Ladner resident Matthew Levy says there’s a long list of things that need to be done in earthquake-devastated Haiti.
“The first thing that’s needed is emergency relief and recovery of people trapped in buildings,” Levy told the Straight the day after a 7.0-magnitude quake struck the impoverished Caribbean country on January 12. “There’s still fires to put out there. There’s thousands and thousands of injured people. The dead have to be buried. There’s the potential for disease outbreak. Food needs to be sent in. Water is an issue. Housing obviously is a huge issue. There’s a potential for riots or looting.”
Levy, a member of the Canada Haiti Action Network, is organizing a fundraising event tentatively scheduled for January 23. Details will be posted on the group’s Web site, www.canadahaitiaction.ca.
Another group, the New Westminster–based HOPE International Development Agency, has put up an on-line appeal for help at www.hope-international.com. According to the Web site, more than three million people, or about a third of Haiti’s population, are affected. The organization described the earthquake as the strongest to hit the country in 200 years.
HOPE manager for overseas programs Matthew Redekop told the Straight his group is gathering donations of medicine, medical supplies, food, and shelter materials for immediate shipment to Haiti. The organization has been involved in children’s support programs in that country for several years.
Meanwhile, the international attention generated by the disaster may prompt new questions about the role of powerful nations like Canada in Haiti.
“People may have an impression that Haiti has been abandoned by the international community,” Stuart Hammond, a member of the group Haiti Solidarity B.C., told the Straight. “There’s a 9,000-person-strong UN military force that has occupied Haiti. Canada has its second-largest foreign commitment there after Afghanistan.”
Together with a delegation from the U.S., Hammond recently spent 11 days in Haiti assessing the human-rights situation since a 2004 coup ousted then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Hammond returned to Vancouver on January 8.
“A lot of people expressed anger at Canada because Canada was helping to organize elections that were supposed to be held at the end of February  that excluded the most popular political party in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas,” Hammond said. Fanmi Lavalas is the party led by Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa.