- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Get Involved
Statement by Joel Charny, Acting President, on the Devastating Earthquake in Haiti
"Refugees International is distressed by the magnitude of the destruction and loss of life as the result of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. We express our condolences to the families of the victims, many of whom were already facing a daily struggle to survive in one of the poorest countries in the world.
"No one was immune from
the quake's destructive force. It struck the United Nations mission in
Haiti especially hard, with 16 peacekeepers dead and 150 employees
missing, including distinguished UN civil servants Hedi Annabi and Luis
Carlos da Costa, the chief and deputy chief of the mission respectively.
"In the coming days the focus will be on rescue and emergency medical care. This is a time for professionals. With the Haitian airport damaged and flight capacity limited, the priority for external personnel should be given to the staff of international aid organizations with a proven capacity to assist in the immediate aftermath of an emergency of this magnitude. Haiti had a vibrant civil society prior to the quake. Locating survivors among Haitian community aid organizations and supporting their efforts should also be an important component of the relief effort.
"The emergency comes at an interesting moment for the Obama administration. The new Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, was sworn in a mere five days before the earthquake. Shah's impressive background, which includes medical and health economics degrees from the University of Pennsyvania, seven years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a short stint as Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the Department of Agriculture, does not include experience working on large-scale natural or man-made disasters. Now, a week into the job, he has to manage the largest immediate emergency response yet mounted by the Obama administration.
"The pivotal issue is the extent to which Dr. Shah and the civilians around him will be in control of the U.S. response. The U.S. military is mobilizing quickly, with Navy ships and helicopters and a 2,000 member Marine unit on their way to Haiti. Their logistical capacity --- to get the port functioning, to provide heavy lift equipment, to transport survivors to emergency medical facilities --- will be invaluable, as it was in the case of the 2004 Asian tsunami. One task for the Marines will be to support the UN peacekeepers in maintaining law and order in a chaotic situation. Such policing is vital to creating an environment for relief workers to carry out their life-saving work.
"The overall premise should that civilians are leading the effort, coordinating the use of all available assets, including those of the military. The Haiti response is a critical early test of the ability of Dr. Shah and the Obama administration to reverse a long-standing trend towards the militarization of humanitarian response."