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Haiti’s Ongoing Emergency

I last worked in Haiti as the co-producer of the Jonathan Demme documentary, “The Agronomist.” And since then have been working with him on “Right to Return,” a film about people trying to return to New Orleans. These projects affect how I see — and mourn — the disaster in Haiti.

We need to get medical aid to Haiti immediately because Haitians have so little to fall back on.

The United States government was criminally negligent in its immediate response Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There were a number of reasons, including a general lack of organization, but one can’t help but wonder if the lack of response had to do with the socio-economics of those most affected — they were poor. It was as if the U.S. government only recognized its wealthier citizens, while the poor were considered less important. No one said that, but no one had to: the images broadcast over TV and reproduced in the media showed low-income families left to fend for themselves in the post-Katrina heat and destruction.

In the brief time since the earthquake, Haiti has already produced similar images. And I’m afraid we’ll see more in the coming weeks: the remains of a country which we have long neglected.

The U.S. can’t repeat the mistakes of New Orleans. We need to get medical aid to Haiti immediately; indeed, with urgency and compassion because Haitians have so little to fall back on in this time of need.

Floods and earthquakes can’t be stopped; what we can do is help make sure the basic resources and educated citizenry are there to respond.

While I’m concerned that government corruption may mean that aid and relief won’t reach those most in need in Haiti — that was true before the earthquake. Our real challenge is not only the disaster, but the on-going, everyday emergency.

DANIEL WOLFF lives in Nyack, N.Y. His newest book is How Lincoln Learned to Read. His other books include “4th of July/Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land.” He is a co-producer of the forthcoming Jonathan Demme documentary about New Orleans, “Right to Return.” He can be reached at: ziwolff@optonline.net

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