Why Haiti Disaster is Different
As the coordinator of Haiti Medical Relief for my generous employer, I find myself in contact with numerous organizations that are providing relief in Haiti. Our 15 person surgical team is being deployed today to Port au Prince. The fact that one week after the earthquake, relief is still spotty and millions of people are still without basic food and water is shocking to many of us following the disaster.
Katrina and other hurricanes and earthquakes worldwide were a major crisis...but victims were evacuated and many were able to return home after the crisis ended. In Haiti, the entire city of Port au Prince and surrounding cities were completely leveled. No-one can return home and most of the population is displaced and on the street. The entire government was also leveled with files, data, banks, stores. Many of the government employees are either dead, or seeking out their own relatives.
The Port to move in supplies was destroyed (although is now opening) and the airport has one runway and no control tower. Without a functioning government, communication to victims and relief workers is absent. The best communication has come from the press (CNN, BBC)email and twitter.
I wonder how Iceland arrived so quickly. Their search and rescue team was first on the ground. With any disaster of this type, search and rescue is the first responder. It has now been past a week and search and rescue will turn into search and recovery (of bodies).
It appears that there are now enough troops on the ground to control the situation and deliver aide. What is needed is a central command. The U.N has proven they are not up to the task in my opinion. The U.S. military has the infrastructure and, in cooperation with other nations, could take over leading that effort. Tent cities with santitary facilities need to be constructed immediately and the Red Cross should be empowered to run the food distribution. I was gratified to learn that there is already an employment mechanism to put Haitians to work clearing rubble and delivering supplies.
The Haiti Earthquake is already fading in the minds of the public. It is no longer front page news and CNN is showing only snippets of it now. Yet one week after the disaster, they are still performing amputations using generators for power and are performing 20,000 operations a day at University Hospital with makeshift tent operating rooms.
I will report on the medical relief in my next blog.