News coverage of the Haiti earthquake and the fight to help survivors is steadily dropping off three weeks after the disaster. As many other stories vie for a spot in the ever-accelerating news cycle, reporting on Haiti is becoming more sporadic and less prominent. News organizations like CNN and The Voice of America deserve credit for keeping the story in play and for spotlighting the acute need for further assistance.
The sobering truth is that in the wake of a calamity as devastating as last month’s earthquake, it is usually weeks or months after the initial crisis”and after most of the news crews have left”that some of the hardest work begins.
As survivors face both new and ongoing deadly threats”including potential disease outbreaks and malnutrition”it is vital that the world not forget about Haiti. Earlier this week, UNICEF teamed up with the World Health Organization and the Haitian government to launch a massive campaign to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children against measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The immunization drive has received limited media coverage so far, but both The Washington Post and The Miami Herald ran fairly in-depth stories about it.
Vaccination is just one of many essentials services that will be needed in Haiti on the long, rough road ahead. Haiti already faced a humanitarian crisis before the earthquake, marked by a grave lack of health care, education, and clean water and sanitation. Now, those problems will grow far worse without sustained help and attention.
UNICEF has been in Haiti since 1949 and is not leaving any time soon. Since the earthquake hit”despite daunting logistical obstacles and the destruction of its Haiti office”UNICEF has been working around the clock to get children and families water, food, medicines, and other basic necessities and has been protecting unaccompanied children from abuse and exploitation. UNICEF will continue to do all this, of course. But it will also help families and communities reclaim their lives and build back better.