As the world turns: Haiti, Gulf coast crises remain even as public attention shifts

Public attention is fickle, and with the need to maintain viewer share in a 24/7 news world, today’s the “biggest news in the in history of the world” becomes a historical footnote in just a few weeks or months.

What were the headlines earlier this year?

On January 12, an enormous earthquake virtually destroyed Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing thousands of people. People, organizations and governments throughout the world responded to the disaster, helping the people of what was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

After months, Haiti faded from the news.

But what is the situation today in Haiti?

A cholera outbreak that already has left 250 people dead and more than 3,000 sickened is at the doorstep of an enormous potential breeding ground: the squalid camps in Port-au-Prince where 1.3 million earthquake survivors live. Health authorities and aid workers are scrambling to keep the tragedies from merging and the deaths from multiplying.

 See also this NY Times article on the cholera outbreak.

On April 20, British Petroleum’s Deepwater/Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and gashing open a well that spilled oil into the Gulf for six months..

After months, the oil dissipated and interest faded. But have the impacts of the oil spill ended?

Economic recovery will take years. The Gulf coast fishing industry is still down (people aren’t anxious to eat fish from the Gulf) and tourism related businesses in the panhandle of Florida are still suffering.

The commercial fishing industry remains in turmoil, suffering from an acute image problem.Loads of shrimp and fish are hauled in, but processors are finding little demand from a wary public.The federal government maintains much of the oil is now gone from the Gulf of Mexico. But independent researchers say they are discovering significant amounts of crude below the sea’s surface, including on the ocean floor. They fear the oil that remains could harm species lower down the food chain and affect reproduction rates of fish such as bluefin tuna, which were spawning in the area at the time of the spill. Oil is still buried in the sand on beaches across the coast, and crude continues to plague some of Louisiana’s shores. Some marshes of Barataria Bay — home to productive shrimp nurseries and oyster beds, and thousands of sea birds and migratory species — are still being soiled.

Thousands of animals have been killed, and environmental damage will unfold for years.

More than 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion. So far, more than 6,100 birds, 605 sea turtles and nearly 100 mammals, including dolphins, have died. A new study this week estimated that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the area; scientists say it will be years before the full extent of the spill’s environmental effects are known. Twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, oil continues to effect marine and coastal environments.

 Look beyond headlines. What enduring problems merit your attention today? What will draw your commitment for the next six months? Six years?

Here’s one worldwide problem that should grab your attention. Is there something we can do to help bring better education to the 10 worst places in the world for school children.
1. Somalia
2. Eritrea
3. Haiti
4. Comoros
5. Ethiopia
6. Chad
7. Burkina Faso
8. Central African Republic
9. Mozambique
10. Zimbabwe

That’s a problem that won’t end in six months.

About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community, and more recently assisting other nonprofits and corporations. Everything on this blog is my personal opinion.
This entry was posted in Communications, Compassion Ministries, Environment, International aid, Jim Jewell, News media and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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