Some Initial Thoughts on the Killer Haitian Eathquake

Earthquake damage to a shanty town on the outskirts of Port au Prince; photo by Matt Marek/American Red Cross/AP

I sat riveted to the television this morning watching images of the deadly earthquake in Haiti, time I probably should have spent on work, but I simply could not turn away from the horror in Port-au-Prince. Striking such a densely populated capital city, the earthquake's death toll will likely be in the tens of thousands, and already there are reports trickling out that more than 100 UN personnel are missing.

Haiti is a nation already struggling with high rates of poverty, disease, and mortality, and the devastation to Port-au-Prince will set the nation back a decade or more in development. Of immediate concern will be the need to provide food and potable water to the citizens of the area, and Haiti's already limited infrastructure will pose problems for disaster relief efforts.

I also think that President Obama is facing a Katrina moment: even though Haiti is a sovereign nation, the eyes of the world will be on the United States, since the island nation lies only hundreds of miles from its large hemispheric neighbor. If the U.S. fails to provide timely relief to Haiti, this will be interpreted as ineffectiveness on the part of American regional credibility. Imagine too the public relations quagmire that would result if Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez outperforms the United States in providing aid to the Haitian people.

Left: Be like Mike

Yet politics inevitably enter every natural disaster, and the immediate need is for people around the world to contribute to relief efforts. Consider a donation to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, the United Nations World Food Program, or a disaster relief fund established by Mercy Corps for the earthquake victims. Readers in Northwest Ohio can contribute bottled water, clothing, canned goods, and other vital items through local non-profit ISOH/IMPACT, and the group is also accepting online donations to help Haitian quake victims.

Just do not sit there on the computer and play World of Warcraft all day, dude.