The 'timelines' charting the history of natural, political and economic disaster that have been accompanying coverage of the earthquake in Haiti underline just how predictable is the alignment of natural disaster with national poverty. The mix of the two in Haiti is a truly accursed combination and one which has contributed greatly to the extent of the dreadful devastation the nine million people of the Caribbean nation are suffering today.

Haiti is infamously the poorest country in the western world, kept that way, many would argue, by the historic policies of the past 200 years. The country's very foundation as the first independent black nation following a successful slave revolution served to threaten the interests of the United States and the European colonial powers whose fortunes rested on cheap labour and unobstructed pillage of its resources. A policy of destabilisation followed. Thus it was 200 years ago and has been ever since.

Last Tuesday, cheaply built, poorly planned homes, schools and public buildings crashed down and crushed those within, their inability to withstand the forces of nature the product of corruption from within and without. Those who paid the biggest price with their lives and their continuing pain are, of course, the poverty stricken people who live in Port-au-Prince's sprawling slums.

The world has rushed to the country's aid. But when these first stages are over, there must be a reassessment of international commitment. President Obama has promised Haitians they will be neither forsaken nor forgotten. But will he stay true to his word?

Sympathy from our comfortable perspective can be hollow too. Ireland, on its own and within the EU, must contribute whatever it can where and when it is needed. Private donations are vital for organisations such as Concern, Goal, Unicef, and the Haven and Soul of Haiti charities. Every individual should be as generous as possible.