Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti’s pain: Stricken nation will need ongoing help

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

Haiti EarthquakeAP Photo/Jorge Cruz: Homes affected by an earthquake are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the region.

As if life hasn’t been cruel enough for Haitians, they were dealt another hammer blow by a devastating earthquake that has pulverized the capital, Port au Prince, leveling the presidential palace and hillside shacks and almost everything in between.

At this point, the death toll is only a guess, but judging from the heart-breaking reports and estimates by government officials, the final number is likely to be mind-numbing.

When the quake hit on Tuesday, the hemisphere’s poorest nation was still recoiling from the misery of 2008, when four storms ripped the island, killing 800 people and leaving $1 billion in damage to roads, bridges and irrigation.

It was a series of blows that would have left richer countries reeling, let alone a nation where many of its 9 million people live on less than $2 a day.

President Obama has promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake: “We will be there for them in their hour of need,” he said. Of course we will.

This is also the time for the United States to consider granting temporary protected status to undocumented Haitians, allowing them to remain in this country and hold jobs. Haitian immigrants, legal and illegal, send home more than $1 billion a year. Families back home will need that money desperately to rebuild their lives. The Bush administration suspended deportation of Haitians after Hurricane Ike but wasn’t willing to grant official protected status.

Even after the bodies have been buried and the rubble has been cleared, Haiti will remain in dire need. If Haiti is ever going to heal from this and other disasters — and from decades of dictatorship, corruption and decay — it’s going to require more than prayers, food and water from the world’s well-wishers.

As this deadly episode will show, the impoverished nation was a catastrophe waiting to happen. It needs money, trade, investment, infrastructure and a watchful political eye from nations who have the compassion, wealth and wisdom to provide them.

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