It’s the second anniversary of the earthquake that shook the island of Haiti. The 7.0-magnitude quake created yet another setback for a people who seem to be perpetual victims of disasters.
Some Haitians believe the island is cursed because of its history of slavery and repression. Others lift up the battle for independence from French domination led by Toussaint L’Ouverture and believe they can be free again. The model of corruption perfected by the brutal regimes of Jean Claude Duvaliers (Papa Doc and Baby Doc) who were propped up by the U.S. government continues to be fine-tuned by government and business officials.
Current photos of Haiti don’t show much progress since the earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. Piles of rubble, teetering buildings and sprawling tent cities remind us of the challenges the small island continues to face. The quake affected an estimated 3 million people and displaced about 1.5 million Haitians.
The death toll, like the billions in aid, is impossible to track or confirm. The death estimates range from 50,000 to a half million. Financial aid swings from $3 billion to $12 billion. Haiti has no system f accounting for births or deaths. And there’s definitely been no accounting of the millions that poured in so quickly in the days after the earthquake for recovery and rebuilding.
Still, only a fraction of the pledged monies by governments has been received. The international shell game played in the face of such a disaster is outrageous. Robert Fatton, professor of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, says that Haitians received a puny 1 percent of the U.S. dollars that were pledged.
“If you read the UN Report,” Fatton says, 99 percent of the U.S. dollars went to the “U.S. military, the State Department, NGOs and contractors. It ended up returning to the same place it came from.”
Not everyone is exploiting the situation. OXFAM is questioning why rice is being imported from the U.S. by the shiploads instead of helping Haitian farmers to grow their own. At one time, Haiti was producing its own rice. Now, it imports 60 percent of its rice from this country.
Who was mostly responsible for this particular undermining of Haitian agriculture? None other than President Bill Clinton whose home state is our country’s largest rice-producing state. The irony of this is Clinton was assigned to Haiti as the UN Special Envoy to oversee the country’s reconstruction efforts. Not surprising, he has been unresponsive to repeated requests for accountability by watchdog groups. MINUSTAH (UN Stabilization Mission) also needs to be held accountable.
When people of the world look at Haiti’s dismal situation, the tendency is to blame the victim. But a closer look reveals many bloodsuckers that keep the country from standing on its own two feet and taking care of its people.
Haiti is bowed but not broken. Haitians continue to find dignity in their lives, and hope in their futures.
Note: To address the cholera outbreak since the earthquake, monies are being collected for aqua purification tablets. Send donations to the St. Louis Project for Haiti at PO Box 170094, St. Louis, MO 63117. This is a group of St. Louis-based Haitians and friends who are committed to Haiti’s people.