Special Report: Haiti After the Quake + How to Help.

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

Over 100,000 people are believed dead after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday afternoon. The quake buried countless buildings, from shantytowns to the presidential palace. All hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been leveled or abandoned. The United Nations headquarters and the city’s main prison have collapsed as well. Thousands of residents are homeless and without food, water, or electricity.

On the ground in Port-au-Prince

Haiti is in a state of chaos, as Kayla Coleman reports for Care2. “The streets…are flooded with the rubble of collapsed buildings and displaced people. … The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure.”

Because all hospitals have been destroyed, there is nowhere to take the injured. According to Coleman, the United Nations says it will immediately release $10 million from its emergency fund to aid relief efforts.

Haiti before the earthquake

And though Americans are now paying attention to Haiti in the wake of this disaster, little to no attention was paid to the “daily chaos and misery” that plagues the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as James Ridgeway writes for Mother Jones. “It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.”

Ridgeway also cites a 2006 New York Times report that details how the Bush administration helped destabilize Haiti in the years leading up to the 2004 coup.

Ridgeway writes:

“For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. When I was there you could find the children just outside Cite Soleil, the giant slum, living in the garbage dump, waiting for the U.S. army trucks to dump the scraps left from the meals of American soldiers. There they stood, knee deep in garbage, fighting for bits of food. As for the old, they people every street, gathering at the Holiday Inn at Port-au-Prince in wheelchairs, waiting at the doorway in search of a coin or two. They have no social safety net. And nobody with any money—no bank, no insurance company, no hedge fund, no mutual fund—ever makes any serious investment in the country.”

Will prevailing attitudes towards Haiti change?

At RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that Haiti, a place “where buildings have been known to suddenly collapse on their own, even without the help of a natural disaster,” was still trying to recover from the severe tropical storms last spring that leveled hundreds of schools and left tens of thousands homeless.

Now the situation is desperate. “There will be an outpouring of sympathy across borders, a spasm of humanitarian aid,” Chen writes. But “will there be an attitude shift in the power structures that have long compounded natural disaster with politically manufactured crisis?”

‘Supporting the right kind of aid’

For those in Haiti, outside help is crucial. The country is in need of search and rescue volunteers, field hospitals, emergency health, water purification, and telecommunications. To ensure that you are supporting the right kind of aid—”the kind that builds local self-resilience, strengthens the local economy, and fosters local leadership,” as Sarah van Gelder details for Yes! Magazine—donate to one or more groups with a proven track record, such as Doctors without Borders, Grassroots International, Partners in Health, and Action Aid, among others.

Hip-hop artist and Haitian native Wyclef Jean has led efforts to help Haiti for years through his charity Yele Haiti. Jessica Calefati at Mother Jones reports that Yele spends $100,000 a year on athletic programs for Haitian children and helps feed 50,000 people a month with food donated by the UN. When Jean received word of the disaster, he immediately acted, sending a “flurry of tweets” for people to donate $5 by texting 501501. He has already returned to Haiti to help.

How you can help

For more details about how you can donate effectively, check out Yes!, Mother Jones, Care2, and The Nation’s roundups. You can also watch Free Speech TV’s action update video for more information.

GritTV aired a segment on Haiti featuring Danny Glover, Marie St. Cyr, and a performance by the Welfare Poets. The video (below) covers the devastation in Haiti after the quake as well as the state of the country prior to the crisis:

How not to help

For an example of how not to help in a time of crisis, take a look at televangelist Pat Robertson, who claimed yesterday that the quake was Haiti’s payback for a “pact with the devil” that slaves made to obtain independence from French colonials. As a rebuttal, Afro-Netizen points out how Haiti’s liberation greatly benefited the United States, and Tracy Viselli at Care2 writes that “if there is a god, Pat Robertson is one of the devil’s pied pipers.”

More coverage of the crisis

For more information about relief efforts in Haiti, what you can do to help, and some historical context, check out the below list of coverage by Media Consortium members.

  • Video from the Real News Network on how World Bank policies led to famine in Haiti.
  • Garry Pierre-Pierre of Inter Press Service reports on humanitarian efforts of Haitian-American leaders in New York.
  • Monica Potts explains why Americans should concentrate on our policies toward Haiti for The American Prospect.
  • Erin Rosa at Campus Progress writes about Ansel Herz, a young journalist that is on the ground at Haiti.
  • Video from The UpTake of President Obama’s pledge to send aid.

