Who am I?Where am I?

28 October 2008

Aid For Georgia and Haiti. How much is a life worth?

As I sit here and watch Al-Jazeera International (which is in English), I am horrified. I'm watching a story about how Western countries have pledged over $4,000,000,000 (billion) in aid to Georgia. I do not have a problem with Georgia and feel for this country that has been overtly bullied and attacked by Russia. However, in an attempt to be fully objective, (which admittedly, I sometimes struggle to do) Georgia did attack Abkhazia and South Ossetia first. Yes, they were undoubtedly provoked and were essentially thoroughly routed on the battlefield. However, this blog is not here to debate the merits of the Georgian crisis. The geo-political landscape of Europe does not really interest me on the same level that it does in the developing world.
No, the fact that the Western countries said they would raise $4,000,000,000 for Georgia, and then raised well over that amount is not really the issue. The United States contributed $1,000,000,000. There were 180,000 people displaced. There were 360 people killed during the conflagration in Georgia. The issue here is actually located in America's backyard, on the small island nation of Haiti. Haiti is a country that is almost the same size as Georgia. However, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, Georgia is ranked 96th, 50 places ahead of Haiti, which ranks as 31st least developed country in the world.
With 24-hour news cycles, the Presidential elections, Wall Street crashes, etc., it is easy to forget what happened in Haiti over this past hurricane season. No less than five major hurricanes hit the island of Hispaniola. Because of the geographic topography of the island, the eastern side of the island, Dominican Republic, bore the brunt of the storms, but the after effects were more severe on the western side, Haiti. Mudslides, floods, and suffering enveloped Haiti after each hurricane. This misery was only compounded by the fact that before aid could be shipped and properly distributed across the country, another hurricane was bearing down on the island. This vicious cycle continued for weeks. During this time, diseases, such as cholera, broke out in epidemic proportions during which hundreds died and at least 360,000 people were displaced during the hurricanes; exactly double the number of displaced people in Georgia. Based on the amount of money that was donated to Georgia, one would expect Haiti to have received at least $9 billion, especially considering that Haiti experienced natural disasters while Georgia's crisis was at least to some degree, self-inflicted. So how much aid has Haiti received? The answer: less than $100 million. France gave a paltry $4 million to Haiti. The US pledged over $1 billion to Georgia but less than $10 million to Haiti.

The United Nations only requested $108 million for Haiti and has not yet met that paltry goal. The United Nations has been pleading with donor organizations and nations to give more, but to no avail. Some Caribbean countries did make significant contributions in relation to their GDP. Trinidad and Tobago donated $1million to Haiti. St. Kitts & Nevis donated $150,000 to the cause. Why have the larger donor countries been absent? The excuse proffered has been that with the current global economic situation, rich countries simply do not have the money to give. This excuse has proven farcical given the money donated to Georgia. Haiti is a poor, non-European country (translation: non-white), with few natural resources. Western countries are seemingly making a point of showing solidarity with Georgia simply because Georgia is on Russia's doorstep. Thus, Georgia does have some intrinsic geo-political value. Based on the amount of aid given, Haiti seemingly does not.
What I find particularly galling about the huge discrepancy between the amount of money donated to Georgia and Haiti is the implied quantification of human life and suffering, which apparently illustrates that according to the governments of at least 67 countries (the number who donated to Georgia), a Georgian life is worth approximately $12,500,000. A Haitian life is worth $144,000: significantly less. Personally, I feel that this is yet another example of institutional prejudice against non-European countries that is built into the geo-political stage upon which all governments act. When will the world begin to value a life in Port-au-Prince on par with a life in Paris; a life in a township on par with a life in Tblisi; a life in Haiti on par with a life in Georgia?


Vero said...

Thank you for sharing this and spreadind awareness to other people in the world that may not be aware of the problems and suffering of that some countries are enduring.

As i read this article i felt a certain sadness that there is so much injustices in some part of the world.

Anonymous said...

Indeed your educational awareness of the unfairness in this world is very endearing and I take my hat off to you. It is so unfair with how the developing world is indeed suffering. It is sad to say that when the developed world wants something from the poor they blackmail;let's say the fight against terrorism is a perfect example. God forbid no life should ever endure this, however conditions are put up in trade for aid and this means a vicious cycle will never leave us in debt. I wonder when all this will ever stop, we in the developing world gave so much i.e our ancestor of our resources to the western world and yet, we get nothing back and our children continue to suffer. I do hope that the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not ignore as the Rwandan Genecide will. Sophia,UK