Map of Haiti as provided by the CIA.
Severe devastation and panic are widespread in Haiti after Tuesday’s major earthquake. In any average year, 18 earthquakes are recorded in the world with equal seismic energy according to a recent U.S. geological survey. (USGS, 2009) However, nearly all of them are recorded in abandoned areas in which no fatalities are recorded. What is so devastating about this earthquake is that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with 80% of its population living under the poverty line. The Haitian economy, of which two-thirds Haitians remain dependent upon agriculture, was already struggling under the force of four tropical storms in 2008 which caused severe damage. (CIA) With only half of its citizens literate and rampant diseases limiting the average lifespan to 60 years of age, the population of Haiti’s constant suffering has now escalated as the number of casualties of the earthquake are estimated from tens of thousands to a hundred thousand.
Actual footage of Haitian earthquake, CBS News Online RAW.
The loss of life in a natural disaster of this magnitude has not been seen since the December 26th, 2004 Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake which caused a tsunami that claimed 275,000 lives. To respond to the devastation, Jewish communities and organizations across America are stepping into action. The vice president for programs, Aaron Dorfman, of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) said that the AJWS is “assessing where the gaps in service are and putting a process in place to help specific communities that might not be immediately served otherwise.” Due to AJWS’s connections to the working class and agricultural organizations in Haiti, they are in a position to “reach the poorest and most remote populations with speed necessary to save lives.” (Haartez)
Images of the devastation in Haiti, CBS News Online RAW.
However, AJWS is by no means the only Jewish organization mobilized in an effort to assist the impoverished and weather beaten country. IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, has dispatched a search team equipped with a field hospital and humanitarian aid. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the foreign aid agency of the Jewish Federations of North America, committed itself to the efforts when Steven Schwager, JDC’s CEO said that the “JDC will provide both immediate relief as well as long-term assistance to help the Haitian people rebuild their lives.” In the interim, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has asked the U.S. government to provide a temporary protective status to Haitians currently in the U.S. in case they are unable to return to Haiti due to the wreckage, they’d be given temporary refuge in the States.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Enquirer has posted a list of organizations donating to the cause of relief in Haiti on its website. Go to http://www.cincinnati.com/news/tsuhelp.html and join the cause to make a difference today.