Remember Haiti: Humanitarian Crisis in the Wake of Hurricane Ike
As the major U.S. news focuses on anxious preparations for powerful Hurricane Ike’s landfall on the Texas coast, they have almost completely ignored the monumental crisis that threatens the lives of tens of thousands of people in Haiti. Estimates range from 500 to 1000 dead over the last month in the wake of four powerful storms – Fay, Gustav, Hannah, and Ike – that have pounded a country already facing dire food insecurity.
Concern about Ike’s threat to Galveston and Houston is perfectly understandable, but Catholic faith calls us to always remember and work for the most vulnerable. The United States needs to launch a massive relief effort for the people of Haiti.
Paul Farmer, the renowned doctor and international public health expert who has given much of his life to serving the health and medical needs of the Haitian people, has reported on the devastation he and his organization, Partners in Health found in the coastal city of Gonaïves.
Perhaps more devastating than the destruction caused by the storms was that Farmer found that very little in the way of disaster relief had reached Gonaïves or the other flooded towns along the coast, where tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes and thousands more are living on rooftops without any access to food, water or shelter. Unless the world mounts a massive humanitarian relief effort immediately, Farmer warns, tens of thousands of people in Haiti face mass starvation and deadly outbreaks of waterborne disease.
In an interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now!, Farmer explained that current crisis in Haiti cannot be seen as a simple “natural disaster.” Rather, the intensive suffering in the wake of the storms can only be properly understood in the context of a long history of policies supported and often initiated by the United States government that have systematically undermined the human rights and economic health of the Haitian people.