I knew this would happen. After reports of devastating floods in Haiti and photos of the destroyed cities of Gonaives and Cabaret appeared in the media, Americans opened their hearts to flood victims. Dignitaries and celebrities visited and international relief agencies began the process, once again, of ministering emergency aid. In South Florida, there was an outpouring of support - our own school - the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and our affiliated NGO raised a considerable amount of money for flood relief, including an extraordinary generous gift from Gloria Estefan. In a community frequently fractured by ethnic provincialism, this donation is worth highlighting - a Cuban-American so moved by the crisis in Haiti to make this sort of commitment to the poor folks is unprecedented in our community. Surprisingly, the media did not pick up on this. Sometimes, even the famous can be unsung heroes.
So we were on a roll for a week - the proverbial "15 minutes of fame" for Haiti. Then, in a one-two punch to Haiti along comes Ike, wiping out Galveston and environs, followed by a financial melt down on Wall Street. Assuredly, Haiti will once again fall off the radar screen. Before it does, I'd like to make a few points.
First, the damage was far more extensive than what's been generally reported. Most of Haiti was difficult to reach before the floods, and now, thanks to washed out roads and bridges, next to impossible. Wager that every city or town with a river running through it will be flooded, that every hamlet at the base of a hill will be buried in mud and you'll be rewarded handsomely.
Second, there are thousands of unsung heroes, Haitians and non-Haitians, who, as the media moves on, will never get the credit they deserve. I've included some photos of some of these heroes - a squad of U.N. soldiers who rescued 34 children from the flooded village of Rosenberg (yes, there's a Rosenberg, Haiti. Go figure...). The U.N. missions in Haiti have at times, been criticized for their role in Haiti; this group certainly deserves to be recognized and praised.
Finally, Haiti, like so many troubled spots on our planet, must break through the vicious cycle of catastrophe, emergency relief and continuing impoverishment. The key to this escape is sustained, integrated community development - a concept embodied as Millennium Villages, which link clusters of inter-related Millennium Development Goals, including health, gender equality, education, infrastructure development and agricultural productivity to lift people out of poverty. Until now, all Millennium Villages Projects have been established in Africa.
Ever the optimist and always wanting to end these essays on Haiti on an upbeat note, I'm therefore thrilled to relate that last week, on Sept. 26, President Bill Clinton announced the commitment of the Green Family Foundation, in collaboration with Columbia University's Earth Institute, the University of Miami and Project Medishare, to develop in the community of Marmont in Haiti's Central Plateau, the first Millennium Village in the Western Hemisphere.
I would be remiss noting this announcement without acknowledging one more unsung hero - a heroine, actually. Kimberly Green, the Executive Director of the Green Family Foundation, has stood firm in her commitment to the people of the Central Plateau, in spite of (not wanting to violate HIPAA regulations) a major league personal health distraction. So here's to you, Kimberly. The U.N. troops saved 34 children. You look at the pictures and their heroism is undeniable. I doubt you'd want your picture taken this particular day but it doesn't really matter. You've already saved thousands and will save thousands more.