“O Haiti é aqui. O Haiti não é aqui” (Haiti is here. Haiti is not here), sings Caetano Veloso. Today this sounds quite prophetic. The catastrophic earthquake that destroyed Haiti – a country that has its own share of misfortunes – had also a big impact in Brazil.
The Brazilian Army coordinates the United Nations Peace Force, created after the huge 2004 rebellion, and keeps over 1,200 men deployed in Haiti. Eleven of them died yesterday. The earthquake also killed Zilda Arns Neumann. This 75-year-old pediatrician, three times nominated for the Peace Nobel Prize, was the coordinator of Pastoral da Criança, a non-profit linked to the Catholic Church that accumulates victories in the fight against child mortality. The Pastoral has 238,000 volunteers, follows closely the health evolution of almost 1.6 million Brazilian children, and has similar projects in 20 countries, including Haiti.
A few Brazilian organizations are working in the after-earthquake effort. One of them is Viva Rio, that transferred to Bel Air, a slum close to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, their expertise in fighting urban violence. They helped promoting peace treaties, creating a security brigade and teaching capoeira. Now, they are collecting donations. Brazilian government also announced it will send $ 15 million and 28 tons of food to the Haitians.