Monday, September 5, 2005

New Orleans

It really is frustrating what's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi.

At work, we usually only deal with international crises, because normally the needs of a domestic crisis and one in a developing country are unique. But now many of our member organizations who normally only deal with international issues, especially refugees, are being called upon for their advice, since most domestic aid outfits don't know how to deal with third-world conditions and massive amounts of displaced people.

I'm at a loss as to how it got so bad. The tsunami affected thirteen countries on two continents, displacing people in rural, poverty-stricken areas with no pre-existing infrastructure, and people were able to be fed, administered to, and sheltered. The United States of America can't get people out of a sports arena. I normally cringe when people make comparisons to crises such as Darfur, but the situation in the Superdome and the New Orleans convention center is dishearteningly similar to that taking place in IDP camps in Sudan. After 9/11, so much money was invested in making sure we were prepared for disasters, and it seems like the only thing that was accomplished was was the creation of an even bigger beuraucracy that made us even more poorly equipped to respond to an emergency.

The worst thing for me is that this was not an unforeseen event. The tsunami caught everyone by surprise. 9/11 caught us unawares. But the idea of a monster hurricane devastating New Orleans was something that had been predicted and studied. It's carelessness and petty politics that have made things as bad as they are, and we should be embarrassed. And with donations being offered from the UN and tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka, I think we may need to be a lot more humble in our foreign relations as well.