April 16, 2014

OPINION: U.S. among countries yet to deliver Haiti aid

Corbin H. Crable

chcrable@gardnernews.com

A story on CNN’s website this week updated its readers on those countries that have made good on their promise to deliver relief funds to earthquake-ravaged Haiti – and the news isn’t good for the U.S.
According to the article, America pledged a whopping $1.15 billion of the total $5.3 billion promised to the country in March. The earthquake took place in January.

Now, months later, less than a paltry 2 percent has been put in the Haitian government’s hands – those funds came from Brazil, Norway, Estonia and Australia.

Even though former U.S. President Bill Clinton, also a special U.N. envoy to Haiti, has promised to “put more pressure” on governments that have dragged their feet in delivering their promised money to Haiti, he should start with his own. The U.S., long heralded as the world’s police officer and largest disaster aid donor – or, at least in this case, ‘pledger’ – made an error in promising such a large sum to this already destitute country months ago. Clinton himself has, of course, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of that most common of scapegoats, the global economic recession.

Meanwhile, here at home, our infrastructure continues to age and crumble, unemployment numbers keep rising, and banks march on with the seizure of more and more homes every day. We have our own problems to address. We cannot afford to rebuild an entire nation if our own is in such shambles. And we should have told that to the United Nations when passing the proverbial collection plate around.

If our government had even the slightest inkling that it either wouldn’t be able or willing to deliver on its promises, those promises of monetary assistance should never have been made.

Even in January, when movie stars and politicians graced our television screens falling all over one another, promising to help Haiti, you knew those promises were empty and hollow. When a tragedy the size of the January earthquake has happened before, the actions have been the same: Haiti becomes the cause all of the elite can rally around – until the next big cause arrives.

Those Haitians who remain displaced cannot rely on the empty promises of our celebrities, nor can it apparently rely on our government.

Thus, Haiti and its government – which exists only in the loosest sense of the word – remain almost wholly reliant on the rest of the world as other countries treat their recovery as a trend.

Haiti will never, ever become the stable, thriving region that other countries laughably proclaimed it would become in the face of this tragedy, and we have ourselves to partially blame for that. If the U.S. truly will continue to devote itself to being an advocate for the poor and the helpless across the globe, as it has done since its inception, it must forego empty pledges of aid and take real action. And if it cannot do that, it must say so up front.

Lives are on the line. This is not the time to pledge to save lives if we can’t front the costs.

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