The g-word

Cultural anthropologist, medical doctor, and humanitarian activist, Paul Farmer of Harvard University and Partners in Health, testified to the Congressional Black Caucus on July 27. His focus was on Haiti. His pitch is that the aid money flowing into Haiti must not go only to NGOs, to non-state organizations, but also must be used to strengthen good government and the public sector.

Farmer uses vivid medical metaphors to describe what the situation is in Haiti: “acute on chronic,” for one. In three words, he captures the underlying structural violence and human deprivation over centuries that is painfully punctuated by an acute situation such as the January catastrophe.

Another metaphor is that of a blood transfusion needle that is too small to carry the aid money to the people. Solution? A bigger needle: a stronger public sector. Farmer, a trained doctor, obviously thinks that the veins of the people can tolerate a bigger needle and will benefit from the infusion of fresh blood.

But how does Haiti work its way toward forming a strong and compassionate government? Perhaps a strong and compassionate foreign aid community can (a) not stand in the way, (b) support the right kind leadership in the upcoming election, and (c) infuse financial aid to Haiti’s education system to start training the leaders of Haiti’s future.

Image: “Church chapel converted to hospital ward in compound of Partners in Health hospital in Cange, Haiti”, from flickr user NewsHour, licensed with Creative Commons.

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