Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Quake Relief Roundup

The number of dead continues rising, but no one will ever know the ultimate death toll since so many people are being buried without taking basic information. Many aren't being given proper burials, simply because the funeral homes that managed to survive the quake were overwhelmed, and the need to bury the remains of those killed swiftly to prevent the spread of disease is critical.

There's a concern that some Haitians may attempt to flee on boat to the US; the US has announced that they'd send the Haitians back. I understand the need to prevent a massive boatlift that could overwhelm local services here in the US and to prevent those attempting to cross the open water in less-than-seaworthy craft from doing so, but the humanitarian needs should allow for those who make it ashore to seek refuge here on a temporary basis. The US has already suspended its deportation program for Haitians because of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the French and Venezuelans think that the US has other designs on Haiti. You can subscribe such claims to the nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind in the case of [T]hugo Chavez, but there's no excuse for the French government. Where are their aircraft carriers and troops to assist their former colony? It's real easy for them to criticize the US, but they have only themselves to blame for the mess of a country they left behind all those decades ago. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has tried to smooth over the issue by reaching out to President Obama, but French pride is feeling that certain sting:
Underlying the episode is a tangible sense of hurt pride that France is being relegated to a secondary role in a country long regarded as part of its own sphere of influence.

France was colonial master in Haiti up until the famous slave revolt 200 years ago, and French is still an official language there.

The crisis has unleashed a vast outpouring of support and sympathy in France, which is home to some 80,000 Haitian nationals.

Charities have received more than 15m euros (£13m) from private donors - in addition to the 20m euros provided by the government.

France has also sent 240 emergency workers and police to help with the rescue effort, while two navy ships and five aircraft shuttle in supplies.

However, the fact that the United States is so clearly in charge of the operation does rankle with some in France - particularly those with a predisposition to mistrust anything American.

As one blogger put it on the website of Le Figaro newspaper: "The US aid to Haiti constitutes a new case of 'shock doctrine' - ie taking advantage of a natural calamity to subjugate a disorientated populace to the desires and orders of a financial and industrial oligarchy."
The US has said that they would only be providing troops to distribute relief supplies and that security would be handled by the UN. That certainly clarifies the rules of engagement for US forces operating in Haiti, but means that the burden on security falls on the overwhelmed UN.

A bunch of countries, including the US and France, are moving to provide debt relief to Haiti.

MSNBC is reporting that 5,500 Americans are among the missing and the ultimate death toll is likely to top 200,000.

The American Red Cross has floated  a plan to bring 45,000 Haitians to Central Florida:
The U.S. citizens are being brought into South Florida through Miami and Homestead, where their identities can be verified. Thursday night, five flights arrived with 190 Americans on board.

“I think that we will continue see U.S. citizens coming in over the weekend and through the beginning of next week. And that would be our first focus and first wave and, I think, as the conditions are assessed in Haiti and some decisions are made both with our federal government and the Haitian government about what’s best for their citizens,” Director of Emergency Services Becky Sebren said.

Americans continued to arrive in South Florida Friday afternoon and, as the United States plans its strategy to help Haiti, the state closest to the island nation is taking center stage with a plan to bring tens of thousands of refugees to Florida and approximately 4,000 to Orlando.

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty says he has some concerns with the possible plan. If Haitians are brought to Central Florida, the county, city and possibly other area communities will have to scramble to figure out where to put the earthquake victims, and it will be a tough challenge.
Here's an update on the logistics efforts, including how the situation at the airport has improved through better coordination and additional equipment coming in to help speed the loading and unloading of equipment from the planes. Given the problems with the health care infrastructure in Haiti, one idea that makes sense is one suggested by Containers to Clinics, which is to transform shipping containers into self-contained medical facilities that can be transported anywhere in the world in standard shipping containers and be used either to supplement existing health care facilities or to (re)build new capabilities.

The Navy Twitter feed continues providing updates on the Navy's operations in support of the Haitian humanitarian relief efforts.

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