Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Rant 2

Haiti remains at the centre of the global media frenzy – what with the aftershocks and the dismally slow rollout of the aid distribution plan.

The celebrity pop show of who's giving and playing benefit concerts is growing and spreading like a hollywood rumour.

Even Ghana is hosting an aid concert for Haiti this weekend.

Well meaning individuals across the world, on blogs and Twitter and every social media imaginable are spreading the word to donate.

But sadly, despite the many millions who have actually reached out financially, aid is just not getting to the places it needs to be. Not fast enough. Not fairly or equitably. The port is demolished, the roads have crumbled, the airport is a crippled fortress. The security forces guard the wares..

CNN explains today that, "International aid contributions have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, but relief agencies working in Haiti say transportation bottlenecks have slowed the delivery of food, water and medicine to survivors".



The longer the aid supplies remain in warehouses, undistributed, the more violence will erupt and a very ugly side of Haiti will peer it's ugly head through the tragedy. Rule of law, which balanced so precariously before the earthquake is now hanging by a thread. Looting is rampant. An estimated 3000 dangerous criminals have escaped the defunct Port au Prince prison...

In 2008 Haiti was rocked by deadly food riots when the price of food had risen exponentially.



Rioters shot UN peace keepers and looted shops…

Fast forward to January 2010 in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. UN and US Military officials guard warehouses and truckloads of aid. They are afraid to enter certain areas. They fear for their lives.

The predictable is happening.

Sky News reporter in Port Au Prince explained yesterday that:

“ The distribution of their food away from the depot remains piecemeal, dangerous and chaotic.
I travelled to the Port-au-Prince slum of Solidad, following a single aid truck packed with plastic bags of essentials. The slum hard men rode on the roof and side-runners of our car - without their agreement we would have found it hard to get in; we would not have got out with our car, gear or wallets.



Even as they tried to deliver the food, hundreds swarmed around the truck, forcing the doors open and stealing the aid. Punches and shouting and chaos. They abandoned the plan. Speeding away with Sky cameraman Adam Murch still on the roof. They decided to go back in darkness and try again. They told me not to come."


Violence, like a rabid cancer is bubbling and threatening to overflow into the desperate streets. The line will be blurred between the helpers and those with plenty. The aid workers may be seen as the enemy in a situation where there is no visible enemy, but the victims are plentiful.

Meanwhile, the shameless scam artists out of Nigeria and around the world have been quick to seize the opportunity to take advantage of those who would give. There are countless scams on the Internet, sprung up in the aftermath of the quake, with fake charity organizations and impersonations of genuine agencies, asking people to use Western Union to send donations.

The pockets of the criminals are filling, while the terror of hunger and desperation threaten to throw Haiti even further into a hopeless abyss.

And all the while, the media has ensured that there will be video and stills of the carnage. And we can only sit behind our TV screens and watch.
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8 comments:

Catherine Denton said...

You should be writing for the news. The situation is so horrible. All of it. Makes me feel helpless.
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injaynesworld said...

You'd think one day we'd figure this out. Sadly, we've had a lot of practice. People think throwing money at a problem will solve it. You can do more with a lot less if you just do it right. Good thoughtful piece.

Debbie said...

thank you for not letting us forget..its too easy to believe that things are getting better because that's what we so want to believe...

Anonymous said...

"Shameless scam artists out of Nigeria?" From the link you provided, it seems that they are coming out of London and there is no proof that they are "out of Nigeria" as you put it. Be careful of stereotypes.

The pale observer said...

Thanks Cath, Jayne, Deb - the trouble is that we all hope if we throw money at it, and then close our eyes, all will be fixed somehow. Living in Ghana I see this so often. Aid flows in, with no accountability about where it's spent. The people in the north of this country are as dirt poor as they've been for decades, and all the billions in aid has done nothing to change that. It must not be the answer...

Anon - thanks for your comment. I agree stereotypes are dangerous, but I hope you are not trying to intimate that 419 scams are not rampant out of Nigeria, and that Nigeria coined the name 419 for a reason. I receive countless e-mails daily from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone (West Africa) all varying 419 scam themes. Some stereotypes exist for a reason.

Also - what makes you think the example of the Red Cross letter is coming from the UK?

The bottom line is that anyone who scams people in light of such a tragedy is shameless. Nigerian, British or otherwise - don't you agree?

Wendy T said...

Holli, excellent post! You are so right about the Aid, as you say you see it in Ghana and for those of us who have lived and worked in these communities in Africa (and I'm sure its the same in the rest of the world!) it is unfortunately the sad reality that the majority of the funds (contributed by kind, good intentioned souls) just dont ever end up where they should!

I think people should really think carefully about which organisations they donate to and only do so to organisations with a proven track record.

Heather said...

this all makes me feel so sad and impotent. But what do we *do* if not give money and hope it helps? I don't mean that in a shake head and shrug it off kind of way but a genuine question, how do we help from all the way over here? What is the *best* thing to do?

injaynesworld commented above that we can do more with less if we just do it right, but what *is* the right way? Because I don't know and neither do millions of other people that want to help. I donated and helped raise money for ShelterBox as i thought it the most direct way to help, was I wrong, should I have done something different?

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