Haiti's Unnatural Disaster
Posted on: Thursday, September 11, 2008
We've been doing all we can this week to get emergency support to our partner organizations in Haiti.
Haiti—the poorest in the hemisphere—has been slammed by four major storms in the past month. More than 1,000 people have been killed and about one million left homeless.
One of the most harrowing parts of the disaster is that rescue workers cannot reach people in need. Haiti's third-largest city, Gonaives, is under water right now. People there, more than 200,000 of them, have been stranded for days without food or drinking water. Many are huddled on rooftops with what few possessions they have left. They are waiting for rescue, but relief workers are nowhere in sight.
Fortunately, MADRE's sister organizations are already on the ground in Haiti. Our partners at Zanmi Lasante and KOFAVIV are part of the communities devastated by these storms. They don't have helicopters or professional rescue gear. But these are women and men with deep ties in their communities and stellar organizing skills. Right now, with their communities in crisis, it's the social networks that our sister organizations have built over years of organizing that are enabling people to reach out to each other and save lives.
Our partners know who the most vulnerable people are—who just had a baby, or whose grandfather can't walk. And they know how to reach them, even in chaotic flood conditions. We are working through MADRE's Emergency and Disaster Relief Fund to get drinking water, food, medicine, and other emergency aid into the hands of our sister organizations so they can bring relief to survivors.
We need to get people off of rooftops and into shelters. Longer-term, we need to recognize that this is not a natural disaster. The two biggest reasons for the shocking death toll in Haiti are deforestation (which leads to flash flooding) and lack of civic disaster planning and response. Both are consequences of the fact that Haiti has no functional government. US-led policies, like the 2004 overthrow of Haiti's only democratically-elected president, have kept the country impoverished and virtually ungoverned.
Haiti's new prime minister Michèle Pierre-Louis has visited flooded areas and some government officials have been working day and night since the disaster struck. But these amount to individual efforts. There is no infrastructure in place for the country to respond.
Just compare Haiti to Cuba, which actually bore the brunt of Hurricane Ike. In Cuba, four people were killed by the storm. Hurricane fatalities are almost unheard of there, because Cuba's disaster-response system can get millions of people to safety during a storm and then meet their needs for food, medical care, and housing.
What Cuba badly needs is access to medicine. That's because the US embargo makes it almost impossible for them to import medicines and medical supplies that are badly needed in times like this. MADRE has always stood against the embargo. Like most of the world, we consider it to be a cruel policy that violates human rights standards.
Archives"Press Releases" Home June 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 September 2013 August 2013 June 2013 March 2013 February 2013 September 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 November 2010 October 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 September 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 January 2009 October 2008 September 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 February 2008 January 2008 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 March 2007 February 2007 December 2006 October 2006 July 2006 June 2006 September 2005 January 2004 August 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Haitian woman faces death threats for speaking out about violence against women (WBEZ Worldview, July 16, 2014)
Media Spotlight Turns Away from Iraq, as Concerns Mount Over Human Rights and Political Stalemate (Uprising Radio, July 11, 2014)
Iraq: The women left behind (Aljazeera, July 3, 2014)
Under Isis, Iraqi women again face an old nightmare: violence and repression (The Guardian, July 3, 2014)
How Can We Protect Women From A Sexual Jihad? (HuffPost Live, June 26, 2014)