Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haitian Horror Continues; Haitian Authorities Warn Death Toll May Top 200,000

40,000 have already been buried is mass graves, but Haitian authorities warn that the death toll may top 200,000 and it may be one of the deadliest quakes in recorded history. The dead still litter the streets and the stench of death is pervasive throughout Port au Prince, even as the UN and US and other aid workers start arriving in force.

Looting is a serious issue, and some are taking up arms to try and prevent looting. Peacekeepers and security forces are going to have their hands full - both in trying to figure out who's doing what and that's on top of everything else that the relief efforts need to do.

At the same time, the Haitian government appears powerless to do much of anything and the media report suggest a state of anarchy.

Yet, even as the relief efforts are ramping up and the problems appear insurmountable, what will come next is on the mind of many. Getting immediate emergency aid is one thing, but what the Haitians will do a month or a year from now is a major concern. A cash for work program is being considered by the UN Development Programme.
The UN Development Programme is planning within days to launch a cash-for-work program for Haitian earthquake survivors, aimed at getting basic survival funds into the hands of people able to help remove rubble from roads, reconstruct hospitals and carry out other work key to getting basic services functioning again, says Jordan Ryan.
Just as rebuilding and how to do it was a concern following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast and the resulting flooding through New Orleans, what and how to rebuild in Port au Prince is an important question that deserves serious consideration and contemplation.

Everything needs to be built - from basic infrastructure (power plants, sewage, water treatment) to schools, police, fire, prisons to government buildings. It's a daunting task, but it's a necessary one.

The NY Times asks several experts whether the US is doing enough for Haiti. A long term commitment is clearly warranted, and yet the comments clearly suggest that the US is not doing enough, and for some it reminds them of the US response during Hurricane Katrina. I think those comments are seriously unfair to the government's response and it underestimates all the problems facing any country in getting aid in to the Haitian people. The infrastructure was completely devastated and to get all the parts in place to mount a response takes time; it's not like a disaster that you know is coming.

Haiti's infrastructure was in awful shape before the quake, but the quake destroyed what little there was. Most people criticizing the response have no idea what it takes in terms of logistics to mount an operation of this size and scope. Yet, this response is in line with the time it took to provide assistance to Indonesia, Thailand and other countries following the SE Asian quake and other major natural disasters. The key to a swift response is how close our aircraft carriers and other key assets are; getting hospital ships to the vicinity usually takes a little longer.

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