I keep thinking I’ve heard the worst of the situation in Haiti, and I keep being unpleasantly surprised. Haiti was not in the best of social or political health before the earthquake (to be kind — see update below for more on this), and does not have the resources to quickly recover from a disaster of this scale. Canada, the United States, Mexico, and other nations have been scrambling to provide what assistance they can quickly (both the US Navy and the Canadian Navy are dispatching ships, but ships take time to sail, so they can’t provide immediate aid).
The worst thing about earthquake damage is that they disrupt everything for large areas around the epicentre, so that recovery is doubly difficult. It’s not only the damage caused directly by the tremors, but also that the damage often includes the critical infrastructure that rescuers need: the water system, the electrical grid, telephone land lines and cell towers, and the road and rail arteries. Help can’t arrive from outside the area fast enough to save many lives closer to the epicentre, and it is very difficult to co-ordinate efforts to rescue the trapped and the injured.
Funds are needed to provide food, safe drinking water, shelter, and medical care, and Haiti lacks any large surplus of any of these things right now. If you can contribute anything, even a few dollars, please do: in Canada, the government will match private donations up to $50 million (even as a staunch libertarian, I can’t object to this use of tax dollars).
In Canada, you can send your donations to the relief effort through the Canadian Red Cross website, by phone at (800) 418-1111, or in person (cash or cheque only) at any Red Cross office. You can donate to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts by text message:
The Salvation Army has activated its Text to Donate program in support of the Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund. Canadians can make a $5.00 donation to The Salvation Army’s efforts in Haiti by texting the word HAITI to 45678 from any Rogers Wireless or Bell Mobility phone. Donors will then receive a message asking them to confirm their donation with a YES reply. The proceeds of each text donation will support the ongoing efforts to serve the victims of the recent horrific earthquake that has left thousands dead and many more without adequate food, clean water or shelter.
“Our immediate focus is the safety and welfare of those affected by this terrible tragedy,” said Graham Moore, Territorial Secretary for Public Relations and Development for The Salvation Army in Canada. “The mobile giving program is another way to raise funds in support of this vital relief effort.”
In addition to the text message donation program, Canadians can support The Salvation Army’s relief effort in Haiti by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769), by visiting our website, www.SalvationArmy.ca, by mailing donations to The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters, Canada and Bermuda, 2 Overlea Blvd., Toronto, Ontario M4H 1P4, or dropping off financial donations at the closest Salvation Army unit in your area. Donors should specify their gift to the Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund. The call centre (1-800-SAL-ARMY) and www.SalvationArmy.ca are accepting donations
Update: At the start of this post I said that Haiti’s social and political situation was bad even before the quake. I didn’t realize quite how bad things were:
Tyler Cowen suggests that Haiti, as a nation, may have just effectively ceased to exist. Haiti, as a people, is still there. But the institutions that made up the Haitian nation state, and its economy, have literally been flattened. Aid agencies usually work through local governments, which already have distribution systems for hospitals and so forth. But the local government in this case does not really seem to exist at the moment; it has been hollowed out by deaths. The main port seems to have suffered heavy damage, and while flights are making it to the airport, there’s no one there to unload.
[. . .]
But in the longer run, what do you do for a country that already had one of the worst-functioning governments in the world? Half the budget was provided by foreign aid before the earthquake. For the next few years, we will effectively hold government power there, whether we want to or not, because we’ll probably essentially be providing all of its funding