Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti Relief Efforts Continue

Rebuilding is going to take years, but getting key infrastructure projects underway is critical. That means getting the airport, port, electric transmission lines, and water/sewage restored as swiftly as possible.

There are concerns that corruption that has long plagued Haiti will undermine the rebuilding efforts, but as I noted yesterday, there were similar concerns in Indonesia following the devastating tsunami and yet they've managed to restore many areas of the country.

The immediate need is to provide shelter to the more than 1 million Haitians who are now homeless because of the quake. Relief organizations say that they need 200,000 more tents to help house those left homeless, but those tents will be only a temporary measure and provide no shelter once hurricane season arrives in June. Even with 20,000 US troops providing humanitarian assistance, food and water are still hard to come by and interest in rebuilding will wane among international donors and groups. Rebuilding will take years, and some Haitians are saying that they want to break the cycle of dependency and want to get up on their own feet.

That's what we want to hear. We need to help provide them with the tools they need to get the job of rebuilding properly done, and to replace the destroyed and damaged structures with construction that is vastly improved.

The Hope for Haiti telethon has now raised more than $61 million. John Travola, a licensed pilot, has been flying his own aircraft into Haiti with relief supplies and Scientologists. Can't say I agree with Scientology, but the relief supplies are welcome.

Saudi Arabia, which to date had been absent from any relief efforts and had been conspicuously absent from providing any aid to Haiti, is now going to send $50 million via the UN. I guess being shown up by a 7 year old in the UK who raised $160,000 by himself shamed them to action (probably not; the Saudis are shameless). Took them long enough to act.

Israel is shutting down its relief efforts, and is closing its mobile hospital facility, which treated more than 1,000 patients and performed hundreds of surgeries with the assistance of a contingent of Colombians. There was a military ceremony marking the end of the operation of the facility and included the transfer of Israeli and Colombian flags.
The field hospital commanded emphasized the collaboration with other te4ams. "The Home Front Command, the Prime Minister's Office, and other medical professionals helped us focus our efforts on the patients," he said.

The commander of the Colombian team, Col. Sagura, spoke at the ceremony and gave an emotional thanks to the Israeli team. "Through difficult days, we worked together with the Israeli hospital. As the commander of the Colombian medical force, I would like to thank you in the name of my country, military, and team. You treated us like brothers," said the colonel.

The Colombian colonel concluded his speech in Hebrew: "This story we will tell to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A big thanks to the people of Israel."

At the end of the military ceremony, after the anthem was sung, the Colombian team handed over their flag to Dr. Kreis and his team in a rare symbolic gesture. The Israeli delegation also gave the Israeli flag to the Colombian commander.

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