Saturday, January 16, 2010

The situation in Haiti

Obviously you don't need me to tell you about the situation in Haiti right now.

But I happened a February 2009 copy of The Economist, with this article about the situation then:
THERE is a new lake outside Gonaïves, a town of 300,000 people and the fourth-largest in Haiti. It blocks the road south to the capital, Port-au-Prince. It formed last autumn when four storms, three of them hurricanes, swept over the poorest country in the Americas in the space of a month. The rain—a metre’s worth on one night alone—fell on saturated mountains, long since denuded of their forest cover, and swept down on to the coastal plain. It seemed a modest victory that only 793 people died, compared with 3,000 killed by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004.

Five months later, bulldozers have cleared the mud from the main streets of Gonaïves. Away from them, on countless side streets, pedestrians look down on rooftops on either side. The houses have been dug out by hand, and the dirt piled in mounds on the roadway.

Only 20% of the town has been cleaned up, estimates Olivier Le Guillou of Action Contre la Faim, a French charity, which has paid 1,800 residents to help do the job. The damage was not confined to Gonaïves. Haiti’s agriculture minister reckons that 60% of the harvest was lost and 160,000 goats were killed, along with 60,000 pigs and 25,000 cows. In all, the storms have cost the country $900m, or 14.6% of GDP, according to a donor-funded government study. That is equivalent to 12 times the damage of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, and comes just four years after Jeanne wiped out 7% of Haiti’s GDP.
You must subscribe to read the whole article. Perhaps the people at The Economist will not complain if you simply buy a newstand copy of their magazine soon instead, or donate something to relief or rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

It strikes me that in Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue called this week for an extra $300 million a year for transportation projects, for the next 10 years.

If just one of those years were spent on Haiti, you would sit in roughly the same metro Atlanta traffic for a marginally longer period of time, and an area of Port-au-Prince could be rebuilt, probably by Georgia companies.

I'm not saying, I'm saying that's an amazing difference in living conditions for the span of 800 miles. This earthquake has the potential to be a real call for positive change in Haiti.

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