Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Third World Disaster

Like almost everyone else in the world, I have been watching the coverage of the earthquake that nearly destroyed Haiti last week. It is a devastating and a heartbreaking thing to watch. I can only see so much of it at one time before I have to change the channel. The horrific images and tragic circumstances are too much to ingest in large doses.

I have to say that this is one of the most terrible disasters in recent memory. It ranks right up there with the nations of the tsunami ravaged Indian Ocean and with New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. So many people dead. So many people displaced. So much that has to be done and so few people to do it. Bodies are littering the streets in Port Au Prince and the dazed survivors who are begging for help, for family members they can’t find, and for those they love in other countries to know that they are alive is just more than can be processed.

Haiti is one of the globe’s impoverished Third World countries. It lies in the Caribbean right next to the Dominican Republic. For decades it has been a haven of the poor and the desperate. Like most Third World nations, there is no middle class in Haiti. The people who live there are either rich or poor, and the latter comprises over seventy percent of the population. These are people who have to struggle to survive on a daily basis, even in times before this catastrophe, and now their lot in life has just been reduced to a much lower level.

The need for resources to help those devastated by the crisis is staggering. The Red Cross, United Nations, Peace Corps, and Doctors Without Borders are all scrambling to get as many people who can help into the ravaged country as they can, and finding the means to do this safely is proving to be a huge obstacle. There are also all these ads we are seeing where you can text a certain number and donate ten dollars when you do, but these donations will take weeks to process, and worse there are the ever present scammers and opportunists who see this disaster as a mere means for making money for themselves. How does one sort through the agencies who can provide support? Your best is to donate directly to the first four I mentioned in this paragraph.

I have been following the reports that the UN ordered its doctors out of makeshift hospitals in Haiti in the last forty-eight hours. The UN says it did not do this and the doctors who left did so of their own accord for their own safety. They are returning to give aid now, but Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN is the only one who never left at all. He remained to treat patients in spite of others leaving him. I think this man should get a Nobel Prize. His brand of courage is what makes him stand apart from those who think of others first and themselves second.

As a nurse, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help those I’m seeing on television who are in dire need of treatment. Yet I cannot go to Haiti. There are numerous reasons for this and the foremost of which is that I couldn’t get in right now if I tried, but still the nurse in me cries for the wounded, the dying, the orphaned, and those who’ve been left alone by the death which is claiming thousands in Haiti right now.

I am also appalled by those who are calling the homeless and hungry Haitians who are taking what they need to survive ‘looters.’ May I remind you that they are not looters. They are people with no choice. It is either live or die for them right now. There is a big difference between those steal for their own personal gain and those who take because without doing so would mean death to themselves and those they love. When catastrophe heralds anarchy, such will rule until people feel they can support themselves with civility again. In a nation where society has been dismantled by disaster, there can be no law other than simple human compassion and the drive to survive until normalcy begins to return, and normalcy will only begin doing so when enough aid has been delivered, the death tolls stop rising, and the government is capable of beginning to sustain its citizens once again.

It will be long time before Haiti can start to recover itself from this tragic event. As I mentioned earlier, this is a nation where the populace was only subsisting as best as it could before the earthquake struck. There are hundreds of thousands dead who will have to buried. Millions have been left without a roof over their heads. The infrastructure of Haiti was constructed with less durable resources than other, richer nations and as such the magnitude of the quake has left in ruins entire cities. These poor people are facing decades of recovery. Decades. That is a very sobering thought indeed.

I am reminded of a quote by Alistair Cooke that says: “In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”

In the end it will be the tenacity of the human spirit which will prevail over the devastation of Haiti. From within the country and from without, the world will rally itself to do what it can to give this poverty stricken nation a chance to begin again. This Third World disaster will not be Haiti’s legacy. That will be written with the blood of those who died, the sweat of those who raced to render assistance, and the tears of those who gave and prayed and hurt from afar.

And this is my sole focus for now.