April 23, 2019 | 61° F

EDITORIAL: Media ignores yet another catastrophe

News outlets fail to give equal treatment to hurricane in Haiti


Compared to the attacks in France or other Western tragedies, non-European struggles are given scant coverage and fall under the radar of a general population not keen on scouring newspapers or the Internet for obscure current events. Since people are preoccupied with completing their day-to-day obligations, awareness of crises abroad don’t happen unless there’s sufficient coverage. As a catastrophe in Haiti was unfolding, few Americans knew what was going on in the Caribbean island.

It seems that the devastating ravages of Hurricane Matthew is perceived as either distant or invisible, however, the trauma and anxiety inflicted by this catastrophe linger on University campus. There’s a sizable Haitian population in the United States, noticeable in New Jersey and Rutgers. The person reading this piece might be Haitian or is bound to have Haitian friends, classmates, coworkers or professors. And unbeknownst to you, a person in one of your classes could be mourning the loss of loved ones, the collapse of the family home and the destruction of a country. Haiti’s disaster is closer to New Jersey than many would think. It affects the people who could be sitting right next to us.

Haitian interim President Jocelerme Privert portends the country faces a possible famine and calls the wreckage of Hurricane Matthew as an “apocalyptic destruction.” The Category 4 storm left an aftermath of 1,000 in death tolls and 80 percent of food crops destroyed. Food and medicine ran out while 60,000 people are staying in temporary shelters. In addition cholera, caused by the absence of clean drinking water, broke out in the region. For a country that didn’t fully recover from the damage of the 2010 earthquake, the remnants of its already feeble infrastructure were ferociously eradicated by a merciless hurricane. Haiti faces subsequent catastrophes and the resulting devastation is something it cannot fix alone.

United Nations officials say almost 1 million people require urgent humanitarian aid, and in order to provide sufficient supplies to 1 million people the rest of the world must be aware there’s a catastrophe to begin with. A proliferation of complaints circulated on the Internet, especially on social media by those closely related to the tragedy, condemning how the disaster didn't receive enough attention.

Americans were highly aware of the terrorist attacks in France, such as the bombings in Paris that killed 130 people. That event prompted many to change their Facebook photos with a filter of the French flag. Buildings around the world even lit up in the colors of the French flag, but in the last weeks there were no buildings lighting up for Haiti. In contrast, the ruthless hurricane that killed about 1,000 people barely made a ripple in the news or found its way into commonplace conversations.

Most Americans have a limited knowledge of the cultural, historic, social and political factors that link the U.S. and Haiti together, and are more aware of what connects the U.S. to France, therefore it makes sense that some Americans find it difficult to grasp Haiti's plight. While appalling events in France should not be minimized, Americans also need to learn how to empathize with people who face dissimilar circumstances. American influence and power come with responsibility to recognize the hardships regardless of geographic or cultural differences.

When there’s a 24-hour news cycle on CNN or other media outlets, there’s certainly room to educate the nation about events that fall outside of the domestic sphere or outside the U.S.’s immediate political interest. Instead of playing the same old sound bites of the presidential nominees, the news can allocate some time to explain stories of what’s going on in Haiti or the rest world.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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