And about Haiti

“What the hell are they doing down there?! Why isn’t more getting done? What’s taking so long? Who’s in charge?”

I’ve been hearing that for quite a few days now. (Shades of New Orleans? Do I need to re-evaluate? Not really. It was a very different situation.)

This may be a level of natural disaster entirely new to us – a level that tears down an entire society-  its buildings, equipment, communications and infrastructure. Even today, the government is unable to determine where all the ministers are or if they’re even alive. Haiti won’t even be able to collect taxes for some time. So how to fund government functions?

I cannot get my head around the fact of up to two million(!) homeless in an already  overpopulated city without water, shelter, food, income or medical care. Subject to very dangerous continuing aftershocks. Plus decomposing bodies throughout the wreckage. Nowhere to put the wreckage. Roads impassable. Human waste. Garbage. Prisons and the insane roaming the streets. Orphans, elderly without care. No phones. No electric.

That income thing – it’s evaporated. The people in a poor country do not have savings – even assuming the bank still stands and can access records. People in a poor country live on earnings. They won’t be earning for quite a while.

An airport with single runway. Only a few planes at a time able to land. And it takes hours to unload, before they can take off again to make room for another plane. Delivering supplies requires knowing where they’re needed, working trucks to transport it and roads for the trucks. This was and – even with visible improvements – horrific.

Civilization is a thin veneer – in Haiti and in New York. Remove the water and electric and communications and any society devolves very quickly. So far, looting and disorder are very isolated incidents, which is really remarkable.

Their situation is so fragile that even rain would be a double edged sword, capable of degrading whatever shelter they’ve been able to fabricate while providing some fresh water.

We, and the rest of the international community – especially from the Americas – will be there for years. Years.

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