How to Help Haiti, Today and Beyond

By Debayani Kar Jan 14, 2010

Helping Today Partners in Health "Currently, our greatest need is financial support. Haiti is facing a crisis worse than it has seen in years, and it is a country that has faced years of crisis, both natural disaster and otherwise. The country is in need of millions of dollars right now to meet the needs of the communities hardest hit by the earthquake. Our facilities are strategically placed just two hours outside of Port-au-Prince and will inevitably absorb the flow of patients out of the city." Donate online. Doctors Without Borders Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams in Port-au-Prince are treating large numbers of people who suffered fractures, head injuries and other major trauma during and after the January 12 earthquake. Donate online at Helping Tomorrow Beyond the immediate humanitarian needs, it is important to recognize that the scale of the disaster was made worse by manmade causes. Michelle Chen reported on this yesterday for RaceWire. Last night Naomi Klein referenced these underlying causes for the impoverishment of Haiti, while urging activists to prevent "disaster capitalism." As she says, "This is not conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.” See her Democracy Now! interview. Other recent articles bring to light some of the deeper roots of Haiti’s impoverishment with specific demands that activists can make, moving forward. TransAfrica Forum, which has been active in Haiti for a long time, has this to say:

Haiti is the least-developed country in the Americas. The "dumping" of cheap products into its economy has further destabilized the nation and underscored the need to overhaul Haiti’s agriculture policies in tandem with international trade policy. Approximately 80 percent of Haiti’s population lives in poverty and over half struggle to survive on less than $1 a day. Remittances that Haitians outside the country send home account for over a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP), there is chronic unemployment and the informal economy is steadily growing. Foreign aid continues to dominate Haiti’s budget (30-40 percent) and its debt stands at $1.3 billion – 40 percent of which was incurred by the Duvalier dictatorships by stealing or misspending most of the money between 1957 and 1986. While loss of civilian life and public security due to armed confrontations continue to be problems, people are increasingly dying as a result of starvation and poverty. The prices of products needed to fulfill basic needs have risen by more than 50 percent since 2007 and most families are forced to choose between buying food and sending their children to school.

It is important to keep this underlying context in mind, in the days and months ahead.