Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have a terrible feeling that no one has a handle yet on the magnitude of the devastation in Haiti. A report from Doctors without Borders (confirmed by others' reports), Haiti: MSF Teams Set up Clinics to Treat Injured After Facilities Are Damaged, tells us that many of the seriously injured (with trauma injuries, burns, and fractures) are receiving only first aid, because the hospitals and clinics that have not been destroyed by the quake, which were inadequate to serving Port-au-Prince before the quake, are beyond overwhelmed.
One of MSF's senior staff, Stefano Zannini, was out for most of the night, trying to assess the needs in the city and looking at the state of the medical facilities. "The situation is chaotic," he said. "I visited five medical centers, including a major hospital, and most of them were not functioning. Many are damaged and I saw a distressing number of dead bodies. Some parts of the city are without electricity and people have gathered outside, lighting fires in the street and trying to help and comfort each other. When they saw that I was from MSF they were asking for help, particularly to treat their wounded. There was strong solidarity among people in the streets."

Another MSF coordinator there, Hans van Dillen, confirmed that Port-au-Prince was quite unable to cope with the scale of the disaster. "There are hunderds of thousands of people who are sleeping in the streets because they are homeless," said van Dillen. "We see open fractures, head injuries. The problem is that we can not forward people to proper surgery at this stage."

So many of the city's medical facilities have been damaged, healthcare is severely disrupted at precisely the moment when medical needs are high.

If you feel able to make a contribution, here are a few places you can do that to good effect:

Doctors without Borders
Partners in Health

In the meantime, the Christian Broadcast Network has not neglected to seize the opportunity for blaming the earthquake on the apparently demonic success of the Haitian Revolution two centuries ago. This is on the BBC's site:
2034 The US televangelist, Pat Robertson, claims the reason for Haiti's misfortunes is that the nation "swore a pact to the devil" two centuries ago. "They were under the heal of the French... And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French... And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other," he tells the Christian Broadcast Network.
Yes, that is apparently the Christian Broadcast Network's spelling of "heel." So how many people listen to this guy? Can we expect to start hearing this on Fox News?


Josh said...

IIRC, Robertson's and Falwell's anti-American rhetoric in the days after 9/11 was too toxic even for Fox News to touch. But Fred Phelps took it up, and Dinesh D'Souza wrote a book with a thesis not unlike theirs.

I had no idea that Enlightenment revolutions were spurred by Satan -- sounds, in this case, like a version of "outside agitators" corrupting black Southerners.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I notice the CBN issued a pathetic press release in an effort to explain Robertson's obscene remarks. Though I'm not sure they improved on things. While they use the term "allegedly" to discuss the pact with the devil, they also say that "countless scholars ... believe the island to be cursed."

I'm not sure which is worse: the callous disregard for human suffering in the interest of promoting a supposedly religious agenda or statements that show either ignorance of history or a complete fabrication of it.

Not to mention that there's no such thing as a pact with the devil in the mystical sense nor such things as magical curses that afflict multiple generations of a nation. Why do we even countenance nonsense like this with a response? (Except, of course, that some people will believe any amount of crap from people like Robertson.)

Tallgeese said...

While the Haitian Revolution occurred during the time of the Enlightenment, CLR James' "The Black Jacobins" states that the Haitian Revolution began with a voudoun ceremony -- which is not the same thing a making a pact with the devil (although I doubt Pat Robertson could tell the difference). Voudoun is an Afro-Caribbean religion. So in a sense, the ultimate Enlightenment Revolution was also the first anti-eurocentric revolution.

Kristin said...

There's an immediate need here, but also a long-term one. What's going to happen during the rebuild of Haiti?

A request for funds came in from the Batay Ouvriye Haiti Solidarity Network in Haiti. Batay Ouvriye is a grassroots organization of unions, workers, and peasants.

Here's the link to the request:

Money sent to Batay Ourvriye goes directly to an organization democratically and directly run by the poor.

And here's more about Batay Ouvriye:

Kristin said...

I finally broke down and decided to use an RSS reader, and wow! did the world break wide open for me! The rate of technological change continues to amaze me (and creep me out). Anyway, this post seemed relevant. One question for readers here: Do you look at comments after the original post is out of date? If you see this, please comment.

The post is more about CLR James' "The Black Jacobins", which Tailgeese referred to.

The article is "History is the Devil’s Scripture" by Scott McLemee, posted on the Crooked Timber blog on January 15, 2010.

I got to it through the Hoyden About Town blog (, which is very cool