Can Haiti Catch a Break?
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As many of you know, on August 14 of this year, Haiti experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake just off the coast of Les Cayes. To date there are over 2000 confirmed deaths (though probably many more), over 12,000 injuries, and close to 150,000 homes either damaged or destroyed by the earthquake.
Right after the earthquake, the Haitian government, NGOs (non governmental organizations), and other aid organizations have struggled to get supplies to the affected areas. This is to be expected when infrastructure is what it is in Haiti and the epicenter of the earthquake is so far away from the capital city of Port Au Prince.
The problem is that it is much worse than simply an infrastructure problem. Here are some of the main things other than infrastructure that Haiti will fight through to try and rebuild from this most recent natural disaster:
- The proliferation of gangs and gang violence. Much of what happens to Haiti is self-inflicted even when it comes to disaster relief and recovery efforts. This past disaster has shown that in a lot of ways. In the beginning, it was difficult for relief to get to the affected area because gangs would literally stop and steal the supplies going down. So the gangs called a "truce" for a while so that people could get the help they needed. That truce is now over, and every day there are new shootings, kidnappings, and blocked roads leaving the capital city. It is not safe to go through Port Au Prince right now, and especially Martissant, an area that you have to pass through to get to All Things New.
- The ineptitude of disaster relief organizations. In 2010, the American Red Cross received about $500 million in donations aimed at helping Haiti. They could have, and this is no exaggeration, given $50 to almost every single person living in Haiti at the time. Instead, they helped a little around the time of the earthquake and then built about 6 houses. They, presumably, used the rest of the money on other projects. Why?
First of all, the Red Cross is a relief organization, not a "rebuild" organization. Secondly, they have no earthly idea how to operate in Haiti. They did not understand land ownership, home building, or anything else that goes into working in Haiti. I have been living and working there for 8 years and I still struggle with things like that. There is no way any organization can come in and figure it out in 2 weeks.
The bottom line is that giving money to big organizations is great if they are going in to help those in need and provide emergency services. But that type of work generally ends pretty quickly and it is vital that money and resources are going to organizations on the ground that can actually help. There is a lot to cover under the ineptitude of disaster relief organizations, and I am going to write a blog soon about "disaster capitalism" after I wrap my mind around the concept more.
- A non-existent government that, when operating, is known as one of the most corrupt in the west. A couple of years ago, both houses of the Haitian government (Senators and Deputies) were disbanded by then President Jovenel Moise. There was a lot to it, but basically nobody could agree on elections and almost everyone's term expired so Jovenel started ruling by decree back in 2020. In May the President of the Supreme Court died of Covid, in June the Prime Minister said he was stepping down, and on July 7 Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home. There was, quite literally, nobody left to run the country. It was in that vacuum of power that the earthquake hit and it is within that vacuum that things are happening the way they are.
Through all of these things, Haiti's population cannot seem to catch a break. There are many other things at play as well including the ruling elite (oligarchs), other disasters happening at the same time, and the fatigue that comes when one country seems to always need help. Please continue to pray for Haiti. It seems like something has to give, and it seems like they are due for a break. My prayer is that a good and Godly leader comes into control and can help start to lead Haiti out of the mess.