Haiti Panelist Witnessed Horror
January 31, 2010 – An alumnus who feared that people in Haiti might die for lack of communication took part in a panel of scholars, a congressman and relief group representativeswho spoke about the future of the Caribbean country at Georgetown Jan. 28.
Roosevelt Donat (C’07) is a first generation Haitian-American who traveled to Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake to work as a Creole translator. He recalled how hospitals were severely undersupplied and how amputations were being performed without anesthesia.
While in Haiti, he observed a translator incorrectly interpreting for a dying woman. Donat, who said the woman’s stomach was so swollen she looked “eight months pregnant,” quickly retranslated for the patient.
“How many people will die because of miscommunication?” Donat wondered.
Assessing the Need
“We wanted to spark discussion [about] what is needed when the media turns its attention to the next crisis,” saidGeorgetown professor Susan Martin before the panel presentations began. “This isn’t an easy task given the fragility of the government and the large-scale unemployment and poverty of the people.”
Martin, the Donald G. Herzberg Associate Professor of International Migration, is also executive director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
The panel, sponsored by various university departments and student organizations, explored the immediate needs facing Haiti – the shortage of food, supplies, care for orphaned children and translators.
A History and a Future
“They’re in need of a lot of assistance,” said Rep. Kendrick Meek, (D-Fla.)
Meek, who appeared via video broadcast, recently introduced a bill in the House of Representatives for the reforestation of Haiti, to help protect the country from the constant battering of hurricanes.
History professor Maurice Jackson noted Haiti’s long economic struggle and pointed to its weak infrastructure.
“If you look at the port, the cranes can’t lift 40 boxes,” he said regarding the limitations of Haiti’s capital – Port-au-Prince – before the earthquake struck.
Haiti ranks 149 out of the 182 countries ranked in the United Nations human development index, said Dr. Juan Manuel Sotelo, chief manager of Resources Mobilization for the Pan American Health Organization.
“The income per capita in the Dominican Republic is seven times that in Haiti,” he said.
Shaina Aber, (L’06), associate advocacy director for Jesuit Refugee Services USA, urged the Georgetown community to contact their Congressional leaders about Haiti, but cautioned that outside assistance isn’t the only key to rebuilding a steady nation.
“The Haitian government has to be viable for there to be stability in the future,” she said. “You all can be voices for Haiti.”