Charity should not depend on death tolls

Two major earthquakes have devastated Haiti and Chile in the last two months. Thousands have died and many more displaced with destruction overtaking the respective countries. One country was better equipped than the other for these natural disasters, but both quakes have left residents with a lack of resources necessary for survival — raising the question, should one life outweigh another?

Between 200,000 and 250,000 people died in Haiti and more than 1 million were displaced, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s estimated that the country suffered more than $8.1 billion in damages. Millions of Americans have sympathetically risen to the occasion and donated millions of dollars to Haiti since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake occurred in January. USC students have also done their part by assembling relief kits for survivors and hosting benefit events.

Because Haiti is a developing country and did not have the resources to prepare itself for an earthquake, it suffered greater consequences than Chile.

Despite the differences in damage, Chileans are still in great need of resources and should not be neglected; nearly 800 people died in last week’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The Wall Street Journal said the Feb. 27 earthquake has been deemed one of the largest earthquakes in a century. So why aren’t people coming to Chile’s rescue like they did for Haiti?

Could the lack in motivation be caused by the economic downturn and a depletion of resources after Americans gave their extra money to Haiti?

Doubtful — people kindly donated whatever they could to Haiti by calling, text messaging and sending checks to the Red Cross and other relief organizations.

“I think enough of us have, even through a recession, some disposable income that we can contribute to … Chile,” said Justin Lacey, a junior majoring in finance and accounting.

“I think that people do whatever their hearts tell them to do,” said Taira Sims, an undecided freshman.

Thomas Curry | Daily Trojan

CNN reported that actor George Clooney helped organize a benefit telethon, which aired on more than 25 networks and raised millions of dollars, to encourage Americans to donate money to Haiti.

Between 130 and 140 celebrities performed and picked up telephones at the event, Clooney told The Associated Press.

“The main thing about charity is that if you make it cool anyone will do anything,” said Jack Robbins, a junior majoring in cinema-television production. “I gave half a grand to Haiti because Radiohead made a concert and I went. If there’s a smart marketing campaign like there was for Haiti, anything is possible.”

It has been almost a week since the earthquake, so why haven’t I heard of any events taking place to help Chilean victims recover?

Commercials are not encouraging me to text a number in order to donate $10 to Chile, and news stations have not put a number at the bottom of the screen to spur donations. USC residence halls are collecting materials to help Haiti but not Chile. What’s the deal? Do we really need to be told by celebrities to help out?

At an event hosted at Ground Zero Performance Café  on Tuesday night, USC students took the bull by the horns and made contributions to both Haiti and Chile.

According to Glen Hsia, a senior majoring in music industry and one of the event’s organizers, the event featured student musicians and asked for donations to the American Red Cross and Invisible Children, an organization that benefits poverty-stricken children in Africa. Students had the choice of making donations to either Haiti or Chile, or specifically to the American Red Cross or Invisible Children.

As of yesterday, the American Red Cross is accepting donations specifically for Chile and has upped its initial pledge of $50,000 to $250,000. That’s a start.

Although the devastation in Chile cannot be equated with that in Haiti by any means, Chile still deserves the same kind of outpouring of aid witnessed in the response to the earthquake in Haiti. Chile’s buildings and infrastructure generally remained intact whereas Haiti’s were demolished, but 800 Chilean deaths is still too large a number to ignore. The need for aid in Chile, in addition to that in Haiti, must be recognized.

There is still a great demand for resources to assist both countries. The Ground Zero event is one of the first I have noticed on campus that is raising money for Chile as well as Haiti.

Hopefully in the next few days higher profile organizations will follow suit.

Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. Her column “On the SCene” runs Thursdays.

3 replies
  1. ld
    ld says:

    Do you ever do research before you write your articles?

    This shows how little understanding you have of the way internatiuonal aid actually works. You can’t just throw money and donated clothes at a country as soon as a disaster happens. Before anything can be done, the country has to actually ask for and *accept* offered help. There are teams of doctors, aid workers, relief aid, and volunteers literally waiting for the call to depart for Chile. But that call has to come in before those resources can be mobilized.

    Chile is significantly wealthier than Haiti, so no, they don’t need the same outpouring of donations. Do they deserve it? Yes, of course. There are thousands of worthy causes out there that desperately need and deserve an outpouring of donations and aid. Human trafficking and domestic violence destroy hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Fistulas and obstructed labor kill hundreds of thousands of women in Africa. Disease, war, famine, abuse, etc are affecting millions. These are all desperate situations. And they all need funding. But most of the time, they don’t get it.

    No one is suggesting that Chile is less “deserving” of aid, or that their lives are worth less. That is absurd. But knowing that we each have a limited pool of resources, we all have to make decisions about where and how we give–and right now, Haiti needs more help.

    That doesn’t mean people don’t care about Chile. There will soon be a number you can text to donate money there as well (and apparently you are unaware of the fact that it takes time and coordination to establish those numbers, accounts, and projects…and that the Red Cross is the one who takes responsibility for doing so).

    Yes, Chilean’s are deserving of our aid. And so are Cambodian and Thai girls sold into the sex trade, and mothers dying in child birth in Africa, and children dying of water born diseases all over the world–and homeless families in Los Angeles, and victims of domestic violence and rape across the US. But you don’t seem too upset about the lack of outpouring for those people in need.

    We always need more people giving time, money, and energy to charity. What is truly heartbreaking is that it takes a catastrophe like Haiti or Chile to make me pay any attention.

  2. Joe
    Joe says:

    I think a more interesting take on this story is the difference in “charitable” donations *before* the respective earthquakes, and whether there is any correlation with the loss of life. One of the very *reasons* Haiti was so vulnerable and helpless was their dependence on government and foreign aid, and their utter lack of self-reliance. Compare that to Chile, which is a relatively prosperous, free nation, and you’ll see that self-reliance and independence helped both to minimize vulnerability and speed up recovery from the disaster. (For that matter, you might compare Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two countries which share an island but who experienced two radically different outcomes from their earthquake.)

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