What About Haiti?

3 Mar

Over a month and a half ago, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged the impoverished nation of Haiti. Over 200,000 were killed, over 300,000 were injured, and over one million were left homeless. You would think that a tragedy of that scale would be hard to forget, right?

Unfortunately for the recovering country, Canadians caught the Olympic fever and have been distracted from the original humanitarian focus ever since. This is not to say that the people of this country have not been extremely generous in giving to relief, they have. In fact, $113 million was donated to the healing country, which was then matched by the Canadian government

Yet most of the people who donated felt they did their part by handing over a sum of money to a relief organization. Was this enough?

If there were a demand for Haiti updates, news agencies would be splattered with stories related to the earthquake. If one looks at daily newspapers, however, a Haiti story will surface with extensive digging.

The Olympics have even diluted the media exposure of last week’s earthquake in Chile. Only after the games were over could the South American tragedy take centre stage. And yet, in the order of importance, it seems like other stories have risen in the ranks.

Toronto Star on March 1, for example, has a story entitled “The day hockey went to the opera” as their main piece. It is about novelist Alison Gordon’s experience going to the opera while the Canada-U.S. gold medal game was on. This story, large and in charge; Chile stories, off to the side; and Haiti stories, non-existent.

Haiti faces the same problem that disaster responses before it like 9/11, hurricane Katrina, and the Boxing day tsunami have had to overcome. At first there is an outpour of donations, and then soon after, the rate of incoming contributions slows down. Only initial assistance can be afforded and not ongoing support, which is what these countries really need.

When news stops covering an event such as the Haitian earthquake a month after it happens, all can be forgotten. We, as a nation, and as a planet, suffer from a short attention span. News by definition seeks to report on the immediate, the most impactful, and the local. When an event moves beyond this spectrum, it becomes old news. It is the reality of journalism.

CBC reporter Natasha Fatah asked her readers on Jan. 23, “will we follow through?” regarding the crisis in Haiti. She feared the millions of dollars pouring into the country would be mismanaged as it always has when money has been given to the country.

With public interest in relief dwindling, how will we know that the right measures are in place? And on a more disturbing note, do Canadians care? Of course we only have good wishes for the recovering nation, but active lobbying for regulations and control of Haiti reconstruction seems slim to none.

Sadly, the world does not stop when an issue is not reported on anymore. Problems do not solve themselves, especially those that cost billions of dollars. As Rome was not built in a day, Haiti will not be rebuilt in a month, and I wish, for Haiti’s sake, that this was hard to forget.

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4 Responses to “What About Haiti?”

  1. Ian March 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    it’s easy to blame the news media and certainly they are at fault to some degree… but their sole reason for being is to make a profit. they are accountable only to their shareholders. ideals of journalistic integrity and in-depth concern with ongoing world issues are subscribed to only so long as they keep an audience watching/listening/reading… See more. the olympics certainly did refocus the national attention, but haiti was almost entirely out of our collective consciousness before that. any news network that takes the initiative and devotes even one minute of a 30 minute newscast to haiti on a nightly basis is likely to drop in the ratings at this point – only if EVERY news network did that would it be a feasible thing for them to do and such cooperation is unlikely.

    you suggested that hopefully we canadians and other citizens of wealthy nations do still care. i think we do care, insofar as if you asked any of us what we thought about what was going on in haiti, we’d say that it was just tragic and we hope the very best for everyone there and we wish that more would be done. but do we care enough to DO anything about it? to KEEP giving $10 at the checkout every week until haiti is even halfway down the road to recovery? sadly, i don’t think we do.

    why is that the case? there are a number of factors, too many to go into detail here. most of them are systemic so there are few actions that one individual or group of individuals can take to affect the collective consciousness in such a way that we might show more interest. that’s not to say we who do care should just give up… it is up to those who do care to remind those who have forgotten that their help really is still needed.

  2. michellefrommadison March 9, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    Hopefully soon, before another penny is spent on Haiti, it’s people, or it’s infrastructure, that America realizes the fragility of this doomed piece of the world. And in a humanitarian position says to it’s survivors there are two options available in which the United States will assist them. ONE: leave the country and the U.S. can put it’s donated money into helping to relocate and to stabilize those people. And, TWO: if anyone who chooses to remain there, to make them aware that the U.S. should not, and will never, help those people again because it is predictable that their country will sustain another devastating earth-tremor-catastrophe in the near future. Remaining there is futile optimistic expectations that have proven to be nothing but a farce. Clear out and be helped, and trash the entire country of Haiti, sell it to a neighboring country for all rights and privileges and use that money to help the survivors. To put a penny more into that hornet’s nest is a freakin’ waste of anyone’s money.

    • romeh March 9, 2010 at 9:43 am #

      You’re saying assisting countries should help displace the whole of Haiti because there MIGHT be another natural disaster there? Most countries in the Carribean are hit by hurricanes every year, should we just pack them all up and move them elsewhere?

  3. michellefrommadison March 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Yup, get on the plane or be on your own. The U.S. doesn’t have the money to help them out. Two options only; get on the plane or stay. 🙂

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