During our last few trips to Haiti my husband would often remark at the end of his work shift, “This was Haiti’s worst day,” meaning things have never been so bad in Haiti. Here are some of the reasons why:
-Gangs control many of the slums. They kidnap, steal, kill, and terrorize people, throughout Haiti. We know people they have kidnapped and a family whose home
was burned to the ground.
-The UN forces—over 7,000 strong—are here to help with security. However, they shoot indiscriminately in the slums and have killed untold numbers of innocent people, including children. John has interviewed many of these victims at St. Catherine Laboure hospital in Cite Soleil.
-The judicial system is corrupt and inefficient. There seem to be no regular laws or rules that are enforced regarding charges, trials, and imprisonment. Violent prisoners are released while people like Father Gerry Jean-Juste are held for months on trumped up charges.
-The lack of security has kept away people who want to help Haiti.
-The infrastructure is gutted. Roads are terrible, clean water is not widely available, and electricity is only accessible a few hours a day.
-Many of the poor are malnourished or even starving to death.
-Haiti was cited as the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International. This index defines corruption as public officials who abuse their positions for private gain.
-Schooling is not available to all children and many of the schools are inferior.
-Medical care is woefully scarce and inadequate. Many preventable and/or treatable diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and malaria take the lives of Haitians, especially children.
-An environmental crisis is ravaging the country as the deforested mountains allow rains to carry away topsoil and turn into deadly floods.
-Unemployment is rampant, somewhere around 80%.
-Many of the educated, skilled people who are critical to developing Haiti leave for the United States, Canada, and Europe. Our adoption attorney told us that none of her five children are living in Haiti.
All of these problems have their roots in the historical and current events I have described in previous posts. I think we have to take into special account the role of the U.S. in Haiti’s history, particularly its most recent history. I believe the United States has a great deal of control as to some things in Haiti. The U.S. told Aristide he must leave and flew him to Africa. A resident of the U.S. became Haiti’s interim prime minister. The United States held up promised aid money to Haiti because we didn’t like the way their 2000 elections were administrated.
Haitians are very aware of the U.S. power over their country and they pay close attention to U.S. politics. We were in Haiti during the 2004 U.S. presidential elections and people were listening to their radios/ They knew the states where the vote was in question. I think that the U.S. president often has more affect on people from other countries than he does on Americans. In Haiti’s case, one U.S. president restored Aristide to office and another led him out.
Now, it’s not just a question of what other countries can do for Haiti. It’s also a question of what Haiti can do for itself. And like a person who has been beaten too long, Haiti has developed its own dysfunction, which contributes to its problems.
When all is said and done, the question remains: what can be done now to improve Haiti?