Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Aid to Haiti Should Not Be Political

The amount of money the United States pledged last spring in emergency aid to Haiti following the devastating earthquake: $1.15 billion.

The amount of money that has since gone to Haiti to assist in the aftermath of the tragedy: $0.

It has been nearly nine months since the disaster in Haiti. News coverage of the tragedy and attempts to rebuild are still penetrating the airwaves. Yet, even with all this focus on rebuilding, the fact that the United States has failed to send any money overseas to a country in such dire need is a severe indiscretion.

Earlier this summer, Congress approved $917 million for reconstruction efforts in Haiti. This approval, however, is not enough because Congress must also pass an accompanying authorization bill specifying exactly how the money will be spent. So far, the U.S. Senate has failed to do so.

The lack of action by Congress to pass such an important and seemingly nonpartisan bill is of great concern. The likelihood of passage is still possible, but it will be delayed for at least another month. Last Friday, Congress adjourned session until after the November elections in order to allow members to campaign, so the earliest the action can resume on the matter is Nov. 15.

Although there is no excuse for the Senate’s failure to pass an authorization, there is a specific member of the chamber who can be blamed. According to a new report released by the Associated Press, the delay in action is the result of a lone senator: Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Coburn’s reasoning behind delaying support for the bill is based upon his objection to the creation of a position for a senior Haiti coordinator. This individual would be responsible for developing a strategy about how best to rebuild the ravaged nation. For each of the next five years, the position, including supporting staff members, would cost the government $1 million. Coburn apparently sees this $5 million price tag as too high.

It is clear that Coburn has lost sight of the greater picture. If Coburn wants to play the numbers game, then there are more important figures to be worried about.

Rather than worrying about the allocation of $5 million for a new position, Coburn should be concerned with the number of months that have gone by without the United States sending aid to Haiti. In that passage of time, the Associated Press reports that only 2 percent of the rubble has been cleared. The lack of funding coming into the nation has restricted reconstruction efforts, therefore leaving many Haitians still without a place to call home.

In fact, about 1.3 million people have been left homeless by the damaging earthquakes. Of the more than 130,000 shelters planned for construction, only about 10 percent have been built. Although many countries have pledged their help to Haiti, the checks have been slow to arrive, or as in the case of the United States, have yet to be sent. The limited money has made it difficult for relief efforts to provide housing, food and water to all those displaced by the natural disaster.

In the nine months since the earthquake, the authorization bill has been consistently overshadowed. It failed to pass during the summer session of Congress and has since been pushed back until after the Senate returns in November. Upon returning to chambers, the Senate must immediately take up consideration of the authorization bill that would send much-needed funds to the Haitian communities.

Consequently, Coburn’s holdout on the authorization bill needs to end. His argument that $5 million is too much to spend on a staff coordinator position is trivial. He appears more concerned with balancing the United States’ budget than with the reality that a nation is devastated and unable to provide even the most basic of necessities for its citizens. Instead, Coburn should be focused on the wealth of possibilities Haiti can accomplish with the money allocated from the United States.

The Republican from Oklahoma needs to realize that there are some issues that do not warrant debate. Considering the great tragedy that Haiti has undergone, this is one of those issues. The people of Haiti have suffered terrible hardship and the lack of foreign aid only prolongs their suffering.

Bethany Imondi is a sophomore in the College and a Hoya Staff Writer.

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