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Haiti's Children in Crisis

Children peer from their tent in a makeshift camp for earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010. (AP)

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Of the nearly 3 million people affected by the earthquake in Haiti, an estimated half are children.

Many are living with little shelter, and no clear plan for their future.

A group of American missionaries grabbed headlines with their attempt to take children out of the country. Still detained in Port-au-Prince, their story goes on.

But the bigger story is the actual plight of Haitian children on the ground. Most will need to survive there, in Haiti. Helping them, right now and for the long haul, is a tall order.

This hour, On Point: We’re focusing on Haiti’s children in crisis.


From Port-au-Prince we’re joined by Trenton Daniel, reporter for The Miami Herald.

Joining us in our studio is Joia Muhkerjee, chief medical director at Partners In Health. She’s also a professor in the Division of Global Health Equity at  Harvard Medical School and a physician specializing in infectious diseases and pediatrics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She’s just back from Haiti. Her organization is sponsoring the “Stand With Haiti” campaign.

Joining us from Westport, Conn., is Rudy Von Bernuth, vice president for Save the Children. He’s been overseeing the emergency response to the situation in Haiti.

And from Nashville, we’re joined by Mike Wilson, new father of an adopted Haitian girl. He and his wife have also taken in his new daughter’s best friend as part of a humanitarian program.

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  • Alberto

    As sad and horrific as what I have seen, I fear there will be a limit to what we can do over the long term.

    On the heels of NPR’s “no jobs” report in the US, Haiti’s needs makes me wonder how much longer the US can continue to spend (waste??) huge resources fighting for “democracy” and against “terror” (brought on by terrible economic situations in those regions??), at the same time we take the lead (government or charitably) dedicating funds to rebuild countries crushed by natural disasters? I am not talking about the basic medical and clean-up in Haiti — we will be on the hook to physically rebuild the whole nation — but I do not see how we can do it all (wars and disasters) and still expect U.Sam to rebuild our urban blight, public education, skilled workforce, etc., while also taking on more public subsidies of health and retirement systems. The load is way too heavy and someone’s (mine!) back is beginning to break…

  • cory

    A Prediction:

    Many generous Americans will scrape together a few bucks for Haiti. Rock stars, politicians, and various celebrities will tell us why we should give more. Aid organizations such as the ones on air will do what they do and tell us why it isn’t enough.

    After it is all over, 5 or 10 years from now, Haiti will be filled with poor people. They will be poorly educated and poorly governed. They will suffer from illnesses that wealthier nations have eliminated. Absolutely nothing will have changed.

    I’ll be the Ogre here… I’d rather see this money stay here. Hungry and poorly educated kids in almost every American city.

    The earthquake has made giving to Haiti temporarily “sexy”. It won’t last, and Haiti will return to the multitude of impoverished nations and people around the world.

  • Liz B.

    I am nauseated by this propaganda about the poor Haiti people suffering after the earthquake. I’m sick of every ‘well-meaning’ organization asking for $$. My solution is: if you want to help then go there and help rebuilding a house, a school, a hospital. Connect with the suffering people. If you are a doctor, take some time off and travel to Haiti to treat people suffering from injuries. Face to face help is better. Money is an elusive form of help. If we send money to organizations, a large portion of the funds are funneled into private pockets and very little is left to actually do something that is needed the most and, of course, at a very high cost (see the Iraq war costs).

  • Alberto

    Liz, that is just plain balderdash. Yes, some orgs are wasteful, and still others may cheat, but so many are doing real good. Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Partners in Health to name three.

    We must reach out in the early stages — as I would hope others might do were I caught in such horrific circumstances. Someone must pay for the fuel for the docs to fly in, the bandages to wrap limbs, and the tarps to cover heads. Get real!

    BTW, my (original) point was the “full” future — once immediate care has been provided. Here, the US really needs to decide how (and to what extent) we can invest in the rebuilding of an entire country, plus the critical related onerous tasks on helping build an economy and educational system which allows the country to begin anew, and carry on for the long term.

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional

    The last thing we need is to import impoverished Haitian children to the United States.

    Our nation already has tens of millions of impoverished Americans who need help first and we already have our own environmental challenges. Furthermore, Americans do not benefit from population explosion and we are already on track to reach 450 million people by 2050. Instead we should impose a moratorium on legal and illegal immigration or at least reduce immigration levels to a traditional and sustainable level of 200,000/year. (In contrast, our nation takes in over 1 million legal immigrants every year.)

    No discussion about immigration should take place without everyone’s first watching this thought-provoking video about immigration, population explosion, and the numbers.


    Note that ALLOWING POOR PEOPLE TO IMMIGRATE TO THE USA DOES NOTHING TO REDUCE POVERTY IN OTHER COUNTRIES. (It only increases the amount of poverty in the United States.) If we want to help people in other nations, we need to help them in their own nations, first by saturating them with birth control and access to abortion so that they can get their Malthusian population explosion problems under control.

  • Liz B.

    Alberto: There are good organizations helping children in need. The broader problem in Haiti is that the US/International agribusiness has contributed to the extreme poverty there by suffocating Haitian rice growers. I doubt if the US is interested in helping the Haitian people; and helping those children out is a short-term solution though very much needed. This is why I suggest that volunteering our services and technical knowledge there is better than just simply transferring $$ to agencies.

  • wavre

    It helps to study the history of that Island, that used to be more prosperous than all the states of the Union combined!( an haitian trader founded the city of Chicago, New Orleans owes them its vibrant history,…) The constant invasions, paying a tributs of millions( mostly in timbers!) to France till 1945!The us support of an oligarchy of mulattos to the detriment of the majority of the people, the us support to the Duvalier regime, embargos…

    Haiti deserves more than just compassion, it deserves Justice and some reparations. Let me just say it: Haiti deserves a Marshal plan, not those “predatory” programs run by the FMI and other WB’s

  • elizabeth

    i have heard from people i know in the dominican republic who are in the medical field working closely with haitain hospitals that the money coming into haiti for relief is going to pay their debt

  • wavre


    I will not be surprised at all! Most of us are not aware of the true nature of those international institutions.There is a causal link beetween our opulence and their misery.

  • Matt

    I fell asleep about 3/4 through this show. Did these stone-cold racists at OnPoint cover the child sex slave kidnappings and organ harvesting that Haiti’s PM talked about on CNN?

    Anyway, it was fun hearing the panel squirm when call after call brought up the unbelievable corruption of the aid organizations, charities and governments involved in the “response”.

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