Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti--When the Helping Hand is also Hurt

The news is full of the Haiti earthquake. I won't remake the wheel, but rather try to give some background and further references.

The United Nations has been concerned with Haiti since 1993, and their presence (combined with the presence of the OAS--Organization of American States) was intended to bring lawful government back to their troubled state. The UN mission was redefined many times in response to worsening conditions. Ten years later, the depredations of military government, contested elections, and a variety of other conditions took their toll, and sparked civil war in February of 2004.

Various UN groups or other international groups such as OAS or the Caribbean Community tried mediation. The UN Security Council redefined the UN role there. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) organization was on the ground by June.

The kind of war the UN wages is not war as we generally understand it, but stabilization. Their light-as-possible footprint can be very effective, (in fact, peacekeeping really works), but it is a latent fear of all states that the UN would presume too much if it became overly aggressive. They are a different kind of army. A kind of police army, an international National Guard. They are a patient force, when everyone else is starving and screaming and shooting.

This war was the war of all against all. People who lived in shacks tore down each other's shacks in the inner city. There were dead children hacked to bits in alleys and murdered families in looted homes. Other houses burned; other businesses were ruined, other drivers shot at and killed. The peacekeepers have had an uphill battle, one frequently full of despair, but over the past few years has done a lot to make Haiti livable again.

According to yesterday's briefing, MINUSTAH headquarters--and the HQ for the police commission--their five-story,  reinforced concrete building--has fallen to the ground. With it, some staff has been lost (from soldiers to secretaries to UN volunteers, there are almost 20,000 people in all of MINUSTAH). [UPDATE: more than 100 are missing from office complex, and many peacekeepers have been killed.] Not everyone or even most would have been in the compound, but they aren't sure how many were. A lot of what's needed, from communications to supplies, to keep aid organized, looting stopped, and order maintained is also buried.

Doctors without Borders has lost all three of their clinics. Hospitals have collapsed.

More on Haiti at Wikipedia.
BBC is usually the best source for world news in our backyard. Here is their Country Profile on Haiti.
The Observer has a very good post on current conditions.
Report on Conditions is reporting rescue teams going in from Virginia and California.
ROC also tips us that The Big Picture has good photos of the disaster. Here is one. shows that forces are also arriving from other states, as far away as Taiwan, to bolster rescue efforts.

I'm saying prayers for the devastated in Haiti, the rescue missions of the past and present. I also vow to remember the people of Haiti after the news teams have gone. They have been miserable for a long time.


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in reaching out to the law enforcement community in Haiti... perhaps putting together materials or capital here to be used by them there. Do you think this is do-able, practical, beneficial? Ok, forget practical, but the other two?

George said...

I too have studied life, but it seems through a different lens than the top down historical overview purported in this post. My opinion comes from being on the ground on the island, albeit from Santa Domingo. If it were not for boats sinking in attempts to reach freedom and a better existence, or disturbances within the borders of the poorest country in this side of the world, we would continue to ignore the human suffering in or backyard. Some of the descriptions of horror mentioned here closely relate to some of the awful history in parts of this country. The space used to post this piece would have been better served on the current reason we focus on Haiti (the devastation)and less on a colonial history lesson. But thanks for the concern just the same.

Ann T. said...

Dear Warrior Poet,
Intense security is going to be needed at every stage of the relief effort, and equipment too. So it would certainly be beneficial, but the doing is fraught with caveats.

This Wikipedia article is based on State Department and other refs and it looks pretty good.

In general, it sounds like a donation of money or equipment may not reach the right people. For fund donations that might get to police operations, I would send a donation to MINUSTAH or UNPOL, or otherwise the Red Cross, or medecins sans frontieres. They will take money and turn it into a coordinated shipment of necessary items or personnel, scheduled in, and escorted by military forces.

For law enforcement, you may have better resources through the local agencies you already know to reach FEMA or a group going to Haiti from your area.

Should you get an opportunity to go and think about taking it, you should read about Cite' Soleil, the worst slum down there, one that the police literally barricade because they cannot enter it. I am extremely afraid for the Haitian people because I doubt that barricade is up now.

I honor you for your compassion, and I hope you'll be able to find a way to aid the law enforcement effort. Keep me posted if you find a way. I would love to assist.

Ann T.

Unknown said...

Its seems this country can not catch a break lately. Living in So Fla I have a few friends that are Haitian. One's parents live in Port au Prince and can not be reached. Its really sad to see her torment and concern over their safety.

Ann T. said...

See also

The State Department is asking volunteer relief efforts to coordinate through the CIDI, or Center for International Disaster Information.

Ann T. said...

Dear George,
I see that you are quite upset and if you have connections from Santo Domingo I understand this is very personally hurtful situation.

I don't really feel like a colonialist. In fact I agree with you, that the US has consistently ignored Haiti and its misery. I would further stretch that to say that the us has consistently ignored all of the Caribbean, which is exceedingly non-strategic as well as an indicator of poor compassion.

My emphasis was on MINUSTAH and their real utility in being there, and the fact that they are now severely impaired.

Last of all, if you have such a knowledge, you will be doing the world a service by getting a blog and writing these things up for us. Then you can be sure your insights are out in the world for us to see. Please don't diss me any more.

Good luck to you and to your friends. I honor your worry and wish you and them safe harbor.

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
i am so sorry to hear about your friend. I imagine she must be out of her mind with worry.

Keep us posted. If she needs help getting family relief, I would love to help. it may not be feasible, but--

If you send me an address, i won't publish it (since comments are moderated) but maybe we can get a network going.

Ann T.

Unknown said...

Who are the first to help when help is needed in this world?? Who is Haiti counting on to rescue them, feed them, clothe them, medicate them and rebuild their infrastructure?? Oh that would be the good ol' USA.
I'm sorry natural disasters have been rolling over this country in what seems like bi-annual events lately. But WE are not responsible for these occurances and WE help more than any other country when they do.

Tell me who live like kings and then leave when they are ousted or tire of the situation with millions upon millions of the countries money while the people live in squalor...oh the past leaders of Haiti. Fabulous.

Its so easy to bite the hand that tends to feed the most.

Stop dissing Ann. Upset or not your being a creep.

And Ann, thank you very much for your offer. I will pass along your good will and see if they need anything.

Ann T. said...

Wow, peedee, I'm knocked back!

I think George wanted to see a certain kind of article that had his purpose and insights, not mine. He didn't read mine except through some veil of his own.

I notice that happens a lot in blogland but not very often to me. I have been spoiled by my wonderful readers.

Thank you sweetheart,
Ann T.