January 21, 2010


Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 80% of its population is living under the poverty line, 54% in abject poverty. If you applied that figure to the US, 243,247,779 of us would be living in poverty. With a population of just over 10 million, it's still bad - around 8 million people. But that's 8 million poverty stricken people inhabiting a country the size of Delaware.

abject poverty: absolute or great poverty; so poor there is no hope

The Haitian labor force is only around 3.5 million people strong. Of those, only two thirds of the labor force have formal jobs. The average annual income is $270. The Haitian people have very little to export, relying instead on agriculture for subsistence. Last year, they imported $2 billion worth of goods yet exported only $490 million. In 2008 they owed the world $611 million and that figure did not improve in the time leading up to the earthquake. Haiti has unreliable communications with only 108,000 landlines and a cell infrastructure that supports 3 million devices. They have 14 airports, only four of which have paved runways.

No matter how you slice and dice the figures, they're bad, and they point to a country and a people who cannot be expected to survive a disaster without assistance.

It is estimated that last week's earthquake claimed 250,000 lives though a final figure may not be known for months. Were you to stack the dead, they would stretch over 45 miles into the sky, reaching the mesosphere, the third layer of the atmosphere. When you see shooting stars burning upon entry, that's the mesosphere. Were you to undertake the macabre and unthinkable task of lining those bodies up, end to end, they would stretch from Washington, DC to New York City. Or nearly the length of the Grand Canyon. Or the approximate distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It would take you somewhere around four hours to travel the length of the dead.

Late last week, Rush Limbaugh stated that the crisis in Haiti was "made to order" for the Obama administration. It would, he said, politicize the disaster "to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community." In a final twist of cruelty, Limbaugh urged listeners to avoid contributing to relief efforts saying, “We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”

In an unfortunate and avoidable twist of fate, a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship just recently docked at the port of Ladabee, on Haiti, where the company leases a large stretch of idyllic beach and throws a great big party for passengers. They brought a couple of pallets of relief supplies but the 3,600 passengers cavorting on the beach while mere miles away people were fighting for their lives seems obscene. In fact, some passengers were so "sickened" by the situation and the message it sent that they refused to get off the ship. The party-goers needn't have worried about the riff-raff getting in; in a startling display of how the other half lives, the private beach is surrounded by 12 foot fences and armed guards.

You. It's a simple as that.

- The American Red Cross
- Doctors Without Borders
- Text 'HAITI' to '90999' and $10 to Red Cross will be charged to your phone bill
- Mercy Corps
- The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

Like I said, this isn't a country that can pull itself out of the devastation without help. Though we might never travel to Haiti or be touched directly by this disaster, helping is what we'd want others in far off lands to do if we were unable to help ourselves. I'm also pretty sure no one wants to see Rush Limbaugh proven right.

Posted by Chris at January 21, 2010 7:26 AM

Rush Limbaugh or that senile old fool Pat Robertson who claimed the people made a deal with the devil in exchange for independence (sort of).

Posted by: ann adams at January 21, 2010 7:34 AM

well said.

Posted by: Debbie at January 21, 2010 7:56 AM

Nice summation. I am appalled by some people who I consider "friends" voicing that we should not help Haiti "would they help us" they ask...I think its time to reevaluate some of these relationships.

I can't imagine how cold hearted, selfish, or just plain stupid you have to be to see those images and stories coming out of Haiti and NOT be moved into action.

Posted by: Lisa at January 21, 2010 8:07 AM

I am not defending Limbaugh but I do think you missed a specific part of what he said about not donating...he said do not doante through the White House's website.

Obama said he was committing 100 million to this cause and rightfully so. That 100 million is tax payer money. People who want to give more should do so how they see fit.

Posted by: William at January 21, 2010 8:32 AM

Wow- I had heard about the Pat Robertson comment but not the Rush comment. Living in Korea, I am not exposed to World news unless I go searching for it. And honestly I try not to go searching for world news too often because it is often filled with horrific violence or disasters. I know its not good to live in the dark, but be inundated with the news can be dark in itself. Thanks for this Post.

