Sunday, January 16, 2011 | Categories: Episodes
On Cross Country Checkup: Haiti one year later
It took just a few minutes to devastate tiny Haiti ...and to galvanize the world. The horror was tempered only by the hope that perhaps this was a chance for the impoverished country to start anew.
What happened? How could the best intentions of so many, amount to so little? Has progress been too slow?
With host Rex Murphy.
It's a tragedy beyond tragedy.
When the earthquake struck Haiti the consequences were off any recongisable scale. 200-thousand or maybe 300-thousand people dead - many injured - and a million-and-a half displaced. It is impossible to carry an idea of the sum of pain, grief, hardship and despair such an event brings in its wake.
It is a full year after that horrific event --- and things are not going well for Haiti even now.
A poor country is doubly hit in an emergency. It lacks the infrastructure, the machinery, to respond when aid is offered or delivered. Surely some of the stories coming out of Haiti one year later are more than discouraging ... aid not being received; poor co-ordination of what aid is getting through. Great impatience at the slow unfolding of the relief effort; complaints about fractious rivalries of the big NGO groups ... and laments over Haiti's chronic lack of government leadership.
If you responded to the pleas for help for Haiti last year, how are you viewing matters now? One of our guests later in the program will tell us how many people are "fed up" with the lack of progress, and the frustration of those who really want to help but, because of a lack of system or structure or 'politics' cannot. This kind of response creates a trap for the country and its people. If there is a real feeling outside Haiti that "helping" is not working, that there is some futility in trying to help, that very thinking will fashion its own reality - people will stop giving or volunteering; governments will avoid making commitments.
After one year what progress do you see in Haiti? Have you been involved in giving or helping the effort to relieve Haiti. If so give us a call, and tell us of your experience.
Canada's former Governor General Michaelle Jean is now a special UN envoy for Haiti with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). This past week she spoke out about how disappointed she is in the progress. She said, "As time passes, what began as a natural disaster is becoming a disgraceful reflection on the international community."
Foreign governments have been blamed for not delivering on their promises. NGOs have been blamed for not effectively solving the problems on the ground. Haiti's government has been blamed for not providing the leadership required to clean up and rebuild the country. There is lots of blame to go around ...but still lots of work to be done.
We want you know what you think. Has the international community done enough? Has Haiti proven itself incapable of moving ahead without some kind of political intervention? Were expectations too high from the start?
I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
Some time ago I read that most of the money donated by citizens of various countries has been used to buy food and water and to provide health care to Haitians. If the governments of Western countries came through with the funds they promised then infrastructure could be rebuilt.
I watched the CBC program on TV the other day. I also saw Michelle Jean having a walkaround. She should be living there and putting people to work. I keep hearing about no jobs in Haitie and nothing getting done.... In the documentary there were all kinds of adults playing cards and sitting around and complaining and even making babies that they can't house and feed - Why aren't they clearing rubble and building dikes and gardens and multifamily dormatories? The world should be sending in all the old tires and other recycleables that can be used for building material. Are we going to start another legacy of paying people to have babies like we have been doing in Africa? Foster Parents Plan and others have been basically holding people hostage by encouraging money to flow in when more babies are born into places where there are no resources to raise those babies.
Outsiders can only do so much. People have to take responsibility to make changes themselves. That means get up everyday with a plan and everyday make some change.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
In my experience, the best way to help Haiti is to find registered charities who have been successful there for a number of years. Haiti Partage, a registered charity based in Montreal, helps fund the work of Madame Mica de Verteuil. Mme de Verteuil moved back to Haiti in the 1970`s after teaching in Montreal. She is the recipient of the Order of Canada for the work she has done establishing twelve schools in the mountainous region of les Abricots which is one of the poorest regions in Haiti.
I am much more comfortable sending funds through Haiti Partage to Mme de Verteuil than to charities who have just jumped on Haiti relief bandwagon.
When the earthquake happened I gave a donation to Doctors Without Borders and Life Water as I believe in their efforts. Doctors Without Border was on the ground and medicine and personnel were of utmost importance. The founder of Life Water had just returned from Haiti and I felt compelled to donate.
I would like to know about the monies that were matched by our government - what has been done to date and the amount given to the efforts. If money is not flowing to address remediation in Haiti, why not? If this is the case is it a result of some form of corruption, and if so on whose part? I personally will not be giving any more money to Haiti.
There are fundamental problems in the domineering relationship of the wealthy countries of the world towards Haiti, not just with France in the 19th century but in the recent years with the U.S., Canada and Europe. This is why Haiti has ineffective government, and what is new in failing to build Haiti? It failed before the earthquake and it is failing today.
