Why Haiti Deserves More Than Our Prayers
The island of Haiti has been the little black jewel of the Western Hemisphere since it successfully clinched its independence from colonial rule in 1804, becoming the first colony to do so. But in recent years, a combination of political unrest, rampant poverty, a deadly earthquake, the UN-generated cholera outbreak, on top of the disastrous effects of Hurricane Matthew makes one thing clear: the Haitian people need more than our thoughts and prayers and love and light; they need a well-sustained, responsibly-led recovery effort and the funds and resources to accompany it.
When a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the island in January of 2010, a worldwide humanitarian response from governments and intergovernmental organizations, non-profit groups and corporations quickly ensued. Many of the top recording artists at that time, including Kanye West, P!nk, and gospel duo Mary Mary re-recorded the hit single “We Are The World,” with profits directed to earthquake relief efforts. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world dug deep into their pockets to help with aid as well, placing their donations in the hands of the Red Cross. Five years later, an investigative report from ProPublica and NPR revealed that after public attention had faded, much of that money had been squandered, and the little rebuilding that has occurred is almost laughable.
Though The Red Cross claims to have created homes for over 100,000 Haitians, the above report estimates that number is closer to six. Not six-thousand, but just six homes were built five years after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. And yet public officials, including President Obama, are still encouraging people to entrust their dollars to The Red Cross in the wake of Hurricane Matthew (pro tip: don’t.)
Aside from the failure of non-governmental organizations to make due on their promises to help rebuild Haiti, intergovernmental organizations, most notably the UN, also failed the island in a remarkable way. Though they were there to assist those who had survived the terror of a deadly earthquake, they left behind a disease that killed (and is still killing) thousands, adding to Haiti’s seemingly ever-growing death toll. Over 9,200 cholera deaths have been recorded by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, and that number will only continue to swell in the wake of the recent hurricane. Chelsea Clinton described it best in a recently-revealed email to her parents.
“The incompetence is mind numbing…there is NO accountability in the UN system or international humanitarian system,” Clinton stated (originally reported by POLITICO.)
The United Nations made a resolution to gradually increase its presence on the island following the earthquake. The UN troops dispatched to Haiti in October of 2010 were from Nepal, which had been dealing with its own cholera outbreak since July of that year. Just days after arriving in Haiti, the first case was recorded; It spread like wildfire shortly after. We now know that the troops had contaminated a popular river, which sparked the outbreak. But until recently, the UN incessantly denied having caused the deadly epidemic, and even went as far as invoking legal immunity from lawsuits aimed at compensating 5,000 victims.
If the glaring lack of accountability exhibited by the world’s leading governance body causes you to question the integrity of major global actors, the Clinton’s involvement in Haiti’s political affairs won’t settle your concerns either.
The Clintons interest in Haiti extends back to the 1990s, when former President Clinton employed a diplomatic coalition to replace the country’s democratically-elected leader following a coup d’état. Years later he was named the co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, while Secretary Clinton concentrated her personal efforts on helping navigate the mess that was Haiti’s 2011 presidential election. While American critics question the extent of their involvement and political motives, others, mainly Haitians themselves, have grown frustrated with their charity work, or lack thereof, on the island. While some Clinton-backed projects were successful, millions of dollars were poured into investments, such as a power plant and housing units, that were either severely delayed or ultimately failed, leading to protest of the Clintons by Haitians in the U.S.
And now what little rebuilding that survived the mess created by various foreign actors has literally been washed away. In just a few days, Hurricane Matthew has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people, 1.4 million have been displaced and now cholera has reared its ugly head once more. More than Facebook filters, Haiti needs resources, and history has shown that we can’t rely on the big shots to dole them out responsibly.
Facebook users have already begun compiling lists of aid organizations with proven track records. Those of us with the means to do so should donate what we can. And those of us who are unable, should focus our efforts on holding the myriad of forces who will inevitably descend on the island accountable. If a hypercritical eye on reconstruction efforts is what it takes to prevent history from repeating itself, so be it. Black pain and Black death should never be used as enabling mechanisms by profiteers, government-related or not. We deserve better. Haiti deserves better.
Image via FMSC