Posted by: alfredsmom at January 21, 2010 8:44 AM

All the suggestions you've made are excellent, but here's one more: http://www.fmsc.org/Page.aspx?pid=398

It's called Feed My Starving Children, and they had a program on the ground in Haiti before the earthquake -- they've been able to get up and running faster than some other groups as a result. It is a Christian organization, but the focus is on aid and not on proselytizing.

Posted by: Julie at January 21, 2010 9:05 AM

I wasn't going to comment but the Rush stuff just pisses me off. I say we drop Rush in the middle of it with the damned clothes on his back and see how he fairs. OR better yet I say we drop him in the middle of a jungle somewhere so he can longer speak to the American people especially those gulliable (read: STOOPID) enough to believe anything he says.

Of course, this is the same asshole who said after his stay in the hospital that he does not GET the health care crisis. The cost of his stay was NOT THAT BAD. Ummm we are not all getting paid a shit load of money and we are all not insuranced to the nines like him. Of course it was not that bad dumbass...

Stepping away from both my soapbox and the computer.

Posted by: Christina at January 21, 2010 9:13 AM

Haiti is going to be a big job. This is a time when relief efforts should be going all through the Nations that are part of the UN. Haiti was in a bad way before this and no one did a darn thing. You simply cannot throw money at something and think it will make it all better.
Haiti needs framework. It needs people, like the Peace Corps going in to help build schools, homes and teaching these people how to care for themselves.
How tragic that this had to happen to a country that is so unable to take care of itself during the best of times.
Yes, they need humanitarian help now to survive, but long term they need International help to become a place where their people can live a decent life.

Posted by: Maribeth at January 21, 2010 9:26 AM

I can't even address idiots who believe they have the market on moral values and what is right in the world and can vomit crap like that when there are people - HUMAN BEINGS - literally dying in the streets, dead in the streets, CHILDREN scared and lonely and starving.

I don't care who the hell you are or what political or religious affiliation you have, if you can watch one second of the coverage of Haiti and turn away unaffected, more power to you...I can't. I want to help, I want to make their lives better. I don't want to politicize the event or condemn a nation for their past, that's the furthest from my brain at the moment.

Good post. Made me cry. But then, I've cried every day since the earthquake watching what those beautiful people have had to endure.

Posted by: cyndy at January 21, 2010 9:30 AM

You know when a country as poor and as mired in corruption and horror as the Democratic Republic of Congo gives aid to Haiti that you (that is, Limbaugh et al) need to shut your gob and start doing something to help out instead of misleading people to believe that going to the White House website meant Obama was taking the money.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at January 21, 2010 9:39 AM

I also want to mention that if you use your Discover card's cashback bonus money for the American Red Cross instead of paying your bill with it, Discover will double your money. I felt good about donating that way knowing that a company would match my money.

Posted by: Brad at January 21, 2010 10:35 AM

"I'm also pretty sure no one wants to see Rush Limbaugh proven right."

You said it.

Posted by: Angelica at January 21, 2010 10:45 AM

My sister is a paramedic and is trained in disaster relief and rescue. She is getting ready to go over there with a church group that is bringing water and supplies. I am so proud of her, for actually DOING something about it. I will be caring for her 11 yr old son for her while she is gone, so I guess that is part of how I can help. The church is bringing care kits, so my girls and I are putting together "shoebox" kits - they have a change of shirt, underwear, water, shampoo, soap, antibacterial wash, and other toiletries. It seems like such a small amount compared to what is needed, but it's something.

Posted by: Jen at January 21, 2010 11:13 AM

Chris, you have such a way with words. I read your blog pretty much every day and think, "Wow, what a really smart, sweet, fabulous guy." I'm sure you hear it all the time, but what you say and do makes a difference.

Take care and keep doing what you are doing.

Posted by: Kris at January 21, 2010 11:49 AM

Most of us don't know all that much about Haitian+American history, but it's worth reading about.

