Monday, February 1, 2010

Walking the walk

Mathew and Michael are coming up on their second week in Haiti. They have persevered. The people of Haiti are benefiting.

I wrote yesterday that the Salvation Army had provided 11,000 meals for distribution to the need that they had identified. Today that number is increased by 47,000. Distribution will be with the assistance of a Canadian armed forces unit that is working in Haiti; the unit has manpower and transport but no significant supply of aid.

This is what happens when caring people stay after the problem. Mathew and Michael have confronted significant challenges from simple transport to apparent (but not factual) indifference from aid entities. They have struggled with horrible living and environmental conditions. They have pushed through it now tens of thousands of people will have food and water because of their work.

Many people have worked behind the scenes outside of Haiti to get aid to these people who are in such dire need. Telephone calls and emails and appeals to everyone from USAID to Unicef to large church organizations to individual donors. As Michael has documented in his blog there has not been a lot of movement out of all of that effort. What has worked has been these two volunteers just staying after the issue on the ground.

The established disaster relief protocols that are followed by just about every established aid delivery entity worldwide are wonderful at helping populations once the local environment has settled down. Sadly for the affected population (in this case two million people in Haiti) that establishment of framework and process take a very long time; life-and-death long if you haven't had any water for a few days or you are a young child who has not had a meal for ten days. This is not an indictment for the established government, UN or NGO agencies. They are staffed by some of the most dedicated people I have ever encountered. There is an aid gap that I have noted in my experience in these situations. That gap runs a few weeks for provision of minimal life sustaining aid. The gap was filled after Hurricane Katrina, in my experience, by volunteers not associated with any aid entity. I observed the same in my time in Haiti and by second hand have experienced it with Mathew and Michael.

We humans must work hard and better to make sure that aid gets to those who need it as fast as humanly possible. These two men have shown how much can be accomplished by caring people whose only desire is to relieve suffering.

Well done guys.

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I welcome comments, questions or anything anyone wishes to post on the situation in Haiti.