Monday, September 8, 2008

Storms Over the Caribbean

Those of us in the U.S. who monitored the tracks of recent hurricanes and tropical storms Fay, Gustav, and Hanna continue to worry about the impact on the Gulf region of the United States, Florida, and the East Coast.
New Orleans, still recovering from the effects of 2005 Hurricane Katrina and the governmental neglect, abuse, and discrmination that intensified its horrific effects, remains of particular concern.
This time, federal, state, and local officials appeared to act quickly: millions were evacuated in advance (and were provided some means to do so) and better public and private services were in place. Still, damage to homes, businesses, and lives is extensive. Years after Katrina, survivors are still suffering from slow assistance for housing repairs or replacement, lack of health care, and educational access for children. Officials have yet to recognize these concerns as human rights issues.
Now Hurricane Ike threatens the region again. Evacuees from New Orleans deliberate whether to return in the face of new hurricane threats (or how to survive economically if they delay returning).

Keeping the Caribbean Visible
Those who have relatives or friends in the Caribbean watched in horror as initially brief news reports also indicated that Caribbean islands such as Haiti (credit for photo above left: Oxfam) (the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and already subject to a UN peacekeeping mission as a crucible of international political, strategic, military, and economic conflict), Cuba, and the Turks and Caicos received multiple direct hits within days of each other.
Even those small island governments that have tried to follow international guidelines on risk reduction, disaster preparedness, and treatment of internally displaced persons, cannot address the overwhelming scope and rapidity with which these disasters have occurred.

Information and Ways to Help
Caribbean-Americans in U.S. immigrant communities are already doing what such communities always do -- calling or e-mailing relatives and friends (if lines still work), sending money to repair or rebuild homes, and packing up medicines and clothing to repair lives. But the need is massive, particularly in Haiti. In that country alone hundreds have died in the city of Gonaives. According to news reports this morning, 80 per cent of the homes in Turks and Caicos sustained serious damage, as did key businesses. Obviously, the aftermath will require long-term commitment.
Here are a few resource sites, but readers should feel free to add information in the comments section:
CNN List of Private Aid Agencies (International and U.S.)
ReliefWeb (professional coordination site for humanitaran agencies)
Oxfam (update page on Haiti)
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

1 comment:

Marjorie Florestal said...

I'm saddened to see the devastation in Haiti getting just brief mention in the mainstream press, but things are going from bad to worse there. Thanks for posting this Hope.