We've pretty much done nothing but screw them over for 200+ years. From refusing to recognize them as a country for decades after they won their independence to (in cahoots with the World Bank) forcing them to join the world market and then willfully dumping enough subsidized rice and sugar cane on the market that their agricultural economy was destroyed (their farmers can no longer afford to farm and these days IMPORT most of their rice/sugar) to propping up one dictator after another (all of whom raided/emptied their financial reserves and made it impossible for them to pay back world debts, improve infrastructure, build hospitals, educate, develop any kind of economy, etc.) to sending in troops again little over a decade ago in order to restore Aristade to power. He not only robbed Haiti blind, but disbanded their military and turned them into a corrupt police- and narco-state. And then scammed all the drug trafficking profits into his personal accounts and f*cked off to S. Africa.

It's unlikely Haiti would be poor if it weren't for the US government.

You're right when you say they can't pull out of this without our help. But that's actually our fault. We're not heroes for helping them now--how can we be when we've been washing our hands in their blood pretty much from the beginning?

How lucky we are to live here--instead of living elsewhere and being at our mercy. It makes me ill.

Posted by: Elise at January 21, 2010 11:49 AM

And having gne one and on, I must apologize for hijacking your comments in order to rant. It's just that my heart breaks daily, and I don't have any solutions. Which is even more heartwrenching.

Posted by: Elise at January 21, 2010 11:53 AM

Charity to me is giving because we can and should. How anyone can joke about Haiti and their massive suffering is inconceivable to me. Rush can jump off the cliff anytime.

We gave to Doctors Without Borders shortly after the first earthquake. I might look for ways to help out more. Clean, cheap water was of great interest to me last night on Joy's show with Ashley Judd. Packets poured into water can provide clean water for a family of 4 for a month for 50 cents. Never heard of such a thing.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at January 21, 2010 1:28 PM

very eloquent Chris

Posted by: stephanie at January 21, 2010 1:35 PM

I never heard the Rush Limbaugh thing. UGH.

I enjoy your summation of the situation. I wish you could send it all over. So many people seem to ignore the things that aren't right in front of them...

Posted by: caleal at January 21, 2010 2:22 PM

I was taught that you raise yourself up as a human being by helping others. That your soul expands when you look away from your own petty concerns. That everybody "counts," no matter how different they may seem.

To me, Rush Limbaugh's statements are by definition dehumanizing. It's sad how some people see every event, no matter how monumentally NOT about them, as a means to gain personal/political ends.

Fortunately, I think most Americans are better than that. I'd have to in order to love my country.

Posted by: Laura at January 21, 2010 4:40 PM

abject poverty means only having cakes made out of mud and spices to eat.

and don't forget about the a-hole pat robertson.

Posted by: kati at January 21, 2010 6:37 PM

What a horrible thing to say :( People are so entirely awful sometimes, it's appalling. But also, some people are doing a lot of good in this terrible situation and that helps to restore my faith in humanity a little bit.

Posted by: Heather at January 21, 2010 6:39 PM

Well said Cactus.
If anyone is interested in donating to help rescue the animals of Haiti here are a couple of reputable relief effort sites:



Posted by: laineyDid at January 21, 2010 6:44 PM

Well said indeed. It's heartbreaking what's going on in Haiti. It;s hard to understand where someone like Rush or Robertson is coming from. How can you live with yourself and say/think these things? Of course, my parents are probably in complete agreement with them (I'd never ask, I don't want to know for sure) and that breaks my heart too.

Posted by: Jess at January 21, 2010 10:40 PM

The disaster makes me sick. But not quite as sick as the comments made by heartless idiots. We have to give. There is no other choice.

Posted by: Heather at January 21, 2010 11:58 PM

Tracy Kidder's book, Mountains Beyond Mountains tells the story of Boston doctor Paul Farmer, his work in Haiti, and the creation of Partners in Health. The work they have been doing for 25 years in Haiti is remarkable and their hospitals in the countryside have not been damaged by the earthquake.

I decided that Partners in Health would be in the best position to use my donation effectively. They have a dedicated relief page at www.StandWithHaiti.org

Posted by: Marshall at January 22, 2010 6:28 AM

Great post!

Posted by: molly at January 22, 2010 11:19 AM