Mission impossibly too slow

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, January 18, 2010
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The newsreader warns viewers may find the images "distressing" of the reports about the devastation unfolding in Haiti. As the world watched on in horror and shock from the comfort of their own armchairs, wishing there was "something they could do", the pathetic trickle of aid slowly arriving in the Haitian capital roused anger and disbelief among many sorrowful "armchair onlookers".

After the powerful earthquake hit the powerless city on Tuesday, January 12, the information reported on the major news channels – not only in the immediate wake of the disaster but also the following few days – all announced that although international help was on its way, it had yet to arrive. As I flipped from channel to channel, journalists kept telling me "time was running out" for these desperate people, causing me to shout back at the television, "Why don't they hurry up!" As the world leaders, Hollywood politicians, actors, and royalty obediently pledged their plans to coordinate aid and provide money to help the destitute nation, I kept thinking, "Stop talking about it and do it."

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and until disaster struck its capital this week, it remained an insignificant nation, a stranger to the limelight, situated close to radically dissimilar rich and powerful United States. With such close proximity to one another, why therefore did it take so long for the necessary aid and vital supplies to arrive?

On Thursday, in his second meeting with the press about Haiti, President Obama insisted his country was "moving as quickly as possible."

"Even if we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours, and in many cases days, to get all of our people and resources on the ground," Obama said.

Haiti's ambassador to the United States admitted that the country's infrastructure was among the world's worse even prior to the earthquake, so it came as little surprise that major travel disruption is hampering the rescue mission. The airport being shut, roads blocked and the port badly damaged, all hindered the outside world from entering this place of chaos and devastation. But despite these "frustrating logistics" and "serious obstacles", while Obama's sentiment that it takes time to organize major relief missions may be true, minor and quicker aid efforts may have been implemented for more immediate relief in those first crucial hours. Given the Haiti's close proximity to the States, why weren't helicopters made airborne to drop off well needed water and food? An "assessment" team may have been dispatched but there had still not been widespread distribution of water or food for three days after the quake and struck.

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