She’s Not At All Like A Tiny Evil Villain, My Cousin, That Is

My cousin Joanna is in Haiti.  Cuba, with it’s impressive medical program, has had a number of doctors head over to Haiti to provide some assistance in the near to middle term future.  Joanna, as one of their med students, applied for a leave of absence for up to a year and caught a ride to Haiti to help out.
 
On the one hand, I’m continually impressed with her ability to create or identify opportunities and then capitalize on them.  On the other hand, you know, I was considering going myself.  And now, well, I’d just be a copy cat.  Thanks Joanna.  Thanks a lot for your selfless charitable service.
 
Here’s some of the photos she sent back our way:
 

 
 
 
 
Related, but not specifically to my cousin.  I was having a conversation with a person about their experience dealing with groups in aid situations.  They remarked that in some cases it can be quite challenging to translate assistance to the ground.  In one instance, they noted that their group was tasked by a large aid group to provide assistance to a party because another large aid group didn’t have mechanisms in place to award aid to individuals without email or fax capabilities.  Just reflect on that for a few moments.
 
My thoughts, back in late January or early February, were as follows:
 
That sort of problem seems to be very wide spread. Before East Timor became independent but after the violence, there was a deluge of assistance. The international community got very frustrated because new officials kept asking for project based funding on a bilateral relationship case by case basis rather than using the steadily growing donor nation sponsored bank account. The problem was that no one had taught them how to use what was essentially accounting software and the paperwork system created and run by the internationals before they turned the reigns over. Somehow their request for explanation kept getting lost in the gears of organizational interaction until the new officials eventually opted to create their own method.

These examples seem to dovetail at the moment in Haiti. Which is to be expected. Though they also appear to be attempting to explicitly address them. Which is a pleasant surprise.

The international community appears to be having a problem translating supply into service because of infrastructure and organizational limitiations and challenges. They also seem concerned that in the fog of relief aid (and I use that phrase deliberately, because the phenomenon are very similar) they might wind up with projects being performed in triplicate. Or, not getting done at all because everyone believes the other is going to do it.

Their effort to minimize the noise and increase the signal is evident from time to time. Which led to a really neat moment on CNN where the Haitian ambassador to the US went into the studio and on live television pressed the reporters on the ground for contact information for any of the haitian government particularly the president. More than this, he pressed the reporters for on the ground information about whether or not the roads would be passable for aid delivery trucks. It was at once very clever and very revealing about the actual state of communication in Haiti.

Haiti aside, the aid community is a very interesting ecosystem to have evolved techno-facilitator groups to be absolutely necessary for the continued existence of the two main species.
 

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