The World from Berlin: Looking at Haiti's Bleak Future

Frustration is rising in Haiti as quake victims await the arrival of emergency supplies. European Union foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton plans to visit Washington next week to discuss aid but German newspapers ask whether the world is doing enough to help the stricken island.

A plane bound for Haiti being loaded in Geneva with supplies from the Red cross. Zoom
AP

A plane bound for Haiti being loaded in Geneva with supplies from the Red cross.

The clock was ticking on Friday as international search-and-rescue teams worked to free quake-victims from beneath the rubble. Rescue workers estimate that thousands of people remain trapped under the debris-- but the chances of finding them alive are quickly dwindling.

Emergency teams were encouraged by the successful rescue of a number of trapped people overnight on Thursday. Their success stories included finding a two-year boy buried beneath the dust and cement and, in a separate mission, seven Americans and one Haitian survivor, who were pulled from the remains of the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince by French rescuers.

Photo Gallery

16  Photos
Photo Gallery: Rising Desperation in Port-au-Prince
A trickle of international aid has started to arrive in Port-au-Prince, the island's capital, which was not far from the 7.0 magnitude quake's epicenter. Aid workers, lacking vital medical supplies, were still struggling on Friday to help the huge number of injured.

But the ravaged infrastructure impeded the task of bringing aid into the country and distributing it among those in greatest need. Eyewitnesses told of increasing desperation and anger -- giving rise to fears that lawlessness could take hold in the ravaged city.

Shaul Schwarz, a photographer working for Time magazine, told Reuters he had come across two roadblocks made from rocks and corpses which were apparently set up by angry locals. "They are starting to block the roads with bodies," Mr. Schwarz said, according to Reuters. "It's getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help."

But overseas, some were still analyzing how best to respond to the humanitarian disaster. The European Union's newly appointed foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told reporters she will go to Washington next week to discuss humanitarian aid. She also said that European development ministers would hold emergency talks in Brussels on Monday to talk about how they can best help Haiti.

"It's important to tell the people of Haiti that we stand ready to help them as much as we can in this tragedy. They can count on Europe," she told reporters on Thursday.

German newspapers on Friday looked at Haiti's bleak long-term future, arguing that it is essential for international emergency assistance to continue, even when the television cameras have moved on.

Photo Gallery

20  Photos
Photo Gallery: Chaos Amid the Rubble in Port-au-Prince
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Behind every disaster lies human error. Haiti has had generations of incompetent and exploitative regimes: From the French, who devastated its rebellious colony, to the International Monetary Fund, which, supported by the United States, forced the weak state to privatize its few sources of income. The fact that building regulations, as far as there were any, were not observed is not surprising. An already broken country has, through this quake, been even more damaged. The international community should use this occasion to reflect on whether we should restore the disastrous status quo, or whether we should help Haiti to rebuild the capital from scratch and offer the country a new start."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"More than ever before, Haiti now needs internationally coordinated aid, overseen locally by organizations with strong networks in the country, which cooperate with government and local authorities. What Haiti does not need is a host of additional helpers. After all, anyone who isn't familiar with the country is more of a burden than a help. And, cynical though it may sound, what the country also does not need is as much money as possible. Millions of dollars, without a specific destination, will only encourage corrupt structures and power-hungry elites."

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"Haiti is a failing state, without its own natural resources, and without tourism. It has widely deforested mountains and eroded soils; it is not only economically totally dependent on international aid, but also politically. On its own, the country has been unable to build a functioning state -- one which provides its citizens with protection from armed gangs and builds drivable roads. Both factors are essential for the country to unlock its tourist potential and develop local markets. These are medium and long-term prospects. In the short term, there is no quick solution for Haiti. But it needs our help."

"The next natural disaster, be it an earthquake, tornado or flood, will come -- for sure. And the poorer Haiti is, the harder it will strike.... Each disaster creates more poverty, which in turn worsens the impact of the next calamity. Haiti can only climb out of the downward spiral through economic development and the establishment of a functioning state. That requires a lot of money and a strong international commitment. The approach taken by the international community thus far has been on the right track. Now more money and more blue helmets are needed. There is no alternative for this ravaged land."

-- Jess Smee

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