On Tuesday, a massive earthquake hit the nation of Haiti and, as current reports indicate, essentially wiped it out. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands or millions of people are now without basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and clothing.
Nations around the world are sending aid to Haiti, but for many Haitians, this aid will be too little and too late. Already, people are arguing about the amount of time the aid effort is taking, often without any consideration about the nature of the disaster and the effort to save the survivors, making the herculean effort of responding to an act of nature into a chance to make political points that have nothing to do with anything.
As someone who has responded to disasters both large (Katrina) and small (flooding along the Ohio River), I can tell you that one of the things that everyone needs to remember is that this is a disaster. As much as we want it to be true, no amount of planning, preparation, or spending will ever truly prepare any group or nation to be able to adequately respond to a crisis of the magnitude that is now unfolding in Haiti. All any group or nation can do is respond as best as it is able in the time as it is able and with the resources it can muster.
We must all remember that the disaster in Haiti is not just the fact that a catastrophic earthquake has happend killing thousands and displacing many more. This is a crisis that will probably last decades before it finally completely resolves itself, if it ever does. Yes, it is heartrending and tragic that people are dying not just because of the quake itself but because of the human suffering in its aftermath, but there is no way to prevent these things completely.
Instead, we should focus ourselves of doing what can be done, as quickly as they can be done, for as long as they need to be done. In the doing, mistakes will be made and more people may even die as a result of them, but we must still do as best as we can until the job is done.
Now, you can help too. Pray for those who are suffering and those who are helping them. If you have the means, donate to the relief effort (I personally recommend Lutheran World Relief). If you have the will and the skills, volunteer to help (LWR).
And don’t just do these things now. The best way to help make sure that the next response is better is to be part of the solution. You can serve. You can volunteer. You can be prepared yourself. You can even influence the course of future responses by participating in your government.
Whatever you do, accept that this is a disaster and that there is no easy way to respond to it. Instead of pointing fingers, respond. We’ll all be better for it.