really do at this point is give to reputable charities and hope for the best.

janbb's avatar

I just heard a discussion on Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC on this issue. A representative from the UN spoke about we we can do to help. She said there is a need for health care workers and journalists in Haiti so if anyone is in those professions and wants to help directly, they should. Otherwise, she said it is important not to try to send “stuff” which clogs up the pipes but to contribute money to charitable organizations that you trust will get the money and aid there. There is a list of such charities on the radio station’s home page: www.wnyc.org.

JLeslie's avatar

@Snarp Does Haiti even have a government? I just think of it as being a state of anarchy. I think the UN has been there for some assemblance of order over the past several years.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb Good point. During the hurricanes in FL people and churches many times send down things that do not really help. Haiti is going to need big time medical supplies, portable bathrooms, and fresh water, just to think of a few things. I know someone who is asking their church to bring first aid kits, they would be better gathering the cash and buying the specific medical supplies that will be helpful in bulk.

ubersiren's avatar

NPR has compiled these solutions. There are some good ways to help and organizations which donate directly to the Haitians, unlike the Red Cross, who I’m not very fond of.

Also, to check up on the charity you’d like to donate to, go to http://www.charitynavigator.org/. See if you’re paying the actual victims, or toward a massive debt to a greedy company.

nayeight's avatar

I don’t know, but I find this to be very disturbing.

Arisztid's avatar

@nayeight That is absolutely insane.

Buttonstc's avatar

Why is this guy in the clip under the impression that Pat Robertson has credibility with anyone?

He has lost his credibility among Christian leaders and I’m sure his words carry no weight with the rest of the world.

When he started suggesting the assassination of that tinhorn dictator down in South America, that really finished him. He has no credibility and is an embarsssment to Christianity and thinking people everywhere.

He is clearly borderline senile and needs to be put out to pasture.

The main problem in trying to take him off the air is that, reportedly, when he sold his TV station to the ABC Family network, an integral part of the deal was that he and his program would continue to air for as long as he wished.

Obviously in his younger years he made a good deal for himself which I’m sure ABC has regretted many times over~. But let’s not forget, he did graduate from law school. Obviously he paid attention in class~......unfortunately.

Robertson is the last person I would ever consider donating money to. Actually, he’s not even last on my list. Not on it at all.

But I did check out Gail’s link and that one and Doctors Without Borders are getting my contribution.

mammal's avatar

America could best help in Haiti, the DR, Granada, et al, by not pouncing on any political movement in that region that has the mildest hint of socialism, could it not? Especially when the agenda is primarily about more equitable wealth distribution for worthy social causes, yes such enterprises as health care, education, but also more specialist teams to deal with the ever threatening prospect of natural disasters. So that when they do arrive they have a fighting chance to help themselves rather than be at the complete mercy of the elements and dubious foreign charity. That aside, the youtube video illustrates quite clearly who NOT to give money to.

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc Sadly, someone must be listening to Pat Robertson, or he wouldn’t have the money to keep his show on the air.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nayeight I hate his words and opinions.

kevbo's avatar

Well, thankfully, Obama asked Dubya to help out so the relief effort should be a heckuva job!

Ron_C's avatar

I did too. Unfortunately you are right. There is very little we can do at this time. This is truly a country that needs nation building. They were slowly struggling back from U.S. supported oppressors. The were a tool in the Spanish American war, they were used in the Cold war. When we stopped supporting dictators, they began to progress. I think we can now help them rebuild without having too much say in who runs the country.

I guess it isn’t rebuilding, it is actually building. I think they need a major import of earth moving equipment and building materials. I understand that China is helping and I am glad but hope they don’t send the poison drywall that we returned to them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I wanted to update everyone – my friend’s family on his father’s side has been found and are all alive…nothing yet from his mother’s side…his uncle in Georgia is organizing a relief effort and my husband, my best friend and I and this friend and his family will probably fly out to Haiti when it’s possible in the coming months to help.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb definitely! whew

Buttonstc's avatar

I’m happy for your good news.

Do you have any idea of when you all will be going? Good for you !

mammal's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir that sounds like an interesting idea. Perhaps when the dust settles, and everybody has moved onto the next drama.

mattbrowne's avatar

We can learn from Japan. They teach behavior during an earthquake starting in elementary school. And they got drills which means the kids practice.

A major earthquake will always kill people as long as we are willing to erect settlements in dangerous areas. But the right behavior will save many lives. People need to know how to behave. And they need regular drills not to forget. We can also promote first aid courses. So survivors can help before doctors arrive.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne definitely.
@mammal you think so? do you want to come with?
@Buttonstc I think it’ll be awhile before we’ll be allowed to just up and fly there, you know? so maybe in a month

mammal's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir visiting Haiti has been a desire for me for many years, i tried several years ago, when i was in DR but was strongly advised not to, because of the current political turmoil, any way, i didn’t fancy the role of an impotent spectator to other peoples misery, but i will be reconsidering if i could make myself useful in some small capacity.

