13 January, 2010

The tragedy of Haiti

I'm sure you've all heard the news of the devastating 7.0 earthquake that struck just outside of Haiti's sprawling capital yesterday. Casualties will likely be extremely high, given the lack of almost all basic infrastructure and social services, and given the architecturally tenuous position of most of Port-au-Prince's slums that line the city's steep hills. Haiti is about as dysfunctional a place as exists in the world (save perhaps Somalia...) and what little progress it scrapes together day after day is usually washed away or knocked down by tropical storms, riots, or, now, earthquakes.

But the tragedy of yesterday's quake is that, unrecognized by many, Haiti has been making rather enormous strides since the election of the Preval government in 2006 ushered in the the longest period of political stability and legitimacy that the island had seen in nearly a century. At the same time, an increasingly funded and manned UN stabilization mission charged with a broader development and security mandate was making slow but concrete progress towards disarming irregular militias, building an a-political police force, army, and civil service. Yglesias has more on this.

But I think the real tragedy would be if we decided that Haiti is to be forever doomed. It has shown that progress can be made. As much as our efforts have improved, they are still far below what a powerful neighbor like the US can and should do. Here are some ways to help.


Guadalupe said...

Spencer, can you remove the two comments above?

Also, my brother just shared with me another way to help Haiti: http://www.phonesforhaiti.com/index.html

Elliot said...

I thought they were thoughtful and insightful.