Hurricane Matthew ripped through The Bahamas, Haiti and the United States last week. Facebook allowed people to check in from Florida and North Carolina to show they were safe. At least 1,000 lives were lost in Haiti as the storm with 145 mph winds and heavy rains ravaged the country. There was no safety check for Haitian residents, no way to know if my friends in Haiti are OK. Additionally, in recent months we have seen other countries suffer from terror attacks and acts of nature both. When these things happen Facebook is quick to institute a “pray for” button or flag. It immediately presents some way nations around the world to show sympathy for the area affected. For a week many of us have been waiting for Facebook to “pray” for Haiti. We will not hold our breaths however, we’ve learned as with many other tragedies that primarily affect Black people, it’s just not that important.
I’m sure that these big name companies will send some money to assist at some point; not only is it good business to put on a public show of support, but it’s always a tax write off. When news breaks that upwards of 1,000 people have been killed, the Cholera epidemic has worsened and parts of the country have been practically wiped off the map, some of us would like to hear more news about these things. Instead we get repeats of Donald Trump news, promotion of sports and other nonsense.
In fact, as I write this article lamenting the horror in Haiti right now the items currently trending on Facebook are
Glenn Beck 38K people talking about this Bad Lip Reading 48K people talking about this Joy Behar 10K people talking about this Melania Trump 200K people talking about this Billy Bush 26K people talking about this Winchester Mystery House 4.3K people talking about this Amber Tamblyn 7.3K people talking about this Trevor Noah 22K people talking about this
#KenBone 4.2K people talking about this
Not a care for Haiti in sight on Facebook, there’s no button or link showing you how to donate to help or anything. OK, we get it. It has to be a tragedy that affects a certain type of person (ie: not poor and Black) to garner worldwide apathy.
Just in case you’ve only caught the cursory headlines and brief news flashes, parts of Haiti were practically wiped off the map during Hurricane Matthew last week. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, whole villages basically decimated. There are approximately 60,000 in shelters and thousands more on the street. 90% of the nations’ crops were destroyed as well as close to 300 schools.
As decomposing bodies have started to pile up around the country, many have been buried in mass graves. There’s no practical way to bury 1,000 bodies short notice. Approximately 1.5 million people are in need of aid in forms of food, clothes, shelter, clean water and more. The United Nations has requested close to 120 Million dollars to help the devastated country as a week later many parts of the country have yet to receive any humanitarian aid.
Residents are desperate, it’s been reported that at least one convoy of trucks carrying food, clothes and medication, was robbed at gunpoint in a remote area.
Haiti’s ambassador to the UN Pierre-Andre Dunbar cautions that if aid is not received soon the country will be in a famine in the southwest “The needs are urgent,” he says. While France and the U.S. has pledged to send money, it is slow to trickle in. The Red Cross is attempting to raise money as well. Unicef has said that it will at least $5 million to tackle the immediate needs of half a million children affected by Matthew. As if Hurricane Matthew didn’t cause enough devastation on its own, it exacerbated an already terrible problem the country was facing. Haiti has been fighting Cholera since the storm that last ravaged the nation in 2010. At least 13 people have reportedly died from Cholera since Hurricane Matthew hit while another 60 cases have been diagnosed in the last week. Cholera is spread through water or food contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. Symptoms include but are not limited to outbreaks, severe diarrhea and vomiting, which leads to extreme dehydration. If not treated quickly enough, those affected can die within hour.
According to UNICEF, Haiti has one of the highest rates in the world. Statistics show that 10,000 people have died from Cholera since 2010 and more than 27,000 suspected cases have been reported this year.
Dr. Unni Krishnan, director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit in Haiti released a press statement yesterday. It said in part
“Quick decisions and strong leadership can make or break relief operations. Right now, 1 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance. Lifesaving measures such as medical aid, clean water and appropriate information should remain the priority at this stage.” It continued, “Flooding and contaminated water caused by the storm pose a huge threat to survivors including thousands of children. Clean water and medicine delivered to the hardest hit areas in the next 24 to 48 hours is a key priority.”
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien has said, “The widespread devastation, flooding, displacement and crop loss hit at a time when Haitians were already challenged by an increase in cholera cases and severe food insecurity and malnutrition.” He stressed the need for immediate assistance saying, “Families that were fortunate to survive the hurricane now find themselves in a struggle to survive, with thousands of homes and livelihoods washed away by the storm.”
While the whole country was affected by the category 4 storm, the hardest hit areas were of Les Cayes, Port Salut and Jérémie, where whole communities where destroyed. At one Port-a-Piment hospital Missole Antoine, the hospital’s medical director said that four people have recently died of the waterborne illness and that the number will continue to rise. Antoine says that patients are literally being carried into the hospital as the hospital does not even have an ambulance nor car.
Screw a pray for Haiti flag or button, can we just get some attention, funding and resources over there?