There ARE many positive examples of effective aid that should be highlighted more, especially in the medical field. Not coincidental, it's because the medical organizations are among the best in understanding and promoting political sovereignty for the people AND their government.
Your guest suggests that conditions in the camps are acceptable today. Totally false; many camps do not have adequate water, for example, and sexual violence against women is a serious and growing problem.
Vancouver, British Columbia
I believe that the most important thing that we can do to help the Haitians is to guarantee the safety and lives of all of its citizens. I was appalled and infuriated by the recent CBC story that reported on the wandering gangs of men who are raping women who are living in the tent cities. These women and young girls are traumatized and often end up pregnant as a result of the assault. I gave money to Haiti and if I were asked what I wanted done with my money, I would say create a police force of men and protect the women and children in the darkness of the nights in these tent cities. I cannot imagine the terror and the horror of these poor women set upon by their own citizens. That to me would be a first priority.
Having had the privilege of working in Haiti for 6 months immediately following the earthquake, I understand first-hand how frustrating it is negotiating all the complexities of a disaster within a different cultural perspective than what we have here in Canada. It is so frustrating hearing people comment on the situation when they can't even fathom the large scale of destruction.
The aid agencies, in order to use donors money wisely, spend time planning how they will aid in development. This requires having meetings with other key players from the international stage and most importantly, with Haitian people. If Haitian people are not involved and have a voice in the the reconstruction of the country, all our efforts will be wasted.
The Haitian staff that I worked with have so much desire and passion to improve their country and worked tireless hours despite the fact that they were suffering post-traumatic stress. And this is a also another point that few people think about or remember, that the Haitian people have been through a great amount of trauma and stress and how does this may affect the ability of progress. Our job is to aid them in achieving their goals not dictate on how we think things should be run.
I believe that of course there is always room for improvement and we are far from what we would like to see Haiti become but I think that the NGO's, the UN cluster meetings, and grass root Haitian organizations are doing an incredible job.
Victoria, British Columbia
Haiti was described by Mark Twain as the pearl of the Caribbean.
Our family has agonised over the slow progress and ineffectiveness of the Haitian government. Do you think that having another country (and why not Canada?) take over for a few years to help get Haiti on its feet? It was such a mess before the earthquake (children not even immunised etc. etc.)
As has been suggested by another caller our troops could be taken out of Afghanistan and a MASSIVE effort put into Haiti.
I too am frustrated by the lack of progress in rebuilding the entire country. Send in the US Army Corps of Engineers and demolition contractors to take down and remove (to where?) all the rubble. At the same time, have the Haitian government hire a select group of Agriculturalists, Geographers, Architects, Planners,and Engineers, and others who know about earthquake design, to plan how to rebuild the entire country from the Dominican Republic border west to new ports at the sea.
Begin with reworking the soils so that tree planting and agriculture are first. Send the bills for this work to France for what that country did in raping Haiti of its natural resources.
All the others cannot begin their work on site until there is an ability to bring in the equipment for the agriculture and demolition. Building materials will follow once new plans are are ready for urban infrastructure, community buildings and homes. Send these bills to the U.N.
Finally, have the people work together, and all pray and play together. Think of "The Marshall Plan" that saved the people and the city of Berlin after WW II.
I am just as disappointed as anyone else to feel that Haiti is still in seemingly such turmoil a year after the devastation. However, as a nurse, I see a parallel in thinking, between the expectations as to what the degree of reconstruction should be by now and the expectation families seem to have when they request that CPR be performed on their severely ill loved ones. Revival does not mean resurrection to a healthier state than the patient was in at the time of the devastation.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Thank you for your show today. I am perplexed by the lack of understanding demonstrated by many of callers today. I think Canadians (and North Americans generally) expect instant results and quick fixes to exceptionally complex issues. We live in an environment where new sub-divisions are built within a year, and where new schools and recreation complexes are built shortly thereafter. I think this leaves Canadians with the impression that an entire country can be re-built in 12 months.
I note the, dare I say it, hypocrisy in that we live in one of the richest industrial nations in the world and yet we cannot eradicate TB in our own country. Or notably that our neighbour to the south continues to work on rebuilding New Orleans 5 years after Katrina. Our northern communities are rife with a completely treatable disease and we cannot get rid of it, and yet, the callers expect Haiti to be re-built in 12 months. If we can learn anything from the Haiti experience (and our own experience) it is that there is no quick fix when one is addressing complex health, sanitation, development, legal, and political issues. That being said, aid agencies and the UN need to create a concrete re-building plan with clearly identifiable benchmarks, share the plan, and demonstrate how they are reaching the necessary milestones to maintain confidence in their work.