Monday, January 25, 2010

Malveaux: Haiti Needs More Than Bottled Water

In this image made available by the American Red Cross in London, Wednesday Jan. 13, 2010, a young earthquake survivor is given first aid in a shanty town on the outskirts of Port au Prince, following a major earthquake in Haiti, Tuesday Jan. 12, 2010. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after the strongest earthquake to hit the poor Caribbean nation in more than 200 years crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters. Untold numbers were still trapped.
(AP Photo/Matt Marek/American Red Cross, ho) 

The United States has had an unreasonable policy on Haiti, allowing Cuban refuges, but not Haitian ones, here in the 1980s and 1990s, building concentration camps for those who dared escape from that country’s economic challenges. We have offered a few dollars, but only a few, in humanitarian aid, and at times have actually withheld support to determine “democratic” outcomes, as if starving people should be bribed to embrace an elusive democracy….

“If we are honest, we in the United States must say that some of the blood that was spilled in Haiti is on our hands.

“What must we do now? First of all, we clearly must provide as much humanitarian assistance as we can…. Our next priority, however, must be to assist with infrastructure planning and development…. We have used the Monroe doctrine to intervene in Haiti and in other places in our hemisphere in the past. Now, let’s use the Monroe doctrine to make a positive difference in Haiti.

Former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the artist and activist Wyclef Jean, Institute of the Black World leader Dr. Ron Daniels and so many others have an interest in the growth and development of Haiti….Imagine that these diverse brains sat around a table, with Haitian brothers and sisters and strategize ways that Haiti can thrive….

President Obama deserves credit for his quick response to Haiti. So do many others….It will take more than the distribution of bottled water, high-energy and high-energy biscuits to rescue Haiti, more than the clearing of rubble and the keeping of order. Haiti needs help rebuilding, not only from the earthquake, but also from decades of benign neglect.

(Julianne Malveaux is President of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina.)

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