Thursday, January 14, 2010

Helping Haiti

I'm sure everyone reading this has, like myself, been horrified by the scale of the carnage in Haiti.

Estimates are that around one third of the population is homeless and thousands upon thousands are dead. For a poor nation to suffer such an extraordinary catastrophe means long term misery and poverty as well as short term destruction and death.

Looking around to see how best to make a practical contribution to the disaster relief I have been recommended Partners in Health. Someone on the ground said of them;

"PIH is a well-established, very dependable organization with long-term presence in Haiti... It provides urgent medical care throughout the country. PIH is not headquartered in Port-au-Prince, which means its staff and infrastructure are still functional."
PIH is also recommended by the New York Times in a very interesting piece on how to deliver aid effectively.

I was also recommended a more anarchist leaning organisation working on the ground in Haiti although I have no way of judging how effective they are so I'll leave you to judge.

I'll also point to the Disaster Emergency Committee which is an umbrella organisation for thirteen leading NGOs and is designed to help deliver a speedy and coordinated response to international disasters.

Full details on how to donate can be found at all of these websites.

My second thought is about what we should be asking of our government(s) and whether they are going to deliver that help. A number of nations including the UK have sent specialist teams to deal with the immediate problems and Mr Obama made an impassioned speech which I've embedded below.

I'm sure that Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, will be as shocked as all of us are on a human level. Politically it may well be worth ensuring that we maintain a commitment to Haiti that does not become an excuse for aspects of our foreign policy that may not be in the interests of this poor nation.

To this end I've written a short email to DFID at expressing this simple appeal. If there is anything else meaningful that we can do at this time please feel free to leave your suggestion as a comment.

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