Sunday, 17 January 2010
The Long Term Need for Haiti
The above cartoon from Peter Brookes in yesterday's Times sadly speaks a lot of truth.
Following the tropical storms that hit much of Haiti in 2008, the shanty areas of Port-au-Prince were swiftly rebuilt. Those that had died were reburied. In one of the early news reports I remember reading that the buildings in Haiti of course weren't built like those in Japan, ready to withstand earthquakes. You only have to look at the various buildings that have been destroyed to see that, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the UN Offices, hospitals, schools. Key parts of the nations infrastructure what because of cost are not built to withstand earthquakes, this in a county that occupies half of an island that straddle the fault line between the Caribbean and Atlantic plates.
I know this is early days in the post earthquake relief, as I blogged myself earlier the latest need is clean water. But the worlds attention as with all these disasters will be fleeting, therefore now is a time we should also think of the reconstruction of Haiti. The last disaster, those 4 severe tropical storms that swept over Hispaniola were still being sorted out when the earthquake struck and of course the tropical storm and hurricane season will come again later this year, long after the world's media, the worlds attention will have gone elsewhere. We may well be later on this year woken up to the fact that Haiti, oh year they had that, what was it, if we are not careful.
Brookes' cartoon may well be the truth but why should we let it be? Once this immediate need to feed, water and give some shelter the people of Haiti, we need to look at the permanent solution for their needs. Our world leaders are more than happy to give aid to help these people but maybe we should also be writing to them asking them to help the long term.
Remember the scene in season seven when CJ Cregg meets with Fred Hollis and is given an option of what she wants to do next. A single problem she wants to solve. The things she picks on that in "not sexy" because nobody will ever raise money for it. She says highways in Africa, but the same could well apply for infrastructure for Haiti, currently we are all giving money to meet the immediate need, but we'll not be doing much to help in the aftermath.
UPDATE: It was good to see that the thrust of this post was taken up in Monday's Guardian as well by Paul Collier a former UN special adviser on Haiti.