The following post was written by Emma Pritchard, who asked me to post it on my blog. I told her that I am interested in anything that will help people. I was sick when I went to Haiti. The Doctors there with the Brazilian Military wanted to put me in there Hospital. I went to work; regardless and managed to save 4 lives. Haiti was pure Hell. Probably much worse than Hell. A nightmare could not compare with the reality of my laying on the sidewalk (after 3 days without sleep) trying to sleep behind a wall and listening to the rhythm of women screaming from being raped; followed by a gunshot and a death scream. This horror repeated itself over and over again until I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to work without sleep.
I believe Emma’s numbers of dead and injured are incorrect( Although the truth is hardly ever told about the actual and real numbers of dead and injured.); however, I said I would post it. So, here it is:
Haiti 2014: Slow Help for a Country Destroyed
The catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 killed around 220,000, injured a further 300,000 and made about half a million people homeless. This was not a story of a happy, paradise island in the Caribbean suddenly struck down and suffering years of deprivation as a result. Haiti was a country that was already suffering. In the unrest following the military coup that overthrew President Aristide in 1991, thousands died and many thousands more fled to neighboring countries and to the US. Security was restored in 1994 by a UN multinational force led by the US, although the election held the following year was marred by fraud and was followed by a continued political crisis that held up the process of democratic reform. The country became the home of armed gangs and drug traffickers, so that a second UN force was sent in with the task of creating a peaceful, secure and stable state. After the earthquake hit, this force was augmented and became part of the vital humanitarian response to the disaster, while the country continued to be marred by extreme poverty, and its lack of effective security helped it to thrive as a vital transit point in the illicit drug trade between South America, Jamaica and the US, which inevitably led to an increased drug abuse problem in the country.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the disaster unprecedented and overwhelming. The collapse was almost complete. In Port-au-Prince, the seaport, airport and roads were either unusable or barely able to function, which frustrated the international response to the disaster. The bald figures of destruction tell their own story of a country unable to cope: 60% of government buildings destroyed, 25% of civil servants dead, 4,000 schools—80% of those in the city and 60% of those in the West and South Departments—damaged or destroyed, and 5,899 deaths from cholera between October 2010 and July 2011. The political collapse, the collapse of the health services and infrastructure, and endemic corruption in the country gave little hope to its people of a quick recovery. Billions of dollars in aid were slow to be dispersed, and little of it was seen by the earthquakes victims.
Four years later, from their initial population of 1.5 million, the 306 displacement camps now still held around 172,000 homeless people, and access to clean water waste disposal and sanitation was still severely limited. Amnesty International warned that many displacement camps would be a flood risk during the hurricane season. Over 113,000 families had been moved to transitional shelters, and 55,000 had been relocated with the help of rental subsidies, which amounted to only US$500 for a year plus a grant of US$125. All these measures helped to reduce the displacement camp population, but have not solved the housing crisis that existed before the earthquake and which it only made worse. It could be said that by viewing the housing problem as stemming from the earthquake alone, the real endemic problem was being ignored.
The new homes being built in Haiti are inadequate to meet the threat of a new earthquake. There have been some improvements in building methods. The new building codes for commercial construction that meet international seismic standards have been implemented for building and repair of commercial properties, but the government’s ability to enforce these standards is weakened by lack of authority and support from the police, so that building inspectors are easily intimidated on-site. Few private citizens are able to afford to follow the codes, and most new homes are built on unstable ground with no input by either architect or engineer, making them certain to be the first to fall in any future earthquake.
Haiti had long been poorer than any country in South America or the Caribbean. Four years after the earthquake, it could be seen as beginning to rise from its ruins. The Haitian Minister for Tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin, on a recent visit to Ireland, said that although many would at first associate any mention of Haiti with the 2010 earthquake, she would rather think of the words ‘authentic’ and ‘unspoiled,’ and called Haiti ‘almost virgin territory’ for tourism. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is more cautious. He said: ‘We have a country that is starting to believe we can get back on its feet.’ His government is committed to a reconstruction program that addresses the long-standing infrastructure deficiencies as well as the social problems associated with homelessness and poverty, and the illegal drugs trade.
Even though there has been a great deal of new public building, the people have a deep distrust for those in authority, which has blocked recovery. This will take commitment, adequate funding and authorities that are open and accountable. Commitment is not in question. The Haitian economy is reliant on aid and foreign investment, mainly through the Petrocaribe alliance with Venezuela, whereby payment for oil is partly deferred at a low interest rate. Accountability remains a sticking point for many: however open a government may seem, Haiti’s history has bred a suspicion of governments and authorities among its people that is difficult to shake off. In a country that has been let down so often by so many and for so many years, the priority of rebuilding the homes of ordinary Haitians so that the threat of the next earthquake is not equated with the certainty of homelessness is something that cannot be neglected.