Monday, September 8, 2008

Can we talk about Haiti for a minute?

Haiti has been all but wiped out. This season alone, four named storms have pummeled that tiny, impoverished democracy in our own back yard.

Hurricane Ike was the latest to sweep across Haiti, leaving a path of death and destruction. At least 61 people perished, 57 of them in the town of Cabaret. More than a dozen of the fatalities were children, swept away by the rains and rivers as their parents tried to run for cover. President Rene Preval told The Miami Herald on Sunday that his government "has made a huge effort" to provide assistance. He said that plans were under way to send money to all 142 municipalities in the country, but that "Haiti needs a flood of helicopters, at least 25 with pilots," to help the country get food to storm victims. "This is Katrina in the entire country but without the means that Louisiana had," Preval said.

What could we do for that poor beleaguered country with the money we spend in one week in Iraq? Haiti is one half of the Island of Hispanola, the other half is the Dominican Republic. It isn't where the island sits, it's the lack of infrastructure. We don't hear about devastation on the other side of the island, because the Dominican Republic is developing and has infrastructure that allows them to hunker down and ride out the storms. Not so in Haiti. A surge of humanitarian assistance in the form of job training, infrastructure development, health care delivery and help building an education system would do a whole hell of a lot to improve the life of people in our own back yard. Does the U.N. have a white paper on Haiti that spells out what needs to be done to save those poor people? And does anyone doubt for a second that if Haiti sat atop oil, things would look a lot different in that country?

Sometimes, you have to do something because it's the right thing to do, even if there is nothing in it for you, save the knowledge that you did the right thing.