29 January, 2010

A catastrophe of major proportions

When Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Alcide Joseph called it “a catastrophe of major proportions" he was correct. So major that it affects a number of countries in the region and has even prompted Senegal to offer land (a whole fertile region if Haitians accept the offer and arrive en masse).

It is so sad to see the photos and videos showing daily life in a country with an overnight homeless population of two million. This is one time when the strong survives and the weak fall by the wayside. Literally. Gangs of marauders, armed with machetes, sticks, guns and make-shift weapons pounce on the weak, defenceless and unprepared. Daily. Nightly.

Escaped prisoners are wreaking havoc. So out come the dogs of war. Foreign soldiers patrol and secure. Can you imagine in the aftermath of a major environmental disaster, foreign soldiers patrolling our ravaged country, giving orders to civilians at the end of a rifle, in languages we don’t understand?

But there is hope. There’s a story about a neigbourhood watch on steroids—a mini local government-of-sorts—protecting their inhabitants and territory with organization, planning, co-operation and force of arms. They even have checkpoints, patrols, a food/water distribution system and medical care. Their leader, Dickens Princivil, is a polite cello-playing, pistol-toting man who never even knew his neighbours before the disaster. What’s more he has options. With a US visa and the means to leave the country he continues to stay. To help.

Generosity is outpouring to Haiti now. Even small businesses have been collecting donations—cash and food—to send. The challenge is getting the money to where it’s meant to go, rather than ending up in private bank accounts in foreign countries.

Surely now is the time to take stock of our own situation here in T&T and boost up our own preparedness levels with more and appropriate supplies, training and planning.

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