Haiti: the aftermath

The scope of recovery in Haiti is almost unfathomable. On January 12, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti killing up to 200, 000 people and leaving another 1.5 million homeless. It was the most powerful quake to hit the country, which is already the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, in more than 200 years. The country was simply unprepared for a major quake and now that emergency aid is being delivered and rebuilding has started, the scope of work needed will likely take 10 years and cost a staggering $10 billion dollars, say the Washington Post.

The immediate emergency aid effort is daunting. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), providing food aid to about 2 million Haitians will cost approximately $800 million dollars and is one of the most complex tasks the agency has ever faced. Local food production has been slow to restart and the island’s subsistence farmers simply lack the ability to ramp up production to meet demand. The WFP has been forced to use nearly all of its stocks of high-energy biscuits and prepackaged meals while scouring the region for supplies to import.

As aid begins to arrive, the specter of civil unrest grows. In the immediate aftermath, many Haitians scoured flattened buildings for food, water, and clothing. Yet the search for basic necessities motivated by hunger and thirst is transforming into widespread civil unrest that is difficult to contain. Anecdotal stories of widespread looting and vigilante justice are growing.

Humanitarian workers are trying to expedite the distribution of food aid, which will help calm unrest, yet they are being slowed by the practical necessity of needing to ensure that security preparations have been made.

As this humanitarian disaster evolves there are things you can do to help. A number of important international agencies are engaged in emergency aid and long-term reconstruction efforts. Donations are certainly welcome from a wide range of agencies:
Tax deductible donations to help feed survivors can be sent to the WFP, The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working on disaster management. Habit for Humanity is working to rebuild devastated housing. Mercy Corps is focusing on water, sanitation, and job creation.

For smaller organization, it is best to check with the Better Business Bureau’s charity service because, unfortunately, there are a few fraudulent charities.

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