Help Haiti

I gave $25 to the Martha Coakley campaign Monday night, but now it's clear that that won't even come close to being my most important donation of the month.

You know the basics: A 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti with an epicenter just 10 miles from the capitol. As many as 100,000 may be dead in this country of less than 10 million. Children are stacked like cordwood outside some schools. The already shockingly-poor nation does not have the infrastructure to handle such a disaster. Former USAID administrator Brian Atwood said on public radio's Marketplace this afternoon that the chaos "will mean a country that really doesn't function as a country. It probably will have to be functioning more as a protectorate of the international community for at least a year or two." 

A valiant international relief effort is under-way, but if Katrina and the tsunami taught us anything, it is that major disasters are not something governments alone can handle. Successful relief efforts require private citizens to step up to the plate, so let us do our parts for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.

The Washington Post (along with the White House and many other media organizations) has a great round-up of relief organizations in Haiti. I will be donating to Partners in Health and OxFam, not so much because they are two of my favorite relief organizations (though they are) but because each has a long-standing presence in Haiti. With the nation's infrastructure already in bad shape, it seems to me like a good idea to support organizations already there and ready to go.

Please give. Because Haiti is already so poor, this is one of those instances where $5 really can make a huge difference, even in a pool of millions. I took three service trips, one lasting three months, to New Orleans after Katrina and will attest first hand to the value of private response. Please, give.

Oxfam has an emergency team in the capital, Port-au-Prince, responding with public health, water, and sanitation services. You can donate online through its Haiti Earthquake Response Fund or by calling 1-800-77-OXFAM.

Partners In Health is taking contributions for relief efforts in Haiti, including medical supplies. The organization has had a presence in Haiti for more than 20 years, working to address the health care needs of the country's poor.

You can donate to The Salvation Army's efforts in Haiti by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769) or visiting their Web site and designating that your donation is for the Haiti earthquake.

The UN World Food Programme is accepting donations. Head of the WFP Josette Sheeran said the agency is deploying its resources in Haiti, including 86 metric tons of food. You can donate here.

National Nurses United has issued a call for nurse volunteers to provide assistance to those affected by the earthquake in Haiti...

[Note from Nathan: The Post article at this point has a very long list of active organizations seeking donations; please send at least $5 to one of them. As I say, though I usually go with Episcopal Relief and Development or the Red Cross, this time I personally am choosing OxFam and Partners in Health.]

The State Department has set up a hotline for Americans to inquire after family in Haiti: 888-407-4747. [Note from Nathan: Extended Haitian-American family tell me they can't get through yet - but keep trying.]

There are several ways to donate via mobile device:

• Text the word "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 on behalf of the Yele Haiti Foundation, founded by Haitian musician Wyclef Jean.

• Text the word "Haiti" to 85944 to donate $5 on behalf of the Rescue Union Mission and MedCorp International.

• Text the word "Haiti" to 25383 to donate $5 on behalf of the Internal Rescue Committee.

• Text the word "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 on behalf of the American Red Cross.

• Text the word "Haiti" to 45678 (in Canada only) on behalf of the Salvation Army in Canada.

On a related note, Pat Robertson may well be the world's biggest jackass. I am a devout Christian, and that man does not represent my faith or my church.

On The Devastating Earthquake In Haiti

The President's address:

I recommend following the One Campaign's blog, which is tracking media coverage of the situation in Haiti and discussing the connections between disaster prepardeness and long-term development.

Disasters like this one are especially devastating when they strike places that are already struggling with the ability to provide the most basic of services for its population, with weak government and private sector institutions, and with uncertain security conditions. Haiti is the poorest, least developed country in the Western Hemisphere where the majority of Haitians live in poverty. The sheer scale of poverty in the country means that the government has limited capacity to meet even the simplest needs of its people, let alone address a disaster of this magnitude. Haiti’s lack of development—which translates into a lack of government capacity for emergency preparedness—magnifies the impact of this tragedy. In addition to creating a very real and immediate humanitarian tragedy, this earthquake and the struggle to navigate its aftermath will be an enormous setback to the hard-won gains that Haiti has achieved in recent years in securing a more stable environment and fighting poverty.

While disaster preparedness and long-term development initiatives may seem to fall at opposite ends of the development spectrum, they are in fact profoundly connected. Disaster preparedness plays a crucial role in the fight against poverty. Without it, gains against poverty are physically erased, and post-disaster countries face insurmountable challenges in getting back on track to meet their development goals. In Haiti, once the immediate disaster is addressed, it will be an uphill battle to return to its former state of development, let alone make further gains.

