If Haiti is to `build back better’

Paul Farmer, founder of Partners In Health, in the Miami Herald:

Paul farmer A few months ago, I joined President Clinton as a volunteer to, in his words, help Haiti “build back better'' after a series of storms in 2008 destroyed an estimated 15 percent of already beleaguered Haiti's GDP. We had just been meeting about these efforts and a series of upcoming forums to be held in Port-au-Prince, and I was then going to join colleagues from Partners In Health in central Haiti, where I have had the good fortune to work with remarkable Haitian medical colleagues for many years. The day before our New York meeting, Port-au-Prince was flattened by an earthquake. There is not a lot left to be said, but having just returned from Port-au-Prince, there are some points worth underlining.

If Haiti is to “build back better,'' as President Clinton has been saying, there are lessons to be learned from our efforts, not always honorable or effective, to help Haiti over the past two centuries. This can change and must do so, if we are to be real partners in responding to this latest misfortune.

The scale of the disaster is coming into view. All of the clichés born of extremity came to mind as I saw the city of Port-au-Prince in the dark after this huge earthquake. Symbols of authority and some sort of civility were flattened or tottering. The National Palace looked like a meringue pie that had been sat on. A foul smell hung over the General Hospital, which had just run out of diesel fuel and was surrounded by the injured, the sick, and, of course, piles of those who did not make it. But contrary to rumors of looting and mayhem, the city of two million was quiet, which in itself was unusual. I had never experienced Port-au-Prince without the blaring of radios and car horns. And I expect it will remain this way — calm, as long as people are offered dignity and respect and the necessities of daily survival: food, water, sanitation and shelter.

More here. And this video with Dr. Farmer is from 60 Minutes:

Watch CBS News Videos Online