The status of Haiti has grown worse in the 11 months since the earthquake: the recent hurricane and the cholera epidemic are proverbial insults added to massive injuries.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
There is a natural disconnect when a massive influx of Westerners seek to aid and rescue peoples in the under-developed countries in the world. When affluent countries reach out to aid other countries, often that aid comes with strings attached and that even applies to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and maybe in the entire world. It has been 11 months since the horrific 7.0 earthquake struck an already poverty-stricken Haiti, and since then the devastation has been compounded by a hurricane and most recently, a cholera epidemic.
Many have reached out, but looking at the news and seeing the conditions that still exist forces the question: what has really been done so far? As an example, on the news last weekend, it was reported that the builder who is leading the massive rebuilding efforts has been stymied by a bureaucratic snafu. Someone apparently “dropped the ball” and as a result, hundreds of containers of materials that are desperately needed to build badly-needed housing are just languishing on the docks at Port au Prince harbor.
Some of those who are charged with the responsibility of correcting the wretched conditions that millions of Haitians have been forced to live under, are either incompetent or overwhelmed by the magnitude of the devastation. And the tragedy continues, multiplying exponentially every day.
Here are some of the statistics according to the Haiti Children Relief Project (HCRP):
— Over 500,000 lives have been lost since the quake and the resultant effects prior to the outbreak of cholera
— Women are having C-sections without the benefit of anesthesia to blunt the pain and patients are having their limbs amputated under the same conditions.
These are some of the urgent immediate needs:
— Needed in massive amounts are antibiotics, vaccine, medicine, clothing, food and all the basic necessities for everyday living
— Heavy-duty and light transport vehicles and equipment to assist in the removal of the debris before massive rebuilding can be started
— Financial assistance to support schools; under the aforementioned conditions, schools (buildings) are not even available to send the children
— More volunteers and partners in the medical field (doctors, nurses, etc.), teachers and construction workers
— To sum it up, the people of Haiti need lots of non-perishable products, over-the-counter drugs, personal care and household items, just to name a few of the necessities.
An organization named “Friends of Haiti 2010” is bent on trying to link all leaders of the Haitian communities in the Diaspora in order to network and rally HAITIANS worldwide for the development of HAITI. However, in the process the organization is focusing on educating the people on civic principles and encouraging competent citizens to engage at all levels for democratic governance. While that sounds admirable, hungry, homeless people are not really concerned about democratic principles — they want food, clothing and shelter.
The Friends seem to have their priorities misplaced. They recently sponsored a presidential debate in Miami, noting that it was the ‘first and only presidential debate to be held outside of Haiti.’ Of course, it was held ‘outside of Haiti’. The people of Haiti have not the faintest idea of a political solution to their problem. They want food, clothing and shelter first and foremost, and it is very likely that they do not care the political affiliation of the hand(s) that bring them relief.
According to news reports that covered the debate, the important issues such as the presence of the UN in Haiti, the role of the International Community in the rebuilding of Haiti post the January 12th 2010 earthquake, double citizenship and any amendment to the current Haitian Constitution, the role of the Haitian Army, disaster preparation and relief going forward, free education to all citizens, free health care for all citizens, and finally, how do you get a bankrupt, corrupt government out of the darkness into the light with transparency, liberty and justice for all its citizens.
That sounded quite eloquent but no where did they discuss the real bread-and-butter issues BY NAME — the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. They were inferred but never spelled out and therein lied many of the problems of the people of Haiti. Everyone is debating their homeland, their countries and talking about them but not to them about their immediate needs and how to best solve their immediate problems.