The government must be commended for its prompt response to the crisis in Haiti. The government has already signaled that it will provide some US$1M in assistance to that country to help in the recovery efforts.
While this is just a drop in the ocean in comparison to what is required, for Guyana it represents a huge undertaking since with that sum of money, a great many things could have been done.
President Jagdeo has been quick to respond while many of his counterparts are no doubt awaiting the assessment which is to be done by CARICOM.
CARICOM is wasting time trying to undertake any assessment. What will the assessment tell them that is not already known? And what help can all the combined countries within the region provide that would require such an assessment.
The leaders of the region should take their cue from President Jagdeo and commit to providing funds for the international relief effort.
President Barack Obama of the United States of America has signaled that his country will be providing significant monetary assistance ($100M) to the earthquake-ravaged country. In April of last year at the Summit of the Americas, the US President had promised a fresh beginning in relations with the region. This is yet to be seen.
The crisis in Haiti where tens of thousands of persons are believed to be dead presents the US President with the opportunity to do something tangible to bring an end to the persistent misery that has afflicted that Caribbean nation.
Haiti has had its problems but the Americans owe to that nation a responsibility to put things right given their historical support for a family which ran Haiti to the ground.
The US has also historically failed to take decisive actions against the usurpers of power and even went as far a few years ago of being complicit in the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide being sent into political asylum.
The Americans should therefore have a historical obligation and this obligation should force them at this stage to stay clear of imposing conditions on whatever assistance is granted to Haiti. What Haiti needs now is to be able to rebuild the damage done to their country.
Right now every country in the world should do something to help the suffering people. But while there is this global expectation, there is also a moral obligation on the part of every citizen to contribute to the relief efforts.
We know in the past about the problems that arise during relief exercises especially when there are bottlenecks. What is therefore needed is a coordinated effort. And this is why CARICOM instead of conducting an assessment should lobby the international community to establish one single relief agency that would coordinate the global response to this humanitarian crisis.
The immediate concern would be to help persons find their loved ones and to bury the dead.
The next step should be to provide shelters for the tens of thousands left homeless. The third step would involve massive spending to rebuild the country.
When Grenada was devastated by a hurricane a few years ago, the response was quick and decisive However Grenada is not Haiti and what worked in Grenada will not necessarily work in Haiti.
The help that was provided by CARICOM during the rebuilding of Grenada will be miniscule when compared to the needs of Haiti at this time and this is why instead of wasting time with assessments, the other leaders of the region should simply give what they can afford and provide the international relief teams with the support needed to deal with this crisis.
The President of Guyana should therefore forget about establishing a team to mobilize relief efforts. You do not need a team to allocate the money. Just take the money buy a few shiploads of rice and send them to Haiti.
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