Last night as I watched CNN's Katrina coverage -- oops, I mean Haiti's earthquake relief efforts... Exactly! I am outraged at the lack of international relief workers on the ground 4 days into the crisis. CNN's Anderson Cooper continued to barrage a stunned and over extended Sanjay Gupta as he explained that the international doctors who had been treating and operating on patients in a make shift tented hospital facility had been ordered to leave due to security considerations.
The 60 Belgian doctors were pulled out for the night by their supervisor. There are 3000 UN Peace Keeping Forces on the ground and still these foreign doctors or rather their supervisor did not feel secure. Gupta and his crew and a Haitian nurse remained through the night without incidence. The international organizations will only be providing the help that is so desperately needed when they feel secure. They seem to be afraid of the poor Haitian population even though by all accounts they have acted in a most orderly and patient manner inspite of the dire conditions.
Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton was upfront about what was going on the ground. He reports thus far the rescue teams cluster at the high profile and safer walled sites and were literally afraid to enter the barrios. They gravitated to the sites where they had secure compounds and big buildings. Meanwhile, the neighborhoods where the damage appears to be much wider, and anywhere there were loose crowds, they avoided.
I was told that the rescue workers are in the better neighborhoods where the journalists and news crews are, while in the poor areas there is not a foreigner in sight.
President Obama has rehabilitated USAID and put them at the helm of the US response to this disaster, yet the US embassy and 90% USAID where evacuated, gone the first day.
So is anyone providing relief to the poor people of Haiti? There are people on the ground and they are working hard but they are not the big international organizations we are hearing about and receiving millions in donations. There were over 400 Cuban doctors here before the quake (yes, there was a health crisis before the quake) and they are working with locals and there is a small team from John Hopkins working with Matthew 25, an organization from the US that has been here for years. The Haitian Missions are not waiting for security to improve either. Partners in Health is another great US based organization that is set up locally and not waiting for security to improve.
The international community is treating the Haitians people like children left to wait for their rescuers. In Cuba 30,000 people were evacuated in 24 hours when there was a tsunami threat to Baracoa. But of course the Cubans are not afraid of their own people. The international organizations need to utilize the good people of Haiti and organize them and have them assist in their own recovery. Anything less smacks of paternalism and yes racism.
The international organizations that were here before the quake and the local organizations can not do to the heavy lifting that is needed. We need the international organizations and the UN to step up to the plate and get out on to the streets and into the poor battered neighborhoods and organize the people to help themselves. There are not enough relief workers to get the job done any other way. The longer the people are without food and water without hope or information the more the security situation is bound to deteriorate and the fear of the out of control poor black mobs will become a sad reality.
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