It is normal for a kindhearted person to react to a disaster—especially a natural disaster—with the need to do something. If someone is hit by a car, for example those who are closest run to the victim, comfort him or her, even if their specific actions are not palliative, they bring care and calmness.
We are now confronted with a massive disaster in Haiti, the poorest, least developed nation in the hemisphere, scarred by decades of exploitation and corruption. The exact human toll is unclear. There is a massive loss of life and many of the survivors are left injured with no access to medical care. Tens of thousands are now homeless with no access to clean water and proper sanitation; an outbreak of disease is inevitable.
The military will play a key role in this response. It is the military that has immediate access to hospital ships, earth moving machines, helicopters, and other heavy equipment; it can mobilize large numbers of highly trained individuals for search and rescue operations as well as restore and maintain order. They will work together with the Haitian government.
Various United Nations agencies, international and national Non-Governmental Organizations are currently racing to build up their own capacity to respond and support local organizations.
What can we do, hundreds of miles away?
Primarily, the simplest and most effective form of assistance is a financial contribution to various aid organizations. There are many organizations that are calling for donations; below are two the University particularly favors because of their presence on the ground in Haiti and low overhead:
• Catholic Relief Services has set up a Haiti donation page.
• Jesuit Refugee Services, which has had a longtime presence in Haiti, has set up a secure page for focused donations to Haiti.
Haiti is now at the beginning stages of what will most certainly be a long-term process of rehabilitation and recovery. Short-term donations of blood, clothing etc., while well-intentioned, can often have the opposite result, preventing aid organizations from effectively doing their job.
We keep the Haitian people in our thoughts and prayers. As with the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Fordham Community will, as events progress, most certainly play a strong and vital role in assisting the Haitian community.
See the Campus Ministry page on responding to the earthquake.
Brendan Cahill, Director
Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs