Natural Disasters

Mutual Aid: A Factor in Haiti

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The more first-hand accounts we get from quake-damaged Haiti, the more evidence we have that the violence and theft described in initial reports have not been the norm. To judge from Damian Cave's dispatch in yesterday's New York Times, the earthquake's survivors have instead displayed an extraordinary amount of solidarity and generosity with very limited resources and under very trying circumstances. For example:

In several neighborhoods of Carrefour, a poor area closer to the epicenter, small soup kitchens have sprung up with discounted meals, subsidized by Haitians with a little extra money. At 59 Impasse Eddy on Monday, three women behind a blue house stirred a pot of beans and rice, flavored with coconut, spices and lime juice.

They started cooking for their neighbors the day after the earthquake. On many mornings, they serve 100 people before 10 a.m.

"Everyone pays a small amount, 15 gourd," or a little less than 50 cents, said Guerline Dorleen, 30, sitting on a small chair near the bubbling pot. "Before, this kind of meal would cost 50."

Smiling and proud, the women said they did not have the luxury of waiting for aid groups to reach them in their hilly neighborhood. The trouble was, they were running out of food. They used their last bit of rice and beans on Monday.

Elsewhere in Reason: I knocked the media for rumor-mongering and worse in Haiti last week, and I've written about the spontaneous grassroots cooperation that follows disasters both recently and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Also, the author of that Times piece did an excellent feature for us about Cuba back in 2003.

[Hat tip: Bryan Alexander.]