State agencies making a difference in Haiti
Connecticut has had a lot on its mind lately. There’s the year-and-a-half-and-counting pandemic, which is still keeping life from returning back to normal. There was the prospect of days or weeks without power as a result of Hurricane Henri, which ended up falling well short of expectations in that regard, not that anyone’s complaining. Looking abroad, the chaotic end of the war in Afghanistan has dominated much of the available foreign-policy oxygen.
Closer to home but still a world away, a devastating earthquake in Haiti on Aug. 14 attracted relatively little attention. People heard the news and then, for the most part, moved on with their lives. But Haiti has not been able to move on. In a country with so much need, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake added an entirely new dimension to the already difficult situation.
Connecticut doesn’t have the largest population of Haitian-Americans in this country — Florida and New York compete for that title. But there are tens of thousand of Connecticut residents who trace some ancestry to the Caribbean nation, and they know well the situation the country faces. At the same time, many Connecticut residents and agencies have worked diligently to help Haiti in its hour of need, and convince the rest of us that this natural disaster deserves our attention.
The earthquake, which has killed more than 2,200 people, was centered in a remote, mountainous area where relief and aid have been slow to arrive. That has kept aid agencies busy even as the attention of the rest of the world has wandered. It’s true that in much of Haiti the need for assistance never really goes away, but it’s especially acute at a time like this.
After the initial devastation, fears more than a week later turn to issues like the spread of disease and the need for clean water. Infrastructure is a difficult issue to get people to pay attention to in the best of circumstances, but good infrastructure is vital not just to day-to-day life but surviving in the event of a natural disaster.
While agencies with Connecticut ties are on the ground in Haiti, more help is needed. Stamford-based AmeriCares says it has people on the scene and more deployments planned. “Nearly $3 million worth of critically needed medicines and relief items are on the way to Haiti,” the agency said. But the need for help is not going to end in the near term.
Elsewhere, an aid organization based in Norwich says it has 250 staffers in Haiti, aided by five in the eastern Connecticut headquarters of the Haitian Health Foundation. With a long history in the country, its workers are well-known by the local population and are working to provide vital services. But the needs, in a country facing political turmoil following the recent assassination of its president, are overwhelming.
There are ways to help, including by donating money. There are people in need around the world, but the suffering in Haiti must not be overlooked. No matter what other distractions, large and small, we’re dealing with, the needs of Haiti cannot be dismissed.
After the initial devastation, fears more than a week later turn to issues like the spread of disease and the need for clean water.