Helping Haiti: doing our part for the relief effort

Editorial/Opinion by

It has been one week since an earthquake measuring 7.0 in magnitude struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, devastating the country’s infrastructure and sparking a humanitarian disaster. The Red Cross has confirmed that 50,000 people are dead, while Haitian officials say the death toll could be as high as 200,000. This is, of course, an unspeakable tragedy – the earthquake has left a shocking number of Haitians hungry, homeless, and helpless, necessitating a far-reaching global relief effort. And now, more than ever, Haiti needs our help.

McGill students across campus have taken this sentiment to heart. Last Wednesday, the Arts Undergraduate Society Council launched a faculty-wide campaign to raise $6,000 for the Haitian relief effort. The donations will supplement Oxfam Quebec’s relief work through the Humanitarian Coalition in Haiti. All week, students will solicit donations at the Roddick Gates, in the Leacock Lobby, the AUS office, and the Science Undergraduate Society office. The campaign had raised $4,331.10 as of yesterday.

The Human Rights Working Group and the Law Students’ Association have launched a similar campaign, raising money for Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders. And on Saturday the Ghetto Shul hosted a party which ultimately raised $1,000 for Doctors Without Borders.

The Tribune applauds the selfless work of all these campaigns. Remember: the Canadian government will match all donations made until February 2, so we encourage you to donate and support the relief effort in Haiti. As privileged global citizens, it’s our moral duty to assist the Haitian relief effort to the best of our abilities.

Some students, we’ve been told, have indicated that over Reading Week they may join the relief effort and travel to Haiti. However, we’d like to stress that unless you’re trained as a doctor, aid worker, or in another field of disaster relief, it’s better not to go. Unfortunately, well-meaning volunteers can often do more harm than good, in the sense that they provide less than they use, especially in the way of food. Instead, give money and supplies. The benefits your donation provides will be more efficient that way. Put together a fundraising campaign. Hold a bakesale. But don’t go: you’ll just be another mouth to feed.

The United States’ and Canada’s swift action, leading the Haitian relief effort, has also been impressive. On Thursday, President Barack Obama pledged $100 million to Haiti. Former presidents Bill Clinton (also the UN special envoy for Haiti) and George W. Bush have launched a national fundraising campaign, setting aside partisan and political differences in the face of tragedy. Three thousand American troops have arrived in Haiti since the earthquake, providing security for the distribution of aid. On Sunday, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 soldiers to the relief effort.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” Words alone will not alleviate the suffering, nor will any amount of humanitarian aid undo this disaster. However, we must do everything we can to aid in the reconstruction process and help Haiti on the long road to recovery.