I attended Paul Farmer’s lecture on Haiti after the earthquake this afternoon. It was a very informative talk on key problems the country is facing, notably education, health problems, access to medical care, lack of basic needs (water…), and the politics behind foreign aids. Farmer cites some troubling statistics: For example, the number of people in settlement camps by October 2011 is still approximately 550,000. After two years, only 30% of the rubble has been removed, and most of this labor was done manually by hands. Deaths from diseases, especially cholera, are rampant. All of this shows that there are still so much work to be done in the process of reconstructing Haiti.
One thing that captures me was Farmer’s idea on the role of university in community service. University should not only be a teaching and learning environment – it should also foster civic engagement. Farmer points out how Duke is lucky to have top-notch medical facilities, which allow high quality research to be carried out, and also input feedbacks about current policies and practices.
I’d be interested to hear what others who attended the talk think about the several issues raised by Farmer.