Monday, February 01, 2010

Middle East and Maghreb Countries Pitch in to help Haiti


New York Times Online: Haitian Lawmakers Seek to Delay Elections

Los Angeles Times: Saudi Arabia: Unlike Qatar, Iran and Jordan, Kingdom Fails to Cough Up Haiti Cash

Asharq Alawsat: Haiti - Gaza

Haaretz: After two weeks, Israel team winds down Haiti mission

ThePeoplesVoice.Com: Focus on Israel, Harvesting Haitian Organs

The Jewish Week: The Story of Haiti is Gaza

The Examiner: The Haitian Earthquake and the Middle East

The Middle East is rarely in the news as a bastion of international philanthropic giving. A region of the world that often makes headlines in the West for violence and bombing, it might be forgiven for spending money on its own development. However, the January 12th earthquake in Haiti has brought an outpouring of donations from around the world and the Middle East is no exception. From generous financial aid to on-the-ground medical assistance, these countries have impressed many around the world.

Many have said that the biggest gift has come from Israel. It quickly sent a large medical contingent on January 14th that included “40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children's ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an internal department and a maternity ward (able to) treat approximately 500 patients each day.” So impressive is this outpouring of medical expertise that CBS news called it the “Rolls-Royce” of rescue operations. The Israeli field hospital provided care for about 1,000 people, operated on 300, and delivered 16 babies. After two weeks of operations, they decided that the majority of their work was done and closed up the camp while leaving most of the supplies behind. So grateful was one mother who gave birth at the field hospital that she named her child “Israel.” The quick and thorough response drew praise from many around the world. However, not everyone has greeted this humanitarian gesture with enthusiasm. Many critics of Israel have drawn parallels between its concern for health and safety in Haiti and how this contrasts sharply with its policies in Gaza where many suffer daily. Other critics who populate the fringe suggest that Israel has nefarious purposes in harvesting organs from those it operates on. These detractors are loud in their own circles, but the refrain has not been taken up by most of the popular press.

The humanitarian response from other countries in the area has been overshadowed by the Israeli effort. Initial offerings from some countries were underwhelming. Early in the response Saudi Arabia sent only its condolences. After international attention was highly critical of this approach, the kingdom gave $50 million. Other countries also gave generously. Turkey, Morocco, and Bahrain each pledged $1 million. Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria have all sent planes full of relief supplies. While none of these countries have given as generously as the United States as net overall gift or as much as Canada as measured per capita, their contributions are all important and welcomed by the people of Haiti.

In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, those people who are affected quickly need help. It is unlikely that those suffering are concerned with where aid or pledged aid to rebuild comes from. What is clear is that some countries feel a much stronger need, or ability, to give. While many have traditionally felt that Middle Eastern and Maghreb countries have not been generous, their response to the earthquake in Haiti has disproven this stereotype.


1) Some reports have suggested celebrities and countries are using the Haiti quake to “rescue” their reputations. How can they both take these humanitarian actions, and avoid this accusation?

2) How can humanitarian operations such as the one in Haiti help improve international relations?

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