At TrackerNews, we tell stories by collecting and connecting links. Unlike most aggregators that are driven by by dateline or popularity, we are interested in context, mixing news stories and research papers, conference videos and book sites, archived articles and blog posts from the field. Typically, between 4 and 6 story groups about health (human / animal / eco), humanitarian work and technology are on the site at any given time, setting the stage for the alchemy of cross-disciplinary insight. Eventually, everything ends up in a searchable database. Day by day, link by link, a broadly defined beat becomes a richer archive, a deeper resource.
Very occasionally, major breaking news stories – a hurricane, disease outbreak, political unrest, climate conference – have taken over the entire site. But the Haitian earthquake stands apart with its mix of staggering devastation, technological hope, massive global response, cascading threats (disease, looting, hurricanes), ecological horror (the fertile skin of the land has literally been stripped bare from deforestation) and the glimmering potential to right more than three centuries of unspeakable wrongs rooted in the slave trade.
For two weeks, dozens upon dozens of Haiti-related links have coursed through the TrackerNews columns. More have been tweeted via @TrackerNews. Now we have created a special permanent TrackerNews: Haiti resources page.
As is the TrackerNews style, it includes a mix of links to news stories, organization websites, web tools, wiki’s, apps, books, reports, magazines and blogs. It is a work in progress and covers the following categories (to start -more can be added as needed):
- Disaster Tech / Mapping / Mobile
- Food & Agriculture
- General News (MSM)
- Heath: Human / Animal
- Human Rights
- Humanitarian Design
- Light / Power
- Money / Microfinance
- Reforestation / Charcoal
- Shelter / Infrastructure
- United Nations
- Water / Sanitation
The drop down box beneath the “red bar” is the easiest way to navigate around the page.
As encompassing as the approach may be, this is not intended as a be-all, end-all list. Wherever possible, we link to sources that have more detailing listings on a particular subject (e.g., Charity Navigator, UNHCR’s List of NGO partners, the ICT4Peace list of mapping sites, etc.).
On the other hand, there are links you likely won’t find elsewhere, or find easily. For example, last March, the Canadian Foundation for the Americas published a special all Haiti edition of its magazine, Focal Point, which included link to economist Paul Collier’s report to the U.N. on Haiti’s development prospects (see “Rebuilding” subcategory under “Haiti”).
There is also a link to another report detailing lessons learned from three decades of humanitarian response to earthquake disasters. (This one was gleaned from a tweet by TED conference director Chris Anderson – sources are everywhere!)
There are several links about urban agriculture – a perennial TrackerNews favorite – including a couple of stories on nearby Cuba’s success (see “Urban Agriculture” subcategory under “Food / Ag”)
From solar cell phones to microwind technology, from crisis-mapping to eco-toilets, TrackerNews: Haiti covers the gamut. You may not find exactly what you are looking for, but chances are good there will be a link to another site that will get you closer.
Frankly, however, the site isn’t nearly good enough. It is limited by inevitable editor bias and filter and by language. That’s why we are working to develop a tool that would allow anyone to curate, aggregate and share groups of links set within a graphically intuitively and flexible template. Imagine creating as many categories and sub-categories as needed, and arranging them however made the most sense to you.
Or imagine if categories prepared in advance of a disaster by experts in various areas of humanitarian response. A special TrackerNews page could be put together within a matter of hours, crowdsourced and customized – which is just a taste of what we hope to be able to provide in the future.
In the meantime, we hope you find the Haiti page useful, and that in some small way it helps Haiti.
HI-TECH MEETS WHAT-TECH?
Within hours on the 7.0 earthquake on January 12, space satellite cameras began snapping the ultimate in aerial views, while videos of the enormous dust cloud floating above a crumbled Port-au-Prince began posting to YouTube and CNN’s Anderson Cooper dashed off to the airport.
Within days, text message philanthropy had bloomed into a national obsession and an Israeli team managed set up a best-in-class field hospital, complete with electronic medical records, telemedicine hook-ups and a neonatal unit, while everyone else sat waiting for supplies. Google set up a “Person Finder” service in English, Kreyol, French and Spanish.
Within a week, Ushahidi, a “crisis mapping” website born of a corrupt Kenyan election, and Reuters’ newly-minted Emergency Information Service (EIS) had launched a sort of “911” text service for Haitians to type for help by cell phone (#4636). “Crisis Camps” began sprouting up all over the country, attracting candy-fueled, sleep-starved coding crusaders by the hundreds.
Translations into Haitian Kreyol? Crowdsource! Injured, trapped and waiting for rescue? There’s an app for that! A global fund-raiser? Call George Clooney and MTV, write a song and sell albums (lots of them) via the iTunes store!
And yet, for all the bountiful, brilliant and sometimes bizarre can-do technical triumphs, the grim reality of Haiti’s disastrous condition before this latest catastrophe means there will be no quick fixes.
Case in point: food delivery. The never-was-very-good infrastructure of Port-au-Prince is so shredded, the World Food Program had to nix air food drops in the city for fear that wind generated by helicopters would further weaken quake-cracked buildings. Roads are wrecked and hundreds of thousands of people are on the move. What do you do?
Or consider shelter. While aftershocks continue to jangle masonry and nerves, an estimated one million newly homeless sleep outdoors beneath makeshift tents. Aid groups say tens of thousands of real tents are needed. But with hurricane season only a few months away, tents are a short-term solution at best.
The reconstruction effort is expected to cost billions of dollars and take at least 10 years – but that’s only if there are no more major earthquakes or killer storms. Even if Haiti is spared, there will be other disasters elsewhere that will demand the world’s attention.
Perhaps the legacy of the Haitian tragedy will be that the world didn’t leave it stranded, that life for Haiti’s people actually improved and that some of the tech developed and lessons learned from this nightmare were able to help others in the future.
In the meantime, here is a list compiled by the Foundation Center’s blog, Philantopic, of who’s doing what where. They could all use some support.