If there ever was a time to understand what it means to be part of the world community, this is it. Anyone with a soul or conscious cannot look on the horrific result of the Haiti earthquake and not want to do something.
Act now. Donate to the American Red Cross’ International Disaster Relief Fund by going to Redcross.org.
Or go to Yele Haiti the foundation set up by award winning musician Wyclef Jean before the quake and its subsequent aftershocks to help his native land battle against its extreme living conditions.
The U.S. State Department has set up a hotline at 888-407-4747 for those trying to obtain information about relatives in the devastated island nation.
Such a quake would take a harsh toll on any nation. But Haiti is among the least who could afford such an event. Here’s why.
Haiti is the world’s poorest economy. About 60 percent of the population lives in abject poverty. Once called “The Jewel of the Antilles,” Haiti was once the richest colony in the entire world, importing sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton, and the dye indigo.
The national minimum wage there is $2.60 daily, while the unemployment rate is over 80 percent.
Haiti is a small country, about the size of Maryland, with approximately nine million people. The capital city of Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake struck, is home to roughly two million people, 95 percent are black.
Forty percent of the Haitian population does not have access to primary health care and less than 20 percent of Haitians 15 and over can read and write.
The United Nations estimates 6 percent of Haitians are infected with HIV/AIDS–the highest rate in the Western hemisphere. An estimated 30,000 people die of AIDS every year in Haiti.
In terms of infrastructure and the ability to respond to disaster, there are only 8,000 officers in the Haitian police force. Compare that to 40,000 officers in New York City. There are few paved roads, an inadequate supply of drinkable water, minimal utilities and depleted forests.
[The preceding info comes from the World Health Organization, CIA Factbook, USAID and others.]
Yet, if conditions are not stabilized and aid does not arrive in the magnitude warranted or in the next 24 to 48 hours, this natural disaster will make Katrina seem small and the lessons learned wasted.
It is good to hear that U.S. Coast Guard cutters, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and a U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary team are en route. But that is just the start of what will prove to be the start of an extended recovery and rebuilding of that historic nation, which is the world’s oldest free black republic and the second-oldest republic in the western hemisphere, after the United States.
The time for compassion, charity and humanity is now!
You can also go to www.cnn.com/impact to view a partial list of humanitarian organizations who are accepting donations and volunteers to assist in relief efforts.
For more on the quake itself, click here.
**Thanks to Pan-Africanist friend Miji Bell who contributed to this story.