Response to Chile earthquake lukewarm

Facebook invitations to help Haiti probably flooded people’s inboxes days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the developing country in January, but calls to aid victims of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Chile on Feb. 27 have been slower to come by.

Associate Chaplain of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Jake Hofmeister said the office is gathering Church World Service kits to help Chile, just like it did for Haiti. Church World Service is a relief ministry that prepares kits that are shipped around the world to people in need. The kits are packages of supplies that are assembled by volunteers for the service.

Hofmeister said the office is open to facilitating student ideas about supporting Chile, but no one has suggested anything to him personally.

Americans raised $250,000 three days after the Chilean earthquake, compared to $97 million raised for Haiti after its earthquake, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal citing The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication that covers nonprofits.

Keith Whitworth, a sociology professor, said he thinks media coverage made the earthquake in Chile seem much less severe than the one that struck Haiti. Whitworth said he thinks people had a predetermined view that there was less need for aid in Chile.

“From an international perspective, I think there’s, again, less response because of the difference in the resources that are available,” Whitworth said.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 80 percent of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line, and the death toll from its earthquake reached 230,000. On the contrary, Chile is one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, and the death toll there is approximately 700.

Because Haiti and Chile are in different development stages, the Chilean government may have felt pressured to resist aid because it is a developed country, Whitworth said.

According to initial news reports, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Chile did not need aid from foreign countries. She later retracted her statement, after the death toll reached more than 700 people, and made a plea for international support.

Eric Cox, an assistant political science professor, said sometimes governments refuse aid because they don’t want to create a perception that the government was not prepared for situations of this magnitude.

“A country like Chile, that is pretty economically advanced and a fairly well-developed country.didn’t want to be perceived as not being able to handle it on their own,” Cox said.

But people can only give so much before their resources are taxed, Cox said. It is impossible to respond to every catastrophe around the world, he said.

Hannah Mering, a sophomore psychology major, said she thinks some students are not donating to Chile because they think they have already met their philanthropy quota by donating to Haiti. Mering said more people should feel compelled to donate to Chile but, because Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, students might have thought Haiti was in more need of aid.

Kate O’Carroll, a sophomore business major, said she even though Chile is a more developed nation, she thinks people should still donate. Even the wealthiest of countries need help every now and then, she said.

According to The Associated Press, the Chilean government has deployed planes, ships, helicopters, trucks, heavy equipment and thousands of troops to deliver tons of local and foreign aid to affected areas. The efforts have drawn praise from disaster veterans who describe Chile’s response as remarkable, largely avoiding bureaucratic infighting, according to The Associated Press.

Staff reporter Lawrence Embry contributed to this report.

By the Numbers


Amount Americans raised for Chile within three days after the Chilean earthquake

$97 million

Amount Americans raised for Haiti within three days after the Haitian earthquake