Haiti needs us

Nayaba Arinde | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.
"Haiti today faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country...
Haiti needs us

"Haiti today faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country has ever experienced," said entertainer and activist Wyclef Jean in a statement issued just before he left for his homeland. The founder of the charity Yele Haiti continued: "The magnitude 7.0 earthquake--and several very strong aftershocks--struck only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince. I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight face catastrophe alone. We must act now."

Bloodied bodies strewn in the rubble on the roads; shattered and pancaked buildings depicting Port-au-Prince as the worst type of aftermath; the crushed streets teeming with the wailing, the injured, the dying and the in-shock--the images are heartbreaking.

Hospitals, schools, offices, homes and the National Palace lay in ruins, and news reports predict that up to 3 million people will be directly affected by the destruction.

And then there are the aftershocks that can still bring death and fear, and the collapsing of even more buildings--those still left whole or partially standing. While the world rushed emergency help, and President Barack Obama promised maximum assistance in the wake of the island nation's worst earthquake in 200 years, New Yorkers in general and Brooklyn--the home of most of the city's Haitian population--scrambled to give aid to Haiti's 9 million people.

"That's our blood down there! Pan African Unity Now!" demanded Amadi Ajamu, national spokesperson for the December 12th Movement. "We are hosting an emergency Haiti relief rally on Friday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Sistas' Place [456 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn]." For more information, call (718) 398-1766.

On Wednesday night, just over 24 hours after the calamity ruptured the impoverished Caribbean nation, Rev. Al Sharpton, Gov. Paterson and religious leaders held a unity vigil outside of the Haitian Consulate of New York. Sharpton announced that he is organizing a delegation of clergy and leaders to spend Dr. Martin Luther King Day in Haiti.

Wyclef Jean continued, "President Obama has already said that the U.S. stands 'ready to assist' the Haitian people. The U.S. military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately. They must do so as soon as possible. The international community must also rise to the occasion and help the Haitian people in every way possible."

President Obama said, "We are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we've seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart wrenching.

"I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives. The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief--the food, water and medicine--that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense, are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world."