Hurricane Katrina survivors need relief, not guns

Bert De Belder

“Katrina survivors are going through a trying time and the People's Health Movement stands in solidarity with them”, says a press statement from the People’s Health Movement (
“Hurricane Katrina survivors need relief, not guns”, said a PHM spokesperson. “Deal with them with dignity”, the global body demands. Reports indicate that more bodies are being recovered today.

The people of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama along with people in the rest of the US and the world are shocked by the callousness, carelessness and racism of the Bush Administration in responding to the catastrophe.
“The disaster has become an ongoing crisis, hitting the poor especially badly”, warns PHM.
PHM is a global body of grassroots health, peace and human rights activists, researchers, academics, medical professionals, humanitarian workers, and health and development groups. PHM has presence in nearly 100 countries, many of them flashpoints of disasters and conflicts.
“We are outraged to see US troops in full battle gear in the streets of New Orleans,
targeting poor people searching for food, water and survival as yet another enemy” said a PHM spokesperson.
The PHM argues that the sufferings of Hurricane Katrina victims are being amplified by the Bush government's criminal policies and skewed priorities. “They are not just victims of a natural disaster”, PHM said.
The number of poor people in the US has just topped 37 million and today people of colour have a poverty rate three times the US average. Instead of ensuring benefits and protection for workers and poor, the policy of the present Administration is to give tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. All this exposes the injustice of US policies, both at home and abroad.
“This is how the poor suffer when a government decides to go for a war instead of fighting poverty”, said a spokesperson.
“We don’t believe that the US is bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq. Our youth fighting and dying in Iraq are being sacrificed for
the greed and profit motives of oil companies”, said an associate of PHM-USA. “Bring them back home. They are more needed to rebuild the shattered lives and infrastructure in the Hurricane Katrina devastated areas”, she said.
“Put the needs of the victims first”, said a spokesperson referring to the Bush government’s refusal to accept experienced doctors and humanitarian aid from Cuba. Cuba has an impressive track record of efficient disaster preparedness and response. Cuban doctors have been praised for their service and support in similar disaster situations like with other hurricanes in the Caribbean and even in the Indian Ocean, with the tsunami.
As always in times of need, people are taking initiatives to support the relief and rehabilitation efforts in a demonstration of heartwarming solidarity, trying to make up for the shortfalls in the policies of the US government that have failed to protect and rescue the hurricane affected.
Through a variety of protest actions, pressure is building on the Bush Administration for more resources and appropriate relief and reconstruction and to stop the war in Iraq. Grassroots organizations of the poor and people of color, trade unions and the anti-war movement say that such people-based initiatives are demonstrating that there is another America they represent – an America that extends compassion and solidarity in trying times, “while the Bush Administration seems dead set on representing a US characterized by greed and the arrogance of power”.
The People's Health Movement and its associates support all genuine grassroots efforts to provide solidarity, relief and reconstruction. In the wake of the tsunami, the PHM issued the Chennai Declaration, outlining the principles for a people-centred approach in the rehabilitation of affected communities, that sees them not as passive beneficiaries of aid but as active participants in their own empowerment. “It is important not to ignore people’s health needs, especially the less visible yet life-saving needs like psychosocial support for the affected communities”. “Disasters have a severe impact on the physical and mental health of the members of the affected communities, especially women and children”, states the People’s Charter for Health, the founding document of the Peoples Health Movement and the most widely accepted document on health in the world today.The PHM says that active engagement of affected communities is crucial to make rehabilitation a reality.
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Bert De Belder