Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

There's a twister coming.

A YEAR and a half ago a catastrophic earthquake with the magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti.

It was thought to have killed around 300,000 people, injured the same again, and made one million homeless. A country whose only industry of late had been as a staging post for the Columbian drugs trade slid from lawlessness into all-out anarchy.

We all remember the scenes captured by the journalists brave enough to go in: looters scrabbling under collapsed buildings for food, corpses decomposing in the rubble, children plucked from the ruins in defiance of the odds.

The world got very worried about it for a bit. Search and rescue teams flew in, aid was distributed to a starving population, and some American Baptists got done for kidnapping children. The EU promised £287m in long-term aid, Italy waived loan repayments, Canada gave cash and debt relief to the tune of £472m and America - which in 1994 had sent in soldiers to oversee the charmingly-named Operation Uphold Democracy, until it died on its arse - pledged £1.5bn.

But then the story faded for the simple reason nothing happened. Journalists who tried to return for the anniversary were told it was too dangerous, and only a few brave aid workers are still there.

Today, one million refugees are still living in tents made with tarpaulins and sticks, and the number is rising. Ninety five per cent of the rubble has not been cleared, there are thousands of bodies rotting in the ruins, and most of the capital uninhabitable. Many nations that promised money for rebuilding haven't paid it, because no-one promised money for rubble clearing and until the rubble is cleared no homes can be built.

Criminal gangs rule 1,300 tent cities, raping, killing and thieving with impunity. Refugees International said last year: "The people of Haiti are still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralysed. Gang leaders or land owners are intimidating the displaced. Sexual, domestic, and gang violence in and around the camps is rising. Action is urgently needed to protect the basic human rights of people displaced by the earthquake."

The country does not have basic services back online. One camp of 5,000 people has just five toilets. By the end of 2010 cholera was killing 50 people a day.

Haiti is arguably a failed state, a place which has a constitution but no hope, an elected president but no safety. It doesn't even have building regs. There is no code but survival of the most ruthless.

And tonight or tomorrow Hurricane Irene is expected to sweep past.

Meanwhile about 450 miles to the east the same hurricane hit a billionaire's house with lightning, Kate Winslet gave an unlikely fireman's lift to a 92-year-old woman, and nobody died.

Richard Branson said: "It's very much the Dunkirk spirit here... we want to rebuild the house as soon as we can." His daughter wants to get married there later this year and the family are dreaming up new designs.

I don't begrudge the Bransons their wealth, their island or their wish to fix up the mess as soon as possible.

I begrudge the fact that no-one's bothered to do the same for the suffering humanity who need it most.

This child has billions of dollars. 
Somewhere.