Humanitarianism should exist beyond tragedies

Marchaé Grair



The people of Haiti are not strangers to misfortune, but a tragedy demanded international attention to their suffering.


A devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, killing tens of thousands near the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Impoverished conditions in the nation and destroyed communication and transportation outlets made relief efforts extremely difficult.


Why did such a hard-hitting tragedy strike Haiti even harder?


Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest nations in the entire world, according to CBS News. The average worker in Haiti makes little more than two dollars per day, and an estimated 50 percent of the population is unemployed. The country’s infrastructure, before the earthquake, was ranked as one of the worst in the world.


Today marks a week and a day since the earthquake, and relief efforts have reached a crucial point. Rescue searches for survivors are increasingly disappointing, and care for the wounded is difficult in a country with few resources.


The magnitude of the earthquake goes beyond the physical destruction of Haiti. The country’s government is also in disarray. Some government officials died during the tragedy, and many crucial government buildings fell during the earthquake.


News media have provided minute-by-minute coverage of the tragedy, especially encouraging relief efforts through means of donations. Global politics are at a standstill, uniting for a worthy cause. I applaud the heroes who dropped everything to help the needy in Haiti. Military personnel, doctors and civilians from many nations stopped their daily lives to help the desperate victims of a terrible tragedy. Those who gave money for relief funds are heroes in their own right.


President Obama and his cabinet made firm statements declaring their commitment to help Haiti beyond the current relief efforts and into the country’s rebuilding phases. While I praise the current work of both volunteers and the United States government in Haiti, I do so in a bittersweet sense.


It is refreshing to be reminded that people can rally behind the less fortunate to save them in times of tragedy. The land is not all that is broken in Haiti, and people are in desperate need.


Times of disaster bring out the best and worst about politics, the media and human decency.


Everyone, including government officials, volunteers and reporters, wants to be the hero when a disaster happens. They want to give the most help, break the first story or raise the most money.


Unfortunately, the attention span for helping those in tragedy is not very long in this country. Like many disaster victims before them, the people of Haiti will suffer long after the cameras leave and the volunteers go back to their daily routines.


Look no further than U.S. soil for short-term disaster relief. Victims of Hurricane Katrina were displaced from their homes years after the storm, without answers or sympathy.


The course the U.S. takes with Haiti will speak volumes for its ideals about what lending a helping hand really means.


The suffering of Haitian people did not start with an earthquake but with the conditions of their lives in a seriously impoverished nation.


Maybe this earthquake will remind people why giving can mean so much. It should not take a natural disaster to warrant humanitarianism, but maybe the people of Haiti can remind the world what it’s forgotten.


Marchaè Grair is a senior electronic media management major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.


Contact her at [email protected]