How Helpful Will Relief Efforts Be in Haiti?

Q&A: The resources are here in the US, but how to get them into Haiti is the major challenge.

As reports of devastation start to come in from Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake, we reached out to an expert in relief efforts going to politically unstable countries with poor infrastructure. Jordan Sekulow, human rights attorney and director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), offered his impressions of the situation in Haiti and what we can expect from relief efforts.

GlobalPost: What are you hearing out of Haiti?

Sekulow: The bodies are piling up. People are sleeping in the streets because they’re worried about aftershocks. It’s a massive humanitarian crisis.

How helpful will relief money be?

What folks need to understand is that the resources are here [in the U.S.]. The basics are stored up, the medical supplies … but it’s how to get them in. Can you get through the Dominican Republic? Is there port access? Helicopter? We heard that the flights are canceled. Now, that might be because they closed the airports so that humanitarian groups can land their planes.

Give to an organization that you trust, and understand that it doesn’t mean they’re going to be on the ground tomorrow. The U.S. military is going to be playing the first role here.

What do you think is going to come of this?

Haiti’s in a tough place already, massive poverty, AIDS, orphans, no jobs, corrupt governments. We forget sometimes what’s happening a half-hour flight from our homes, in a country where 10 million people live. We focus on the huge humanitarian situations. The only positive I can see coming from this would be more focus on Haiti, more focus on what’s happening in the Caribbean.

Do you think government corruption could stand in the way of aid being effectively used in Haiti?

The government is so crippled [from the quake] that there isn’t anything left to corrupt anything. That’s my understanding. If you’re an aid organization, it’s up to you to deliver your aid. I don’t think there’s anything left. The entire country is being destroyed. So, no, government corruption isn’t something that’s going to get in the way immediately. Two or three months down the road, when we’re talking about rebuilding, that’s something to look at.