According to this report, tens of thousand of people are at risk of dying in Haiti because the country is facing a perfect storm of calamities. Key transit roads have been destroyed or severely damaged, the State infrastructure of the country, mostly concentrated in Port-au-Prince literally collapsed, the only airport is overwhelmed by the need; in addition, the densely populated area (3 million people approx.) makes the challenge of helping by providing basic food, water and shelter, an immense project.
What is also mentioned in most of the reports I read in the past few days is how fear of violence from looting by criminal groups and from the exhausted population in need, is making the process of delivering food even slower. After all, it would be counterproductive to send aid workers in situations where the risk of random violence complicates an already dangerous work context.
Considering the reports and the expertise of the aid workers, I would like to argue that although it is undeniable that what the Haitian population urgently need right now is water, food, shelter and basic security, there is something as important that's never really mentioned in such catastrophic situations. I would argue that Haitian needs empowerment and that one way to do this would be to involve elements of the population in the effort. Nowhere did I read that aid organizations are planning to use what I would call "natural leadership" within the Haitian population.
I can imagine that as part of the efforts, a number of individuals are named responsible for a group of people, accountable to them while supporting the aid workers in their efforts to help the population. Even in such a dire situation, there are already some leaders, known and unknown ready to rise to the challenge despite the terrible condition and help the fellow countrymen. My message is simple, aid workers have a crucial role to play in the next 72 hours; and a powerful message to send to the Haitian population would be to identify, name and hire a number of local individuals to help accelerate the effort. I think that such initiative could open new field of intervention in catastrophic natural disaster and impact on the need for social innovation, even in such desperate situation.
Haitians, like any other human beings, are proud and resilient. Right now, a number of local individuals, who are on the ground and suffering with the rest of the population, who have or don't have any formal education, who can or can't read, who are from the right or the left, are ready to rise to the challenge and help the aid workers and help people around them. For too long, the Haitian population has been told what to do, has been told to wait for their turn. This is an opportunity to send a bold message and connect Haitians to their higher collective destiny.