Fear of the Poor is Hampering Haiti Rescue

From the Times Online:

Aid workers have already baptised the earthquake in Haiti a “historical disaster”. It will rate high in the annals of the humanitarian aid world because of the number of victims and scale of the destruction. But the rescue operation is also becoming notorious for the slowness with which aid is reaching the victims. Five days after the quake hit, many places are still largely bereft of international aid.

Not through lack of funds, supplies or emergency experts. Those are all pouring in from dozens of countries. But most of the aid — and aid workers — seems stuck at the airport.

Rescue teams have pulled survivors from five-star hotels, university buildings, a supermarket and the UN headquarters, all in Port-au-Prince’s better neighbourhoods. In poor areas, where the damage appears much greater, apparently forgotten victims report on Twitter that they have yet to encounter the first foreign rescuer.

Many aid workers are reported to have orders not to venture out without armed guards — which are not there at all, or only after long debates with the UN military command. The UN has lost a number of staff in the quake, and is not keen to risk more lives.

But the Haitian people seem to scare aid workers more than Somali warlords, Darfuri Janjawid or Afghan Taleban. Frightened Dutch aid workers abandoned a mission without reaching the collapsed building where people were trapped, and frightened doctors have left their patients unattended.

The experience of CNN’s medical reporter, Dr Sanjay Gupta, is telling. In a makeshift clinic he encountered a Belgian medical team being evacuated in a UN bus. UN “rules of engagement” apparently stopped them providing security for the doctors. The Belgians took most of their medical supplies with them, to keep them out of the claws of robbers.

Dr Gupta and his camera team stayed the night, monitored the abandoned patients’ vital signs and continued intravenous drips — and they were not robbed. Some rescuers are leaning so much toward security that they will allow people to die.

Comments

4 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Angry Sam,

    Fear of poverty, or fear of Haiti’s notoriously high violent crime rates?

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  2. I am cynical enough that this doesn’t surprise me, but I’m not cynical enough. I am disgusted.

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  3. AmandaNZ,

    Angry Sam, you can’t have one without the other. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – you treat the poor with disrespect, they’ll take on that burden of disrespect, and it’s psycological burden will manifest in violence in crime. You expect a down trodden people to idly sit by when their lives are hell?

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  4. TDavis,

    I’m wondering if accessibility has anything to do with this. From what I’ve read and heard, the roads to the “poorer” parts of Haiti are all but impassable in the best of conditions. If a rescue team is in an urban area (where I am guessing they would initially be deployed) and hears a cry for help, they can’t very well ignore it.

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