In the Netherlands a government committee yesterday presented a critical report on the Dutch position with respect to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In a first response our Prime minister did not agree with a number of the conclusions, but it was not clear who he represented while he presented his statement. The consequence is an emergency debate and it is the first news item on TV. Breaking news? Not from my point of view: at the same time that a crisis is looming in The Hague, in another part of the world a real crisis unfolds. In Haiti an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck just before 17.00 hours local time on the 12th January, followed by at least 3 aftershocks above a magnitude of 5 in the same region. Information is pouring in slowly, but based on this information it is clear that in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, the consequences are devastating (click here for an overview of the disaster in pictures). Prime minister Jean Max Bellerive estimated that 100,000 people might have died; hospitals are collapsed, making it impossible to provide the necessary help to those who survived but are wounded. International assistance via Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) is mobilized and will arrive shortly in Haiti.
Haiti, a poor country with a Human Development Index of 0.532 (Human Development Report 2009, Annex H, p. 173 http://bit.ly/6FUljy), is known as a country frequently hit by natural disasters, most recent by one tropical storm and three hurricanes (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) in 2008, resulting in approximately 800 deaths. Due to the fact that Haiti is still recovering from the consequences of these disasters a lot of humanitarian aid organizations are present today in Haiti, along with a 9,000 person strong UN peace keeping force, known as MINUSTAH, installed after a rebellion in 2004 that forced elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.
Haiti itself does not have the equipment, resources or facilities to deal with such a disaster and has to rely on assistance from the outside. During the following days more information will become available and will show the real size of this disaster and will get the attention it deserves, also in the Dutch media, as this crisis will not so easily be defused as our Dutch crisis in parliament.