January 25, 2010
NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2010/ Troy Media/ — The earthquake that pulverized Haiti on Jan. 15 is still the top media story. Unlike other global news stories that lose their gloss after three or four days, the natural disaster that demolished so much of this nation hasn’t quietly wended its way to newspapers’ back pages and news updates on the tube.
The Haitian earthquake falls into a new category — a breaking story that worsens every day.
Haiti’s culture and communications minister, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, recently said that 150,000 bodies have been buried over the past 11 days, and more than 250,000 people are homeless.
A nightmare that doesn’t end
Haiti’s worsening conditions can be likened to a nightmare that doesn’t end.
It’s not because the world doesn’t care. Aid in the form of food, water, medical supplies, all manner of equipment, and more has been pouring in since day one. Every major world power is helping this crippled, starving nation that’s suffered from inept government rule for at least two centuries.
And now this impoverished country with an unemployment rate exceeding 75 per cent — a country that has been dependent upon foreign aid for decades — is suffering the worst natural disaster in its history.
Even in the most bungled disasters of recent times – Hurricane Katrina heads the list — inept local and national leaders managed to superficially clean up the mess so that the world believed that everything was under control.
But it wasn’t. In fact, many of New Orleans’ hardest-hit, poorer sections have been reduced to unlivable slums. Yet White House spokespeople – even then President George W. Bush – assured Americans that the situation was righted.
Band-aid solutions sufficed for the time being, and it wasn’t long before other national or global disasters took precedence and Katrina was forgotten.
But Haiti will remain in the spotlight until the critical crises have been addressed – when food and medical care reaches its entire people, and when the Haitian government has taken control.
Meanwhile, world leaders disagree about how to get Haiti back on its feet and create order out of chaos.
Today’s Montreal meeting on rebuilding Haiti — chaired by Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, United Nations Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Nations Alan Roy, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and representatives from South American nations — will try to set the wheels in motion for creating a long-term development plan.
On the surface, the Haitian conundrum seems like a project management issue – finding solutions and allocating resources to manage the mammoth crisis that’s crippled the entire country.
To Laurent Duperval, president of Montreal-based leadership strategy firm Duperval Consulting, the Haitian situation is a leadership rather than a crisis management problem.
“In any project, success is determined by the people at the helm,” says Duperval. “In Haiti’s case, there have been very few leaders in recent years. There have been presidents, but they weren’t leaders.”
It’s no surprise, Duperval asserts, that Haiti has been hemorrhaging, and there aren’t any tourniquets big enough to stop it. “Project managers can’t get their work done without strong leadership,” he explains. Intelligent, experienced leaders are the foundation of any project – especially a massive, multi-tentacled natural disaster.
“Following the earthquake, the presidential palace, the central nervous system of the Haitian government, was destroyed,” adds Duperval. “During the first days of the crisis, the president was nowhere to be seen. He was probably trying to deal with his personal losses. This effectively decapitated any leadership in the country, and no one could step up to the plate.”
Even though the Haitian crisis has reached catastrophic proportions, Duperval believes that it can be managed and eventually resolved. “Haitians have gone through many trials and tribulations in their 200-year history,” he says. “No matter what calamities have fallen on them, they have managed to get up, fix things and move forward.”
It sounds good, but Duperval also adds that Haiti is not going to pull itself together until “its leaders can rise above their personal issues, outline their priorities, set goals, and galvanize the country so that they’re achieved.”
Until that happens, Haiti is impotent and dependent upon its stronger and wealthier benefactors.