Haiti - Horror and Hope 2 Years Later


It has now been two years since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which killed over 300,000 people, injured countless others and destroyed the infrastructure of the tiny Caribbean island.

Here in Japan, we can have special empathy for the people of Haiti, having experienced a terrible earthquake and even worse tsunami in 2011.

Unlike Japan, however, Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere. The earthquake also destroyed Haiti's government and state agencies. Two years later, the new government is struggling to put the country back together.

Despite the billions of dollars in aid pledged by various nations, Haiti is still a disaster zone. The earthquake was followed by storms, a hurricane and a fatal outbreak of cholera, which has claimed thousands of lives.

Scientific evidence strongly suggests that UN peacekeepers from Nepal stationed in Haiti spread the disease owing to unsanitary practices. The UN continues to deny the charges and the people of Haiti continue to suffer.*

In addition, most of the aid money pledged has yet to be distributed. According to UN figures, only 6% of bilateral aid for reconstruction projects has gone through Haitian institutions, while less than 1% of relief funding has gone through the government of Haiti. Most of it seems to have gone to US contractors, companies and NGOs.**

Half a million people still live in tents, without electricity, running water or proper sanitation - poor protection against the natural elements, or the more unnatural, sinister practices of lawless gangs that rape, pillage and abduct defenseless women and children caught in these hopeless conditions.***

Watching news and documentary reports about the ongoing misery in Haiti is heartbreaking. I, too, come from a small Caribbean island. That earthquake could easily have devastated Trinidad and Tobago instead of Haiti.

I imagine the pain of the Haitians, who despite millions in pledged donations, continue to live in squalor on the streets, at the mercy of evil men who prey on the helpless, in a country with a long history of inefficient, corrupt governments.

I imagine the little girls and boys who cannot attend school, or who must walk long distances on their own to attend class in makeshift tents, with few resources and little security, eyes alert for signs of bandits who kidnap children for the slave trade in other countries.

I imagine women and even children who still live in tents or shacks, afraid to sleep, or go to the lavatory at night, for fear of being raped. What horror!

What courage, also, that despite these trials, the people of Haiti wake up each day and try to make the best of it - feed and take care of their families, find work (though 70% of the population remains unemployed) and educate their children.

So, what can we do to help?

Doing a little research would be a good start. My own investigations suggest that groups like Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health are among the few who have been truly effective in using their resources to help the people of Haiti. The ongoing cholera epidemic also makes these medical organizations ideal choices.****

Raising awareness of the ongoing problems is also necessary and worthwhile. Many people may believe that Haiti has received enough money to solve its problems, or they may be unaware of the reasons behind the lack of progress, blaming the Haitians for their situation. We need to throw light on what is actually going on and get more people involved in finding practical, real solutions to the crisis.

These are huge problems that will take time to be resolved. Yet the longest of journeys starts with the first step. Let's make one today.

Thank you.





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