Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti- what can I do?

Haiti must be punch-drunk by now. The Western hemisphere’s poorest country is wracked by TB and sees some 30 000 malaria cases each year, while less than half of the population has access to health care. Political violence has been the norm in Haiti for most of its history and a series of four serious hurricanes destroyed much of that country’s infrastructure in 2008.

This week’s devastating earthquake rattled Haiti’s wobbly foundations, displaced millions and killed around 100 000.

Modern governments pull together in troubled times. The Dominican Republic ignored historical tensions with neighbouring Haiti and rushed to assist. Brazil, France, the USA, Britain, South Africa and many others have scrambled rescue teams and aid to help the beleaguered nation. It is heart-warming to watch nations pull together to help a People in crisis.

Consider, though, that Haiti’s tzorres didn’t begin with this week’s earthquake. These people live a daily humanitarian crisis. Hundreds quietly die there each day for lack of food or medicine. No drama surrounds their deaths, so no cameras capture them, so there is no urgent response. Haiti needs a long-term relief programme as much as it needs emergency intervention.

Nations behave just like people do. We also rally together and put our differences aside in the face of disaster. But, when people around us struggle with their chronic issues- the silent nigglings of life, not the explosive tragedies- we get on with our own lives. We grow impassive to their strain and often lapse into apathy or even antipathy.

A Jew is meant to read the world, hear its messages and respond in kind. We can do little to ease the difficulties of Haitians, but we should consider what we can do to alleviate the troubles of a family or community member.

We need not wait for a crisis, we can step in to help at any time.

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