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Portia's impassioned plea for Haiti

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

CLEARLY SHAKEN by the horrific spectacle of the devastation meted out to Haiti earlier this week, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller has rendered a heartfelt appeal for the women, the young, the elderly and the physically and mentally impaired.

"I was moved by the vast number of persons sitting on the streets, dazed amidst the rubble of houses crumpled like paper," said Simpson Miller on her return to Jamaica.

"One image that will stay with me is that of a young boy, sitting naked, looking lost, alone and completely stunned," the opposition leader said as she cited one of numerous nightmarish spectacles.

"I could not help but wonder, how many more children have been affected in this way?" she questioned.

first-hand glance

Simpson Miller got a first-hand glance of the disaster-torn Caribbean state on Thursday when she accompanied Prime Minister Bruce Golding to Haiti.

The opposition leader, known for her strenuous advocacy of the welfare of women and the poor, urged persons preparing care packages to be particularly mindful of the special needs of women, children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

"While food, clothes, medicine and water are of critical importance, I call upon Jamaicans to remember that infants, toddlers, women and the elderly have special needs," Simpson Miller said.

The 7.0 magnitude quake ripped apart the already fragile state and robbed the people of the little they had.

Said Simpson Miller: "In times of crisis, we must be mindful that it is the women, children, senior citizens and the disabled who suffer the most."

Simpson Miller highlighted the need for diapers for adults, infants, and toddlers, baby formula, feminine products and soap.

"Often, when faced with such ordeals, we move to address issues of subsistence," Simpson Miller said.

She stressed that while this is of critical importance, of equal importance is the need to assist the men, women and children of Haiti to maintain even the most primary elements of dignity.

In her impassioned appeal, Simpson Miller singled out the leaders of the region, in particular female leaders in business, civil society and national leadership to address the plight of those persons with peculiar and special needs.

glimmer of light

But for Simpson Miller there is a glimmer of light even in the darkest period for the Haitian people.

Simpson Miller conceded that she was overwhelmed by the hardship and suffering she witnessed. However, she said she was mindful of the determination, resilience and resourcefulness of the Caribbean's first independent people.

"The destruction was evident, but the Haitian spirits are not completely broken. The innate mechanisms, that have seen them through hardships of many forms, will also keep Haiti through this crisis," she declared.

The opposition leader has established a special initiativefor the collection of items for women, children and persons with specialneeds at the People's National Party headquarters on Old Hope Road.

These will be collected alongside other relief supplies being collected at the headquarters for the Salvation Army.