Charting a New Course for Haiti in the Aftermath

Commentators outline the individual and global efforts that could help chart a new course for Haiti

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When an earthquake shook Haiti late on Tuesday, the world immediately sprang to action. Early estimates are little more than guesses, but officials say the deaths could number 100,000, with 3 million people--one third of Haiti's population--directly affected. In the aftermath, it became clear that Haiti, weakened by the weight of its troubled history, was and remains perilously vulnerable to catastrophe. Considering the severity of the quake and the frailty of Haitian civil society, what can the rest of the world do? Commentators say global and individual efforts may have a place in charting a new course for Haiti. Here's how.

  • Focus On Long-Term Development Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, writes in the Washington Post that Haiti must not abandon its pre-earthquake plan for long-term development. He says that global aid, beyond bandaging the immediate disaster, should focus on helping Haiti get on track for reform. "This work helps create more jobs, better education, better health care, less deforestation and more clean energy for a nation in desperate need. We made a good beginning, and before the earthquake I believed that Haiti was closer than ever to securing a bright future. Despite this tragedy, I still believe that Haiti can succeed."
  • Focus On Immigration The Miami Herald explains what only the U.S. can do. "Give Haitians already here and in danger of being deported a chance to remain in this country with the right to work." How? "[T]he government can at long last grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians to enable them to live and work in this country for a set period of time without having to hide from immigration authorities." This would allow Haitians here "to get a work permit and earn money so they can send desperately needed dollars to relatives and friends in Haiti."
  • Don't Just Fix Damage and Leave The New York Times insists that now is the time for the U.S. to finally become a long-term partner in saving Haiti. "The administration must make sure that the upswelling of generosity turns into sustained action, replacing the confusion and chaos on the ground with a rational and effective campaign -- first to rescue, then to rebuild." This, they say, must include amnesty for the 30,000 Haitian immigrants in the U.S.
  • Greatest Danger Comes Now The National Post warns that, in earthquakes throughout history, the fallout from after the quake is far deadlier than the event itself. "In the [1755] Lisbon earthquake, as in all others before and since, many of the victims died not from the physical trauma of caved in roofs, but in the aftermath -- from exposure, starvation and, most commonly, disease. Western governments, including Canada's, have the power to limit the death toll, by sending water-purification equipment, doctors, medicine, food, and temporary shelters. And body bags, too -- which for all their macabre symbolism, save as many lives as any other medical technology, by arresting the spread of plagues that concentrate in dead flesh."
  • Don't 'Self Dispatch' War correspondant Michael Yon knows what he's talking about. "Very important not to rush to Haiti unless you know you will add to the help. It's very easy to become a casualty and add to the problem. If you know you can help -- Doctors/Nurses/Military/Engineers and so forth, and you have other skill sets that can keep you mostly out of harm's way, it could be good to consider moving in that direction this morning."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.