Since the news of the Haiti disaster first reached us, we have been innundated with calls for donations to help the people of Haiti. While donations are wonderful, it seems to me that the greatest need in Haiti at the moment is people with the ability to cut through red tape.
There are news reports and articles about thousands of Hatians, dying of sepsis from infected wounds, who could easily have been saved had there been adequate numbers of medical personnel and medical supplies. About people who are going hungry and dehydrating for lack of food and water, despite the supplies that have already been donated nearby on ships, or waiting to be flown in but haven't yet made it to the people the supplies are intended to help. Injured or sick people leaving the endless lines for medical care at the meager 6 clinics currently treating the sick and wounded and taking their chances at home, which is now a pile of rubble, or a tiny tent if they're lucky. Doctors flying in with medical supplies from reputable organizations and facilities, whose small planes are being turned away by the U.S., who currently controls the air traffic for Haiti's airport. The U.S. navy refusing to transport a large group of thoroughly screened volunteer nurses on a ship that was going to Haiti anyway. 98% of the calls being received by some organizations are requests for some type of shelter; 1.5 million are now estimated to be homeless. The towns nearby Port-au-Prince, who see people toting cameras, but receive no visitors, because no one stops. The thousands of orphans, with no family and now homeless, with nowhere to go. All the organizations are saying, no, don't come here to help on your own, even though help is desperately needed; you would just get in the way, or you wouldn't know what to do. You might be stupid enough to go into a building that's just been through a major earthquake, that wasn't built very solid to begin with and is now crumbling, or you might stumble onto a live wire, or cut yourself on something sharp, so just stay home and give us money.
What in the hell is going on here? Is this what happened with Katrina? OVER-organization causing deaths through preventing necessary supplies and personnel from reaching those affected by the disaster? There are 5000 nurses in California ready to go to Haiti and help, but they are unable to get there. And speaking of nurses, most organizations seem to want only RNs. LPNs are well-trained, and know how to care for injuries too. Even CNAs can be useful with hands-on care; LPNs and CNAs are the ones who actually treat and care for your loved ones in long term care facilities (nursing homes) or rehabilitation wards, while the RNs manage cases. Not all the medical care needed involves emergency measures; there is plenty of routine but lifesaving work for nurses to perform here. And in case you didn't know, you can't go volunteer in Haiti unless you have a passport. At this point, I'm not sure what they are worried about, but I hope that the U.S. is willing to seriously expedite passports for those with needed skills who are trying to volunteer.
Seriously, what is the problem? Why are there so many rules that seem to prevent anyone who needs something from getting it? Can't we just vet volunteers with valid professional licenses and ID? Why not, if they are needed so desperately? We're told that secure warehouses must be set up, and security arranged before food and water and other supplies can be delivered. I guess a ship full of U.S. military personnel isn't considered safe enough. Meanwhile, many are starving and dehydrated. Portable generators are being gathered by the Red Cross to power electric well pumps; are they going to station security guards at each one? How much will those guys eat? Why can't the ships unload at Dominican ports, and the supplies be trucked into Haiti? They are already trucking gas in from the Dominican. Why can't we send small boatloads of people and supplies inland from the ships? Can we really not clear small planes carrying medical personnel and supplies to land and start helping? Can we not ask U.S. citizens if they might open their homes temporarily to an orphan or two, until new homes in Haiti that have the ability to supply their basic needs can be found, or until new orphanages are built? Instead of donating funds, or in addition to them, can the U.S. not find a spare ship or two to transport vetted medical providers to volunteer, or to transport orphans to a clean, safe, temporary new home? Can we not fly into the Dominican Republic and drive across the border with docs and nurses and medical supplies, so that more people can be saved? How about mobile clinics in vans, visiting all areas that it's possible to get to so that the people of Haiti know that they don't have to be rich, or live in Port-au-Prince to receive basic necessities. Screw the warehouses; many of us would rather take our chances with security issues in order to save lives, rather than wait nearby for someone to organize everything, as people die. I understand the need for security, but the people of Haiti have a tradition of deep respect for medical personnel, particularly nurses.
The people of Haiti need help NOW, and they are literally being organized to death. Your donations are doing Haitians no good at all at the moment if they were used to purchase food, water or other supplies that are sitting offshore instead of feeding, hydrating and healing. Let's cut through the miles of red tape and give them some real help, before there aren't any left alive to need it.