This post is a special report on Haiti and features links to the best independent, progressive reporting by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. For more updates, follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

I Gave to the Red Cross Tonight

While the Republicans continue their preparations to exploit Hurricane Gustav to the fullest (and are no doubt privately disappointed that the storm is not as severe as some predicted), their cynical ploy is rooted in a basic truth: many people will lose their possessions as a result of this storm, and some will lose their lives.  Whether relief efforts are sincere or are part of a grand political stunt, that relief is sorely needed.

I had not really focused on the need to donate until today, when I received a text message from the Obama campaign soliciting donations to the Red Cross (I guess that that VP text message database served a greater purpose after all).  Sure, I had intended to donate, but it was not at the forefront of my mind.  Because of that simple reminder, though, I logged on and made a donation earlier this evening.  

Anyway, while we criticize the Republicans for politicizing a national tragedy, it seemed to me that we would not be much better if we limited ourselves to criticism alone.  The fact is that there are real people out there who need help, and we Democrats pride ourselves on lending a helping hand.  Therefore, I encourage those who are so inclined to donate to the Red Cross or to the relief agency of your choice.  Let's show that we too are "putting on our American hats," as the Republicans would have it, to help fellow citizens in need.  The below link aggregates links to relief agencies in the affected states.

http://www.barackobama.com/splash/aid.ht ml

There's more...

Message From Barack: Gustav [Updated]

EDIT: Calling all sockpuppets! Okay, I don't really have any sock puppets (and would repudiate them if I did) but please rec this one up for today. Let's bump my lingering focus group diary make sure this one does some good. It's the first time I've asked for recs, hopefully it'll be the last.

Now back to the diary...

Barack's Speech on Gustave after the bump. Sorry for the lack of Palin in this diary but there are a few other things on the horizon.

Today Barack sent email and text messages to his massive list of supporters, soliciting contributions for the Red Cross in their efforts for hurricane relief.  I'm sure that most MyDD readers have already received this, but it's still a good example of just who we have as a nominee.

I know you share my pride in Barack, I hope you'll also share your $.

TEXT MESSAGE:

Barack asks that you give to the Red Cross today: give $5 by texting GIVE to 24357 or give more by calling 1-800-435-7669 or at https://donate.barackobama.com/redcross

.

EMAIL:

From: Barack Obama
Subject: Help Gulf Coast residents and first responders

Friend --

Today, the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with those in the path of Hurricane Gustav -- and many of you are asking what you can do to help.

We do not yet know what the impact of Hurricane Gustav will be, and we hope with all our hearts that the damage will not be as great as it was three years ago.

But we know there will be damage, and there is something you can do right now.

Your financial support will strengthen organizations like the American Red Cross that are evacuating Gulf Coast residents and planning to help communities get back on their feet.

Make a donation to support the American Red Cross today.

At times like this, it is our compassion and resilience that define who we are as a nation.

Please give whatever you can afford, even $10, to make sure the American Red Cross has the resources to help those in the path of this storm:

https://donate.barackobama.com/redcross

Thank you for your generosity, and I hope you will join Michelle and me in praying for the safety of those in the path of the storm and the first responders who are doing all they can to ensure the safety of their communities.

Barack

There's more...

Credit Card Fees Force Red Cross to Impose Minimum Donation Amounts

The great thing about giving to charity is that you give what you can, even if it's a small amount. I didn't always think of it this way. I used to think that my donations wouldn't matter unless I could give large amounts of money. And in fact, I didn't give anything until Hurricane Katrina. Before that I was in school, and what little money I had was earmarked for Ramen. Could I have given a dollar or two for various causes? Yes, but I figured it wouldn't be worth it. And so I waited until I was done with school, and ensconced in a job with a livable wage, until I started giving back. And even now, I'm only making enough that it's 25 here or 50 there.

So that's why I'm upset to see that now Red Cross is now requiring a minimum donation amount before it will accept your donations over the web.

But I am not upset with Red Cross. And you might recognize that sign as one similar to the ones you see next to the cash register at coffee and sandwich shops and independent convenience stores. They're all facing the same problem...

There's more...

Not a Poll, John Edwards / Wildfires

As everyone knows by now the widfires are raging in California. Since there are many people facing loss of homes and other hardships involved in this disaster, and we all hope for the best for everyone, there is some information I think needs to be shared.

As a member of John Edwards One Corps we have done things around the country to help people who may be less fortunate than ourselves. Organize food drives, work at soup kitchens, donate goods for the soldiers to let them know we haven't forgotten them and that we do support them. Well it is time to step up again, we learned from the actions of FEMA after Katrina hit New Orleans, we can't trust this President or his cronies to act in a timely manner, it is up to us to care for those in need and lend a hand.

Follow me after the fold for a few actions suggested by Senator Edwards, because as he says, "It's time to be Patriotic about something other than war".

There's more...

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