The cholera epidemic in Haiti has highlighted the international community's historic lack of attention to water and sanitation. Water and sanitation coverage in Haiti has stagnated for decades and is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, far behind the average of other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
During a recent visit to Lebanon, walking along Hamra Street, I was taken back to my childhood. My father and I meandered down this road en route to my favorite spot. Constantly stopped by friends, eager to talk, it seemed to take forever to reach the Modca Cafe, and the ice cream I so eagerly anticipated.
This is a crisis that is so vast, with needs so great, with potential consequences so dire, that no country can afford to stand on the sidelines. A few are doing a lot. But a lot are doing very little, or nothing at all. It is well past time to join what is a historic, groundbreaking, lifesaving mission -- a noble mission.
Various agencies designed to deal with such emergencies were already being stretched before Ebola struck. Equally frustrating is the fact that this crisis graphically demonstrates how the lack of reliable communication today is a matter of life and death, but communication infrastructure lags behind human need.
In the world of venture capital, a success rate of 30 percent is considered a great track record. In the world of international development, critics hold up every misstep as proof that aid is like throwing money down a rat hole. When you're trying to do something as hard as fighting poverty and disease, you will never achieve anything meaningful if you're afraid to make mistakes.
While I applaud the intentions of the voluntourists of the world, I think it is important for them to remain grounded in reality. They need to be constantly cognizant of their privileged positions to be doing development work in the first place and the limitations of both their time commitments and outsider status.