Last Thursday marked a grim anniversary. On January 12, 2010, the most devastating earthquake in Haiti’s history killed more than 230,000 people. An estimated 1,000,000 Haitians were left injured and homeless.
In the humanitarian response that ensued, hundreds of millions of dollars were donated to the recovery effort. Of course, Haiti’s crumbled infrastructure crippled relief efforts, making it all but impossible to move supplies across the ground. Tent cities were built to provide temporary relief, creating centralized locales for humanitarian outreach.
Today, more than two years later, only 5 percent of the rubble has been removed. Almost 1,000,000 Haitians are still living in tents or under tarps. Haiti’s tent cities have become hotbeds of violence; more than 100 rapes are committed there every day. In short, the work to rebuild Haiti has only begun.
One of the greatest challenges facing the relief effort has been a lack of organization on the ground. It has never been a particularly unified effort. Hundreds of charitable organizations are operating in their own self-contained bubbles—and many of the local charities are facing allegations of fraud, misappropriation, and corruption. Among the organizations that are legit and well-intentioned, many are short-sighted or singly-focused. For instance, one organization might rebuild a school, but stop short of hiring teachers so that the school may operate. It may ignore the poor infrastructure in the area that could prevent students from getting there each day.
As you’ll remember, in the weeks and months following the quake, donations poured in from around the globe. But naturally, as the struggles facing Haiti faded from the headlines, the humanitarian relief slowed to a trickle. Soon, none of us were concerning ourselves with conditions in Haitian tent cities. We quit wondering how the rubble removal was progressing. We stopped thinking about the orphaned children, about the disease, and the unimaginable living conditions that remained their reality. Something shiny caught our attention, and we were quick to look away.
Enter “Haiti: Aid Still Required,” a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing the relief effort after the headlines have faded away. The idea is simple—continued awareness breeds continued support. By enlisting celebrities who are eager to spread their message, and creating videos that are destined to go viral, the charity hopes to keep reminding us that the problems in Haiti still exist. (Aid Still Required also has projects that are continuing to benefit New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Darfur after the genocide that occurred there, and countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, that were affected by the catastrophic tsunami in December 2004.)
I intended to focus on the celebrities that have joined forces with ASR, those who have helped spread the message. But I genuinely feel that the work that the organization does speaks for itself.
One of the things that I appreciate most about the entire Aid Still Required effort is the inherent long-term, bigger-picture approach that the organization maintains. By design, it’s committed to providing help for years to come, while tackling the most immediate needs of the Haitian victims. For example, a portion of the proceeds benefits Haitian orphanages. After the earthquake, Haiti’s orphan problem doubled. One orphanage that ASR supports cares for 58 children, but costs only $200 per month to staff.
They are committed to creating jobs, treating PTSD and counseling rape victims, and creating self-sufficiency for those impacted by the quake. It’s a daunting task, by any measure. If you’re still concerned about Haiti, if you haven’t forgotten, I hope you’ll check out their website, www.AidStillRequired.org, and consider making a donation. I did, and felt better know I had helped.
Originally printed in “Pulse,” 01/19/2012.
© Damien Willis, 2012. All rights reserved.