More about the crisis and how to help: state.gov/haitiquakeAbout the Author: Irene Marr serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer for the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, and covers Western Hemisphere countries, including Haiti.
It is hard to believe that the people of Haiti are being tested yet again – an earthquake so powerful it is being called the worst crisis the country has ever faced. Haiti certainly is no stranger to crisis; little over a year ago it was hit by multiple hurricanes. Storms ravaged the city of Port-au-Prince, displacing 150,000 people from their homes. Ranking as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it seems particularly cruel that it has now been subjected to a disaster of “biblical” proportion, as Secretary Clinton has called it.
While this is clearly a human tragedy and a nightmare for all Haitians, those of us who work in the area of women’s human rights cannot help but consider the importance of including a gender perspective as the international community mounts a response. One can only imagine the impact this earthquake will have on the women of Haiti and their struggle just to survive.
When the news of the earthquake broke, it was painful to hear reports of desperate mothers attempting to feed their babies mud just to put something in their empty bellies, and to see news footage of a young girl being pulled out from rubble with broken bones, not knowing if she would ever see her parents again; mothers seeing their children dead at the side of the road.
Support and outreach to women in Haiti will be especially challenging under these horrific conditions, but essential to the solution to reconstruction and recovery. As governments, the military, and disaster relief services assess the humanitarian devastation and physical damage, I hope they will consider the particular needs of women. There will be no promise of a future for Haiti if the women and girls are left behind or excluded from the recovery.
Although we are only beginning to discern the potential consequences, it is remarkable to see Americans from the highest levels of our government to the ordinary citizen with a cell phone, mobilizing to respond to President Obama’s call for a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to help Haiti through this crisis. The various aid drives and fundraising being done by volunteers, students, churches, relief organizations, NGOs, and so many others send a strong message of solidarity to the people of Haiti.
As President Obama said to the people of Haiti, “you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you. We know that you are a strong and resilient people.” While these are words of hope, they are also a call to action. Please, in addition to the donations you send to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps, consider also donating to organizations, such as MADRE, which in addition to supplying general aid are specifically concerned with preventing the upsurge in violence against women that can occur in the aftermath of large-scale disasters.
The mothers, the daughters, the sisters, the grandmothers and the aunts – the backbone of Haitian society – will not be forgotten.
Anyone wishing to donate or provide assistance in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck near Port au Prince on Jan 12, 2010, is asked to contact the Center for International Disaster Information.
For those interested in helping immediately, simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.