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Commentary Detail

A Solution to Compassion Fatigue
Commentary by: Mark Shook
Aired February 18, 2010

Compassion fatigue is the gravest danger to recovery in Haiti. The unrelenting sameness of the video images and news stories coming out of Port Au Prince is beginning to numb our ability to experience grief and loss and channel those emotions into positive actions.

To keep donors and relief workers engaged, we need a rotation schedule for Haitian relief. Wealthy and large nations such as our own, should be divided into relief regions. Groups of states would take responsibility for collections, work details, medicines and medical personnel and transport for these items. Each region would be responsible for a one month period. At the same time, other nations would create their own rotation schedules.

Such a rotation schedule would allow for better planning and allocation of resources. Suppose, for example, that the Upper Midwest knows that it is due to take over Haitian relief efforts two months from now. Advance teams from the region can meet with the International Red Cross or the United Nations and get a sense of what direction the effort will be taking for that month. If the focus were clean drinking water production, companies like In Bev and MO American Water CO, could put its best minds on making the most of local resources, Haitian labor and purification technology.

Such a plan could work beyond the needs of Haiti. We could actually become proficient at confronting disaster quickly with the minimum of pain and hardship. With flood, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados and the like, it is a shame we always have to begin international or local relief efforts as if we have never in our lives ever faced such events before.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Mark Shook

Mark Shook


Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.

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