The Forgotten in the Wake of Hurricane Gustav: Haiti Suffers From Its Own Katrina

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UPDATES BELOW

Picture: Ariana Cubillos / AP Photo

Thank God.  It looks as if our prayers for the Gulf Coast came through.  But we forgot to pray for the Caribbean.

(For those of you that can't read all the way through this post, skip to the end.  Haiti needs help.) 

According to the latest report I could find from Bloomberg, it appears as if Hurricane Gustav was nowhere near the disaster that Katrina was.  This probably had a lot to do with the fact that Gustav hit the U.S. with a lot less force than was expected. 

With the federal, state, and local governments in the area mobilizing effectively to oversee efforts in the aftermath of the disaster, and the two major presidential candidates taking significant actions for the relief efforts, I'm starting to realize that an entire populations of the people affected by Gustav are being forgotten. 

The U.S. media and politicans seem to have completely forgotten about the Caribbean, where hundreds have died and entire communities have been wiped out.  While U.S. politicians are patting themselves on the back, Haiti is suffering from it's own Katrina.  (Sombrero tip to Peruanista)
Cuba, for all it's political repression, continues to be an example of how to handle hurricanes.  90,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, and the hurricane dealt huge blows to Cuba's infrastructure and economy, but there have been no reported deaths.  Still the damage has wiped out entire communities, taking out 53% of the homes in some of the hardest hit areas.  Read this report by Reuters to understand the full extend of the destruction.  Other island nations in the region did not fair so well.

A mudslide killed eight people in the Dominican Republic, and 871 homes were damaged.  Jamaica and Grand Cayman were hit but Haiti seems to have faired worse than all the others.  I got this from ReliefWeb:

On the morning of 27 August, as Gustav left Haiti, thousands of people were left affected by the heavy winds and floods and many of them were evacuated to temporary shelters. The Haitian Civil Defense has been leading assessments in the affected areas. Access to information from the affected areas outside Port au Prince has been sporadic.

Assessments have been delayed, amongst others, by security restrictions and logistical challenges. On 31 August, official government figures reported 71 deaths and nine people missing; 8,789 people are in emergency shelters; 2,121 houses have been destroyed; and 8,155 houses have been damaged. Numbers are likely to rise as information finds its way back to officials.

Prior to the emergency, Haiti faced serious food insecurity. The impact of Gustav will also exacerbate this.
- ReliefWeb (2 September 2008)

The lastest is that 77 are dead from Hurricane Gustav in Haiti.  Worse, Haiti was hit by Tropical Storm Fay to weeks ago which left 40 people dead.  Even worse, Haiti has just been hit by another tropical storm, Hanna, after Gustav, which has left another 19 dead.  The situation is getting desperate in Haiti as the constant barrage of rain is leaving Haiti's third largest city, Gonaives, under water.  The latest from the Agence France-Presse (AFP):

The third deadly tropical storm in three weeks to batter the northeast Caribbean, Hanna stood still much of Tuesday delivering sheets of rain and blasting winds to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and leaving Haiti's third largest city, Gonaives, under water.

"The situation in Gonaives is extremely urgent. I appeal for help," said Stephen Moise, mayor of the city of 300,000, 152 kilometers (94 miles) north of Port-au-Prince.

"Practically the whole city is flooded, there is water everywhere. The water is rising in some areas to more than two meters (six feet)," Moise told AFP by telephone.

[...]

Gonaives residents reached by telephone Tuesday said floodwaters had reached the ceilings of some homes, forcing inhabitants to seek safety on the roof.

"I have seen about 10 bodies floating in the flooded streets of the city," Ernst Dorfeuille of the Gonaives police told AFP by phone.

Moise, the mayor, called the situation extremely critical. "The toll is only preliminary, because it is impossible to enter the city at the moment," he said.

"I don't know how long we will stay alive," a clearly panicked father, Germain Michelet, told AFP. "If we have to go another night in these conditions, there will not be a lot of survivors."
Agence France-Presse (2 September 2008)

Haiti is suffering from it's very own Katrina and barely a peep can be heard about it from the U.S.  Reports from the Associated Press doesn't paint a much rosier picture:

"They are screaming for help," Norsil said as a U.N. aid convoy tried unsuccessfully to drive into Gonaives, now surrounded by a virtual lake of floodwaters. A team of AP journalists accompanied the convoy.

