When media coverage of a disaster fades, so does our memory of the victims. In the case of Haiti, after camera crews ended their coverage of the devastating earthquake that destroyed Port Au Prince and uprooted the lives of countless Haitians, the images of famished children, repulsive living conditions, and exhausted aid workers faded from our collective memories. Even though the media coverage of this tragic event has dwindled, the need for humanitarian aid is just as urgent as it was the day after the quake.
The necessity for a philanthropic intervention is reinforced by a string of unfortunate events that have crippled the struggling nation by compounding catastrophe after catastrophe. Since the earthquake in January, fate has been unrelenting in its mission to destroy the Haitian people by bombarding them with every adversity imaginable.
Most recently a cholera epidemic has taken hold of the country. Cholera is a highly infectious disease usually contracted from ingesting food and water with trace hints of fecal matter. When it is contracted, the symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Jon Kim Andrus, the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, said that “In Haiti…the problem is even more complex.” So far, there have been a reported 583 deaths from the disease and somewhere around 9,100 confirmed cases.
The near-unlivable conditions of the country’s displacement camps and the government’s failure to provide proper sanitation have created an ideal environment for cholera to flourish. Since so many people became homeless after the earthquake, they have been forced to live in overcrowded “displacement communities.” In these communities sanitation is largely ignored. Open defecation at or near water sources where people wash clothes, draw cooking water, and drink has become the norm.
The scarcity of clean drinking water complements the unsanitary living conditions as a major catalyst for the epidemic. Many Haitians drink from tainted water sources simply because they have no choice.
“We know there may be cholera in there, but sometimes it is all we have to drink,” said Alienne Cilencrieux.
“The two things we do not have enough of here are bottled water and latrines,” said Rumen Petite, a local minister turned volunteer. Petite’s frustrations stem from one of the initial problems with the humanitarian effort following the earthquake. The allocation of basic humanitarian resources (such as non-perishable food and water) was haphazard, and as a result many victims received little to no aid despite a relatively large amount of foreign donations.
Aid distribution has been called a “logistical nightmare” by some volunteer groups. Although 14,000 ready-to-eat meals and 15,000 liters of bottled water have been sent to Port Au Prince, the Red Cross reports that 3,000,000 people are still in need of aid.
Haiti’s situation is dire, and Haitians desperately need our assistance. Global complacency in the current humanitarian effort can result in the deaths of countless people. Aid workers simply lack the necessary resources to make a significant difference in the nation’s condition.
In the words of Marjorie Saint Hilaire, a concerned mother of three speaking on behalf of her entire country, “Please—do something! We don’t want to die of hunger and also we want to send our children to school. I give glory to God that I am still alive—but I would like to stay that way!”