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Unused Resources in Haiti at Home

Mon, 01/25/2010 - 12:30pm

Jeff ReinkeBy Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director

Right now, it’s tough to find any news outlet not offering something relative to the tragedy encompassing the earthquake-devastated island nation of Haiti – my apologies to any of you that may have looked to this newsletter as an escape from that type of coverage.

While the impact is not nearly as widespread, the struggles that charitable organizations, relief workers and members of the U.S. military face as they attempt to help these victims are not unlike, or less tragic, when compared to some of the situations the medical community face every day in the U.S.

U.S. citizens and organizations have pledged millions of dollars in the form of medical supplies, financial assistance and personnel to Haiti.

However, these resources are trickling into the country because so little space is available to land the planes carrying these contributions. By some reports, there is only one undamaged air strip in the entire country. Coupled with a rapidly diminishing supply of jet fuel, air transport is severely limited.

The next option would be to use ships and boats, including the awesome resources that U.S. aircraft carriers could provide in terms of medical care and drinkable water. However, the harbor leading in to Port-au-Prince is so badly damaged that there are ships with an abundance of supplies just sitting in place, unable to unload their precious cargo.

Even once the plans and ships are able to get their supplies offloaded, the areas in greatest need are reportedly so decimated that navigating through these cities of rubble and debris to find and care for survivors poses yet another disheartening and incredibly daunting task.

The resources are in place. Those given the responsibility of mobilizing in such an effort have responded accordingly. Everything is at the ready to help those in need, but the conditions simply won’t allow for the actual action to take place.

It’s frustrating to hear, and mind-blowing to consider. I’d like to say I can’t imagine a similar type of situation where resources were in place yet face such incredible obstacles.

But unfortunately, I can.

Even though we don’t live in a country where the average annual income is $500, or where the vast majority lives exponentially below the poverty level, we still see some of these same tragedies, and it doesn’t take a horrific natural disaster to bring them to the forefront.

Simply ask a patient who can’t have a surgery because their insurance denied the claim, although the necessary support and surgical expertise is literally a few steps away. Or a nurse who had to discharge a patient for insurance reasons even though there are empty beds throughout the hospital. Or a senior citizen without enough Medicare support to afford their monthly medication prescriptions, although these life-saving drugs exist in mass quantities on numerous pharmacy shelves and were put there by multi-billion dollar companies.

My point is not to belittle the horrific nature of what life must be like in Haiti right now. Rather, I simply hope that once these resources are finally utilized abroad, we can once again examine many of our own internal needs and try to understand that charity should not just start at home, but, in some cases, stay there as well.

It’s wonderful to see how Americans have sent millions of dollars to help these efforts, but let’s also remember the responsibility we have to our own, and work towards making these resources available to those dealing with personal tragedies that deserve just as much attention as those thousands of miles away.

What's your take? E-mail me at jeff.reinke@advantagemedia.com.

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