Robust Local Mobilization for Haiti

Open Media Boston
by Suren Moodliar (Independent), Sep-12-08 International Op-ed

The full fury of 4 successive hurricanes has much of the Caribbean in disarray. In Haiti, the toll measured in lives climbs rapidly, probably surpassing 1,000 by the time you read this, nearly a million people are displaced and bereft of shelter.

Boston-area community-based organizations and development-related non-profits are mounting a robust mobilization to meet on-the-ground needs in Haiti. Carlene Desiré of the Dorchester-based Association of Haitian Women (617-287-0096) is helping organize the New England Haiti Relief Effort. It brings together local non-profits with Haitian hometown associations. In addition to responding directly to the New England-wide Haitian community via their vibrant radio stations and community newspapers, the Effort is reaching out to the mainstream community.

Desiré is “really impressed by the community’s response and also the turnout at the emergency meeting to get things moving.”

Desiré feels that monetary contributions are the most efficient way to help people in Haiti; the Effort has established a New England Haiti Relief Fund at Citizens Bank (Account # 1313181878). In addition, the community is collecting medical and hygiene supplies. In the hope that Haitian schools will resume in October, school supplies are also welcomed.

At least 3 Boston-based development-focused non-profits are also building awareness while continuing on the ground work in Haiti. The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group ( partners with organizations in Northern Haiti to provide dry composting latrines (among other necessities).

Grassroots International’s ( partners “expect the damage to far exceed past natural disasters” with people now left stranded and unconnected. Executive Director, Nikhil Aziz notes that they are targeting their efforts at the country side where Haiti’s “poor majority lives.” Partners in Health ( which focuses on medical relief features extensive reports on their website and notes that the disaster is both natural and man-made: in addition to swollen rivers and washed-away bridges, Haitians have to confront an “inadequate humanitarian response.”

Although suffering much fewer casualties and benefiting from a stronger government response, Cuba also needs international solidarity as it responds to community needs. Pastors for Peace is organizing a team of construction carpenters to travel to Cuba for 2 weeks. An Ecumenical Distribution Center will direct material aid to places with the most need. Boston-based July 26th Coalition has added a hurricane response component to its advocacy on behalf of the Cuba Five (anti-terrorist Cuban operatives jailed here in the US) according to activist Charlie Welch.

The experience of 4 powerful hurricanes—Fay, Hanna, Gustav and Ike—leads many people to wonder about the connections to the global climate crisis. At present the scientific community is still undecided on whether or not the number of tropical hurricanes is impacted by increased temperatures, however there is consensus that the intensity of individual events is heightened by warming. This suggests that developed countries have more than just a “good neighbor” obligation to help the peoples of the Caribbean.

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