Ron_C's avatar

The best thing to do now is to let the first responders handle the situation so unless you are a Doctor, Nurse, or EMT it is probably best to stay away. I donated money to the Red Cross. Frankly, I would limit donations to international aid organizations rather than missionary workers. These people need food, water, medicine, and medical care. Of course if the missionary is the Lunch Lady from the cafeteria, maybe she could help. They don’t need to be converted, they need help.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Ron_C Actually all of us are EMTs save for my husband who is capable of building houses and shelter out of nothing and has experience with Habitat for Humanity, as well.

Ron_C's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir and if you speak French, you’d be perfect. I’m a process engineer and my wife is a maternity nurse. I’m good with building materials and my wife is excellent with deliveries. Unfortunately we have a couple physical disabilities and would be more of a hindrance than help there. The trouble there now is that people are getting desperate and some of the U.N. peace keepers are being fired upon.

They also have trouble getting planes and ships into the country. It’s funny, I don’t know why they aren’t going through the Dominican Republic.

I’m not sure they can have room for many more volunteers. Pretty soon the people trapped will be dead. I wrote that last sentence with tears in my eyes.

AlI I can do is help make it easier for the people sent to help.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Ron_C it’s all devastating.

philosopher's avatar

Matt you are correct .

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C They are going through Dom Rep. The typical 5 hour drive is taking 10 to 12 hours currently. Most journalists and family members from out of country are coming through that way to allow for medical personnel, food, and water to land at the airport which currently has no radar system.

Ron_C's avatar

@JLeslie yeah, I saw that on the news today. It’s funny but today is the first time I heard the Dominican Republic mentioned.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C I couldn’t understand why they did not have more coming over by water, but I learned yesterday that the port was ruined. Still seems more could have been done maybe by sea? The trip is not very long, and the waters should be calm this time of year.

Ron_C's avatar

@JLeslie it had been known for something like 17 years that “the big one was coming”. The problem is that Haiti has no real government, no building code, no roads. In fact nothing that would make it a real country. It wouldn’t be practical to have a fleet standing by and I know from experience, that it takes time to load a ship and call up a crew. Especially one made up mostly of volunteers. It is a real shame, it is what it is and blaming people won’t help. The best we can do is help the rebuild and possible get them to take the possibility of earthquakes seriously.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C Our military is bringing in a medical ship for surgeries and other medical care I think. But, what I mean was from Miami it would not be difficult to get some boats out, especially when the airport was not functioning, and still unable to bring people in. I am guessing the trip across the sea is shorter than the drive from Santa Domingo right now, but without a port it makes it impossible to get close to shore I think???

Ron_C's avatar

@JLeslie you can bring all the boats you want in to Haiti. The problem is that they are boats and can’t carry much. What they need is skilled people, heavy equipment, helicopters, water, fuel, medical supplies. For that you need ships and dock space and probably unloading equipment is very limited. It must be frustrating. You have the equipment, you can see the problem, and you just can’t get the equipment to the problem. It is literally mind blowing.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C Yes, I understand. Must be very frustrating. One of the military ships, at least one, I noticed has a landing strip. Anderson Cooper did say that there is concern the bigger organizations are taking too much time trying to decide what to do instead of getting in more necessities like water, medical supplies, etc. Honestly I just think it is hard to be there watching it, and it is impossible to meet ever need right now. AC did report that a governor of some state flew in to get orphans out, but then Doctors without Borders was diverted to Dom Rep. The orphans were not in immediate danger, and he saw that as bad decision making, and I think the implication was probably that this governor got priority because of his status.

Ron_C's avatar

@JLeslie The governor was Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, my state. Sure it was probably grandstanding and he used his influence to get landed there but he brought 20 kids back. Several were in the process of being adopted by people of my state. Personally, I am glad he did it. The troops are there now. They are having helicopter drops in secure areas and they are working to prevent gangs and bullies from stealing the food. Unfortunately people don’t always act their best when they are desperate.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C I actually like Ed Rendell. I think the kids could have waited three more days while they are in crisis mode and having trouble getting water, food, and medical to desperate people. From what I understand the children were not in a desperate situation. Like I sort of said already, I am sure it is difficult to make every decision during such a time perfectly. Later people will be critical of how things were handled. I still think it was the wrong decision, but I am understanding of the situation.

Bellatrix's avatar

What is even worse is that over 12 months later, so many people are living in makeshift camps and in abject poverty. Heartbreaking.

Ron_C's avatar

It is not surprising that the situation in Haiti has shown little or no improvement. When they get a real leader, he is deposed by the U.S. and France for not being subservient enough to the donating countries. NGO’s use Haiti as a training ground for new hires. I guess if you can last a few months in Haiti the charity groups send you to a country that has a “real” crisis. There is too much foreign influence in Haiti and not enough self directed recovery.

I don’t know if the country can last with all the foreign influence. It is too bad. The Haitians I’ve met seem to be highly motivated and capable, unfortunately they don’t seem to be given a chance to act without answering to outside powers.

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