Brian Price, a senior at Yale University, traveled down to Haiti to lend a hand in the earthquake relief efforts. Much of what he found in the effort frusrated him. Below is an excerpt of his account
After two weeks of one-on-one meetings, cluster meetings, phone calls, e-mails and being transferred from one person to the next day after day, I received no supplies for my organization to distribute. No food, no water, no medicine, no tents, nothing. My experience was not an isolated incident. The director of Hospice St. Joseph was unaware of a single local NGO or community organization that had received any assistance from the agencies in charge of coordinating the relief effort. He personally had gone directly to the United Nations’ compound, where these lead agencies were located, and just like me, made no progress in receiving supplies for those people we were striving to serve.
Right now UNICEF, WFP, WHO and other large international organizations are directing the relief effort in Haiti. Much of the money and resources coming into Haiti are channeled through these organizations and “intended” to be distributed to (usually large international) organizations operating in Haiti. What seems apparent from my experience in Haiti is that those coordinating the relief response are detached from the situation. You can’t fully understand what Haitians are going through by sitting in an air conditioned office or hotel. You can’t experience life on the streets by driving through them instead of walking on them. And you really can’t help people if you don’t meet with them, talk with them, listen to them.