Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti- Human Tragedy In The Millions


As I type this I'm caught between reveling at what a great and generous country the United States can be when it wants to be, and of the depths of human misery going on in Haiti days after the earthquake that literally reduced that tiny nation to a level close to that of the Stone Age.

As I type this about 40,000 of the dead have been buried, but an estimated 100,000 more are either dead or assumed to be dead and unaccounted for. Bodies are piled in the streets, and some reports indicate that desperate survivors have piled corpses one on top of another to form roadblocks to slow down any passing vehicle that might have food or water.

Survivors appear to be on the brink, with no food or water for days, no government, and hospitals coping as best as they can while makeshift hospitals are set up in hotel lobbies and in tents by relief agencies and volunteers. This afternoon I saw CNN's Elizabeth Cohen tell the audience that she was seeing "Civil War medicine"- amputations that have to be performed on crushed limbs without general anesthesia. There was CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta giving an update as one could hear gunshots in the distance, while it appears that lawlessness and riots might break out at any given second. One could sense his fear that the Haitian people, who have shown patience for days, might be at their breaking point and could resort to violence.

This afternoon CNN showed a relief truck swamped by the humanity around them- young men pushed women and children aside as the workers passed out nutritional biscuits. One man mistook the packaging date (2008) as the expiration date, and told those in the crowd not to eat the food. Some threw the biscuits on the ground, others clutched the truck as it pulled away.

The largest problem seems to be that of security. Supplies, food, water, and medical personnel cannot be deployed because of the risk of being overwhelmed by either the starving masses, or possibly being hijacked by profiteers and thieves.

Its been said the next 48 hours are critical- some semblance of order has to be restored, roads and rubble must be cleared, and food, water, and medical aid has to be set up through distribution points. The United States military has the facility to accomplish this, and hopefully this can be done as quickly as possible.

It is remarkable that when the call came out for financial contributions more than $8 million was contributed via texting....that, ladies and gentlemen, was money that came primarily from the young people of America, who often get a bad rap from oldsters like me. I salute them....and God bless them.

Keith Olbermann was just talking about some genius congressman from Iowa named Steve King, who thinks that the 100,000 Haitian nationals who are in the United States illegally should be sent back to Haiti to help clean up the island. And we wonder why our government is so lacking- send 100,000 people back to a country in chaos....100,000 more to feed and house where there is not enough food or water, and most housing is now a pile of rocks.

I'm sure the Obama administration will continue to do the best it can to alleviate the crisis, and the American people will continue to be generous with financial contributions. But we are a people with a notoriously short attention span. Will we still be caring six months from now? The quake is a tragedy of such enormous proportions that it may take years of American involvement and American money to help ease the pain. And it can't be about restoration of "normalcy"...there never has been a "normal" in Haiti. We have to help them recover, and then take that next step for long term stability.

If we're going to be in it for the long haul, I hope we don't take our eyes off the ball. Once again, the United States, a great but imperfect giant, is the best hope for a suffering people.

To contribute to relief efforts contact the American Red Cross, and be as generous as you can.

"Hugh Jee"

1 comment:

Oso said...

good post. How awful their suffering is.One of the first things I heard at work this morning was a teabagger coworker complaining about why did everybody always expect the US to help them?Why didn't China or somebody else do something.Typical.

I explained a Chinese planeload of supplies had landed two day previous and more was on its way. Cuban field hospitals and doctors were on site as were Venezuelan EMT's. They'd beaten us there.

Shut him up for a while.

Sad people can oppose medical help but support the wars. No not sad.Appalling and disgusting.

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