Commentary: Haiti: Hallowed ground: Centuries of balancing natural and human disasters

R.D. Miller

On January 12, 2010, several began to take a closer look at island of Haiti after a massive earthquake displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of people in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The images that plastered our televisions projected the vulnerability of families; especially young women and children living in deplorable conditions under tents, shacks and rusty sheet metals homes and without access to drinkable water or electricity.

As reported, millions of dollar pleaded and donated worldwide to the nation, combined with strategies with the US and other international agencies formed to focus on investments, infrastructure, energy and other economic development.

However, investigations later found that some agreements fell short from mismanagement, corruption and underperformed promises according to RT online and other news outlets.

After category 4 hurricane Matthew landed with 145 mph winds between October 4, and 5, 2016, as one of the strongest to land in Haiti in over 50 years, again, this crisis became another image of only seeing the dark side of this nation.

Matthews destroyed many homes, divided towns, with nearly 1,000 people killed and others displaced.

These reports remind us that not much has changed since the previous disasters.

Despite adequate preparation and resources from the government, even the death toll in the US reported about 33 killed between North and South Carolina.

Several hundred Haitians shown still living under tents, cut off from the rest of the country from due to mudslides, and living without safe drinking water, malnourished children, and other vulnerability to other diseases such as cholera.

Port-au-Prince again became an 1-800 hotline number for donations.

Haiti’s has a rich history and many are wondering how much more can this island bear.

Haiti's Revolution Image: CBS

I am not a scholar of Haiti’s politics, civil protection service, disaster preparedness, leadership, GDP, or religious philosophy.

Therefore, I will leave any deep attempt of its history, and culture to someone such as native opinion writer and columnist, Jean H Charles, and college friends from Haiti on its struggle and future.

I am an observer, and this is an opinion and not a scholarly paper on Haiti’s history, nor do I intend to make an argument for “reparation”, or how prior invasions may or may not have contributed to its struggles today.

Despite its democratic elected government, Haiti’s fate always is uncertain. And with ongoing protests, and people running out of patience, both human and natural disaster are inter connected.

Haiti has a history of dictatorship, and political infighting still roars like the storm as it struggles to find the right wave.

Historians argue that between 1791 to 1804 was what is called the Haiti Revolution against slavery, control over their destiny and other human rights. However, despite being the first colonized nation in the region to gain independence, Haiti it seems is always in search of its own economic identity.

Haiti has fought Napoleon’s attempt to reclaim France’s Saint Dominque as Haiti was known, as well as resisted the US occupation in 1915.

Although built on the back of slave labour, Haiti was the wealthiest French colony from the production of sugar, coffee, and other commodities according to historians

Officials have argued that decades of asphyxiating policies from France to the US, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other agencies have contributed to its decades of stagnation and inability to meet some basic needs of its people.

Haiti’s history never seems to be a guide to its future, but more of a hindrance.

Maybe Haiti’s tenacity to be left alone has excluded key financial investments.

Sadly, leadership for the past three decades seems like they arrived from default, or by selecting provisional presidents because of their likability to a few dominant nations.

No, Haiti does not need Wyclef Jean, a popular singer who is a native of Haiti or any other based on global popularity.

Although his foundation has done good work for Haiti, there are still questions if it has met some core principle of accountability surrounding donations, to prove transparency to gain public trust.

After Matthew landed, the US military sent a navy ship to help at the request of the USAID, and the State Department:

Even Daniel Snyder, Washington DC Redskins football owner, flew his private plane with two of his team players descended from Haiti, Pierre Garcon, and Jean Francois, according to the Washington Post.

I am sure there are many others with close ties that have given back in some from.

What next, after zinc homes have been remounted in the same spot when the river dried up again, the planes, media have left, and it rains again?

Haiti’s disasters are too common, whether political, economic, or social, artificial or systemic.

Nevertheless, Haiti is not alone fighting poverty, and searching for an economic identity, few of its neighboring islands were spared.

How would they have managed had Mathew taken a different path?

Some argued that Haiti’s location places it at the mercy of nature, but leaders and preparedness have to be more effective, not only to minimize the death toll after these events, but an opportunity to rebuild, and move people out of poverty.

With limited shelters, or even fear of losing personal possessions from people looking to exploit these disasters if one becomes displaced. As a result, many stayed home hoping to ride out these storms, and that become detrimental.

October 11, 2016, the New York Times, reported that the US has halted deportation for Haitians in the US illegally.

Despite the welcome temporary policy by advocates, this move cannot change Haiti’s economy. A nation that continues to hope without a clear path will be always looking to an escape route to fulfill a dream.

Today many of us are products of that same hope as our parents and grandparent left these poor regions to realize elsewhere.

From the south to north migrations, east to west across states and continents, people continue to move in massive numbers; to escape poverty, political turmoil, inequality, barbaric ideology, violence and other criminal elements, and intolerance.

Many places could use some rebuilding from these storms, and everyone must work together, put self-interest on hold because when these hurricanes come they do not discriminate based on age, sex, creed, color, culture, or economic status and even location.

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