I’m sure we were all stunned – especially those who actually survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and/or lost loved ones and possessions – by the devastation of Haiti by two major earthquakes in less than a two-week period, with an estimated death toll now as high as 200,000 and up to 150,000 bodies collected already.
The trauma of Katrina, the largest natural disaster in American history, could not be fathomed when it occurred. But consider this: Katrina cost slightly less than 2,000 lives – 1 percent of the Haitian estimated deaths. Let your mind recall the heartbreak and headache of that awful time, and then multiply that 100 times.
At least 3 million of its 10 million inhabitants were affected. And these people were destitute already. Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a Gross Domestic Product of less than $8 billion (compared with $13.84 trillion in the United States). Half are illiterate. The average pay is $70 a month, and inflation is 14 percent a year (compared with 2.7 percent here right now). The life expectancy is 52 years, with 10 percent of infants dying before reaching 4 and a third of Haitians ill or underweight.
The first earthquake struck Tuesday, Jan. 12. The 7.0 magnitude quake’s epicenter hit just 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the largest city of Haiti. Eight days later, the country was hit by another quake, an aftershock of 6.1 magnitude.
We applaud the quick action of President Obama, people around this nation and the world, who have stepped up to help the helpless, most of whom already were destitute even before the quake.
Living in a city that experienced a major natural disaster of its own, it is important that we make sure that we do all that we can to help them survive and rebuild.
Remember the stupid suggestion nearly five years ago that the nation should not even consider rebuilding New Orleans? I thought that stupidity couldn’t be matched, but then I heard about the ignorant comments of so-called preacher Pat Robertson and so-called conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh – both of whom apparently are getting more insensitive and racist as they march into senility.
Robertson said the reason for Haiti’s earthquake was because the nation-state made a deal with the devil, implying that voodoo was behind its successful revolt against enslavement by the French, even though 80 percent of Haitians say they are Roman Catholic. (So, one might ask, did the French make a deal with the devil to come up with the formula of working slaves to death in three years – and then go out and replenish the “stock” – to maximize its sugar cane profits?) Then Limbaugh, intellect that he is (NOT!!), criticized Obama’s actions, saying the United States “already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”
How disgusting can you get?
But now that I’ve vented, let’s remember our undeniable connection to Haiti and its natives and what a long, hard struggle to recovery they face. The city of New Orleans and the country of Haiti don’t just share similar tragedies, but a long history. Thousands of Haitians are believed to live in the New Orleans area.
I know with the start of school and those expensive textbooks to buy, money might be tight for students – and even for Dillard faculty and staff, who aren’t exactly at the top of the higher education pay scale. Yet, I encourage everyone to sacrifice just a little to help provide relief to those who need it so much.
Any little bit counts: Please, do what you can.