Haiti Earthquake: Déjà vu?

    Locals pull out a body from the rubble of a collapsed school in the aftermath of the potent earthquake that devastated Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 12. Photo by: Marco Dormino/United Nations.

    There they are, two former U.S. presidents answering the current one's call to lead a campaign to raise funds for earthquake victims in Haiti.

    Déjà vu? Somewhat.

    Back in early 2005, Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. teamed up for survivors of the Asian tsunami. Five years later, it's still Clinton but now with George Bush, the son.

    There is a tinge of validity to the belief that Haiti is Latin America's Indian Ocean tsunami. Both disasters have captured the world's attention, inspiring the corporate world, governments, aid agencies, nonprofits and celebrities to come together and help those harmed.

    Watching the aid pledges' tally is like watching election results: Figures change by the hour, if not by the minute. Donors have so far contributed around $258 million, on top of sending volunteers and nonmonetary assistance to Haiti. A similar scenario was seen five years ago.

    What was tragic about the Asian tsunami was that it hit multiple countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and the Maldives - causing more than 200,000 deaths.

    What is tragic about the Haiti earthquake is that Haiti already is a case of multiple tragedies. The country is the poorest in the Western hemisphere, in the midst of a political impasse, and still reeling from the quadruple hurricanes of 2008.

    Death toll from the earthquake could reach 50,000, including many in the community that is supposed to help the country. The United Nations has now lost 36 of its people. Among the many who are still missing are IMA World Health President and CEO Richard "Rick" Santos along with five local staff and two from headquarters.

    Today's biggest humanitarian emergency, however, is benefiting from technologies that were at their infancy in 2005.

    Social networks are now in the forefront of fundraising. Facebook has so far raised $5 million for Red Cross' relief work in Haiti.

    "It's shattered any record that we've seen with mobile giving before," Wendy Harman, social media manager for the Red Cross, told CNN.

    Celebrities such as singer Adam Lambert, actor Ben Stiller, cyclist Lance Armstrong and actress Lindsay Lohan, meanwhile, have tapped their Twitter feeds to appeal for donations.

    The Red Cross will also get the money raised by the Obama administration's donation-via-SMS program. A text message of HAITI to 90999 will give $10 to the relief agency and American donors will see this charge on their bills. Over the last two days, the initiative already gathered $5 million in contributions.

    About the author

    • Eliza Villarino

      Eliza Villarino is an associate editor for Devex and leads the company's news team in Manila. She played a critical role in conceptualizing the Development Newswire. Prior to joining Devex in 2004, she has already published articles and news briefs for Internet media organizations and for the Institute for Ethics and Economic Policy at Fordham University in New York. She earned her bachelor's in political science and master's in public affairs from the University of the Philippines. Eliza is a member of Mensa Philippines.