It is on the fringes of disasters where the most interesting stories emerge. These stories are more complex than the initial incident; a devastating earthquake turning an already volatile country into complete disarray. We know the figures: an estimated 200,000 dead, over two million more homeless. It's afterwards, amongst the rubble and the reconstruction, that the complexities of survival and the resoluteness of the human spirit sketch a more complete picture, far more intricate than that first blast of awful colour on a previously blank page.

After every appalling natural disaster, there are generally three kinds of stories that come into focus on the fringes. Those stories are most often typified by hope, cynicism and inequality. We understood what the inequality story was to be when a disgustingly giant cruise ship from Royal Caribbean Cruises docked at an undisturbed private beach on Haiti's coast for a bunch of selfish idiots to disembark and ride jet skis and have a barbeque within 100 miles of the humanitarian catastrophe in Port au Prince. The company has now pledged $1m dollars in aid relief. If I were in charge of receiving that money, I'd be tempted to tell them to stuff it.

The fringes of cynicism were given some added detail upon the reaction of celebrities. Many, I'm sure, were genuine, desperate to use their millions gleaned from crap films for something decent. George Clooney rushed to organise a telethon. Madonna opened her wallet. Countless others fell over each other to organise events, speak of their heartache in sparkling gowns at the Golden Globes ceremony, throw cheques in the direction of the Haitian part of the Caribbean, not far from where many A-listers blew hundreds of thousands on their New Year's Eve celebrations in St Barts. One wonders how many were utterly sincere, and how many wanted to be seen to be showing support. And then how many others blatantly used it as an exercise in self-promotion. It's horrible to think that way, but it's not as if the world of celebrity is a bastion of good taste and genuine actions, now, is it?

And then, finally, there's that one thing that can never be extinguished, no matter how horrendous the situation may be: hope. When Kiki Joachin, an eight-year-old boy was rescued alongside his 10-year-old sister, a photographer, Matthew McDermott from the New York Post, was there to capture an incredible image. Kiki, was trapped under rubble for seven days. When New York firefighters finally freed him, he was too scared to emerge until his mother called his name. He popped up, his arms outstretched, almost crucifix-like. He flashed a magnificent smile, a resurrection, a triumph, a joyful spark in a nation dulled by death and horror. The moustached firemen sniffed back tears. Others simply applauded. So flooded is Haiti with journalists, that it's inevitable that the incident was also filmed. The footage is unbelievably tear jerking, but the photograph is truly remarkable, the first great press shot of this decade, and its impact will be hard to beat. It's a minor victory in the context of so many dead, but a massive victory for his family, for the rescue operation, and for the human spirit itself.

Every disaster needs its symbol of hope: the firefighters erecting the American flag on the smouldering remains of the Twin Towers. And now, Kiki.

"Kiki's smile will live with me forever," the photographer said.

But although Kiki's image will live on, his own future is not so sure. Kiki and his sister Sabrina watched their little brother die from dehydration next to them and his body decay, an unbelievable kind of trauma that will stick with both youngsters. The fact that Kiki now has a strange version of fame means very little to his family. Two of their children are dead. They are homeless, having lost their house and all of their belongings. They have yet to receive any aid, shelter, food or water, and no amount of people choking back tears upon watching Kiki's miraculous rescue on CNN can change that unless they donate directly to teams such as Médecins Sans Frontières on the ground.

But for now, in spite of that harsh reality, Kiki's picture inspires. His joyful reaction to seeing his mother, the thousands and thousands of words that could be written on human bonds and the human spirit from that one snap, as he is cradled by two firefighters and his eager mum, held aloft like a trophy to survival.

That hope is unbeatable, but Haiti needs more than symbols, and we, watching from afar should not be too comforted by such miraculous stories. Kiki is just one boy crawling from a tomb of thousands. What he needs more than fame, is follow-up.