THE popular legend tells of Siddhartha, a very wealthy prince who, at the age of 29 slipped out of the palace and saw poor people for the first time. That transformed his life and he became the personality known worldwide as Buddha.
Poverty is a state of the human condition which nobody wants to confront. Awareness of poverty such as that which exists in Haiti is still an experience that most people would rather not experience. People the world over who have access to electronically transmitted media have heard of Haiti's poverty and many have been made aware of the desperate plight of Haitians after the devastating earthquake of 2010.
For a fleeting moment the world community was empathetic and marshalled a massive raft of commitments to provide humanitarian aid to alleviate the mass suffering and provide development aid to rebuild Haiti.
It took an earthquake to put Haiti on the map of global consciousness. It was a short-lived moment, because truth be told, very little of the promised foreign aid has materialised and much of what little aid has been delivered has actually reached the poor. Most of the resources have been used to support a volunteer army of aid workers, non-government organisations and assorted do-gooders housed in comparative luxury to those they are supposed to help.
It took a cholera outbreak to reawaken the dormant concerns of the global community. As soon as it was clear that the disease could be confined to Haiti everyone forgot about the Haitian people.
Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been one of the world's best kept secrets, conveniently forgotten, an unwanted disturbance to the consciousness of the poor and an unwelcome reminder to the consciences of the rich.
It has taken the ravages of Hurricane Sandy to bring the condition of the poor people of Haiti back on the agenda of the world community. We suspect based on history that Haiti will once again be a quickly vanishing blimp on the world's radar screen.
This is a very sad commentary on mankind and the lack of caring and the absence of a sense of responsibility of the majority of those who can afford to help. It is this attitude which makes life for Haitians and millions of people all over the globe, short, nasty and brutish. It is not the lack of resources in the world nor inadequate production. The world produces enough food to provide an adequate diet for the world's population, but some eat too much, some do not get enough and some get none.
What will it take to change this if not even an earthquake or a hurricane can get sustained attention for Haiti? Even if it is out of enlightened self-interest, the rest of the world should remember that none of us is insulated from the ravages of disasters. If we had any doubts, we need look no further than the eastern seaboard of the United States where Sandy has struck a devastating blow to the economy of the world's most powerful country.