[...]

"The situation is as bad as it can be," said Vadre Louis, a U.N. official in Gonaives. "The wind is ripping up trees. Houses are flooded with water. Cars can't drive on the street. You can't rescue anyone, wherever they may be."
Jonathan M. Katz - Associated Press (2 September 2008)
I'm going to get in touch with friends about how best to assist Haiti in the wake of this disaster.  When making change there is frequently a conflict between the local and the global. But with all the attention that Gustav has gotten in the U.S. I think it's safe to advocate that people who truly care about this should be assisting Haiti.

At this moment my suggestion is to contact UNICEF and ask how you can help, or donate right off the bat.  I've just sent an email off to Louis-Etienne Vigneault of UNICEF Haiti (lvigneault@unicef.org) and I'm going to be contacting other people I know for suggestions.  Feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments as well.

You can also help get the word out about this by giving this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon or uprating it on:

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Last but not least, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the picture above and the famous "looting" / "finding" pictures of people during Katrina. See the picure from the Huffington Post below.  Where's the outrage now?  Do the people of the U.S. matter more than the people of Haiti?  Or do we live in a world where we only look out for our own?

UPDATES BELOW




UPDATE I:

News from Haiti is not getting much better.  According to the Associated Press the death toll from Hanna is now at 61 bringing the total deaths close to 200.  The latest story leads with an even more desperate headline than before:

Chaos, desperation, from Hanna's floods in Haiti

Hungry children at three orphanages were waiting for the canvas-topped trucks, loaded with warm pots of rice and beans and towing giant tanks of drinking water.

But the food never arrived Thursday. (Read more)
Associated Press (4 September 2008)

NPK's Daily Kos diary has yielded some suggestions on how to help.

From parryander:

here is a great resource for tracking the impact on the carib. They have people posting info from the islands.
http://stormcarib.com/ 

[...]

may I add a few other links? The UN world food program is on the ground - so yes! UNICEF

http://www.fonkoze.org/ is an alternative bank/loan program for the poor
http://www.buya.org/ Buya is working in Cite Soliel trucking in free clean water daily, and trying to ship a container full of food to Port au Prince.
Thanks again -

[...]

http://www.wfp.org/...

I can also recommend any number of groups like Feed My  Starving Children - they package a balanced meal and ship to many areas - including Haiti. We get our food from them.
L'Athletique d'Haiti! - they feed kids from the slums and give them athletics and education (not free in Haiti)

From fezzik:

If you are in Connecticut the Diocese of Norwich has a Haitian Ministry that is very active.  There is a shop in Middletown that sells items made by Haitians and sends all money back to the artists (Haiti's Back Porch ebay site).  At the first link above you'll see a 5K walk run coming up (Hoof it for Haiti). There are great ways to help out now and ALWAYS through this ministry.

I don't yet endorse any of these.  In my experience, majority world charities frequently do little to change things, which is why I rely on friends to give me advice. 

The organization I most respect in Haiti is Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, but I can't promise that will go directly to assistance with this disaster.  It seems as if the United Nations is doing the most work on the ground, but I'm not sure how best to help them.

UPDATE II:

Haiti is hit yet again by Hurricane Ike.  I wrote a new post about it.

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4 Comments

kyle, I've written a diary over at Daily Kos:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/3/1082/58052?new=true

asking folks to spread the word about this post.

Have also put up a lengthy comment in our Open Thread at Docudharma alerting folks and asking them to "digg," "stumble," etc., your post here.

Thank you so much for this. My heart is breaking.

Alexa Avila said:

Gracias, Kyle.

I've started an action thread at NION which points to Nightprowl Kitty's Daily Kos post (some excellent info the comments). Will update throughout the evening.

Tina said:

This is reminiscent of when a hurricane devastated Haiti about 3-4 years ago, killing about 3,000 people, and the EU contributed $1M in aid, and Nicaragua as well. How much did the US offer? $60,000. Does anyone remember that, sorry I don't have the correct details but I do remember those figures because I was so angry and saddened by the US's meager contribution. It just goes to show how unevenly our nation values human lives.
Thank you so much for this post!

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