This situation demonstrates how investments in long-term development, especially in fragile and disaster prone states like Haiti, could help countries deal with disasters, and also keep them on track to develop.

In spite of this disaster a great aspect of Haitian history tells us Haitian people are resilient and determined to better their lives. I am confident that with the help of strong partners around the world Haiti will rise from its rubble and Haitians will live their motto: L’union fait la force (Unity is strength).

McCain in 1990s: Immediately Withdraw from Haiti, Somalia

I was not too long ago when McCain was strongly advocating for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from America's interventions in Somalia and Haiti. Compared to his rhetoric about Democrats wanting to "wave the white flag of surrender" in Iraq, think on this McCain quote from 1994 when he was advocating the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Haiti:

['As soon as possible'] does not mean 'As soon as order is restored to Haiti'.

It doesn't mean 'As soon as democracy is flourishing in Haiti'.

It doesn't mean 'As soon as we have established a viable nation in Haiti'.

'As soon as possible' means 'As soon as we can get out of Haiti without losing any American lives'.

Pretty stark difference, eh?

I guess his stance on "waving the white flag of surrender" depends on which constituency he is trying to appease at the time; i.e., the Republican Senate in the 90s and the Republican Base now.

See the video and judge for yourself:

There's more...

How has the immigration system fared one year under Obama's presidency?

From Restore Fairness Blog

In early 2009, President Obama appointed the governor of border-state Arizona Janet Napolitano, and a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For many, it was a sign that the administration would tackle immigration reform as a priority. In her first week in office, Napolitano ordered a sweeping internal review of DHS, aimed at identifying key areas for reform. March 2010 marks the one year anniversary from that week. So how much has changed for immigration?

There's more...

Innovation of the Week: Providing an Agricultural Answer to Nature’s Call

It’s hard to believe, but an estimated 2.6 billion people in the developing world—nearly a third of the global population—still lack access to basic sanitation services. This presents a significant hygiene risk, especially in densely populated urban areas and slums where contaminated drinking water can spread disease rapidly. Every year, some 1.5 million children die from diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.

It is in these crowded cities, too, that food security is weakened by the lack of clean, nutrient-rich soil as well as growing space available for local families.

But there is an inexpensive solution to both problems. A recent innovation, called the Peepoo, is a disposable bag that can be used once as a toilet and then buried in the ground. Urea crystals in the bag kill off disease-producing pathogens and break down the waste into fertilizer, simultaneously eliminating the sanitation risk and providing a benefit for urban gardens. After successful test runs in Kenya and India, the bags will be mass produced this summer and sold for U.S. 2–3 cents each, making them more accessible to those who will benefit from them the most.

In post-earthquake Haiti, where many poor and homeless residents are forced to live in garbage heaps and to relieve themselves wherever they can find privacy, SOIL/SOL, a non-profit working to improve soil and convert waste into a resource, is partnering with Oxfam GB to build indoor dry toilets for 25 families as well as four public dry toilets. The project will establish a waste composting site to convert dry waste into fertilizer and nutrient-rich soil that can then be used to grow vegetables in rooftop gardens and backyards.

In Malawi, Stacia and Kristof Nordin’s permaculture project (which Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg visited during her tour of Africa) uses a composting toilet to fertilize the crops. Although these units can be expensive to purchase and install, one company, Rigel Technology, manufactures a toilet that costs just US$30 and separates solid from fluid waste, converting it into fertilizer. The Indian non-profit Sulabh International also promotes community units that convert methane from waste into biogas for cooking.

On a larger scale, wetlands outside of Calcutta, India, process some 600 million liters of raw sewage delivered from the city every day in 300 fish-producing ponds. These wetlands produce 13,000 tons of fish annually for consumption by the city’s 12 million inhabitants. They also serve as an environmentally sound waste treatment center, with hyacinths, algal blooms, and fish disposing of the waste, while also providing a home for migrating birds and an important source of local food for the population of Calcutta. (See also “Fish Production Reaches a Record.”)

Aside from cost and installation, the main obstacles to using human waste to fertilize crops are cultural and behavioral. UNICEF notes in an online case study that a government-run program in India provided 33 families in the village of Bahtarai with latrines near their houses. But the majority of villagers still preferred to use the fields as toilets, as they were accustomed to doing their whole lives. “It is not enough just to construct the toilets,” said Gaurav Dwivedi, Collector and Bilaspur District Magistrate. “We have to change the thinking of people so that they are amenable to using the toilets.”




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