It’s impossible not to be moved by the horrible events in Haiti. And it gives us a lot to think about in terms of sustainability.
And in Haiti, the complete lack of sustainability shows wherever you look right now. The obvious lack of building codes contributed to many deaths, insufficient airport and port construction work is delaying rescue and the health care system was marginal to begin with.
Which is not to blame the Haitians. Their situation was brought about by ages of poverty caused by exploitation by richer nations. But this doesn’t mean we can’t learn from this incident.
One of the biggest lessons is going to be about how to help poorer countries over the long term and to be more more proactive.
Partners in Health has a long history in Haiti and has learned that it’s more effective to be an aid organization that integrates closely with the community and works with existing structures to build lasting success. Good article here. I made my donation today. You can donate here.
And, of course, my favorite part is that they’re building solar-powered rural hospitals, which of course means they’re able to operate off the shaky power grid.
Which is one of the lessons we can bring home to the U.S. Hospitals here are required to have backup generators on-site to help them get through power outages. However, these are fossil fuel-based generators (usually diesel). If we face a fuel interuption AND a major disaster, the hospital could be out of commission relatively quickly. A solar power deployment on hospital roofs could greatly extend the hospital’s usefullness during a disaster (and maybe even save some money by generating power in the meantime).
And just another thought on how we deliver aid to poorer countries. Just as it’s cheaper to go to the doctor before you need to head to the emergency room, it’s cheaper for richer countries to invest in vital infrastructure over time and in smaller amounts than delivering buckets of expensive relief aid after these incidents. This rescue effort could have been much more efficient and less expensive had the airport, port and electrical system been supported better over the years. Something to think about for other vulnerable countries.
There are many other lessons and ideas coming out of this terrible tragedy. But for now, help where you can.