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Editorial: Worldwide groups, leaders unite to restore hope to Haiti

Jan. 21, 2010

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Claire Taylor | Lariat Staff

At 5:14 p.m. on Jan. 12, Haiti shook violently as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the southern part of the Caribbean island. At this time, a suspected 65,000 people are presumed dead while an astonishing 3 million people have been affected by the disaster, according to the State Department.

People worldwide have admirably rallied together and begun working on ways to lift up the rubble-ridden country through the sending of food, water and medical supplies.

"On food, we have already have mobilized and have en route 600,000 humanitarian daily rations," USAID Administrator Raj Shah said in a briefing Friday. "In addition, we are mobilizing -- we have mobilized $48 million worth of food assistance."

According to Shah, that will be enough food supplies to last several months and feed approximately 2 million people. Shah travelled to Haiti on Saturday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support USAID relief projects.

"Secretary Clinton...has been spending a lot of her time on the phone with other foreign ministers, speaking about the critical need for the kind of coordination that we would actually like to have," State Department counselor Cheryl Mills said.

As the United States Agency for International Development, USAID is an independent federal agency guided by the Secretary of State. USAID has been in existence for 40 years and works with more than 3,500 American companies and more than 300 American private volunteer organizations. USAID is currently mobilizing 100,000 10-liter containers to make potable water easily accessible. Twenty-thousand of those containers were to arrive in Haiti on Friday.

Despite the recent and literal destruction of buildings, the country of Haiti was already suffering. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Two-thirds of the more than 9 million Haitian people do not have formal jobs.

American political leaders are handling the aftermath of the devastating quake in Haiti with poise, grace and compassion.

Citing the $1 billion American people gave to the tsunami-hit people of South Asia, former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton said they believe in the American people's ability to give.

"We know the American people will respond again. Just as any of us would reach out to a neighbor in need here at home, we will do everything we can to give aid, care and comfort to our neighbors in the Caribbean, now and in the months and years to come," the two men said Saturday in a New York Times opinion piece.

According to a fact sheet released by the Department of State, the government of Haiti has buried 13,000 corpses in two days and the management of corpses in public is still a major concern. The sheet also cited that the total humanitarian donations to Haiti total more than $130 million.

Through the use of Twitter, Facebook and television, the American Red Cross advertised an effort to collect relief donations through a text messaging service.

"That portal has raised more than $9 million to date for the Red Cross," Mills said. "We are hopeful that money will be put to great use on behalf of the Haitian people."

Having an ailing economy ourselves, the American people should view this tragedy as a wake-up call. Despite our horrid housing market and a stale Wall Street, there are other countries facing far worse. Regardless of our current economic situation, the Haitian people need our help.

They need selfless, unwavering aid. "The United States commitment to Haiti, is a long and deep one," Mills said. "And it is not only going to be in their hour of need, but is going to be for the long term."

We may be facing turbulent times here -- but nothing that drastically and directly threatens the lives of those we love. Extending a helping hand to Haiti is the American way. Leaders across the nation have acted appropriately and efficiently in order to provide essential supplies to Haiti. All we can do now is pray for those working in the country, those affected by the earthquake and those in mourning.

Helping others is not a matter determined by politics or government -- it is a human responsibility. Leaders have handled the situation in a kindhearted way, void of all bureaucracy. For that we are thankful. Keep giving and praying, Americans. That is what Haiti needs from us most.