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Longer Term Haiti Aid - nhpeacenik
nhpeacenik
nhpeacenik
Longer Term Haiti Aid
At the moment, we are called on to help pay for emergency rescues, food,medicine, water for Haiti. Those priorities are clear. There is, nevertheless, a disturbing tendency on the part of US and UN officials to say, over and over again, "We can't provide relief until we have security.", meaning, apparently, that soldiers with guns are the first priority, and that rioting civilians are a bigger problem than starvation, disease and exposure . None of the civilian relief workers I have heard interviewed think of armed guards as a priority: they tend to say the people sleeping in the streets are effectively cooperating to take care of the children and share the few supplies they have equitably. They lament the lack of necessary supplies and express a feeling of being part of a loving community undergoing common suffering. Doctors Without Borders is reporting that supplies are not getting through in any significant way as of today. Tales of incredible bravery ( for example the young woman whose wound was being sutured without anaesthetic, who was singing to block the pain) are filtering out, along with the horrifying stories ( e.g. the police shooting looters who stole food from a store). Brian Visiondanz says "...the greatest contribution that we can make is to focus on calm for the victims and those who are there helping the situation - the whole situation is teetering on the edge of panic and the fear/ego feedback loop is threatening optimum action in this situation."

What is our vision for Haiti in the long run? Naomi Klein warns us that the "disaster capitalists" are poised to use the earthquake as an excuse to take away what little local and national self-determination the Hatian people have left. Here's what she posted on her blog on Wednesday:

Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert: Stop Them Before They Shock Again
By Naomi Klein - January 13th, 2010
Readers of the The Shock Doctrine know that the Heritage Foundation has been one of the leading advocates of exploiting disasters to push through their unpopular pro-corporate policies. From this document, they're at it again, not even waiting one day to use the devastating earthquake in Haiti to push for their so-called reforms. The following quote was hastily yanked by the Heritage Foundation and replaced with a more diplomatic quote, but their first instinct is revealing:

"In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."

An unequivocally helpful first step was taken yesterday when President Obama granted "Temporary Protected Status" to Haitians who may be in the country illegally. This means they can continue to work in this country and send remittances home without facing immediate deportation.

Another step that could prepare the way for a livable future is to forgive Haiti's $890,000,000 debt and guarantee that aid given now is an outright grant rather than a loan that will have to be paid back. Here is a petition you can sign to promote debt forgiveness.

There are organizations that have a credible track record in working with Haiti with a focus on alleviating various aspects of the endemic poverty and inequality that underlie the visible disasters that keep striking the country. One is Partners in Health (see below), which runs a group of rural clinics, and another is Haiti Reborn , which sends work teams to the country on a regular basis and also works on fair elections and mitigation of global warming on a local level. Just about all of the world's relief charities (Oxfam, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, etc.) have a presence in Haiti. Contributing to, and paying attention to. organizations like these is important if we are to move to a future we want top see, rather than the default future being prepared by the likes of the Heritage Foundation.

I'd guess that with the money the US now spends for a week of warfare, Haiti could have good health care, working transportation, public schools (there are almost none now), the start of a sustainable agricultural system that could feed the people well, clean water, and fair/free elections. The American Friends Service Committee points out that The US spends 1.9 million dollars a minute on warfare. At that rate, we could pay off Haiti's debt in a little over a day and then get on with paying Hatians to build the infrastructure they need.



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