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Moral imperative to help

It will take a global response to address the incomprehensible disaster confronting the impoverished star-crossed nation of Haiti. Thankfully, it appears the world is ready to help.

With its capital of Port-au-Prince leveled by an earthquake, the National Palace and other government buildings destroyed, hospitals wrecked or severely damaged and infrastructure around the city obliterated, this nation can do little to help itself.

Weeks may pass before the world knows the full extent of the catastrophe, but based on early reports, the loss of life will be staggering. And the potential for many more to die, due to disease, exposure, malnutrition and a general societal breakdown, is enormous. That's why the world's response must be swift and overwhelming.

President Obama immediately pledged the U.S. would undertake "a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives" in the devastated nation located just a few hundred miles from Miami. Leaders across the world offered similar assurances of help.

Death and suffering is a way of life in the best of times for Haitians. Its 9 million people crowd the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, about the size of Maryland. The 7.0-magnitude quake struck the most populated area, disrupting the lives of an estimated 3 million people.

But visitors to the Caribbean nation report that Haitians are a resilient people and remarkably positive despite the hardships the vast majority face.

It is a nation with a special connection to Connecticut. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich has long had a relationship with Haiti, providing help to its people through its Haitian Ministries. In return, those who have volunteered assistance say the Haitian people provide them with a greater appreciation of what is truly important in life and a profound appreciation for the power of the human spirit.

Now that ministry faces greater challenges than ever. The quake destroyed its Mission House on the outskirts of the capital. Aid workers had to dig two volunteers from its rubble. The collapse seriously injured a housekeeper. Ministry officials still do not know the extent of damage done to the orphanages, schools, clinics and other services it supports.

In part because of the relationship between Haiti and the Norwich Diocese, the city is home to a significant Haitian population, the members of which now suffer great anguish as they await news about loved ones living in the quake area.

We urge all those with the financial wherewithal to help. Monetary donations will do the most good. News coverage in today's edition and on theday.com provides information on where to donate.

Humanity could not stop the earthquake, but it can and must respond to the suffering that has resulted.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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