In response to the heartbreaking crisis in Haiti, the CCPA Counsellors for Social Justice chapter has assembled the following information about donating and/or volunteering. Following this list is a short description of both Haiti's rich history and the challenges it faces today.
1. Follow this link to a CBC news article in which people are cautioned to be careful about where they send money for Haitian disaster relief: http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/01/14/consumer-haiti-donations-scams.html
Generally, people should be mindful to donate only to charitable organizations that are widely known, and to make the donation directly to the organization, not through another person or organization claiming to collect on their behalf.
2. Some reputable Canadian disaster relief organizations include the Canadian Red Cross, Care Canada, Oxfam Canada, Save the Children Canada, and World Vision Canada, as well as international organizations such as UNICEF, the Humanitarian Coalition, and Doctors Without Borders.
3. The following link is about "responsible giving" and directs people to the Canada Revenue Agency: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/donors. The CRA also provides recommendations for donating to the relief effort in Haiti.
4. Counsellors may want to find out whether there is a disaster relief program that includes a psychsocial component in their province. For example, BC has a Disaster Relief Network, which is coordinating with the Salvation Army to send volunteers to Haiti. Counsellors in BC can obtain specialized training in Disaster Psychosocial Response and be on a 'call' list.
Haiti is a country with a rich and fascinating history – a history of resilient people who fought off slavery, and have survived civil war, massacres, and oppressive leadership. In 1804 Haiti became the first black republic in the world and has remained independent to this day. This revolution in Haiti was influential in the slave rebellions in the US and Britain, which eventually resulted in the abolishment of slavery in these countries.
Haiti is also considered, by most economic measures, to be one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries in the world. Its GDP per capita is $790USD, which translates into over half of the population living on less than $2 a day. Only 40% of the population has access to basic health care. In Haiti, the number of inhabitants per doctor is 4,000 – compared to 400 in Canada. According to the World Health Organization, nearly half the causes of death are attributed to malnutrition and preventable illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, meningitis, and diarrheal diseases like cholera and typhoid. Ninety percent of Haiti’s children suffer from waterborne diseases and intestinal parasites from lack of clean water and proper sanitation. The adult literacy rate is about 65%. Unfortunately, education is out of reach for many children – only 20% of eligible-age children have access to secondary school. More than 200,000 children are orphaned, having lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy for the average Haitian citizen? Fifty-three years.
Prior to the earthquake, Haiti’s infrastructure was primitive and poorly maintained at best – the result of decades of under-investment and environmental damage. Only 10% of the urban population has access to electricity, while Haiti’s main power generating system is barely sufficient to provide for their key export industries. A main contributing factor to these conditions is the nation’s current debt, which stands at 1 billion. Indeed, 30 to 40% of the Haitian government’s budget is comprised of foreign aid. As with many developing countries, repayment of debt is typically at the expense of education, health care, and critical infrastructure required to bolster the country’s economic viability and overcome the “poverty trap”.
How any country and its citizens deal with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake is pause for reflection. Yet one must wonder about the impact of such devastation in countries with a pre-existing poverty level such as Haiti’s. How might crumbling infrastructure, erratic power supply, inaccessibility to clean water, and a compromised health care system affect a nation’s response to an earthquake? For example, might poor infrastructure contribute to greater devastation, and consequently greater human loss – loss that might not otherwise have occurred in nations that could afford stronger buildings or a better transportation system? Might a lack of medical resources, such as doctors, hinder much needed primary intervention? The challenges of poverty are far reaching in the absence of a natural disaster, and encourage us to reflect on its impact in light of such devastating events on a people with such a proud heritage.