Time to recognize plight of Haiti, struggling countries

Catastrophes have the power to bring people together almost immediately, working for relief to aid fellow countries and fellow people. But after the initial shock of such tragedies, those same people are at risk of being forgotten or overlooked – again. At least 72,000 people have been confirmed dead, and nearly 500,000 Haitians have been rendered homeless by the tragic 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince January 12. The damage that has occurred in what is already poorest country in the Western hemisphere is devastating. Three million people in Port-au-Prince are facing a desperate shortage of clean water, food and medicine. Thousands are still trapped beneath fallen rubble. Even more are unaccounted for.

Haiti is in a race against time to prevent even more deaths than from the initial quake, but thankfully, many international relief efforts are working to help the earthquake-ravaged country to receive the aid it desperately needs.

But in light of such tragedy, while we can appreciate that countries, governments and people can put aside their differences to help a country and its people who have faced a natural disaster, it’s disheartening to realize that Haiti needed so much help before this earthquake and did not receive it. No matter how much aid and relief flights go to Port-au-Prince, time is of the essence. Sooner or later, Haiti’s challenge will be one of reconstruction instead of immediate relief. And in this particular situation, if we had helped Haiti sooner, if we had helped improve their infrastructure, Haiti would not be dealing with such an overwhelming crisis.

Perhaps the most enlightening part of this horrible situation is seeing people donate their money and time, and encouraging others to do the same— to help Haiti as it struggles to survive. The Washington Post reported that as of Tuesday, U.S. cell phone users donated $22 million to the Red Cross via text message, showing huge support. If you’d like to donate, you can text the word “Haiti” to 90999, which will donate $10 to the Red Cross’s relief efforts.

But while giving your support, remember that impoverished Haiti was in need long before this earthquake, and there are other very poor countries that need the same type of help that Haiti didn’t receive in time. Donating to a larger cause such as Doctors without Borders and other relief agencies may be just as effective in the long run, and can help prepare poor countries before the next catastrophe strikes .