Leader sheds light on Haiti’s troubles

By Christie Craig

Members of the UK community and a U.S. international development offical discussed the severe conditions of Haiti and how UK can help the struggling nation Friday.

“The United States, the University of Kentucky, and the Haitian Crisis” featured Russell Porter, the deputy coordinator of the United States Agency for International Development. President John F. Kennedey developed USAID in 1961 to implement foreign aid around the world.

The organization has sent 12,000 people to Haiti in its strategy to bring relief and development, which ideally would blend for prosperity, Porter said.  The Department of Defense has sent an additional 20,000 people for vertical lift of people, supplies and rubble by helicopter to work with the agency.

“It has been a huge challenge for the agency to coordinate with the Department of Defense, but we couldn’t have done it without them,” Porter said.

Haiti, the poorest conuntry in the western hemisphere, experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January. The country also faces a cholera epidemic that has spread to Port au Prince, the nation’s capital.

Haiti ranks 148 on the United Nations’ development index, Porter said.   Eighty percent of Haitians make their living in the informal economy.  A quarter of all Haitian children are chronically malnourished, and these are all statistics made prior to the earthquake and cholera outbreak, Porter said.  When the earthquake hit, 3.5 million people were displaced. That was the largest urban displacement that has occurred in recent history.  The response was the largest urban feeding program in history, Porter said.

But there are several cooks in this kitchen, non-profit organizations, multi-national organizations, and national governments rushed to aid the nation in hope to make it operate to its full potential.  But if this aid is not spent efficiently, it will only hinder the nation more as a crutch instead of improving it, Porter said.

Two million oral rehydration salts to ease cholera our on it’s way to Haiti and today 185 messages will play on Haitian radio and television telling people to wash their hands and practice hygiene.

“We can’t put enough doctors in the country,” Porter said. “It’s going to have to be the Haitians who will be trained.”