"Human poverty is hugely susceptible to nature's depredations, and Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries, has again and again been the victim of demonically destructive wind, rain and flood," wrote Amy Wilentz last year. She's a journalist, who has lived in and written about Haiti.
"In the developed world, such vulnerability would lead quickly to measures for the public safety. But Haitians cannot expect what Paul Farmer, an anthropologist and physician who has worked there for more than two decades, calls "protection from the foreseeable."
In the wake of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, from many directions a variety of worthy organizations are calling for people to step up to support the Haitian people through financial donations. Unfortunately, according to Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Montains, a book about Haiti, "many projects ... seem designed to serve not impoverished Haitians but the interests of the people administering the projects." That's why he recommends supporting organizations where the contributions go directly into aid, not "funding the infrastructures of the aid organizations."
According to the website of Partners in Health www.pih.org, a relief organization co-founded by Paul Farmer MD, "Haiti is facing a crisis worse than it has seen in years, and it is a country that has faced years of crisis, both natural disaster and otherwise."
PIH is responding to the need for emergency medical care with a two-part strategy. Using a supply chain via the neighboring Dominican Republic, they are staffing and supplying field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince and neighboring regions where they can "triage patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities."
In addition, trained medical personnel able to travel to Haiti for disaster relief can contact their website to volunteer.
Tracy Kidder who serves on their board lauds PIH as "a solid model for independence -- a model where only a handful of Americans are involved in day-to-day operations, and Haitians run the show. Efforts like this could provide one way for Haiti, as it rebuilds, to renew the promise of its revolution."
Grassroots International, an organization that supports food sovereignty for Haitians to help build the local sustainable food economy, claims that "We know from over 26 years of experience that the best aid strategy - be it in Haiti or elsewhere - is to work directly with the people most affected. Emergency relief, like all aid, needs to be led by the communities themselves and move from the bottom up, not from the top down. We know from past history that Haiti has not been well served by the aid industry - Haiti's reliance on food aid has only grown over the years."
As a result, GI will use contributions to "provide cash to our partners to make local purchases of the items they most need and to obtain food from farmers not hit by the disaster."
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, one of Grassroot's partners and the leader of a Haitian peasant-based agricultural organization points out that while Haitians have no way to prevent natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, "What we can do is mitigate their damage." The goal is to empower Haitians via solutions that reduce the impact of natural catastrophes, which "sadly continue to challenge the hemisphere's poorest nation."
Update: In the aftermaths of crises, like this one, those who specialize in treating those suffering from trauma, loss of loved ones, injury, and shock are also needed. I intend to continue reporting on this, but as of right now, I've learned that Peter A. Levine, PhD., who trains mental health professionals to work with trauma in internatlonal settings is gathering a team. Those interested in knowing more can go to www.traumahealing.com or make a donation to his foundation, the Foundation for Human Enrichment at the same web address.
In addition, Trauma Resources International (TRI), a non-profr at http://www.restorativeresources.net/ has done trauma work in Haiti and is coordinating with established Haitian mental health groups, including Uramel, (www.uramel.org) a Haitian NGO which works with Haiti's top medical school, and IDEO, founded and directed by leading Haitian psychologists. People can contact TRI to make donations to these groups, which are positioned to offer mental health services.
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