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Archive for December 30th, 2010

Haiti: A Follow Up

I have decided to forego a typical annual retrospective post this year.  There are plenty of other people who will be happy to review the year that was, and the stupid government tricks that demonstrate why this year was the first (but hopefully not the last!) that could rightfully be called “The Year of the Angry Voter”.

Instead, I wanted to follow-up on something I noted in one of my more controversial posts this year.

On January 15, I posted on the furor over Pat Robertson’s remarks about Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake that took place there a few days earlier.

While no one could reasonably deny that Haiti has been the western hemisphere’s hard luck kid since…well, since it came into existence as Haiti, Robertson had the temerity to suggest that Haiti’s misfortune was linked to a legendary  deal with the Devil for its independence.  This was not all of what Robertson said about Haiti, but it was where any further inquiry stopped.

The public, lead by selective soundbites, carefully cut to make these remarks the heart of a much broader message, ranged in its outrage from those who found the remark “unhelpful”, all the way to somehow hypocritical or damning of Christianity in general.

Lost amid the outrage was a fact that wasn’t lost on me:  the charity that Robertson is involved with, and was seeking donations for, was already on the ground in Haiti prior to the quake, trying to help alleviate the suffering that existed before the earth itself increased Haitian misery tenfold.

CBN’s Operation Blessing International has a relief team on the ground in Haiti.

Bill Horan, president and chief operating officer of the charity aid organization, says relief supplies are on the way to the devastated nation.

“We actually have a container, an Operation Blessing container, sitting at the port in Port-Au-Prince,” he told CBN News on Wednesday. “It was waiting to clear customs with $2 million worth of medicines that we were giving to Partners in Health.”

“Also, we have a four-wheel drive land cruiser that we were going to use for our company vehicle that has a winch on the front of it and armor-plating underneath it,” he continued. “It’s specially jacked up real high, so we can go through all the big potholes and so forth that are there anyway. But now, I’m not quite sure how we’re going to get around, but we’re on the job.”

I was left to wonder who would still be there helping in the coming months, long after the television news crews had packed up, and moved on to the next disaster.  I have been keeping an eye out for stories about Haiti, and hoping to find at the end of the year the same kind of compassion and relief present in the country. 

Haiti, like the rest of the world, has not had a great year.  In addition to the earthquake, which destroyed nearly every building, they have also been visited by cholera, which may yet prove to be a gift that keeps on giving to people who are still living in tent cities, nearly a year after the quake.

One of the bright spots for me was learning a bit more about Operation Blessing’s pre-earthquake work on the island:

OBI has been working in Haiti on HIV/AIDs initiatives for more than 5 years. During 2009, OBI expanded their efforts in Haiti to also focus on projects with Partners in Health (PIH) and the Haiti Ministry of Health. Those efforts include providing potable water systems for PIH hospitals, launching a nationwide anti-parasite initiative to treat all school-age children and partnering in an innovative microenterprise fish farm project to help some of Haiti’s most impoverished families.

And more about their work after the earthquake.

When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in Haiti, OBI mobilized its international disaster relief teams and provided emergency aid to tens of thousands of Haitians in the most devastated areas. Included in the relief efforts, OBI donated over 120 tons of medicine to the Haitian Ministry of Health, ran a medical clinic inside the Sylvio Cator Soccer Stadium where displaced people had set up a camp, and deployed over 30 water purification plants throughout Port-au-Prince – including in National Stadium and in General Hospital, the largest hospital in Haiti. OBI’s ongoing efforts include water purification efforts to combat the cholera outbreak, support of numerous schools, orphanages and tent camps with food, water and relief supplies, in addition to establishing Zanmi Beni, a home for disabled orphans and abandoned children in partnership with Zanmi Lasante (PIH).

Sounds to me like a charity that could use any help each of us can give it.  I decided that even though our finances are not all that they could be, we could afford to send a few bucks, whether or not Pat Robertson is involved with them.  If you feel the same, donating is easy.

Because it is no longer a sexy news story, it is harder to find out who is still on the ground rendering assistance, but according to the World Health Organization, the main concern of the NGOs is trying to effectively treat the Cholera in an environment where insecurity is the rule of the day, and maintaining supply lines in a country without a functioning infrastructure.  Both are laudable goals, and I hope they succeed.

The long-term seems uncertain, however.  The country just had one of its characteristically turbulent elections, and with a long history of unrest and kleptocracies, kept in power by a brutal and sadistic secret police, one has to wonder if Haiti has the will to fix itself, or if it will simply limp along on whatever assistance the rest of the world provides, when the rest of the world even bothers to think about it between disasters, alternating between suffering from the arbitrary and capricious disasters nature throws its way, and the greedy and predatory governments that it chooses for itself.  It seems that human help alone won’t suffice to aid the people of Haiti.  Adding them to your list for prayer wouldn’t appear to be a bad idea, either.

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